Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My Impressions, So Far

I sent my i5-750 processor back to NewEgg last Saturday. I sent it Priority Mail with Insurance and Confirmation. It arrived in Whittier, CA and was accepted by NewEgg yesterday. Hopefully, I'll have a new one in about three days.

Since none of the test data for the i5 was worth anything, I'll just go over my general impressions so far.

Processor and heatsink retention.
AMD processors have pins whereas with Intel the pins are in CPU socket. I prefer the AMD arrangement. An AMD processor should just drop into the socket by gravity. If it doesn't drop in then you probably have a bent pin. I know this well because one of the pins on my PII 965 was bent and I had to straighten it before it would drop in. With the Intel arrangement, half the pins could be bent and you would never know. So, for detecting bent pins, AMD wins.

The second item is the way that the processor is retained in the socket. AMD uses a latching mechanism that grips the pins whereas Intel uses a clamping mechanism that holds the processor down. Here, Intel clearly wins. The clamping mechanism is all metal parts with a metal backing plate; there is no way that this processor is budging. AMD however is a bit worse off. The pin gripping mechanism is not designed to handle pulling loads. Simply put, you must twist the heatsink to break the seal with the processor before you try to remove it. If you just tug on the heatsink, you could end up leaving pins behind in the socket. And, this would almost certainly destroy both processor and motherboard. With Intel, it should be nearly impossible to damage anything no matter how tight the thermal compound is stuck. Be careful with the AMD heatsink and you should be okay but Intel is the clear winner.

Next is the heatsink retention mechanism. I've had both experiences with AMD's. For example, the X3 720 stock heatsink was great; I just put it on and clamped it down. However, the heatsink for the X4 965 was not so nice. The metal loops were too short and I could barely get it on. There was no slack to tighten the clamp. And, you cannot be ham fisted with the clamp because the cam is just made of plastic; I'm sure it will break if you try to force it. The metal loops for the Freezer 64 Pro were just as good as the X3 stock unit; it just went on and clamped into place without any trouble. AMD's mechanism works the same whether it is third party or stock and the retention frame uses a metal plate on the back of the motherboard for extra strength much as Intel does with the CPU clamp.

Intel however seems to have more than one way to hold the heatsink on. The stock unit uses pins that push down through the four holes surrounding the rentention frame. You push opposite diagonals at the same time. I unlocked the pins, then pushed the pins through and twisted the knob on top of each leg to clamp the pin in place. Apparently, however, you can just push the knobs down while in the locked position. This is maybe a tiny bit easier than the way I did it. Either way though, you want to make sure that each knob is down, locked, and the pin firmly attached to the motherboard. The Freezer 7 uses a completely different method. it has a plastic frame that goes around the CPU clamp frame. You have to push plastic pins through the holes in the frame and through the holes in the motherboard. Then you push expander plugs into each pin to keep them from coming loose. This operation is much more than a pain; it is sloppy and includes far too many ways that you could break or damage the plastic parts. I had to push the retaining plugs in (and remove them later) with needle nosed pliars. And, they take a fair amount of force to push in and pull out. I don't know if these are all similar with third party coolers on Intel motherboards but the Freezer 7 requires patience and a fair amount of care before you apply force. Then, once you have the plastic frame mounted you attach the actual heatsink bracket with two screws. You have to remove the fan to have room to insert the screw on that side. And, fiddling with the other screw in the cramped space between the heatsink and rear case fan is also not much fun.

With AMD, as long as you have a third party cooler that uses the stock latching mechanism then the AMD system is much easier to change processors. With Intel, at least with the Freezer 7, the heatsink bracket blocks the CPU clamp so you cannot change processors without first removing the plastic bracket. This is a major pain. Still, most people probably wouldn't be swapping processors very often so it's probably a hassle that one can live with. I think both of the systems can work with a 500 gram cooler but I wouldn't trust either one of them with anything heavier. Both designs have shortcomings which could result in damaged parts if you aren't careful. However, both systems can (and I'm sure they do) work most of the time.

Changing Clock Speed
I've only worked with Asus motherboards. It is interesting though how different the flavor of the BIOS is from AMD to Intel. My 785 board has few options even though my X3 is Black Edition which allows easy overclocking. The BIOS works fairly well with the X3 just in terms of overclocking. There are items that are mislabeled in the BIOS, for example, calling something a clock setting when it is actually a multiplier setting. And, I have to say that I don't understand why the Intel BIOS nicely calculates memory speed based on actual base clock whereas the AMD memory speed always uses a base clock of 200 Mhz for its calculations. Someone is clearly dropping the ball here.

However, with the X4, it was another story; it wasn't until I realized that the BIOS was setting the voltage too high and reduced it that I could get it stable at higher settings. This amounted to a bump of at least 100 Mhz. The 79X board is a different flavor. It has more settings and is a little easier to use. However, it seems to set the default voltage lower than on the 785 board. I couldn't get 3.9 Ghz stable running OCCT Linpack without bumping the voltage to 1.425 (when 1.4 volts is AMD's max for this chip). The 785 BIOS is adequate but, when using the PII 965, I like the 79X BIOS a little better. I would guess that this BIOS is more like that of the older 78FX boards.

The Intel BIOS on my P55 motherboard is a bit more polished. As I've already mentioned it correctly displays memory speed even when you change the base clock from 133 Mhz. The disappointments come more from the processor itself. Since regular Intel processors have a locked multiplier they aren't nearly as easy to overclock as AMD processors. You really have to stretch that base clock setting to hit anything substantial (at least with the i5-750 which only has a base clock of 2.66 Ghz). For example, to hit 3.32 Ghz you have to bump the clock from 133 to 166 Mhz. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for memory. For example, with the base clock at 166 Mhz you can set the memory multiplier the same as for 1066 Mhz and it will actually be at 1333 Mhz. Likewise you would hit the same 1333 Mhz speed again with a base clock of 222 Mhz if you set for 800 Mhz. Of course, with a standard multiplier of 20, this would be 4.44 Ghz on the processor which is out of the question. However, since Intel has no problem with reducing the multiplier you could just set this to, say, 16 or 17, and get an accessible processor clock. It does work, just not as well as with Black Edition. Naturally, not all of AMD's processors are Black Edition but Intel has nothing remotely like this below the outrageously priced i7-965. Maybe Intel thinks that Turbo makes up for some of what is lacking but I would rather see unlocked multipliers. Finally, I'll mention the x21 multiplier because I've seen this mentioned in several reviews. My BIOS can be set to a multiplier of 21 but is doesn't work; the highest multiplier you can actually set is 20 (the same as the default).

Overall, AMD seems a little easier because of the unlocked multiplier, but if the Intel chipset and processor are able to tolerate base clocks way over the default 133 Mhz, Intel could still end up the winner. It will be interesting to find out.


Tsukune said...

I think you might want to watch this video. It appears your installation of the stock Intel heatsink is incorrect and might have been part of your earlier throttling issues as the heatsink might not have been sitting on the cpu correctly. Intel really does need a better design for their stock heatsink mounting. AMD's is far superior and much easier to deal with.


Scientia from AMDZone said...

Thanks for trying but there was nothing in the video that showed an error in the way I attached the heatsink. I'm guessing that you are suggesting that I didn't secure the legs properly however that was not the case. The legs were in fact attached securely to the motherboard and held downward under tension.

Secondly, the Freezer 7 Pro attaches completely differently so even if we assumed (for the sake of argument) that I somehow attached the stock cooler incorrectly, it wouldn't explain the identical results with the Freezer 7. Thanks anyway.

Tsukune said...

quote: "I unlocked the pins, then pushed the pins through and twisted the knob on top of each leg to clamp the pin in place."

That is not the way to do it according to the video. You are supposed to turn the knobs to where the arrows face away then push the pins in. The crisscross method was correct. I am talking strictly about the stock heatsink. Just trying to help so I hope you are not taking anything the wrong way here.

Scientia from AMDZone said...


You are correct. That is the easiest way to do it. And, that is the way I did it when I installed the stock cooler on my new processor. The point I was making was that even though I didn't do it the easiest way, the cooler was still secured into place properly.

Again, thank you for the video. The normal way is much easier.