Two or Four CPU cores?
Yesterday I said that the future of desktop computing lies in dual-core systems. On the workstation front, itís essentially a given that a dual processor system makes the most sense. 3D content creation, CAD/CAE, digital photography, and scientific computing applications are almost all engineered for multiprocessor support. The question of course is whether itís better to go with two or four cores.
The answer ends up being far easier than youíd think. The right answer for the vast majority of people, even those who have won the lottery, will be the Opteron 252ís. Although dual-core CPUs will be the right choice in the long-run, the clockspeed of todayís single core CPUs are almost 20% faster than the fastest dual core CPU. This means that unless you are using an in-house developed application that is trivially parallel, or are working with large amounts of digital photography RAW processing, the Opteron 252 is not only a better value than the 275 in terms of the price/performance ratio, but also provides better absolute real-world performance. So instead of buying a pair of 275ís at $1350 each, get a pair of 252ís at $870 each, leaving almost $1k for your other componentsÖ youíll need that $1k later. As a side note, this recommendation to go with single core CPUs over dual core CPUs does not hold in the desktop arena since the pricing pattern is different.
2x AMD Opteron 252
Running Total: $1740
Socket 940 and Socket 939 coolers are virtually identical and so weíll still use the Zalman CNPS7000B as our CPU cooler. There really isnít a better cooler when it comes to balancing weight, cooling performance, noise, looks, and price. While an OEM builder may opt to go with a more traditional cooler from ThermalTake, AVC, or the like to save a few dollars here and there, for an enthusiast system builder, the CNPS7000B is a virtual no-brainer. The upcoming 9000 series from Zalman should be interesting, but weíre not confident that we would actually change our recommendation. Unless youíre going with radiator-based water-cooling, or are dealing with a 1U rackmount platform, we have no reason to recommend anything other than the Zalman CNPS-7000B. I have 5 of them running my systems, all purchased at retail.
Running Total: $1820
Arctic Silver 5
If thereís one item from these system builds that we recommend to each and every system builder, itís the Arctic Silver 5 thermal grease. Itís easy to work with, itís cheap in the long-run, and todayís large heatspreaders makes the concern about the possible conductivity and capacitance a non-issue.
Arctic Silver 5 Ė 3.5 g (enough for ~15 large CPU cores)
Running Total: $1830