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Sandy Bridge vs. Xeon processor

 7:56 am on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I need to spec out some workstations for next year. When I look at sites like Dell for workstations they automatically present me with a bunch of Xeon chip options. I'd like to know if a "consumer grade" Sandy Bridge chip, like an i7, could be used instead. Are Xeon chips really that much better?

These would be for workstations that are on 24/7 for years on end. I need a chipset that will still be decent after 5 years.



 8:51 am on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't think that life expectancy between the professional and consumer grade products will differ that much. But Xeon offers you additional reliability and scalability options like ECC memory, native support for multi-CPU motherboards etc.


 9:08 am on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wait until the new year when Ivy Bridge is out. You will be able to get a better deal / spec then.

Of course, you will still have the dilemma of choosing between the desktop and Xeon parts ....

Forget Xeon / desktop. Just go for the best value. Both will be very reliable and be similar spec. Both will work 24/7. But certainly go for Ivy Bridge first, Sandy Bridge second as these now use much less power than the other chips.

Take advantage of the ridiculous price of RAM at the moment too. The part most likely to fail first is the hard disk. If you can put in as much RAM as the box and the OS can take then you will help reduce disk usage and thus it is less likely the disk will fail for years.

I would check out sites like Crucial for the RAM upgrade as you can save hundreds buying compatible parts, rather than letting Dell profit from the up sell.

One other point: Noise. The lower power Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge produce less heat and thus require less fans. But if you buy a tower server rather than a tower desktop there may be extra noisy fans in there. Best to wait until some of the reviews are out.


 1:27 pm on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

it really depends on what you are going to be doing with the workstations. Also you can't get ECC with an i7.


 2:56 pm on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my mind, there's two reasons to go with Xeon on desktop:

1. You want power savings - equally clocked desktop Xeons without onboard graphics often have lower power draw (20% less) because they don't have the onboard graphics that i5/i7 CPUs do. If you're using a discrete graphics card you don't need the onboard graphics of i5/i7.

I would have liked to have put a Xeon 1270 in my latest Shuttle because of the lowered power consumption (and therefore lowered temperature) when I built it, but they weren't readily available in Canada. I used an i7-2600K instead. The list prices are very similar - $328 for a Xeon 1270 vs. $317 for an i7-2600K.

I recently sourced a 1260L for a firewall/phone server. It's a huge step up from an Atom processor for supporting VPN connections, and it runs on 45W and cooling is completely passive. It took almost three months to get, but it's a *great* processor for performance per watt.

2. You want to use ECC RAM. If this is the case, make sure the motherboard you're using actually supports ECC RAM - many do not.

If you don't know whether or not you need ECC RAM, you probably don't.


In reality bill, you're not going to notice the difference between an i7-2600K and a Xeon for daily work. The i7-2600 is a fantastic processor. Don't pay more for a Xeon on a desktop unless you're looking for ECC RAM or lowered power consumption.


 4:24 pm on Nov 9, 2011 (gmt 0)

also if you do go i7 make sure the ram is in triple channel, anything to lengthen its service life.


 4:33 am on Nov 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

No Sandy Bridge desktop processor supports triple channel RAM except for the extreme editions. Generally you'd want to avoid the extreme editions (especially in business desktops!) as they usually cost 2x-3x the price of the most expensive non-extreme edition for a relatively minor performance increase.


 6:45 am on Nov 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I tend to do my shopping (new in production systems) in last month last quarter of any year when deep cuts are offered by vendors to off-load high end inventory... and get the best that is offered at lowest price. Then factor in three years of use (expecting five) and have not been disappointed.

But for PERSONAL machines I always buy the latest and greatest at "reasonable" expense (ouch factor) and make that son-of-gun run seven years... YMMV

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