Advice please to choose cpu & chipset

Do you have a question? Post it now! No Registration Necessary.  Now with pictures!

Threaded View

I'm a home/small office user. No games. Some multimedia. Music is

I haven't bought a PC in years and first of all I'm trying to
sort out which processor family I should go for. The chipset is
important and I want one that is modern and provides a good range
of features like multiple PATA/SATA drives, lots of USB, good
onboard sound (or I'll have to buy a sound card).  Has onboard
video come of age enough to handle movies easily?

Power consumption and noise are quite important.

Value is important because I don't want to spend a lot. I'll pay
more up front if it's cheaper in the long run. But I don't want
obscure or little known hardware because getting help afterwards
can get  lonely!

I saw a good page about processors but it's a bit too complicated
to help me.  <

Can anyone advise on my points above and help with the steps I've
listed below.

STEP 1) I'm tending to go for Intel because AMD doesn't seem
significantly cheaper. (I still have glitches with my elderly AMD
cpu and XP's ntdll.dl and I don't want anything like that again.)

STEP 2) Will I need 64 bit? Last time I looked the lack of 64 bit
apps was said to be a problem. Should i go for 64 bit?

STEP 3) What about mutliple cores/cpus? How do I narrow down the
selection in that web page. I read about extra cores/cpus not
helping unless there were certain types of workload. Without a
ton of detail about multiprocessing and threads and all that,
what's the bottom line?

Re: Advice please to choose cpu & chipset

Jaser wrote:
Quoted text here. Click to load it

1) The Intel processors using the LGA 1156 socket are probably "mainstream"
at the moment. These come in i5 and i7 varieties both of which are
quad-core with the former being limited to 4 threads and the latter using
Intel's Hyperthreading technology to allow 8 threads. Both of these work
with the P55 chipset. There are also the LGA 1366 processors which are
slightly less mainstream (and are correspondingly more expensive) having
just a bit of a lead in speed of memory access but few home users would
have need of them.

2) You would be hard pressed to find a current-generation desktop processor
that _isn't_ 64-bit. That doesn't mean that you have to run 64-bit
applications or operating systems, just that you can if you wish to. I have
plain old 32-bit Windows XP installed on several 64-bit systems and running
ancient 32-bit software and everything works fine since the new processors
where designed to be backward compatible. Using a 64-bit processor with a
64-bit operating system opens up the possibility of using more than 4gB of
memory and that can be quite useful for many tasks.

3) Again, virtually every new desktop processor you could lay your hands on
  today will have at least 2 cores. Even the low-end laptop will have at
least that. 4 cores are quite common and are always useful. Whether you are
aware of it or not you are always running 20 or more processes. Having them
divided up among multiple processors can't do anything except help and when
the day comes that you are running three or four "real" programs at the
same time you won't regret having them. (Think listening to music and
simultaneously browsing the web to kill time while burning a DVD)

John McGaw
[Knoxville, TN, USA]

Re: Advice please to choose cpu & chipset

Jaser wrote:
Quoted text here. Click to load it

Make sure your processor is

1) 64 bit
2) Has virtualization (VT-x on Intel, Pacifica on AMD).

Check the charts, to make sure. You can see here, there are
some "loser" processors for sale, that don't have VT-x, and
I'm stuck with one of those :-( I have an E4700.

The tables for AMD are here. /

For this randomly chosen AMD processor, you can see it has
virtualization. (Pacifica feature for AMD.)

Virtualization will be more important in the future, so to buy
a processor without it, might leave you with later regrets.
Windows 7 has something called "WinXP mode", that relies on

Most of the stuff you can find for sale now, supports 64 bit
operation. In the Intel tables, the feature name is "EM64T".
In the AMD, it is "Operating Mode 64 Bit - Yes". I'm less
concerned you'll accidentally buy a 32 bit only processor.

Otherwise, you could shop on price alone, and get a price
proportional to performance.


Re: Advice please to choose cpu & chipset


Quoted text here. Click to load it

Most chipsets these days support only 2 PATA drives, to use
more you would need to add a PCI or PCIe IDE controller
card.  Most now handle several SATA drives, typically 4 or
more, and have varying levels of RAID support if that is

Most now have more USB ports than a normal person needs,
though of course a USB hub can be added and is convenient to
locate more ports within easy reach instead of having to
muck around behind the PC if you have several devices you
frequently remove (more than your case front USB could
handle if so equipped).

Since you wrote music is important, I would advise a
midrange or better PCIe sound card unless you only use
digital output, the analog on most boards leaves a lot to be

Onboard video is capable of handling HD movies easily,
though some of the lowest end chipsets don't do HD
acceleration which offloads some of the work from the CPU.
More important is probably whether the video includes the
output ports you need for your current and any future
monitor such as HDMI or DVI, at some point there will be no
good reason to buy a video device with analog output (at the
loss of the other digital outputs) and unless that is what a
present monitor you own has to use, that point is already in
your past.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

All else equal unless you buy a high end system or
overclock, they are reasonably power efficient compared to
yesteryear's systems... some actually have lower power
consumption with a lot more performance.  All integrated
systems (sound, and video especially) with a minimal number
of drives tend to be least power hungry, roughly 60W idle /
100W under load is not unusual.  To get substantially lower
than that you would probably end up making concessions that
reduce the system's viable lifespan due to a large
performance hit to attain further power savings.

Noise goes along with power consumption, if picking a
pre-built PC from an OEM they tend to optimized for low
noise, with a local shop build you should specify you want
it as low noise as reasonably possible.  Given a decent case
that doesn't impede airflow and has a suitable number and
size of fan mounts you can always swap a fan later, though
with an OEM system swapping to a lower RPM fan for noise
reduction could void the warranty and either way you would
want to monitor the change in temperature, but a basic PC
with only ~ 100W power consumption isn't hard to cool with
only a PSU exhausting and a low RPM 92mm or larger rear case
exhaust fan.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

I had the impression you wanted a ready built OEM system.
To some extent they are all a little obscure, though if you
stick with a standard format (case) like mATX or ATX,
eventual upgrades or replacements need not be the same OEM
part if the warranty has expired so the replacement can
normally be found more expediently and less expensively.
There's really not one clear choice  of OEMs here, many of
them have a standard desktop line which is positioned at the
lower price ranges depending on your chosen CPU, memory,
video, etc.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

Generally the best choice for long term use is to fix the
budget for the whole system then see what is left for the
CPU after other requirements are met.  In other words, for
what will seem a small difference in performance a couple
years from now you could easily pay twice as much for a
system, but ultimately you can consider your most demanding
uses and whether those justify allocating a larger % of
system budget towards CPU, more memory or storage, etc.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

You're not likely to come upon a problem like that again,
whether AMD has more performance depends on exact range of
prices, at the very low end they can be a better value but
as you wrote, to most people the price difference as seen as
% of total system cost isn't much... but for specific models
you still have to look at what the budget allows, or bundled
pricing considering the possibility of OEM purchase.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

Do you have need for more than 4GB memory, how long do you
anticipate using the system and do you have legacy
peripherals you can get drivers for to support a 64bit OS?
If you have no problems moving to 64bit, do so.  If you do
have issues, as always their cons have to be weighed against
the pros.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

... there isn't one.  It does depend on the software you
run, a dual core system is highly preferred, quad core more
appropriate once you get beyond the lowest-cost systems, but
ultimately the more cores you have the less often you will
utilize them all especially if you aren't running modern
premium software.  In the end you need to focus on most
demanding use, exact software title and version to see how
much additional CPU cores would benefit you, but for long
term use a quad core system is probably the best value as
future software will tend to make more and more use of
multiple cores.

Re: Advice please to choose cpu & chipset

Quoted text here. Click to load it

If sound quality is important (ie you have HiFi separates rather than a midi
then a sound card is a must.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

if those movies include HD/Bluray then a plug-in card like an ATI HD3400 or
HD 4400
with a passive heatsink - not fast enough for games but it'll take some of
the load off the CPU.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

buy an OEM processor (retail ones have crap heatsinks) and spend a little
extra on a quality (and quiet) cooler

Quoted text here. Click to load it

only if you applications that are 64bit and require a LOT of memory.

Quoted text here. Click to load it

a dual-core is still plenty for most people. it improves multitasking on a
PC noticeably.
few people *need* a quad core right now.

Site Timeline