Skip to main content

More Thoughts on Dual Core Systems

In my previous article "The Dual Cores Are Here" I looked at the cost of upgrading one of my home systems from an Athlon XP to a dual-core system. I wanted to keep as much of the existing system as possible, since the technology in a lot of the pieces were still reasonably current. The system I wanted to upgrade had been built, from scratch, 2 1/2 years ago and I had been upgrading bits on it since. I decided, based solely on price, that I could spend about $800 for a new Intel Pentium D, motherboard (955 chipset), 1GB of DDR2 667, and a mid-range PCI Express video card. I thought that was a reasonable decision until I read X-bit labs review on the Intel Pentium D 820.

A lot of the hardware sites lavish gobs of verbiage and innumerable tests in order to determine the merits of today's PC technology, such as processors and motherboards. The X-bit article has all of that, including attempts to overclock the processor as well as all the frame-per-second speeds possible with today's popular games. But what X-bit also checked, which I have not seen before now, is an analysis of the 820's power consumption. And that's when I sat up and paid attention.

The article compared the 820 with two Athlon 64 single core processors - the 3200+ and the 3500+, both of them Venice core processors. At idle, the 820 D consumed 50 watts to the 3500+'s 12 watts, while at full load the 820D consumed 131 watts to the 3500+'s 46 watts. That's right. The Intel 820 D, running at 2.8 GHz, consumed 3 to 4 times as much power as the Athlon 64. Yes, we are comparing a dual core Intel chip to the single core AMD chip. But, if we (reasonably) say that the dual core Athlon will consume twice as much power as the single core, then the Athlon 64 will still consume, on average, 50% less power than the Intel.

Why am I concerned about power consumption? Let me count the ways.
  1. Heat. You need to dump heat out of the box. Big sources of heat in today's systems are the processor, the video card, the hard drives (specifically SATA), and the mother board. I try to stay away from video cards that require that extra power connector on the edge, although I do own one, an ATI 9700 Pro purchased in a moment of weakness.
  2. Fans. My big Athlon XP box has no less than nine (9) fans: four on the case, two on the power supply, one on the motherboard north bridge chip (nForce2), one on the video card (ATi 9700 Pro), and the big one on the CPU itself. Fans make noise if they're moving fast. I've got the system box set up so that it's off to the side and unobstructed and I have nothing overclocked so that the fans are all spinning at their lowest settings. As a consequence the system is fairly quiet, but it is by no means silent.
  3. Stability and longevity. I keep my system up for days or weeks at a time. It only reboots when I change the operating system or update it (for Windows, it's an update, and for Linux, it's a new kernel), or if Florida Flash and Flicker decides to take a vacation (think of the Florida 2004 hurricane season). Heat kills stability and longevity. Parts that run hot crash a lot and die an early death. Furthermore, I do not overclock.
  4. Cost. The more power you consume, the more you pay every month to the power company. And over time it does add up.
Right now my Athlon XP 3200+ dumps about 63 watts. That's entirely too much for my tastes, but it's still lower than an equivalent Pentium 4, especially the 90 nm Prescott cores. And keep in mind that my older Athlon XP is on 130 nm geometry. AMD showed, unlike Intel, that going to 90 nm would drop the power consumption (all else, especially frequency, being equal). AMD's Venice core chips have been talked about all over the web for their low running temperatures.

Looks like I'm going to wait a little longer. I don't know why Newegg only got in two of the Athlon 64 X2 chips, or why they only got the OEM chips. I'd prefer a boxed chip because you do get a decent chip cooler and it has a 3 year warranty vs. the OEM chip's 1 year warranty. I do want to make a decision, though. Time is flying by, and it seems I've got some money burning a hole in my pocket.


Popular posts from this blog

A Decade Long Religious Con Job

I rarely write inflammatory (what some might call trolling) titles to a post, but this building you see before you deserves it. I've been seeing this building next to I-4 just east of Altamonte/436 and Crane's Roost for nearly 12 years, and never knew who owned it. Today on a trip up to Lake Mary with my wife I saw it yet again. That's when I told her I wanted to stop by on the way back and poke around the property, and photograph any parts of it if I could.

What I discovered was this still unfinished eighteen story (I counted) white elephant, overgrown with weeds and yet still under slow-motion construction. It looks impressive with its exterior glass curtain walls, but that impression is quickly lost when you see the unfinished lower stories and look inside to the unfinished interior spaces.

A quick check via Google leads to an article written in 2010 by the Orlando Sentinel about the Majesty Tower. Based on what I read in the article it's owned by SuperChannel 55 WA…

Be Careful of Capital One Mailings

Capitol One ("What's in your wallet?") sent me a bit of deceptive snail mail today. I felt sure it was a credit card offer, and sure enough, it was. I open all credit card offers and shred them before putting them in the trash. Normally I just scan the front to make sure I don't miss anything; the Capital One offer made me stop for a moment and strike a bit of fear into my heart.

The letter's opening sentence read:
Our records as of December 30, 2009 indicate your Capital One Platinum MasterCard offer is currently valid and active.Not paying close attention during the first reading, I quickly developed this irrational worry that I was actually on the hook for something important, but I wasn't quite sure what. The letter listed "three ways to reply" at the bottom; via phone, the internet, and regular snail mail. I elected to call.

Once I reached the automated phone response system, the first entry offered was '1', to "activate my Capital …

cat-in-a-box channels greta garbo

So I'm sitting at my computer, when I start to notice a racket in back. I ignore it for a while until I hear a load "thump!", as if something had been dropped on the floor, followed by a lot of loud rattling. I turn around and see Lucy in the box just having a grand old time, rolling around and rattling that box a good one. I grab the GX1 and snap a few shots before she notices me and the camera, then leaps out and back into her chair (which used to be my chair before she decided it was her chair).

Just like caring for Katie my black Lab taught me about dogs, caring for Lucy is teaching me about cats. She finds me fascinating, as I do her. And she expresses great affection and love toward me without coaxing. I try to return the affection and love, but she is a cat, and she takes a bat at me on occasion, although I think that's just her being playful. She always has her claws in when she does that.

She sits next to me during the evening in her chair while I sit in mi…