Building a computer – cpu

yeah, here’s where a lot of people start. And I could have danced around with other things for a while as well. But, well, this is a major sticking point.

Let me get a digression out of the way early. I am not at this point shutting out building a Mac – sorry, a Hackintosh. There are some ‘second pass’ decisions that will be required on hardware should I decide to go that way. For what it’s worth, I’m very, very tempted (if building my own) to just go ahead and build a schizo-box. That is a dual or triple boot system – at boot it asks “who am I today?” and depending on setup either stays there till a reply is given or just goes with one after an assigned delay. Cost? A bit more hard drive is needed. That’s… not gonna be a problem (later post). So, back to this discussion.

I am sticking with a so-called i-box. That is it’s either an Intel or AMD processor. Thing is, there are more decisions, and they revolve around the socket.

Up to about a year or so ago the majority of AMD used AM2+ and the intel used the 775 socket. Those hit the market around 2006. Based on past performance, they’ll continue to sell as ‘new’ for at least two more years, and processors for the slots (in the event I want upgrades) will go at least one and up to two past that. That makes deciding between those two sockets very, very tempting. And yet…

The new AMD socket is the AM3. For the Intel it’s the Socket B (LGA 1366). Using history as a guide, the advantage of going with either of these is that I can get new and improved CPUs for, well, for my anticipated ‘life of computer’ (six to seven years) and barring other advances have it carrying the load for up to ten. Gotta say that’s tempting.

So, let’s look at the CPUs in that context – what is, and what is likely to be.

The Intel CORE i7 is bluntly the bleeding edge. It leaves all the rest in the dust. It’s also a big chunk of money. It is the only thing that uses the Socket B. If I go this route I am buying a big chunk of tomorrow up front.

Several of the rest of Intel’s CPUs are competitive to the ‘leading’ AMDs. In other words, right now I can directly compare AM3 slot performance to 775 slot performance. AM3 boards are slightly more expensive. I cannot put AM2 or AM2+ CPUs in AM3 boards and have them work. An interesting but irrelevant item is that I can put an AM3 CPU in an AM2+ board. Thing is the board won’t really need a replacement/upgrade on as fast a cycle as the CPU. Like I said, irrelevant.

The AM2 and AM2+ boards and CPUs are good, but it’s easy to outclass them for similar price intel boards.

My choices then are:
1) Buy a capped life board that has both starting level CPUs and CPUs that are more than I need now (but which will probably be viable for four to six years under my measure);
2) Buy a board that forces me to purchase more CPU than I need now, but which will allow me to get better CPUs for the reasonable expected life of the computer.
2a) Choose slightly more CPU but more than I need, knowing very much improved CPUs are on the way;
2b) Choose a heckuvalot more CPU that costs a lot of money and expect I’ll probably never have to replace/upgrade it.

Phrased that way, I like 2a. So my board is going to be AM3 socketed.

Something to note here is that AMD is hotter than intel – as in more cooling is needed. This is gonna matter down the road but isn’t much in the ‘first pass’ discussion.


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