Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quad core on the cheap

Computer maintenance includes upgrades to old parts to keep the overall system in shape to provide "good enough" performance. It's for this very reason that I'm upgrading my 5 year old Pentium 4 machine to a AMD Athlon II X4 based machine "gradually".

With AMD's release of the Athlon II X4 line of processors, quad core is no longer limited to the high end spectrum of the computer world. Even the lowest end part (Athlon II X4 620) has more than enough muscle power for everyday tasks and casual gaming.

An advantage of doing gradual updates is, of course, the fact that you can choose to upgrade only a minimum of parts at a time. This really helps in lowering overall expenditure. Choose your parts well, and you can have a system that runs smoothly for much longer and at a much cheaper price tag than buying all new, all while maximising upgradability over the long term.

Multimedia software increasingly benefits more from multiple cores rather than high clocks. At 2.6GHz, I'd say AMD's "cheapo" quad core should do fine for quite a while. I just need to supply it with enough system memory to play with, and the 2.5GB brought over from my current Intel machine should be enough for now. The Cores may have far superior raw horsepower according to the benchmarks but it's no use if it costs me an arm and a leg now, doesn't it?

Everytime Intel shakes things up, they really shake things up. LGA775/1156/1366? Heck, a G31 chipset mainboard can't properly support a Pentium 4 640 and they're both LGA775. At least I know all AM3 processors and mainboards can work together so long as the board supports the TDP.

Here's a couple of bootchart snips showing boot times before and after the upgrade:

For some reason bootchart adds 30 minutes to the measured time. This is a known bootchart bug that's been around for some time now.

Just 2 seconds difference in boot times. Nothing special as expected since only the processor and mainboard were swapped. Once multi device btrfs is stable enough I'll convert my 2 hard drives and we'll see if btrfs can deliver.