8 Replies Latest reply on May 16, 2011 11:28 AM by Bill Gehrke

    Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?




      Like many others, I've read the hardware threads on a continuing basis since getting CS5 about a year ago, including (I think) all of Harm's articles. I feel I have a basic understanding of the socket 1366 vs. 1155/6 debate. No need to re-hash all of it this time.


      Still, I think Harm and others have made a convincing case that for those who need the best, the X58 with a big-time RAID setup cannot be beat for distributing data and achieving the Holy Grail - balance. The worst part about the Z68 is its paltry PCI-E lanes situation. I don't fully understand it, but can see that many fewer lanes, shared, is inferior to X58. But does the Z68 completely fail those of us who do not push the envelope? Who have a bit more time for waiting while the 'puter computes?


      I'm on a budget and simply want to switch from my AMD Phenom II platform to an Intel rig. I primarily shoot student math videos that, by nature, need to be no more than 5 minutes or so in length. My camera is a Canon T2i, footage therefore AVCHD. I have taken the advice of a board member and will likely begin shooting in VGA, questioning the sanity of shooting HD for clips that do not need to run full screen. All in all, my requirements are on the low end (except for the codec. And I'm open to using NeoScene as a fix.). I suspect my needs are in line with many who can afford the student version of CS5 and find themselves needing a new rig, but perhaps not one decked out for professionals.


      Quick Sync appeals to me, as I need to transcode frequently for mobile devices. Also, other teachers in the building shoot with JVC .mov camcorders, meaning they often cannot edit with their preferred software. I end up doing all of our small staff's transcoding.


      As I get set to build something new over the summer, I'm trying to sort out the major questions facing those of us on the less-taxing end of the spectrum. I'll never have a RAID card, but do have a basic 5-disk arrangement including a 2-disk RAID 0 for footage. All I need to to is sort out which platform is best for my lesser needs


      I'm just trying to move to Intel without breaking the bank. But if another $250 for X58 will make a HUGE difference, then I'd likely jump. Breakdown for a cheap(er) Intel rig:


      CPU: i7-2500K. No Hyper-Threading but can overclock beyond more-expensive i7-950. Only about $30 cheaper than i7-950. Spend $100 more for i7-2600K and get a superior CPU to Nehalem, but come out behind on $$$.

      Motherboards: Z68 starts about $130 for a decently-spec'ed ASRock Z68 PRO3 at the 'egg. Knock off another $20 for a combo with CPU. Cripes, X58 boards are expensive!


      After motherboard, i7-2500K and ASRock are looking mighty good. $125 less than i7-950 and X58, and that's with a cheaper X58 board. Also, a four-stick 16GB memory kit is about $100 cheaper than 24 GB of G.Skill, a well-rated brand of either capacity at Newegg. Savings of $225-ish. As long as my needs are met, I'll save money and get Quick Sync to boot. At this point I'm willing to wager my short-clip needs are going to be met, in fact.


      Memory: Now, here may be the deciding factor - with memory prices dropping big-time, it is within reason to max out memory on either platform. The X58 can take 24 GB, the Z68 tops out at 16GB. I recall Bill Gehrke saying the early results from the PPBM5 suite showed a big difference in (rendering?) times when jumping to 24gigs. I tell myself that 16GB sounds like a lot of memory, which it is. But would dropping $100 more for 24 gigs be a game changer? I'm talking about one of the cheap 24 GB kits with 9-9-9 timings, not something hopped up. (Does X58 require super-duper memory or a $300 motherboard to actually run 24 gigs?)


      Should the fact that X58 can take 24 gigs of triple-channel memory be the final word? For all of my trying to save $250 or so by going cheap(er) with i7-2500K SB, am I going to miss out on perhaps the most important aspect? Most of the other programs in CS5 don't use CUDA to accelerate - would the mildly less powerful i7-950 CPU be so greatly augmented by another 8GB (50% more!) of system memory that it would seemingly fly through other programs compared to SB?


      If CS5 simply runs like a scalded dog on 24 GB, then I'll suck it up and forgo Quick Sync and spend a bit more money. I get the feeling there is some difference of opinion on whether Sandy Bridge is a stronger CPU for editing (even though there is no debate about X58 vs. Z68 for handling data). But it seems there should be a clearer picture for the benefits of 16 vs. 24 GB memory.


      Would anyone here make a decision based upon this last aspect?

        • 1. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
          RjL190365 Level 5

          The i7-2500K does not exist (although there is an i5-2500K). Go for the i7-2600K if you must get an LGA 1155 system since the i5-2500K performs at least 20% slower than the i7-2600K due to the i5-2500K's lack of Hyperthreading (remember, the quad-core i5's have only four threads while the i7's have eight threads). Premiere Pro CS5.x scales very well with more than four threads, resulting in this rather significant difference in performance. So, while you might save some money going the i5-2500K route, don't expect a system based on that CPU to perform faster than a system based on an i7-920 or i7-930 CPU (with all three of these CPUs running at their stock clocks).


          The biggest problem with the current LGA 1155 platform is the limited number of PCIe lanes: Although current Nvidia GPUs do not quite take full advantage of even PCIe-x8, let alone PCIe-x16, bandwidth, the limited number of lanes (20 on the CPU although most LGA 1155 motherboards make use of only 16 of those on-CPU lanes, plus a theoretical maximum of eight PCIe lanes on the PCH out of which most motherboards eat up four to six for the required onboard devices) could bottleneck the system's performance potential if you are (or will be) adding both a discrete hardware RAID card and a digital video I/O card in the same system. If you feel that you really need both cards in your editing workflow, the older i7-9xx platform with the X58 chipset is currently the better choice.


          As for 16GB versus 24GB, as I have demonstrated, Premiere Pro CS5.x performs best with just over 12GB of RAM. And in testing there is little practical difference in performance in CS5.x between 16GB and 24GB of RAM (but a given X58 system runs significantly faster with 16GB than with 12GB).


          Lastly, even if you're getting an i7-2600K or i5-2500K, forget about using QuickSync at all if you're going to be using a discrete graphics card: The QuickSync feature is supported only if you're using the integrated Intel graphics built into the LGA 1155 CPUs (that feature is currently disabled when a discrete GPU is used). And even with QuickSync enabled through a plugin download, CS5.x still runs slower with the integrated Intel graphics than with most of the discrete Nvidia GPUs since CS5.x without a supported Nvidia GPU will still be stuck in software-only MPE mode (although CS5.x on a system with QuickSync-enabled integrated Intel graphics might perform faster than it does on the same system with a discrete Nvidia GPU with MPE GPU-accelerated mode disabled).

          • 2. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
            J.Elliott8652 Level 1

            Thanks for correcting the CPU name - it's an i5-2500K, not i7.


            The just-released Z68 chipset allows for both integrated and discrete GPU. A program called Virtue virtualizes the CPU-generated Quick Sync feature, allowing a user to have access to all video capabilities of Sandy Bridge, such as Quick Sync.


            I have Production Premium CS5, so access to many other Adobe programs. Basically, I'm curious if having 24 gigs of memory will be a significant boost to the whole suite, helping me to make a decision.


            I do appreciate your input on the PCI-E (sp?) situation. My video card is a GTS 450.

            • 3. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
              Harm Millaard Level 7

              The Sandy Bridge only supports up to 16 GB, not 24 GB. Like Randall said, you are best off by disabling the integrated video capabilities completely. It will only cause serious headaches if you don't.

              • 4. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
                RjL190365 Level 5

                The Z68 may allow simultaneous use of both the integrated Intel graphics and a discrete GPU, but unfortunately Premiere Pro CS5.x does not currently support the use of two GPUs simultaneously. In that particular case CS5 will use only the integrated Intel graphics, which would be the primary GPU in such a setup, and would not even use the GTS 450 at all except for outputting to a second monitor. As a result, if you want to use the GTS 450 for MPE GPU acceleration (with the "hack", of course), you will have to disable the integrated Intel graphics (and thus QuickSync) entirely. This must be performed manually in the motherboard's BIOS (EFI or "legacy") since (judging by what I have seen in many H67 motherboards) the integrated Intel graphics remain enabled when a discrete PCIe graphics card is installed into the board's PCIe-x16 slot. The result of that would have been the x16 slot defaulting to x1 mode (in H67 systems), which in turn severely degrades MPE GPU performance (all the way to more than 100 s instead of the less than 10 s when the card is installed in a properly functioning x16 slot). The Z68 might run that x16 slot in x8 mode by default (unless the integrated Intel graphics is disabled manually), but the integrated Intel graphics would still impact the MPE GPU performance.


                And Harm's mention that Sandy Bridge currently supports only up to 16GB of RAM is correct - if only because there are currently no unbuffered non-ECC 8GB DDR3 modules on the market yet (the platform technically supports up to 32GB of RAM).


                Message was edited by: RjL190365

                • 5. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
                  J.Elliott8652 Level 1



                  Yes, SB only accepts 16GB - that is the point of the thread. The question is this - does going to X58 and its 24 gigs make such a difference in PPro and the other apps that it's well worth the cost to move up from SB, which is cheaper? Complicating the question is Quick Sync, which stands to be of benefit to those who do a lot of transcoding.


                  I think y'all are a bit off about Virtue and Z68. It's raison d'etre is to enable both regular GPU functions and the video-enhanced features of SB, like Quick Sync. With the release of Z68 last week SB users can have both for the first time.


                  Virtue allows virtualization of either the GPU functions (remain plugged into motherboard DVI port) or SB video (remain plugged into GPU port). With PPro, we all want to have access to the MPE, so we need to virtualize Quick Sync and stay connected to the GPU. In theory, the SB video stays out of the loop and the GPU functions normally. This remains to be seen and is one of the main causes for concern at the VideoGuys link, where they advise against using SB because they aren't very comfortable with the video running through the CPU. Driver issues, etc. and they have to man the phones when systems don't work right.


                  If I understand, Z68 and Virtue will make it possible to ignore SB video capabilities unless you want to use them. You'll plug in your GPU and work like usual. If you want Quick Sync, remain plugged into your GPU port and fire up Virtue, which will virtualize the SB video and pass it through the GPU. You'll lose a few percentage points on speed, but it'll work fine. For PPro editing, you'll not notice anything different from your usual workflow because you're still plugged into the GPU and using it as normal. Quick Sync doesn't even work with PPro, rather a handful of other programs.


                  If it works right, getting access to Quick Sync is a big deal on my end. I'm leaning to SB mainly because of it, plus even an -i7-2600K SB setup is cheaper than i7-950 because the motherboards are less expensive and you can max out at 16GB ram.


                  But back to the main question (which isn't about Quick Sync or other platform issues): Is going to 24 GB from 16 GB on ram so much more useful for PPro or maybe Photoshop or After Effects that it's a no-brainer?


                  Gehrke said in an early post on PPBM5 that he saw a big difference at 24 gigs on something. I'm wondering if having this much memory on hand is a really big deal or just a nice bump-up for CS5 suite-wide. This is sort of hard to answer, as most people with X58 jumped to 24 from 12 gigs, not 16. It is nice to know that 16 gigs was the sweetspot, however, for X58.

                  • 6. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
                    RjL190365 Level 5



                    The problem is the way most Z68 motherboards are set up. Since the number of PCIe lanes is limited in the LGA 1155 CPUs, you cannot have both the integrated Intel graphics and a discrete PCIe graphics card running at full bandwidth simultaneously. Premiere Pro will use whichever GPU you have set as "primary" (since it does not support the use of two GPUs simultaneously). But if you try to make any use of QuickSync whatsoever by enabling the integrated GPU, the PCIe-x16 slot that you have the GTS 450 installed into will drop to x1 or x4 mode (instead of the proper x16) by default, which will seriously cripple MPE GPU performance. (Remember, Premiere Pro CS5.x's MPE GPU-accelerated mode will run substantially slower than it should if the bandwidth of the PCIe-x16 slot drops below x8.) At that rate you might as well permanently lock CS5 into software-only MPE mode.


                    So in other words, you can’t really have both QuickSync and MPE at the same time, even with the Z68 chipset. Using both simultaneously would have required that the CPU have more than 32 PCIe lanes to function properly.


                    Message was edited by: RjL190365

                    • 7. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
                      J.Elliott8652 Level 1



                      Somehow, we've gotten off track. I've not suggested use of both GPU and IGP simultaneously. Do you mean combining the IGP and GPU together, as in SLI? PPro doesn't use separate cards in dual configuration, so I don't see how you could combine the two this way.


                      Perhaps you mean that with a card installed, firing up the IGP to access Quick Sync will flood the PCI-e bus and knock MPE performance into the ditch. Good point, even if one could have both running at the same time (not yet verified). But that would assume I plan on using PPro and Quick Sync simultaneously, which I don't. Why would anyone want to use both at the same time? PPro already soaks up all system resources.


                      Finish editing in PPro, transcode later.


                      Virtue will allow a simple thing, if it works well. Typically, you'll keep your monitor plugged into your GPU and use PPro like normal. When you want access to Quick Sync, use Virtue and something like CyberLink Media Expresso to transcode. The Quick Sync feature will be virtualized and have the video output passed through the GPU. When not in use, the card will function as though nothing else were going on. MPE, CUDA, all else shouldn't be affected as the IGP video features aren't being called upon. It's as though you had a switch to turn on Quick Sync only when needed.


                      Where I see a potential problem is if the CPU cannot be entirely freed of its video features. My understanding is that unless Virtue is being used, video is processed through the GPU as with all other systems not having video built into the CPU die. Only when Virtue is "turned on," and set to pass IGP video out through the GPU, will GPU and IGP ever "meet." VideoGuys seem wary of this, expecting driver trouble, etc. I think they suspect SB's built-in video capability will somehow interfere with PPro/MPE/something, and don't want to sort it out under warranty. I don't blame them for being cautious.


                      But - this concern isn't drawn from experience with SB so much as past experience with the finicky nature of heavy-duty editing. They're waiting it out until they feel comfortable, plus they already see X58 as a superior chipset. Why take a risk?


                      Answer - the 2500K/2600K processors post strong benchies, are overclockable, have Quick Sync, and are cheaper after adding in motherboard costs. Some of us just want to get into doing this "well enough"  without having to shovel money out for each component. Multiple hard drives, lots of memory, expensive motherboards and power supplies - it all adds up. If you don't take a look at saving money somehow, you're at $2000 after the cost of the program. Professionals get back their investment with time saved. The rest of us eat it.




                      Again, the purpose of the thread isn't to get bogged down into the minutia of the SB/Nehalem/Quick Sync debate. The whole picture is important to making a decision, but I'm trying to narrow the thread to one aspect - the effect of 16Gb vs. 24GB memory available to Adobe programs, across the CS5 suite. Centered upon PPro, of course, but there are others of interest in the box.


                      Does anyone strongly feel that having the extra memory will make a big impact?



                      • 8. Re: Umpteenth thread Sandy Bridge vs. i7-9XX; 16GB vs. 24GB memory?
                        Bill Gehrke Most Valuable Participant

                        Joel, the extra memory essentially has no effect on PPBM5 scores with the CS5 version.  We do not have any information yet on CS5.5.  Look at the fourth score on PPBM5 it was accomplished with 14 GB on an X58 board.  Ultra complex timeline manipulation and encoding may be somewhat different.  Also I suspect this fall when Sandy Bridge E CPU's and motherboards are released that will will start seeing 8 GB RAM modules for these boards so that when that happens the current generation of Sandy Bridge motherboards will then be able to be upgraded to 32 GB as some motherboard makers have promised.