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Old 2003-09-08, 23:39   #1
dans
 
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Oct 2002

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Default Best bang for the buck? Athlon XP vs. P4

I’m in the process of building out some diskless prime clients and I have a few bucks to spend on additional hardware for the cluster.

To date I have been a firm AMD proponent, I really like the performance you get for the dollars spent, but, as you all know, crunching prime numbers is vastly more efficient on Intel hardware. Namely the P4 platform, well, until George finishes optimizing for the new AMD Opteron processors!

Goal: To build a series of diskless clients that will result in the largest number of iterations for the lowest cost possible.

The goal may manifest itself in several different ways, it may be best to build more AMD clients for a lower hardware cost, but higher power cost than fewer Intel clients at a higher cost and efficiency.

For the sake of argument lets say I want to spend somewhere in the vicinity of $1,000.00 total. I already have gobs of networking gear, power strips and the other assorted items needed to hook everything up so it comes down to raw hardware:
Processor
Motherboard (W/integrated Video and LAN)
Memory
Cooling system (Heatsink + Fan)
Case (Smaller the better, with a good PS)

The following two examples are the “best bang for the buck” hardware configuration in each class that I could figure out with a couple of hours of toying around with different setups. When I say “bang for buck” I mean the processor/motherboard sweet spot where age and price have combined favorably.

Using my favorite hardware search engines I can build a complete AMD XP 2400 client (Motherboard, CPU, Heatsink + Fan, Memory and Case) for about $162.00 including shipping. That would result in 6.2 “units” for my $1k investment.

The same setup, but with an Intel P4 1.8GHz would set me back $204.00, or 4.9 “units”.

Checking out the benchmark numbers here: http://mersenne.org/bench.htm it shows:
Athlon XP 2400, 166DDR
Athlon 0.029 0.035 0.039 0.050 0.061 0.072 0.081 0.108 0.130 0.157

Intel P4, 1.8 GHz, 166DDR
Intel 0.021 0.025 0.028 0.036 0.044 0.054 0.058 0.083 0.105 0.128

% of Intel 72.4% 71.4% 71.8% 72.0% 72.1% 75.0% 71.6% 76.9% 80.8% 81.5%

Average it all out and the Athlon comes out to be 74.6% as fast as the P4. The Athlon setup is 21.7% less expensive than the P4. So, with the Athlon you get 74.6% of the performance for 79% of the price of the P4. Interesting.

Or course you have to take into consideration the power consumption per unit. Here in the PNW I pay $.063068 per/KWH, assuming the client burns 150W/hr (150*24*365 = 1,314,000W/year) divide that by 1,000 to get KWH = 1,314KWH per client per year, at the stated rate that comes to $82.87 per client per year in electricity.

So, the $1k in Athlon hardware would cost $513.80 per year
The Intel setup would run $406.05 over the year, a savings of $107.75

It is starting to look like the P4 setup is the way to go after all. Not what I expected when I started typing this message!

Did I miss anything significant? Are there any processors that have a significantly better performance curve that I should consider?
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Old 2003-09-08, 23:54   #2
cheesehead
 
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IS the power consumption the same for the AMD setup as for the P4?
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Old 2003-09-09, 00:25   #3
kwstone
 
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Dans, I'd be very interested in your complete specs for each configuration, as I'm in the process of doing the same evaluation here in China.

Have you also considered the overclocking potential of each setup? Or are you assuming you'd run a 1.8GHz P4 at 1.8?
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Old 2003-09-09, 00:39   #4
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Be careful about using the mersenne.org benchmark page. It is based on v22 timings, but v23 so far has improved P4 speed much more the Athlon speed. I would recommend using one of the various benchmarking threads in the forum to get v23.5 or later timings.
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Old 2003-09-09, 00:45   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickGlover
It is based on v22 timings, but v23 so far has improved P4 speed much more than Athlon speed.
Because there is no "edit" button, like everyone else, I blame all my typos on Xyzzy.
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Old 2003-09-09, 01:22   #6
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1- At one time I had 20 AMD boxes running 24/7 and each used a bit more electricity than indicated above. Not much, but a bit. I would think that $100 a year for each AMD box would be closer to reality.

2- Recently, I had 7 P4 boxes running 24/7 and noticed that electrical use was slightly less than AMD. I would approximate a P4 would use around $80 per year.

3- P4's run closer to 35% faster than the PR rated AMD.

4- My recommendation is go with P4 if anf only if this will be a Prime95 ONLY pharm. If you intend to use it for other projects, then AMD would be my recommendation.
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Old 2003-09-09, 01:25   #7
garo
 
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You may also want to think about the P4 2.0 or 2.4. Also, do you really need a case? Check out the Prime Monster for example.
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Old 2003-09-09, 01:28   #8
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I know this is not the place, but I have 6 250W PSUs that would save you at least the price of one more node. $30 for a case versus $5 per PSU plus shipping.
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Old 2003-09-10, 08:00   #9
dans
 
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Default *Groan* Back to the drawing board!

Excellent feedback from all, I really appreciate it!

#1. Power consumption is a data point but not a "deal breaker" between the two setups, I am just trying to be realistic about the true costs associated with the project.

#2. Overclocking. To tell you the truth I haven't considered this to date! is the performance tradeoff worth the additional investment in cooling? This is worth additional investigation.

#3. Benchmarks. D*mn, back to the drawing board on this one. If P4s are indeed ~35% faster I need to check out going with a much faster Intel processor since the incremental costs are less (more dollars on CPUs than supporting hardware = more overall iterations per dollar).

#4. Cases vs. caseless, actually I will be running a setup very similar to the Prime Monster (thanks for the web site documention your work!), but space isn't a limiting factor in my situation. I'm finding that I can get "barebones" systems that include a case and cooling solution for just a bit more than and motherboard + processor combo kit in many cases. I also don't relish the thought of having to build a bunch of ATX splitter cables :)
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Old 2003-09-10, 11:18   #10
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Overclocking depends on the specific CPU type, and to some degree the specific CPU - some CPUs are well known for overclocking a LOT without a lotta work (P4 1.8, Athlon THuroughbred XP1700/XP1800), others don't overclock much if at all.

Also depends on your environment - in my case, the environment runs so hot in the summer *anyway* I'd have to go for high-end cooling just to keep a NORMALLY clocked CPU cool, on Athlons or P4s, somewhat so on my higher-end Celerons, or probably even some P3's.
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