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Old December 14th, 2009, 01:29 AM   #1
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Dual Xeon 5520 vs i7 920

After dealing with footage from my Canon 7D for a few weeks now, I have realized that a powerful editing system is not a luxury, but a necessity. I am looking at a couple different options and was wondering if anyone had any input.

Tools at my disposal
====================
Cineform NeoScene or NeoHD (I can upgrade to HD if needed)
Adobe Production Premium CS4

Primary goal
====================
Real time performance on Premiere CS4 1080P timeline in a Matrox preset, 1 or 2 layers of video the majority of the time, with effects such as Matrox color correction (MXO2 Mini being used) and/or Magic Bullet Looks. External monitoring via MXO2 Mini.

My dilemma
====================
Can an i7 920 machine with 12GB Ram and a decent video card get this done? Would a dual Xeon 5520 machine be better suited for it? If overclocking is factored, is one better than the other? Oh, and for the Xeon solution, is it possible to load a dual socket motherboard with only one proc and then upgrade to a second later?

I am very proficient at building machines, I just haven't had much experience with the Xeon route. I've built one CAD system with a dual 5140 setup a couple years back, but it wasn't for me so I didn't get to utilize it. I've built two i7 machines, but both were for Edius editors so I never saw how Premiere performed on them.

In the end, I really would like a machine that has enough horsepower to get the job done now and hopefully still be able to tackle CS5 when it comes out.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 03:04 AM   #2
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I don't have any experience with Matrox, but it is my understanding from some posting here that Cineform and Matrox don't always work together:
Decklink Studio support
If that's in error, I'm sure someone with experience will chime in.

I'm very interested in the answers to your questions about the new Xeons. I'm trying to make myself hold off building a new box until the 6-core Gulftowns are released next spring/summer, and if it turns out that Dual Processor workstations will substantially outperform any single chip box for Adobe CS, I might go "whole hog" and build my first dual processor workstation.

Harm, or anyone else on the bleeding edge of computers, do you have any wisdom to share on the value and "gotcha's" of dual processor workstations? Use of only one processor while waiting for the latest, greatest chips to come out?
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Old December 14th, 2009, 04:14 AM   #3
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A dual Xeon 55xx system is way more costly than a single i7-920. Not only the CPU's, but also the motherboard and the memory because of ECC. Additionally, dual CPU boards are very difficult to overclock if at all.

OTOH, the i7-920 is very easy to overclock and gives you the best-bang-for-the-buck.

Have a look at these Premiere Pro CS4 Benchmark results and you will see what I mean. My system is nearly 30% faster than a dual W5590 with 36 GB memory and far more economical. So a system with dual 5520's would be even slower, I would expect somewhere around 60-70 seconds total time and a RPI of around 180-210. Basically you get around half the performance for more than double the price.
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Dual Xeon 5520 vs i7 920-ppbm-index.jpg  

Last edited by Harm Millaard; December 14th, 2009 at 06:23 AM.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 07:35 AM   #4
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Thanks for the quick reply, Harm. Not to diverge too far from Craig's original line of questions, but before we entirely dismiss high end Xeons, there are a couple of caveats to their PPBM4 results vs your Beast computer:
- all three PPBM4 tests are render-to-disk tests and you have a monster RAID system (costing as much as some people's who computer) and
- both the top Xeons in the result table don't have RAID at all -- they're below Adobe minimum requirements in that regard.

Regardless of cost, I wonder how the Xeons would do if they had an optimized disk subsystem? It just seems that 8 cores at 3.2 or 3.3 ought to do better than 4 cores at 3.6 or 3.7 for processor-intensive tasks when using multi-processor aware software like PPro and AE to run a timeline full of effects smoothly, as long as the disk subsystem doesn't bottleneck the render.

And I guess that points out my own priorities -- smooth NLE editing and AE performance are much more important to me than PPro final render speed.

Craig, are we on the same wavelength, or are my questions and comments not moving in your direction? (BTW, you can check out PPBM4 here).
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Old December 14th, 2009, 08:54 AM   #5
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Pete,

You are correct that in CPU intensive tests like the MPEG one, you see the power of dual W5590's in that it outperforms my overclocked i7, 24.0 versus 24.6 seconds. And yes, I have a massive raid configuration that certainly contributes heavily to my current top scores, but OTOH the Dell dual W5580 with two Cheetah 15K.7 disks that attain a sustainable transfer rate of around 180-200 MB/s are not slow either. Those single disks are very well comparable to 2 SATA disks in raid0. The same applies to the SSD boot disk in the W5590 system.

Keep in mind that the raid configuration that Adobe recommends does not apply to DV editing, it is only for HD and the PPBM4 tests are all DV based.

BTW, I have asked Adobe to run this test on their own HP Z800 with dual W5590's, with a nVidia Quadro 4800 with CS5 and the Mercury Playback Engine and they would try to do that before Christmas. I'm looking forward to seeing those results.

This is another source of comparison, although it is not directly oriented towards NLE, but more generic: PassMark Software - PerformanceTest System Benchmarks - Fastest Performing PCs

In that test my top score is still rank 3, but that is highly overclocked and not advisable for editing, but even with a much lower overclock speed at 3.4 GHz my system scores 4623 and this is still good enough for rank 12, thereby kicking the only W5580 in the list out of the 20-th position.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 09:57 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harm Millaard View Post
BTW, I have asked Adobe to run this test on their own HP Z800 with dual W5590's, with a nVidia Quadro 4800 with CS5 and the Mercury Playback Engine and they would try to do that before Christmas. I'm looking forward to seeing those results.
Wow, you know you got pull if you can ask Adobe to do that..and they do! Sure hope they allow the results to be public.

Anyway, it seems difficult to believe, but to restate the bottom line for guys like Craig (and me): don't bother with a dual processor machine for PPro; you'll get as least as much editing performance out of an overclocked i920. Amazing.

I wonder if the same holds true for AE and Dynamic Link?

Another thought regarding Craig's buying decision -- when CS5 arrives with true 64 bit software, the more RAM the better when using AE and/or having multiple apps running. Most consumer motherboards are generally limited to 12GB of RAM. Would there be a case for getting a SINGLE processor workstation MB in order to install more RAM, or are those not necessarily worthwhile for video editing (ECC RAM, overclockability, etc)?

BTW, Harm brings a wealth of knowledge here, but any other experts please do chime in. There must be others with workstation experience. The more the merrier.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 10:36 AM   #7
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Pete,

I don't have any figures to substantiate it, but especially with AE and dynamic link you never have enough memory and the more you have, the better the performance.

However, with the i7-980X expected to be introduced at Cebit in March (@ 3.33 GHz and an introduction price of around $ 999) and the new nVidia GTX-380 video card, preferably with 2 GB video memory and MPE to support CS5-64, I do not think you would be pressed for memory space. The slowest component in the chain may then again turn to disks, since both CPU and GPU have made giant leaps but disks are lagging behind and SSD's are still too small and too costly for most of us.

Can you imagine a system with:

1. i7-980X hexacore, possibly overclocked to around 4.0 GHz
2. 12 GB DDR3-1600+ 7-7-7-18 memory
3. nVidia GTX-380 with 2 GB video memory
4. 4 x SSD-80 in raid10 for boot disk
5. 4 x SSD-160 in raid0 for pagefile, scratch and media cache
6. 18 x Cheetah 600 GB in raid30 for media with 2 hot-spares, effective net 8.4 TB
7. Areca ARC-1680iX-24 with 4 GB cache and BBM

For around $15-16K you would be hard pressed to find anything better IMO.

Last edited by Harm Millaard; December 14th, 2009 at 11:38 AM.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 12:55 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses so far. I don't think this topic gets discussed enough, and there really isn't much data available online as far as direct comparisons for video purposes. I don't really care much to read about gamers trying to go dual Xeon =p

Pete, you are dead on when saying that rendering out/transcoding/anything of that nature is second to actual realtime editing speed. I want to edit with a few effects thrown on clips without having to render my timeline each time I make a change. It slows down the editing process too much and is a main reason a lot of event videographers are looking to Edius instead of Premiere. Edius does realtime timeline very well.

As far as Matrox and Cineform goes, Videoguys' writeup was what sold me on this setup. Here is a press release from Cineform regarding this:

http://www.cineform.com/pdfs/Press%2...ni%20FINAL.pdf

Harm, I believe that many dual socket 1366 motherboards now will run ECC or non-ECC ram. Am I not correct in that? I am looking in particular at the Asus Z8NA right now. It is dual socket 1366 and states that it supports 24 GB of unregistered memory or 48 GB of registered. It is also in the same price range as the P6T mobo for i7. So I would think the only extra cost would be the higher price of the 5520 proc compared to the 920 (times two). Roughly about $500 difference between the two systems I would presume given current prices over at Newegg.

As far as never having enough memory, Asus also makes the Z8PE-D12X and Z8PE-D18, which can hold 12 and 18 sticks of RAM (RDIMM or UDIMM). That would allow 48 GB unregistered. Would one of those boards work? I don't have much experience with the server boards so maybe I'm overlooking something.

In the end, I'd actually prefer the i7 route if it can keep up with the Xeons for what we are using them for. I just want to figure out which path makes more sense in the video editing world.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 01:47 PM   #9
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Craig,

Initial looks at the mobo you mentioned is that it only has 6 memory slots, same as nearly all other 1366 boards and only half of other dual 1366 socket boards, that have 12 or 18 slots. It has a completely useless integrated graphics controller, it has no firewire connectors, it misses on board audio. This shows you get what you pay for. I would not recommend it.

Instead I would look at Super Micro Computer, Inc. - Products | Motherboards | Xeon Boards | X8DAi

Do not forget that with MPE around the corner, rendering previews may be a thing of the past.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 02:47 PM   #10
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Craig,

Do you honestly think it is wise to invest around € 1700 for 24 G instead of € 350 for 12 G faster memory for each 6 memory slots? Where do you get even larger memory sticks? I haven't seen them.

If I read you correctly, you prefer € 5100 on 72 G of memory over € 350 on 12 G memory, which would have gotten you a marvelous disk setup and more noticeable performance improvements?
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Old December 14th, 2009, 04:33 PM   #11
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Harm,

I was just throwing those options out there to see what you thought of them. I wouldn't be doing anything close to what is available due to price restrictions as of now, but who knows what a year or so down the road holds as far as prices go. I know a couple years ago we probably would have laughed at anyone who told us that 12 GB of RAM would only be a little over $300 USD.

I was just exploring an option, that's all. I know it isn't feasible to stick 4GB sticks in each slot right now, it's too expensive. If a motherboard with 12 slots could hold 12 2GB sticks at roughly $700 USD giving you 24 GB of RAM, would that be a good investment? Would one see noted improvement using 24 instead of 12? I'm just throwing ideas around.

I trust your opinion completely and am very satisfied with your analysis of the 920's perfomance capabilities. I will probably do a 920 build for myself. However, I do build machines for others sometimes that have a LOT more editing experience than I have. They, however, don't have as much I.T. experience and so they trust my opinions. I have to explore these options for them so I have accurate answers for them when they ask "why not Xeon?".
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Old December 15th, 2009, 06:01 AM   #12
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Graig,

With any system one builds, there are a number of unavoidable expenses, especially with CS5 and MPE around the corner.

You need a large case that allows the use of eATX motherboards, has lots of space for disks, preferably hot-swappable and two Blu-ray burners and of course a good power supply. In addition you need a good nVidia CUDA capable video card with lots of video memory and a good raid controller plus a number of reliable hard disks.

Before choosing the CPU and motherboard and memory, this implies that there is already a sizable dent in the available budget. Let me give you an example:

Chassis: Lian Li PC-A77B Newegg.com - LIAN LI PC-A77B Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Computer Cases
PSU: Corsair-1000HX Newegg.com - CORSAIR CMPSU-1000HX 1000W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Power Supplies
Blu-ray burners: 2 x Sony Newegg.com - SONY Black 6X BD-R 2X BD-RE 8X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 6X BD-ROM 4.5 Mbyte Cache SATA Blu-ray Burner Model BD-5730S-01 - Blu-Ray Burners
Drive cage: 2 x Supermicro M35T cage Newegg.com - SUPERMICRO CSE-M35T-1B Black 5 Bay Hot-Swapable SATA HDD Enclosure - Server Accessories
Video: nVidia GTX-295 Newegg.com - ZOTAC ZT-295E3MB-FSP GeForce GTX 295 1792MB 896 (448 x 2)-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card - Desktop Graphics / Video Cards
Boot disk: WD Velociraptor Newegg.com - Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10000 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Raid controller: Areca ARC-160iX-12 Newegg.com - areca ARC-1680IX-12-4G PCI-Express x8 SAS RAID Card - Controllers / RAID Cards
Areca BBM: Battery backup Newegg.com - areca ARC-6120 Full Height Battery Backup Unit - Server Accessories
Storage: 8 x WD RE3 Newegg.com - Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Now we haven't even started choosing the CPU('s), motherboard or memory but already we have a dent in the budget of $ 4350. Sure, there may be other components at more attractive prices so you can shave off a bit, but IMO this is quite reasonable for a very good system. Nothing overdone like a nVidia Quadro 4800 or excessive storage or expensive SSD's. Now with these 8 storage disks in raid3 with 1 hot-spare you have 6 TB storage. That should be enough for most people and sufficiently safe. There is no provision for a raid1 for the boot disk, so that may need to be added, bringing the intermediate cost to $ 4560.

If we now add the most economical CPU, cooler, mobo and 12 GB of memory

ASUS P6T WS Pro: Newegg.com - Open Box: ASUS P6T WS PRO LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Core i7 / Xeon Intel Motherboard
i7-920: Newegg.com - Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor - Processors - Desktops
2 x 6 GB memory: Newegg.com - CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C7 G - Desktop Memory
Cooler: Newegg.com - Noctua NH-D14 120mm & 140mm SSO CPU Cooler - CPU Fans & Heatsinks

the total price comes out to $ 4350 + $ 1045 = around $ 5400

If the option is to use dual Xeon's and 24 GB of memory, it may look like this:

Dual W5590: Newegg.com - Intel Xeon W5590 Nehalem-EP 3.33GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Server Processor - Processors - Servers
Supermicro X8DAi: Newegg.com - SUPERMICRO MBD-X8DAi-O Dual LGA 1366 Intel 5520 Extended ATX Dual Intel Xeon Processor 5500 sequence (Nehalem-EP processor) Server Motherboard - Server Motherboards
4 x 6 GB memory: Newegg.com - CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C7 G - Desktop Memory
2 x Cooler: Newegg.com - Noctua NH-D14 120mm & 140mm SSO CPU Cooler - CPU Fans & Heatsinks

and the total cost rises to $ 4350 + $ 4870 = around $ 9200

An intermediate approach might be to opt for the i7-980X hexacore for $ 1000 instead of the i7-920. This brings the investment up to $ 6100 but likely will give a 40-50% performance gain over the quad core.

I think that with the new hexacores and MPE the bottleneck will be in disk performance and looking at various setups, too many people do not enough to improve disk performance and that is where gains can be made.
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Old December 15th, 2009, 11:18 AM   #13
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Thanks Harm. I will be reusing everything in my current system other than the MB, CPU, video card, and RAM. The rest will stay the same. I currently am using a 4U rackmount system with a Highpoint RocketRaid with dual external infiniband connectors connecting to a 12 bay (only 8 usable due to RAID card only having 8 ports) external hot-swappable rackmount chassis.

You mention using a CUDA capable video card... does that help at all with timeline playback or is it just accelerating exports?
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Old December 15th, 2009, 12:03 PM   #14
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Craig,

Have a look here: DAVTechTable - Sneak Peek at the New Adobe Mercury Playback Engine Technology | Adobe TV

This is the machine I asked Adobe to run CS5 + MPE for the PPBM4 benchmark.
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Old December 15th, 2009, 12:13 PM   #15
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I'm wondering how soon AMD will have a workstation version of Magny Cours out, and how well it will perform.
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