Hardware: Picking a New CPU for Second Life

The 5th and 6th Generation Canyon

A somewhat camouflaged difference in CPU’s and motherboards is the need for either a LGA-1150 (released: 2013) or LGA-1151 (released 2015) socket. That last ‘1’ can be easily overlooked. But, it is a crucial difference and places a canyon between 5th gen and 6th gen hardware that blocks our upgrade path.

Intel i5 2500k CPU fitted

Intel i5 2500k CPU fitted – Nal: 2nd Gen i5, looks the same

Note: Avoid thinking that increasing socket numbers mean newer boards. The LGA-1155 is 2011 tech. LGA 2011 is also 2011 tech. My point here is don’t assume things based on reasonable thinking, check.

The CPU and motherboard have to match. The new gen motherboards support the new 6th CPU architecture named Skylake. These boards usually have a z170 designation. The big advantage in these is the increased PCIe pathways and DDR4 memory pathways. More on those when I write about other parts of the computer.

The Intel chips up to 5th generation use the 1150 socket. The motherboards have designators like x97, z97, or x99. 6th generation i3, i5, and i7 CPU’s require the 1151 socket. So, for future proofing go with the 1151 boards referenced as z170.

This difference forces us to make an irreversible decision for 5th or 6th gen tech. If we decide on 5th gen, the CPU, motherboard, and memory chips we buy won’t transfer up to the newer tech. We are stuck. A change to 6th gen tech means a new CPU, motherboard, and memory.

All 3 Intel ‘i’ CPU’s will run Second Life. In gaming the 6th gen i5 is considered the best performance for dollar spent. Some consider the i7 overkill and a waste of money. Considering that my O L D Core2 Quad 2.6ghz carries SL at a 25 to 50% load on the CPU, it isn’t a CPU bottleneck that limited my performance. It is the combination of CPU, motherboard, memory, and disk drives. Or… the whole freaking old computer.

A huge difference in z170/LGA-1151 boards and 6th gen CPU’s is they support faster DDR4 memory. I’ll cover memory in another article. This one is already too long.

More pages, links below…

4 thoughts on “Hardware: Picking a New CPU for Second Life

  1. Honestly… best to wait for AMD’s Zen in October.

    And it’s important because AMD hasn’t seriously tried to compete in CPU for gamers in a long while and they always offer at lower price than Intel’s. Now they are.

    It could be a flop… but it also could be great. Tech experts believes their CPU FX model with 8 cores and 16 threads are to be priced around $250-$350. Spec that was on par with Intel’s Broadwell-E, which is priced at $1,100 currently.

    But then you’d have to get a new motherboard for it, but there’s a good chance that price difference with Intel could pay it off for that new AMD motherboard.

    • Thanks for saying.

      AMD could choose to compete in gaming. That would be good. From what I am reading scientists in places like CERN are excited about Zen. But, I’m not hearing much about gaming.

      They are going to smaller size (14nm) and packing in more cores (32). Historically more cores has forced down clock speed. We’ll have to see if they can solve some problems and provide more fast cores.

  2. Second Life viewers require you to get the fastest CPU on a per core basis (and a dual core or better; but more than 4 cores, or “hyperthreading” won’t do any difference whatsoever).

    Why ?
    Because the SL viewers’ renderer (unlike almost all recent games) is a mono-threaded task running in the main loop of the program, and the latter will consume one full core long before any modern GPU (such as the NVIDIA GTX 970 or better) gets saturated: the bottleneck is at the CPU level (and even at the CPU core level).

    Some graphics drivers (such as NVIDIA’s proprietary one) can use multi-threading by themselves, even when their OpenGL functions are called from a single-threaded software: enabling multi-threading in one such driver will get you a 20-30% fps boost at the cost of the consumption of a third to one full core processing power (meaning the viewer will consume 1.3 to 2 full cores while rendering a fully rezzed scene).

    During rezzing, the viewer will also make use of threads to fetch, decode and cache the textures and meshes, and up to half a CPU core may be consumed while it happens (thus why a quad core will give you slightly better results than a dual core CPU).

    It means that the best processor for Second Life is a quad-core with the highest clock speed * IPC (instructions per clock) product. A Core-i5 with the best overclocking capability is for now the best choice (at least until AMD comes up with a Zen CPU that can compete with Intel on this front).
    My 2500K (Sandy Bridge Core-i5) gives wonderful results at its 4.6GHz overclock speed (and probably equivalent results to what a Skylake would provide, given the latter, while providing a somewhat better (~20%) IPC, got a somewhat lower (~20% as well) stable overclock speed).

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