Hardware: Picking a New CPU for Second Life

Summary

A Core i3, i5, and i7 CPU’s from their 4th, 5th, or 6th generation is adequate for running Second Life. Using a 6th CPU gives you some future proofing. Otherwise the 6th gen offers little advantage over the previous generations.

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The i5 and GTX 1060 I have runs Second Life with everything enabled. I pull a couple of things down from the ULTRA setting. (Draw Distance and number of impostor avatars.) Otherwise I’m running at ULTRA.

Using a 4th gen CPU now doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade later. With time the price of 4th and 5th gen i7 CPU’s will come down. The top of the line i7-5930k 5th gen CPU will perform as well or better than my i5-6600k and most other 6th gen CPU’s and some day for way less money.

It isn’t until we see 7th generation CPU’s that you’ll be outclassed. Even then, by how much is questionable. If you can run Second Life at 60FPS, does it matter if there is a faster CPU?

The i5-6600k is currently the best performance for the money 6th gen CPU, according to several sites doing benchmarking. That includes when they look at 4th and 5th gen CPU’s in the lineup. Once prices drop on 4th and 5th gen CPU that will likely change and for a time they will be the best for your dollar.

The only point that may strongly convince you to buy a 6th gen CPU now is Sansar. The new CPU’s and video cards are designed for parallel image processing, having two camera viewpoints, left and right eye for VR.

VR is going to be coming to consumers in 2017. It will likely have lots of rough edges and various problems. But, those challenges will start to shake out. Prices of VR headsets will start to come down. Competition in the field will increase. The free market will work its magic.

My thinking is I can play with VR using my i5-6600k and GTX 1060. They are not the top of the line. They are pretty much the bottom of the barrel for VR. A year from now I can upgrade to a more powerful CPU – 4 cores to 12, faster memory, and better video card. I should be able to triple the capability of this computer. I may find I don’t care for VR and won’t need to… unlikely.

So, I think the i5 way good enough for Second Life.

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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