First post, by Almoststew1990
In September 2009, the first "mainstream" i7 CPU launched with four cores and eight threads, along with Socket 1156. I remember my i7 860 it fondly as it was the core of the first PC that I built with my own money. Well, your money; it was funded by my student loan, so thanks everyone.
Everyone else lauds and hypes Sandybridge, Lynnfields hotter younger sister, and if we're being honest Sandybridge is objectively better in pretty much every way. I however still find Socket 1156 appealing, even if everyone else overlooks it - and presumably that's because it was short lived, and comprehensively superceded by Socket 1155.
What also interests me about this era of PCs is that it sits in a period of transition. It retains the fairly bland/ functional look of Socket 775 motherboards, the traditional clunky BIOS and BLK overclocking across the whole CPU range, but has "modern" features such as SATA3, USB 3, SLI and x-fire more readily available (PCI-E lane availability I assume?), VRM heatsinks... I think it's a good mix!
I picked up an i7 860 and set myself the challenge of seeing whether a 10 year old platform can keep up with my 3700X, 1TB NVMe, 16GB DDR4 3600MHz system in every day tasks and games. For anyone still reading here is my adventure:
I started compiling parts after browsing AliExpress and noticing new old motherboards. I saw new, unbranded motherboards for Socket 1156 for £23. I got it from a UK based supplier for £28 to save the month delivery time and it duly arrived a few days later. First impressions were good as the board feels no different to any other motherboard and doesn't feel or look like "cheap tat", even if it did come in a box that looks like it's ripped from an airfix model with a World of Warships logo photoshopped on it.
I conveniently found an i7 860 in my local CEX for £22 and I dusted off my old 2x 4GB DDR3 2133MHz from my old PC. Finally, I had a choice of graphics card from my Collection of Unnecessary Graphics Cards: a 7950GT, 9800GT Green Edition, GTX 560 GTX645. Now I was ready to tinker!
However, it all started going wrong when I actually used the system. Technically, it works as intended, but the BIOS was so stripped out that I wasn't sure I could use it day to day. No thermal monitoring or fan control (100% fans all the time); no turbo mode or C-states power saving to help idling, and definitely no overclocking.
After messing around with software half-solutions I gave up and started watching proper retail boards on eBay. Lesson learnt: don't buy unbranded not-cheap-tat-that-actually-is-cheap-tat that comes in a box that looks like it's ripped from an airfix model with a World of Warships logo photoshopped on it.
I picked up a Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 for £20 (£26 with delivery) on an eBay auction. I also took the opportunity to get a better case as I've changed GPU in my project case so many times that I've completely smoothed out the screw hole on the expansion brackets holes of my old one.
The board was put on eBay because it apparently didn't support Windows 10. Windows 10 was a must for me if I wanted to see if would work as a modern PC, and luckily W10 installed just fine with a W7 CD key. I'm not sure what issues the previous owner was having, but they were wrong and should feel bad.
In the end I put my 1070ti from my main PC in, along with my 5GHz PCI-E Wifi card, as I felt these are reasonable upgraded for someone who bought a Socket 1156 PC in 2009 (hence me saying 10 year old "platform" not 10 year old "PC" 😉) an I wanted to speed up the download process over my old USB 2.4GHz wifi stick.
To give the CPU a fighting chance I overclocked it. These chips are similar to the E8xxx series in that they overclock respond well to overclocking, so much so that it's actually a criminal offence to run them at stock settings in 27.2 countries. My overclocking presented quite a few issues at first in that I thought that I was stable at 3.9GHz, running Prime 95 and Cinebench R15. However, GTA V would crash immediately and BF V would crash after 10 minutes or so.
After Googling and help from a few forums I realised the VTT voltage was likely the culprit. I've now settled for an overclock of 3.8GHz with moderate volts on th CPU and QDI / VTT. This is an "adequate" overclock with a consertative overclock for these chips being 3.6GHz all-core and 4.2GHz all-core being a great overclock. A competant peson could, and did, get these chips to 4GHz without issue,
As you might expect, this 4C 8T CPU is just fine with everyday tasks. I am not one of those people that have 50 tabs automatically open when I browse, or a whole range of start up programmes, and as a result, Browsing, running Spotify, Youtube, Netflix, extracting stuff etc all at once present no problems. It's fast and responsive, and very similar feeling to my 3700x. It boots into Windows pretty quickly with an SSD over SATA2 (I didn't use the SATA 3 ports). It's a noticable couple of seconds slower to reach the desktop compared to a PCI-E 3 NVMe drive but fast enough for a budget PC. It doesn't put me off or annoy me. Windows 10 probably has a lot to do with that. If anything, the POST is slow as it has several SATA controllers on board and even though the ones I don't need are disabled, it still seems to initate them.
CPU-Z Single Thread - 299
CPU-Z Multi Thread - 1550
Cinebench R15 Multi Thread - 576
Cinebench R20 Multi Thread - 1248
According to this broad CPU list, the R15 performance puts it at a similar level to the i5 6500, i5 7400, better than the i3 8300t (4 core), better than stock i5 Haswells...
https://www.cpu-monkey.com/en/cpu_benchmark-c … 15_multi_core-8
These synthetic benchmarks are only half the story however...
To my surpise, this 10 year old platform can cope with modern gaming with no issues at all at 3.8GHz.
Games take quite a long time to load up. I assume Windows 10 is doing some memory shuffling in the background to get these games within my 8GB of RAM. I do have another 2x 4GB sticks (and empty slots) but they're slower and I don't want to upset my overclock.
I benchmarked mostly at 1080p high settings to represent what a budget gamer would likely play at, rather than a 720p minimum settings to see the absolute performance of the CPU.
Still a staple in "proper" benchmarks from online outlets. I played at 1080p high.
The Graphics card was the bottleneck sometimes, and sometimes "something else" other than the CPU. RAM amount?
The first game that made me regret getting a 1070ti - can't even max it at 1080p at 60fps 🙁
Graphics was definitely the bottleneck here.
Red Dead 2
The newest game I tested and this 10 year old CPU has no right to be able to run this if I'm honest!
The minimum was one observable stutter (after robbing the shopkeep and exiting the back door and emerging into a flowery courtyard in the benchmark). Not sure how the widespread "stutter problem" relates to this as the game plays fine with no noticable slow downs or stuttering in the rest of the benchmark or snowy part of the story mode.
Not that new but still a "modern game".
This scored an average frame rate of 75, using DX12, and a score of 6739. GPU usage was 97% whilst CPU usage was 82%.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
I tried this as the demo came with a benchmark and it is fairly new.
Ehhh... I'm not really sure what much of this means so I'll just put the image up.
When the frame rate was low (40 to 50), I was CPU bound. When the framerate was high, I was GPU bound in MSI Afterburner. This seems to conflict with the benchmark telling me I was GPU limited only 2% of the time, heh. It does look like my CPU rendering time in milliseconds was a lot slower than the GPU too. Still a 60FPS average though.
I tried this as it was one of the games that convinced me to upgrade from my 4770k to a 3700x due to high CPU usage. The CPU was at 90%+ for the entire benchmark, but my GPU was too. The benchmark definitely had microstuttering going on too. However, the CPU is much closer to reliably hitting 16.6ms than the GPU, judging from the graphics.
At high setting I could maintain 60fps and I had moderate CPU usage.
At max setting I could maintain 60fps and I had higher GPU usage.
Mass Effect Andromeda
I tried this game as I remember it killing my 4770K. However, the i7 860 performed similarly and could achieve 60fps, albeit with 95% CPU usage or more. Definitely nothing more to give and CPU bound, but also definitely a steady 60fps and very playable.
Max settings and 60fps maintained with neither CPU or GPU being troubled.
I was amazed at how well this CPU, and platform, holds up. This 10 year old CPU can play hardware-pushing games released in 2017 to 2019, and on the surface appears to offer 99% of the experienec of my 3700x.
The main drawnack with this CPU is be the minimum framerates. The benchmarks show low values and whilst gaming feels like a smooth 60fps, I'm sure competitive Battlefield players would notice irregular frametimes. I may, if I can be arsed, do some actual benchmarking to get frametimes and work out the 1% and 0.1%ile frames or something.
However I think this says more about the last 10 years of CPU development and game development rather than this CPU being anything super special. With consoles having fairly poor but multithreaded CPUs, coupled with five years of fairly poor CPU development, there hasn't really been a push for more CPU demanding gaming for 1080p 60Hz gamer. I remember buying my i7 860 and everyone saying "Just get the i5, you'll never need the 8 threads". They were right for the lifespan of my CPU, but who is laughing now, random OCUK member!? I think the 8 threads helps out a lot today. I also think Vulkan / DX12 (maybe) and Windows 10 help, and had I dont this test 5 years ago on Windows 7 the results may well have been worse.
As a comparison, in Sepetmber 1999, 10 years before the release of the i7, the Pentium 3 ~600MHz was released. I'm confident that would be useless at gaming and day to day tasks in 2009.
So is there any point to this? Well, the budget PC gamer can take away from this that they don't need to spend £95 (at CEX, who appear to be cheaper than eBay) on a i7 2600k or i7 4770; the £22 i7 860 offers the same tier of performance (60Hz gaming) for considerably less money. It's just as much of a dead end platform as 1155 and 1150, and is just as much not really suited to high refresh modern gaming, but is noticably cheaper. It still offers "quality of life" features like SATA 3 and USB3.
The age old argument of "yeah but if you also overclocked the 2600k like the 860 you would get much better performance than an OC 860" rings true. You will certainly get a much better performing CPU with an overclocked i7 2/3/4 series. However at less than 20% of the price, I think the i7 860 and 1156 platform offers great value compared to the go-to 1155 platform for the super budget gamer. The overclock didn't result in overly high temperatures, and whilst the noise was noticable there is space for a bit of a temperature / noise trade off. The Gigabyte fan controller seems quite agressive to be honest.
The second point to take away is that the CPU was regularly held back by my 1070ti, a mid range (just about *sob*) card in 2019. This seems phenomenal that it can keep up with this sort of performance. Perhaps the CPU could also keep up with a 2080 Super for 4K gaming on these titles?
The third point to take away is that this CPU (which in my view was the equivilent of the i7 9700/k today in terms of market positioning, the high end mainstream CPU) would have set you back £212 from a competitor in 2009 a month or two after launch. Three years later, the FX8350 launches for a similar $195 and offers worse performance. Seven and a bit years later, the i5 7400 launches and offers similar (but slightly worse) performance in CR15, CR20 and the CPU-Z Bechmark for what its worth, and costs £189. You need to spend £209 (i5 7500) if you want to slightly beat the overclocked i7 860. I think someone who bought a £212 i7 860 around launch got great value for money.
Finally, all this benchmarking remined me of the friendly battles my mate with a Phenom II X4 3.4GHz and I had, even if that CPU did cost half as much. I wonder how well that CPU holds up. I may or may not be opening eBay as we speak...
Anyway I hope you found this "interesting" or it at least made you think "oh yeah, the i7 860 was a thing" and made you feel old.
Ryzen 3700X | 16GB 3600MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 1070ti | 1Tb NVME SSD | Windows 10
Athlon 3200+ @ 3800+ (Venice) | Some Ram | Nvidia GeForce GTX645 / 7950GT
Slot 1 896MHz | 384Mb 112MHz RAM | Nvidia GeForce 3 ti200 | AWE32