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First post, by Almoststew1990

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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appealing, even if everyone else overlooks it - and presumably that's because it was short lived, and comprehensively superceded by Socket 1155.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:

The Build
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.

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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.

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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,

Everyday performance
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 Benchmarks
CPU-Z Single Thread - 299
CPU-Z Multi Thread - 1550
https://valid.x86.fr/bench/b7p2vz/8

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...

Gaming
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.

GTA V
Still a staple in "proper" benchmarks from online outlets. I played at 1080p high.
Minimum: 34
Average: 99
Maximum: 134

The Graphics card was the bottleneck sometimes, and sometimes "something else" other than the CPU. RAM amount?

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Wildlands
The first game that made me regret getting a 1070ti - can't even max it at 1080p at 60fps 🙁
Minimum: 62
Average: 75
Maximum: 85
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!
Minimum: 4
Average: 56
Maximum: 65

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.

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Division 2
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.

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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.

AC Origins
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.

Battlefield 5
At high setting I could maintain 60fps and I had moderate CPU usage.

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Battlefield 1
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.

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Fallout 4
Max settings and 60fps maintained with neither CPU or GPU being troubled.

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Conclusion

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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

Reply 1 of 28, by Scali

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Yea, exactly this 😀
I am typing this from my Core i7 860. In my case it's not a retro-machine I built. It's simply the last PC I bought, because I haven't found a reason to upgrade yet.
Or well, I did upgrade the video card twice, because that's the only part where I had reasons to upgrade.
It started life with a Radeon HD5770 I believe.
Then I upgraded to a GeForce GTX460.
And finally a GeForce GTX970.

The other small upgrade I did was adding a USB3.0 card, because my motherboard is an early one just before USB3.0 was a thing (Asus P7P55D Deluxe, there were various updated versions later, such as the P7P55D-E Deluxe, which did offer USB3.0).
Other than that it's still running on 8 GB of memory and a 2x1TB HDD RAID0 system, as I originally put it together some 10 years ago.

Oh, and I also started with a 1080p monitor originally, but it broke down, so I got a 4k monitor. But I don't normally consider that part of any build, as I basically never buy a new monitor at the same time that I buy a new PC.

If I were to upgrade anything, I'd probably ditch the HDDs for an SDD solution. The CPU is no bottleneck for me at this point.
But realistically I'd probably get a new PC altogether, because then I could go for M.2 drives and such, rather than investing in outdated SDD technology now.
Likewise, if I were to upgrade the video card again, the old system would likely become a bottleneck. So it would make sense to future-proof myself that way.
But it's more 'because I can' than 'because I have to'.

Edit: my board runs Windows 10 just fine, just installed the new 1909 feature update.

Last edited by Scali on 2019-11-16, 14:00. Edited 1 time in total.

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 2 of 28, by clueless1

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Scali wrote:

Other than that it's still running on 8 GB of memory and a 2x1TB HDD RAID0 system, as I originally put it together some 10 years ago.

Two 10 year old HDDs running in RAID0? That's confidence-inspiring. 😀

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.
OPL3 FM vs. Roland MT-32 vs. General MIDI DOS Game Comparison
Let's benchmark our systems with cache disabled
DOS PCI Graphics Card Benchmarks

Reply 3 of 28, by Scali

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clueless1 wrote:

Two 10 year old HDDs running in RAID0? That's confidence-inspiring. 😀

Yea, two Samsungs... they have SMART so I figure they'll tell me they're about to fail before they actually do.
If not, no matter, all the important stuff is backed up in the cloud.

http://scalibq.wordpress.com/just-keeping-it- … ro-programming/

Reply 6 of 28, by BSA Starfire

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Funny you should bring up early i7 machines, I bought this beauty last night, will arrive Monday/Tuesday.

Silverstone FT 02 case(really cool design).
ASUS Sabretooth x58 motherboard.
i7 950 (4 core- 8 thread 3.06 GHz).
12 GB RAM(6x 2GB).
Titan Fenrir cooler.
Xigmatek Samurai 700 w PSU.
Samsung 840 EVO SSD and 1 TB SATA HD.
And finally the less inspiring bit, a Sapphire Radeon HD5450 1 GB graphics card.

Sellers pics:

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286 20MHz,1MB RAM,Trident 8900B 1MB, Conner CFA-170A.SB 1350B
386SX 33MHz,ULSI 387,4MB Ram,OAK OTI077 1MB. Seagate ST1144A, MS WSS audio
Amstrad PC 9486i, DX/2 66, 16 MB RAM, Cirrus SVGA,Win 95,SB 16
Cyrix MII 333,128MB,SiS 6326 H0 rev,ESS 1869,Win ME

Reply 7 of 28, by JonathonWyble

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@Almoststew1990
The screenshots containing the benchmarking and CPU tracking features on the desktop kinda remind me of Conky, another system monitor, just by the way the interface looked. But I wouldn't think that you were using Conky, as that software is for Linux-based systems.

Anyway, that's cool as heck!

1998 Pentium II build

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Reply 8 of 28, by shiva2004

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My main PC uses a 1366 Xeon X5650 overclocked to 4Ghz with an Asus P6T SE motherboard and 12GB of RAM, in my case the bottleneck in games is the GPU, a Geforce 660, but I don't play enough modern, GPU-heavy games to justify changing it.

Someday, when I have the money, I will replace this system with a Ryzen one, but for now it does everything I want it to do (and yes, it can play Crysis 🤣).

Reply 9 of 28, by BeginnerGuy

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ZellSF wrote:

Unless you're limiting yourself to 1920x1080@60hz for benchmarking purposes, you should get a better monitor. A 1070 Ti is wasted at that resolution and refresh rate.

But if we go down the high refresh route, the 1070Ti will be wasted on the first gen i7. 1080p and 1440p can easily be done over 100 fps with that card but only if paired with a much newer CPU. This thread does serve to prove an interesting point, for 60hz gaming you can still run a 10 year old system and be mostly fine.

I guess you could say a 4k monitor would suit this system well, though even a 1070Ti will struggle at such an insane resolution.

One thing I can say though, running a 144hz panel on an older PC is nice. I have one on my 775 rig (q6600 @ 3.6ghz) and it makes playing games like half-life 2 or even Modern Warfare feel insanely smooth.. So for older games it may still be worth 144hz anyway. Newer titles like CS:GO are stuttery on 775 though, and forget about even getting close to 60FPS in a game like PUBG 😜. Speaking of PUBG, when I sold my main I was running an i5-2500k @ 4.7ghz and it was doing well over 100fps in PUBG with ease, frame pacing wasn't so great but i didn't really notice, felt smooth. So an overclocked sandy bridge chip is definitely also a good pair for a 1070Ti.

Sup. I like computers. Are you a computer?

Reply 10 of 28, by Auzner

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Part of the low pricing I think is that LGA1156 was called a dead end socket before it even came out. Kind of reminds me of AMD's socket 754. With Xeons, Ivy is like $15/core and sandy $10/core with 6 and 8 core options. These platforms stay relevant because they have PCIe3 and USB3, which today are still very fast I/O. I still run Sandy & Ivy Bridges in my systems. Non-oem motherboards are getting more difficult to find still working for a reasonable price.

Reply 11 of 28, by Almoststew1990

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I disagree that the card is wasted at 1080p 60Hz gaming. From my benchmarking I saw it at 90% utilisation in a fair few games, and this isn't at max settings.

1156 also have Sata 3 and USB 3, my motherboard does anyway. I didn't know that it was viewed as a dead end platform before it came out though, that's interesting!

I am looking out for a 1440p 144hz monitor during Black Friday sales (this has become a thing in the UK now)

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

Reply 12 of 28, by robertmo

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ZellSF wrote:

Unless you're limiting yourself to 1920x1080@60hz for benchmarking purposes, you should get a better monitor. A 1070 Ti is wasted at that resolution and refresh rate.

Rather two monitors as you cannot have both high res and high freq at the same time right now 😉

Reply 13 of 28, by ZellSF

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Almoststew1990 wrote:

I disagree that the card is wasted at 1080p 60Hz gaming. From my benchmarking I saw it at 90% utilisation in a fair few games, and this isn't at max settings.

Increasing the resolution to 2560x1440 would be more beneficial to image quality than increasing settings. You can probably get a 1070 Ti to work hard at 1920x1080@60hz, it just isn't a good use of resources.

robertmo wrote:

Rather two monitors as you cannot have both high res and high freq at the same time right now 😉

Acer's XV273K is high res (3840x2160) and high freq (120hz with FreeSync or 144hz without it). It's not cheap sure, but it's probably not that much more expensive than buying both a high res and a high freq monitor.

Not that I would recommend it, 2560x1440@120hz+ is ideal for gaming.

Reply 17 of 28, by SPBHM

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yes but, I think this sort of setup is going to drop massively in terms of viability for gaming in a year, when the new consoles are out a lot of upgrading will have to happen, for now it's mostly fine.

I'm still using my budget sandy bridge solution from early 2012, still feels better than what higher end CPUs I had in the early 2000s after 1 year of use.

Reply 18 of 28, by 386SX

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I'm using lately a Core2 E8600, XMS2 2GB Dual, SSD and a GT610 with lxde linux. It's seems fast as a new PC. Obviously gaming would be another world but with a good vga and double the ram I'd not be suprised to play everything @ HD resolution with few compromises.
But it's been years I don't play with PC anymore.. getting old I'm back to old 90's console if I want to play some minutes games.

Reply 19 of 28, by Almoststew1990

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SPBHM wrote:

yes but, I think this sort of setup is going to drop massively in terms of viability for gaming in a year, when the new consoles are out a lot of upgrading will have to happen, for now it's mostly fine.

What you say sounds sensible, but it survived the current gen of consoles going very multi threaded. I would imagine its gaming suitability isn't going to suddenly drop, in the same way quad cores haven't suddenly become useless when the PS4 launched.

SPBHM wrote:

I'm still using my budget sandy bridge solution from early 2012, still feels better than what higher end CPUs I had in the early 2000s after 1 year of use.

Yes, I think there has been a huge slow down in CPU tech over the last 10 years, compared to the 20 years before.

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