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First post, by snorg

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What are your thoughts on overkill or high-end workstations?

For example: dual 28 core Xeons I consider to be complete overkill. Even more so now that there is a 32 core Threadripper chip, for a fraction of the price.

I personally think that the 8 core Ryzen cpus are the new price/performance sweet spot for a mid-range box.
A 1950x Threadripper is significantly cheaper compared to a 16 core xeon.

For anything less than 16 cores, older xeon cpus on a dual board are also an option, maybe a better budget option if you don't mind going used. The higher core counts have not really gotten to the used market at a cheap enough price, where there are tons of decommissioned 4, 6 and 8 core xeons.

What do you think? Would you go for a 16 or 32 core system?

Reply 1 of 15, by root42

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Apples and oranges... first one needs to ask: can the software utilize this many cores? This will probably only be true for certain rendering software, graphics tools, video rendering and maybe audio.
Then you have to check if the software is more optimized for Intel's Core/Xeon architecture, or if it runs equally well on AMDs. Third, if you NEED such a workstation, you probably earn money with that machine. So the question is: do you also need commercial support for that machine. If so, does your vendor offer AMD at all?
The internals of AMD and Intel are probably also different enough, with implementation of microcode, cache etc. that it is rather hard to compare both CPUs fairly.

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Reply 2 of 15, by doaks80

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I don't follow the very high end CPU market much these days, but typically the more cores the lower clock speed...and for gaming clock speed is king. I would take a 4-core CPU at 4.5ghz over a 32-core one at 3ghz any day. However if I was building a AV production workstation I would get as many cores as I can afford.

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Reply 4 of 15, by snorg

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Well I could certainly never spend $10k on a cpu. I don't know anyone that could. $2500 to $3500 for a high-end Threadripper system isn't horrible given how much an SGI used to cost. I do CG and video editing but I'm not making the kind of money on my freelance projects to where I can justify that.

I think the $5000 and $10000 Xeons are exclusively data center products, I can't see anyone buying those for a workstation unless they were rich.

Reply 5 of 15, by leileilol

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No opinions on the workstations besides being out of my price range, but ugh having to put up with some of their arrogant owners.... 😐

Ever had a death threat for admitting overclocking 22 years ago instead of buying a Pentium Pro?

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Reply 6 of 15, by Shponglefan

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I suppose it entirely depends on what you're using it for. For standard desktop computing or gaming? Pretty pointless compared to a regular desktop.

But if you're doing rendering or other multi-core intensive tasks where time is of the essence, then I suppose it could be useful.

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Reply 7 of 15, by Aragorn

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Most of these many-core rigs are going into commercial environments. We have a few simulation boxes at work with many cores (albeit not 28, but the software could happily use that many if we paid for the licences and hardware). As a business, its actually the software thats the limiting factor. Ansys licences cost tens of thousands of pounds a year, and they charge by the CPU core. Many high end packages are similar.

Which i guess is where AMD struggles at the moment. As a business, we goto Dell and order a Precision workstation or a Poweredge server, with the appropriate cores etc. They have exactly zero AMD options in the Precision line, and a tiny number of Epyc based servers. Whereas they have a full range of Intel options.

Smaller players, one man bands etc might well go down the route of building a workstation like we would build a desktop PC, but there comes a point where the cost of the PC actually just stops mattering, it just needs support and to be on the vendors list, mainly because if there ARE issues, your custom build is the first thing that gets the finger pointed at. We had similar issues with CAD software and GeForce GPU's. The Geforce cards worked fine, and were vastly cheaper than the quadros, but any time we had an issue, we had to replicate the issue on a quadro box before getting the vendor involved. Eventually you just stump up for the Quadro.

Reply 8 of 15, by oeuvre

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Granted sometimes cheap retired workstations on eBay are fun to tinker with... you can get a lot of performance for cheap that way.

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Reply 9 of 15, by dionb

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Then again, if you pay your own electricity bill, any serious work on retired workstations quickly becomes uneconomic - precisely the reason they were retired. Of course, if it's just for fun (and so the monsters won't be running 24/7) that's less of an issue. I once got my hands on a complete 12 CPU SGI Origin 2000 for one symbolic Euro. Never managed to run more than 6 CPUs though as all 12 would blow my home master fuse 😉

But if you're looking at serious work I agree with root42, it's a matter of finding out the behaviour of your software in terms of scaling and bottlenecks, then choosing appropriate hardware within budget (and cooling options...). If that can sensibly use >>20 cores, fine. If not, don't. Also there's no point in spending too much budget on umpteen cores but then neglecting I/O so that those cores can't be fed anyway.

Reply 10 of 15, by BloodyCactus

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as a software dev, hella yes more cores! I do lot of C/C++ compilation, run vms for tests etc. auto routing high pin count electrical designs, more cores the better.

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Reply 11 of 15, by snorg

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leileilol wrote:

No opinions on the workstations besides being out of my price range, but ugh having to put up with some of their arrogant owners.... 😐

Ever had a death threat for admitting overclocking 22 years ago instead of buying a Pentium Pro?

Wow...that's just fscking nuts. I never had a Ppro back in the day, but I did know a guy that built a dual Ppro box that cost some ungodly amount back in 1997, I think he spent like $5k or $6k on it? I built a dual P166mmx box for a fraction of the price. He was incredibly smarmy about his dual Pentium Pro box, though no death threats.

Reply 12 of 15, by snorg

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I do have one idea, although outside of being a rendering farm in a box, I'm not sure it would be good for anything else: quad 16 core Opterons. I checked Ebay and the cpus aren't too bad, although the motherboards are still a bit pricey around the $200 mark. You're limited to PCI 2.0 x16 so I doubt it would be any good for gaming, although for rendering or being a Blender box it would be pretty awesome. But given the quad socket form factor, I doubt I could afford the Windows license for it, it would have to be a Linux box. That is much less attractive, since my main app in Windows only.

Reply 13 of 15, by Errius

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There are some very cool fluid rendering animations on Youtube. If I had one of these machines that's what I'd be doing with it. It's a foretaste of the future: games with realistic water.

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Reply 14 of 15, by nforce4max

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From my point of view it all comes down to cost and what the machine is being used for that said for what most people do clocks don't matter too much when there is plenty of cores given how much performance sucking crap that passes for modern software these days. My 2011v3 12 core Xeon only cost $109 shipped 🤣, sure it is not a speed demon but for the cost it was a good deal vs those horrendously overpriced i5s and i7s that gamers are often overpaying for.

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