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The 2010 System: Intel P55 Express

Time To Upgrade: Should You Dump Your 2007 PC?
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One of the latest motherboards we've received for the LGA 1156 interface is MSI’s P55A Fuzion. This is an upper-mainstream motherboard that compares well to the P35 Platinum from a positioning and price standpoint. The large motherboard vendors started an arms race (from a feature and quality standpoint) a few years ago, and hence this motherboard is no exception. MSI implemented a 10-phase switching voltage regulator, together with most of the key features you might remember from the BigBang Xpower flagship, including two SATA 6Gb/s ports and two USB 3.0 ports through additional controller chips. One of the USB 3.0 ports is placed directly on the motherboard to possibly route to a front-panel connector.

The board comes with two fully-featured PCI Express 2.0 slots that are both powered by 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes. This is made possible by utilizing a PCI Express switch chip, the Lucid LT22102. It multiplexes the Core i7's 16 available lanes to a pair of x16 slots running electrically at x16 signaling rates. As we saw in the article USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, Motherboards, And Overcoming Bottlenecks, this is helpful to maximize dual graphics performance, while still maintaining maximum bandwidth for SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0 devices.

On the subject of dual graphics, the switching solution enables AMD CrossFire and Nvidia SLI operation, as well as mixed dual graphics modes. The mixed mode also extends to setups from the same vendor. While SLI requires cards with the same GPU type, this motherboard can combine any Nvidia GPU between the GeForce 9000- and GTX 400-series. The same applies to ATI, where you can use Radeon HD 4000 or 5000. We’ll be looking at this in a dedicated review, as this might also open a nice upgrade path if Lucid has fixed the compatibility and performance of its driver.

What Does Such a New Platform Do For Me?

Overall, the 2010 platform based on the Intel P55 chipset offers increased flexibility compared to the 2007 configuration. Overclocking has improved and, more importantly, has become much easier thanks to value-added features. Multi-GPU capabilities are impressive, but still subject to some benchmarking. And, finally, power consumption, efficiency and interfaces like USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s remove remaining bottlenecks. But it this enough to justify buying a new system if you went for a high-end machine in 2007?

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  • 1 Hide
    guanyu210379 , 24 August 2010 14:59
    Hmmm...
    I am thinking that I am gonna replace my rig completely by sommer next year. I have replaced parts of them (GPU, PSU) and adding an SSD.
    Mobo, RAM, proc will be replaced next year.

    I have given my old HIS HD3850 , and Corsair 450VX PSU to my bro, but he had returned them to me just last week, because he has bought a new GTX470 and a 750W Corsair PSU.
    That means next year, I will have a Q6600 + Zalman CNPS9700, ASUS P5E, 4GB DDR2 1000 Mushkin, and 450W Corsair PSU lying around unused.

    But I don't wanna throw those just yet, those are still functioning 100% even under 3GHz OC and I can still play the latest games normally without significant problems.
    The thing is, what I am gonna do with my current rig? Sale it? HTPC? Try as Hackintosh?
    Server is out of the question, my rig consumes to much power for that purpose.
    It is a pity to simply throw them away.

  • 2 Hide
    PT88 , 24 August 2010 17:03
    Nice article, but for me, modern Intel rigs lack the serious "Bang for Buck" you got back in the days of the Q6600 G0 stepping and 1 quid/gig DDR2 RAM. RAM, GFX cards and CPU's are just way to expensive for the average gamer to think of upgrading. Thats what i think anyway, ill be sticking with my P35 Q6600 rig for a while yet.
  • 2 Hide
    dtq , 24 August 2010 19:54
    As a gamer Id see replacing the graqphics card as a good cost effective option, the CPU will rarely cause an issue in games, and HUGE improvents could be made in game performance with just a new graphics card...
  • 0 Hide
    gamesmachine , 24 August 2010 20:10
    Just like PT88 I also still use my q6600 system. My requirements of it have changed over the 3 years I have been using it, from Gaming 100% to more Rendering and a little gaming.

    My system is based on a Striker Extreme Sli board and I do have two 8800gt's in Sli. Its a shame because when rendering projects it chewes 100% of my cpu and no gpu, and an i7 does show quite a leap in performance. But I would have to completely re-build my system....£££!!

    Would the Radeon here be better than my two 8800gt's? I can already see the power reduction, but performance wise?

    Overall I'm impressed with the increase in performance over 3 years!
  • -1 Hide
    david__t , 24 August 2010 20:10
    Shock news just in: New technology is better than old technology!! :) 
  • 3 Hide
    icehot , 24 August 2010 21:39
    This article would have been more interesting if using the same graphics card on both systems.... Everyone knows a 5870 is tonnes more powerful at gaming, what would be interesting is seeing how the chipsets and cpu's and memory compare... I bet there would be less advantage. Also an article showing this with the best of the last generation, not just the best of 2007 - a q9650 with 8gb of ram perhaps on an X38 or X48.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 24 August 2010 22:17
    I agree with icehot, but with the addition that the same hdd be used on both systems. We all know that graphics cards have made great strides in the last 18 months. It is the difference made to everyday applications by the latest cpu, chipset and RAM that would have been interesting to see. At present prices SSDs are not mainstream items.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 24 August 2010 22:20
    Another thing that is wrong with this article (and not just this one) is that the cpus aren't directly comparable. Looking at the benchmark results, it is very hard to distinguish exactly what is causing the improvements in the current rig. Forgetting about gpu differences, I specifically mean that the core i7 cpu had a higher frequency (2.93Ghz over 2.67Ghz for the core2quad), had 8 threads instead of 4, and had turbo mode enabled. So what is causing the most improvement? That's anyone's guess. A better planned article would have used a 2.93Ghz QX6800 for the 2007 cpu, and would have provided benchmarks for the following setups:

    (1) 2.93Ghz QX6800
    (2) 2.93Ghz i7-870 HT-off turbo-off
    (3) 2.93Ghz i7-870 HT-off turbo-on
    (4) 2.93Ghz i7-870 HT-on turbo-on

    This would have allowed conclusions to be drawn about the raw improvements in cpus and chipsets by comparing setups (1) and (2), and would also have allowed discussion about the improvements that technologies such as HT and turbo have brought to the table. Hopefully people writing such articles in the future will take these considerations into account.
  • 1 Hide
    ned14 , 24 August 2010 23:21
    I think my difficulty with this article is that there is no point in upgrading now when Intel's next architecture is only at most a year out, and that will surely be much more future proof for later CPU upgrades etc. When I was younger I used to upgrade every two years, nowadays apart from my annual US$150 graphics card refresh it's more like once every four to five years. No need for more really, though I will be adding a SSD boot drive when their performance beats magnetic for a reasonable price (probably this Autumn's next Intel SSD refresh).

    Niall
  • 0 Hide
    spac18 , 24 August 2010 23:48
    But what about first time buyer like me? Which will be best bet? Phenom ii 555 or i7 870 or i7 950? This article does not shows how qx6700 works with latest gpus.
  • 0 Hide
    Stupido , 24 August 2010 23:53
    gamesmachineJust like PT88 I also still use my q6600 system. My requirements of it have changed over the 3 years I have been using it, from Gaming 100% to more Rendering and a little gaming.My system is based on a Striker Extreme Sli board and I do have two 8800gt's in Sli. Its a shame because when rendering projects it chewes 100% of my cpu and no gpu, and an i7 does show quite a leap in performance. But I would have to completely re-build my system....£££!!Would the Radeon here be better than my two 8800gt's? I can already see the power reduction, but performance wise?Overall I'm impressed with the increase in performance over 3 years!

    Maybe you'd be better with GTX460 and later you can always add extra 460 and have a killer graphics setup... :) 
  • 0 Hide
    damian86 , 25 August 2010 04:13
    I like it because it has not been tested against a beast like the i7 975, the 870 is a good comparision.
  • 0 Hide
    ionut19 , 25 August 2010 05:03
    Interesting article but why did you compared a mid range video card from that time with a high end card from present?
    The title goes like this: "Time To Upgrade: Should You Dump Your 2007 PC?"
    The lvl of performance from past and present is misguiding because of the class of components. These tests should have been done with 5750 video card witch i think it is about the same lvl with 8800gts 320Mb, also 5770 on the same lvl with 8800gts 640mb and gtx460 on the same lvl with 8800gts 512Mb.
    These represent the middle end, high end gtx480, 5870, gtx470, 5850 with 8800ultra, 8800gtx, HD3870. -just my opinion.
  • 0 Hide
    gamesmachine , 25 August 2010 06:54
    stupidoMaybe you'd be better with GTX460 and later you can always add extra 460 and have a killer graphics setup...


    I've done just that =D 2 460's do look very nice!
  • -1 Hide
    jaksun5 , 25 August 2010 09:44
    You guys are whack, my partner and I get by with the following:

    PM 1.6 with 512Mb RAM running Ubuntu 9.04
    P4 2.0 with 512Mb RAM running Ubuntu 10.04

    We happily: browse, watch videos (albeit in SD) serve our music, print, scan, etc all from our beloved thrown out by someone else PCs
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 August 2010 14:10
    Hi spac18. To answer your question, GPUS currently sold take the cpu out o the equation when gaming. The only cup differences can be seen at low resolutions like 1280 or lower, and you are not gonna be doing any gaming at those res. with current gen cards 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 and up is what these are designed for.
    Also dont wate your money on a i7-950 get a decent heatpipe cooler like thermalright120 or something like that. Pretty much all i7-cpus overclock 800-1000+ mhz without flinching on stock voltage, and its really simple, same goes or the GPUS. I just built a (i7-930 2.8Ghz @$294) new system for my coworker 6g 1600ram on a evgax58 mobo with a gtx470) total built or under $1500. We overclocked it to 3.8Ghz for 24/7 operation and got the gtx470 running at over 800mhz w 4000on ram. (trust me it's easy) This thing in Crysis or any game or benchmarks runs stupid fast. An oc gtx470 is anywhere from 5-30% faster than a stock gtx480, depending on the game or app. Each game is a bit different that way. I've been overclocking more than 12years now, and never looked back or burned any components so don't worry, just do little steps at a time. Nvidia drivers are getting better and faster with each release as they mature and the new GTX4601GB is really quick as well. But it don't matter, all cards are really good, since competition is hi. We tried the new Heaven benchmark and in stock we got 22ps avg, and over 36fps avg and 20ps min with a mild overclock, butter smooth everywhere. Drop a second card in and basically double that.
    Do some research, read some articles before u buy. And dedicate 1/4 or 1/3 o budget to the vid card, and you will be happy with the results.
    Cheers! Mark.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 August 2010 23:53
    A 5870 and GT250 for physx on a Q6600 clocked at 3.2 will 3d mark higher than the 6 core
    so the 2007 machine just needs a new card
  • 0 Hide
    spac18 , 26 August 2010 03:53
    Thanks MBogard. If i7 950 price drops this week, then 870, 930 & 950 will almost cost the same. Which one is the best and easiest overclocker?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 August 2010 15:08
    The article fails the main point.
    Current generation GFx cards can be used in that 2007 P35-based system.
    In gaming, 90%+ it's the GFx card that matters.
    I have a 5870 on Abit IP35 Pro, with 8GB of RAM and Q6600 and I can play at the same frame rate as any current high-end build.

    "A 5870 and GT250 for physx on a Q6600 clocked at 3.2 will 3d mark higher than the 6 core
    so the 2007 machine just needs a new card"
    Exactly my point.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 August 2010 16:17
    Yeah sorry but rather then suggest a whole new system is needed for games you should have just said get a new gfx card. I am running a 5870 with an overclocked q9450 and right now nothing stresses that so i am happy to wait till next year for BD and sandy to come out before thinking of upgrading. Besides gamer's rarely buy a new system once every 3 years they tend to upgrade critical components as they need too so your only really highlighting the light user who will see small benefits from going from what they have to what they can get for what they do.
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