Gearing up for Lynnfield and Win7


— 11:34 AM on August 24, 2009

The advent of new mainstream CPUs from Intel and a major (and promising) new release of Windows has us reworking all of our CPU test rigs in Damage Labs, in preparation for a busy period of testing.  After using the same basic hardware and software on our CPU test systems for quite a while, this seems like an appropriate time to revamp them.  To that end, boxes have been arriving via UPS and FedEx for the past few days, resulting in this excellent pile of new gear in the corner:

Yep, that ought to do it.

On the left there are new 610W PC Power & Cooling Silencer PSUs that the folks at OCZ were kind enough to send out.  We've been using older GameXStream 700W power supplies for at least a couple of years now, and I figured it was time for an update.  The Silencers are some of our favorite PSUs, and these are noticeably quieter than GameXStreams, which weren't bad for their day.  We've backed down on the wattage rating a little in hopes of getting more efficient PSU performance when the test rigs are at idle, while keeping the right connector payload for a powerful graphics card.

Speaking of which, those are Asus GeForce GTX 260 TOP cards right next door to the PSUs.  Switching to these GeForces should reduce power consumption by roughly 30W at idle versus our previous Radeon HD 4870s.  I also kind of like the idea of going with a third-party GPU vendor instead of going AMD-on-AMD for CPU test rigs, just on principle.  Thanks to Asus for sending its excellent TOP rendition of the GTX 260.  This is a higher-clocked card that shouldn't be the cause of many GPU bottlenecks, to say the least.

Western Digital hard drives will be the storage engines powering our new test rigs.  Those are Caviar RE3 1TB drives stacked up there.  We briefly considered SSDs, but given the big SSD performance delta when going from a new to used state, that didn't seem like a savvy choice for CPU test systems.  Too many issues.  Not to mention the capacity constraints.  These RE3s are very nice drives that should suit our needs perfectly.  Props to WD for helping out here.

On the far right of the picture is a pair of Corsair Dominator DDR3 DIMMs intended for Lynnfield processors. These puppies are rated for 1600MHz operation at a CAS latency of 8 with only 1.65V of juice. They even auto-tune themselves to those settings via built-in profiles, in concert with the right motherboards.

Several of the right motherboards are stacked up behind the DIMMs, including the Gigabyte microATX P55 board I mentioned the other day, the P55M-UD4.  Sitting on top of them are a couple of Lynnfield-ready CPU coolers.  The big dawg from Thermalright is already up and running here now.  It seems to be quiet and effective without being especially heavy, interestingly enough.

As you might imagine, I'm looking forward to testing with our new systems.  The next step is to get Windows 7 up and running.  After that, I'll be spending as much time as I can, within limits, trying out new applications we may want to add to our CPU test suite.  If you have suggestions, now is the time to offer them.  We have limits to what we can include, especially since each new benchmark takes time to set up and confirm, but I would like to add a few new things time time around.  Remember: the best candidates are easily timed, repeatable, don't have crazy DRM restraints, are CPU-bound, and are fairly widely used by consumers on desktop PCs.

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