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g__day

Pondering morph a HP Z620 workstation into a work / gaming rig

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I have been toying with building a workstation rig based around dual Xeon 2670 processors and a modern GPU for a while now - when I came arcoss many Youtube videos of the HP Z620 workstations - and see many listed on Gumtree or ebay - with rather large numbers of cores, modest to lowprices and a lof of RAM. Compared to todays multi core CPUs these older CPUs run hotter, slower and draw a lot of power, on the upside they are workstation grade materials - motherboards, cases, RAM and power supplies. I sure if I throw in modern high end NVidia card they could play any game I wished at a decent resolution; but I am well into my 50s now and when I do game its tend to be with titles that were HUGE around 3-5 years ao - the old favourites. My needs for multicore madness lean towards compute capacity with software that tends to multcore aware - think astrophotograpy and stacking and processing hundrds of large images to boost signal to noise ratios.

 

I am very curious in this research stage what experiences folk have with re-purposing an old workstation rig - what pleasure, pain and surprises await? I see old workstations - dual CPU with core counts from 16 - 24 cores that can also hyperthread and typically dome with 64 - 128 GB RAM. Alternately there are companies like Z Wokstations that custom build these sorts of rigs. e.g https://zworkstations.com/

 

Many thanks - Matthew

Edited by g__day

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For about 2 years my main machine was a Dell T3500 workstation. It had a dual core Xeon but I found an X3550 which is equivalent to a 1st gen i7-950 for $50 on eBay.

Good in that it has triple-channel Ram and better PCIe abilities than lesser machines of it's era.

Not good stuff - the motherboard being a generic Dell isn't exactly great quality and the Bios is lacking in settings. Clock generation such that the steps are too huge to be any use in overclocking. Can't even set Ram timings in Bios or by desktop utilities.

- runs hot, there's no direct CPU fan so I tied one on.

- no USB 3.0 or Sata 3 so had to run cards to get that.

- case design with only 2 x 3.5" drive bays.

 

Personally I'd rather run 4 quick cores than 12 slowish ones (this one is only single CPU) but as a gaming machine or general workhorse it's fine. Not the sort of thing you'd lug around to LAN parties, it weighs nearly twice as much as you'd expect.

 

Things to concern yourself with would be - Sata, USB, PCIe abilities (much better to have the quick IO built in rather than needing addin cards)

- driver concurrency (plenty of people aquire old workstations for like reasons so there should be plenty of info about compatibility with Win7, Win10)

- be OK with the fact that they're generally nowhere near as tunable and customizable as a DIY machine.

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When it comes to mainstream modern gaming, you're really going to want to look for higher clocked single cores

 

The multi-cores and threads would be great... however, it just really won't compare to even a single core that could smash modern games

 

You could look at a higher core count modern combo, such as the following bundle from mwave:

NEW RIG HELP PLEASE BUDGET $2000

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But remember gaming is very secondary - my old quad core Conroe2 at 2.4 GHz coupled to 8GB RAM a couple of SSDs and a GTX 1070 pretty much plays every game I want at 2K resolutions!. I hear with DX12 gaming workloads are starting to shift to multiple (> 4) core workload designs (which is quite straightforward once you design work to flow thru queues - and let an arbitrary number of cores (1 > 100,000) handle the queues). It's rather easy to scale cores vs clockspeed for performance - so I expect game developers have started cottoning on to this. Look at how massively parallel GPUs are - I bet game programmers don't worry about do I have 20, 200, 2000 shader cores to work with - they just throw work onto a queue and let all the available cores digest it. Many compute bound tasks can be handled in exactly the same approach - abstracting you from any specific core count. Cores scale easier than clock speed!

 

Astronomy workloads are in many ways similar or to analogous to CAD rendering requirements - a lot of memory, fast I/O and massive compute. Astronomy processing programs don't sadly leverage a GPUs massive Direct Compute or OpenlCL capabilities. Workstations on the other hand chew through these loads very reliabily, and old generation Xeon processors tend to fall dramatically in price when newer more energy efficient Xeons are released. Xeon and workstation Data Centre rack and stack equipment tends to be rather power hungry. Data Centres have to think in terms of compute per Watt - so they modernise frequently to save on power across tens of thousands of cores when more energy efficient cores are released. This means the market price of old, very powerful cores drop dramatically - by factors of 10x - 20x every few years. A 16 - 32 physical core rig between 2.5 - 3.0 GHz per core, with hyper threading and anywhere from 64 - 128 GB or RAM is quite affordable so long as one can deal with the 600W - 800W draw when its under load. I am not sure but believe the power draw does tend to fall considerably when you are not throwing a heavy load on the CPUs.

 

So this boils down to will a old dual core workstation plus modern gaming GPU play games ok - I believe yes. Will it be quiet and not too power hungry when I am doing regular office loads (excel, powerpoint mail etc) - I hope so. Will it eat a CPU + I/O bound workload better than a modern, expensive, modern uber gaming rig and at a more affordable price - under consideration!

Edited by g__day

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You'll find big efficiency gains vs the Core2 architecture - starting around 15% for Bloomfield era and ramping up as you get newer. And most of that is genuine improvement, a small part due to quicker Ram.

 

They are power hungry under load compared to newer Core i - but still way more efficient than Core2. From memory the Xeon system I used was about 40 Watts better at idle even though the TDP was about 125 vs 75.

But really, in gaming the graphics card will usually eclipse the CPU. Modern midrange cards should top out around 120-150 Watts where ones from ~ 5 years ago will be over 200.

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Lots of interest videos of folk doing this

Dual Intel Xeon E5-2670 for USD $600

Another very interesting benchmark - power consumption 512 load, 171 idle is horrible - great FPS in FPS games - rendering monster

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Found a supplier in the USA who can ship a Z820 to Australia - now tossing up a dual 2.4GHz 12 core Xeon pair or a slightly cheaper dual 3 GHz 10 Core Xeon - thoughts?

 

HP Z820 Workstation USD $1,824

Processors: 2x Xeon® E5-2695 v2 2.4GHz Twelve Core Processors, (24C/48T) - $760.00
Memory: 64GB (8x 8GB) DDR3 Memory - $160.00
Primary Hard Drive: 400GB SSD - $180.00
Second Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Third Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Fourth Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 XLR8 - $160.00
Optical Drive: DVD-RW
Workstation PCIe Expansion: None Installed
Operating System: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit Installed - $45.00
or

HP Z820 Workstation USD $1,604

Processors: 2x Xeon® E5-2690 v2 3.0GHz Ten Core Processors, (20C/40T) - $700.00
Memory: 64GB (8x 8GB) DDR3 Memory - $160.00
Primary Hard Drive: 400GB SSD - $180.00
Second Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Third Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Fourth Hard Drive: No Hard Drive
Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 8350
Optical Drive: DVD-RW
Workstation PCIe Expansion: None Installed
Operating System: Windows 10 Professional 64-bit Installed - $45.00
Waiting for a shipping price. Store has confirmed this rig can run a GTX 1070 or 1080 video card :) So just add PCI Express high speed storage, PCIE USB 3 support and possibly a sound card and hey presto - all set!
Edited by g__day

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Considering the gaming is secondary, and we have at least a little tinsight into what you like to use your PC's for (all that crazy photography space wackiness), I'd opt or the more cores.

I just think you'll kick yourself if you don't.

 

It also means you can dedicate 10 cores to working on your 'tasks' and dedicate 2 cores to gaming full time.

Sure 2 cores might not be enough for ALL games, but the majority will handle that OK.

 

 

EDIT: or hell, VM's!

Edited by Master_Scythe
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Hmmm, line ball call really - games might only use 4-6 or possibly 8 cores - so games would likely prefer the 3 GHz clock speed. Astronomy workplads - Deep Sky Stacker or PixelInsight likes multi cores. I hear PixelInsight might also be getting CUDA support for graphics cards later this year - so a GTX 1070 or 1080s in SLI might eventually work its way into my planned rig - which is why I opted for the Z820 with its larger PSU.

 

Getting a bit excited by this now. Never run VMs so I wonder if its work splurging another $176 and going for 132 GB RAM? I would think that would definitely be useful if going down the VM path - not sure about the Astro Imaging path if effectively ~ 1.2 GB per hyperthreaded core is sufficent RAM or whether I should bite the bullet and size it so each Hyperthreaded logical CPU had 2.6GB RAM?

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Maximum workload and disregarding HT, the 20C setup has 66 GHz of CPU power running all cores +3 turbo ratio vs 67.2 for 24C at +4

IMO though any advantage would likely be lost due to more memory contention.

It does seem though that the E5-2595 v2 has a TDP of 115W vs 130W for the E5-2590 v2.

 

Flip a coin really. The 2590 will be better in situations where lots of grunt is needed when not many threads are running. And it's cheaper. But will probably be hotter and use more power in demanding situations.

Edited by Rybags
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Either way - big step up from a 2.4GHz Conroe 2 rig - amazed that simply buying a quality PSU and 8GB or RAM back then allowed it to last so long. This rig has seen so many video cards - from Riva TNT2, to Vodoo1, 2 and 3 to Radeon 9700 Pro to Geforce 1 -> 4 to 6800 then 8800 to HD5800 to HD6690 to GTX 1070. Quad core chip was a really blessing way back then - only GPUs and HDDs really been swapped in and out of this case.

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Have you worked out a value figure for how much work those CPUs could do for the given price, vs a new system with current gen Intel or AMD processors with a similar number of cores, updated IPC counts, etc?

 

Curious moreso to see myself, if you have it lying around : )

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Short answer Nich is no. Just 1) always wanted a dual CPU rig - for over a decade now but prioritised $$$ elsewhere 2) Workstation quality gear is dirt cheap now and figure it will be built like a tank reliability wise 3) the CPU themselves are about $350 each - a barebone system 2 * E5-2603 with 8GB RAM is around USD $527.

 

I don't see it would be easy to get 20- 24 physical cores with existing Intel equipment (and certainly not in these price points). Until I have this rig it will be hard to know how well it performs on its intended workload. I know my I7 4 core 3.5 GHz CPUs tend to be over 50% faster on a simple astrophotography stack and register benchmark (my old beast vs my son's 1 year old gear). So a 4 minute job on my PC might take 2 - 2.5 minutes on my Son's more modern rigs (as a very minimal test). I will be very interested to see if the target rig would be a factor of five to ten times faster. Six times the number of cores with faster memeory lanes should make a big difference. If I could do my current simple test (10 - 20 images) in under a minute then really big tests involving hundreds of images may be a real possibility. I swapped from cooled infra red modded Canon's to cooled colour and mono dedicated astronomy cameras with surperbly low noise - so they should capture in 2 minutes what the Canon might take 12 mintues - meaning I will have now six times the data to process (far more for the mono camera - which might have 4 to 7 filters to combine).

Edited by g__day
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Short answer Nich is no. Just 1) always wanted a dual CPU rig - for over a decade now but prioritised $$$ elsewhere 2) Workstation quality gear is dirt cheap now and figure it will be built like a tank reliability wise 3) the CPU themselves are about $350 each - a barebone system 2 * E5-2603 with 8GB RAM is around USD $527.

 

I don't see it would be easy to get 20- 24 physical cores with existing Intel equipment (and certainly not in these price points). Until I have this rig it will be hard to know how well it performs on its intended workload. I know my I7 4 core 3.5 GHz CPUs tend to be over 50% faster on a simple astrophotography stack and register benchmark (my old beast vs my son's 1 year old gear). So a 4 minute job on my PC might take 2 - 2.5 minutes on my Son's more modern rigs (as a very minimal test). I will be very interested to see if the target rig would be a factor of five to ten times faster. Six times the number of cores with faster memeory lanes should make a big difference. If I could do my current simple test (10 - 20 images) in under a minute then really big tests involving hundreds of images may be a real possibility. I swapped from cooled infra red modded Canon's to cooled colour and mono dedicated astronomy cameras with surperbly low noise - so they should capture in 2 minutes what the Canon might take 12 mintues - meaning I will have now six times the data to process (far more for the mono camera - which might have 4 to 7 filters to combine).

 

While all of that is valid, its CERTAINLY worth pricing up Threadripper builds.

 

There's a very real chance it'll end up about 1:1 pricing, with all the modern instruction sets; making compute faster even if it appears slower on paper.

Edited by Master_Scythe
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Advice heard guys - import costs and duties and Warranty terms and support might factor into my decision. A modern 16 core machine might compare to a 20 core machine reasonably well - I didn't realise the Threadripper was that price point!

 

Seriously this is a very good catch guys - many thanks. If I simply wanted to buy a high end system based around this design who would you recommend me buy such a thing from in Sydney?

Edited by g__day

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Don't forget the shitty exchange rate, delay and risk factor that it'll arrive in 20 pieces instead of 1.

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Advice heard guys - import costs and duties and Warranty terms and support might factor into my decision. A modern 16 core machine might compare to a 20 core machine reasonably well - I didn't realise the Threadripper was that price point!

 

Seriously this is a very good catch guys - many thanks. If I simply wanted to buy a high end system based around this design who would you recommend me buy such a thing from in Sydney?

 

For threadripper?

I'm not in Sydney, but I'd suggest a custom system builder of some sort, even if it's just a "Hire a Geek" type person.

You're not going to find one "off the shelf" and any that are from budget stores will just slap them together with no thought for cable managment.

They also won't take the time to apply the TINY overclock that ALL modern AMD chips are known to take with absolute stability. (you need to make sure the AMD Fabric is at top speed, and the RAM is as fast as possible, unlike intel, at the COST of timings if need be).

 

Hopefully someone knows a shop, but I'd be looking into a store that PRIDES itself on "Cool PC's", because they're going to be THRILLED to work with a threadripper chip.

If you also tell them you want cable management, as it's new and exciting, they're likely to help build it right too.

 

If I was in Sydney I'd volunteer, but alas, QLD.

Surely some Atomican is Sydney based who can build well.

 

Even you, if you're nervous, would be able to build a modern PC, it's just a question of knowing what cables will route to where, and what default BIOS (UEFI) settings are idea for that system.

It'd work, regardless though; just the little things that people who have done it far too often pick up (like how to keep CPU cooler cables OUT of the CPU fan.......

 

 

 

A third option you're not considering would be to buy a lower end server LOCALLY, and buy the PIECES (more ram, better CPU's) from a cheaper overseas source.

Edited by Master_Scythe

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I guess I have made around thirty PCs over the years and done countless upgrades - never I have never done a workstation build nor water cooled build and I haven't tweaked memory timings, multipliers and voltages nearly as much as others here. Hence if there is a top notch store in Australia - better still in Sydney - be great to leverage that and have local support!

Edited by g__day

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I guess I have made around thirty PCs over the years and done countless upgrades - never I have never done a workstation build nor water cooled build and I haven't tweaked memory timings, multipliers and voltages nearly as much as others here. Hence if there is a top notch store in Australia - better still in Sydney - be great to leverage that and have local support!

 

 

An all-in-one water cooler is actually quite good these days, about 80% the quality of a custom build.

 

So if you do end up DIY assembling something, those AOI watercoolers are a GREAT choice.

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aio are still typically louder than custom due to the small rads with dense fins

although they do well in cases with crap airflow

 

big hsf like nh-d15 still hit the best balance for those wanting low noise decent performance for overclocking and reliability

provided the case has some airflow

 

MD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-Core Socket TR4 3.4GHz Unlocked CPU Processor $1345 umart
Asus Prime X399-A AMD Ryzen Threadripp​er Socket TR4 $479.2 <futu online 20% off or just asrock x399 $499 umart and get them to build it

i dont know that i would recommend umart from personal experience but there cheap and those that deal with them in store instead of online seem happy enough

unfortunately they dont stock Noctua NH-U14S CPU Cooler (TR4/SP3 Edition) $115 yet but they do sell noctua products so maybe they could get them if asked

 

skycomp is in syd and has been good to me thus far when purchasing online

there is a good list of stores here with user ratings for them

https://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/?tag=Australian_PC_Shops#auspc_nsw

Edited by Dasa
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I have a coolermaster... something.... 240 AIO cooler, it's totally silent, like, absolutely silent.

 

If I put my hand on the pump I can feel its light 'hum' but otherwise, coming from a Noctua C12p with the upgraded 14cm fan, it's chalk and cheese.

 

The coolermaster is MUCH cooler, and MUCH more quiet (probably because it rarely gets over 20% pump rate on my overclocked Haswel-E, where as air cooling needed to be at 50% or higher to maintain the same temps)

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I'd have doubts about an AIO on a multi-CPU system where there's likely to be near 100% workloads for long periods.

Generally these things are good for the consumer 4-core CPUs and workloads where it's just 1 or 2 cores full on or sporadic full workloads.

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