Despite my drastically declined influence in the local tech scene I occasionally get the odd invite to try stuff out. This past month's latest victim was Intel no less, loaning me a whole desktop equipped with their latest Intel i5 processor.
Based on this Bios screenshot, what we've got here is an Core Intel i5 CPU 64bit, running at 3.33GHz with 4gb. ram and a 256kb cache. Strangely though, I couldn't get the Bios to display the hard disk.
It wasn't that easy though. When I got it home and first turned it on I got blank information on the Bios.
After opening it up, it turned out the SATA cable to the hard disk was loose. These new SATA cables don't come with locks and don't fit as snugly as the old PATA cables used to. If this PC gets a medium strong nudge that thing is sure to come off again.
Anyway, here's what the insides look like:
Pretty 'no? Well to the hardware geeks out there, yes for sure.
I don't use Windows 7 though, so I double - booted Ubuntu 10.4 on it.
I was excited as well, because I had never been able to try Ubuntu on a 'proper' fast machine, always settling to use it on older machines, partly because I love the idea of keeping old things alive. My main machine also dual boots WinXP and Ubuntu, and since my applications on XP aren't gonna work on a 64bit Win7, Ubuntu (which works on either 32 or 64bit) was the logical choice.
Here's a (lousy pic I took with my phone) of it running different apps on different 'workspaces', which if you haven't tried Ubuntu yet you might not understand. Essentially it allows you to switch amongst any of 4 screens (you can set it to more), the better to run different applications with and avoid cluttering up your 'workspace'.
Below I'm running a chat client and browsing the web on the first, running a terminal on the 2nd, watching a Top Gear video in HD on the 3rd, and running an FTP app on the fourth.
Granted I dont multitask that much, but we're trying to test a processor here.
Later on I played SuperTux 2, a Mario - based 2d game as well, and let me tell you, the video didn't even hiccup. It's probably caching somewhere to keep running smoothly.
I used it for a grand total of 4 weeks (it was supposed to be 3, but we couldn't work on a proper schedule to return it), and for various situations, just like I would normally, like working on my sites, playing games, viewing and editing images, and watching movies a great deal via hooking up an HDMI cable to our TV:
Everything went flawlessly. There were no niggling driver issues, no proprietary stuff required (unlike my main PC, which uses a proprietary nVidia driver), and everything just worked. Wonderful stuff.
Another thing I noticed, is the absolute quiet of the thing. My older machine has a 9600GT video card with a fan that could keep our house cool and sounds like a small aircon. The i5 is smooth and quiet, exactly what a PC should sound like (which is to not sound like anything at all).
It's the black one on the floor. The one on top is my main machine, the one on the right is an ancient PIII I use just for downloading, storage and hosting test websites.
So finally, would I spring megabucks for a new Intel i5 processor?
If I had megabucks, yes. As an Ubuntu user I had seriously no issues running all the apps I'm familiar with whatsoever, and all indications show that it hardly breaks a sweat doing what I do. Hardly breaking a sweat is a good thing, because if it doesn't have to use all its muscle to do things it won't overheat. And if it doesn't overheat it'll last longer, assuring you can make the most of it for many years.
Additionally, driver availability for Ubuntu is terrific, particularly for video. Everything ran 'out of the box'. And finally, it's so quiet the only way I know it's still running is the little blue light at front.
If i didn't have megabucks though, I'd be thinking twice. A quick look at the current price on PCX.com.ph shows the Intel Core i5-650 (3.20g) 4mb v733mhz processor at P8,370. That's a lot of moolah just for the processor, you haven't even bought a motherboard, ram, casing, DVD rom, monitor, etc. etc. yet.
So if you're running a tight budget (and who isn't?), you're gonna have to make a choice between getting lots of RAM and CPU.
So my conclusion?
Unfortunately maybe for Intel, I will always go for more RAM than a fresh model CPU. I'm sure there will always be arguments against that line of thinking, but I've done ok with it so far for a decade, so I'm not gonna change now.
An upside though, is that the i5 is several months into it's lifecycle already, so by 1st quarter next year I expect that price to half by then, in preparation for either the i7 or whatever else they have new at that time.
Which is good, because I don't plan to buy a new PC until then. The good thing though, is that when that time comes, the i5 would be within wallet range for me, and I already know it's an excellent CPU.
Someone referenced this post to answer question "What is the new line version of the old 9600GT?"...