One of the most common questions we get when custom configuring a PC for a customer is which platform they should go with – Xeon or i7. For the casual video editor/workstation user, is Xeon better? What’s the difference between Xeon vs i7? Let’s break down a few of the Pros of each processor family.
Intel Core i7/i5 Pros
Overclocking – Unlocked i5 and i7 processors are designed to be overclocked, meaning they can run at higher clock speeds than what they’re qualified for, assuming the right voltage and BIOS settings. This equates to free power and more value, a feature that Xeons do not have.
GHz per dollar – For pure Gigahertz speed for the money, the 2011 and 1150 i7’s come out on top every time, making them the best value for single threaded applications. For example a 4-core i7-7700 running at 3.6GHz retails for around $300. The comparable quad core Xeon running at that clock speed will cost about $50 more.
On board graphics – i7 and i5 processors all come with onboard graphics, meaning a discrete video card is not required for video display, whereas Xeon processor-based PCs cannot be configured without discrete video. Though we recommend a discrete card for anything beyond the most casual gaming or video work, on board graphics are suitable for many home office uses.
L3 cache – CPU caches are like small batches of memory that the processor keeps close by to speed up certain applications. Most Xeon processors have 15-30MB of L3 cache depending on the model, close to double their i7 counterparts. This extra cache is one reason why Xeon’s are so much faster at high demand workstation applications than i7.
Support for ECC RAM – Error Checking and Correction (ECC) RAM detects and corrects most common data corruption before it occurs, eliminating the cause of many system crashes and translating to more stable overall performance. Only Xeon processors support ECC RAM.
More cores, multi CPU options – If your applications require as many CPU cores as possible, Xeon is what you need. The new Xeon v4 processors max out at 18 cores (36 after Hyperthreading) whereas even the new Broadwell-E i7-6950X has just ten. Multi-CPU configurations are also only possible with Xeon, as is featured in our HD360MAX workstation.
Longevity (under heavy load) – Xeon processors are qualified to handle heavier, more intensive loads day in and day out. For the serious workstation user, this can translate to better longevity over i7 counterparts.
Hyperthreading at a lower pricepoint – Most of the advantages of Xeon processors come to users in a higher price range, but not this one. Since all Xeons come with Hyperthreading – a process essentially doubling the CPU cores through the creation of virtual cores – and i5 processors do not, many users shopping in this price range may find the Xeons to be a better value, assuming their specific application supports these virtual cores.
So which is best for you? That answer depends on what you’ll be using your new PC for and the pricepoint at which you feel most comfortable. If gaming or home and office tasks are more your style where GHz speed is more important than copious numbers of cores, or workstation applications on a budget where value is critical, the i7’s and i5’s in the Raptor Z55 for example, should be your choice. If you’re into moderate to high-end workstation PC usage like CAD design, 4K video, and 3D rendering where the benefits of ECC RAM, more cache, and possible dual CPUs are advantageous, we heartily recommend Xeon as found in our ProMagix HD80.
As always, if you’re still confused, our sales team is happy to discuss your personal needs and budget to custom design the perfect PC for you. Call 888-300-4450 or click here to shop all desktops.