Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Building a new desktop PC, for some gaming and lots of Virtualization, I have come across a nice old machine I can use. It has two CPU slots populated by dual core AMD Opterons, and 16Gb of DDR2 RAM in 8 dual rank DIMMs. My current machine only has 4Gb 800MHz DDR3 RAM, and a single quad core (core2quad) CPU.

Windows 7 x64 internal user experience benchmark shows pretty much the same figures, except for the aero estimation at "1" for the AMD machine.

I'm wondering how I can decide which machine will be better for both purposes, the main question being whether more RAM at a slower pace can perform better than less, but faster RAM.

EDIT: The main question here is not what I am going or not going to buy, I already have both of the machines, but only one can stay.

What I'm trying to find out is whether the extra RAM can compensate for the slower CPUs (and the fact they are on two sockets, which means extra context switch lags), when it comes to modern games. And the games are nothing too fancy, all I'm looking for is for COD and Assassin's Creed (and that's mostly it) not to lag when set to medium settings, with a 450GTS or 9600GT GFX card (which I already have, and need to decide where it will go).

Thanks for the virtualization pointers, but it's a bit offtopic here since I'm well aware of the different aspects of virtualization, I'm asking in this forum and not in SF because my experience with desktop/home/gaming hardware is ~5 years out of date, and that is where I'm looking for advice.

share|improve this question
The fact it suppose 16GB of memory means the motherboard can't be that old. I have a top of the line Intel motherboard from 2005-2006 and it only supports 8GB in a special configuration. You are better of with the core2quad, increasing the memory ( it likely does support this ), and place a better video card. A 9600GT is horrible for anything after 2009. The server equipment is just that server equipment. – Ramhound Jan 18 '12 at 18:32
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Getting virtualization and gaming into one thing is not that easy.

For Virtualization, you need a lot of CPU cores (if your workload is very CPU dependent) and a lot of RAM, in contrast to gaming where you need less cores, which on the other side need to be faster and you also don't need as much RAM as virtualization.

Concerning the RAM speed, the answer is that it doesn't matter, see this link.

To make a conclusion, if you do let's say max 2 virtual machines at a time, you better go with the fast CPU and ~8GB of RAM.
However, as your dual core opterons are probably very old, any new CPU will be faster, so the best thing would be to just buy a CPU (sandybridge quadcore) and 16GB DDR3 RAM as RAM is really really cheap these days. With that machine you can play games(don't forget a good GPU) and do virtualization.

If you don't want to replace your current PC then keep the C2Q and buy another 16GB of RAM (4 DDR3 RAM modules).

share|improve this answer
It is actually a little bit of a misnomer thinking you need to have " a lot of CPU Cores" for virtualization. You really only need a decent dual core processor, and you can run a whole LAB of medium duty stuff. The RAM is the biggest factor. Not really so much CPU. I run 4 servers on a Single Xeon 2.4GHz Dual Core with TONS of headroom to spare. – Paperlantern Jan 18 '12 at 16:52
@Paperlantern well, of course it's a question of workload. I will add a little info on that. – inf Jan 18 '12 at 16:58
purchasing additional stuff is not an option in this case, so this really is a question of either-or. VMs will not be running at the same time as games, and when it comes to games, I'm trying to find out whether with all other params being the same, the older monster can perform as well as the newer PC, when used for mid-range games. I basically want to be able to play COD or AC with no lags on medium gfx settings – dyasny Jan 18 '12 at 17:55
ok, well I would really think of buying some RAM, which is very very cheap these days and then use the C2Q as that is still quite a decent machine. If that is not an option, using the 16GB RAM machine is a must, as you will need the RAM for your virt. machines. – inf Jan 18 '12 at 17:58
Thanks. Could you maybe provide a rough estimate of how bad things would turn out if I tried to actually play a game on the older machine? I'm going to try it myself, but it's a case of hoping for 24 additional hours in a day – dyasny Jan 18 '12 at 18:04

Neither or.. Using 2 CPUs you will never benefit from both cpus in games, but more cpus are great for virtualization, and ram. Again gaming heavily depends on GFX card and the mememor The same problems applies two SLI'd GFX cards. If you play on a 720p resolution on a 22" monitor then it has no performance gain. Run the same game in 1020p on 4 32" daisy chained TV's thats when that power kicks in...

dual core AMD Opterons, and 16Gb of DDR2

Really good machine for virtualisation as a stand alone server. eg HyperV, or Linux with no front end user interaction

current machine only has 4Gb 800MHz DDR3 RAM, and a single quad core (core2quad) CPU

Good front end pc to run windows, maybe some virtualbox or two and a game. But for gaming this is a good enough machine.. but it will require better GFX card.

There is no direct relation to whether more ram is better in DDR2 or Less in DDR3..

As a rule of thumb, newer technology is better, even if its slightly less, because it is more likely to perform 1.5 times as fast as its older counter part.

So I would stick that massive 16GB in a dark room and use it as a nice server, running several OS's and services on it.. and the DDR3 machine purely for games/everyday stuff.

share|improve this answer
+1 - I would honestly do the same thing as stated here. Use the Slightly older Dual core box as a ESXi or Hyper V server (I prefer VMWare, I run it myself for several home servers including Minecraft and Gallery 2). If you are doing "lots of virtualization", offloading it to a server/second machine is the route to go. Then run the single quad proc box as my gaming machine. This machine could still run a VM or two though if you were looking to try Linux or something along those lines. – Paperlantern Jan 18 '12 at 17:04
I didn't mention the GFX card because it's the same card that will either go into one box or the other (NV 450GT or somesuch). I probably needed to be more clear on the exact use case - virtualization is going to happen every once in a while - when I need to bring up a Linux VM or 10, for a small demo cluster or to test a concept. So the main question here is whether, with all other params being the same, the older monster can perform as well as the newer PC, when used for mid-range games. I basically want to be able to play COD or AC with no lags on medium gfx settings – dyasny Jan 18 '12 at 17:53
I would stick with the new one. I use an i5 4GB DDR3 notebook every day for software developing. Compared to my dualcore 4GB DDR2 old notebook.. this one blows it away, mostly because of processing power. Even if i had 2GB it woudl blow the old one away. – ppumkin Jan 18 '12 at 23:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .