Was it actually an upgrade? Xeon in an Optiplex.

How did we get here?

So, the most recent upgrade to the Dell Optiplex was the addition of an Intel Xeon E3-1270v3. A four core, eight thread CPU built on the Haswell platform similar to the i5 4670 that came with the rig. There had already been a few upgrades, each bringing this modest office PC closer to being an actual budget Gaming rig. The video is found here.

The idea was simple enough, a more powerful CPU without spending a lot of money had the chance to turn it into a bit of a powerhouse. It didn’t work out that way. By all accounts, doubling the amount of cores on the CPU should have made many jobs much easier. Instead we reached a different issue, the Graphics Card.

I tested both CPUs on games and benchmarks at 1080p. It’s the most common resolution in games and should have relieved the GPU of stress. It didn’t. It didn’t actually create any advantage at all. Most tests showed similar results for each processor, leaving no clear winner. But why?

What went wrong?

The biggest limitation is the size of the case. Only certain GPUs will fit in the small form factor, and even the best available isn’t adequate. I say the best available, but I should clarify, the best available at that budget. There are better GPUs, but at a much higher cost, and the difference may not be worth it. The fact is, you can build a cheaper, better performing, new PC for what it would cost.

Heat seemed to be another issue. The set up didn’t overheat, but it did get warm and that wasn’t a help. Incidently, any PC built from new parts will most certainly have better airflow. Temps on the CPU averaged about ten degrees more and the GPU was the same. Heat in small areas is always a problem and this set up is no exception. More, slightly faster threads, work harder and the heat has nowhere to go.

So, is the Xeon a failure?

Failure? Absolutely not. The small form factor has reached a point of dimishing returns, and although the Xeon didn’t improve things, it’s not a loss. The i5 4670 works great in the system, and I’ve ordered a different motherboard for the better processor. I can pair it with a much better GPU in a case with more airflow and give it a chance to “let it’s hair down”. If there is no improvement at that point, maybe we can call it a learned experience, but most cetainly not a failure.

The replacement motherboard is on it’s way. I already have a case, (which was also a bit of a challenge), and memory, etc., so it won’t be hard to set up, Then, we’ll just see how it the CPU does in a better situation. It will be interesting to see the improvement, assuming there is one. Obviously, there will be a video, and a blog, so stay tuned. It promises to be interesting.

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