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Crazy question about AMD E-350 and HD6970 (or GTX580)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
So I just had this random thought the other day while I was out at the pub (funnily enough I was out with Geographers, a Communications major, and a Business major and not Engineers or CS guys). I really don't know how conversation steered that way but anyways....

As we know there are various companies (Gigabyte, MSI, ASUS, Sapphire, etc.) coming out with mini-ITX zacate boards with E-350 chips in them and they include PCIe slots with them.

Anyways this is probably pretty crazy but if you tossed it into an mATX case (and maybe upgraded the cooler as necessary), would it be possible to toss something like an HD6970 or GTX580 in there for GPGPU calculations WITHOUT it bottlenecking? I know you can't judge chips by their clockspeed but it would seem that these almost top of the line cards would just be too fast for the CPU's to keep up and feed them instructions. I don't really know how GPGPU computations work on a low level so if someone could explain that to me that would be great. All I know at the high abstract level is that somehow CPU's and GPU's communicate with each other to feed each other instructions but not how much they rely on each other, whether or not the GPU's I've listed above will max out the CPU and still have more computational ability.

Likely I'll go with the Gigabyte, Sapphire, or MSI because they use active cooling solutions instead of the passive one that the ASUS uses. Although, if anyone knows what size fan they use (I'm thinking 40mm?) I might switch it to a Scythe 40mm casefan (that provides an amazing 4.86 CFM of airflow in such a small package). With this I might get some overclocking overhead and maybe be able to push the proc to 1.8 Ghz??? I don't want to go for 2+ Ghz since after all this is an mini-ITX board and I want it to stay cool/stable so I can leave it to crunch GPGPU WU's unattended, I'm likely going to leave it "headless" and access via KVM switch for doing administrating stuff so stability and being able to leave it on 24/7 are of the utmost importance. I also know I said I was going to possibly toss it into an mATX case but would it offer *that much* benefit over an mini-ITX in cooling potential? Ie. I'm not looking for it to be 0.5C cooler although I do want to try to keep it as cool as possible at the same time. if I get the mATX case I'll probably load it up with 120mm Slipstream fans to bring in as much cool air as possible and exhaust as much hot air as possible as well.

If this works my plan is to do this for the ultimate "low power" GPGPU rig:

- Sapphire "Pure White Fusion" E-350 or Gigabyte GA350N-USB3
- If it fits (and is an improvement) a 40mm Scythe casefan to replace the stock fan on the board
- 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (what timings? I'm thinking 8-8-8-21 or something like that or does it not matter as much, according to the specs on the Sapphire website it only supports DDR3-800/1066, will it downclock or just not work? I didn't know that DDR3-800 existed is that maybe a typo?)
- HD6970 or GTX 580
- mini-ITX case (or mATX with a few 120mm Scythe slipstream case fans for airflow)

Thoughts? Or am I just being crazy and having one of those drunken moments where you totally think it's the greatest idea in the world but in reality doesn't work at all (or potentially catches fire and burns down the house....).
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post #2 of 6
It depends if the GPGPU task depends on processor processing power and if they require a lot of bandwidth. If they do, then there will be a bottleneck.
    
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post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
So what you're saying it depends on the project?

Lets take an "average project" then (we'll use DNETC, Milkyway, and Collatz because those are the only ones I know run on ATI and I believe ATI has higher PPD output than nVidia at the moment), would a Zacate lets say overclocked to 1.8Ghz be a bottleneck if you had an HD6970 in it?
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post #4 of 6
With PrimeGrid (the ATI project you forgot), yes it will bottleneck.
With Collatz Conjecture, I'm quite sure that the bottleneck will be minimal.
I cannot speak on Milkyway@Home since I do not have a GPU that supports DP.

I have always wondered this myself, actually with a weaker chip, the intel atom. In theory stuff may or may not seem to work, but only by actually trying it out do you know for sure, and sometimes find surprising results.
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post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
So I guess GPGPU processor/GPU usage really depends on the code.

I'm actually quite interested in this now. Drunken thoughts/conversations can actually lead to cool ideas.

I'm actually quite interested in the enhanced Bobcat "Krishna" chips which are supposed to have twice the power of the current Zacate chips but then again they're getting released in 2012 which is a long time and by then the HD7000 series will probably have come out and have twice the computing power as well leading to them still bottlenecking (if it does).

What about this scenario then: a Zacate E-350 mini-ITX board OC'ed to 1.9Ghz with an HD5830. Probably has a smaller chance of bottlenecking and would also be pretty cost effective as well, I mean $150 mini-ITX board, and a ~$140-150 GPU that does double precision FP = $300 BOINC rig that can probably still play with the big boys. Not to mention that double the price isn't equal to double the FP output.

Also, what about RAM timings and BOINC? Do they matter? Should I go for CL8 and below or is CL9 "alright" to have.

I'm reading this BOINC white paper/notice posting on Memory Management but I'm not sure if it would apply since I'd be using this as a dedicated BOINC rig.

OK new rig idea:

- Sapphire Pure Fusion mini-ITX board (E-350 OC'ed to 1.8 or 1.9 Ghz, stock if the CPU can catch up to the GPU)
- 1x2GB stick of DDR3 RAM (do timings matter and how much do I need? I'll probably still go with 8-8-8-21 timings, also the Fusion apparently only supports single channel mode so I'll probably just go with 1 stick)
- HD5830 (according to wikipedia will give me about 358 GFLOPS of double precision power)
- All tossed into a mini ITX case (maybe I should get a "good looking" case like a Lian-li or something and put it somewhere out in the open and running headless, maybe even with some cold cathode lights so that it's functional as a "cool toy" and is also helping to save the world (or at least advance science))

I'm going to build this in the summer, I'll let you guys know how it works out.

EDIT: Just a followup:

According to tweaktown's benchmarks and review of the Gigabyte E350N a 6970 would heavily bottleneck, not only because it's so powerful but the PCIe is only running at 4x (electrically, whatever that means. Can someone explain what that means? Does it mean you'll only be running on 4 lanes or does it mean it can only provide "4 lanes worth of power").

Anyways it looks as if a 6970 would be a waste since the CPU is really limiting (granted they only did a small OC up to 1.68 Ghz and I'm hoping for 1.8 Ghz which may be a bit ambitious). I'm now thinking that a 5850 or 6950 might be a better choice and even then still might bottleneck so I might bring it down to a 5830. Or maybe I buy a 6950 anyways and do the 6950 to 6970 mod as described on Techpowerup. Also apparently not all Zacate mobo's have OC functionality, the MSI doesn't and I don't know if the Sapphire does either so I'll probably go with the Gigabyte.

I'll let you guys know how it goes in June when I get my first paycheque.
Edited by Amor - 2/13/11 at 2:48am
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post #6 of 6
If I was going to build a low power Zacate based system just for BOINC, I'd use the Asus E35MI-I Deluxe as it is supposed to have a full speed 16x pcie slot - then I'd drop in a single 5850 - because of all the gfx cards that are supported in BOINC, the 5850 provides the most points per watt (from what I have calculated so far).

If I was going for the most points per day, I'd buy a mobo that had quad 16x pcie slots and drop in 4 watercooled and overclocked 6950's (unlocked to 6970) and running DNETC it'd do a cool 1.5M ppd at a min

EDIT:

Running mw@h each workunit uses <1sec of CPU time, so if you ran mw@h with a Zacate system that had a 6970, I don;t think there would be any problem.

BOINC is nothing like a computer game that uses a lot of CPU as well as GPU, so I honestly don't think that reviews showing a gfx card being bottlenecked playing games on a specific CPU can not be used as a guide.

If you ran BOINC GPU workunits only, it wouldn't really matter how powerful that same specific CPU was, as long as the gfx cards are in an 8x pcie slot at a min (16x is preferred) and your BOINC client recognises the card, then you're all set to go, because with BOINC, you literally set how much CPU usage you want BOINC to use and that's all it will use.

Simply run only GPU workunits, configure the project prefs so that the gfx card uses <5% CPU usage, and make sure to run the gfx card in a 16x pcie and your card will BOINC away at ~99% and earn you a bunch of ppd

P.S. I'll be running 2x 5850's in an old AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ soon, and from the reviews of the Zacate, even though the Zacate is clocked slower, it is actually twice a powerful as the 5200+. And if I can run 2x 5850's on a CPU that is close to twice as slow, I don't see why the Zacate would be a problem.
Edited by un-nefer - 2/13/11 at 5:29am
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