Xeon, i5, and i7

Discussion in 'iMac' started by mrbrycel, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. mrbrycel macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
    I know this may be a dumb question, but what is the difference between an Intel Xeon processor, an i5, and an i7?

    How much difference would I notice (in terms of processor) between an older mac pro with two dual-core 2.66ghz intel Xeon and a new iMac with a quad-core 2.7ghz i5?
  2. Isengardtom macrumors member

    Feb 14, 2009
    For every day tasks such as Internet, iPhoto, iMovie, games the difference would be very small

    Flash drives, more ram and a better gfx would give a beter speed bump
  3. boto macrumors 6502


    Jun 4, 2012
  4. brucethemoose macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2012
    If you convert videos and render a ton, the i5 would be noticeably faster.

    Otherwise... no difference at all.

    Xeons, i3s, i5s, and i7s are all generally based on the same silicon (as long as they're part of the same generation), it's just that intel chooses to blow off a few transistors in each model to make more money off you. Xeons, for example, support ECC and server stuff, and are generally binned for better power consumption from what I hear. Right now, bar minor clock speed differences and the not so useful HT, i5s and i7s are exactly the same.
  5. KyleProBoller, Nov 2, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2012

    KyleProBoller macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2012
    I thought the major difference between the i5 and i7 was the i7 allowed hyperthreading...functionally doubling the number of cores from 4 to 8. It's supposed to be a much more powerful processor due to this. I don't think most iMac buyers will really need or notice the benefits of this added power though.
  6. mrbrycel thread starter macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
    Thanks for the explanations! I was always wondering why whenever I play around with a base iMac (2011 version with 2.5ghz i5) in an apple store, it always seemed noticeably faster than my 2.66ghz Xeon Mac Pro. I knew this was partly because of my Mac Pro only having 1GB of RAM, and that base iMac having 4GB, but is that newer i5 processor at all faster/superior to my older Xeon? I always see the "turbo boost" advertised along with any i5 or i7, which is still new to me. Also, older OS X wouldn't make any difference in speed would it? At times I feel like even a base 11" MBA is pretty comparable to my Mac Pro for regular tasks.
  7. KyleProBoller macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2012
    MBA probably seems faster because of the solid state drive installed. Which is many times faster than a spinning hard drive. Boot up and application starts are a lot faster.
  8. Coldmode macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2010
    That has a lot to do with why your Pro might feel slow. With only 1GB of RAM your computer has to write files to the hard drive very frequently, which is much slower than just loading more and more stuff into RAM. If you have a browser open with a few tabs, that can take up almost 1GB of RAM by itself. Then you decide you want to open a Word doc and a large spreadsheet, and your machine crawls to a stop.

    The best thing you can do for that computer is to upgrade to 4GB or 8GB of RAM, which will make the computer feel like night and day. I upgraded my machine from 4 to 8 and the difference was night and day.

    Unless you are compressing video, compiling code, altering huge batches of RAW photos or running some sort of CAD simulation you're probably not going to notice the differences in those processors. The biggest enhancements you can make for everyday computer use are RAM and moving to a solid state drive. I recommend the RAM because it's a far far far far far cheaper and easier upgrade. If you need any help picking RAM just reply to this post.
  9. mrbrycel thread starter macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
    Thanks for the tip! I did just order two 2GB sticks of kingston valueram to add, can't wait to try it out with 5GB!

    Question about RAM.. If I wanted to upgrade to 8GB later, would there be any difference between adding two more sticks of 2GB valueram vs. one stick of 4GB more expensive RAM?
  10. seanm9 macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2007
    Cape Cod, MA
    if this is your mac pro, you need to install ram in matched pairs...


    and with apple approved heatsinks...
  11. mrbrycel thread starter macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
  12. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Fine, but also expensive. The class of RAM that machine needs is relatively antiquated at this point so t he prices are significantly higher than modern RAM DIMMs.

    That specific Mac Pro itself (2006 model) is about 3-4 months from going on Apple's Vintage/Obsolete Hardware list.


    That's a pretty big "generally". The generally equivalence class look more like

    Xeon E3 ~ i3 , i5 , and mainstream i7

    Xeon E5 ~ i7 Extreme ( i7 39xx 38xx )

    The CPU packages different very significantly on I/O and graphics. There is more than just x86 cores in the packages now. There are x86 cores , caches , GPUs (or not) , and Memory/PCI-e controllers in the "CPU" products these days.

    Back in the 2006 era this threads starter's machine comes from it was simplifier.

    There are variances on cache sizes and the i7's are split over two architecture implementations ( mainstream versus "Extreme" ) .
  13. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    There's your explanation. If you are using any new operating system (10.6 and higher) you should get at least 4GB but I'd recommend 8GB for good performance.
    I know the memory is expensive for these older MPs so it's up to you if you want do the upgrade. But aside from upgrading memory, processor replacement comes quite cheap and you could put two quadcore processor in your machine which would make it 50-100% faster, becoming eight core machine. That is, unless you are putting your Mac Pro through its paces (video editing, heavy photoshop, 3D CADs etc). Look here for more advice. Personally, I think even old Mac Pro's are good machines and worth upgrading if they run well.

    My advice: Forget the CPUs for now (although not super expensive, 75-200 USD used). RAM will be a bit expensive but I'd still try to get hold of four 2GB sticks. SSD as your operating system drive will be a HUGE difference. I can't stress this enough - 128GB drives are pretty cheap nowadays and even if you ever move to another computer down the line, you can take the SSD with you and put it in Macbook Pro, Mac mini, iMac.
  14. desantim macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2012
    Was in this exact same boat, i have a 1,1 mac Pro with 2 dual core 3 ghz xeons. Luckily it came with 16 gb ram. Upgraded the old video card to an ati 5770 helped a lot with desktop smoothness. Upgrades my boot drive to an m4 ssd. Helped big time again. Just pulled the trigger on a refurb 27" 3.4 i7 256 ssd 16gb ram iMac and no comparison to the iMac absolutely smoked my Mac Pro. It's embarrassing how much faster the iMac is. Get the iMac if you can. You're throwing hundreds of dollars at a 6+ yo computer when u can invest that into a new one that will trounce it in stock form.
  15. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Definitely true, depends on budget also. Maybe you're better off keeping your cash and investing it towards new iMac, however if you feel like you don't need the latest and fastest and you only wish to boost performance for day-to-day usage, upgrading Mac Pro will be cheaper. They're still good machines. I just purchased used MP 2009 and even if it's few years old I'm still glad I did. I have 16gigs of RAM in it and SSD, it works great and is very fast for what I do (video editing mostly).
  16. desantim macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2012
    Probably the biggest and most looked past upgrade is the screen. The imac 27" screen is a thing of beauty. We had 2 27s in the house before I upgraded mine. Kids had my old c2d imac and fiancé has the i5. I was seriously missing the screen resolution. You basically get a $900 monitor with the iMac.
  17. mrbrycel thread starter macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
    Ok so I added 4GB more RAM to my Mac Pro, and I can definite see a difference in FCP (I can actually play the whole 1080p sequence at full quality without stuttering or beachball), and I was actually able to run FCP, Photoshop, After Effects, and Red Cine-X at the same time.. Something I am not used to!

    But starting up applications still seems super sluggish compared to EVERY new mac in the apple store. I'm sure my HDD is part of the reason, but even a base 2011 21.5" imac with 2.5ghz processer and 4GB of RAM is significantly faster than my Mac Pro and they're both running HDDs.

    What other variables are there? My Mac Pro is still running 10.5.8, could that make a difference? I always thought older models ran slower AFTER updating the software, but could mine running old OS be a reason?
  18. comatory macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2012
    Easy, replace the HDD. I will give you an example, I recently (unfortunately) purchase TWO hard drives, Western Digitals from year 2007. I paired them in RAID0 to get myself a speedy scratch disk. Guess what? The read and write times are around 80-90 MB/s in RAID0 !!!
    Just to give you a comparison, I have 2TB WD Caviar Green in my Mac Pro also, this ONE drive gives me easily around 110-120 MB/s, and that is just single drive.

    So if you are running original hard drive from 2006, you can imagine how slow it is. Technology has improved since then and also the older the drive is, the slower it gets.
    If I were you, I'd buy 128-256GB SSD drive like Intel 520 or Crucial M4. These are reported as very high quality drives (you even get 5 years warranty on Intel) which are very speedy, so speedy that they might not even take advantage of your SATA bus. You can then repurpose your old mechanical drive for your iPhoto, iTunes library and other data files you don't need fast access to. SSD should have OS X installed and your applications.

    You will see a HUGE difference and your Mac will be as fast as the new Macs in day-to-day usage. Believe me it will help a ton.

    Even if SSD is too expensive for you, you can still buy Western Digital Caviar Black (1TB size seems good) and you will immediately notice the difference.

    Remember, even if it seems like a big investment, you are able to take out SSD from your Mac Pro and put it in your next computer. Even if you decide to go with mechanical hard drive, you can probably do that too or repurpose it in external enclosure as a USB3/TB/Firewire drive.

    I'm glad 4GB helped, if you ever get another 4GB you will see even more performance increase, especially if you have all those applications open at once (I put 16GB RAM in my Mac Pro and I can have like 20 applications open and it doesn't slow down).

    EDIT: 10.5.8 is Leopard. It is widely believed that 10.6.8 Snow Leopard is fine tuned version of Leopard which runs faster on most of the systems. It will also give you Mac App Store and some other functionalities but I have heard from many people that Snow Leopard is faster than Leopard, has less bugs etc.
    If you get SSD, do a clean install of OS X. You might have some clutter accumulated in Leopard from years of usage, the best way to get fastest system on SSD is to to a clean install on it.

    The advantage of Mac Pro is that you have a lot of options.
  19. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    I believe this was only a difference in the first iCore generation?
  20. mrbrycel thread starter macrumors member

    May 18, 2010

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