Last year, our Uni upgraded all PCs in the IT labs to ones with a Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU and 4GB RAM. A friend studying at the ANU said that his Uni upgraded all their PCs to E8400/4GB configurations, and noted the serious overkill with the CPU. This year, my Uni upgraded some PCs in the business faculty’s computer labs to similar configurations.
Some (only a few actually) computers at my work got upgraded to E8400/2GB configurations – again, same overkill CPU but half the RAM. Recently, it seems that BCC libraries upgraded most of their public computers to an E8400/1GB configuration (they appear to have 80GB HDDs). Now seriously, this is an overkill CPU compared to RAM given. Note that these PCs are only being used for web browsing, and maybe some document editing, and they have DeepFreeze installed to prevent viruses and the like slowing the computer down. They also replaced their catalogue computers with these setups, even though the only task the catalogue computer needs to do display one website.
With the exception of my Uni’s IT labs computers (where you have computer geeks and people doing 3D rendering), the E8400 is definitely overkill for the basic tasks that get done. But it’s not a cheap CPU either. In fact, it’s being sold for AU$219 at Umart (which is more than the E8500 going for $210). At this price, it costs more than an i3 540 ($165), slightly less than an i5 650 ($224) and C2Q Q9400 ($234) and costs more than a Phenom II X4 965 BE ($205; though these companies tend to never go with AMD). All the while, it’s much more expensive than the cheap $55 Celeron E3300, which should be more than enough to run everything needed for the various tasks. Okay, these machines probably have been assembled before the i3/i5 range, but even back in those days, it was fairly expensive compared to the rest.
So why so much love for the E8400, even pairing it with 1GB of RAM? My guess would be Intel’s vPro platform, of which, these machines have a lovely stick advertising the fact. This platform requires a Core 2 branded processor with Intel-VT, despite few applications (okay, screw Win7’s XPMode; businesses here still uses XP) really using it. The Core 2 branding requirement is obviously trying to push businesses to buy the more expensive CPUs, as some of Intel’s cheaper “Core 2 based” CPUs (eg Pentium Dual Core E6xxx range and some Celerons) have Intel-VT.
Out of the Core 2 Duos, only the C2D E6xxx and E8xxx range support Intel-VT. E6xxx is phased out, which leaves the latter, and the cheapest E8xxx is the E8400 (can’t seem to get E8200 and E8300 over here). So perhaps that’s why everyone’s going with the E8400.
Now considering that these machines came with 1GB of RAM (around $50 maybe?) and 80GB HDD (around $30 probably), a cheap case+PSU, the Intel motherboard and CPU probably consume a huge proportion of the cost. So is vPro really worth such a huge premium?