Monday, August 31, 2009

Modeling and Gaming?

I am often asked for my opinion on what is the best computer to get for groundwater modeling. In the past, I recommended Intel's Xeon processor that is used in servers and high-end workstations. I always thought that was the fastest chip for modeling.

I never had the chance, though, to test out Intel's relatively new Core i7 chip, mainly because these chips usually show up in gaming computers. A colleague just purchased a really cheap Core i7 computer from Costco. This system was based on the low-end Core i7-920 (Nehalem) running at 2.66 Ghz.

To test out the i7, I ran a relatively complex transient simulation which takes 8 minutes and 53 seconds on a 3.00 Ghz Quad-core Xeon (X5450) system from Dell. The slower i7 ran the same simulation in 5 minutes and 8 seconds for a speed increase of 73%. Obviously the optimizations Intel added for gaming are also useful for groundwater modeling! I plan on building a new system based on the i7-975 (Bloomfield) running at 3.33 Ghz to see what the extra clock-speed can do. I will report back on what I find out.

Until then you might try to convince your boss to get you a gaming computer!