Upgraded our KODI server CPU to an i7-2600

  • Posted on: 27 November 2018
  • By: charm

Lately I've been harnessing the power of our KODI server's i5-2300 CPU to encode the Blu-ray media stored on that machine. Of the CPU's in all the machines in our household the KODI server's i5-2300 was the most powerful CPU and the media was all stored on the server, so it made the most sense to encode right on the server. While I'd love to upgrade the server to an i5-8600, that would mean a new CPU, new motherboard, and new RAM. The i5-8600 is at a pretty reasonable price point right now, but having to buy a new motherboard and RAM puts it a bit out of our budget right now. So I looked to possible upgrades and settled on an i7-2600 (non-K) CPU.

I was going to just pull the old CPU and drop the new one in without doing any research, but I'm glad I stopped and took the time to look at my motherboard BIOS and read the motherboard documentation, it saved me time in the long run. It turned out I had a very early BIOS revision (so early that the motherboard wasn't apparently even released with that version of the BIOS). In order to install the i7-2600 I needed the fourth revision of the BIOS. Luckily the BIOS has a built-in flashing tool that recognizes USB devices, so I was able to download the BIOS to the USB key and flash the image using the BIOS flashing tool. When I've flashed BIOS' in the past it's usually been a fairly brief process. This BIOS indicated it might take up to 10 minutes to flash. It didn't take 10 minutes to flash, but it did take around 5 minutes.

After the upgrade I rebooted and the system posted fine (with the i5-2300). At this point I dropped in the i7-2600. When I booted to KODI I checked the CPU temperature, it sat at a cool 29 degrees celsius. Encoding video was a different story, all four cores got utilized at 100% and CPU temperature rose to a hot 80 degrees celsius (stock cooler). After encoding several videos the temperature stayed around 80 degrees. While 80 degrees is hot, it's not out of range for what the i7-2600 is able to handle. Still it's hotter than what I remember the i5-2300 ran when encoding video so I'm thinking about buying a closed-loop water cooler - I just need to check that it will fit in our Corsair SPEC-01 case.

Version 6 of the motherboard BIOS supports up to an Intel Core i7-3770K CPU. These are still ridiculously expensive on ebay and Amazon, it's almost better to buy a new i5-8600 processor than one of these old processors. I think the path forward is just to buy the closed-loop water cooler and see if a better processor than the i7-2600 shows up at Computer Recycling. The i7-2600 draws up to 95W while the i7-3770K is rated for 77W. While the speed is only marginally faster on the i7-3770K the power savings is almost 20% according to this (external site) User Benchmark test.

Once the water cooler is in place I'll be upgrading the boot SSD from 120GB to 500GB to account for the fact that we keep adding new Steam games to our media centre.