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What is best processor for complex excel workbook?

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  • What is best processor for complex excel workbook?

    Hello - Can you please advise; I am running very complex excel workbooks with
    thousands of formulas, which may take 60 seconds or more to regenerate
    when a change is made. Assuming I max out at 8GB ram, what would be
    the best type and specific CPU chip to use to speed this up?

    Assume the spreadsheet is optimized, so the only change that can be made
    is in the CPU. I don't want to buy a high end I7, for example, if it wouldn't
    make that much difference, as I am not sure if the increased CPU capacity
    translates into improved performance on this specific excel application.

    I have read that sometimes increased CPU capacity may not make much
    difference on excel because of the processes involved, which I find hard
    to believe. But would appreciate your input.

    Thank you!
    Last edited by developer1000; Mar-07-2012, 08:39 PM.

  • #2
    Will depend on what version of Excel you are using, the structure of your worksheet and if you want to get into overclocking.

    The following is a para-phrased summary from the Microsoft site,

    Versions of Microsoft Excel earlier than Excel 2007 use a single thread for all worksheet calculations. In this case it doesn't make sense to get a 6 or 8 core CPU.

    Starting in Excel 2007, Excel splits calculation across multiple processors or cores. When Excel loads a workbook, it determines from the operating system how many processors are available and then creates a separate calculation thread for each processor.

    The degree of improvement depends on how many independent calculation trees the workbook contains. If you make a workbook that contains one continuous chain of formulas, it will not show any multithreaded calculation (MTC) performance gain, whereas a workbook that contains several independent chains of formulas will show gains close to the number of processors available.

    So if you are single threaded, and don't want to overclock, then maybe the Intel Core i7-2700K or Intel Core i7-3820 is the best.

    If you are multi-threaded to more than 8 formula chains, then have a look at Intel Core i7-3960X, Intel Core i7-3930K or AMD Opteron 6274.

    The only sure way to know is to do some testing with your particular Excel workbook.


    • #3
      You can't go wrong with a Core i7 2600k or i7 2700k.

      With both single-threaded and multi-threaded tasks, they deliver exceptional performance at a reasonable price.


      • #4
        Thanks -

        Thanks to Admin. and godfather; I've been testing my excel worksheet on
        Excel 2007 on different computers including I5's and I7's. Your detailed
        input is appreciated; I am going to evaluate this based on # threads, etc.
        Will update. Thanks again.


        • #5
          Have a look at the CPU load in task manager to see if all the available cores get fully loaded while the calculations take place.

          If you can hit 100% CPU usage on 4 cores, then 8 cores might be beneficial. If you can't get to 100% on 2 or 4 cores, then more cores isn't going to help much.

          Also you should consider upgrading to Excel 2010.
          Excel 2010 has a 64bit version, so it can use more RAM, which can improve performance. It also have further improvements for multicore CPUs.

          Better software can often produce much better speed improvements than better hardware.


          • #6
            CPU speed and big excel 2010

            Originally posted by developer1000 View Post
            Thanks to Admin. and godfather; I've been testing my excel worksheet on
            Excel 2007 on different computers including I5's and I7's. Your detailed
            input is appreciated; I am going to evaluate this based on # threads, etc.
            Will update. Thanks again.
            On the physical side I have extensive experience, real world.

            I've done a lot of testing, and have used all excel thru 2010 64 bit. My current machine at work is a dual xeon with 32 cores (each is 8 physical cores and hyperthreaded). Quite often, it only uses 1 core if doing things that use clipboard. Edit fill down for example. This means you need the highest GZ CPU speed possible, AND fast ram. I have 2400MZ ram at home, worth it. It makes excel go faster 1-1 ratio. So if you have 1GZ ram you will be literally 100% faster with 2400MZ ram, I know from 3 machines at home. Then if file is already made, say big data dump, 800,000 rows, and 25 columns of columns doing dictionary lookups etc, it will use all 32 cores 100%. So if you are asking a real question and are using big data, I would say get a gaming motherboard that can overclock, buy an i7 CPU with the letter K on the end (K means it is unlocked), but water cooling instead of cheap fins and fan to cool cpu, and build machine at home. If you get a canned unit from Staples or etc you will only be so-so pleased. I made a good setup for $900 including power supply, case, i7-3770K, an MSI board designed for OC, and 2400MZ 16GM ram. It is overclocked using an OC bios program that comes with the board (so no guessing, it is automated) and now my core speed is 4.8GZ and totally stable. It can open a 800MB file I use at work in 2.5 minutes, my xeon machine at work takes 12-15 minutes, it can crunch my file after open with only 8 cores (i7 3770 is a quad and hyperthread) faster than my dual xeon at work - again because at home I have MUCH faster ram and a higher base frequency. Other machines I've built include 2.4GZ shttle with 333MZ ram (long time ago), MSI board with 2.8GZ pentium HT, an AMD 3.4GZ quad with 1033MZ ram, and now my new beast which is totally worth it. I can do do anything I can dream up and do it fast.

            If you take shortcuts witn your hardware and are a serious user, you have just that, shortcuts.

            work machine: intel xeon E5-2690, 2.9GZ, 2 phys processors on dual mobo, 64GB 1033MZ ram, 64 bit system and 64 bit office, SSD drive for windows

            home machine, MSI OC mobo, i7-3700k cpu at 4.8GZ, 2400MZ ram, SSD drive

            common use of vlookup, hlookup, sumif, long nested if then statements, advanced visual basic code use as well to automated, using tables and excel as a quasi database, very big files and multiple tables


            • #7
              So Ted, what do you recommend for a laptop with similar use including Adobe Acrobat Pro and heavy user of pivot tables, advance / power maps ....etc also Access and visualization...

              Thanks as any advise would help me as I am lost between this stu*** marketing ...



              • #8
                Mobile CPUs are never going to match the performance of the desktop CPUs. Plus you can't get dual or quad CPU laptops.

                From the above discussion you ideally want excellent single threaded and multiple threaded performance.

                The best mobile CPUs at the moment (Aug 2014) are
                Intel Core i7-4960HQ
                Intel Core i7-4940MX
                Intel Core i7-4910MQ
                Intel Core i7-4930MX
                Intel Core i7-4850HQ
                Intel Core i7-3920XM
                Intel Core i7-3940XM

                See also,
                Single threaded CPU performance chart
                Laptop CPU performance chart


                • #9
                  The first issue you need to address is available system memory. The larger the worksheet, the more memory Excel can and will use and if the system maxes out at 8GB, it's time for an upgrade.

                  The two things you need to run very large excel worksheets are a minimum of 8GB of memory - 16 is certainly better but in this case, I'd go for a board that supports between 32 and 64 Gigs. If you are exceeding 16GB of system memory, you must use Win# Pro as the home version is artificially limited to 16GB max memory. It'll see more but you can't use it.


                  • #10
                    you know, i think its cheaper for me to build a desktop and colocate it somewhere and just use a simple laptop to access it when needed. maybe even get visualization and have multiple desktops.... what do you guys think?


                    • #11
                      Remote desktop solutions can certainly work OK for this type of stuff, as you aren't trying to run 60 frames a second from Excel.


                      • #12
                        This post is a little old and I was wondering if you have updated your computer since then and have any suggestions for a good computer. I am also in Finance and it takes forever to filter, delete, update my spreadsheets. I use only excel formulas, no VB, and I think more cores would help, but need more info to give my IT team.

                        My current computer specs:
                        Processor: Intel i7-8565U CPU @ 1.8 GHz 1.99 GHz
                        Installed RAM 16.0 GB (15.7 GB usable)
                        System type 64-bit operating system x64-based processor

                        and I use Office 365 for excel.

                        any help would be greatly appreciated.

                        Gregg Cannella


                        • #13
                          Intel i7-8565U
                          This is a laptop CPU. It is designed mainly to use very little (electrical) power. Not to be fast.
                          It isn't a bad laptop CPU at all. But is far from the best for serious number crunching.

                          Monitor task manager while the machine is under load. Check how many cores are under full load for your particular spreadsheet?
                          This can also help determine if the network or disk is the source of the slowness.

                          Or send us the spreadsheet if it isn't private and we can take a look.