Looking to build a CGI workstation.


I'm looking to build a CGI workstation/render machine, preferably Micro-ATX, primarily running ZBrush, Luxology Modo and CS6. My experience with parts is limited to gaming rigs, which I have noticed to suffer in a huge way when used for CGI work, no matter how "high-end" they are. So I'd really appreciate some advice on the parts I need (no price range, but I don't want to pay a lot for parts I won't use much):

CPU: I'm looking at the Intel Xeon E5-2687W 8-core processor. Pretty expensive, but it should be able to handle polygon-heavy scenes and yield better render times than my old i7 2600k.

Cooler: I'm not really sure. Can you please suggest something that would fit on the following mobo with full RAM? (please see how the RAM slots are oriented if you're puzzled at the question. It's in the link below)

MOBO: Is there any real advantage for full ATX over Micro-ATX mobos? I'm looking at ASRock Micro-ATX X79 Extreme4-M

RAM: I plan on using a 4 sticks of 8GB Corsair Vengeance for 32 GB.

GPU: Do I really need this? I understand that most of the work is done by the CPU, and I hardly do much animation or HD video editing, but I do work with huge still-image renders and matte paintings in CS6. If I do need one, would the PNY Quadro 4000 be sufficient for my needs?

PSU: Something around 750W for future upgrades.

Storage: Easy. SSD for the OS and 2 TB+ HDDs in RAID1.

Monitor: How safe is it to ship a high-res monitor overseas? The best I could get where I am is HD 1080p and I don't want to pay a lot for something that will likely get damaged on the way and is hard to replace/repair.

Any suggestions are much appreciated.
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  1. What you got looks pretty good, I would recommend a watercooler, they're a low profile but you might find it hard fitting it in a micro atx. But I have seen it done in a BitFenix Prodigy. The moniter should be fine by the way, this stuff I shipped all the time, but if your worried dont buy it. I would recommend a graphics, everything will just look better than on board, especially if you gonna pay so much for high res moniter. But rendering machines aren't really my field.
  2. The Intel Xeon E5-2687W is sure a wast of money, because it's made for dual cpu systems and that's why it's so expensive. I would recommend an E3-1275V2 on an Asus P8B-MX with 32GB ECC memory. The AMD graphics card has the right OpenGL drivers for your software stack. And a Dell UltraSharp U2713HM should ship all over the world without getting damaged.
  3. @Mapsx15: I've had some experience with watercooling, and I'm not that keen to do it again mainly because maintenance can become a huge pain. That, and I've been satisfied with aftermarket air coolers so far.

    @noidea_77: I'm looking at the specs and it doesn't look like the Xeon E5-2687W is better than a current-gen i7. In fact, an i7-3930k would even outperform it. I'm trying maximize computing threads for rendering processes, and it seems to me that the 8-core Xeon would outperform the i7-3930k. The question is: by how much?
  4. Best answer
    The main difference is, that the XEON supports ecc ram and that is always recommended for rendering and other ram intensive work. The problem with 8 cores is, that only a few program will use the 16 threads. They are basically mad to run high numbers of virtual machines. Anyway, it's up to you :)
  5. I see. ECC it is then. I think I'll go for this Kingston bundle. As for the 8-core issue, I'm pretty sure Modo 601 is capable of using all 16 threads for rendering. It's the main reason why I'm building a dedicated workstation in the first place.

    Thanks :)
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