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Performance Workstation Advice Needed

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Last response: in Systems
January 21, 2006 4:40:17 AM

Hi, I'm trying to put together a new workstation primarily for coding but also for CAD (AutoDesk Inventor 10). I rarely game but would like good performance when I do. Most importantly I need stable multitasking.

I have the following quote from ibuypower. Please tell me if I'm getting ripped off. Also, if you could recommend any changes I would be more than grateful.

Thank you for your help. Here are the specs:

CPU AMD® Athlon-64 X2 4400+ CPU w/ Hyper Transport Technology
MOBO Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe nForce4 SLI-x16 Chipset
w/7.1 Sound, Dual Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE 1394, Dual PCI-E MB
RAM 2048 MB [1024MB X2] DDR-400 PC3200 Memory Module
VIDEO [PCI-Express 16x] Nvidia Geforce 6200 with TurboCache
Supporting 256MB w/DVI + TV Out Video
HDD 2 X [S-ATA] Maxtor 250 GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache Hard Drive
RAID-0 Highpoint Rocket Raid Controller PCI Card
OS MS Windows XP Professional X64 Edition

1,871.00 assembled with 3 yr warranty

More about : performance workstation advice needed

January 21, 2006 5:22:47 AM

RAID-0 Highpoint Rocket Raid Controller PCI Card

u don't need this anymore.
ur more mobo have it already

::o verview:

* blah,blah,blah
* NVIDIA SATA II RAID, supporting 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD;

::Box Contents:

* Five red SATA cables;
* Five SATA power cables (via three four-pin molex plugs);

and save ur money.
:mrgreen:
January 22, 2006 1:21:49 AM

OK I have downgraded the mobo, upgraded the video and ram. Also I ditched 64 bit XP and found a better deal on bigger hard disks (and ditched the superfluous raid controller). All this and I save about a hundred bucks (although price doesn't include DVD RW and wireless card).

Now, I'm wondering if a 420W PSU is adaquate. Also, should I stick with the standard CPU fan? My case comes with three fans too so I think I'm all right.

CASE Antec P180 ATX Mid-Tower Case w/420W Power Supply
CPU AMD® Athlon-64 X2 4400+ CPU w/ Hyper Transport Technology
MOBO Gigabyte GA-K8N Pro-SLI nVidia nForce4-SLI Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 Dual PCI-E MB
RAM 2048 MB [1024MB X2] DDR-400 PC3200 Memory Module Corsair XMS w/ Heat Spreade
VIDEO [PCI-Express 16x] Nvidia Geforce 6800XT 256MB w/DVI + TV Out Video
HDD 2 X 300 GB HARD DRIVE [S-ATA] Maxtor 250 GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache Hard Drive
OS MS Windows XP Professional
1,769.00 assembled with 3 yr warranty
Related resources
January 22, 2006 9:49:45 AM

I want to have an 80 GB drive for Windows XP, an 80 GB drive for Linux, and 2 x a larger drive with RAID-1 for storage. Can I use the RAID controller on my mobo for these storage drives or does the controller on the mobo have to be used for the main boot disk? If this were the case I guess I might need dual raid controller mobo -- first controller for RAID-0 on the two 80 GB os drives (putting the OS's on two 40 GB partitions instead of two 80 GB drives) and second controller for RAID-0 on the two larger storage drives???

What's most important here is that my OS's are physically separate from my storage and the storage be RAID-1. What is the most inexpensive way to achieve this? (having RAID-0 for my OS drives is not that important to me).

Thanks for your help.
January 22, 2006 10:53:12 AM

Assuming the mainboard has 4 x SATA ports, that will work fine.

Either:
- All via the same chipset
- Or via 2 x nVidia SATA & 2 x Silicon Image (or 3rd party) SATA

Since you only want one RAID-1 array with 2 drives, either of the above will work.

As the board supports RAID 5 then all 4 SATA ports would be on the nVidia controller by the looks of it, so you'll be booting from the same controller the RAID-1 array is on regardless. Just make sure to enable RAID in the BIOS, then configure a single drive via the NV-RAID-BIOS as bootable. Then install your 1st OS (Windows XP) after the RAID BIOS has been enabled. Versus enabling the RAID BIOS after the OS has been installed, trying to get that working having never done it before, then setting up a RAID-1 on top of it.... You'll have less issues I reckon.

You can have multiple (usually up to 4) arrays and/or single drives off the same controller you know ? :p 

Getting it working (booting from the array) might require installation of Windows XP, while holding F6, and using a SATA/RAID driver installation floppy disk. So consider getting a Floppy Disk Drive (if not already) and that the WinXP SATA/RAID driver floppy is included with the mobo as a precaution. I don't see it being a problem if you are booting from a single drive (same controller) and not the array, but you'll need to install the driver at one point, then create the array (as said, same controller).

If you haven't done it before, expect a few issues, and to learn a little more in the process. :) 


Contact Info at: http://users.on.net/~darkpeace


PS: Having one giant array for storage (be it 0/1/5/10/etc) then expecting it to "just work" with Linux AND Windows is a mistake. Linux won't natively read/write NTFS without considerable levels of risk, and Microsoft will demand FAT16/FAT32 support also be removed from Linux now that they won the patent on FAT recently (Jan 2006 - After how many years of using FAT).

Also Linux support of RAID is going to be your major problem if you haven't done this before, especially as the file systems Linux uses (Ext2/3, ReiserFS, XFS, etc) can not be read by Windows XP, and soon vice-versa will be the case (Linux reading/writing FAT16/32 and NTFS). Using over 64 GB FAT32 volumes in Linux is a dumb idea anyway, and soon people won't be able to do it.

The board doesn't have RAID, it has what many call RAID-lite, so does that controller card you looked at (RAID-lite). If you want hardware RAID under both Linux and Windows then look at Adaptec, LSI, and others RAID controllers.

For a first timer I would isolate all Linux filesystems / volumes to one HDD. eg: one of the two 80 GB, and make the entire RAID-1 array NTFS, or multiple NTFS volumes for use under Windows only. Then consider external HDDs if you are planning to 'transition' to Linux gradually. If using Linux as your main 'large storage' OS, then don't enable the mainboard RAID (no joke) setup each OS on its own HDD / partition, then using Linux setup software RAID-1 mirror between the two other 'large' HDDs (with hardware / mainboard RAID disabled the whole time), for a first timer this is your best 'Linux' option.

Expect much more reading if Linux is a primary issue for you, and Good Luck. You might need to partition it 'funny' if going for hardware RAID, and still use software RAID (via: LVM) on your Linux 'side' of the system anyway, which is sort of retarded, but does have benefits (aswell as risks).

You'll likely see why, come time to setup RAID under Linux. Explaining it quickly w/o diagrams isn't worth the effort.
January 22, 2006 8:07:54 PM

Quote:

OS MS Windows XP Professional X64 Edition


32-bit applications (such as Inventor) run slower on x64 than on regular XP. If you are going for speed while rendering models in AutoCAD, you'll probably want to stick to regular XP for now, but if it's not a big issue for you, then go for the 64bit OS, as i'm sure more 64bit applications will be released soon.

Edit: never mind. you said you ditched it in a later post.

Ok onto the Linux stuff.

I've been working with linux for a while, and it's now my primary OS. Linux has issues booting from Raid, but you'll be fine if it's just on a vanilla sata disk.

Linux CAN read reliably to NTFS, but I've never trusted it's ability to write to it. So the solution I've come up with is to use a program called explore2fs to read files off of my ext3 partitions and write them to the NTFS partitions inside XP. Then when you want to transfer items back to the linux partition, just copy it off the NTFS partition from within Linux. The only pain is that I have to re-boot if I want to do this. Another way I do this is to have a fileserver(333 AMD K6-2, running slackware) and it shares the disks with samba, which is seen my XP as a mapped network drive.

Once linux is up and running, Hardware raid arrays shouldn't be a problem, but if you plan on runnin LVMs in linux or a dynamic disk array in XP, then you won't be able to use them in both OS'

If you need any more help, www.linuxquestions.org is the BEST resource out there. The forums are superb and there is someone there to answer any question you have usually within minutes.
January 23, 2006 4:59:31 PM

Quote:
Hi, I'm trying to put together a new workstation primarily for coding but also for CAD (AutoDesk Inventor 10). I rarely game but would like good performance when I do. Most importantly I need stable multitasking.

I have the following quote from ibuypower. Please tell me if I'm getting ripped off. Also, if you could recommend any changes I would be more than grateful.

Thank you for your help. Here are the specs:

CPU AMD® Athlon-64 X2 4400+ CPU w/ Hyper Transport Technology
MOBO Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe nForce4 SLI-x16 Chipset
w/7.1 Sound, Dual Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE 1394, Dual PCI-E MB
RAM 2048 MB [1024MB X2] DDR-400 PC3200 Memory Module
VIDEO [PCI-Express 16x] Nvidia Geforce 6200 with TurboCache
Supporting 256MB w/DVI + TV Out Video
HDD 2 X [S-ATA] Maxtor 250 GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache Hard Drive
RAID-0 Highpoint Rocket Raid Controller PCI Card
OS MS Windows XP Professional X64 Edition

1,871.00 assembled with 3 yr warranty




If you want AutoCAD to perform well, you need to go with a Quadro video card. They're not the best with games but neither is the 6200. It'll raise your price a few hundred but the extra precision of the Quadro is necessary for CADCAM.
January 23, 2006 6:33:57 PM

Isn't Quadro just a brand? Do you love them?
January 23, 2006 9:04:11 PM

Quote:
Now, I'm wondering if a 420W PSU is adaquate. Also, should I stick with the standard CPU fan? My case comes with three fans too so I think I'm all right.

CASE Antec P180 ATX Mid-Tower Case w/420W Power Supply
CPU AMD® Athlon-64 X2 4400+ CPU w/ Hyper Transport Technology
MOBO Gigabyte GA-K8N Pro-SLI nVidia nForce4-SLI Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 Dual PCI-E MB
RAM 2048 MB [1024MB X2] DDR-400 PC3200 Memory Module Corsair XMS w/ Heat Spreade
VIDEO [PCI-Express 16x] Nvidia Geforce 6800XT 256MB w/DVI + TV Out Video
HDD 2 X 300 GB HARD DRIVE [S-ATA] Maxtor 250 GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache Hard Drive
OS MS Windows XP Professional
1,769.00 assembled with 3 yr warranty

This is a great improvement over where you started. You still don't need an SLI board though. The case has sufficient cooling as is, and the 420w PSU is fine because Antec markets good quality supplies. The stock AMD cooler works well but can be noisy if you stress the system. Try it and see. You can always change it out later if it bothers you.
There is one thing I would definitely change: Do not buy the Maxtor brand drives to combine with an nForce4 motherboard. See my thread:
Diamondmax+nForce4: Incompatible?
http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=940273#940273
Any other brand HDD will work fine. Visit the drive forum to get other's preferences...
January 23, 2006 9:14:32 PM

Quote:
Isn't Quadro just a brand? Do you love them?

BaronMatrix has a good point. Workstation videocards (of which the Quadro family of cards belongs) have finely tuned drivers specially designed for accuracy. These drivers cost a lot to program. Gaming card drivers are primarily built for speed, accuracy is just not very important. I can't be of much help in choosing an engineering card but I think you should look into it.
January 29, 2006 5:46:18 AM

I am pretty sure a ATI Radeon X800XL or nVidia GeForce 6800 GT/GS would do the job in most CAD applications these days.

Failing that look into ATI FireGL or nVidia Quadro cards (as above).

http://www.ati.com/products/workstation.html

http://www.nvidia.com/page/workstation.html

Of course, it all depends how you define "workstation". In the 3D graphics arena it usually means 'workstation graphics' for precision CAD style work.

However, that doesn't mean a Radeon X800XL or GeForce 6800 GT/GS can't do the job in some CAD software.

I would recommending checking the recommended specifications / drivers (either 'standard' or 'workstation' FireGL/Quadro) requirement of the CAD style applications you are planning to run. That way you may end up with a higher performance or less expensive video card. (Radeon/GeForce instead of FireGL/Quadro).

So.... what software are you planning to run on said workstation ?, armed with that information people around here will be able to provide better advise as to the video card. There are almost twice as many options for video if you're looking at FireGL/Quadro cards aswell as the 'regular' stuff.
January 29, 2006 5:48:38 AM

I am pretty sure a ATI Radeon X800XL or nVidia GeForce 6800 GT/GS would do the job in most CAD applications these days.

Failing that look into ATI FireGL or nVidia Quadro cards (as above).

http://www.ati.com/products/workstation.html

http://www.nvidia.com/page/workstation.html

Of course, it all depends how you define "workstation". In the 3D graphics arena it usually means 'workstation graphics' for precision CAD style work.

However, that doesn't mean a Radeon X800XL or GeForce 6800 GT/GS can't do the job in some CAD software.

I suggest checking the recommended specifications / drivers (either 'standard' or 'workstation' FireGL/Quadro) requirement of the CAD style applications you are planning to run. That way you may end up with a higher performance or less expensive video card. (Radeon/GeForce instead of FireGL/Quadro).

So.... what software are you planning to run on said workstation ?, armed with that information people around here will be able to provide better advise as to the video card. There are almost twice as many options for video if you're looking at FireGL/Quadro cards aswell as the 'regular' stuff.
January 30, 2006 4:15:24 AM

MCAD apps like inventor and solidworks will run on a gaming card, but you will have more issues (crashes, instability). The price difference with the Quadro cards is not that much of a premium to pay for eliminating the headaches of trying to use a CAD app on a gaming card. (Personal experience talking here) I would recommend a Quadro FX 1300. It's a bit more than the X800 seires mentioned above, but you will get more consistent and stable performance out of it. It's no slouch for gaming either and will give you comparable performance to an X800 series card.

I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a decent card for MCAD apps, they are notoriously finnicky when it comes to cards, and most vendors will certify not only cards, but driver versions as well.

*note* a quick check at autodesk website shows that the ONLY certified cards are the fireGL/Quadro series cards (for the ATI/nVidia brands anyway). . . they haven't bothered with gaming cards and your CAD VAR would probably discourage it.

Biggest difference is the openGL performance. There are so few games out there that run in openGL and don't run in DX that most gaming cards are optimized for DX and the openGL support is usually added as an afterthought. You can see this penalty in benchmarks for games coded exclusively for openGL. They do run, but not as efficiently. MCAD apps do not use DX. . they use openGL heavily and demand a very well implemented openGL driver to be stable.

Overall Moral: do yourself a favor and don't skimp on the graphics solution for an app like inventor.
January 30, 2006 5:02:41 AM

I ended up figuring this out and going with an FX 540 as you saw in my other post but probably didn't realize it was me. I'm sure the 1300 would have been better but I read a really good review for the 540 and couldn't justify the extra $150 dollars as I'm not a professional CAD user. I'm using it to design some automation equipment for a small business idea I have. I've tried doing it on my old hp pavilion n5290 laptop and Inventor crashes within minutes every time. Thanks for your advice though!