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Building a system that will best utilize 3ds Max 8...

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July 11, 2006 1:06:32 AM

Hey all,
New to the forums here, and looking for some suggestions to build a system that gets the most bang for its buck. This will be my first time building a computer, but I'll be assisted by someone who has built before.

I'm currently studying virtual design, which mostly utilizes 3D Studio Max, and I'll be getting a license for Max 8 this fall.

I give gaming a solid "meh". :)  Occasionally I play CSS and old skool Starcraft (what could be better?). Might get into F.E.A.R. in the fall, but like I said, performance in gaming isn't what I'm concerned about.

I realize the Conroe is coming out soon, and it out-performs current AMD technology, but I'm assuming that AMD will be dropping their prices to the point where it'll be worth getting an AMD system for cheaper rather than paying alot for a really nice Conroe and waiting for 3 months on a waitlist. I want a compy that will perform well for the next 2 years without any major upgrades, since once I graduate I'll be working for Pixar and I'll buy some uber mega system then. :)  Therefore, I'm not worried about Socket 939 going obselete.

Here's what I've got picked out thus far, and I'm hoping the parts are cheaper by the end of the month:

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+

Geforce 7900GT

COOLER MASTER Centurion 5

NEC Black 16X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW

Western Digital Raptor WD740GD 74GB 10,000 RPM 8MB Cache

RAM is basically the backbone of 3DS. People are always telling me that more is better, so I figured I could get two of these:
CORSAIR XMS 2GB (2 x 1GB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM Unbuffered DDR 400 (PC 3200)
Would it be wiser to go for 2 gigs of DDR2 800 rather than 4 gigs of this stuff? I have no idea..... but like I said, in 3DS, I've always heard that more is better.

ASUS A8N-SLI Premium Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 SLI ATX AMD Motherboard

And since this package is a bit pricey (I really don't want to go over $1500 if I can help it), a nice CRT:
NEC Display Solutions AS900-BK Black 19" CRT Monitor

Still haven't factored in keyboard and mouse. Already have speakers. As far as a power supply, I don't know what to get there either. What would you guys recommend for a system like this? 500 W? 700 W?

It's quite possible that I've picked out parts that may have timing issues with each other or something else along those lines. I hope this isn't the case, but if so, lemme know. :) 

One last thing: are there any guesstimates as to how much AMD will be dropping prices? Is socket 939 stuff supposed to drop soon?

Thanks for taking time out to help a nub, I really do appreciate it. I'm sure I'll start hanging around this place more in the future.
July 12, 2006 9:27:59 AM

Yeah your spec seems good and should easily do what you need it to do. although i see no mention of a PSU>? I would go for a Tagan or Seasonic but make it 500-600w and make sure it will work with your mobo ;) 

Your system is very simialr to my current one and it works very well.
July 12, 2006 10:03:48 AM

I first started using Max on off around R2. Back then my top of the range rig was a PII 266Mhz with 64MB.

For Rendering images or animations you'll always need plenty of CPU power and RAM. I don't think that requirement has ever changed!

For workspace use you used to need a good OpenGL card, but these days (and correct me if I'm wrong!) you should be able to get away with Setting Max up to use DirectX and therefore any good gaming card.
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July 12, 2006 11:15:13 AM

If your doing animations as part of your course then I would suggest a bigger or another hard drive.

Again, if you do animation or you have a large number of textures / complex models in your scenes 4 Gb will be better than 2 Gb. The speed of the RAM will not be very important if you run out and have to start paging to disk!

Other than that dual core is good. Multi-cpu works well when rendering.

Hope it goes well and you get that job with Pixar!!

Simon
July 12, 2006 11:51:22 AM

I work in Maya mostly and Max rarely but the requirements are broadly similar. The spec looks ok. As you said I'd wait and see what prices are available when the new Intel chip is launched as its likely dual core AMDs (on 939 and AMD2) will come down in price. Its also worth considering some Conroe reviews for comparison as there might be a better bang for buck with that when real world benchies start coming out. 939's are already coming down in price, expect another thump when Conroe actually ships in bulk.

I'd definitely look at a bigger HDD as mentioned already, a larger one for storage at the very least; animations really do take up space.

If you want to spend more money and go for a dedicated rig then dual dual Opterons are curerntly the best bet (but then you are talking spending about 3 times what your current spec is). If you don't want to game (and you have the money) then you could also contemplate a Quadro card as they more neatly meet the heavy requirements of 3d apps.

Having said that, if you have access to college machines and some manner of render farm for your term/year projects you don't need a home system that beats the workstation path really so you can rest easy on the spec ideas you have. I run one pro level system at home (and then only because I had a contract and got the gear that way, had I had the job I am in now back then I would not have bothered), the others are regular PC's that just provide additional more regular fun.

You might want to consider dual monitor support as a factor when choosing a graphics card whichever one you go for; it can be useful to have viewports across more than one monitor if you are doing a lot of detail work. We will usually have bespoke software running on one screen whilst Maya runs on another 1/2. Otherwise I'd go for the absolute biggest monitor you can get as the bigger area you can have toolbars and viewports in the better. The more you work on customising your in prog view the more space you will enjoy being able to make use of.

If you are going for max memory its worth thinking about a 64bit O/S but this, at present, might compromise what other programmes you can run. Certainly a beefy dual core and memory are key factors in working complex scenes, rendering and animating (by whatever means you choose). More is merrier when it comes to 3D.

If I might also recommend another forum you might want to check out

http://forums.cgsociety.org/

Lots of pros hanging out over there and actually eventually a good way to find work (whether with Pixar or elsewhere). :) 
July 13, 2006 5:05:04 AM

Excellent, thanks for the loads of advice guys. I'm glad that it appears my system will do what I want it to do. I forgot to mention that I already have a 250 gb external, so that's why I'm going for such a small-capacity HDD. I just want the speed of a Raptor drive..... A render farm is also available at school, as I also forgot to mention. I would really enjoy having dual monitors, and I'll definitely jump on that idea if it turns out that I have a little extra money to burn. Weeble, I'll definitely take a gander at CG Society! I've already got a deviantArt account (although it's been inactive since I've been focusing on animations for the past few months), but looking at the competition is always great for keeping one on his toes. :) 

Thanks again!
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