Building a Graphic Workstation... but want good gaming too.

Hello Everyone,

I'm looking to build a new system but the market and the way products are rated has changed a ton since I last built a system maybe 5 years ago. My primary interest is creating a system that won't need to be upgraded for hopefully two years, and then when the time comes is easily upgraded for a relatively cheap price. My goal for the machine is to have quick test renders of complex 3d scenes, while still allowing myself the ability to work on other projects in the background. I'd also like to have good gaming, if not great, for my spare time.

I have approximately $2,500-$3,000 saved to spend on the system.

One question I have is the difference between Multi-core Xeon processors and the Intel Core2 processors. In the benchmarks on this site it appears the Core2's perform slightly better at equal speeds, and the hardware to use them is cheaper... such as motherboards and what not. What are the advantages of Xeon Processors if any?

My current thought is that since Core2 processors cannot run in dual, that using 2 Xeon dual cores would allow for a cheaper upgrade in the future from 4 to 8 cores as more products support multi-threading.

The second question is about graphics cards in relation to rendering and gaming. I know that Nvidia has a line of graphics cards called Quadro that is for workstations, but it seems that the only thing they have going is multimonitor support. Would there be a reason to choose a quadro over a Geforce 8800?

The system I'm looking to build would have 4 gigs of RAM(I would get more but read unless you use a 64bit operating system it doesn't use it?), 500-750gb of hard drive space, possibly a GeForce 8800 gts. Sounds not an issue to me so stock on motherboard or a cheap card is fine, unless somehow it affects performance. If anyone could point me in the right direction to further research before I buy that would be great! Thanks again.
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  1. With your budge, I'd reccommend sticking to consumer class products, not "workstation" class. A top of the line workstation graphics card could eat up your entire budged by itself. I've read of a few people flashing their 8800 series cards to the equivilant workstation BIOS...effectively giving them the workstation performance for the consumer class price. Both version use the same hardware.

    As far as processors go, a 4 core system may not be equal to an 8 core syste when it come to worstation apps....but that doesn't mean it's perform like crap or something. With you're limited budge, I'd recommend high end consumer class hardware, like I said before.
  2. I think the place I read about flashing the bios was here but the site is blocked for me (I'm at work) so I cannot verify right now.
  3. Thanks for the reply. I've looked over the information and it appears they are close to converting the 8800 to a Quadro but only in D3D applications and my primary toolset is mostly OpenGL. I'm also interested in preventing a reasonable amount of noise and am looking into components that are "silent". Using the recent mid-range tower as a base, and some suggestions on the forum I've come up with this basic outline.

    CPU - Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4
    Heatsink - ZALMAN CNPS 9700 NT 110mm
    Motherboard - MSI P965 Platinum LGA 775
    RAM - (2)Patriot eXtreme Performance 2GB (2 x 1GB) for a total of 4GB(Max supported by XP right?)
    Graphics - XFX PVT80GGHE4 GeForce 8800GTS 320MB
    PSU - Power Supply: AeroCool Zerodba 620W
    Case - LIAN LI PC-6070B

    Total price before I find the lowest for each component is 1649 + Tax/Shipping

    I'm not partial any specific parts, just trying to make a solid workhorse that can also game. I'm curious about the future, is there any hint of an 8 Core, Core2 processor that could eventually be swapped in its place. The way it looks right now is if I built this system it wouldn't be easily upgradable besides graphics card and RAM. I still have about $1k in my budget, though I don't mind spending less. :)

    Any suggestions?
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