Major hardware upgrade - advice needed

Hi. I'm looking to get a new computer to replace this rather dated P4 with 512MB RAM, and since I've never really gotten a new - as in brand-new - PC before, I'd like a bit of help to sort out the finer details. First up, this PC won't be a gaming PC. Consider it the PC of Macs: this box will generally be used in a creative media setting. So I need something that can pack a punch: I don't want to have to wait 2 weeks for stuff to render, I do actually want a machine that is, uh, *usable*. I also want a PC with a BIOS, so I can try out various operating systems, and I want something that is actually upgradeable in the sense I can upgrade the mobo or what not, so for these reasons I'm not just going to fork out some $ for a Mac and be done with it.

Now, graphics/creative work aside, I will want to do some low-level gaming with this box, although my gaming expectations are not high. Put it this way: due to life circumstances (that actually aren't money-based), I've had high disinterest in 3D gaming in the past however recently have had some interest in the field, so am interested in pursuing it. So, since my interaction with 3D games in the past hasn't been great beyond the occasional visit to a store with a demo game console, I haven't had [the interest to have] much exposure to high game quality so what I'm trying to say is that since I have had no experience/exposure, I don't need astounding game quality, so notwithstanding the fact that the cards will need good quality with handling animation work in Maya or Blender, game performance doesn't need to absolutely rock. Although I may need to get the latest and the best; I'm not sure.

So you know what the bank's limit actually is, the general limit of the budget is about (or if you absolutely must, slightly over) $5k, and while that might seem quite high/decent... two things. Firstly, I live in Australia, which loves to overprice things so we can consider $500 already gone just on inflation (or whatever it is that makes computer hardware so expensive here), and secondly, I want to upgrade 3 things at once here - I need a new system unit, want to "make the switch" from CRT to LCD, and I badly need some more diskspace - say 1TB or 2TB. I have absolutely no disk space left on any of my disks, so in terms of an upgrade I couldn't keep those and upgrade everything else.

A friend of mine has been helping me with my configuration, but I'd still like to run the possibilities by you all, considering that two [knowledgable] heads are better than one... having said that, this guy knows a heap - from when RAM moved from parity to ECC (in '98-'99) to knowing a motherboard's power system by looking at it to knowing about the next Intel CPUs that'll be coming out (the Nehalem chips) to what type of display I should get (an 8bpp one vs. a 6bpp one) - his bag is hardware, but sadly he's only had minimal real-world experience and isn't currently in a position to gain any experience as yet... therefore, you lot, who have been able to test out the latest and greatest configurations, are in a better position to really give me a good indicator as to what a good system would be.

I'm the exact opposite of my friend: his aptitude is hardware, mine is software. We fail in each other's respective departments. I talk software much better than hardware so I'll itemize what sort of software I want to run, list hardware I think I need (mostly thanks to my friend), and let you tell me what I've got right, what I need to fix, etc to run the software I want optimally.

Wrapping up, without knowledge that only comes from experience I could easily be cut a deal that leaves me stranded 6 months from now with faulty hardware that just got out of warranty. This PC is the first leg of a life course that will take me through the graphics arena and into the realtime animation field so I can pursue my life's dream, so I'm asking for integrity here - this is the computer I'll most likely see and use for most of the next 7 or more years (considering upgrades and such), so I need a workhorse. When recommending things, please do only recommend things that you know won't randomly die - especially in the graphics department - but not something that'll break the bank.

So you know, this same post is popping up on various other forums, and while juggling the responses will be interesting to say the least, more responses in a potentially life-changing situation as this (yes, this really is a life-changing situation, it'll be the start of a new chapter in my life) is definitely better.

Therefore, without further ado, let me begin. Note: I need equal Linux and Windows support for everything here. So, if something I list doesn't have the best Linux support, please do tell me so I can correct it (unless I've noted here that I already know, in which case... you may have a bit of a convincing job on your hands :P).

General requirements
I'm a visual thinker, so a lot of visual real estate and good display quality is definately a big plus, so I've had my eye on a 22"-30"-22" configuration (I was thinking perhaps the HP LP3065 for the center 30"er, since it's an 8bpp display). Back in my Windows days I was able to get an old ATi card to run 2 heads and (impressively) get my onboard video to run a 3rd head, producing a tri-screen configuration I never, ever forgot. Ever since, I've been waiting for the day I would get my 3 display configuration again. That last 3-display setup produced a maximum width of ~3000+ pixels, but it did seem a little cramped. A 30" display plus two 22"ers sure would be pricey, but would produce a 5000+ pixel workstation which would definately be a huge productivity boost over my current 1280x1024 configuration (I tried to convince my integrated Intel *shudder* 82845G to go to 1400x1050, but in doing so I got to learn what "moderately severe hardware instability" meant).
I want to be able to watch full HD (think HDTV and Blu-Ray disc) media on my PC. So I need a BD-ROM and TV tuner card. And a surround sound speaker system.
I need to be able to use desktop effects such as Compiz Fusion, enabling next to everything, and still be able to have full motion video running as well, with the effects on, and get little or no "okay and now you can see that it's starting to tax the CPU and GPU".
The ability to drag any window to any display in Linux is pretty much a requirement, so I'll need one copy of X running all the displays, and therefore since 3 displays are going to require >1 video card, the cards I get will likely need to be of the same type. Also, I want Compiz Fusion's cube to span all 3 of my displays as one gigantic "wow" if that's at all possible =P
I require a stable system! A $5k computer that will break in 6 months is not something I will be able to justify adding to the menu.

Initial hardware no-brainer must-haves (for me anyway)
My case: the Lian Li PC-V2110B. Yes, expensive ($528 ftw), but it's both a full-height case, will fit under my desk (which has around 660mm of height available), and looks clean while still retaining character. It's the only case that looks minimalistic enough to be something I'd call my own, yet it isn't horribly boring. It also has 4 USB ports, Firewire, eSATA and audio connectors under a little pop-up flap *at the top of the case*, can handle more hard disks than I own (and I have quite a few...), and is mostly unbranded (except for a logo on said flip-up flap). WIN. All. The. Way!!!
IDE support on the mobo, so I can run OSes that don't have SATA support. One channel is enough.
FDD support. All my PCs and laptops have had FDD support, and I want to continue this lineage. I'll also probably use it at least once XD
An onboard buzzer or speaker!
The Logitech MX Air mouse, which can adopt a Wii-like pointing system.
The G15 gaming keyboard, for its LCD and programmable keys. The LCD "protocol" was reverse engineered and the extended keys figured out, and an unofficial driver was developed for Linux to support these.

Software in general
One of my interests is operating systems, both when virtualized and on real hardware. I will be running multiple virtualized OSes at once, likely in VirtualBox or QEMU.
The GIMP, possibly editing rather large images
Inkscape, possibly editing rather large images
Firefox, with a prodigious (200+) amount of tabs open for an indefinite period of time; more likely than not with multiple windows open as well (with their own huge amount of tabs open). Put it this way: I only close tabs so my browser is usable, not because I want to, so given half the chance I'll just keep opening new tabs.

Software - Linux specific
Compiz Fusion with basically everything enabled
Beagle (or comparable/better equivalents)
A full GNOME or KDE desktop (taking into account that I'd be using Emerald, not Metacity or KWin)
Blender with very complex scenes such as true-to-live video (can you do that sort of thing? I'd assume you can)
The Banshee audio player (which requires Mono and stuff, to give you an idea of its dependancies)

Software - Windows specific (whichever of Vista or XP are required)
Still- and moving-image rendering systems such as Maya/RenderMan, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, etc.

I've never really played 3D games before, since I only have 64MB of Intel video (that 82845G I mentioned briefly before), which I was never able to "get going" under my distro, Arch Linux (glxinfo has always reported no direct rendering, and I've never really bothered to try to make it say yes), but I want to get into the latest 3D games and be able to play them without jittering, but like I said before, medium or medium-low quality to everyone else is okay quality to me (notwithstanding hardware requirements).

Stuff I'm not sure about
Should I, say, get 1 or 2 1TB SATA2 disks for data storage, a 16GB or 32GB SSD for my main OS (Arch Linux), a smaller SATA2 disk (eg 250GB) for misc. OS data (not my main OS), and finally an IDE disk I already have for OSes that don't "do" SATA? The SSD sounds like a smart concept, but since /home and the package cache (what would likely benefit the most from the use of the SSD anyway) would be stored on one of the 1TB SATA HDDs (for reliability) I don't really see the benefit in using an SSD. What should I do? What should I do? With an SSD, am I looking at both increased application speed/performance/responsiveness, lowered bootup / application startup time, or both?
The CPU vendor/model. Should I go Intel or AMD? I was told by a computer store that AMD + Linux is worse than Intel + Linux. Is this true, or simply a ploy to make me buy the more expensive Intel processor? Regardless of vendor, I think I should go quad-core, so that said, what MHz should I try and reach for (remember, my bank is easily breakable =P)?
The graphics card vendor/model. Like the CPU, I don't know if I should go ATi. I've had a very, very bad experience with an ATi card recently; ultimately, I was left in textmode, albeit at my own error (I managed to get the idea that blacklisting intel_agp from the module list modprobed on boot would be a good idea - I mean, why not disable all unused modules? :P) but it was the fault of the ATi card. It really was (RV505 isn't supported; had to recompile X and everything; X didn't work properly due to preload issues; tried to overwrite X build with distro packages; thought I broke something; etc)! However, the point is that card or no card, I have a bad taste in my mouth associated with ATi, but am willing to give them a go provided I can be guaranteed a no-hassle setup/installation (within the as-is limitations that Linux constrains everything/everyone to, of course). I do know that ATi's RV770 chipset line look promising... very promising...
The mobo. This is the big blank. I just don't know what's good/optimal and what isn't. I know I need IDE support, but I only need a single channel as two IDE HDDs will be fine: one for OS data, and one for user data that will (probably) ultimately end up on my SATA[2] user data drive. Or one with a few partitions on it for each (which will most likely be what happens, considering I have a 250GB IDE disk I can migrate to my 1TB disk when I get the latter). Once again considering the GPU, I think I should get a board with CrossFire support.
If I were to go nVIDIA, Would getting a 9800GX2 - which only has two video outputs - along with eg an 8600GT be a worse idea than getting, say, two 8800GT cards and SLIing those together to get 4 video outputs along with dual link for the 30" LCD?
Ever since I recieved an old "multimedia PC" from the early-mid 90s which had an (ISA) SB16 in it, I immediately liked my SB16, the SoundBlaster line, and Creative... because myself and the SB16 share a common interest: bass boost. So, fast forward to today, where I've listened to my P4's onboard, bassboost-less audio for the first time in... uhh... months, and have discovered that my poor SB16 is really, uh, garbage quality. So, in my quest for good quality audio with bass boost, I've settled on the Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio, which has an audio breakout box (which is automatically a new shiny gadget to add to the desk and look awesome with :D), however I've heard that this card has terrible Linux support... because it doesn't work with ALSA. I have, however, heard that it works fine with OSS, so what's the problem there? OSS is reported to have good Creative X-Fi support. I don't really care (but in a nice way) what audio framework I use, provided it works, gives me okay quality, and doesn't hit me with "*BAM*. Sorry, cannot run this." in areas that'll really prevent me from exploring possibilities that may be critical to my life work. What should I do here?

Finer-grained rough hardware ideas
A quad-core CPU, to handle all the stuff I want to be able to do.
Like the X-Fi, the Logitech Z-5500 includes an "audio accessory" I can add to the desk, which even includes a backlit LCD and everything... but really, is this audio controller worth it? It doesn't even have a headphone jack that I can see, so I wouldn't even be able to apply the audio effects the controller can produce through headphones - and I'll actually have headphones plugged in most of the time anyway, and unplug them to listen to music in a movie, or when I want to share a video or a piece of music with someone but don't want to be constrained to headphones.

Draft computer layout
This was provided thanks to my friend; he's recommended a dual-socket server board which I can stuff two quad-core Xeons into, supports 64GB RAM, has more network ports than I can shake a fist at, SATA, etc. It also has IDE and a buzzer. Items prefixed with "!" indicate choices I disagree with.


That would make a mighty fine server system, and a temendously reliable workstation - which is definately a plus - but at $7000, it's $2k over my price limit.

Beyond the G15 keyboard, MX Air mouse and PC-V2110B case, I'm flexible - I just want something that works well, packs a gigantic punch, and doesn't fail. However, if you know of another keyboard with an LCD in it, another mouse which can operate like a Wiimote, or a case that looks like the PC-V2110B, please do tell me ;)

24 answers Last reply
More about major hardware upgrade advice needed
  1. wow.. just wow..
  2. acoz said:
    wow.. just wow..

    Wow? :P

    Was it something I said? Or how much I said? :\
  3. I didnt read everything, i skip alittle and saw your build .. TOTAL $6695USD.. that was a shocker for me =)
  4. looks like a good build outline for what you need (and i did read everything :D). my only suggestion would be to maybe look at a skulltrail motherboard rather than a server board. it's the exact same price as the one you listed, but the skulltrail may fit your needs better:

    also, consider downgrading to dual ati radeon HD4850's. that can save you some money.
  5. omg you write so much
  6. I've rarely seen so detailed requirements, I see you know did your homeworks and figured-out nobody can help you unless you make your needs/requirements clear. I'm a software engineer and I'm used to work with much worst requirements for much more hours of work.

    I will review the whole thing later tonight, but first-off, workstations and gaming rarely do well together; favoring one aspect will neglect the other. There is also a few "flaws" and/or issues in the system built:
    Not sure the MB will fit the casing, server/workstation boards usually have a different form-factor than mainstream.
    Even if the MB has 2 PCI-E slots, I don't think it supports CF or SLI, so 2 cards might only be useful for multiple displays.
    Take a look at the skulltrail platform, it might be your best solution for the above 2 problems (see here)
    That PSU is probably overkill, a good 850W Power & Cooling (~250$USD) would be more than enough.
  7. one other suggestion i can make is a video card i came across on the interwebs earlier this week. it's a geforce 9600GT with 6 (yes, six) outputs on it. this may be of use to you.
  8. Sounds like you have too much money. If you are doing this professionally, why are you still working on a P4 with 512MB of RAM? I presume you just have a fair wack of disposable cash and want to indulge. If so:

    I'd switch out the monitors for Samsung units. You could save an easy $1000 by going with the 245T Syncmaster and two 22" on the sides. Unless there is something very special about the EIZOs, they seem VERY overpriced for 21" monitors. The 245T is an AWESOME monitor that graphics professionals from 10 years ago could only dream about.

    You are light on RAM - get another 4GB at least. The RAM you are buying is overpriced (its ONLY DDR2 after all).

    The two quad cores is overkill. Drop them, get an X48 board and a 45nm quad core. You are already going to see a huge jump over the P4.

    Drop the bluray burner and buy it when it is $100, not $250.

    Drop the two 4870s and wait until next month to buy a 4870x2. Wait 6 months and crossfire it with another 4870x2.

    I'm not a HDD expert, but I would drop the SCSI and go with SATA. You could double the capacity AND half the price if you would drop your sights a tiny little bit. e.g. 10000 RPM 300GB for half the price:

    You are making the mistake of trying to buy at the bleeding edge, when if you only dropped back one step to the cutting edge you could knock at least $2000, maybe $3000 off the price.
  9. 1. If not gaming you DO NOT need a ATI 4850. In fact you will need only about a 8800GS. For rendering work you need a lot of RAM and CPU power, not GPU power.

    2. You might actually want to consider a Skultrail($630, same as the board OP listed) board, as it enables OCing unlike the usual server boards.

    4. Looking at your software requirement you WILL need more than 4GB RAM.

    5. This might be of some help:
    That build in that thread is for a true work station.
  10. NarwhaleAu said:
    Sounds like you have too much money. If you are doing this professionally, why are you still working on a P4 with 512MB of RAM? I presume you just have a fair wack of disposable cash and want to indulge.

    that's a good point actually...
  11. Your not gonna be able to buy what you want with the budget you have. The displays arent up to snuff for professional work, unless color accuracy is all you care about. the 30" hp has the screen real estate and resolution (2560 x 1600) for high end graphic work that you need for your primary work ($1300), but the color might not be as good on a more expensive monitor. As for seconday screens, screen real estate should be you only concern. I would go for (2)24" hp screens @ 1900x1200 @ $500 usd each. You can find these at big box electronic stores so check them out. I have one that I like but the displays do change a bit on viewing angles.

    that'll leave about 2700 dollars for your workstation.

    your not gonna get much of a workstation for that.
    (not to mention, your choice of video cards are not workstation class)

    with that in mind, I would drop the workstaion class machine for a souped up desktop one. It might take longer to process your visions, but the realty is your budget is not gonna handle what you want. And you really undercut the ram in your build.

    I would aim for

    Quad core Intel Q9550 $550 (USD)
    16gb Ram ddr 2 $400
    2 tb drives sata $400

    go ahead and pick and choose the rest from what ya have listed.

    enterprise class hard drives wont do much for you so the 15000 rpm is a total waste of money (there made for massive I/O operations in server enviorments)

    you'll need dual video cards to drive the 30 inch display in a game so the hd4870's sound okay. The firegl workstation class card version of these (for maya,ect) is actual half the power of one of hd4870 and i think it runs around 1200-1500 dollars.

    pick a more reasonalbe full tower case

  12. Everyone: In reality, what do you think my budget should scale to in order to get a decent display configuration, some diskspace I can actually shake two fists at and write home about, and a powerful, punch-packing, reliable new computer?

    Also, what kind of ventilation am I looking at with the current case I have? This page lists clickable thumbnails of 4 Lian Li PC-VxxxxB series cases - the 2110 is the last one - and it shows the inside of the case, and (hopefully) what ventilation is available.

    Zenthar: I picked a full-height case. It's 640mm high IIRC - plenty of space to fit an E-ATX board in there :D

    Yeah, I've been considering that... :s

    So the Skulltrail has CF support and is a server board?

    I've had my eyes set on anywhere between 850W and 1000W. And since I've learned that PSUs won't pull more than the stuff inside the PC asks for, the electricity bill can breathe a sigh of relief :P

    Nik_I: ...O.o, would I need watercooling for that thing?!

    narwhaleau: Unfortunately no, I don't have a lot of money at all. My mum will be seeking financial help to get all of this - if we can at all.

    Yes, there's something special about the EIZO displays: they're 8bpp, not 6bpp, so they can physically display 1677216 colors, and don't dither them to 262144 colors.

    Okay, the 245T looks interesting, will consider.

    I've been considering 8GB, and between 8-32GB for a server board. Whatever board I get I'll fork out extra to fill whichever slots I use with the board's maximum for each slot, so when I upgrade I don't have RAM I can't use.

    For rendering things - and especially full-motion animation - more processing power is better though, no?

    O.o, when is that likely to happen? 3 months from now?

    I've been considering that, will probably do.

    Yup, SAS is SCSI right? I don't need the extra speed....

    Okay, I'm prepared to make some steps back, but I still need a system that outperforms my requirements to the best extent possible. If I can get yesterday's idea of a system but still get outstanding system performance, well, I'll consider that.

    Shadow703793: Ah, but I will be doing a bit of gaming :P

    I've been hearing alot about the Skulltrail, I'm considering it... does it offer CrossFire as well? And what sort of OCing would I be able to do without having to get exotic with cooling and use watercooling etc? I'm not a fan of a quiet system - I can just close the door when I'm not using the PC, and I listen to music mostly through headphones when I am using it, so...

    Yeah, I've been considering 8-32GB. A lot, but I'll probably able to keep 20 or 30 seconds of rendered video in RAM (or maybe I'm not talking straight here, never done this before :D).

    Wow, a workstation that's quite out of my price range...! But good looking anyway.

    spunks: Okay, I'll consider that configuration, which doesn't sound too bad.

    $2.7k. Ouch.

    A desktop..? :( I need speed when it comes to processing. :\

    Not bad sounding, 16GB RAM for $400 sounds like it'd melt... or would it actually survive?

    Wow, interesting. I'm actually considering getting a 4870X2 when it releases in August-September.

  13. Well, its obvious color is going to be important too you. You might as well drop the idea of getting cheap video cards then. FireGL cards tend to be cheaper than Nividas QuadroFX line but either will do. These workstation cards have driver certification and optimizations for the applications you plan on running. The game cards do not (though they are based on the game cards). I believe they are also tuned for greater and more accurate color depth. You might be able to find a hacked driver for the game cards though, i would poke around. These workstation cards do play games, but right now they are on last gen GPU's (which wernt bad). These fireGL listed are comparable to a hd3870 when it comes to games.

    MAYA Hardware requirements

    Windows and Linux: Intel Pentium® 4 or higher, AMD Athlon® 64, or AMD Opteron® processor
    Macintosh®: Power Mac® G5 or Intel®-based Macintosh® computers
    2 GB RAM
    2 GB hard disk space
    Qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL® graphics card
    Three-button mouse with mouse driver software
    DVD-ROM drive

    $2300 2GB FireGL V8650

    or the way cheaper 1GB V8600 for around $1600

    or even way way cheaper V7600 512mb version for $700 (might be your best bet)

    the Nvidia series might actually work better with your applications, but they are pricier from what I hear

    You may save some omoney by moving to an opertron system, but I dont know if the performace loss is worth the $400 or $500 for doing so.

    How are you planing on paying for this software anyway..... Its not cheap!

  14. dav7 said:
    Zenthar: I picked a full-height case. It's 640mm high IIRC - plenty of space to fit an E-ATX board in there :D

    The Asus board you initially picked has a 'SSI EEB 3.61, 12” x 13”' form factor, not E-ATX (the skulltrail is E-ATX), I read somewhere that most full towers support form-factor, but better safe than sorry ... the size might be ok, but the screw holes have to fit as well.

    I think you should stay out of the workstation field, yes you would be getting lots of CPU horsepower, but you saw the price tag... I think a good quad core system right now would be more than enough. You might have to control your multi-tasking a bit, but IMO it beats realizing 2 years later that a 1500$ setup can beat your 5000$ one.

    About the VM, if some are mostly for testing purposes, you could always run them on your old P4. Might not be as zippy, but who cares if it's for testing.

    For video card, if you want to do low-end gaming, I think a single 4870 would be enough unless you plan on gaming at 2560x1600 or something like that.
  15. Okay, I was kinda of bored so I came up with this (Ive never had to piece together something on this scale)

    this should do but I am $269 over budget

    LIAN LI PC-A20B Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case - Retail $389.99
    SUPERMICRO MBD-X7DWA-N Dual LGA 771 Intel 5400 Extended ATX Server Motherboard $509.99
    ATI 100-505508 FireGL V7600 512MB PCI Express x16 Workstation Video Card - Retail $769.99
    PC Power & Cooling PPCT860 860W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply - Retail $269.99
    (2) Intel Xeon E5420 Harpertown 2.5GHz LGA 771 80W Quad-Core Processor Retail $689.98
    (8) Kingston 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 FB-DIMM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) ECC Fully Buffered - Retail $599.92
    (2) Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive $379.98
    Logitech G15 2-Tone USB Wired Standard Gaming Keyboard - Retail $79.99
    (2) SAMSUNG 245T-BLACK Black 24" 6ms (GTG) HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor - Retail $1,319.98
    LG Super Multi Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD-ROM Drive Black SATA Model GGW-H20L - Retail $259.99

    Subtotal: $5,269.80

    That gives him:

    8 CPU cores
    16gb ram
    Workstaion class card with ablitity to play games
    2tb Storage
    Blue Player/burner
    2 24 inch dislpays (I had to compromise here, this still gives you plenty of screen real estate though)

    Should meet all his software requirements. If he drops the blu ray player, it hits the $5000 mark, or he can nit pick parts (cheaper motherboard, less ram, cheaper case, ect) to make his mark


    oops forgot the mouse, that'll bring it too $5344

  16. Just to let you know, I would double check captiblity of the parts. The memory on server motherboards are fussy so make sure (I know its the right type) that those modules work with it. You may wish to opt for one single 30 inch monitor for the higher resolution (2560 x 1600) it provides if photo editing and video work is your primary concern (though 1900x1200 covers the current HDTV resoltions) and purchase secondary displays later when you can.

  17. spunks: Hmm, well, I'm not so sure about the two displays... the 24" LCDs are nice, that's for sure, but I'm explicitly looking for a 3-display configuration, and the HP LP3065 is definitely on the menu, since it contains an 8bpp panel, not a 6bpp one.

    I've heard from elsewhere that server boards don't typically have "desktop features" such as CrossFire, PCI-E 2.0, etc. And I've also been told that for my purposes, a server board isn't required. I may get one in future if I need to, but for now, a desktop board should suit me okay.

    I still like the PC-V2110B, which states it will accomodate E-ATX, ATX and M-ATX boards. For futureproofness, if I plan on upgrading to server-level stuff and don't find a case I like better than the V2110B when I upgrade, I can just as easily buy a cheap (well... comparatively :P) case that I don't mind all that much, stuff my current hardware in it, and put my new kit in the V2110B. That will be fun :P

    $5344 isn't all that bad, I could probably manage that, but that's not the kind of hardware I'm looking for, now that I've considered it.

    Zenthar: Refer to case info above.

    Yeah, the PC industry is amazingly fast-moving, but I'll appreciate what I have while I have it, and consider upgrades in the future. That's not to say I'll go all-out now, and it also doesn't say I won't try to be at least a little future-proof (for example, with the case above). And I don't multitask all that much, especially not with 512MB of RAM! A quad-core system would give me a good view of what 21st century computing really is like, and I'll let the future's next line of tech decide where I go from there. And while I wait, I'll even be able to run Blender and Maya, and actually do stuff on a PC without having to wait for it to swap half of a browser's in-memory page cache to disk so I can start Konqueror, etc. Being able to open 10 youtube videos at once will be nice - this box can only open 3 or 4 then it starts to get really cranky... BAD ADOBE!

    I do plan on gaming at 2560x1600. So a 4870X2 is probably my best bet.


    This is the best idea I can think of. This is a cross-forum post, originally from this thread:
    ... Since the Nehalem is a brand-new chipset, it's Version One Point Oh. 1.0 is always bug-ridden to some extent and always has issues. Yes, NDA'd developers have been beta-testing boards and Nehalem chips, but nothing beats a release to market in finding a stack of bugs. I will not be surprised when reports pop up everywhere about bugs in the chipset. As if having a dislike for software instability wouldn't be enough, having a PC that could crash because it's "v1.0" would just be too much. In pseudo-math, "v1.0 + huge pricetag < 20% performance increase". I'll get one of these later on, thank you.

    So a board needs to be figured out that will handle the Q9550, predicting the Q9550's price drop in a few weeks. This should be easy as pie - for you guys anyway.

    And what about this: I get a 4870X2, and a FireGL card. Best of both worlds - a CrossFire'd 4870, and a card Maya will see and render via. And... 4 outputs!

    Out of interest, do server or desktop boards exist that have PCI-E 2.0, CrossFire (do I need to worry if the board has CrossFire if I get a 4870X2?), and one with... dual CPU sockets that will take a Q9550? I understand that the Mac Pro uses dual Q5500s, but that's on a rebranded, modified server board, and the unmodified version probably doesn't have PCI-E 2.0, CrossFire (if required), etc...?

    I understand if nobody has any idea about this, but when a graphics card is rendering a scene, does it switch its video pipes (ie, the video ports) off? ...

  18. Since you seems far from technologically impaired, have you heard of "rendering farms/clusters"? Basically you just add a computer to your network, set it up and your could offload par (or all) of the rendering to other computers. Found a thread here telling how to setup such a farm with something called DrQueue. This could be very useful if you decide to upgrade in a few years, your older machine won't go to waste. I know 3DS Max used to support some kind of clustering as well and I think Maya does to (but I don't know about the license cost).

    Opened question, not to the OP directly: I don't know much about the FireGL serie, how much performance is gained from using the hardware? Is it worth the $$$ for otherwise 1 generation old hardware? Would it be more cost-efficient to just buy a second machine with the FireGL price and setup a cluster as mentioned above?
  19. The concept of computer clustering isn't foreign to me, however I have zero experience in that area since I haven't had the financial ability to explore the field; that's not saying I won't in future - who knows.

    And I also know very little about the FireGL series, except that unlike consumer-grade cards they can ship with a fairly high amount of ram - 2GB for example. Provided you're prepared to part with $2300. Unfortunately,
    From Wikipedia's article on CrossFire:

    ATI currently has not created the infrastructure to allow FireGL cards to be set up in a CrossFire configuration.

  20. dav7 said:
    And I also know very little about the FireGL series, except that unlike consumer-grade cards they can ship with a fairly high amount of ram - 2GB for example.
    Since you are interested in the 4870x2, you might know that ATI is planning to ship 2GB and 1GB versions for the card.

    There are also softmods (no hardware modifications needed) to convert a standard Radeon into a FireGL. I found some for HD2600XT (~75$), but none for newer cards (3870 for example). If you could go that way, you would save a ton of cash.
  21. Zenthar said:
    Since you are interested in the 4870x2, you might know that ATI is planning to ship 2GB and 1GB versions for the card.

    There are also softmods (no hardware modifications needed) to convert a standard Radeon into a FireGL. I found some for HD2600XT (~75$), but none for newer cards (3870 for example). If you could go that way, you would save a ton of cash.

    that's an interesting idea. but how would the performance of a card like that be for such intensive work?
  22. The fireGL (or quadroFX) workstion cards pretty much use the same GPU's as the games cards. Where they differ is in the drivers (which is what you really paying for). Most professional level 3d programs , cad, and digital content creation REQUIRE driver certifications and optimations before the programs will use the cards or even start. Both NVIDIA, and ATI spend a lot of time and manpower making these drivers, which only appeal to a much smaller group of people so they charge a lot more for the end product. The precision that these drivers generate graphics is much higher than that of a game, but they rendered much slower so a game engine wouldnt even bother with them anyway. just about all the fancy 3d animations you see in the movies and television, are rendered on workstion class cards. Yes, the CPUS do a lot of the rendering too, but the video cards also do a lot of the work. A single frame might take 30 seconds (or 10 minutes for that mater) even with these cards, but would take an extreme amount more if they werent there. (the frames are saved to the hard drive and combined later). They are slow but the end result is a much higher quality picture at the end.

    At this point, I am going to have say just do the standard quad core /crossfire gaming rig and purchase your ideal monitors (butget say, $1500 - $2000 on the machine)

    Its Obvious you have never used or know about these applications (at least the professional versions) or you would know these things

    The open source ones avaliable on linux are probably way more forgiving (blender)

    Photowork doesnt use the 3d side of cards so it wouldnt matter what you got there, though you would lose on the the 10 bit color output (but your monitors are doing 8 bit color channels anyway)

    you could almost afford a a professional 10 bit display if you did this (which displays 1 billion colors instead of 16 Million) (10 bit color channels x 3 = 30 bit color)

    Heres a 24" for $3800 dollars

    Hell, you get could get 3 of your 30" HP's for $3900, go over budget a bit ($1500 for your quad core/crossfire game rig) and pay $5400

    That will give you your WALL OF THOUGHT idea your after

  23. Going with that wall of thought idea....

    How bout one hp 30" center, a hp 24" on both sides, and a (cheap) 47" wall mounted LCD TV (1080P) mounted above the 30" monitor. Thats only $3500. That still leaves $1500 for your machine, and yes, that $1500 can drive all the displays. Hope you have A HUGE desk (I've run 23" TV next to a 24" monitor and has no desk space left. Got rig of the 23" tv)

  24. Zenthar: 2GB! Wow, does nVidia have anything like that?! LOL

    I see. I'm assuming these are driver hacks? Either way, I want to be able to use the latest (read: fastest) cards out there. So... that doesn't really interest me.

    Forgot to note... in a post you made a lil' while back about running VMs on the P4... NO. It's just toooo sluggish. And I can never give any VMs enough RAM to actually do anything apart from gawk at a boot screen or desktop, for example.

    Nik_I: That would be an issue, yeah, especially considering the cards weren't made for continual, 100%-GPU-using rendering.

    spunks: I see, thanks for that info... I always thought FireGL/Quadro etc were good at scheduled rendering, not "fast" rendering... hah, I was right! And it's all in the drivers!

    Yes, I want to be able to shell out $2k on the PC, but not too much. Nehalem is just about to be released and is therefore version 1.0, and will probably have bugs and quirks. The Linux/etc devs can figure them out; I'll get a Nehalem box in a couple of years, when it's settled down, and the 2nd chip to be developed on the platform is released - with bugfixes... unless the architecture has no issues when it comes out, in which case I'll have a different opinion... BUT. When it comes out, it'll be a serious case of "$1k PC pwns $2.5k PC"... I won't be happy if I've spent too much. That isn't, however, saying I don't want performance/power... maybe you can't have both.

    Yeah, I have no idea about rendering software, which comes as no surprise especially considering that I have a P4 w/ 512MB of *PC2100* RAM (it hit me yesterday T.T)...

    Well, Blender might be forgiving, but I wouldn't be surprised if it has a bad case of The-GIMP-vs.-Photoshop in terms of usability/features.

    Okay, so Photowork can display (read: handle/manage) 10-bit color? Interesting...

    As with Zenthar, I forgot to reply to a question you asked a lil' while back about me paying for the software... well, it'll be like this. I'll get the hardware, then settle down with it, adjust to the speed, and at exactly the right time (God's timing is always perfect), I'll get the software I need - and legally, too :P

    O_O, a 24" for almost $4k. Wow... just wow. *Makes random guess at cost* that would probably bring the sum total to anywhere between $6 and $8k! MEEP... as much as that sounds awesome, that will require some careful consideration. It may be a possibility though. In this configuration, it'd be a random 24" (ideas? maybe the BenQ FP241WZ?) on the left, HP 3065 30" in the middle and HP LP2480zx 24" on the right.

    The more awesome hardware I get, the more the need for insurance and usage justification rises. So 3 30" displays OR a 47" LCD TV, however inexpensive on paper, would simply be crossing the mark for me. Despite the fact that such a setup looks really awesome ([link], [link] and [link] - I got these from [here], they're SFW if you need to know)... I think I'll have to pass. I'll definately give the 24" 10-bit LCD some consideration, though, since I could justify that for work purposes, and not just something that "works well" with me - I am required to be accountable, although if I can justify that I need something, a way will be found to get it. I couldn't justify 3 30" LCDs, but 1 is okay. A 47" LCD, however cool, would also be out of the question - I can just make one of my 24" displays the TV (probably the non-10-bit one), or give my CPU/GPU a run for their money scaling TV to 2560x1600 :na:

    And about a desk... I have a very rough idea as to what a 24-30-24 setup would be like physically - I've seen a 30" display about 3 times at Mac stores. I'm overcompensating by a huge amount to ensure everything will fit and my overcompensation calls for more desks to be called in - thankfully this just means a bit of a room move-around which I was actually planning to do anyway... hah.

Ask a new question

Read More

New Build Systems Product