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Advice - HD video/graphics workhorse + games

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April 2, 2009 9:03:39 PM

Want to build a new video/edit/graphics workstation. Never built my own - a little worried about dependability as a result of my newbie-ness. But the more I ask colleagues, the more they say to ditch HP, Dell, Boxx workstations because the cost overhead is just not worth it. Plus, I want the experience of building my own.

Budget:
$2000 - $3000 - am looking for longevity

Main Applications:
Adobe CS4, After Effects, Premiere for HD video, Autodesk Softimage for 3D, encoding, compression, games, etc.

I've been on a lot of industry/software-specific forums - and combined those opinions with a system build list I found from a video software reseller's website. Here's their recommendation. The only difference is the graphics card. I need to run it by all of you in the hopes that you'll spot errors, omissions, and better options.

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Motherboard Asus P6T Deluxe

Processor Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz

RAM Corsair XMS3 12GB DDR3 SDRAM Memory Module (6 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3
SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)

Boot Drive Western Digital WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s

Video Storage RAID 0 Qty 2 Western Digital WD1001FALS 1TB

Case Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Power Supply CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W

DVD Burner Pioneer BDR-203 Blu-ray Disc Burner

OS Windows Vista 64 Business OEM

GPU Nvidia Geforce XFX 9800GTX

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Areas I think I need the most help:
GPU - thinking about the Geforce 9800GTX - I'm hearing issues with ATI cards & my applications
Overclocking - maybe - need to learn more about how to do it
SLI - maybe, but is it overkill for me?
Cooling - do I need more?
Power supply - is this enough?
Lastly, I'll most likely be getting an e-sata external video enclosure that uses a PCIe slot card (raid controller)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
- Any links to step-by-step building instructions
- A "miscellaneous" list of tools and extras I'll need to build (paste?)
- My monitor resolutions: 1920 x 1200 (2x 24" Dells - dual monitor setup)
- How long til Dual i7s are out & being adopted?

Thanks & sorry if I seem like I still have a lot to learn.

April 3, 2009 8:15:46 AM

How important is gaming to you? You can build a much better rig than that for $2000-$3000.

Here is how I would most likely build for your needs and budget:

Antec 1200 and CP-850 PSU
WD Caviar Black 1TB I don't know how much space you need, you might double up on this
LG DVD combo drive again maybe get two
Asus P6T Deluxe V2 and OCZ Platinum 6gb DDR3-1600 You could add another kit to make it 12GB if you really wanted to, and it might help for some of the things you do.
i7 965 EE and EVGA GTX 285 SSC This item is kinda iffy. If this is a workstation PC that you are building, then you probably shouldn't OC the processor to ensure your PC is stable and since your budget allows it, I included the uber CPU, but you can go with the 920 instead and save a crapload of cash...like $700.
Xigmatek S1283v Dark Knight
MX-2 Thermal Grease
Vista Business 64bit

The cost of that after shipping is about $2690, then you get $50 back for MIR, and you could add another GTX 285 in there if you wanted to SLI for uber gaming goodness.

Now if you want to game, then you need to get a good GPU like the GTX 285 to play at that resolution. More pixels means more GPU power is required to render them. If you don't care about it so much then you don't need to. On the CPU, I normally don't recommend the i7 965 because it is just so expensive, but since your budget allowed it I included it in the build. Honestly though the i7 920 is the only CPU I would get because it can be overclocked easily to outperform the 965. If this is a primarily workstation PC though you should not OC for stability's sake. Chances are you could OC without a problem, but you don't want to take a chance with work-related things. Going with the 920 would put this build under $2000 and it would still perform VERY well in what you want, so that is up to you.
April 3, 2009 2:13:17 PM

What is your "longevity" expectation?

Might be more worthwhile build something less expensive and plan upgrade along the way (but still get good reusable parts for things like HD, PSU, ... things that don't lose 100% of their value in 3 years :p ).

xthekidx seems good, but I would go for lower-end parts like a GTX275 (~260$ vs ~400$ for the GTX285) and i7 920 (~290$ vs 1000$ for the 965), you would save ~800$ which can be reinvested in a 2nd GPU (or replacement) and a new CPU in 1-2 years to keep you built "up-to-date". Because I believe no matter what, a PC will always be worth *** after 3-4 years anyway. You build a 3000$ PC now, and it will be beaten by a 600$ Dell PC in 3 years ....
April 10, 2009 10:41:09 PM

Ok, you have hit on my area of expertise.

1) What addin Raid controller are you looking at and is there a reason you want external? Are you planning on taking the external enclosure mobile?

2) Are you working with Film, uncompressed HD/SD footage? I ask because the ONLY reason you need a fast Raid 0 array is for uncompressed video. A 13s project I just did in AE was 1GB uncompressed. Because it was going directly into PPro, there was no need to compress. Using my 4-Raptors in Raid 10, it was created in about 10s. This is a major misconception of video editing and needing Raid 0. I like to say that if you don't know or want to know what cineform, canopus HQ or apple pro res are, then you don't need blazing Raid 0 speeds.

Instead of explaining more, I will just list what I have.
Case: Lian-Li($350) can hold 12 drives, 2 PSUs, server ready
Q6600, 8GB ram, Zalman 9700LED cpu fan/cooler, ASUS mobo
--STORAGE--
4-150GB Raptors in Raid 10 for OS/Apps and also a Raid 0 for media cache/scratch disk. This 2 Raid Array setup is done using Intel's Matrix Raid which is part of their ICH8R/9R/10R chipsets. Something you will certainly want.
3ware 8port Sata PCI-Express x4 controller($550)
-4 Seagate 500GB 7200.11 in Raid 5. I had 8 in Raid 6 when I first got them but I ended up using 4 of them to build my brother a PC
-4 Seagate 250GB 7200.10 in Raid 10

--Video Card--

This is one component that will help the speed and responsiveness of your system quite a lot. You must go with Nvidia for their openGL support in AE & PPro as well as CUDA. If you have CS4 or plan on upgrading, then GL acceleration helps even in Photoshop and Bridge. I can't tell you how much I love being able to 'see' my raw photos instantly in Bridge CS4. I have a 8800GT and it does ok in AE. I certainly suggest a video card with at least 1GB of ram because AE allows you to allocate up to 80% of your vid card's ram for GL acceleration. If you do 3d work, then get the CX Quadro($1500) if its within your budget. It provides H.264 encoding acceleration in PPro and blazing GL acceleration in AE. Or the FX3700 for $850.
!