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$2k on workstation for Architecture school... first build

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April 20, 2009 9:53:03 PM

This is my first post and hopefully not the last. :bounce: 

I am attempting to build a system with monitor for under $2000 that can compete with Lenovo, HP, Dell and Apple workstations. (while saving me $$)

Usage: CAD, Rhino, and Adobe Creative Suite likely to be running at the same time.

Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz

EVGA 132-BL-E758-A1 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard

Quadro FX1700 512MB

mushkin 6GB (3 x 2GB) ddr3

2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA in RAID 1

COOLER MASTER UCP RS700-AAAAA3 700W

HP L2245wg Black 22" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor

And I will be stuffing it all into some kind of case, tbd.

Again I appreciate whatever input anyone might have regarding this setup, in terms of compatibility, heat, or price. Thanks!
:D 

More about : workstation architecture school build

April 21, 2009 12:57:14 AM

The CM PSU is ovrepriced, go with a Corsair. That monitor is overpriced too. Seagate drives are having firmware issues that can lead to a lot of headaches, so I would stay away from them.

I would do this:

CPU/MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

HDD's: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Monitor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ram: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU: http://www.provantage.com/pny-technologies-vcqfx3800-pc... <==one of the best WS GPU's on the market. Uses the New GT200 GPU architecture.

By my calculation that is just under $1950, and you are blowing those HP and Dell and most especially Apple workstations out of the water.
April 21, 2009 1:23:52 AM

xthekidx,

Thanks for the reply. A few questions, what are the benefits of ocz ram over mushkin? is it just a price dif. as I have heard mushkin is slightly more reliable.

Also on the GPU, that is an older version of the 4800 with 1.5gb listed on newegg for $1500? Is there any significant difference other than the memory?

again, thanks!
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April 21, 2009 1:29:44 AM

The FX 4800 WS GPU's were just released, I think Nvidia made two of them with different amounts of memory, kinda like how there are ATI HD 4870 512mb and 1gb gaming gpu's out there. That FX 4800 at $815 is a steal. The extra memory on the newegg one helps a bit, but its not even close to worth twice the price. It might take a few more seconds to render something.

The OCZ ram is a really good deal, and I have used it without any problems and am quite pleased with it. The mushkin ram is excellent too, but not worth the extra money. $76 for that ram after rebate is really good deal.

Edit: actually they only made a 1.5gb version see my below post.
April 21, 2009 1:45:22 AM

Quote:
Remember to OC your Core i7 920 CPU so that it will read the RAM at 1333MHz and not 1066MHz which is stock. Very unlikely you'll see any instability if you do as we OC all our Core i7 machines as standard. Methinx Intel only down-clocked the RAM capability on the 920 and 940 just to make the 965 (officially clocks at 1333MHz DDR3) look better.

Actually, a retail i7 920 has an unlocked memory multiplier, so you can run it at stock BCLK of 133 and have your ram at 1600mhz if you want. Only OEM CPU's have the locked ram multiplier, and I am guessing that you bough OEM versions of the i7 when building your workstations, which is why you had to OC to get that ram speed. Although I don't have any experience with the Intel reference board's bios, so its possible that the bios options aren't available with the DX58SO.

Regardless of the multiplier though, I agree you should be overclocking. The i7 is meant for it. I didn't include a cooler in the build though because I wanted to get the best GPU possible, the FX 3800 is the workstation version of the GTX 260 Core 192 I believe on the GT200, much better than the G84 FX 1700. If you can extend the budget a bit and fit a $40 cooler in then get the S1283V DK, if not, put it off until you can afford it and get the GPU first.
April 21, 2009 1:53:49 AM

I can see the value of over clocking in getting my money's worth out of the i7, but will this be particularly time consuming a task for a first build? I will have about a week to get everything together and running smoothly. I do not want to have any meltdowns during school..
April 21, 2009 2:01:15 AM

Overclocking does take some time, but the majority of that is spent during stress testing to make sure its stable, and you just leave the PC to do its thing while its doing that. A week is plenty of time even for a total noobie to find a stable overclock.

Overclocking the ram is simple, as long as the ram is rated at 1600mhz like the OCZ's I recommended it won't cause any instability whatsoever. You can run a few passes of Memtest to make sure if you want, but honestly its not an issue. Going over the rated speed of your ram is more of a time consuming task. But just changing the memory multiplier to match the rated speed of your ram won't cause instability.
April 21, 2009 2:32:49 AM

Would you be running more simulations or modeling? Would your particular setup benefit from two lower cost (FX1800's) or not?

Nvidia finally unlocked some great 'performance' drivers which helped my engineers gain better modeling performance btw:

http://www.nvidia.com/object/autocad_pd_perf_drivers.ht...

Never used Rhino - but maybe consider a faster hdd for your workspace? Also - if you're going to overclock, add a beefy HSF to your list (~50).

Good luck!
April 21, 2009 3:20:08 AM

I would be doing mostly modeling, CAD, creative suite. Using AutoDesk, Rhino, some rendering.
April 21, 2009 3:24:59 AM

what would be the benefit of running two fx1800's vs. one fx3800?
April 21, 2009 3:50:03 AM

Its like running 2 9600GT's in SLI vs. 1 GTX 260. Those are the mainstream GPU equivalents of those cards hardware-wise.
April 21, 2009 4:05:01 AM

so that would be about $900 for the pair, giving me 1.5gigs as opposed to $800 getting me 1gb on the fx3800?
April 21, 2009 4:14:31 AM

Its not as black and white as that. I don't know if anyone has done any benchmarking to see how well these workstation GPU's scale, but I kinda doubt it. Usually GPU's lose a lot of performance when they are put in a dual GPU setup. And memory is not a direct corollary for measuring performance either. A 512mb 4870 is not half the GPU of the 1GB version. Yes more memory is helpful, but the actual GPU itself is much more important.
April 21, 2009 5:07:57 AM

It can be done I think, but really I don't think you should be considering it. Go for the FX 3800 if you can fit it in the budget.
April 21, 2009 5:41:36 AM

Hold on a second. Have you seen the article on TomsHardware where they tested the GTS 280 vs Workstation cards? Just by the overall numbers, the $150 ATI V3600 or $350 V5600 are extremely competent against the $800 Quadros.

SLI Workstation cards is not something that is included in their drivers, AFAIK.

If you really want to save some money, look at the 8800GTS 640MB and "Soft-mod" it to a FX4600. This is something I am looking into as my 8800GT 512 is killing me in After Effects. The 8800GTS 640 is the last card that Nvidia did not laser-cut, which prevents soft-modding.

MONITOR: I don't know how much that LCD is but the Dell Ultrasharp line is one of the best, if not the best, quality for money around.

RAM: If you use Photoshop, Premiere Pro or After Effects CS 4, you want more and more and more Ram. Did I get my point across? :)  I just read an article on DigitalContentProducer.com where they discussed and tested the benefits to more Ram in these 3 programs. PPro CS4 in Vista x64 is able to create Threads of 4GB each and is 50-100% faster with 8GB+ vs 4GB when encoding; AE has done this since CS3 I think, and PS x64 is faster with 8GB+ of ram.

DRIVES: I have used 13 Seagates(8 - 7200.11s) for over 2 yrs with zero problems. I have also used 8 Raptors during that same time and had 1 die(a few weeks ago). For your programs, a 10k rpm Raptor would work great. If you can afford it, get 2 74GB Raptors and run them in Raid 0 for the OS & Apps($100 each, FYI).

Another note on the Ram speed: once you fill all 6 slots on the new X58 boards, the max Ram speed drops to 1066 or maybe 1333, but I'm pretty certain its 1066. There was another thread here or another site where someone wanted to know if their ASUS P6T's manual was correct by stating that the ram speed dropped when all 6 slots were full.
April 21, 2009 6:22:59 AM

So I did a little looking into the SLI for workstations, here it is:
http://www.nvidia.com/object/sli_multi_os.html

Its different from Gaming GPU's. You don't link the cards to make one image, rather you run them side by side to run two virtual machines in one rig using different Operating systems, which eliminates the need to have multiple computers in a room.
April 21, 2009 12:37:06 PM

xthekidx said:
The CM PSU is ovrepriced, go with a Corsair. That monitor is overpriced too. Seagate drives are having firmware issues that can lead to a lot of headaches, so I would stay away from them.

I would do this:

CPU/MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

HDD's: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Monitor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ram: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU: http://www.provantage.com/pny-technologies-vcqfx3800-pc... <==one of the best WS GPU's on the market. Uses the New GT200 GPU architecture.

By my calculation that is just under $1950, and you are blowing those HP and Dell and most especially Apple workstations out of the water.

+1. Good quality build. Exception id the GPU, I haven't used PNY cards so can't comment on their quality.

I would take the time now to mention again that IF OP is willing to, there is the possibility of softmodding a normal gaming card in to a workstation card with a little bit of work. This should save OP about $200-300 if doing this method. I have done softmodding (a 8800GTX) for a CAD workstation (Revit MEP; SolidWorks; Inventor) for a customer and it's running fine.
For more info:
http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=539
April 21, 2009 4:31:24 PM

Shadow703793 said:
+1. Good quality build. Exception id the GPU, I haven't used PNY cards so can't comment on their quality.

I would take the time now to mention again that IF OP is willing to, there is the possibility of softmodding a normal gaming card in to a workstation card with a little bit of work. This should save OP about $200-300 if doing this method. I have done softmodding (a 8800GTX) for a CAD workstation (Revit MEP; SolidWorks; Inventor) for a customer and it's running fine.
For more info:
http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=539

The problem is that you have to get your hands on an older 8000 series GPU that hasn't already been overclocked and beat on. Newer GPU's are not able to run the WS drivers like the older cards, Nvidia and ATI prevent it from working. You can still make them run the drivers, but the equivalent WS GPU will be ten times faster than the softmodded Gaming card. I think the 8800GTX was the last GPU that could really be softmodded to emulate the workstation equivalent.
April 21, 2009 8:36:16 PM

Quote:
Newer GPU's are not able to run the WS drivers like the older cards, Nvidia and ATI prevent it from working.

Hmm...darn. I wasn't aware of this. Thanks for the info.
April 21, 2009 9:00:12 PM

Shadow703793 said:
Quote:
Newer GPU's are not able to run the WS drivers like the older cards, Nvidia and ATI prevent it from working.

Hmm...darn. I wasn't aware of this. Thanks for the info.

Yeah the newer chips are lasercut to prevent the softmods from working. ATI and Nvidia were losing a ton of money that way. The best plan of action is to go on ebay and find a lightly used (I don't think there are any more new ones out there :( ) 8800GTX or 8800GTS and softmod it into an FX 5600 if you are willing to take the chance on softmodding.
April 21, 2009 10:25:56 PM

Although more expensive, I can see the possible tech support of an actual ws card preventing headaches in the future.
April 21, 2009 10:32:25 PM

Yes Tech support is the one thing the WS cards have going for them.
April 21, 2009 10:43:58 PM

The 8800 GTS/GTX would actually be a FX4600, which is still extremely powerful in 3D programs.

The soft-mod process is rather simple. You use RivaTuner and download the FX4600 driver to install. There are sites explaining how to do this and you can even resort back to the desktop driver if need be.

I have a 8800GT and found some info on flashing its BIOS to be a FX3700. If only there were more info on this, I would consider the 8800GT 1GB.

Take a look at this article where they say the ATI V7700 is the best Workstation card for the money. Over at Anandtech, there is a guy selling his V7700 for $350, FYI.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/FireGL-Quadro-Works...

The ATI V5600 for $350 is an extremely competent competitor to Quadro and at a great price according to the tests.
April 21, 2009 11:12:53 PM

August 2008...pretty old article.

I would be interested in seeing a competent review of the FX 3800, its the little brother of the FX 4800 which seems to be a very good GPU, and a more recent article at THG hailed it quite highly: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/quadro-fx-4800,2258...

Although those FireGL cards seem to do quite well also for a good price...Cuda seems to be quite helpful though for many professional programs :pt1cable: 
!