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Budget Workstation Build (Graphics/CAD/CS4)

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April 22, 2009 4:57:09 AM

I am looking to update my current workstation which I use for work. I am an Industrial Designer, so I constantly use Adobe CS4, Solidworks, Pro-Engineer, Bunkspeed Hypershot, & Sketchbook Pro.

I need a machine that will allow me to have decent speed/performance, when working with high-res/multi-layer files and 3d models (especially renders).
I don't work with video, it is strictly 3d Modeling, 3d Renders, Photoshop, Illustrator & sketching on a tablet.

This is what I have so far:

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 Yorkfield 2.66GHz ($184.99)
Updated Pick
AMD Phenom II X4 940 3.0GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Black Edition Processor ($189.99)

MoB0:
ASUS P5QL PRO LGA ($86.99) (ATX connector makes cable management impossible)
GIGABYTE GA-EP43-UD3L Intel P43 ($84.99)
Updated Pick
GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard($109.99)

Video Card:
PNY Quadro FX580 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 ($184.99)

Ram:
OCZ 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) ($95.98)
Updated Pick
G.SKILL 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) ($109.98)

Fan/Heatsink:
XIGMATEK Dark Knight 120mm Long Life Bearing CPU Cooler ($39.99)
Updated Pick
XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler ($26.99)


Total $620.94


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: (15-30 days)

BUDGET RANGE: (US$450-600)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: (Graphics Rendering, 3d Modeling, Sketching using Wacom Intuos4)

PARTS REQUIRED: CPU, Graphics Card, RAM, Motherboard, Fan/Heatsink

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: (PSU already own Corsair 500W,Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor already own Samsung 24", Speakers, OS, Hard Drive already own Western Digital 640gb 7200rpm, Optical Drive & Case already own a Lian Li)

PREFERRED WEBSITE FOR PARTS: (newegg.com)

PARTS PREFERENCES: (Quality companies, known for good products)

OVERCLOCKING: Yes SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: (1920x1200)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: (Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated specifically from fellow graphic/CAD professionals. My budget is very tight and I would prefer to pay the least amount of money possible for quality build.)
April 22, 2009 8:18:15 AM

After reading that cable management was impossible on the ASUS P5QL PRO and taking a look at the board I decided to switch to the GIGABYTE GA-EP43-UD3L Intel P43 for ($84.99).
April 22, 2009 9:53:21 AM

Its unlikely that you need 8 gig of RAM

Have a look at
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/memory-module-upgra...

Theres no improvement on a high end system , with a 64 bit OS when you move up from 3 - 6 gig so there wont be any improvement on your system by using 8 gig .
The only users who benefit from more than 3-4 gig of RAM are people who use vm's

Other than that I think you have a good system

Just check that your software will install in a vista system . There might be compatibility issues if you've had programs for a few years
Related resources
April 22, 2009 10:23:43 AM

Quote:
We can only recommend larger capacities of 8 GB to 12 GB for professional applications where its usefulness has already been documented.
from the link you posted.

Since I am a designer and often have numerous graphics, rendering programs open I often exceed 4gb.

I agree that I probably only need 6gb but since I will be running a system that uses dual memory channels, 4 dimms is better than 3. I would most likely hit a sweet spot of 6gb if I were using a i7.

Secondly, I have and do run x64 bit OSs on 3 of my personal computers. Software compatibility is not an issue, additionally Photoshop CS4 performs much better in a x64 environment

Solidworks Recommended System Requirements
Quote:
Very large models: X64 processor with 6GB or more, parts with more than 1000 features, assemblies with more than 10000 components.
I regularly work with parts or assemblies which exceed this criteria.

Thanks for the suggestion, but I have to respectably disagree.
April 22, 2009 11:01:01 AM

Indeed you need the RAM, but why do you need a discrete videocard? You can pick a motherboard with IGP (onboard graphics) like nVidia GeForce 9300/9400 chipset for Intel Socket 775. Those will also be able to speedup Photoshop CS4 via CUDA/Physx interface. It will save about 200 dollars which you can use on something else: a better monitor, better mouse/keyboard, better audio or something like an SSD.

You may also want to compare against a Phenom II build, since it performs better in SMP-heavy workloads and also consumes less power when idling.

Actually i can recommend Phenom II instead, because of 1) lower power consumption and 2) generally better SMP performance tha
April 22, 2009 11:13:16 AM

For 3d-Modeling and Rendering, a workstation graphics card is all but required, as they are optimized for these programs, and allow for application specific drivers.

I am familiar with the 9300/9400 which I use in my HTPC, and it would not be sufficient in accomplishing the tasks I perform on a regular basis.

Workstation cards either ATI or Nvidia are required for this sort of work. Even a decent Gaming card underperforms, compared to less powerful workstation card, much of this is attributed to the drivers, as they are essentially the exact same hardware. Soft Modding a gaming card is the next best thing.
April 22, 2009 11:20:31 AM

gkay09 said:
^+1 dint refresh the page :p  so dint see the above post...
Well if I were you I would go with this CPU+Mobo combo...Double the cache and higher clocked and is overall better than that Quad...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

And change the RAM to this...
It has better ratings and good reviews and lower timings...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


I would prefer to stick with intel products, as I feel there is a reason AMD is yet again in the red ink for Q1, additionally I have been using intel since 1993, and have never had an issue.

As for the ram it is $14 dollars more, but with 5 eggs and over 1100 reviews plus the slightly faster timings. I have to agree.
April 22, 2009 11:35:48 AM

Quote:
I am familiar with the 9300/9400 which I use in my HTPC, and it would not be sufficient in accomplishing the tasks I perform on a regular basis.

Are you sure about this? The number of applications that do SOMETHING with the videocard is very, very low. Photoshop CS4 would also work with onboard video acceleration. Furthermore, cost savings here can be spent on a faster cpu or an SSD, etc.

Unless you truely use applications that use hardware features onboard video cannot deliver, i would not suggest a discrete card to you. 3D Studio Max and stuff that uses OpenGL acceleration is one, and where a FireGL might be the best choice.
April 22, 2009 11:47:35 AM

sub mesa said:
Quote:
I am familiar with the 9300/9400 which I use in my HTPC, and it would not be sufficient in accomplishing the tasks I perform on a regular basis.

Are you sure about this? The number of applications that do SOMETHING with the videocard is very, very low. Photoshop CS4 would also work with onboard video acceleration. Furthermore, cost savings here can be spent on a faster cpu or an SSD, etc.

Unless you truely use applications that use hardware features onboard video cannot deliver, i would not suggest a discrete card to you. 3D Studio Max and stuff that uses OpenGL acceleration is one, and where a FireGL might be the best choice.


On a regular basis I use:
Autodesk Inventor
Autodesk AutoCAD
Autodesk SketchBook Pro
Pro-Engineer
Solidworks
Bunkspeed Hypershot
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended

Of which nearly all require a workstation graphics card.

Solidworks System Requirements:
Quote:
A certified OpenGL workstation graphics card and driver.


So I am pretty sure I need much more than a onboard graphics card, a gaming card is not even sufficient.

April 22, 2009 11:54:09 AM

Alright keep the GPU, but remember you're still working on a mechanical harddrive; meaning your experience won't be as smooth as when working on a SSD.

Also Phenom II or Core i7 would be able to do SMP more efficiently, although the Core i7 would be outside your budget. But not really any obvious choice here.
April 22, 2009 12:06:22 PM

As prices decrease an SSD will become an upgrade until that time, the exceed my budget.
Quote:

Also Phenom II .......would be able to do SMP more efficiently


Is this versus the C2Q, if so do you have any benchmarks showing or reviews stating such?

Personally the slight decrease in price/performance ratio to have an intel is worth it. It is a comfort factor, I have used the CPUs for over 15 years, and I am not looking to jump onboard a sinking ship (AMD yet again showing negative profits for Q1 2009).
April 22, 2009 12:17:27 PM

kspahr said:
I would prefer to stick with intel products, as I feel there is a reason AMD is yet again in the red ink for Q1


Well I would say it is unfair to say a company's product is bad looking at its Q results...But you should have noticed that those are better than the previous year's and the reason is its current high value CPUs... ;) 
Rather than looking at a company's Q results, you should look at the company's CPU's reviews...that would give a better picture as you are going to buy the CPU and not the company... :) 
I personally use intel and the reason I had suggested the AMD CPUs is for their current high value and better performance...
But finally its your call... :hello: 
April 22, 2009 12:22:31 PM

Well I agree it is a little unfair, I will think it over but for now I am more comfortable sticking with an intel cpu.

Again thanks for the suggestions!
April 22, 2009 12:37:06 PM

Quote:
Still, at its price, Phenom II is a reasonable alternative to Intel in most segments. We would generally avoid it for photo or video work
From ExtremeTech

From this article it appears that despite similar clock speeds Intel still wins out. I am also more hesitant after them saying to avoid the Phenom for photo or video work, which is all that I do.

April 22, 2009 12:38:37 PM

If you are staying near a Micro Center store, then get the Q9400 for about the same price In store pick up...The Q9400 has 2MB more cache and would perform better than the Q8400 :) 
April 22, 2009 12:42:53 PM

kspahr said:
Quote:
Still, at its price, Phenom II is a reasonable alternative to Intel in most segments. We would generally avoid it for photo or video work
From ExtremeTech

From this article it appears that despite similar clock speeds Intel still wins out. I am also more hesitant after them saying to avoid the Phenom for photo or video work, which is all that I do.

Well I think you dint get what they had said...
They had compared the Q9450, Q9650 and core i7 with the Phenom II and not the Q8X00 series...The phenoms are generally faster than the Q8X00 series...
Those intel CPUs are costlier than the Phenom IIs...
April 22, 2009 12:47:20 PM

Core i7 - $279
Q9550 - $269
Q6600 - $215
E8600 - $269

Phenom II 940 - $189
April 22, 2009 12:52:40 PM

@ gkay09

I am several hours from the nearest Micro Center. I can't find the Q9400 on there site.

When comparing the Q8400 and Q9400 the only difference I see 4mb cache vs. 6mb cache.

I understand what they meant, I was using this to show that in General AMD vs Intel are not equal clock speed to clockspeed.

However, I am willing to be proven wrong if I can be shown benchmarks, showing that a Phenom for less money outperforms a Q8400 in graphics, 3D modelling.

In general I am made weary of cpu I am not able to fully grasp as they do not have a traditional fsb, and there clockspeeds are not comparable to intels.
April 22, 2009 1:23:23 PM

Well you could stick with the Q8400 if you want...it still would be a good processor...
April 22, 2009 1:49:28 PM

You convinced me, the Phenom II 940 is the best bang for the buck of any processor. After reading numerous reviews etc. It is pretty much guaranteed I will get the Phenom II 940.
April 22, 2009 1:52:18 PM

with the Phenom II 940 and the GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P MoBo which CPU Cooler should I get?
April 22, 2009 2:04:30 PM

The classic Xig sounds like a great option.
!