Workstation Debate - Help me settle this


I am building a new desktop/workstation for a friend. He is in architecture school and needs a home PC that will allow him to do basic computer tasks, plus run his architecture programs with reasonable performance. Here a couple of notes on this build...

- This will serve as his home computer
- This will also serve as his workstation for CAD and 3D programs like 3Ds Max
- He is a student, not a professional
- He is a full-time student, so he is on a tight budget
- He is currently running his architecture programs on a basic laptop (performance is poor, obviously). This gives you an idea of where he is coming from.
- He is not a gamer

With perfomance, budget, and both home and workstation use in mind, I put together a system with the following rough specs. I have nearly the same system and have is OC'd to 3.2Ghz, extremely stable. I use it for web and application development and programs like Photoshop are fast and smooth.

- Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Processor
- Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R Motherboard
- 8GB GSkill DDR2 1066
- Dual WD Black 500GB Hard Drives (One for OS/Apps, the second for files/scratch)
- EVGA 9800 GT Video Card
- Vista Ultimate 64-Bit
- Cost: Around $1000 including all other needed components

Now he is CONVINCED that he needs a Xeon-based workstation setup with a workstation graphics card. He has read some posts online that talk about performance benefits of Xeon over Core 2 and even i7. My guess is that these posts are coming from professionals working on $5000 workstations that their company paid for. Anyway, this is what we built him so far for a Xeon option.

- Intel Xeon W3520
- ASUS P6T WS PRO X58 Motherboard
- 6GB GSkill DDR3 1333
- Dual WD Black 500GB Hard Drives (One for OS/Apps, the second for files/scratch)
- PNY VCQFX580-PCIE-PB Quadro FX580 Workstation Graphics Card
- Vista Ultimate 64-Bit
- Cost: Around $1600 including all other needed components

Now keeping in mind the notes on my friend and this computer, do you think he should spend $600 more to go to a Xeon system? My argument is that the Q6600 build will outperform his laptop today by 100X, and the Xeon system is overkill for a student on a budget.

Any opinions, comments, advice is appreciated.
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  1. I am only responding because I see no one else has. Have you checked with the student's software vendors to see what they recommend? The old advice is always to start with the applications and software first.

    I was curious about it so I just checked on the Autodesk hardware forum and found a few items - but going to vendor's specific software specs might be more useful - or there must be some CAD sights with forums that might be helpful too - maybe he knows of them.

    First the forum, then a few posts I read:

    and here's an interesting excerpt from the link that follows:
    I have not not seen any benefit with 2010 from a Quadro FX 1700 vs a Radeon
    4870 or a Geforce GTS 250 using XP & Vista 64. The Quadro was about $500 the
    others under $200. I feel like I was ripped off just looking at the Quadro
    side by side with the others. ;)

    one specifically about gaming vs. workstation graphics card

    Hopefully whatever software you use will have a forum with helpful information.
  2. The Q6600 is an older cpu and there are better intel quads for the same price , but frakly he can build an i7 machine for $1000 which uses essentially the saem type of core architecture as the xeon

    intel ci7 920
    mb from asus or gigabyte [ combo with processor ]
    3 x2 gig of ram
    hard drives
    500 watt quality psu
    4770 video card [ plenty of power for this usage and very quiet ] or equivalent nVidia card

    would be under $1000 and
  3. I did the same thing as RJ and found this, but supports the workstation card over gaming cards. Mainly because of drvier optimization.

    Heres and actual THG article on the subject.,2258-10.html

    As for the CPU, while the min specs from autodesk only need a P4, it appears it will multi thread. While I don't know if the xeon is worth any more than an i7, it would be worth the extra over Q6600. I'd pick the AMD 955 over the Q6600 too.,1380.html

    There also seems to be some opinions to shoot for a raid setup.
  4. Great find skora - that speaks right to the point and directly compares the two in performance tests:

    Two key things to consider, though, is what is "reasonable performance" - originators request?

    Note that the review compares a $1600 workstation card, not the probably much slower one selected for a system that in total cost $1600. Budget also must be an issue.

    Also note the significant differences in relative performance on different tests. The question is which most closely resembles the his architecture work? I suspect it may not be as demanding in many respects as some of the CAD work. But I don't know.

    Finally, what might help some is that the test was run using an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 (2.93 GHz), not a Xeon processor. Perhaps the best choice given budget constraints is to go with an Intel i7 920 which would provide a fast CPU (which also affects performance) and a good workstation graphics card - maybe the FX-580 or a little faster one. Originator can compare performance in the THG article with prices to determine the best fit. At the end of the article is a short discussion on different cards.
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