Ultimate $4000 Workstation Build - No Games

Hi, I'm looking to upgrade my aging PC and the prime objective is to create the fastest workstation machine, within reason. By "within reason", I mean that a Core i7 950 processor will be good enough, and I don't need a processor like the $3000 Intel Xeon MP X7460 CPU.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Sometime in the next 6 months - I'm willing to wait if good new technology is on the horizon.

BUDGET RANGE: Up to $4000 (Including a 24" LCD)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Photoshop, Illustrator, Office. No Games (seriously). The thing is that I want the machine to boot in 10 seconds, load Photoshop in a split second, and load Firefox with a lot of add-ons in less than 2 seconds. It seems to me that my key bottle neck on my current machine is hard drive access for application loading, even though I have 2 WD Raptors in Raid as the primary drive.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers



- Definitely planning to use two Intel X25-M 80GB 34NM Postville hard drives in Raid 0 for the boot and application hard drive
- Thinking of using the Core i7 line of CPUs

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe - I'm willing to overclock if it just means going into the bios and pushing up the FSB a little. I'm not willing to spend days learning how to overclock and tweaking settings to push it to the limit. I'm willing to invest in some quality air cooling, but don't need some kind of crazy water cooled system.

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No - Video card just needs to do basic Photoshop. No games and no video encoding.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: Assume 1920x1200 (I'm looking for advice on a good 24" LCD)


I'm thinking about building a system with 16gb of ram (or more), but I have heard that a 32-bit OS will not let me use more that 3gb of that, so the rest would be a waste. Is that true? Can applications (like Photoshop CS4) use the extra ram on a 32-bit OS?

Should I get a 64-bit OS? If I do, will I have a hard time finding drivers for my components?

Should I wait for Windows 7 to come out before I build this new machine?

Should I wait for any new bleeding edge hardware that's supposed to be coming out soon?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

23 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. 1. Yes, 32 bit system will not let you use more than 4Gb of RAM.
    2. I don't think so, most newer hardware have 64 bit driver.
    3. Win 7 should be hitting the shelf real soon, so you should probably start now.
    4. Don't think so, at least I'm not aware of any thing new coming up.

    as for the build... well, I've never have that much cash to work with... ever... so I'm just gonna let someone with a lot more experience to help you with that =P
  2. First off, you'd be insane to build a system you are proposing and not putting a 64-bit OS on it. If you actually need 16GB I can't really say either, since anything I usually do when tinkering with photoshop doesn't bog down my system, and I just have 4GB. As for video cards, if you're really not that picky, just get one that is most friendly to your budget. You could possibly find a workstation class card that is great at GPU calculations, but really not suited to gaming. Problem is they cost way more than consumer cards.

    For monitor, since you are looking for more professional grade stuff, I'd say look at the 2408 WFP from Dell. There are better monitors out there, but not many that are high quality AND at a good price.
  3. Thanks for the replies dragoon and wathman. Ok, so, 64-bit OS for sure, and one vote for the Dell 2408 WFP - I'll check it out.
  4. I'm having a hard time understanding why you'd want to spend anywhere near 1000$ for the system you're proposing, let alone 4000$. You can easily build a computer that will do everything you want, extremely quickly for quite cheap.
  5. lonewuhf said:
    I'm having a hard time understanding why you'd want to spend anywhere near 1000$ for the system you're proposing, let alone 4000$. You can easily build a computer that will do everything you want, extremely quickly for quite cheap.

    I hadn't done much research. I was just expecting around $1000 for the CPU, $600 for the monitor, and close to $700 for those two hard drives. I wanted to mention a big budget because I'm looking for top of the line. I'm looking for something that is about the fastest you can get at the moment.

    Of course, if someone can recommend a great setup for considerably less than my budget, then that would be great.
  6. i7 920 / asrock x58 /6x2gb 1333mhz+ /antec truepower 750watt/2 samsung f3 500gb-1tb/ 4770 or 5770 for lower power draw/ Any case/core contact freezer cpu cooler w/ 1366 bracket
  7. +1 for Asus VW246H HDMI monitor.

    CPU: i7-975

    Motherboard:ASUS P6T WS PRO LGA 1366

    VGA:XFX GX295NHWFC GeForce GTX 295 1792MB
    (Lifetime Warranty)

    Power Supply:CORSAIR CMPSU-1000HX 1000W

    RAM:Get two sets of OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) for a total of 12gb ram, (I know its not the 16gb that you wanted, sorry)

    x2 of

    HDDs: Intel X25M 160GB Mainstream Solid State Drive

    Heres some ideas of components in your price range, note that this isnt an obviously finished build. Just some suggestions.
  8. Best answer
    NCIX Gaming Bundle Deal Intel Core i7 920 D0 Processor & ASUS P6T SE X58 Motherboard

    BFG GeForce GTX 260 OC MAXCORE55 590MHZ 896MB 1.998GHZ GDDR3 PCI-E Dual DVI-I Video Card

    Samsung SyncMaster T240HD 24IN Widescreen LCD Monitor 1920X1200 5ms DVI VGA HDMI Component DTV Tuner

    Samsung SH-S223B/BEBE 22X DVD+-RW SATA DVD Writer Black OEM

    Coolermaster Haf 922 Mid Tower ATX Case Black 5X5.25 5X3.5INT Front Audio USB eSATA No PSU

    G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBRH Ripjaws PC3-12800 4GB 2X2GB DDR3-1600 CL7-7-7-24 Core I5 Memory Kit
    3 sets of for 12gb

    Western Digital WD2001FASS Caviar Black 2TB SATA2 7200RPM 3.6MS 64MB 3.5IN Dual Proc Hard Drive OEM

    Intel X25-M 160GB 34NM Postville 2.5IN SSD SATA Solid State Disk Flash Drive

    Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme 1366RT Heatpipe Cooler LGA1366 120MM Fan FDB 1600RPM 28.0DBA 63.7CFM

    Corsair TX650W 650W ATX 12V 52A 24PIN ATX Power Supply Active PFC 120MM Fan

  9. For $4000, I would get me some hookers in Las Vegas.
  10. masterasia said:
    For $4000, I would get me some hookers in Las Vegas.

    That would be a sad waste of your money
  11. masterasia said:
    For $4000, I would get me some hookers in Las Vegas.

    I would not pay $4000 for multiple STDs.

    I like the look of that CPU. Seems like good advice on the ram.

    I'm wondering if the graphics card and powersupply might be overkill?
  13. IN REPLY TO obsidian86:

    Very nice. That's pretty close to perfect. Thanks so much!

    The only thing I might do with that setup is change the CPU to the "Intel Core i7-975 Extreme Edition Bloomfield". Do you see any reason why I would not want to do this (aside from cost)? Do you think the performance increase I would get from this would be unnoticeable, and so, not worth it?

  14. the i7 975 aint really worth it,its pretty easy to overclock the i7 920 to i7 975 speeds thats why i included one of the best air coolers,
  15. Ok. Thanks obsidian86. Do you have a link to a guide on overclocking the i7 920 on that board?
  16. obsidian86 said:
    the i7 975 aint really worth it,its pretty easy to overclock the i7 920 to i7 975 speeds thats why i included one of the best air coolers,

    Yeah but he said he wanted top of the line, and you can OC the 975 wayyyyyyyyyy better.
  17. vorless said:
    Yeah but he said he wanted top of the line, and you can OC the 975 wayyyyyyyyyy better.

    "Top of the line" doesn't mean spending almost 4x the price to gain something he simply will not use. He said he doesn't want to learn the extremes of OC'ing, in which case he certainly will not truely need the unlocked multiplier, or higher OC capability of the i7 975. The i7 920 will do ALL that he needs and more, especially if it's clocked up to ~3.2Ghz which would be about the level he was looking for, and very easy with a top of the line cooler.

    As for other components I would second the 4770 or better the 5770, it will suit the OP's needs just fine, and something like the GTX295 is definitely not needed.

    Other than that...+1 for the HAF922, I have the 932 and it's an amazing case, and wide enough for large format coolers etc. And definitely get a storage drive or two, maybe two 1TB drives from WD and mirror them against data loss for any important files. I'm not very knowledgable with SSD's so leave that to someone else. I would suggest either the Corsair 750TX or 850TX PSU, but if you find combo deals for anything from Antec, Corsair, PC P&C, or Seasonic, they are all reputable sellers.
  18. You want the best?...
    OK, This is about as good as you can get...

    I agree with Vorless's choices for motherboard, CPU, but get 2 of the solid state drives he mentioned and run them in a RAID 0 configuration for the fastest speed. (This will allow your system to boot and programs to load instantly.) Solid state drives can be spendy but that is where you will get the biggest increase in speed so if you can manage to budget for 2 of them go for it.

    Core i7 975 Extreme Edition (fastest CPU available) (easily overclockable)

    16GB isn't really an optimum option. With the i7 motherboards they can run memory in triple channel mode. But you would need a set of 3 or 6. So for the best speed these are you best options.
    2GB sticks X 3 = 6GB which is less than you wanted
    2GB sticks X 6 = 12GB which is less than you wanted
    4GB sticks X 3 = 12GB which is less than you wanted
    4GB sticks X 6 = 24GB which is more than you wanted and would account for a little under 25% of you total budget
    I suggest you choose one of the 12GB options!
    (obsidian86 made a good choice for memory)

    Video Card:
    You don't nessarily need a super top end video card for 2D (photoshop etc).
    If you want to save a few bucks get the video card obsidian86 mentioned. I promise you won't be dissapointed!

    Antec 1200 (Up to you really not going to effect anything but cooling)

    CPU Fan and Heatsink:
    Obsidian86 has made the right choice.

    Power Supply:
    I would get a PC Power and Cooling about 750 watts or so...
    The one obsidian chose might do the trick.. personally I would rather have a few extra watts than to have the system reboot cause it was drawing to much power from the power supply
  19. A Core i7 system would be great for your application. Others have reccommended good motherboards, coolers, cases & PSU. I have this to add:

    1. Definately go with the Tri-Channel memory (i.e. two 3x2GB kits of DDR3). This provides great memory bandwidth for processing media files.

    2. Go with a workstation class video card. They are specifically engineered to work with 2d/3d applications. As such, they offer significant performance & stability improvements vs. a "gaming" card. Look for a Nvidia QuadroFX or ATI FireGL. To get a decent midrange card you are probably looking at $400-600.

    QuadroFX 1800 goes for about $450 USD
    FirePro V5700 goes for about $575 USD

    Hope this helps!
  20. +1 for obsidian86's build.

    @OP: Depending on how complex your stuff are and given your budget, have you considered a 2P system? Also if this is some serious Photoshop work, I HIGHLY recommend you spend a good part of your budget on a good LCD (or 2). Also, are the Raptors you have the VelociRaptors or the older Raptors?

    As for GPU, even a 4670/4850 will do fine. Unless doing real 3D renderings/CAD no need for a workstation card as you plan to run Photoshop.

    Also, what Photoshop version? CS4? If you have anything older than CS3 you may want to upgrade to CS4 to get a better multi threaded advantage.
  21. As for picking LCD, start here:



    Imo, AnandTech does some of the BEST (if not the best) LCD reviews out there. Again, consider a Dual display set up if possible, it really helps when it comes to editing photos/vids,etc.
  22. Wow. Thanks so much for all the advice guys. You seriously rock.

    I definitely have what I need to put together an awesome build now. Thanks!
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