New 3d Modeling/Rendering Rig for Thesis Project (<$800)

Good Evening all,

I am starting my 3d animation thesis project soon and it's becoming apparent that my current computer isn't going to be able to do it alone/at all. Right now I have an HP HDX18t laptop with a 2.53 mHz dual core and 9600m and 4 gigs of ram. I'm using Maya 2009 and rendering with mental ray is taking anywhere from 6-20 minutes for a basic test frame.

I started browsing around Tom's and some other places and put together something I think I can afford.


BUDGET RANGE: 600-800 Before Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: 3d modeling/rendering, compositing/photoshopping, surfing the internet, watching movies, playing games

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg, if they have better deals (don't seem to), and I'll buy the CPU at the Microcenter near MIT, good deals there.


PARTS PREFERENCES: Intel chips, I'm open to most other things

OVERCLOCKING: Yes, I've never done it but it wold seem to help my situation greatly.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 is what I'm running now, I don't really want to go lower. I'm currently running two screens as well. The laptop screen (at 1920x1080) and one of the ASUS flat panels with the O-stand, 21.5".

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I've read a few of the overclocking articles and I think I need some sort of additional cooling. Right now I guess it would be one of the fans Tecmo34 has in his recommended build posts. I'm going to add another monitor soon as well, I've grown quite dependent on the dual monitor set up in my work.

What I've hashed out...

Mobo - ASUS P7P55D LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard

CPU - Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156

Memory - G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600

GPU - XFX HD-485X-ZDFC Radeon HD 4850 1GB

PSU - Antec BP550 Plus 550W Continuous Power ATX12V

Case - Antec Two Hundred Black ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

HD - SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB

DVD - LITE-ON Black 24X DVD Writer Black SATA

I hope to add another 4gb of ram when I can afford it, it should help with rendering. Is the system set up to utilize 8gb of ram? I know Maya will take it if it's there. It is my understanding that the GPU matters more for real-time rendering in the view ports.

So, that's why I have for now. Let me know if I'm way off, missed something, whatever one may feel like adding. May I add I love this site, it's become a daily read.


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  1. Best answer
    Here's a little bit of a pickle your in. Gaming cards don't do much at all when rendering even though the hardware is the same or spec'd out better. Its all about driver support, so if you want some better rendering performance, you need to go with a workstation card. On your budget, that becomes very difficult and throws gaming out the window. Nvidia has much better drivers for Maya than ATI even though the ATI specs are much more impressive in the same price bracket. This is worth a read for the beginning and conclusion for you:

    Based on that article, the 380 FX is $130 on NE and the 580 FX is $180. You'd have to trim off some of the other parts. Some suggestions:
    Mobo: don't need a CF board, Something like this gigabyte for $120 will do the trick, spending extra for USB 3.0:

    Ram: Looks good, spending $15 more than you have to but getting Cas 7. OCZ has a CAS 7 1333 set for $85 amir

    CPU: I'd suggest spending the extra $50 at Microcenter for the i7 860 w/ HT. Your computer will think it has 8 cores, not just 4. That's $230 vs $180 for the i5 750.

    The rest seem to work fine.
  2. Thanks Skora, you've given me something to think about. I was afraid that the consumer 3d cards wouldn't be enough. I'll go through the rest of that gpu article a little bit later. Hyperthreading sounds nice, maybe I'll eat mac and cheese for a few weeks and go with the i7. Anyway, thanks for your help!
  3. If you end up using a regular gaming GPU you can get a new 5750 for cheaper since it has free shipping.

    SAPPHIRE 100284L Radeon HD 5750 1GB $129.99

    The Antec BP (Basiq) PSU's aren't up to the quality standards of other Antec PSU's. That model isn't even 80+ certified. You might want to consider going with a unit that has a lower output but is much higher quality.

    Antec EarthWatts Green EA-430D Green 430W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply $54.99

    I know 430W might seem a little low, but that is a very high quality PSU that would easily power your system.
  4. magicmangowagon said:
    Is the system set up to utilize 8gb of ram? I know Maya will take it if it's there.

    I don't see any mention of what OS you will be using on this build. The hardware can support 8GB of RAM, but you have to use a 64-bit OS to even fully use 4GB. You will also need a 64-bit version of Maya in order for it to be able to use more than 2GB. A 32-bit OS has a system limit of 4GB (about 3.25GB - 3.5GB available) and limits all software to a maximum of 2GB per application.
  5. Oh I'll be buying Windows 7 64 bit. I have a 64 bit Vista system now and a 64 bit version of Maya. About the PSU, is 430w enough if I plan on overclocking the i7? I don't want to go crazy and push it past 4.0gHz. The CPU is going to be heavily loaded for long periods of time while rendering/modeling and I need it to be stable. Is 3.6gHz reasonable? I'm talking out of my ass a little bit here, to be honest. I'm still catching up on OC'ing, I have many more articles and forum posts to read.
  6. Best answer selected by magicmangowagon.
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