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Need advice $2000 3D Animation, Gaming machine, first build

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February 19, 2010 8:37:12 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: April '10

BUDGET RANGE: $1,500-$2,200

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: 3D Modeling/Rendering (Maya, Photoshop), Gaming, Movies and Media

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: let's forget about the keyboard, mouse, and optical drive

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, wherever

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: brand doesn't matter, I just want a capable machine

OVERCLOCKING: Yes SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Huh? No? maybe if I get >1 graphics card (that's relevant, right?)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1600x900

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: low power would be a plus


Hey all!

So my first build is hanging over me. After parts shopping for 9 hours straight I'm finally ready to look for some feedback.
I'm currently a 3D animation student looking for a workstation that can handle some pretty advanced rendering and modeling tasks. Gaming and media are also somewhat prioritized.
I'll have about $2,500 to play with come April, but I'd like to keep it under $2,000.


The build I'm looking at now is:
Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
PNY VCQFX1800-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 1800 768MB 192-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card - Retail
OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3G1600LV6GK - Retail
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Acer X203H bd Black 20" 16:9 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor 300 cd/m2 10000:1 w/ HDCP Support - Retail
Broadway Com Corp OKIA-BLACK-550 550W ATX Power Supply - Retail
A behemoth TLC case I picked up.

This all comes in at $1,800 (conservatively). My budget is a little flexible so I'm not counting dimes unless I shovel a few more loads of Awesome into this thing. I'd like a machine that will last me a while but avoiding overkill is obviously good.

I know next to nothing about overclocking, but it seems like something I can handle so I assume I'll do it.
I've learned a lot in the last few days, but not enough even to be confident these parts will all play nice. One of my big concerns is the power supply. Will 550W power the build I outlined?
Even though I spent the last few days researching I feel like I must be missing a lot.

Thanks for the help.
February 19, 2010 10:25:15 AM

If avoiding overkill is good, value should also be a priority. In that case, you should be looking at something more like this:

Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Don't pay almost $300 more for the 950, it's only clocked 400MHz faster. You already mentioned overclocking as a possibility, and the 920 is known to OC beyond 4.0GHz, which I doubt you'll even need.
$289

GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Good brand, USB 3.0 and SATA III, option for CrossFire.
$210

ATI 100-505553 FirePro V5700 512MB PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Up to you. I don't know much about workstation cards.
$325

2x OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3G1600LV6GK - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
2 sets - 12GB for rendering/modeling.
2x $160 - 20 MIR

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3EG HD203WI 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
F3s are much better drives, but the 1TB is out of stock (Seagate's 7200.12 1TB is good too at ~$90. Both are better than that WD). :p 
$180

Dell UltraSharp U2410 Widescreen LCD Monitor 24" - 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz - 16:10 - 6 ms - 0.270 mm - 1000:1
http://www.compsource.com/ttechnote.asp?part_no=4647346...
Nice H-IPS monitor. So you can see what you're doing.
$528

CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Don't skimp on the PSU. Quality PSUs are worth the money. 750W in case you want to add in another card in the future.
$120 - 20 MIR

COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7 compatible RR-B10-212P-G1 120mm "heatpipe direct contact" Long life sleeve CPU Cooler - Retail
http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-RR-B10-212P-G1-Univ...
For overclocking.
$30

Total: $2002 before rebates, $1964 after. All free shipping too. :D  Take out one $160 set of RAM and you're at your $1800 build, both price- and specs-wise, but with a much better monitor, HDD, and PSU.

You have room to use a better graphics card or add a second; I'm not sure what you need. Grab some AS5 if you need to OC past ~3.6GHz. You have a case already?
You can shave off a few dollars by getting a less expensive monitor, the 1TB F3 (if it's in stock), and/or less RAM. I don't recommend getting less RAM though.

550W should be enough for the build you listed, but it's always a good idea to be ready for any future upgrades.
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February 19, 2010 11:45:46 AM

These G.Skill sticks would be faster, especially if you don't overclock. They're a little more expensive though.

I agree with the other changes. You don't need the Hyper 212 if you're not overclocking.
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February 19, 2010 11:46:27 PM

Hey MadAdmiral, I have a question I've yet to find the answer to, but you might be able to help. You say DDR3 1333 RAM of CL7 would be faster than DDR3 1600 of CL8, esp if you don't overclock. But if you clock the latter to DDR3 1333 and tighten timings to CL7, would it be more stable than the former? Or, if you loosen the timings of the former to CL8 and OC the RAM to DDR3 1600, would this be more stable? I understand that between these frequencies, CL is more important, but I'm just wondering from a value standpoint, in the case that both sets cost the same. In other words, I just want to know of which set I would be able to tighten timings most, if both were similarly priced and clocked to the same frequency (not necessarily stock clocks).
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February 20, 2010 12:19:44 AM

The thing is that slowing them down doesn't automatically mean you can reach a certain level of timings. Same for overclocking. So if you were to overclock 1333 mhz sticks to 1600 mhz, they don't automatically get CL 8. They could be higher or lower. If you downclocked 1600 mhz sticks, they wouldn't necessarily have CL 7. Thus, if you don't overclock, you should get 1333 mhz (the default) and the tighter timings to be sure what you can run them at.

This does make it hard to really compare them at the the same specs. However, there was an article looking into what provides the better performance bump, speeding the RAM up or getting tighter timings. The testing showed that anything above 1333 mhz doesn't really provide any performance gain.

Another reason I suggest the G.Skills is that they are higher quality. OCZ has some compatibility problems with their RAM. There are a lot of problems with getting them to run at the recommended specs.
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February 20, 2010 5:37:55 AM

MadAdmiral said:
The thing is that slowing them down doesn't automatically mean you can reach a certain level of timings. Same for overclocking. So if you were to overclock 1333 mhz sticks to 1600 mhz, they don't automatically get CL 8. They could be higher or lower. If you downclocked 1600 mhz sticks, they wouldn't necessarily have CL 7. Thus, if you don't overclock, you should get 1333 mhz (the default) and the tighter timings to be sure what you can run them at.

This does make it hard to really compare them at the the same specs. However, there was an article looking into what provides the better performance bump, speeding the RAM up or getting tighter timings. The testing showed that anything above 1333 mhz doesn't really provide any performance gain.

Another reason I suggest the G.Skills is that they are higher quality. OCZ has some compatibility problems with their RAM. There are a lot of problems with getting them to run at the recommended specs.


Mmm, thanks for the info. I did know about OCZ's compatibility issues, but I don't think you should assume all OCZ RAM have the problem, or that all G. Skill RAM are better than OCZ RAM. It seems to depend on the particular set, as you can see by the distinctly contrasting ratings of OCZ's various models on Newegg. The OCZ set that thered1 listed actually has slightly better ratings than the G Skill set you recommended. :p 
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February 20, 2010 6:34:26 PM

Don't trust Newegg reviews. The users writing the reviews shouldn't be allowed near technology.

G.Skill is a better RAM company in general. In a recent overclocking competition, they won 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th places (out of 10 total). I'd say that's high quality...
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February 20, 2010 8:56:38 PM

I was planning on going with the 920 until a few minutes before I posted. If I can save some serious $$ in the processor department it could go right to the monitor, which I knew I was skimping on.

The other graphics card I was looking at was the gtx 260. How would it compare to the Firepro?

MadAdmiral said:
These G.Skill sticks would be faster, especially if you don't overclock. They're a little more expensive though.

I agree with the other changes. You don't need the Hyper 212 if you're not overclocking.

Thanks for the RAM suggestion.
I was so tired when I first posted that I completely forgot about cooling. If I get a decent aftermarket CPU cooler like the Hyper 212 what kind of ventilation will I need for the case? I think I'll be overclocking the i7 to about 3.6ghz (although I'll have to do a lot of web digging to figure out exactly what that means and how to do it).


Thanks for all the help, everyone!
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February 20, 2010 11:27:30 PM

SeaSonic X650 Gold 650W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91 SLI Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
I'd love to go for an efficient PSU. Any thoughts on Gold certified units? (wouldn't want to sacrifice reliability)

Also, does anyone feel like singing the praises of their monitor? I was skimping with my initial selection, but losing the 950 (and most of the other parts) freed up some $$ in my budget. blackjellognomes, the Dell you suggested is nice, but I hear good things about PVA LCD's, too.
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February 21, 2010 1:45:49 PM

Gold Certified is the highest standard. Anything with that is going to be extremely high quality. SeaSonic is one of the premier PSU makers anyway. I love to suggest them when I can fit it in the budget because they typically have one level higher efficiency than any other PSU of that size.

As far as monitors go, I'm not an expert. I've seen this Asus 21.5" 1080p one recommended a number of times. I've also seen Hanns G recommend a few times as well.

To the older question of the Firepro vs. GTX 260, I haven't dealt too much with the workstation GPUs. I can tell you that the difference is that the workstation GPUs are focused on rendering each frame as perfectly as it can, but it's a bit slower. Gaming GPUs focus more on rendering frames as fast as possible, but sacrifice quality to do so. While either card could do the job of the other, they aren't optimized for the task. If the computer is meant to be a 3D animation machine first with gaming less often, I would definitely go with the workstation GPU.

Another thing to note is that if the programs you use for animation make better use of nVidia cards, as I know many do, you should switch the Firepro for one of nVidia's Quadro cards around the same price.
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