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$1000-1300 3D modeling workstation - Help needed

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Last response: in Systems
April 13, 2010 5:40:47 AM

Hi. I need help building my sister a workstation for 3D modeling, CAD, and Adobe CreativeSuite 4 stuff.


BUDGET RANGE: $1000 – 1200. MAX $1300 After Rebates

- Currently, usage will be in this order: Adobe photoshop, indesign, illustrator, SolidWorks, word, ppt, autocad, flash, dreamweaver.
- In the future: After Effects, video editing, Rhino and get Maya or modo.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: I have an old Enermax EG465P-VE 450W (peak 465W) Power Supply but I don’t think that will be enough.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS:, (I have free shipping for a few weeks),, open to other stores. No


PARTS PREFERENCES: Nvidia GPU, Full tower case but smaller & quieter the better

OVERCLOCKING: probably not
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe in the future? Do workstation GPUs scale well in SLI? Is the speed increase significant?

MONITOR RESOLUTION: this will depend on the availability of a good color accurate monitor (E-IPS, IPS, etc) but around the size of a 20-24in at or above 1600/1650 pixels is good.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Hey all. I’ve been out of the computer building loop for a while so it’s kind of difficult for me to catch up on all this technology in a short amount of time. So, I’d kindly appreciate your assistance in building my sister’s workstation. She is still in college at the moment but is serious about her work and her future to invest in this. So, ideally something mid-range that won’t kill us financially but will be sufficient for her from college to internships to the first few years of work. Forgive me if I say anything stupid.

Function: as stated above, CS4 stuff and CAD and 3D design. 3D rendering in the future.

Case/computer as a whole:
- Quieter, lighter the better & for the case to not look so conspicuous.
- Case isn’t that important. Don’t want to spend much on it.

- The programs my sister will be using come in 64bit versions so 64bit OS is obvious but not sure if she can use Win 7 or not.

- Phenoms? i7? i5? I need help here. I’m pretty sure I won’t be upgrading this rig for atleast 4 years so upgradeability isn’t too much of an issue. I read SolidWorks is cpu intensive so that’s a factor since she works with it a frequently.
- she also multitasks a lot – always has a web browser open + photoshop, illustrator, and indesign open at the same time. Or web browser + solidworks, a rendering program (hypershot 360), and photoshop open at same time.

- I’m thinking Nvidia instead of Ati because of CUDA since she works with CS4. or does Ati handle something like CUDA too?

-Would consider softmodding a Nvidia gpu, a 8800gt or something, if it would fit the needs. But I don’t think all the programs will recognize it and make it useless 50% of the time. Also, the soft modded gpu will still only be ½ speed of the real Quadro? Is that still fast enough? Or maybe I should go with a $200 current GPU?

- The bigger debate is if she needs a mid-range workstation GPU or not. If a mid-range is the choice, should I go for Quadro 1800 or Quadro 3700? They are both around $400ish. Lower-range is ok if it is sufficient.
Quadro 1800 specs -
Quadro 3700 specs -

- definitely need help with this. OC isn’t too important. I’d rather she have a stable system to last a long time.

- around 6gb but would like an additional slot open on the mobo for the future if possible, but not vital.

- I don’t think she has a need for a SSD. She usually works of her flash drive (pretty quick) and then back everything up onto her portable harddrive.
-I’d say she needs 500gb max. the files she works with aren’t very big, yet.

- this is the x-factor I guess. I might just have her wait around for a good Dell E-IPS deal to come around or something. I want to spend around $250 – 300 max.

PSU/CPU cooling – quieter the better

Here is a previous poster’s rig that I’m using as a reference:

Thanks for your help.

More about : 1000 1300 modeling workstation needed

April 13, 2010 8:50:03 AM

With that budget, I suggest you go for the i7 920 or the i7 930. With the kind of work you wanna do, the CPU is the most important part, and the 920 or 930 is a proven performer in these areas, due to its multi-hyperthreading ability.
April 13, 2010 3:14:35 PM

should i sacrifice a little CPU speed for a little more ram?

or sacrifice GPU with a Quadro FX 580 - $150, for more ram or CPU?
Related resources
April 13, 2010 3:31:35 PM

So the $1,100 - $1,300 budget includes the monitor also? If so, that makes things a bit difficult. Here's a nice build that includes everything but the monitor. I built nearly an identical system for an engineer recently and he's very happy with the performance. He uses the same software your sister will be using. I picked the i7 860 over the i7 930 because it also has hyperthreading but it has a much more aggressive turbo mode. This system also has 8GB of RAM.

PNY VCQFX580-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 580 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card - Retail $159.99

Intel Core i7-860 Lynnfield 2.8GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail

GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $396.98 (CPU + motherboard combo)

(2) G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBRM - Retail $217.98 ($108.99 each)

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $54.99

Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail

LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner - Bulk Black SATA Model iHAS124-04 - OEM $84.98 (Case + DVD burner combo)

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 $34.99

Antec EarthWatts EA-500D Green 500W ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail $64.99 ($7 off w/ promo code EMCYRYW24, ends 4/14)

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM $99.99

Total - $1,114.89 - $7 w/ promo code EMCYRYW24, ends 4/14
April 13, 2010 3:49:48 PM

Hey, thanks for the replies shortstuff and maniac. seems like a good build and the price is nice. got a few questions though.

are the g.skill rams good quality? never heard of the company before.

what is the benefit of a "more aggressive turbo mode"? i know they both have turbo, but what's the benefit of the i7-860's turbo?

If i were to upgrade the GPU to a Quadro 1800 down the line, would the 500W power supply be enough?

i have an old Lian-Li ATX case. It should still fit new ATX mobos right?

April 13, 2010 3:55:22 PM

Yes, G.Skill makes excellent RAM. I've been using it in builds for years and only had to RMA one kit.

The turbo mode enables the CPU to run faster when under certain loads. The max turbo speed for the i7 860 is 3.46GHz while the max speed for the i7 930 is 3.06GHz.

Yes, the 500W PSU is plenty for the system with a Quadro FX 1800.

ATX is ATX, the size specs haven't changed so you can use an old ATX case with a new ATX motherboard.
April 13, 2010 7:42:58 PM

ok. i guess i'll probably settle for i7 860 for now.

I looked at the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 and it looks like a good mobo, but it looks like it is tailored more for Ati because it has Crossfire support. Would you still recommend it? any other particular reason for this choice other than usb 3.0?

any other recommendations for SLI support?
April 13, 2010 7:52:48 PM

No 3D software has support for SLI so getting a motherboard that supports SLI doesn't really make any sense for a 3D modeling workstation.

"Currently, Autodesk does not test or support SLI-enabled video cards."

"Q. Why can't Photoshop take advantage of more than one display card?
A. When you move an image window between two monitors that are each on a separate display card, the GPU attached to the second monitor does not have access to the data necessary to accelerate drawing. The SLI and Crossfire technologies that use more than one GPU to speed up full-screen games will not work with Photoshop, because their use is limited by design to accelerate only full-screen games."
April 13, 2010 8:15:54 PM

ahhh. i see. thanks for the info. i just spent 15 mins looking for a that mobo that does SLI. i found it atleast... The GA-P55-UD4P LGA 1156 P55 ATX Motherboard does it.

April 13, 2010 8:17:23 PM

Yup it does, but it's a waste of money for a 3D workstation build IMO.
April 14, 2010 2:24:43 PM

According to Nvidia the FX 3700 is considered a high-end card while the FX 1800 is considered mid-range.

I don't know where you're seeing an FX 3700 for around $400. The FX 3700 is $789.99 on Newegg and the FX 1800 is $399.99.

PNY VCQFX3700-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 3700 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 SLI Supported Workstation Video Card $789.99

PNY VCQFX1800-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 1800 768MB 192-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card $399.99

Here's a comparison chart for the Quadro FX series:
April 14, 2010 4:20:59 PM

I see the FX 3700 on ebay for $400 + bing cashback:

I figured I can get this and have it covered under warranty from Square Trade or something, if Square trade does that sort of thing.

I havent been able to locate any benchmark comparisons for the two cards for real life applications.
April 15, 2010 12:43:14 AM

if i was to get the i7 930, what mobo would be recommended? it's $200 right now.

all the decent mobos are $200 for socket 1366.

also curious why the GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 is so cheap. it seems like a really good board and i can't find anything around the same price range for 1366 socket. mobos with comparable features are all $200. is there a comparable one for $130ish?

edit: the GA-X58A-UD3R is similar but more expensive for 1366 socket. why is this?
April 16, 2010 5:00:26 AM

You're not going to find any X58 motherboards for around $130. The LGA 1366 socket is Intel's "enthusiast" socket. They offer a few benefits like more PCI-E lanes and triple channel RAM and they charge a premium for it. I would stick with LGA 1156 which is the "mainstream" socket. The i7 860 is an excellent CPU and has a 400MHz higher maximum turbo speed than the i7 930. The i7 860 with 8GB of RAM like I suggested in my build makes for an excellent CAD machine.
April 16, 2010 1:28:30 PM

do you think the i7 860 or 930 prices are gonna fall any time soon? im assuming not.
April 20, 2010 4:12:27 PM

PROCESSOR: the i7 860 just came down to $200 so i'll go with that. - $200

MOBO: GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD3 LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail [...] 6813128412 - $133

GPU: PNY VCQFX580-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 580 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card - Retail [...] k=fx%20580 $159.99

RAM: (2) G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBRM - Retail [...] -_-Product $217.98 ($108.99 each)

CPU Cooler: 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 [...] 6835103065 $34.99

HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive [...] 20f3%20500 $54.99

DVD: This isnt that urgent. Got others that can do the job for now. will get in the future. - $25

CASE: $0

OS: Win 7 for $7 at her school

PSU: ??

So the only thing I still need is a Power Supply Unit. Can anyone suggest a good 550 - 600 watt PSU? i'd just like to be on the safe side cuz this thing has to last a while and maybe reuse it in the future. thanks.
April 20, 2010 5:11:22 PM

The stock thermal paste works just fine if you're not overclocking.
April 28, 2010 9:09:57 PM

are there any motherboards with more than 4 ram slots?