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3d Graphics Computer build within 2 months; $5,000+ budget

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May 6, 2010 8:52:01 PM

Hello:

I would like to build a computer for 3d graphics work. I use the applications: Poser, Modo, Blender as well as general web browsing; I would like to use Windows 7. I do not do any computer gaming. I haven't built a system in over 15 years and things have changed a bit since then. :) 

Seriously, my full-time "job" for the last ten years is full-time caregiver to my wife. I am working on 3d graphics to keep me sane and maybe to provide a bit of money; I'm also starting a web-comic and will need something faster to render on.

I welcome any additional comments; I'm not sure that anything I think I know is actually true.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: In a month or two.

BUDGET RANGE: (e.g.: 600-800) Before / After Rebates: $5,000 - $6,000

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: 3d modeling, 3d rendering, 3d animation, web surfing, watching movies

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Speakers (I have headphones), keyboard, mouse (I have a Wacom Intuos 4 PTK-640); I have a flatscreen monitor, but I wouldn't mind replacing it.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: No preferred website, but I've found NewEgg to be useful.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: US

PARTS PREFERENCES: I have mainly used Intel CPUs but I don't know if a single i7 (overclocked) or a dual Xeon would be a better choice.

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: As high as I can get and keep it readable and within budget.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I would like to keep this machine quiet because it will live in the living room and annoy my wife if it isn't.

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A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Best solution

May 6, 2010 9:00:26 PM

CPU/Mobo: i7-980X and Asus P6X58D-E $1,260
RAM: 2x Mushkin Enahnced Redline 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 6 $490
GPU: Get either a single Quadro FX 4800 for $1,550 or dual GTX 480s. $1,000
SSD: Corsair Nova 128 GB $335
HDD: 2x Seagate 7200.12 1 TB $190 (RAID 1 or pick up two more for RAID 10)
PSU: OCZ Z Series 850W 80+ Gold $190 after rebate
Case: Coolermaster ATCS 840 $170
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $20
HSF: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B $85 (with 2 fans)
OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OEM $140
Monitor: LG W3000H-Bn 30" 2560x1600 $1,160

Total: $5,040 w/ dual 480s or $5,590 w/ the FX 4800.
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May 6, 2010 9:09:25 PM

For around $2k you can get a hexacore i7 based build that will be pretty good. Another $500 ish more if you want a workstation GPU (Quadro or firepro).

Now, if you do plan on going all out and getting a dual hexacore xeon build, well at that point, considering the expense, I'd seriously recommend you get a workstation from a good builder, like puget or avadirect. Sure some people can recommend other good workstation specialist builders.

Let us know what line of thinking you'd rather go with.
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May 6, 2010 9:19:36 PM

Unless a dual xeon gives me a *lot* more performance, I'd rather go with an overclocked hexacore i7.

I do need to consider cooling and hard-drives (a lot of them). Graphics eats HD space for breakfast. :) 
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May 6, 2010 11:26:13 PM

I'd echo the Admiral's build except:

1. PSU - I'm not a fan of OCZ's PSU's. Why pay $220 and chase a $30 rebate I'm thinking for a PSU w/ an 8.5 performance rating when there are numerous 10.0 rated models for less money.

For comparison purposes , the list below contains performance ratings (10 scale) at jonnyguru.com / prices as per newegg on 02/21/2010 (bolded ones have prices updated as of post time) and ones w/ double asterisks (**) made it onto silentpcreview.com's Editor's Choice List meaning they excelled at both electronic and acoustic performance:


Antec SG-850 - 10.0 ($250) **
Antec CP-850 - 10.0 ($120) **
XFX 850W Black Edition 10.0 ($170)
Corsair HX850 850W - 10.0 ($170)


Antec TruePower Quattro (TPQ-850) - 9.5 ($150)
Corsair TX850 - 9.5 ($140)
Seasonic M12D 850W - 9.5 (NLA) **
NorthQ Giant Connector 850W - 9.5 (NFS)
Etasis ET850 - 9.5 (NLA)
Silverstone Zeus ST85ZF - 9.5 (NLA)

Enermax Revolution 85+ 850W - 9.0 ($250)

Thrmaltake Toughpower XT 850W - 8.5 ($216)
OCZ Z Series 850W - 8.5 ($190)

NorthQ Black Magic Flex 850W - 8.0 (NFS)
Coolmax CTG-850 - 8.0 (NFS)

SilverStone Decathlon DA850 - 7.5 ($230)
Enermax Galaxy DXX 850W EGX850EWL - 7.5 (NFS)

SilverStone Strider ST85F - 7.0

Silverstone Element ST85EF 850W - 6.0

NFS - Not For Sale / NLA = No Longer Available

2. Case - The CM case is a fine case with 91% of peeps giving it a 4 eggs or better rating on newegg. But you mentioned quiet and the Antec P183 combined with the CP-850 PSU is about as quiet as you're gonna find. If you're needing more cooling, then the 1200 is the way to go....the Antec's dust filters will come in handy w/ all that air going thru the case. Both the 1200 and P183 have 96% of user reviews with 4 eggs or better.

Note however that with the recommended twin 480's the 850 watters will be a bit a bit underpowered, especially if you're gonna be overclocking. Using ANtec's PSU calculator with a 4.5 Ghz OC, twin 480's and typical stuff and 10% capacitor aging, I hit 900 watts. There are no 850 watters on nVidia's SLI certified list for twin 480's. With twin 470's I'd get one of these combos:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

With twin 480's I'd get, the following combo.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

You're probably gonna want to turn off the switches on the case fan LED's

3. MoBo - I have been recommending the P6X58D-E since the day it arrived and won't say a word against it .... but if you are going to get into overclocking, and given your budget....I'd look at the Rampage III Extreme also .... you my never want to adjust your BIOS settings w/ your i-Phone but the features and flexibility this board provides is incredible .... and if I was OC'ing a $1,000 CPU, I'd want this board's power regulation circuitry.

4. Heat Sink - I'll echo the choice of the Megahalems but given your desire for quiet, it's important to get the full use out of the thing and keep it running quiet when you don't need full fan rpms. Therefore, I'd accompany the Megahalems w/ the following:

http://www.frozencpu.com/products/8807/cpu-pro-01/Proli...
http://www.frozencpu.com/products/7038/thr-41/Innovatio...
http://www.frozencpu.com/products/10026/fan-639/Scythe_...
http://www.frozencpu.com/products/8418/cab-150/FrozenCP...

5. Monitor
- The Dell U2711 is almost unbelievable....check the reviews.

http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Monitors/pr...
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May 6, 2010 11:58:01 PM

The OCZ was the only quality 80+ Gold certified one I could find. The high efficiency will go a long way to making the build quiet. The higher efficiency would also save you money over the life of the build compared to the other PSUs.

I originally thought of the P183, but wasn't positive it would have enough airflow for dual 480s (which isn't necessarily the way I would go).
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May 7, 2010 6:58:08 AM

Thank you all for the advice. I have enough information for another question or two:

1. What is the advantage of two GTX 480's over a single GTX 4800?

2. Are there any new i7 hexacore processors on the way soon?

Thanks much! You've all been very helpful.
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D. Jay Newman
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May 7, 2010 7:19:16 AM

dangerousthing said:
Thank you all for the advice. I have enough information for another question or two:

1. What is the advantage of two GTX 480's over a single GTX 4800?

2. Are there any new i7 hexacore processors on the way soon?

Thanks much! You've all been very helpful.
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D. Jay Newman



1. You should probably go for a workstation graphics card. The extended support and the special drivers will certainly be an advantage over the GTX 480.
Also, 480s in SLI wont exactly be cool or quiet. :) 
If you wanna go for the most expensive card or if a slightly cheaper will do is up to you, I guess, but for your uses I would strongly recommend a workstation card.

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May 7, 2010 12:18:21 PM

1.) I agree that a workstation card would probably be best. It won't run as hot and they're specialized for productivity apps. However, to answer the question, dual 480s would give a large performance boost (usually 70%+) over a single 480. I would have suggested getting a single larger GPU, but it doesn't exist.

2.) Of course there are, but they haven't been announced. Also, Intel is moving on to a new socket, so it likely won't be compatible. That said, it's something Intel always does so you shouldn't be too concerned about it. The 980X is an amazing CPU.
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May 7, 2010 3:17:55 PM

As far as publicly available info, Intel's got no new CPU's planned until Sandy Bridge ones start coming out later this year. Sandy bridge is all new socket types, and the chips most likely will not be compatible with current MOBO's. The pin count is very close, but the chipset's are entirely new.
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May 7, 2010 10:43:26 PM

One more question:

Is water cooling a good option for this machine, or should I stick with the Megahalems and friends as suggested?

Thanks much!
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D. Jay Newman
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May 7, 2010 11:03:57 PM

I'm not a big fan of water cooling. You can actually get a quieter system with just as high of an overclock with air cooling. Air cooling is also easier to setup and won't require any upkeep.
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May 8, 2010 12:01:25 AM

Does an SSD give enough increased performance to be worthwhile? For that price I could get another large fast hard drive.

Seriously, the SSD is the one component totally new to me. I understand the concept (it's used as a boot drive because it acts as a small fast HD), I think.
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D. Jay Newman
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May 10, 2010 1:08:07 PM

SSDs are extremely fast. There is nothing that compares to their speed right now. They're an order of magnitude faster than anything else out there.

Also, the build is still massively under budget. You could easily pick up a few more HDDs if you need more storage.
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May 17, 2010 7:05:28 AM

I started with MadAdmiral's advice, and listened to others (including JackNaylerPE) and mixed this up and fermented it in my brain and order the following parts which should be arriving soon:

CPU: i7-980X
Mobo: ASUS Rampage III Extreme
RAM: 2x Mushkin Enahnced Redline 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 6
GPU: EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (just one)
SSD: Intel X-25-M 160 GB SSD
HDD: 2 x Western Digital 1 TB RE3 WD1002FBYS (to be in a striped RAID array)
HDD: 1 x Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Green (for slower file storage - downloading from the web and such)
PSU: Antec TPQ-1200 1,200 watt
Case: Antec P183
Optical: Sony 6X Blu-Ray burner
HSF: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B (with 2 fans and compound and splitter cable)
OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OEM
Monitor: A Cintiq ux21 (from Amazon whenever it arrives!) + an inexpensive Samsung monitor

Total comes to around $6,500 but the Cintiq alone is $2,000.

Thanks to all who helped me. This machine promises to be extremely nice, mostly because of the good advice I've received here.
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D. Jay Newman
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
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May 17, 2010 7:09:00 AM

Best answer selected by dangerousthing.
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May 17, 2010 10:37:31 PM

This looks like an awesome build, but frankly im surprised. I've been looking into building a system myself, and have sifted through a ton of advice and not yet have i seen someone mention a render farm. Depending on how complex you're getting sending something off to the render farm or a dedicated rendering machine will allow you to work on something else until your render is done.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/render-farm-node,23...

just some food for thought, and good luck with your build, definitely a beast.
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May 17, 2010 11:30:40 PM

La-Z-CADtech said:
This looks like an awesome build, but frankly im surprised. I've been looking into building a system myself, and have sifted through a ton of advice and not yet have i seen someone mention a render farm. Depending on how complex you're getting sending something off to the render farm or a dedicated rendering machine will allow you to work on something else until your render is done.
...


I did think about building a render farm. For what I need using a farm is too expensive to build or buy. Maybe when I'm rendering out a finished animation I can rent some time on one. Or heck, by that time the nodes may come in crackerjack boxes. :) 

I thought about building a small render farm, but I didn't have the cash to split my build into a "working" computer and a render farm. And there are some interesting advances that involve building supercomputers out of GPUs which may be a real possibility in a few years.

Right now I'm using 3d graphics to keep me sane because I've become my wife's full-time caregiver because of a long-term illness with no end in sight. I'm not doing this professionally yet, though this may happen soon. Unfortunately it is difficult to earn a living selling Poser content. :( 

Again, I would like to thank everybody who helped.
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D. Jay Newman
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot. - Albert Einstein.
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May 28, 2010 5:04:16 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your wife. Hopefully everything goes well with your build, and don't forget you can always network any extra computers you have to aid in rendering.
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May 28, 2010 7:47:34 PM

Yes, I'll do that when needed. My current Windows Vista machine will probably go to Linux, and I can use my wife's Window's machine because she uses it only for email and the web. Background processing is wonderful.

I finally have all the parts and I still need to put most of it together. I have to figure out which order to put things together in so that I don't hide the ports I need to do later things...
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