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3D game art workstation getting upgraded

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June 20, 2010 4:42:51 PM

Sorry for the long post, heh-heh. :D 

Hi folks! I'm a 3D freelance artist, and I primarily work on real time game art and environments. Several years ago I came here looking for tips on my first build in a while, a nice little Intel Core 2 Quad system with 8GB of RAM, and you guys were very helpful. I've slowly upgraded it over the years (went from 9800 GTX SLI to GTX 285 2GB, added WD Black hard drive, added Intel SSD boot drive, went from Vista 64-bit to Windows 7 64-bit, etc), but my core components are finally starting to show some age. Honestly, the computer is still extremely fast, but when you're working with game art you have to have the ability to crank everything to 100% so you can see your work at full quality.

I was aiming to upgrade my CPU, RAM, motherboard and graphics card in August, which would make a full 2-year life cycle for my core components. But, last week I snagged an EVGA GTX 480 for about $380 thanks to a deal from slickdeals.net. It's now severely bottlenecked by my CPU, so I think I'm going to take the plunge and upgrade everything else now as well.

Here is my current setup:

Quote:
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Coolermaster Cosmos S Full tower case
XFX 780i SLI Motherboard
Intel Q9450 Quad Core CPU (2.66ghz) overclocked to 3.4ghz with Zalman cooler
8GB DDR2 Corsair RAM

EVGA GTX 480 graphics card (Fermi)
EVGA 9800 GTX (for physics calculations and my third screen)
Creative X-Fi Titanium PCI Express sound card
Intel X25-M 80GB Solid State hard drive
640GB Western Digital Black Edition hard drive
2x WD 500GB server hard drives in a RAID 1 backup array
Thermaltake Toughpower 850 watt modular power supply

750GB USB 2.0 external hard drive
500GB USB 2.0 external hard drive
1TB USB 2.0/eSATA hard drive with docking station for backups

4x extra fans for a total of about 8 case fans
Custom heatshrink and nylon tubed cable management

Dell 23" IPS style LCD @1920x1080 (full 8-bit color)
Samsung 23" LCD @ 1920x1080
Sceptre 23" 720p HDTV

Logitech 5.1 Surround sound
AmbX LCD Lighting System (x2)

The bolded items are what I want to switch out. I'm planning on moving to a 1566 i7 system and overclocking the CPU to about 4.0ghz.

I already ordered the Corsair H50 water cooler for the CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU: Intel Core i7-930 Bloomfield 2.8GHz

Motherboard: EVGA E758-TR 3-Way SLI (x16/x16/x8) LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard

RAM: Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800 6-8-6-24 Ridgeback

Besides the 3D game art, I also do traditional graphic design as well as high-poly 3D visualizations, so this system will be constantly pushed to its limits.

What do you guys think? This is already pushing my budget to the max, but I think it will be a good investment.

More about : game art workstation upgraded

June 20, 2010 7:10:02 PM

Not much to say here good choice of parts although the h50 is debatable but thats already too late.

As for the mobo I'd go with the newer For The Win mobo. It's simply a replacement of the one you listed with some issues worked out and usb3 and SATAIII added.
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June 20, 2010 7:18:39 PM

although you might want to rethink your upgrade IMO those compnents you have there are still top notch. Are you sure your cpu is a bottleneck? I'm not experienced with 3d work but that is a good cpu though.

You might want to hold off a year or two more and wait for the sandy bridge cpu's like the 6-core B2. It won't come cheap but it will be far more than twice as fast as a 930
June 20, 2010 10:02:25 PM

Hey somebody, thanks for your input!

I chose the H50 as I've had a few coworkers try it out, and they loved it. It seems to be a popular choice for i7s as well.

I thought about going for the USB 3.0/SATA 6 FTW board, but neither of those features are important enough to me to justify the significant price difference. There also seem to be some issues with the current BIOS for that board: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

My CPU is the bottleneck of my current system, but that doesn't mean it's weak. :D  I've benchmarked a few games, and in Crysis and Bad Company 2 my CPU is maxed out while my GTX 480 has trouble breaking 45% in Bad Company. The 3D applications that I use are generally completely multi-threaded as well, so moving to an i7 will give my 8 threads vs. 4, plus the speed increase. I am also the master of multi-tasking, haha.

Waiting another year or two would definitely make my current CPU feel extremely sluggish, although 6 cores (Mmm, 12 threads) would be great. Is Intel going to being those to the current 1366 socket?
June 21, 2010 1:17:15 AM

They do have a 6-core for the 1366. Too pricey though:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I wouldn't expect a Sandybridge chip to make it to the 1366 socket. AMD has cheaper 6-cores. Reviews seemed mixed.

Anyway, I have an H50 on my 930 and I'm happy with it. I've been lugging my desktop computer back and fourth across the state twice a week and I'm glad I don't have a heavy air cooler tugging on my mobo. I'm also thankful for the video card support bracket that came with my computer case.

Checked your webpage. Nice work. I'm a Virginian too. :) 
June 21, 2010 1:56:12 AM

Thanks burtzum! I think I'm going to take the i7 930 leap; it should last me at least as long as my Q9450 has.

Good to see another Virginian cranking out game art! I think you can take the "aspiring" off though, your concept work is excellent. :)  If you haven't heard it it already, check out www.polycount.com. It's a great game art website made up of a lot of professionals as well as hobbyists. I always get great feedback as well as inspiration from there.
June 21, 2010 11:18:27 AM

Neh that's the problem 1366 is getting out of date. Intel's sandy and Ivy bridge cpu's will be on the new 1356 and 1155 sockets which natively support light-peak, usb3.0 and SATAIII.

Also multithreading is kind of overrated. If you have 8 intensive threads running a quad core or a similar quad core with hyperthreading will perform very much the same. Dividing cores only has a use if you have cores that aren't maxed out and more threads running than you have cores. Which isn't a very common senario.

And as for the 930 it will be I think a 50percent improvement maybe a little more considering you have an h50 over you're 9450. Where as the sandy bridge B2 will be at least twice as fast without OC and with maybe 3. It also has four channel memory. Although I think you can expect it to be priced high probably at 980 range.

Your money your choice just make sure whatever you chose you won't regret it :D .
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