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3D Modeling/Rendering/CAD Station for Architectural Design

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July 21, 2010 9:03:46 PM

Hello,

I would appreciate any help with configuring a system for my daughter, who is starting a Graduate Program in Architecture. I would like to get it done for her by the beginning of the school year, in September.

She would like to get a good system on which she can work for the next 4 years. Her budget is about $1300-$1500, excluding the displays. (She currently has 2 LCD monitors-22", which she will use with the new system, therefore we need to make sure the graphics card allows a double monitor setup.)

Fair Disclosure: I am conversant about computers, but *not* a strong techie! I am a middle aged--currently unemployed--engineer, I have a grasp of technical issues in general (I built myself 2 computers in my life), but most 20-year-olds would run circles around me when it comes to computer technology... Therefore, *please have patience*!

Here are the programs she expects to be running on this machine:

Office: MS Office, Browser, WinZIP, etc...
2D: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, AutoCAD
3D: Rhinoceros (with the Grasshopper plug-in for generative modeling), 3D Max, Maya, Modo
Rendering: Maxwell and Vray Plug-in for Rhino

Please note that this computer will be located in the school studio, therefore it is not very important how well it will perform for watching movies, playing games, or similar activities. This will be a workhorse, not an entertainment center...

Here is a system I built for myself in April of 2009, starting with a barebones kit offered by CompUSA. I use it mostly for AutoCAD, Revit and Photoshop work. We could consider it as a starting point, if you think it is worth it...

CASE: NZXT Tempest Blk ATX Mid Tower Case ($93.53)

MOTHERBOARD: Asus P6T Intel X58 Socket LGA1366 ($243.36)

CPU: Intel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz 8M LGA 1366 ($282.79) + $8.99 for Thermal Gel (Used Stock cooler)

HARD DRIVE: Seagate 1.5 TB Serial ATA 7200/32MB/SATA-3G (120.25)

POWER: Corsair TX750W ($103.53)

RAM: (2x) Corsair XMS3 6144 MB PC12800 DDR3 3x2048 (2x$108.26)

GRAPHICS: Sparkle GeForce 9600 GT 2GB PCIe w/Dual Link DVI (99.99)

CD/DVD: Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive SATA Model AD-7240S-0B-OEM (29.99)

OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit DSP OEM DVD ($150.00)

My cost was about $1350, then. (Shipping was about $60, no sales tax, therefore I ended up spending a little under $1500 after I bought a few missing cables, and a new mouse/keyboard.)

I would appreciate your input on the best way to configure a similar system, using updated parts, and with a bit more consideration towards optimizing it for the modeling/rendering programs mentioned above. If you think that the system above is overkill in certain areas, please feel free to suggest tradeoffs, especially if it helps us stay within budget, without meaningful loss of performance...

THANK YOU VERY MUCH! CAL

PS: If I omitted anything, please let me know. If you think any/some/all choices were crap, don't hesitate to say so... I would very much like to get my daughter the best system for her money. I would like to stay close within her budget, but --if justified-- I would be willing to contribute a little extra, but I am quite limited as I am currently unemployed. (On the bright side, I have the time to shop for deals and to assemble the system for her...)

C.

Best solution

July 21, 2010 9:12:05 PM

I'd go with something a bit more like this:

CPU/Mobo: i7-930 and Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R $485. A much cheaper and better board with a better CPU. The 930 is an upgraded 920. You can save a bundle on the CPU if you're near a Microcenter.
RAM: 2x Corsair XMS3 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $330 after rebate. RAM prices have skyrocketed...
GPU/OS: GTX 460 and OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W $220 after rebate. A much more powerful GPU.
Case/OS: Coolermaster Elite 335 and Windows 7 Home $130 after rebate. No reason to pay that much for a case. There's also no reason to shell out extra for anything above the Home edition.
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $75. A faster HDD. You could throw two of them in if she needs more space.
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $18

Total: $1,258
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July 21, 2010 11:14:10 PM

MadAdmiral said:
I'd go with something a bit more like this:

CPU/Mobo: i7-930 and Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R $485. A much cheaper and better board with a better CPU. The 930 is an upgraded 920. You can save a bundle on the CPU if you're near a Microcenter.
RAM: 2x Corsair XMS3 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $330 after rebate. RAM prices have skyrocketed...
GPU/OS: GTX 460 and OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W $220 after rebate. A much more powerful GPU.
Case/OS: Coolermaster Elite 335 and Windows 7 Home $130 after rebate. No reason to pay that much for a case. There's also no reason to shell out extra for anything above the Home edition.
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $75. A faster HDD. You could throw two of them in if she needs more space.
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $18

Total: $1,258



Thanks, MadAdmiral.

I appreciate your suggestions and look forward to any other opinion. BTW, you suggestion to go to the Microcenter was great. I checked their website and there are a few opportunities for savings, even beyond the prices you indicated.

Again, I look forward to any other opinions.

CAL
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July 22, 2010 12:44:27 AM

MadAdmiral, I find it interesting that you recommended the GTX460 earlier today and this afternoon I received an email from Tomshardware containing a newsletter that reviewed the 460 Fermi... I am impressed!
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July 22, 2010 3:35:52 AM

Microcenter is nice, but you can't buy online. That means its only an option if you're near one and you'll have to pay taxes. That often makes it more expensive. The Intel CPUs are a great buy there because they are usually a good $50-$100 cheaper there, which greatly out weighs the taxes.
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July 22, 2010 12:25:50 PM

EDIT: Comment removed.
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July 23, 2010 7:04:29 PM

In a private discussion, someone suggested that I should look at a Quatro video card, rather than a GeForce. Does anyone know if a Quatro is better than what has been suggested here? (Or, in case it is more expensive, if it would justify the extra $$.)

Thanks again for your help.

Best,

Cal
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July 23, 2010 8:30:49 PM

A Quadro is nVidia's business line. The cards are more suited to working, so it would be better for these uses. However, the prices are pretty steep on them. I don't think you'd be able to find one for around $200, but I could be wrong.

As for the price justification, I haven't seen any benchmarks between the two series of cards, so I can't really say if they're that good.
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July 29, 2010 2:22:55 AM

Thanks for all your imput. I am planning to start buying the parts. If you find any deals, I would appreciate if you let me know.

Best,

C.
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July 30, 2010 1:21:37 AM

Best answer selected by zzzagman.
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