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Where to Start?

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September 10, 2010 4:07:26 PM

I am going to build my own computer. So the question is, where do I start?

It seems to make the most sense to start with the motherboard and go from there. My research tells me there is a ton of options on the market for just about everything. From the motherboard down to the case.

This is what I do know:
1. I would like to build a computer for GPU rendering; two video cards. One for display, then other for rendering.
2. Performance & speed is a must.
3. I would like to use an ATX Case.
4. Will have computer connected to one HD monitor.
5. Would like too use an Intel processor.
6. Would like to install programs to SSD.

Since everything connects
to the motherboard, it seems to me this is a critical component. And that the performance of all the other hardware is contingent on the motherboard.

With that said, and given so many options on the market, how do I begin to determine what the best components are for my system? How do I know if a component(s) will work well with the motherboard, in terms of speed & performance, and each other?

Price at this time is not my concern at this time (but I would like to keep it close to $2,000.00) Determining what components work the best with each other is my biggest concern right now. Once I know how to do that, then I will select hardware based on what I can afford. Starting with the motherboard and going from there.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sincerely,
Billy Raygun

More about : start

a c 716 V Motherboard
September 10, 2010 4:13:19 PM

Total Budget $2,000. Describe "Rendering" to me - exactly what is the purpose of the rig?

X58 rig (what not to do) but will work:
CPU: i7 950
MOBO: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 (rev. 2.0) or ASUS Rampage III Extreme
RAM: 6GB (2GBx3) DDR3/1600MHz (Corsair Dominator)
FAN: Corsair H70
HDD1: 128 GB Kingston 2.5 inch SATA Gaming MLC SSD
HDD2-3: (1TBx2) {Hitachi or Samsung / TLER} RAID 1 SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 32MB Cache 7200RPM HDD

VIDEO: TBD

PSU: Corsair 850 Watts CMPSU-850TX or TBD
CASE: CoolerMaster 690 II Advanced
DVD: LG 22X DVD±/±RW + CD-R/RW Dual Layer or BR TBD
OS: Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)

X1CPU Xeon rig: {will be outside of your price range, but great for rendering}
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September 10, 2010 4:35:40 PM

Here is the rendering program I want to use - http://www.refractivesoftware.com/index.php.

Everything is modeled in 3D, exported as a Wavefront OBJ file (mesh) and imported into Octane. One video card will be dedicated to rendering and the other for display.

What I'm trying to understand is how do I know what components to put together? For example, how do you know the Corsair ram is best for a Gigabyte Mobo?

How do I know if I need Cas Latency 9 or 10? These are the question I don't know how to answer when looking at part options.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
September 10, 2010 4:49:45 PM

^ I've built that exact system so I know it works, but not really a Rendering rig and I build 1-2 $6-$14K systems a month incl 3-D rigs. Tweaking on GPU or PSU isn't any issue.

You need a FULL SPEC SYS: What I will do but it will take an hour or two is see what Xeon system I can put together.

Q - {only a question} to save money are knowledgeable enough or interested in re-flashing a GPU; meaning via BIOS converting a "consumer GPU" -> "Pro GPU"?
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a c 716 V Motherboard
September 10, 2010 5:47:30 PM

The initial CERTIFIED build came to $2,538 USD, all components have been cross-checked and verified by SUPERMICRO WS specs. This is a Pro WS sytem. You can choose a lesser CPU to save some additional money. In addition, I did not use an SSD but instead a RAID 10 array HDD. SUPERMICRO supports on-board RAID which shouldn't require >3% CPU, but RAID 5 support should always be done on a Dedicated RAID Controller w/battery backup {good ones are $700+}.

799.99 CPU Intel Xeon E5640 Westmere 2.66GHz 12MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 80W Quad-Core Server Processor BX80614E5640 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
404.99 GPU1 PNY VCQFX1800-PCIE-PB Quadro FX 1800 768MB 192-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
139.99 GPU2 PNY VCQ295NVS-X16-DVI-PB Quadro NVS 295 256MB 64-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 Workstation Video Card http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
249.99 MOBO SUPERMICRO MBD-X8SAX-O LGA http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
168.99 RAM Kingston ValueRAM 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
129.99 RAID 10 Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
129.99 RAID 10 Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
129.99 RAID 10 Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
129.99 RAID 10 Western Digital RE3 WD1002FBYS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
34.99 DVD1 HP HPDVD1270I Multiformat DVD Writer - DVD+R 24X, DVD-R 24X, DVD+RW 8X, DVD-RW 6X, DVD-RAM 12X, SATA, Lightscribe
89.99 CASE COOLER MASTER RC-692-KKN2 CM690 II Advanced Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
129.99 PSU CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2 / EPS12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready Active PFC Power Supply http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

X NO OS

2538.88

Footnote: one concern noted is the BIOS version you get shipped on the MOBO - Xeon E5640 Westmere was released Q1 2010, but it is indeed in the 5600 family {Intel® Xeon® 5600/5500/3600/3500 }. Meaning if unsupported a working CPU would be required to update BIOS. BIOS info is unavailable online.
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a b B Homebuilt system
September 10, 2010 7:28:36 PM

I know this machine is going to look just like any regular PC from the outside, but boy are the components foreign. Was wondering why pay the extra money - there is lower wattage on the Xeon chips, but are there any other advantages? Its LGA 1366, why not just drop in an i7-950 for $500 less.

I have no idea why the choice of Graphics cards, but trust it has to do with the software. The graphics boards look like they will fit into any old ASUS or Gygabyte mobo - Why go with supermicro? The memory has a heat sensor, but other than that and being a slower, it does not appear any different than any other memory I might choose.

Not trying to be critical here, just want to understand. I am sure there are good reasons for buying server configurations for individual workstations. They just aren't apparent to this amatuer dabbler.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
September 10, 2010 7:37:56 PM

eloric said:
Not trying to be critical here, just want to understand. I am sure there are good reasons for buying server configurations for individual workstations. They just aren't apparent to this amatuer dabbler.

^ The purpose is a 3D Rendering Workstation, and not a gaming rig. In addition there are 2 GPUs and 4 HDDs requiring the additional sized PSU. I wish it were that easy to just "stick stuff in" but it is not, and Workstations, non-Jerry-Rigged anyway, need to be built to spec and use certified parts.
Regarding the CPU: {there's more to it, ECC, 40-bit vs 36-bit, etc - All aides in reducing rendering time & time = money.
QPI [4.80 GT/s] i7 950 - http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=37150
QPI [5.86 GT/s] Xeon E5640 - http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=47923
billyraygun said:
Here is the rendering program I want to use - http://www.refractivesoftware.com/index.php .
Everything is modeled in 3D, exported as a Wavefront OBJ file (mesh) and imported into Octane. One video card will be dedicated to rendering and the other for display.
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September 11, 2010 3:51:39 AM

Jaquith,

Thanks for the components list. I didn't mean for you to actually go through the entire process of specifying a rig. However, I really do appreciate. Looks great!

What I was trying to ask is how does an amateur know what parts to call out like you just did? For example, why did you choose raid over ssd?

Why not a 2gb video card? Or how did you know the rig needed a 850 watt power supply and not 750?

Don't get me wrong, i really do appreciate your feedback. I'm just trying to understand the science (or art) behind your selections.

Another example; octane requires a powerful video card for GPU rendering. Is having more stream processors more important than memory and how do I find or test that out before buying?

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a c 716 V Motherboard
September 11, 2010 6:29:37 AM

billyraygun said:
What I was trying to ask is how does an amateur know what parts to call out like you just did? For example, why did you choose raid over ssd?

On a Workstation you really need someone to guide you it is a tedious chore. The MOBO I chose actually is the same Tomshardware uses to post many of the benchmarks, and most WS are not spec'd for SSD use. Clearly, with few exceptions most of the SATA2 will indeed work. One issue with SSD is they have poor Write speeds and have a fixed Write limit, not to mention $/GB. They are great for gaming and servers for outputting data; this is not your case. Whereas, the RAID 10 offers the combined Read/Write splitting one array as 0's the other as 1's {effectively doubling speed} but each drive has a backup in case of failure and as RAID 10 the 1TB offers you 2TB of storage + real-time backup. In comparision to SSD the RAID 10 will be negligibly slower in Read but twice as fast for Writes. Monetarily, a small 128GB ($350) + 1TB HDD/non-redundant ($130) ~ near wash in cost, but you're chasing down 2 drive locations for data; nice on paper but a pain in reality.

billyraygun said:
Why not a 2gb video card? Or how did you know the rig needed a 850 watt power supply and not 750?

It is all about budget you can change any of those CUDA cards as you need. They are unequal per your specs and non SLI capable. Regarding the PSU I am trying to keep the load at 50-60% and the Corsair's offer a single rail + Japanese capacitors which are the best combo to have. Example a cheap PSU if faulted can destroy your MOBO, CPU and/or GPUs - so I ask is $30 worth $3,000 investment. Too many times I see PSUs blowing $500 GPUs. My current SR-2 build w/2X Xeon X5670 4-WAY SLI requires 2,000W - 2,400W+; some builders are using 3,000W (2X 1,500W PSUs).

{779.99 (+$375 to budget)} Quadro 4000 2GB (non SLI) - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
{1,779.99 (+$1,375 to budget)} Quadro 5000 2.5GB (SLI) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

billyraygun said:
Don't get me wrong, i really do appreciate your feedback. I'm just trying to understand the science (or art) behind your selections.

This build science. Art+Science->About 8 years ago a State-of-the-art "Media Center" the first PC I built {Dual CPU WS crammed in an aluminum HTPC format, HDTV + recording, PIP S-TV, and DVD authoring - Camcorder to render on the first Sony DL-DVD}. Current build is a 4-WAY SLI/2 Xeon/SR-2. After that friends refer builds all of the time, but I own a REO/IDX enterprise database company and this is purely a hobby. To me it is a puzzle solving hobby activity and building creative PCs {years of experience} - yours is interesting to me.

billyraygun said:
Another example; octane requires a powerful video card for GPU rendering. Is having more stream processors more important than memory and how do I find or test that out before buying?

To answer your question, the rendering is paramount, but to perform its work it needs an "optimized environment" otherwise it's like a Porsche with an anchor dragging; available bandwidth + a slew of I/O + architecture efficiency {CPU utilizes the new 32 nm core}.

You can easily spend $3,000/GPU in a snap of a finger; maybe you need to reevaluate the budget. If stripped-down an X58/i7 to its bare bones say $500 less and pumped that $500 into the GPU it would NOT outperform as above. The Pro GPUs work more efficiently on the Xeon CPUs, because their supported drivers are optimized typically for Xeon. Even a GPU centric render app still requires to "be fed" and "output" as quickly as possible. You're not going to magically get a $1,500 GPU into a $2,000 or $2,500 system. If you make a living from this then you know all too well the cost of rendering.

Your memory is configured minimally, but adequately. The Octanerender documentation is poor, and if there's something more to know post it here. You might want to forward this link to their support department for their opinion which counts the most.

Highend rendering Workstations can cost $15,000 - $20,000+, and racks $100's of thousands. Clearly, increasing the budget is a function of your time to money evaluation.

Clearly, it's easy to get everything you need or want if there's no limit in spending. Can a "better" system be built "yes" for the same money no way - frankly I was surprised I even came close. An HP similar WS would cost twice the price.

HP Z800 {no GPU/1 320GB HDD} $4,199 - http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF06b/12454-124...

I hope this answers your post - Good Luck!
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a b B Homebuilt system
September 12, 2010 5:40:19 AM

Fascinating insight to a whole different side of computing. Thank you for sharing, jaquith.
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September 12, 2010 10:29:03 PM

Wow. Very informative. Thank you very much! I am sure I'll have more questions later but this will get me started.

Thank you again!
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a c 716 V Motherboard
September 13, 2010 7:38:23 PM

Regarding the GPU I was referred to http://www.nvidia.com/object/cuda_gpus.html

I indeed did read "If you are interested in purchasing a new graphics card to use with Octane Render, the Geforce GTX470 or GTX 480 currently have the best Performance to Price ratio."

It's not my place to argue, but in the i7/X58 arena maybe but in the Xeon all I know is the Quadro FX or Tesla have optimized drivers that work better and faster {Quadro ≠ GTX GPU Same Model} with Render speeds + Quality. As I mentioned very early on you "can" re-flash consumer GPUs {cheat}. The Quadro FX or Tesla series is blessing and a "screwing" all-in-one they do have optimized bin/faster bandwidth H/W & some added specialty H/W in some models - BUT a lot of the cost is for the Drivers.
Before:
"Q - {only a question} to save money are knowledgeable enough or interested in re-flashing a GPU; meaning via BIOS converting a "consumer GPU" -> "Pro GPU"?"

What I would strongly recommend is to ask Refractive Software to provide various CPUs & GPUs & OS (Windows 7 64 bit / Linux 64 bit) -> Render benchmarks with Octanerender - this is the only conclusive answer. I don't want to second guess their software. I could provide benchmark links, but it's a case of Apple's & Oranges; one place for general render info - http://www.spec.org/

@sp12 - mentioned a less expensive CPU, and I have no problem with that suggestion. I did not look to verify compatibility, but is an E5600-series and should be fine. It will have "some" impact on render FPS - guessing 5+ FPS.

Good Luck!
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