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Starter 3D Graphics Workstation

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September 11, 2010 11:00:35 PM

OK after over a year and a half of research study and asking "silly" questions, about to embark on my first ever home-build. Have all the components ready to go just have to sit down & plug them all together but still have “cold feet” about jumping headlong into this.

As noted in the additional comments below this is intended strictly as (what I consider) a “starter” 3D production workstation (modelling, rendering, animation and 2D postwork) using mid level applications like Carrara8Pro, Bryce7Pro, and Blender as well as the “lowly” but still very useful Daz Studio Advanced. The system is designed with upgrade and expansion in mind as I am on a limited income and can’t just drop 4000$ on a High End workstation like the one outlined in the Best Configs stckies above.

So, here are the specs:

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Already Purchased

BUDGET RANGE: 1,500 – 1,600USD Before Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: 3D graphics modelling/modelling, 2D postwork

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com , Frys (store)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES:

CPU: Intel Core i7-930 Bloomfield 2.8GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80601930

Intel i7 930 Newegg

Motherboard: ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard.

Asus P6T Newegg

Memory: CORSAIR XMS3 12GB (6 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model HX3X12G1333C9

Corsair XMS3 Newegg

Graphics: SPARKLE SXX4601024D5UNM GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card

Sparkle GTX460 Newegg

HDD (1): Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3250318AS 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

Seagate 250GB HDD Newegg

HDD (2): Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA 7200 RPM Hard Drive - ST31000528AS (bought for using as an external HDD, never taken out of the box)

Seagate 1TB HDDD Frys

PSU: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply

CMPSU-750TX Newegg

Case: Antec P193 Gunmetal Gray Aluminum / Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Aatec P193 Frys

OVERCLOCKING: No

SLI: Not at this time.

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080

Have a loaner for now (Samsung 19” LCD). Considering the following but have to wait until next payday

Viewsonic VP2365wb 23" LCD Professional Series with IPS panel technology

Viewsonic 23" 2365wb IPS panel display Frys

Will be purchasing locally at Frys as this something I really don't feel comfortable leaving in the hands of UPS/FedEx.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Though the Antec P193 is listed as a "Mid Tower", it is gigantic. It’s totally open uncluttered interior with no obstructions to reaching the MB for servicing/upgrading is a huge plus. Furthermore the extra room means components are not crowded together and bodes well for superior airflow. As this is not intended for gaming there is no need for an exotic aftermarket cooling system. I had been looking at the CoolerMaster ACTS 840 but Frys didn't carry it in "in store". As with the monitor above, I felt leery about having it shipped across country after reading enough "horror stories".

This was actually the first case I intended to get whne I set out on this project. Seems the wait was well worth it as it knocked over 50$ off the price (originally 200USD). I am very impressed with the rock solid construction (no flimsy plastic components) and professional appearance.

This system is what I like to call a “starter” workstation that deigned for expansion/upgrading as needs grow and finances allow.

The decision to go with the GTX460 over my original idea for a Quadro FX580 came after reading the white paper on the Fermi architecture and also software VRAM requirements. This particular model of 460 is noted for it’s cool and quiet performance. To get a similar level of performance form the current Quadro series would require going to an FX3800 at over 700USD, not quite in the budget at this time.

Future plans on the upgrade list (besides an increase in RAM) is a move up to the Fermi Quadro 4000 with 2GB DDR5. For about 100USD more than the FX3800 mentioned above it is a significant improvement over the older Quadro GPUs. Another planned upgrade will be moving up to a hyperthreading six core CPU (i7 or Xeon as they both are LGA1366). The 930 and GTX460 will then become the core of my first “render box” that will network to the main system.
September 13, 2010 6:16:47 AM

How about these combos ?
i7 950 + ASUS Sabertooth X58 + Antec P183
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

RAM - IMO go with 3x 4GB instead of 6x 2GB...Will allow for more RAM later on...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU + Graphics card -
Gigabyte GTX 460 + Corsair 650HX - Modular hence less clutter, also it can easily power even 2x GTX 460s...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

HDD - You might want to go with Samsung F3 or the WD Black for the main drive...Recently Seagate drives have been failing more than normal...

Monitor - IMO Dell has very good IPS monitors...
http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/products/Displays/pr...
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September 13, 2010 8:31:13 AM

would suggest an ssd

dramatically decrease program loading times, and make the computer more responsive.

even though they are expensive you'd be spending about 150 dollars for a 60GB one, is enough space for windows and programs

like http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

with the ram i would have to say get 6 GB of faster ram

like http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... thats much faster and can be upgraded to 12gb, i really dont think

i dont know if you need to spend 150 dollars on a case, there are plenty of great cases for 100, but its your choice.

+1 for the corsair 650-HX, the 950, the sabertooth
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September 13, 2010 3:00:54 PM

...looked at SSDs but really not in the budget right now. I see them as being more appropriate for a notebook as that gets moved around and jostled more. (actually considering replacing the current drive in my notebook with an SSD) The immediate response time is not all that critical as I am not using the system for gaming.

As to the RAM, the P6T supports only 1333mHz without overclocking. Had an overclocked system suddenly burn out on me before (taking a lot of of work with it), so not interested in pursuing that route any more. Also don't really see the need for doing so as this will primarily be used for modelling, composing, and rendering static scenes.

For the case, actually ended up with an Antec P193 that I found new on sale for 145USD. This was actually my first choice for the case as I like the rugged all steel construction and unobstructed access to the motherboard. One reason I wanted a roomy case is to promote better airflow without the need for an exotic after market cooling system. The other is that I have arthritis and it is difficult for me to get into really tight or contorted spaces. With the P193 everything is right there in the open.
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September 14, 2010 8:52:33 AM

get the asus sabre tooth instead of the p6t it supports the faster ram
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September 14, 2010 3:01:48 PM

...while I appreciate the suggestions, I guess I should have clarified things a little more. The "Now" I originally had I had in Date of Purchase really meant I already had the components. The OP has been edited to reflect this.

I gave myself a working budget of 1,500USD. Many of the components I selected were based on discussion with other individuals involved in 3D CG. I will be back later to discuss the details as I have to clock in for the day job.
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September 14, 2010 8:40:02 PM

...OK some background

the choice to go with the i7 930 and ASUS P6T was due tothe fact it was a bundle deal. The only other i7/MB bundles available at the time of purchase were for the i7 800 series and 970/980 Extreme 6 core. The latter would have just about used up my entire budget.

My understanding, based on what I read on the 3D forums, is that going with faster memory than what I have would not really improve application and rendering performance significantly enough to warrant the additional expense.

Of course the idea was to come in under budget, which I did (components with case totaled about 1350USD before rebates). As I am on a fairly limited income I had to approach this from a budget minded perspective.

Considering that for the last three years I have been working on a 32 bit Duo Core notebook with an Intel 945GM chipset, I see this build as a significant step up.

As to the monitor, that is one item I have yet to purchase. I am leaning towards the IPS panel as over a standard LCD display as it has a much crisper picture and more accurate colour. True, the response is slower than a standard LCD unit, but again for my purposes that is not as much a factor as it would be for someone into games.
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September 14, 2010 8:47:49 PM

i would get the ips moniter if you are a dedicated 3d modeller you will get a better picture

1 of my friends is a professional photographer he has 2 moniters 1 dell and a IPS cant remember the make but you could see a huge difference between the two screens

if you are happy to pay the premium by all means by the IPS

the response time won't make an ounce of difference for 3d modeling u might see a little bit of delay in fps games but as you said that is not what you are using it for
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September 14, 2010 8:55:08 PM

If you're into production tasks an IPS monitor is pretty much a must. TN are 6-bit panels incapable of actually showing all 16.7 million basic colors.
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September 15, 2010 3:49:15 AM

...thank you.

I am very impressed with the crispness of the image quality.

The ironic thing, when I was at Frys they had the Viewsonic IPS monitor next to the Samsung I was considering with both on the same demo loop and I could really see the difference. True, a 110USD difference in price, which is why I decided to wait until I had another payday under the belt before deciding.
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September 17, 2010 4:06:23 AM

...OK since I have all the pieces, now comes the "really icky part": putting it all together. While having proper tools are important, my major concern is what precautions need to be taken to insure a successful build without frying something.
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September 24, 2010 2:48:31 AM

gkay09 said:
This thread would be of some help...
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/274745-31-step-step-g...

Also initially breadboarding would be good idea before assembling the components into the case to see if the main parts are working fine...
If you run into any issues,...
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-perform-ste...

...thank you for the links. Saved the Step by Guide and Boot/Video Problems pages so I can read them offline. Static is a concern, however I do live in the US Pacific Northwest and normally have to use a dehumidifier in my flat as it is partly below ground. Still may err on the overcautious side and get a "D-Stat" band anyway, small price considering the investment I have made.

A little at a loss as to what "bread-boarding" entails.

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September 24, 2010 3:41:15 AM

^ Bread-boarding is is assembling the components(minimal and main parts - i.e., CPU, mobo, RAM, graphics card or onboard graphics) outside the case preferably on an insulated surface like card-board so as to see if the main parts are working fine...
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September 24, 2010 3:45:55 AM

You really shouldn't have gotten the GTX 460, you should have gotten a quadro... gtx 460 is 100% pointless for this build.
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September 24, 2010 4:29:09 AM

^ Well I wouldn't say that...though the desktop cards wont perform as good as the workstation counterparts, but CUDA still works good with those too...
And Older Quadro apart from the new series are slower, so when Nvidia launches the low-end workstation version of the Fermi, then it would be a good option to upgrade to...
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September 24, 2010 5:11:34 AM

...gkay09, thanks for the clarification.

-----

For a long time I was looking at the Quadro line, but to get a full GB of VRAM, I would have needed to plunk down over 700USD (FX3800) which was nearly half my budget and would have set the build project back about another eight months.

The more GPU memory available for apps like CarraraPro and Vue, the better they perform in OpenGL mode during scene setup. Camera moves and transitions are smoother and shaders/textures more accurate (Carrara8Pro has a fully shaded setting that almost looks as if it is rendered).

The FX580 was the only Quadro GPU that fit my price range however it only has 512MB VRAM which is "borderline" for C8Pro and Vue.

Consider too that I am transitioning from a system that has the Intel 945GM integrated graphics chipset so in that respect, the GTX460 is still a major step up.

Also, as I am not running any of the high level apps like 3DS, Cinema4D, CS5, or Maxwell Render (yet) the cost for one of the higher performance Quadro FX models really could not be justified.

I am considering the Fermi Quadro 4000 as an upgrade but the 900USD price tag says that will have to wait until at least next year (and when I'm in the market for an application that can take full advantage of what it offers).
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September 24, 2010 5:17:34 AM

^ Like I said, Nvidia will surely be launching newer Fermi based budget workstation cards, so upgrade to them later...
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