I need to build a 3D workstation but can't afford £3000.00 just yet and by the time I can the Ivy Bridge may be out. So my solution is to settle for less in the meantime, aiming to spend as little as possible on a hard hitting system that can last me 6-12 months as a main PC and then later adapted to work as a home server/render node/NAS, whatever - perhaps even a dedicated gamer...
Anyway I have been on laptops for the past 3 yrs and haven't really done much to keep up with the technology. I'm not much of a gamer and I haven't really had cause to keep on the pulse, so it's hard not to get sucked into the hype...
Mainly I will be running 3D and media applications such as 3ds Max, Photoshop, Premier, After Effects and probably a couple of others along the line. From what I undertand none of these are hugely effected by GPU, apart from Viewport rendering in real time (Can anyone confirm or deny). This seems a pretty handy thing to have as I don't have access to a render farm or have much on my network at the mo that could be configured as such, so a GPU could improve workflow. If this is the case then I can't resist the temptation to buy a semi decent GPU and see what some of the games are like these days (Semi decent as opposed to say a Quadro 5000). In looking into GPUs I found that while 3ds max is only officially supported by the Quadro range, the GTX cards are much the same. According to a thread I read somewhere (sorry I can't find it again now, I'll keep trying) a guy had called nVidea to enquire about the Quadros and had been told that they are the same chipset as the GTX 5xx series but have further testing ect and are a much more reliable grade for workstation application (something like that). My conclusion is that if I'm doing a budget build, a GTX 580 should be fine for viewport rendering. ( I am aware that the Quadro series boasts many more features but then again so do Porsche, I'm still happy with my Golf).
So here we go;
CPU - i5 2400 (could be talked into a 2500 but not sure that it's worth the cost)
Mobo - ASUS P8H61 M Pro (Don't think it'll do SLI even though it has 2 PCIe 16x ports, annoyingly the nVidea SLI list doesn't include any of the 1155 Socket boards yet, even though I hear some are capable)
RAM - Corsair XMS3 1333 CL9 4GB x2
Primary HDD - WD Velociraptor 150GB (Cheaper than SSD and much better for applications that require swap space, ie 3ds Max)
Secondary HDD - Hypertec 3.2TB 7200rpm x2 (cheap n cheerfull)
GPU - Palit 3GB GeForce GTX 580
PSU - Antec Earthwatts 650W 80+ cert
Case - Coolermaster Gladiator 600
I would love to overclock but then one step higher at everypoint takes me higher and higher costwise and I'm looking at either an Ivy Bridge or an OC i72600k as soon as life allows me to, so I am trying to keep my knickers on for now..
If anyone has any comments about this selection of components then please, I would love to hear them. Processor, Mobo and GPU are playing on my mind - I may have gone too cheap on the first two, and perhaps too far on the GPU?
The reason for the massive cost increase in quadro's is actually for the drivers they come with. Those offer a significant performance increase. The other major change is that double precision floating point calculations are artificially capped to 1/4 speed in non quadro/tesla cards, though that one doesn't really affect you.
Also, in terms of cost/performance, the GTX 580 is a poor choice as well, a 570 would be a much better choice.
Don't bother with a raptor. They're an even worse value than SSD's in terms of cost for performance. Just use something like a spinpoint F3 which gives you better performance than a 150gb raptor at a fraction of the cost.
A spinpoint F4 is also a better 2tb drive. You can use your savings in GPU department to grab a 80gb SSD. A 80gb SSD is only $150 right now and if you get a deal, $130 is doable.
Thanks for your reply. I aim to get a Quadro and a Tesla later on, it before the Ivy Bridge then perhaps with an Asus WS Revolution board, but that is beside the point for now.
Noted on the GTX, cheers for that...
I am curious about your response to the HDD choice though. I based my decision largely on an article I found on Bit Tech., particularly this line:
"Clearly SSDs are great for data that is often read by seldom written, but you wouldn't want to keep your swapfile on one – longevity issues aside."
I'd appreciated it if you could explain why a Velociraptor would be a bad choice, as I understand 3ds Max to use the HDD for swap space once the RAM is full. I don't mean to argue, I would just like to hear the reason...
Sadly I'm in the UK, so I don't think that price isn't available to me... It does look nice though I'd want more storage space. I'll keep this build in mind for my 2nd PC purchase later in the year, many thanks for that...
I have been doing some more research on the high speed HDD vs SSD debate and I wonder if someone could tell me why there seem to be conflicting benchmarks re the raptor vs F3, (ie bit tech news seem to say one or the other is faster, depending on the day). Also from what I understand the SSD argument is more or less one of luxury, boot and application start ups are much faster, but when you consider the cost of around £2/GB (starting price) is it valuable? I mean I only start my PC once or twice a day in normal conditions and then once I open the applications I sit on them all day long - So should I pay $150 odd for a decent sized SSD or just go for a piss after I hit the power button?
You can't compare HDDs with SSDs in any way. SSDs are the ones who give great response to your system and the ones who will make you feel the real difference between your old crapy pc and your new one..As for HDDs perfomance is very very close with the classic ones (7200rpm, 16-32MB Cache). Raptors are the fastest from HDD's but they can't reach the speed of an SSD. The point is that you get a good SSD for storage (Intel,Corsair NOT OCZ) and as many as Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB you want..Don't get the 2TB one cause it runs with 5400rpm which makes him slower..Give me links of UK Shops to see what I can do..
OK cheers for that. So if I were to have an SSD dedicated to OS & applications (that seems to be the trend) how do I work out how how big a drive I need? I imagine there is no way to tell exactly(as you can often adjust or move swap space ect) but at a rough estimate for 3dsmax or media applications, what sort of percentage of the SSD would I want to leave free for swap space?
The two main flaws I have seen in the SSD introduction were the first sandforce adaptor, which I understand bottlenecked early write times, hence the bad reviews; and the way the SSD deletes files - whereby memory was simply flagged as blank but then had to be cleared immediately prior to rewriting it. From what I gather these problems have now been solved (I was reading about TRIM, dunno if that is brand specific or not, but the tech is there)
If that is true it means 2 things- I have understood most of what I have been reading (ROAR) and there are a fair number of SSDs on the market that must be avoided like the plague. Is that right and if so how do we identify the wheat from the chaff?
Here are 3 of the top UK shops that I am aware of, I personally like Lambdatek but I don't have a tshirt or anything...
Unless you do lots of tweaking
System restore- 5gb
Page file- 4gb
Hibernation support -2gb
Unless you junction- games install/save lots of stuff onto main drive-
so another 2-4gb.
Temp files and other stuff that builds up over time-~2gb after a few months
Spare space to maintain SSd performance- SF1200 12% of total space or 7.7gb
total before games:50-56gb.
So yea, stuff adds up fast. 64gb means basically, 1 game or CS5 and no games.
Drive choice wise intel has the best reliability, SF 1200 has better performance assuming compressible data, SF 2000 has the best performance period, but high cost and uses SATA III. Also doesn't actually give much real world difference.
My idea for an OC i7 was based on the ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/P8P6... It's in stock here as of next month at around £70 pounds more than the Gigabyte Z68 mentioned above. It appeals to me because of the Tesla support and therefor upgrade ability, is it a good value board in comparison to the Z68? By that I mean, is it still a good value board at £70 more, given the added capabilities?
Also given that I'll now be running an SLI capable Mobo, is it better to spend alot on one GPU or run two lesser GPUs in SLI?
Thanks again guys, clearly my Google skills need work hahaha
Can you guys recommend any sites that are good for on the pulse info or is it just a case of regularly trawling?
Tom's here is pretty good, though like many other heavily corporate dependent sites, they rarely give definitive answers and tend to not really critique stuff too hard. Other good review sites are Anandtech, bit-tech, Hardocp, benchmark reviews, hardware secrets and kitguru. Jonnyguru is the go to place for PSU reviews.