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Sub $1000 workstation: self-build or school discount?

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February 19, 2012 6:18:21 PM

Hi, :hello: 

I'm trying to replace my ailing lap-top (Lenovo w500) with a new desktop. I will be using it primarily for 3d modelling, drafting, and rendering. I primarily use Catia, Rhino, Vray, Autocad, and Adobe Creative Suite. I prefer to have a couple of these open in addition to iTunes. My school has an academic discount with Dell, so I'm conflicted between the relative advantages of that with building my own.

I have priced out a home build on Newegg trying to stay in the same ballpark as the Dell. I am trying to get this sorted in the next month or so. Here are the two setups:

School Dell:

OptiPlex 990 SFF Workhorse
- 512MB AMD RADEON HD 6350 (2 DVI)
- 8X DVD+/-RW with Roxio & Cyberlink PowerDVD
- 3 YR Next Business Day Onsite Service
- Upgrade to 500GB 7200rpm Hard Drive
- Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- (Req. 64-bit OS) Upgrade to 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
- Upgrade to Intel Core i7 2600 Processor (3.4GHz, 8M)

total with 3 year on site warranty/service: $915.75

Newegg Build:
- Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) 1GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- G.SKILL Value Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W ATX12V V2.2 PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- HP FQ480AA#ABA Black 2.4GHz Wireless Standard Elite Keyboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- LiteOn DVD Burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

total with all available newegg warranties: $971.14


I don't need a monitor or a mouse.

My reasons for going with the dell are the convenience of the warranty/service and the smaller form-factor. My reasons for going with the home build are obviously a slight bump in performance and more control of the components. Opinions?

(edited to add component links)

More about : 1000 workstation build school discount

February 19, 2012 8:08:15 PM

It depends on your technical skills. If YOUR computer has a problem, you'll have to get help in troubleshooting and fixing the problem. If the DELL goes bad, you can get their help under the warranty.

Having said that, building a system is not that difficult.
I would recommend a larger PSU, here, for example.
And a higher-speed RAM, your board supports up to 2100MHz.
February 19, 2012 8:16:28 PM

treefrog07 said:
It depends on your technical skills. If YOUR computer has a problem, you'll have to get help in troubleshooting and fixing the problem. If the DELL goes bad, you can get their help under the warranty.

Having said that, building a system is not that difficult.
I would recommend a larger PSU, here, for example.
And a higher-speed RAM, your board supports up to 2100MHz.


The only reason to go with Dell is if you don't have a lot of technical experience. Building a computer isn't hard - supporting it is. The bad thing about going with Dell is that they don't use standard form factors - they use a lot of proprietary hardware that's made to fit their cases and it will make upgrading difficult and in some cases near impossible.

But don't get RAM above 1600 - despite that the motherboard will claim to support up to 2100MHz, most only go up to 1600 and that speed is achieved through overclocking (but OC'ing your RAM is quite dangerous) - most motherboards will default to the lowest speeds and timings they can handle.

That self build is quite good, but I'd drop the i7-2600 to the i5-2400 - invest that difference in getting a better PSU, something like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... or this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

And switch out your GPU with this - it will cost about $30 more but it's a far better performer than the 550TI:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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February 19, 2012 8:56:23 PM

g-unit1111 said:

That self build is quite good, but I'd drop the i7-2600 to the i5-2400 - invest that difference in getting a better PSU


I think i7-2600 is warranted in this case. It's well suited for uses like "3d modelling, drafting, and rendering" for which this computer is intended for. I don't know if Thermaltake makes good PSUs or not. If I remember correctly it's not one of the trusted brands. I think something like this would be sufficient in this case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139026
It costs the same but is a quality brand.
February 19, 2012 9:05:39 PM

coolhouse said:
Hi, :hello: 

I'm trying to replace my ailing lap-top (Lenovo w500) with a new desktop. I will be using it primarily for 3d modelling, drafting, and rendering. I primarily use Catia, Rhino, Vray, Autocad, and Adobe Creative Suite. I prefer to have a couple of these open in addition to iTunes. My school has an academic discount with Dell, so I'm conflicted between the relative advantages of that with building my own.

I have priced out a home build on Newegg trying to stay in the same ballpark as the Dell. I am trying to get this sorted in the next month or so. Here are the two setups:

School Dell:

OptiPlex 990 SFF Workhorse
- 512MB AMD RADEON HD 6350 (2 DVI)
- 8X DVD+/-RW with Roxio & Cyberlink PowerDVD
- 3 YR Next Business Day Onsite Service
- Upgrade to 500GB 7200rpm Hard Drive
- Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- (Req. 64-bit OS) Upgrade to 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
- Upgrade to Intel Core i7 2600 Processor (3.4GHz, 8M)

total with 3 year on site warranty/service: $915.75

Newegg Build:
- Intel Core i7-2600 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- MSI N550GTX-Ti Cyclone OC GeForce GTX 550 Ti (Fermi) 1GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- G.SKILL Value Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W ATX12V V2.2 PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- Antec Three Hundred Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- HP FQ480AA#ABA Black 2.4GHz Wireless Standard Elite Keyboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
- LiteOn DVD Burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

total with all available newegg warranties: $971.14


I don't need a monitor or a mouse.

My reasons for going with the dell are the convenience of the warranty/service and the smaller form-factor. My reasons for going with the home build are obviously a slight bump in performance and more control of the components. Opinions?

(edited to add component links)


Best buy has that same keyboard on sale for $30, if you are by one.
February 19, 2012 9:45:04 PM

Your build is very similar to what I did a few months back, and I enjoy it very much. A few comments though:
1) larger power supply; something in the 550-600W range would be more appropriate. OCZ is having some good rebates right now, and in spite of their history their newer power supplies are solid.

2) While I love nVidia, there is no point to going with them unless you are getting a 570 or larger to take advantage of CUDA rendering in the Creative Suite. You can hack the suite to work on the GPU you choose, but it is no faster than the CPU rendering, and it can introduce stability issues. So I would either upgrade to the 570, or else go with the AMD equivilant to the 550Ti. You will want a minimum of 1GB of GPU ram.

3) I got the extreme3 gen3 mobo, and while I do enjoy it, I have to admit that I am not using it like I though I would. The i7 2600 cannot OC (and you do not want to OC on a production rig anyways), and the z68 chipset only gives you the ability to use RST (SSD caching), and quicksynk (for fast video converting). RST is handy, but not handy enough where it is not worth just getting a larger SSD and going the pure SSD route. The quicksink is complete and total trash. It is fast, but is not supported by most software, it eats a ton of system ram, puts out sub-par video quality, and the file sizes are unacceptably large. Not bad for civilian work where you are exporting for iPods and such... but I would not put my name behind it for any of my work that I would give to a client. You may be happier going with a good quality "military class" MSI p67 mobo. It will save a few $ and have a longer warranty. Again, I dont really regret my decision to go with the extreme3gen3... but doing it again I would have gone with my first instinct and stuck with the cheaper MSI.

4) 8GB is a good starting place, but you will want 16GB if you do much in the way of video editing (but you can always add more later). For production work the speed of the ram dosn't make any piratical difference because you will overwhelm the i7 2600 even with 1333 ram in most cases. If you end up doing a bit of gaming then some 1600 may be nicer... just don't feel that you NEED to get anything quicker.

5) Check for a local Microcenter. The i7 2600 is only $250 there, and you could spring for the "K" version for $280 if overclocking is your thing. They also tend to have great sales from time to time on SSDs, power supplies, and other odds and ends. Just a week or so ago they had a SSD sale where you could get the OCZ Agility 3 120GB for $100, and the 240GB version for $230. Their normal prices are junk... but when they have a sale, they tend to do it right :) 

Microcenter i7 2600 (save $50)
MSI P67A-G43 (B3) (save $35)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OCZ 550W 80+Bronze (add $21)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
16GB of 1333 Ram (not needed unless doing HD video projects, add $40)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Dont forget to buy Windows (add $100)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

good luck!
February 19, 2012 10:05:47 PM

kettu said:
I think i7-2600 is warranted in this case. It's well suited for uses like "3d modelling, drafting, and rendering" for which this computer is intended for. I don't know if Thermaltake makes good PSUs or not. If I remember correctly it's not one of the trusted brands. I think something like this would be sufficient in this case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139026
It costs the same but is a quality brand.


That's a decent PSU yes, but better would be to go with something like one of the models I listed. It might be a bit more but the PSU is one area where I don't recommend skimping on - bad things can happen if you do.
February 20, 2012 8:36:25 AM

g-unit1111 said:
That's a decent PSU yes, but better would be to go with something like one of the models I listed. It might be a bit more but the PSU is one area where I don't recommend skimping on - bad things can happen if you do.


In this case I think the 430W Corsair would be sufficient at stock speeds (there was no mention of overclocking) and a fairly low power graphics card like the GTX 550ti. When Tom's tested the efficiency i7-2600k they measured a 158W peak power at 3.5GHz with Prime95. http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/sandy-bridge-overclocking-efficiency,review-32107-9.html. On the other hand if coolhouse decides to buy a GTX 570 for rendering then a more powerfull PSU is in order.
February 20, 2012 12:37:09 PM

Thanks for all the replies. So what is quantitative benefit of being able to render with CUDA on a more advanced NVIDIA card?
!