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First Timer: Building CG Workstation Budget $2400

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Last response: in Systems
July 12, 2012 2:23:52 AM

Hello guys - First post.

I need to get a new computer because I've had my Macbook Pro 2.4ghz 15inch for like 4 years and I'm starting to do a lot more CG work professionally/academically. If they weren't so expensive I would get a Mac Pro, but Apple doesn't seem to want to update the Pro's and might even drop them from their line. This is my first time building a computer and as such I don't want the extra complication of building a hackintosh. I'm sort of conflicted about going back to Windows but the cost benefits have swayed me. I also would like something that will last for as long as possible... I'd hate for this to be too obsolete after a year or two. Anyways, any critique on these components is much appreciated.

Approximate Purchase Date: 7/23 (~2-3 weeks)
Budget Range: $2400
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Maya, Zbrush, Video Editing… Gaming not so important.
Are you buying a monitor: Yes
Parts to Upgrade: None (need to buy everything)
Do you need to buy OS: Yes (Windows 7 64bit)
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com
Location: USA
Parts Preferences: None.
Overclocking: Maybe
SLI or Crossfire: Maybe
Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080.
Additional Comments: Workstation for CG/3D work. Programs used: Maya, Zbrush… Also video editing on Adobe Premiere.

Future Computer:

Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000
Intel Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asus Sabertooth Z77 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PNY VCQ4000-PB Quadro 4000 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Workstation Video Card
Nvidia Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL Ripjaws Z Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL10Q-32GBZL)
RAM - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER Hyper N 520 RR-920-N520-GP 92mm Sleeve CPU Cooler Intel Core i7 Compatible
HSF - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM
Thermal Compound - Retail (necessary?)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - Bare Drive
HDD - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

COOLER MASTER HAF 922 RC-922M-KKN3-GP Black Steel + Plastic and Mesh Bezel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case with USB 3.0 and Black Interior
Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX PRO750W XXX Edition Semi-Modular 80Plus Silver 750 Watt Power Supply
PSU - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

~$1850 (money left for OS and Monitor)

Note: I have never built a computer before, but have done a ton of research to try and make sure the components I chose work with each other… But I probably made some dumb mistakes - Please let me know if you see any!

More about : timer building workstation budget 2400

Best solution

July 12, 2012 2:32:24 AM

That motherboard is major overkill for that CPU. I'd actually suggest an X79 build as the higher RAM capacities will help load huge files a lot easier. You also don't need the extra thermal compound as most Cooler Master heat sinks include MX-4 which is better than Silver 5.

Try something like this:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($289.99 @ NCIX US)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 CPU Cooler ($85.09 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($324.98 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($92.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1.5TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($79.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Samsung 830 Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($124.95 @ B&H)
Video Card: PNY Quadro 4000 2GB Video Card ($704.98 @ Newegg)
Case: NZXT Switch 810 (White) ATX Full Tower Case ($159.98 @ Outlet PC)
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling 750W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On IHBS112-04 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($124.00 @ Amazon)
Total: $2141.93
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

Add whatever monitor and peripherals you want and that will come out to about $2400. I don't suggest those things as they're entirely personal preference.
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July 12, 2012 2:35:35 AM

no need for thermal compound. noctua nh-d14 has better thermal paste

heres what i would get. if you dont want a professionaly oriented monitor, id get a vs228h-p monitor from asus at newegg.com for 139.99

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bRbU
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July 12, 2012 2:37:14 AM

apparently, the firepro v7900 is cheaper and better than the quadro 4000 in most scenarios. if the programs you use dont support OpenCL, you would have to get the quadro 4000
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July 12, 2012 3:06:42 AM

Thanks for the quick responses!

@g-unit1111: I'm glad you told me this (about the mobo). I have a question thought out of pure curiosity: If my motherboard choice is overkill, why is the one you suggested "less overkill" if it's $100 more? Is it because the CPU you suggested is also an upgrade from mine, therefor warranting a more powerful motherboard? That would be my guess, but I'm having some trouble determining which motherboard 'fits best' with which processor.

@TheBigTroll: I have a friend who swears by the Quadro 4000, but I'll have to research the fire pro v79000... Thanks for that!

Based on both your suggestions, I have two more Q's that are probably very basic:

- Why 16Gb Ram instead of 32? Is 32 just plain overkill?

- This is probably REALLY basic but what is the difference between the internal hard drive and the solid state disk... For some reason in all the guides I must have missed this..

Thanks for bearing with me.
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July 12, 2012 3:12:56 AM

32gb is for REALLY HEAVY CAD usage

the solid state is 10x faster in boots and much faster in loading large apps like CS5
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July 12, 2012 9:39:13 AM

32GB is... like... 15 battlestars...

anyway, there are things you can do to make it easy to get up to 16 GB... (MAx- meshsmooth, 2d displacement) (maya- micropolygon displacement )
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July 12, 2012 11:00:14 AM

start with 16 like in my build. when you need more, just throw in another kit
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July 12, 2012 1:18:32 PM

OK, I'll definitely keep it to 16GB Ram for now then. This is so helpful, thanks. G-Unit's build seems a bit more useful to me mainly because it stays under my budget (although the i7-3930k is definitely tempting me...).

EDIT: Although I am researching the ATI Firepro V7900 and you're right, it does seem to outperform the Quadro 4000... I'll have to weigh the pro's/con's out a bit more.

I have a question which might fall outside the bounds of this thread, but I'd figure I'd try to ask to see if I could get a response. I haven't had a windows computer in around 5 years, and I remember one of the reasons I switched to Mac's was because how often computers would get viruses. Is Windows 7 anymore stable than XP was? If I'm careful will I be OK? Or is it inevitable, regardless of how careful I am, that I will get spyware/malware. I'm worried spending so much money and time on a computer only to have it rendered a trash can by some malware. I do not intend for this to turn into any sort of OSX vs. Windows debate, I'm just genuinely curious about the topic because it's been so long.
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July 12, 2012 3:47:08 PM

macs are getting viruses. as they get more common compared to PCs, obviously someone will take advantage of that.

windows 7 feels like any other windows with some performance upgrades.
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July 12, 2012 4:13:10 PM

themilkynutball said:
Thanks for the quick responses!

@g-unit1111: I'm glad you told me this (about the mobo). I have a question thought out of pure curiosity: If my motherboard choice is overkill, why is the one you suggested "less overkill" if it's $100 more? Is it because the CPU you suggested is also an upgrade from mine, therefor warranting a more powerful motherboard? That would be my guess, but I'm having some trouble determining which motherboard 'fits best' with which processor.


Well most X79 boards run at minimum ~$250 - this one will cover all the bases and will support up to 64GB RAM should the need arise. It also supports the 3960X - even though that's kind of overkill since the 3930K can unlock all cores and be clocked to match or beat the speeds that the 3930K offers. I like the Asus Sabertooth X79 because it has everything and it's quite a bit cheaper than the Rampage IV Extreme.

Quote:
- Why 16Gb Ram instead of 32? Is 32 just plain overkill?


16GB to start with, leaves you room to upgrade to 32GB. 32GB would push the system over budget.
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July 12, 2012 4:16:03 PM

the PRO and sabertooth boards are around the same price. pick the one that has your needed features
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July 12, 2012 10:19:02 PM

@TheBigTroll - Yeah I figured that Windows 7 was just basically windows XP upgraded... IDK I guess I'm just paranoid. It's tough finding people leaving OSX for windows and reporting about it.. I'll just have to be careful and get a ton of antivirus programs.

@g-unit - Understood (but you meant the 3820 can outperform the 3930k though?... think there is a typo there).

Ok this is all very helpful - thanks for posting.
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July 12, 2012 10:22:10 PM

not really. just dont download anything that you have no idea about or ignore warning notices before going into sites.

i suggest norton 360 or avast! internet security. kaspersky works well too. i dont like macafee since they spam you with notices every 5 mins
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July 12, 2012 11:09:09 PM

Yeah I get that, but I also remember just having to do system restore's because XP was running slow after about a year or so... Like it naturally gets clunky over time or something. Honestly though, that was probably just me using limewire too much (yes, I admit to it).
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July 13, 2012 12:22:53 AM

yes that is true. if you keep all this junk in the computer, it makes everything lag. good thing SSDs are hardly affected by this. even the most beat up windows 7 takes 20sec to boot
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July 13, 2012 3:34:52 AM

Oh, if you're going to be doing a lot of ZBrush work I would advise picking up a Wacom tablet. You probably already have one but that is a thing a lot of people disregard/underestimate.
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July 13, 2012 12:46:29 PM

Yeah I already invested in one of those recently. They are incredible.
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July 13, 2012 1:21:09 PM

Question: If I got a mid-tower instead of a full-tower, would that work too? I know the benefits of a full tower are increased space for air flow, more upgradability, etc... But the apartment I'm living in next semester might be pretty cramped and honestly the more space, the better. For such an expensive machine though, I really don't want to skimp out on the case. Here's what I was thinking:

COOLER MASTER HAF 922 RC-922M-KKN3-GP Black Steel + Plastic and Mesh Bezel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case with USB 3.0 and Black Interior

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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July 13, 2012 2:17:53 PM

the case i got in my build is a mid-tower. the corsair carbide 500R is pretty much the best airflow optimized cases out there.

you dont need a full tower case as the motherboard is standard ATX sized
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July 13, 2012 8:29:12 PM

Great - the corsair seems like a perfect case... I think I'll go with that instead of the full tower.
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July 14, 2012 12:44:13 AM

I would say i7 3770, 16gb, and quadro 4000.
SSD for OS, and 1TB for files,

And Dell IPS 27" :) 

I used to do 3D, but I'm all about 2 D photography and video now.
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July 14, 2012 12:59:43 AM

the firepro v7900 does better than quadro 4000. only drawback is a lot of programs use CUDA more than OpenCL
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July 17, 2012 4:01:45 PM

Just got offered a refurbished 2008 Mac Pro with 2 Intel Xeon 3.0ghz Quad Core processors, with a 6 month warranty for $2100. But this is with a Radeon HD 2600 XT card. With the Quadro 4000 installed in there, it would come out to $2900. I only posted this because I feel like I'm saving an insane amount of money by building.

I'd imagine two 3.0ghz processors ARE better than one 3.6ghz processor for rendering, but at the cost difference + the ability to upgrade in the future I think I'm choosing the better option.
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July 17, 2012 4:13:38 PM

not necessarily but in this case it might.

get the v7900 instead of the quadro 4000 as long as you use OpenCL
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July 17, 2012 4:49:52 PM

The cost difference between the firepro and the nvidia card is negligible ($10 atm with a newegg rebate) but after doing some research you're right, the firepro does seem to perform better. My only concern is I don't know how to tell if Maya utilizes OpenCl or Cuda more (of if that's even the right question to be asking)... I've tried researching but haven't been able to find anything.
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July 17, 2012 4:54:18 PM

it should work no problem. you can ask the people over at the graphics section and see if they can provide a answer
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July 17, 2012 5:24:11 PM

Will do - I noticed that the firepro v7900 uses a PCI-E 2.1 x 16 port. Is this compatible with a motherboard with a PCI-E 3.0 slot?
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July 17, 2012 5:32:08 PM

works fine.
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July 21, 2012 3:10:35 AM

Best answer selected by themilkynutball.
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