Budget render station for architectural visualization

Hey guys,

I'm an architecture student looking for advice on building a station for architectural visualization. Most guides I found on the web are geared towards high end animation and video-editing, and most of it is hugely out of date. So I'm hoping to find some knowledgeable people here that can provide advice on new hardware that won't cost me half a year's rent.

Approximate Purchase Date: As soon as everything's decided.

Budget Range: $1600, possibly a couple hundred more. The cheaper the better!

System Usage from Most to Least Important: 3D work/rendering (3Ds max with Mental Ray, Maya, Rhino with Grasshopper, Sketchup) large-scale 2D work (Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD)

Are you buying a monitor: Yes

Do you need to buy OS: No

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Amazon.

Location: City, State/Region, Country - San Francisco, California

Parts Preferences: Non.

Overclocking: Maybe, never done it before.

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe, if there's a good reason.

Your Monitor Resolution: No preference. Priority is on clarity and color accuracy

Additional Comments: Top priorities are render speed and stability. I really can't afford to have crashes in the middle of a render and I need to churn out good quality work en masse to meet deadlines. Pluses: Quiet (will be using it at night)

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: Preferably, I would not buy a new computer at all, but school computers are a joke, and my 15" macbook pro is on the verge of exploding every time I work. :\ So I'm actually looking for a support render station that can supplement my macbook pro for work that is out of its performance range.

Thanks for reading and thanks for helping!
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More about budget render station architectural visualization
  1. The 8 core AMD FX series do excellent for rendering type work that can make use of all cores. I'd probably suggest the new FX-8350 as it keeps up with Intel processors that cost 50% more for these kinds of workloads.

    I'd get something from NVidia (for CUDA cores) for a lot of those apps.

    I'd get plenty of RAM as it's cheap these days.

    Use SSD for storage if you can. I don't know how big your files are, though, and SSD doesn't give a lot of space for the money.
  2. I can provide input on a decent entry level workstation for 3D.

    You may pick up off-the-shelf Lenovo Edge 73 (i7 4th gen) and install a Quadro K600. This workstation will cost you around $1000 and give a fairly decent performance.

    For installing higher Quadro card, will need to go to a higher workstation class machine like the above because the machine PSU has limited power only to add a K600.

    However always better to build your own..
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