Home Workstation

I've been reading and planning my own build for weeks now using this forum and finally decided to post my ideas...

Approximate Purchase Date: This coming month (January 2013)

Budget Range: $1600-2000 (Although I live in Switzerland so pricing is likely to be very different)

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Number Crunching (High-level statistical programming); Scalable vector graphics; Gaming

My Potential Build:

CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K 3.5GHz, LGA 1155
GPU: Asus GTX-670 DirectCU II 2GB GDDR5
MOBO: AsRock Z77 Extreme4, Z77
Case: Fractal Design Define XL
PSU: be quiet! Straight Power E9 CM, 680 Watt, 80 Plus Gold
Mem: Kingston HyperX Blu, 2x8GB, DDR3-1600
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 412S
SSD: OCZ SSD Vertex 4 256GB
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 2TB, 7200rpm, 64MB

I haven't included prices because 1; they are bound to be quite different to those in the states and 2; because if there is a better product for a good price in comparison I will consider it. All the above costs roughly $1800 already.

As mentioned, I do a lot of custom made programming for number crunching for neuroscience data. This is mostly done in Matlab, although I do some things in C. This is where I make my money, so if there is a better option then I'm very open to it since time does equal money in this case.

Only nVidia graphics card suggestions please since Matlab can work with the Cuda cores for optimisation (I havent actually tried it out but from what I understand this would fit perfectly for my needs: parallel processing time and computation exceeding memory transfer).

A few specific questions I have been struggling with:

1. Will this card (670) be good enough to support three monitors (none-gaming)? Or are SLI configurations of a lower card better in this case?
2. Is the power supply sufficient? Would a higher power supply run quieter?
3. I'm an audiophile (already have the Essense STX), and I can't stand noisy systems (I heard the ASUS 670 is the quietest GPU). So is there anywhere here where I can improve those noise levels while maintaining performance (I know its a trade-off).
4. Will overclocking the CPU bring me direct benefits to computing power for number crunching? And is the cooler then okay?
5. Where is my bottle-neck (even a small one), here for number crunching?

Thanks to everyone already for reading all this and taking the time! This forum is the best!
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  1. Forgot to ask...

    I've read a lot about performance differences in gaming benchmarks between the Ivy and Sandy Bridge processors; but not much on number crunching differences.

    Might the SB 6 cores really outperform the IB for this purpose (while it seems to not matter much in gaming)?
  2. A few thoughts…

    By choosing an 1155 socket for your motherboard you have bottlenecked yourself already. 1155 is being eliminated soon, so you’re buying an upgrade sooner than not and 1155 is not what I would choose to do a workstation. I’d go 2011, as the server environment is most conducive for a workstation.

    Fear not, you can get a 2011 i7 for the same amount of money you’d spend on an 1155 i7, so there is no difficulty there. Your motherboard will have to change over to an X79, due to the socket but you’ll see considerable advantages to that chipset for your application anyway. You should be able to pick up an X79 for $199- $250, depending on the bells and whistles you want.

    The Kingston memory is good enough, but WAY over priced. I can get the same kit from Mushkin or Gskill for $20 US less.

    You are not seriously considering buying a 4 rail power supply..? Buy a good Antec, Corsair, Silverstream, Seasonic or a good quality Rosewill at the very least. You’ll need a 650-700 watt 80+ Bronze (minimum) SINGLE RAIL power supply. You shouldn’t have to pay over $80 US for it.

    If you are planning to OC you might as well pay the extra $20 for a closed loop CPU cooler from Antec, Thermaltake or Corsair.

    That’s one serious gaming GPU! But a gaming GPU is NOT a workstation card. They don’t have the same architecture. There are two standards for workstation cards: Quadro and Firepro, NVidia and ATI respectively. A workstation card does CAD very well but sucks at games and vice versa. You can blow your whole budget on a workstation GPU, some go for over $4 thousand dollars. But some very affordable cards can be had, especially on the ATI side. All ATI cards better than the V4800 do crossfire and eyefinity. I don’t know much about the Quadro line.
    To answer your specific questions:
    1. No, see above paragraph.
    2. No, get a single rail 80+ bronze or better. Yes, a higher rated PS will run quieter as its not loaded.
    3. Yes, your audio program and storage will work without issue, liquid cooling that I recommended will keep your system very quiet, as the CPU fan is where most of your noise comes from.
    4. Yes, but be sure that you start small and read everything available before you do it.
    5. I think I already told you everything here in the above paragraphs.
    6. Yes, extra cores in a server/ workstation environment can make a huge difference for rendering. But I can’t stress enough that you need a workstation graphics card for this application. Even a high end gaming card will smoke if you autoCAD with it.
  3. Well, for Number Crunching and vector graphics you should use a Xeon, that supports ecc-ram. And it should be more, then 16GB. Overclocking will get you additional undetected bit errors and ruin your work. Recommendation for the graphics card is a NVIDIA Quadro 2000
  4. Thanks for the tips Groundrat.

    Intel Core i7 3820 BOX, 3.6GHz, LGA 2011, 4C/8T
    Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard

    Turns out to be only about $30 dollars more.

    I had to read up on single vs multi-rail PSU. I found some alternatives though from Seasonic here that look good:

    SeaSonic X Series 760W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V

    All RAM of the same specs is about the same price for me in Switzerland. Is it going to be worth getting DDR3-2100 over the DDR3-1600?

    The only real WS GPU I could find was...

    PNY Quadro 2000, PCI-E x16, 1GB GDDR5, DP, bulk

    But it has fewer Cuda cores, less memory and is more expensive than the 670. What is it about this card that makes it better for number crunching if Matlab specifically works with the Cuda cores. Is more not better?
  5. noidea_77 said:
    Well, for Number Crunching and vector graphics you should use a Xeon, that supports ecc-ram. And it should be more, then 16GB. Overclocking will get you additional undetected bit errors and ruin your work. Recommendation for the graphics card is a NVIDIA Quadro 2000

    The cheapest Xeon processor I can find is over $1000. Although it would be nice to have, that's more than $600 over the i7 model. So for three times the price, will be calculations finish 3 times faster? I doubt it. This is going to be a home 'workstation' after all; and I can't afford something like that unfortunately.

    The Quadro 2000 has 192 Cuda cores; while the 670 has 1344 Cuda cores! If Matlab is telling me the number of Cuda cores is what matters in their parallel processing, then what feature is better on the Quadro? Is this all just about better drivers for the Quadro builds?
  6. Comparing a Quadro to a 670 is literally apples and oranges. They are made with similar components but are made to do different things.

    A 670 (and all gamer cards) are made to render 3d environments quickly, within an acceptable error tolerance for first person shooters and other games. What most people don’t seem to get is that those environments are rendered only for what the gamer “sees” from his perspective. If you where to freeze the 3d scene and rotate the perspective, you would see a hollow environment. The back sides of objects are not rendered until the perspective demands it. That’s how gaming cards work.

    Cards like the Quadro don’t do that. They render ALL objects in the environment completely and on a frame by frame basis, saving each frame to the hard drive as it is completed. I remember rendering a few 3d scenes on an old Amiga way back in the day. A 15 second sequence took DAYS to render. The power of the card and the amount of available system memory determines how fast the scene is rendered. Since these cards are used for both animation and CAD, pixilation errors are kept to a bare minimum. The tolerances on workstation cards are quite higher than for gamer cards, which are why they cost more, and why they suck at games. The drivers are completely different.

    And that is why high end gaming machines, while wonderful things, are not workstations.

    The best entry level workstation card I can find is a Firepro V4900. It's $150, does crossfire and eyefinity.
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