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DanD
10-14-2009, 03:06 PM
Hi all, I'm thinking of upgrading my home computer to something with some more gusto. My current machine is a Dell MXP 3.6 ghz pentium and it's not fast at all for Lightwave (or anything else for that matter). I'd like to get an intel based dual quad core something that's 64 bit and has a pretty decent graphics card (nvidia). It'd be nice to have at least 4 gig of ram too. I have between 2k and 3k dollars to spend. Is this possible? Also, I got an email ad for the HP Z600 workstation that seemed to be a pretty good machine. Not sure about the grfx card though. Does anyone recommend this machine.

Thanks in advance for your comments!
Dan

Amurrell
10-14-2009, 06:51 PM
I just read an article on the subject in 3D World, I believe, and they say the HP Z600 is good for a generalist on a budget. I was thinking about one my self. Now did they offer a ATI Fire Pro graphics card with that?

biliousfrog
10-15-2009, 02:10 AM
You've got a couple of options at the moment, an 8 core Xeon system or a quad core i7 system. For most things a 920 i7 based system offers the best bang per buck, especially if it is overclocked. As an example, my 920 clocked @ 4.2ghz is roughly as fast as a previous generation 8 core Xeon @ 3ghz when rendering. The big advantage is that it is much faster at single threaded tasks which can't take advantage of multiple CPU's/cores...which is basically everything else aside from rendering.

The current Nehalem Xeon's are equivilent to the i7 chips with the advantage of being able to run on multi-CPU boards. The components required for multi-CPU systems tend to be more expensive because they are designed primarily for reliability.

My intention was always to budget for a BOXX workstation every 3 years but the i7 has changed that. I still have my workstation to fall back on (which is solid as a rock) but it seems more cost effective to buy/build a new i7 PC every year currently. Obviously having the machine overclocked is going to shorten the lifespan which is why I wouldn't want it to be my only machine and why I intend to upgrade more often but the cost is around a third of a low-end 8 core workstation so it works out ok.

As for graphics cards, unless you run Maya there's little need to go for a Quadro, they simply aren't as powerful as the same price Geforce. The high-end quadro's are great but you're looking at something that will cost at least half your budget, the equivilent Geforce with cost a fraction of it. The best Geforce card currently is the 285, don't be fooled by the 'higher-end' models such as the 295 - it is two 265 cards stuck together in SLi mode which doesn't work outside of games. For 3d apps you'll only be able to take advantage of a single 265...the 285 is the most powerful single chip card from Nvidia.

ATI has been plagued by driver problems and is not recommended.

Personally, if I wanted to drop $3k on a professional workstation I'd buy a BOXX every time. The support is excellent, the machines are designed by people that know the industry and they are built like a tank. Because I already have a solid workstation to fall back on and because I have some knowledge of building PC's I am spending much less on faster, single processor machines.

DanD
10-15-2009, 02:41 PM
Thanks for the info biliousfrog! My office machine (which also needs to be replaced) is a Boxx dual xeon 3 ghz workstation from about 4 years ago. We're big Boxx fans (got the t-shirts to prove it!) but I was intrigued by the HP line of workstations. I'm definitely going to look into the i7 and the Nvidia card you suggested because there was some discussion of building a machine instead of buying one already assembled. I like the Z800 but all the fancy machined aluminum and wireless insides puts me off a bit. Not sure I want to pay for all the extra design (from BMW apparently). It reminds me of an SGI computer from the 90's a little where I read somewhere the computer's case alone was $4000. Those were the days. :)

Amurrell, here are the specs straight from the email I got from HP.

• Powered by the intelligent Intel® Xeon® Processor¹
• Genuine Windows XP Professional 64-bit available through downgrade rights from Windows Vista
Business 64 2
• NVIDIA Quadro NVS 295 (256 MB) graphics card
• 3 GB DDR3 memory
• Dual hard drives (160 GB / 250 GB)
Includes HP LP2275w 22" Widescreen LCD Monitor

$2,063 (Save $600)

Thanks again guys.

Dan

biliousfrog
10-16-2009, 02:18 AM
It looks like quite a low spec computer for the price and the decision to use a 64bit OS but only install 3gb RAM makes me wonder whether they actually know what they're doing...of course they know what they're doing but I wonder whether they are relying on buzz words to sell something that isn't anything special, such as 'Xeon' and 'Quadro'.

It doesn't state what Xeon processor it is but, because it uses DDR3, I would guess that it is one of the new Nehalem processors...most likely the lowest-end version which has a lower FSB and clock speed than the entry level i7 chip (920).

The quadro card is a budget version that I personally wouldn't want to rely on for daily CG work. The quadro FX 1800 is a reasonable entry level card, the NVS range isn't really a DCC card.

I can highly recommend a 64bit OS, even 32bit apps can access more RAM and will be a little snappier, but it's pointless having it if you're restricting yourself to 3gb RAM. 6gb is a nice amount, 12gb will allow you to work comfortably with a couple of apps and render larger scenes, 24gb isn't unheard of with Xeon systems.

Personally, I would rather go for a high-end, previous generation, 8 core system than that HP system for the price. You'll get a little more bang for your buck...or an i7 system.

JonW
10-16-2009, 05:46 AM
i7 or Xeon x55xx, its basically the same. Its just badge engineering & you pay 3 times as much.

i7 920, 12 gb ram, Velociraptor 300gb, 285 graphics card would be a good start.

I have a pair of W5580s 3.2 Ghz & this box renders twice as quick as my 920 clocked at basically the same speed. There is no advantage having two Xeons in one box unless you have a lot of tasks that can & have to use 16 threads on one box.

Re the computer specs you posted. There is no point putting XP64 in a box with 3gb ram. The whole point of 64 bit OS is being able to use a bucket load of ram. 6 gb would be the absolute minimum these days. 12 gb is really nice. & 24 gb is a pleasure to use.

Get a local computer shop put a box together, you will get a better box & you will be able change or add things without any issues.

Don’t buy the monitors bundled with a computer, they are usually crap.

DanD
10-18-2009, 07:56 PM
Thanks guys for all the great info and suggestions. I think I may wind up building something at this point. I'll post what I wind up doing. Thanks again.

Dan

Surrealist.
10-22-2009, 12:43 AM
Hi all, I'm thinking of upgrading my home computer to something with some more gusto. My current machine is a Dell MXP 3.6 ghz pentium and it's not fast at all for Lightwave (or anything else for that matter). I'd like to get an intel based dual quad core something that's 64 bit and has a pretty decent graphics card (nvidia). It'd be nice to have at least 4 gig of ram too. I have between 2k and 3k dollars to spend.
Thanks in advance for your comments!
Dan

I got a quote the other day at Frys. I hand picked a bunch of stuff to put a machine together. It was based on an i7 3.2 I believe. It included motherboard, case, 12 gigs of RAM, 1 solid state system drive, 1 2 tb drive and 2 1 tb drives, a DVD etc etc with power supply, case, and OS as well as a nice graphics card. If you want more specifics I can go look at the quote again. But it came out to around 3k. Point being - for that kind of money you should have no problem putting a very very nice system together if you build it yourself. :-)

DanD
10-25-2009, 04:28 PM
Thanks for the info Surreal! I should check out Frys, is it like newegg?

Dan

wacom
10-25-2009, 07:14 PM
I would build the system yourself. There are quite a few good videos on youtube and tutorials on how to build a computer now out there on the web. I built my first system this year- and the videos make it so that as long as your case is large enough, things should go rather painlessly. True, it's harder than putting a game cartridge in an SNES, but if you can work a screw driver, and read directions you should be A-OK. Like I said, the videos on the net make things extra easy now!

Noob to noob system builder thoughts...

Don't go "cheap" on the RAM. Unless you game, you also probably don't need the latest and fastest. Go for mid speed for your system, with very good reviews in terms of reliability esp. when hot if you render for long periods with lots of maps etc. Another option is to buy good RAM rated at the highest speed for your system, and then actually under clock it for stability. At least it works well for me! For 3D rendering RAM speed is nearly negligible- it's mostly the amount of RAM you have and more importantly the quality and speed of your processor. Many tests have shown this fact.

Unfortunately price doesn't convey everything with RAM and I feel like most current generation RAM is binned higher than it should and is less stable at its rated speeds than say DDR-2.

If you REALLY count on your renders for pay, I'd say don't over clock, and if you do over clock, only do it in small bits. A crashed render could cost you many hours of wasted time that make the overclocking gains seem marginal. There is a big difference between "game stable" and 9-24 hour render stable IMHO.

Do not skimp on your heatsink! Get one that is reliable and has a large FAN (because it can move more air and not sound like a jet engine).

Do your research on motherboards via newegg and make sure to get a stable one. The wrong MB can really leave you frustrated in so many ways, and it seems people over look and under think this part of the system even though it's really the meat and potatoes of it.

Ditto on the power supply. A lot of people get these WAY over powered power supplies when they should have put the money into a lower wattage one of higher quality. There are good wattage calculators on the web to help figure out just what you need where you put in the parts you're going to buy and the years you want to use the PSU for and then they give you a wattage to get.

I'd also go with newegg. I had to return 4 different modules of RAM and never had any problems. If you get a bad part you'll be glad you went through them IMHO.

Good luck!

Surrealist.
10-25-2009, 10:29 PM
Thanks for the info Surreal! I should check out Frys, is it like newegg?

Dan

Fry's has an online store also. But here on the west coast you can walk into one. That is how I build systems. If I need to return something it makes it easy. I am not really familiar with Newegg. though I hear they are great. Lots of good reviews there. But regardless of where you get the parts, building your own is the best way in my opinion. That is how I have been doing it for years. I was not particularly plugging Fry's, just saying you can build a great system for the money you are willing to spend.

Good luck

Shnoze Shmon
10-26-2009, 05:33 AM
Listen to those that tell you to build your own.

Start with a MB that fulfills more than you THINK you want. Check it's CPU, RAM, card expansion, slots, with expectations of upgrades in the future.

Now just make sure everything else is compatible with the MB.

I bought from 4 different stores to build my last PC. The more you shop the cheaper and better your new PC gets.

Like was said, get a good CPU fan BUT make sure it wont interfere with any slots on your MB. I bought a Golden orb II only to discover I couldn't use a ram slot as a result:bangwall:
http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Thermaltake/BlueOrb2/images/comparison.jpg

Get a box with lots of fans. Those little guys can conk out on you and cause problems you don't detect until its too late. If you have more than you need then you have time to discover the bad one.
Also a box just cant have too many bays.

wacom
10-27-2009, 01:20 PM
Regardless of where you get your gear, use neweggs reviews to help guide your decisions. It can save you a lot of time, and give you a ball park for what the "street price" should be for gear.

Don't go cheap on your heatsink BTW- and as Shnoze Shmon pointed out, make sure it fits! My Zalman (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835118019) is HUGE...but it's vertical orientation makes it work in my system. Plus if you get a good heatsink, chances are you can use it again in your next system. The one that will come with the processor will be OK, but for rendering and such, you'll probably want the largest, most quiet heatsink you can get. I think a lot of people don't realize that they're chips are over heating at times and either causing instabilities or that the chip is self throttling down to cool off!

The funnest thing I found about making my first system a few months ago was how hard you need to press to get a heatsink on! (I went with an AMD 955 BE config, and maybe that setup is harder- I don't know).

I thought I was going to break the MB...but don't be surprised if you muscles are bulging and you're having to use some of your weight to get them on!

When you look at cases, I'd try and get one with a MB tray that slides out at least. Many cases are highly modular now and allow you to take out most of the major parts without deconstructing the whole setup. It's worth the extra few dollars IMHO.

Mr Rid
10-27-2009, 03:48 PM
...

The funnest thing I found about making my first system a few months ago was how hard you need to press to get a heatsink on! (I went with an AMD 955 BE config, and maybe that setup is harder- I don't know).

I thought I was going to break the MB...but don't be surprised if you muscles are bulging and you're having to use some of your weight to get them on!...

I have not built a system in a awhile, but I always thought hardware assembly is ridiculously primitive. Why on earth do we have to yank and mash pieces into a delicate motherboard and stick metal screwdrivers and screws in it? Everything should drop or slide into place and have a simple latch to lock it down. I dont know why every component needs 37 screws to hold it down. I put one screw on drives doors, cables & such, so I can pop them back out easier. I even have one twelve year old editing system with seven drives, none of which are screwed down, and one is just laying in the bottom of the case, and guess what... none of the drives have ever escaped.

wacom
10-28-2009, 10:04 AM
I was told for the heat sink it is necessary to ensure a proper fitting with the top cover of the CPU. That said I have to agree- and I think we all could think of at least 10 ways that would make things easier, and maybe add $10 tops to the cost of parts and the case.

It's a shame how corners get cut on such things to save a few bucks.

DanD
10-28-2009, 11:15 AM
Thanks Schnoze and Wacom for more great advice. Yes, I've read more newegg comments than you can shake a stick at. Man, what a headache I have.
So, my current question about the DIY build is the video card. I know the Nvidia Geforce 285 gtx has been recommended so my question is this, is a $400 gaming card(285gtx) as good as a $400-$450 workstation card(quadro fx1800)? My current card in my boxx dual xeon 3ghrtz workstation at work is a Nvidia fx1000 and it does a great job. Is this card at all similar to the fx1800? I'll try hitting the Nvidia site and see what specs I can dig up. Thanks again.

Mr Rid
10-28-2009, 03:29 PM
...I even have one twelve year old editing system with seven drives, none of which are screwed down, and one is just laying in the bottom of the case, and guess what... none of the drives have ever escaped.

BTW, that old system with 7 drives is in a large case with 10 fans. It's loud, but the drives have never failed in 12 years (one of them is even a Maxtor!?), I believe due to overkill cooling. I also open it about once a year and blow the grime out of the fans.

I had a drive fail in a laptop after only one year of sparse use. I replaced the drive and bought a laptop cooler and have used the laptop all day, every day for 3 years since. I suspect that most component failures are due to inadequate cooling, and that most off-the-shelf systems do not have enough cooling.

wacom
10-30-2009, 11:41 PM
It's funny how important things that are not "sexy" are in the end, and are over looked, like cooling (good fans, in the right place, cables tied back, good case flow to ensure a vacuum etc.), but really can make or break a system.

You're right too Mr. Rid- I think these are the same things that get cut out of most off the shelf systems. Cheap power supplies, fans, motherboards, keyboards, mice, bios etc. Upgrading these items to better ones might add 100-150 dollars to the final system parts, but are well worth the price.

Besides, even if you're not "green' or very frugal, it's nice to be able to upgrade your system for a fraction of what a new one would cost, by reusing parts (PSU, RAM, CASE, FANS etc.) and still have a quality system. IMHO it's well worth the small amount of research time it takes to understand the basics and be "in the know". If you own a small business, are a student, artist, or freelancer, then it makes even more sense to do the leg work.