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holeycow
08-25-2005, 01:16 AM
Hi Guys,

I'm looking to set up a new workstation sometime in the next 2-3 months and I'm finding myself agonising over which way to go this time.

In the past I've stuck with Intel.

The last workstation I set up runs dual Xeon 3.06 ghz processors and was a big leap forward for me. My other machines are two P4 2.6 ghz machines and a Celeron 3ghz for basic photoshop stuff etc.

I'm finding now that I need to at the very least double the speed of the main workstation, but hopefully get a 500% improvement.

I've heard that AMD processors are superior for volumetric rendering, but Intel better in other areas.

In the past I've stuck to low cost graphics cards as I believe Lightwave gets no benefit from an expensive card other than uipdating of preview screens. Is this still the case ? Or am I behind the times on this issue?

I've no doubt that 64bit is the way to go and would love some feedback on how much difference the 64bit version of Lightwave makes (that's if anyone reading this is lucky enough to have one of the test copies).

Any recomendations out there?

Gra

jacross
08-25-2005, 02:09 AM
Sounds like you got a pretty decent machine already with the dual XEON 3.06GHz. Given such a setup I don't think it's realistic to expect a 500% increase from any machine you put together at this time. The closest you can get right now would be a pair of AMD Dual Core 275's. That will give you 4 processor cores using 2 sockets. They are expensive though at ~$1,300 per chip. But if money is no object, and you need the fastest single system available, (and don't want to do a renderfarm instead) then this is it IMHO. Another option if you have a little time to kill and even more money to spend (and I guess this would take you over the 500% increse :) ) is that Tyan is coming out with a 4 and 8 socket motherboard that does have PCI-Express for video cards and you can stuff it with 4 or 8 dual core processors. This would give you up to 16 cores total. Unfortunately the dual core processors for 4+ socket systems are even more expensive ranging from $1,500 for the 865 to $2,600 for the 875's. Again, definately the fastest, but if you're just rendering, might as well go with multiple cheaper smaller boxes. Intel won't have a dual core XEON out until the end of this year at the earliest, and even then it's more cobbled together like the Pentium D. Intel is pretty much just biding time until their new Merom chip architecture comes out next fall.

Regarding graphics cards it's a bit hard to say. Yes, currently LW doesn't take full advantage of current video cards. Newtek has admitted this themselves recently. However, as soon as 8.5 is released (before the end of September), Newtek is updating the OpenGL in LW and it's supposed to take full advantage of cards that utilize OpenGL 2.0. Assuming that their implementation kicks butt (and I have full confidence that it will), then it will use the best card(s) you can throw at it. Unfortunately we won't know for sure until 8.5 is released.

I don't have the beta of LW 64 so I can't give you any comparison, but the main concern is that you'd need WindowsXP 64. This means that you will need to make sure that all of the components for your computer have 64-bit drivers or it's gonna be a no-go. Just something to watch out for.

holeycow
08-25-2005, 02:36 AM
Thanks for the response. The 64 bit change is actually where I'm hoping to make most of the increase in performance. I'm well aware of the need for windows 64bitxp and the machine would be totally dedicated to 3d. I have other boxes for compositing etc. The news on open gl support sounds promising as well.

No, I don't have an unlimited budget, and a renderfarm of smaller boxes would be impractical as I work from home and already have too many computers around for my wife's liking. The other machines are generally kept too busy with other tasks to consider setting them up as render nodes. Usually I will have the main one pushing through a 3d render. A composite rendering in combustion on another, modelling on the other 3d box while my other machine is being used for all the dog's body stuff and photoshop work etc. When deadlines are tight, I prefer to have two scenes rendering on different machines to having everything tied up for the one shot.

To be honest, every time I've tried to set up a renderfarm, I've just found it too hard anyway.

Probably the most my budget can afford is the mid range of what's available in the dual core Opterons for dual processor boards.

mattclary
08-25-2005, 05:30 AM
You have a pretty top notch machine there, I think it's going to be hard to top without breaking the bank. You should look at the dual core AMD 64s. If you can afford dual core-dual opterons, then that is where a big performance boost will probably lie, but it will be very pricey.

Verlon
08-25-2005, 07:01 AM
AMD64 is better than Intels version EMT64 (they couldn't bear to use the same name). Rumor has it quad core opterons will be showing up early next year (that is NOT an assertion..it is a RUMOR).

Dual Xeon 3.06? There is no 500% improvement coming, sorry. Take the money you were going to spend on the new workstation, and buy a couple of bare bones systems to add to your render farm. As much as I like AMD over Intel, I cannot in good conscience tell you anything like 5x performance increase from coming over from the dark side.

$4000 worth of workstation would get you 4 or maybe 5 render nodes. If you really know your hardware and setups, more. You could get motherboard, processor, hard drive, and video card, and put the whole thing in an el cheapo case. You don't really need anything else. Install an absolute minimum Windows on there and use it for a render node.

peter66
08-25-2005, 07:22 AM
more power kicks arse. The Robert Powers video from Siggraph was cool, I personally NEED 128GB of RAM, who doesn't? Wonder how soon it'll be and how fast CPUs will be when normal PCs have terrabytes of RAM? But yeah, good luck on the upgrade.

jacross
08-25-2005, 06:07 PM
Given your requirements, and your desire to stay away from adding more machines to your render farm, my original idea of going with a pair of dual core Opterons is your best bet (unless you can hold off until LW 9 comes out). I would caution however that although 64-bit will provide you with the ability to utilize much more ram that the performance increase will most likely be scene dependant. And regardless, until the new renderer comes out with LW 9, there's still no way to get a 500% increase with a single system. Even then, that has to do with the renderer, not the hardware. Of the Dual Core Opterons here are your choices:

~$825 265 (Dual Core 1.8GHz)
~$1,075 270 (Dual Core 2.0GHz)
~$1,260 275 (Dual Core 2.2GHz)

As you can see, none of these options are exactly cheap. I'm currently running a pair of single core Opteron 244's (which are 1.8GHz) and they are running about as fast as your 3.06's according to benchmarks. I plan on sticking with them at least until LW 9 comes out to see what my render times are then. If I'm happy, I can live with them for a bit longer. Needless to say though, I don't think they're slow now. So anyway, if you went with the cheapest 265's you'll probably get roughly a 100% increase (your mileage may vary). Also, to be able to take full advantage of going 64-bit, you'll probably want at least 4GB of RAM. Any less than that and the 2GB limit (or 3GB if you have the 3GB/switch enabled) isn't really going to be much of a bottleneck. Just my $.02

w_will
08-25-2005, 10:00 PM
At the risk of sound like I have lost my mind... try not to get too caught up in the marketing hype you will be hearing from the media about 64-bit and super performance increases. Sun, HP, and other Unix vendors have had 64-bit platforms around for decades. The main benifit most people will see is an increased amount of RAM available to apps not super chunks of code that can leap tall building in a single cycle. My advice if you really need to some productivity improvement is to upgrade to 3.8 Xeons and more RAM. Your already running a 64bit platform. As a couple of other people have stated your not going to be able to even get double your current speed much less a 500% increase. Adding an extra 1.6Ghz of speed is not too bad. It won't require a motherboard swap, and you won't have to reinstall Windows. If you just have to spend the upgrade money, heck I don't know maybe your wife's lawyer is gona get it if you don't spend it, (poor attempt at a divorce joke)spend it on Fprime or a giant LCD monitor, or a new Wacom Cintiq 21UX. Don't throw out the those poor old 3 giggers I might be able to find a home for them :thumbsup:

holeycow
08-25-2005, 11:28 PM
Thanks for the responses guys.

From what you're all saying, I'm best off trying to hang in there for another 12 months waiting for price drops and technology jumps. Even upgrading the processors is hard to justify at the moment.

I set up the dual xeon machine just over a year ago for $3,000 Australian, which would be around 2,000 US dollars. I think I'd be pushing it to do the same now looking at component prices.

Is it just my imagination, or is the pace processor speed improvements slowing down?

I've read a lot of stuff in computer mags claiming that it's time for AMD & Intel to forget about Moore's law, that current processors are fast enough. These guys obviously don't do any 3D. However, it does concern me that faster processors may become too expensive for individual artists to afford. When I looked at the cost of upgrading from 3.06 processors to 3.6, it would cost me almost as much as I paid for the whole system 12 months ago.

I had placed a lot of hope in the change to 64 processing, but from what you guys are saying that's not going to be the big jump I was hoping for.

Still, things are better than 25 years ago when I was so proud of my Apple II with a Roland xy plotter attached to it, a whooping 64k of ram and two external 5 1/4 inch floopy drives. (Interestingly, that cost about $1,000 dollars more than the dual Xeon machine!).

The better it gets, the more frustrating it becomes waiting for next years technology to become affordable.

tektonik
08-25-2005, 11:54 PM
dual core athlon-x2 3800+ (dual 2 gigahz) 469$CAN =+- 393 U$D
4 gig ram 4x180 CAN$ = 604 u$D

1000 $ US for a 4 giga and dual core munster

this is the moove i will be making in a month or so ... reallly need all that adress space!!!!!!!!

Really need it in fact right now !

a+

jacross
08-26-2005, 12:22 AM
holeycow,

you are 100% correct... processor speeds haven't budged much for nearly a year. Actually, that is the main reason why both AMD and Intel are going dual, and in the future multi-core. They can't improve single core processors enough anymore to provide the big jumps in speed year over year that we were used to.

I would like to bring one comment up however. I'm not sure your current motherboard for your 3.06GHz XEON's could support the newest, and fastest 64-bit XEONS. The reason being is if I'm not mistaken your XEON's use a 533MHz bus and the newest ones use a 800MHz bus. Unless your motherboard supports the 800MHz bus, you'd be looking at a new board too if you did decide to upgrade the processors at this time. That just adds more $$$ to the equation and it won't improve your speed by a significant amount.

Again, I think it'd be best to at least wait until LW 9 is released and try to reap the benefits of the improved renderer before looking at new hardware at the moment. Hopefully we'll have it in time for Christmas :).

Cageman
08-26-2005, 12:49 AM
holeycow,

I would like to bring one comment up however. I'm not sure your current motherboard for your 3.06GHz XEON's could support the newest, and fastest 64-bit XEONS. The reason being is if I'm not mistaken your XEON's use a 533MHz bus and the newest ones use a 800MHz bus. Unless your motherboard supports the 800MHz bus, you'd be looking at a new board too if you did decide to upgrade the processors at this time.

To use 64-bit processors, you will need a motherboard capable of 64-bit as well? So, going 64-bit means that you need to buy processor(s) and motherboard? I'm asking, because I can't upgrade my 32-bit AMD to 64-bit AMD only changing processors. On this platform it means complete new hardware, except for PCI/AGP cards. Do you say that Intel has an option where you only need to upgrade the processors to 64-bit, but keeping the 32-bit motherboard? *confused*

mattclary
08-26-2005, 07:26 AM
Is it just my imagination, or is the pace processor speed improvements slowing down?



THANK you! I'm glad it's not just me! I have a 2 year old PIV 3.0 that just really doesn't seem that out of date to me. This is the longest I've ever gone without upgrading. I AM finally getting an itch for a dual core AMD64 now.

mattclary
08-26-2005, 07:29 AM
On this platform it means complete new hardware, except for PCI/AGP cards.

Actually, most of the AMD64 boards will not have AGP slots, so plan on a new video card too.

Lightwolf
08-26-2005, 08:26 AM
To use 64-bit processors, you will need a motherboard capable of 64-bit as well? So, going 64-bit means that you need to buy processor(s) and motherboard?
In general yes. The only exception might be some newer intel Xeon boards that also run with older, non EMT64 processors.

Cheers,
Mike

jacross
08-26-2005, 04:50 PM
To use 64-bit processors, you will need a motherboard capable of 64-bit as well? So, going 64-bit means that you need to buy processor(s) and motherboard? I'm asking, because I can't upgrade my 32-bit AMD to 64-bit AMD only changing processors. On this platform it means complete new hardware, except for PCI/AGP cards. Do you say that Intel has an option where you only need to upgrade the processors to 64-bit, but keeping the 32-bit motherboard? *confused*

You may need to upgrade your motherboard as well if you want to use 64-bit *IF* your current motherboard doesn't support an 800MHz FSB and has a bios to support Intels EM64T. If you have an up-to-date motherboard that meets those requirements then you can just upgrade the processors. The motherboard itself isn't 32 or 64 bit.

Cageman
08-27-2005, 04:11 AM
Thanks for the information guys! :)

DogBoy
08-27-2005, 04:51 AM
My experience with LW on WinXP64, is that drivers aren't all that good yet. It'll only run if you a) have a USB dongle, b) can get the installer to work (it wants to install the 32bit dongle drivers). I ended up cheating and running both versions of Windows. the 64bit sentinel drivers, can be "difficult" I've heard (they work fine for me). Nvidias drivers are a little flakey, for me at least.

So far I'd say 64bit Windows isn't worth it YET, and with your system I'd hold on for a while. The thing to ask your self is "Do I really need more than 4GB of RAM, just for 3D?".

hrgiger
08-27-2005, 08:23 AM
Is it just my imagination, or is the pace processor speed improvements slowing down?



Yes, it has. Moores law no longer holds true. If it did, we would be up to 6Ghz processors by now. Unfortunately, we've just about reached the limits of what silicone chips are capable of in terms of heat reduction and performance. Which is why they have started building the dual core chips. We need a new type of computing, as in yesterday.

Radamanthys
08-27-2005, 09:32 AM
Yes, it has. Moores law no longer holds true. If it did, we would be up to 6Ghz processors by now. Unfortunately, we've just about reached the limits of what silicone chips are capable of in terms of heat reduction and performance. Which is why they have started building the dual core chips. We need a new type of computing, as in yesterday.

moore's law dont say that the speed must double every 18 month like many ppl believe, but that the amount of transistors per square inch doubles every 18 month. And in that sense, dual core increases the number of transistors.

the biggest advantage of dual core is that 2 processor at a given speed consume 2.X Watt for doublign the performance, while doublign the frequency make the chip consume X Watt.

Verlon
08-31-2005, 01:29 AM
Forget about Moore's law?

pfft.....its not that. We don't race to make the next faster CPU to beat Moore's law. The only thing I ever cared about Moore's Law was the 2010 Limit (where the process gets too small to hold an electron). I only care about that until 1997 when I saw 4 ways around it on a dry erase board in about as many minutes.....

So what's the big deal? Being faster than the other guy. OUR processor is waiting longer than THEIR processor for you to fill in your Excel data. It has higher framrates in Excessive Violence 4: Cannibal Stweardess Vixens Unchanined!!! And, it does things like run servers and lightwave renders faster too.

Having the fastest processor sells product. Why did intel go with that ridiculously long pipeline in the p4? So they could run the Ghz rating up and say "ours is faster."