Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PC Building

Well, my wife asked me to build a PC for her for her prethesis/thesis work. Needs to run Autodesk Revit 2009 and Photoshop CS 2/3/4 as best as possible. We're sticking with Windows XP. Things I've found out so far:

1) Photoshop likes 1 or 2 cores, and a fast scratch disk
2) Hardware RAID5 for the main OS partition may be nice but is a real no-no if you want to migrate hardware in the future.
3) Revit 2009 will use up to 4GB in Vista (3GB in Windows XP) and one core for design work. Rendering, however, will use up to four cores.

So, this is what I'm looking at

Case: Antec Sonata III with 500W PSU
Hard Drives: 2x 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Black plus 1x 150GB Velociraptor
ROM: Any decent DVD burner (no bluray)
Video: ATI FirePro V3750 256MB
Display: still looking, probably a 24" LCD

Now, I haven't detailed my motherboard/cpu/ram choices yet. I'm going to have to determine how I want to tackle this:

Option 1a:
4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333 (~$100)
Core2 Duo 3.33GHz (~ $270)
MSI P45-8D LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard (~ $150)

Option 1b:
Substitute Core2 Quad 2.86 GHz (~$320)

Option 2:
6GB (3x2GB) DDR3 1333 (~$150)
Core i7 920 2.66GHz Quad Core (~$300)
GIGABYTE GA-EX58-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard (~$300)

Cost goes up and you go down the list. Option 1a is good but may be limiting in the future. Option 1b is more future proof but still not the newest technology. Option 2 is the bottom of the newest tech, which has too much RAM for XP, but I want to try to get the triple width memory controller working and it has somewhere to go with a future upgrade. It's somewhat slower, though, on single threaded applications. It's also the bottom of the pile for the processors.

Does Windows XP 64bit have issues with 32 bit applications? This would make the 6GB of RAM worth it. $140 for XPPro or XPPro64.

System layout is to put everything on a mirrored 1GB hard drive array. I originally wanted a RAID5 array, but I understand how bad that can be if you put your OS on that array. I'm not buying 5 hard drives to do that right now! The Velociraptor is for windows swap, Photoshop scratch, and general high speed mayhem. If I switch motherboards to something with an integrated SAS controller, I might swap out for a 15Krpm Fuji drive. Price is the almost the same incidentally.

The fish tank is on hold until the kitchen cabinetry is finished.


Mike said...

You can tell Photoshop which drive to use as a scratch disk. So if you find a smaller, but screaming fast drive, you can assign that to scratch work. I would also tell Firefox to use that as the file cache drive. A 2-40 gig scratch drive would be awesome.

I am assuming that the two 1TB would be raided together as mirrors?

WinXP can't fully use 4gb in my experience. It can only 'see' 3-3.5 gigs. It uses the rest for caching, but it's not available for application use. I don't know about 64bit, and I could be wrong.

For CPU, is there a price break for a Quad 2.66ghz? That would be twice as fast as your RAM, which is DDR, so your RAM is as fast as your CPU. Your day to day use would be a bit slower, probably not noticeable, but your rendering would be nice and fast.

Photoshop won't take much advantage of a 3d graphics card, but see if the CAD program will. If the CAD does hardware acceleration, opt for a faster GPU over the CPU.

SOI Sentinel said...

Actually, high end modern programs, is used with the /3GB switch in Boot.ini, can achieve a full 4GB of usage. This lets it assign 1GB to the OS and 3GB to the program. XP Pro 64 bit opens up ALL the Ram, but the 32 bit programs still max out at 4GB. It's like Vista without the bells, whistles, CPU requirements, or memory footprint. I can put, for instance, 6 or 8GB into the system for use then without concern over space. However, I need to pick good (server and workstation class) hardware as I did to garauntee driver support.

Yes, Raid 1 mirroring on the TB drives. I was originally thinking about RAID5, but I've addressed that already.

The Velociraptor is a 10KRPM 150GB SATA drive for $170. One of the high end i7 boards I'm looking at has a two channel SAS controller onboard, so I could instead use a 15KRPM 73GB Fuji drive that's going for $150 right now.

I chose what I consider the sweet spot of CPU pricing in the intel lineup.

2.5GHz = $240
2.66GHz = $270
2.83GHz = $320
3.0GHz = $540

Similar patterns for the dual core and the i7 is going to go vertical from the baseline 2.66GHz right now. Overclocking is an option on all processors, however, if I really need more speed.

The video card is the low end of their latest workstation cards ($170). It'll work just fine, but no VGA. It should help with display time in Revit, but also if Mistie messes around with rendering in 3DS Max.