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 Post subject: Advice on cheap CAD/3D/Photoshop workstation!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:36 am 
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Hi! I am a long-time reader of SPCR, it feels nice to finally post in the forums. :-)

I'm building a cheap workstation for my sister who is getting her master degree in architecture. As far as I know she's using Autocad/Sketchup/3dsMax/Photoshop on daily basis. Rendering stuff in Kerkythea. She's not working on sophisticated stuff that requires top notch hardware but her current laptop with first gen i3 is terrible in rendering. This built should be good enough to give 2-3 years of no frustration. ;-)

I'm from central europe prices are little higher here, also there's not much choice for used stuff.

CPU: Intel Xeon® Processor E3-1230V2 - 283$

As integrated graphics and overclocking is not needed, best performance for the buck? Or maybe it's better to get older, used sandy bridge i5-2400 for 90$ less and invest in cheap 128gb ssd for the system?

Board: MSI B75MA-E33 - 69$

It's cheap and has Ivy support out of the box, plus USB3 and SATAIII for the future use.

RAM: 2 x Kingston HyperX 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM - 50$

Only two slots on the motherboard but for now 2x8gb is over the budget. 1600Mhz CL9 would be enough?

GPU: AMD FirePro v3900 - 133$

I've ditched consumer cards after reading some reviews, workstation quadro and firepro seems to outperform them by a large margin. Or am I wrong and should go with HD6570/7750 for the price? Another option is aftermarket firepro v4800 for 50$ less, I couldn't find a direct comparison but it seems it would be a little faster.

HDD: E-bay, but new with warranty, WD5003ABYX RAID EDITION 4 - 65$

This wd black is fast and as far as I know reliable, any other options? Maybe 1TB wd green or performance will suffer?

I've got cases, power supplies, fans lying around :) 300W or 350W psu for this build?

Very cheap, possibly quiet cpu cooler that will outperform the stock one? Or should I just replace the fan on intel radiator?


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on cheap CAD/3D/Photoshop workstation!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:05 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 4:36 am
Posts: 4737
Location: Monterey Bay, CA
Hi and welcome to SPCR!

I don't have the hour it'd take for a detailed response...so here's the shorter version :)

All of these apps will greatly benefit from 4 cores. So, the biggest jump in performance in just moving from the i3 to any quad core. The next step up is moving from a quad core to one with hyperthreading. I could only find one review for the Xeon in question. Based on the limited apps benchmarked, it looks like your Xeon is pretty close to the performance of the i7-2600K (stock clocked). Given that, here's a comparision of the i7-2600K vs an i3-2100. I don't know what i3 she currently has, and there aren't any mobile cpu's in Anand's Bench, so this is just a guess. You can play around and see what might be a closer fit (Pentium G850?).

It does no good to have a fast CPU if it can't move data back and forth quickly or if it's memory starved. Get 16GB of RAM. Consider a 4 memory slot mobo if you can only afford 8GB now (but, RAM is really cheap atm). Get an SSD for the OS/Apps and possibly for the scratch disk.

Video card: Photoshop uses gpu acceleration, but doesn't really need a hefty card. Something like the 7750 is good enough. I don't know what the other apps use, but I recommend doing a search on "autocad gpu benchmark" etc... to find out. Don't know if the FirePro cards are worth it vs the consumer cards...hopefully there are benchmarks.

Ah - here's a FirePro V3900 review at Tom's.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on cheap CAD/3D/Photoshop workstation!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 12:55 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:27 am
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Thanks for the reply! I've read many reviews that include autocad and various 3d tasks and know the performance with both this xeon (which is as you've said similar to i7-2600k) and firepro cards (btw. even the cheapest of them outperform higher end cards in some specific tasks). I am not sure how to balance this built, whether to spent 40% of the budget on the cpu or go with something cheaper instead to balance it with more ram/ssd, better mobo. It's hard to find reviews with workstation gpus performance on mid end cpus and with/without ssd as a system drive...


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on cheap CAD/3D/Photoshop workstation!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:13 pm 
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Actually, I was pleasantly suprised by the performance/price point for both the Xeon and the FirePro. I think they'd be excellent for her application. Consider spending $20-30 more for a mobo that has 4 RAM slots and maybe another SATA 6Gbps connector or two. Only SSDs will make use of the extra bandwidth, but they are getting cheaper. This way, you could start with 8GB of RAM, a $100 128GB SSD and an HDD for data storage. Later on, you could get another SSD and more RAM.

As for HDD vs SSD, I just found [url=http://cadspeed.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/optimizing-your-revit-workstation-for-point-clouds/this.[/url]It might be applicable to the Autocad type work. And here's a [url=http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/optimize-performance-photoshop-cs4-cs5.html]page on optimizing Photoshop[/url] performance.

As for the WD Black, yeah, they're generally pretty fast at the cost of some noise. If you can't afford an SSD, then the HDD will be the bottleneck for the scratch disk. So, probably better to err for speed over noise.

Power use: running full tilt stressing cpu and gpu....maybe 200W, more likely 150W. As for which PSU...sorta depends of what you've got.

GPU: That tiny fan might be noisy to get rid of 50-75W.

CPU cooler: I haven't seen how well the Xeon's cooler performs for thermal/noise. You could always try it and see if it works and then replace it if it's the loudest thing in the case.

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Support SPCR through these links: NCIX, Amazon and Newegg


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on cheap CAD/3D/Photoshop workstation!
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:30 pm 
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Posts: 573
Location: de_DE
fundesiecle wrote:
Board: MSI B75MA-E33 - 69$

It's cheap and has Ivy support out of the box, plus USB3 and SATAIII for the future use.

RAM: 2 x Kingston HyperX 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM - 50$

Only two slots on the motherboard but for now 2x8gb is over the budget. 1600Mhz CL9 would be enough?

Better get a board with four ram slots, professional applications can use all the ram they can get. More is better, so if your budget allows, get more CL9 is only just measurable, any 1600 sticks will do.
CAD and rendering stressed the CPU, consider getting a different cooler, Collermaster TX3 or Xigmatek Loki are $25 and will reduce the noise level considerably.

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