Something that I’ve just seen is the new cpu product line from AMD that combines cpu and Radeon graphics card right in the cpu chip! Definitely requires some looking into. If this allows Carrara and other multi-thread enabled software to utilize the 384 Radeon cores… yikes!
It helps to work your shopping decision together at this point. You’ll want to spend a bit of time on motherboards, then RAM and Graphics cards and Hard drives, etc., and go back and fourth a bit so that you have a better idea of what kind of interfaces you need to have on your motherboard, what type and speed of RAM the motherboard requires, how many hard drive connections are available, etc., Certain chipsets on the motherboard may work smoother with certain graphics and vice versa. Similarly, you’ll want to pick the fastest interface for hard drives at the time of purchase that your budget can afford - and the right RAM needs, etc.,
I like the idea of RAM that includes some sort of cooling assistance - like heat sinks or something better. I only use heat sinks. Nothing separate to install - they come built onto the RAM boards. It’s likely that my extremely cool case would keep unassisted RAM cool enough, I think of the fact that I’ll sometimes have renders go on for longer than a day - sometimes even three. As rare as this may be (for me) I like to feel confident that my precious parts aren’t going to melt when I push them hard.
As I’ve mentioned what Kevin was saying, I think that many interface graphics issues can be helped, not by the greatest gamer video card so much as the best card at OpenGL, as that is what the workspace view uses. The one he ended up getting IS a fantastic gaming graphics card -and that is a great place to start looking. But other than that, Carrara doesn’t really need a great card. I was looking for something inexpensive, and that’s what I bought - which just happened to be a really good video card. Sometimes you find amazing deals just at the time that it comes to place the order. If you have the time, do a quick check through each category of parts that you may have had to compromise on due to budget. Sort stuff from lowest first and see if a better deal awaits.
Otherwise, when I’m shopping for the parts in the ‘design’ phase - where I may be slightly less concerned at price in lieu of discovering what’s available, I’ll often sort items by consumer ratings. Especially when it comes to motherboards - be aware that often the most expensive, ‘elite’ board might not be as well suited to your needs as one that costs a fraction of that cost. Some features that are perfect for advanced gaming may have nearly no effect on Carrara-oriented work. If you game on your workstation, perhaps you want something like that. I use mine for everything that has to do with my video production which includes Sound, Image, and Video editing and mastering along with basic internet and various handy utilities that aid in the dealing with content purchases, installation and management.
I’ve also just noticed that many companies, several of which are big RAM makers, are now making SSD (solid state hard drives), which have no moving parts - which makes them faster. When shopping for hard drives, I like to go large. As large as I can afford - and as many as I can afford. I’ll often dedicate an entire drive that I’m not using any more strictly for Temp and scratch disk use. Then if I need a temporary spot to toss some files to… there it is. I’ll take a good, fast internal drive over external hard drives any day. The ultra-fast connection of SATA over USB makes a big difference when it comes to accessing runtimes and other vital information. Keep in mind that the textures for all of your runtime contents are in that runtime folder. So unless you save all assets completely when you save to a faster drive, you’ll still need access to that runtime folder at render time. Good external drives are essential to me as well, though. I need them to help pass files and information from one computer to the next. Internet cloud drives are on the frontier right now, and will likely help eliminate such a drastic need, but now that their prices are low, I like to collect 250GB and larger portable hard drives when I see them on close-out sales.
I use SATA 6GB/second internal hard drives. When I bought my 8 core Zambezi processor from AMD, Spooky bought the higher cost version Zambezi, too. He claims that the SSD’s are the way to go for D|S, Poser, Carrara, etc., I think it would make for an interesting test to see how much performance difference there actually is. I know that I can really tell when my external USB drive is connected. It totally slows down the system drastically when something decides to have a look at it’s contents. Which, for some reason, often happens when loading contents from a runtime - even though my runtimes are internal. Still… the system will pause, and I’ll hear that external drive spin up and start responding its thoughts back. Something else to keep in mind - it’s a good idea to keep slower drives unplugged from the workstation when not needed.
Innards are the primary concern. If all you can afford for them is a cheap case, or use an existing one, do that. My genius brother always told me not to spend any extra on a fancy case - put that money into the system instead. My first build ignored his advice, which has been to my benefit ever since. I prefer to seek out a case that comes with gamer-class cooling built in and, just as importantly, filtered intakes. I get nervous when I approach my tender electronics with canned air or the end of a vacuum tube (recommended by many PC experts over compressed air - but be mindful of static electricity and bumping fragile parts) so I opt for budgeting in some extra cash for a good, solid case that isn’t going to cut me to shreds as I install my components, has filters where the intake fans go, and comes with at least two 120mm fans. I look for other features as well, and it’s quite difficult to find a case that has a side panel intake, that has a filter there. Not a big deal. I simply order an extra filter or two or three from whatever selection they have available at the time.
External interfaces, like USB, Firewire, Audio, etc., and their placement on the case could easily be of a big concern to some of you as well. Go for it. Find a case that matches what you want and how you work. The fact is, building your own will save you enormous amounts of money, so you might as well make it something that you are ultimately pleased with using. A few posts down, Evil Producer highlights some Mac Machines that are currently available at this time of writing. Keep in mind that, although I don’t have a support line to send my computer to to have it fixed, nor anyone to call who knows how my machine is configured, I built an Eight Core (3.1GHz per core) PC with 16 GB of RAM (heat sinked), a 1 GB DirectX 11 GT520 Fermi-class video card, 1.5 TB internal Primary hard drive, DVD multi burner/drive, Military Spec Motherboard with 32GB Ram capacity, No mouse, keyboard or monitor, as I have those already, A very high quality Antec three hundred - two case with filtered intakes, extra fans and filters to fill all available slots in the case, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit (no use for the Pro added features that I know of), Sony Home Movie HD Studio Platinum Suite, which also includes Sound Forge and DVD Architect all for less than a thousand dollars!
Like I said earlier, I know nothing of Macs. I do know that I am the only one of my parents children who doesn’t have a Mac. The rest use them almost exclusively. Everybody I know who owns a Mac will likely remain Mac users the rest of their lives - which definitely says that Apple is certainly doing something right! But these saving are what will keep me in a PC for the rest of my life as well. Not just the cost savings either. Once you start down the road I’ve described - even if only at Newegg - you’ll see the amazing choices available. I tweak my designs around what makes all of my software happy - and it works!
BTW, the pictures in this article are near random, and not from my PC build.++
++ Exception: The Case in the image below, with blue fan lights, is a larger, more stylized version of mine. I opted for no side window and no colored lights. Mine, being a smaller unit, also does not have the sloping top - but it did come with all of those big fans, including the roof-mounted giant - a 230mm exhaust fan! The two big blue fans in front, as with the rest in the case, are 120mm silent fans. The case is very quiet.
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