Advice needed for 3D workstation

Mac

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Is this a good start for a 3D workstation?

Motherboard: ASUS NCT-D
<A HREF="http://usa.asus.com/products/server/srv-mb/nct-d/overview.htm " target="_new">http://usa.asus.com/products/server/srv-mb/nct-d/overview.htm </A>
<A HREF="http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=asusnctd&page=1&cookie_test=1 " target="_new">http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=asusnctd&page=1&cookie_test=1 </A>
<A HREF="http://www7.tomshardware.com/motherboard/20041111/xeon-06.html " target="_new">http://www7.tomshardware.com/motherboard/20041111/xeon-06.html </A>

Will the 266 MB/s MCH-ICH HubLink Bus become a bottleneck?

Processor: 2 * Intel Nocona Xeon 3.2 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 1 MB L2 Cache

Will these two get too hot? How much performance boost would going to 3.4 GHz or 3.6 GHz deliver?

Memory: I'll get two 1 GB DDR2-400 memory sticks but I still haven't decided which brand to go so any recommendations here would be appreciated.

Graphics card: I need advice here as I'm not sure which card would best fit this system. Spending between 300 and 500 US$ for graphics card.

The workstation will be mainly used for modelling and rendering. Lightwave 7.5 will be the most used application but others such as Rhino, Bryce and 3DMax will also be used.
 

P4Man

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I would also suggest an opteron based system. Performance wise, Xeon and Opteron are pretty much neck and neck for 3D rendering (for almost anything else, opteron blows xeon out of the water) but the Opteron has some non trivial advantages none theless.

First, consider there are dual core opterons on the market. This means you can either build a dual machine using a (cheaper) single socket Opteron board, or you will have the possibility to upgrade a 2 socket opteron board to a quad core machine. frankly, considering how well most 3D rendering apps scale with mulitple core.

Using pricewatch prices:
Asus NCT-D: $334
2xXeon 3.2 : $1016
2x1Gb DDR2-400 ECC reg: $298
total: $1.648

Tyan Tyan S2875ANRF $236
2xOpteron 248 $870
2x1Gb DDR-400 ECC reg $202
total: $1.308

So you save ~$350 and you get a very considerable upgrade path. If you want even cheaper, wait until june and you'll be able to get two worthwhile single socket, dual core option: both opteron 1xx and even Smithfield (Pentium D) would be considerably cheaper while giving similar (if not identical for smithfield) performance, although also identical non upgradibility.

If you want ultimate performance, consider this:
Tyan Tyan S2875ANRF $236
2xOpteron 270 $2.144 (4 cores)
2x1Gb DDR-400 ECC reg $202
total: $2.552

$900 more, but you'll get "4 cpu's". Most rendering apps scale very well with cores, so you'll end up getting roughly 2x the performance of your proposed Xeon setup.

A second reason I'd consider Opteron, is power consumption. Not only does that reduce noise (fans), the difference is considerable if you do the math on your electricity bill. These workstations will likely be running under full load for a good part of the day. Every 100W saved here translates into $ saved (not to mention the environment).

>Will the 266 MB/s MCH-ICH HubLink Bus become a bottleneck?

Only if you need lots of I/O, like for GBit ethernet, super fast RAID, etc. For server loads, I'd say yes, no doubt. For typical workstation usage, not really.

>Will these two get too hot?

Fairly hot yes.

>How much performance boost would going to 3.4 GHz or 3.6 GHz
> deliver?

For your apps, pretty much linear scaling with clockspeed (more cache doesnt really help here though). But if you really want faster go dual core Opteron.

<A HREF="http://techreport.com/reviews/2005q2/opteron-x75/index.x?pg=7" target="_new">http://techreport.com/reviews/2005q2/opteron-x75/index.x?pg=7</A>


= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =
 

Mac

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Thanks wusy and P4Man for answering to my post.

Why is the Tyan Thunder K8SE a better choice? It costs 495 US$ and it offers features I will probably not use like SATA-II ports, 2 x16 PCI-E slots, 2 PCI-X buses, integrated graphics and dual GbE. The Asus NCT-D costs 322 US$ and has 8 USB ports (the Tyan Thunder K8SE only had 4) and 2 Firewire 400 ports (which the K8SE misses). The ATX form factor of the NCT-D is another advantage this board has over the K8SE.
Is DDR1 the only advantage of the K8SE over the NCT-D? Am I missing something?

P4Man the price of 2 3.2 GHz Xeons is 652 US$ not 1016 US$. I considered the Opteron system you suggested. Unfortunately I can't build a modern 3D Workstation on a motherboard that is based in AGP technology for graphics.
I still considered the possibility of an Opteron system based on another motherboard. The Opteron 246 is the processor which has the closest price to that of the Xeon so if I go Opteron then I'll get the 246.
From what I've seen multi-threaded applications (most 3D rendering software) work faster in the 4 logic units of the Xeon.
<A HREF="http://www.hexus.net/content/reviews/review.php?dXJsX3Jldmlld19JRD04MjImdXJsX3BhZ2U9OQ==" target="_new">http://www.hexus.net/content/reviews/review.php?dXJsX3Jldmlld19JRD04MjImdXJsX3BhZ2U9OQ==</A>
<A HREF="http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=xeon36&page=6&cookie_test=1" target="_new">http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=xeon36&page=6&cookie_test=1</A>
Difference here might be a few seconds but that could mean hours in very large renders.
The Opteron platform is as you said superior to Xeon in almost all areas and has lower power consumption, but Xeon has shorter rendering times (at least in 3DMax) and for this system my priority is rendering times, mainly for Lightwave and Rhino (Flamingo) which are not included in any benchmark I have found so far.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Mac on 05/23/05 04:19 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
 

P4Man

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>Why is the Tyan Thunder K8SE a better choice?

Its probably not, if you don't need all its features. How about this one:
<A HREF="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813131059" target="_new">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813131059</A> ?

>P4Man the price of 2 3.2 GHz Xeons is 652 US$ not 1016 US$.

Hmm.. either I messed up, or prices have dropped dramatically :D

>From what I've seen multi-threaded applications (most 3D
>rendering software) work faster in the 4 logic units of the
>Xeon.

Have look here:
<A HREF="http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1789026,00.asp" target="_new">http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1789026,00.asp</A>

Granted, not quite a straight comparison of the chips you are considering, but the opteron is a single cpu, dual core @2.2 GHz and should perform pretty much identically to 2x opteron 248, if anything, 2xopteron 248 could be a tad faster (higher memory bandwith). The dual core Pentium 840 tested should perform exactly like 2xXeon 3.2 GHz/800/1Mb, since its the same thing on a single package.

As you'll see, the opteron is much faster on one 3DS test as well as on lightwave, while loosing with a smaller margin on another 3DS bench.

Lastly, you seem to completely dismiss the dual core option. I certainly wouldn't. For rendering, there is not much reason NOT to go dual core, or at the very least keep the option open. If you want to go cheap, wait a few weeks and consider either a dual core Pentium D on a desktop board or an Opteron 1xx (or Athlon X2) on a single socket board. Either should be cheaper and least as fast as 2x Xeon on a server board.

If you really want fast, get 2 dual core opterons 265. Or get one now for roughly the price of 2 xeons, and add another one later.

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by P4man on 05/23/05 05:01 AM.</EM></FONT></P>