Help Needed! Heavy Content Creation Laptop/Desktop Configuration

Pandorica

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Feb 13, 2015
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Hello all,

This is going to be a long one as there are a lot of factors to consider but I could really use a few more opinions.

TL;DR - Need reliable portable computer(s) for heavy content creation, need to find best combination of desktop and/or laptop.
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I'm a student and working technology and new media artist. My work involves: photo/video editing, graphic design, VR development, VFX work, digital sound production, real-time computer vision tracking, AI and machine learning, 3D work, and simulations. Need longevity, user upgradability, portability. Need high resolution, color accuracy, strong cpu, and VR-capable graphics (somewhere, either in laptop or desktop depending on suggested configuration). Obviously, I understand that ideally I'd have a dedicated monster workstation system with Quadros and Xeons and all the good stuff, but unfortunately that's not in the budget as of now ;)

Been struggling to choose the best, most cost effective and "future-proof" option, especially with new Intel and NVIDIA releases a few months away. Just a powerful laptop? Powerful laptop with mediocre graphics + eGPU for intensive work, upgradability, and VR support? Less powerful general purpose laptop and custom ITX desktop build for heavy lifting and upgradability?

I have many years experience building and repairing and I'm able to navigate most technical/hardware challenges so building, repasting, troubleshooting not an issue. Based in Chicago and Boston, will need to fly back and forth a few times annually. Would prefer to bring as much compute power with me as possible.

Trying to stay within $2500 budget. Thanks so much for any help or suggestions.

Considering the following combinations so you can get a feel for the kind of hardware and horsepower I'm looking at:

• XPS 15 9570 w/ 4K Touch 100% AdobeRGB & 1050ti + Sonnett eGPU w/ 980ti (card I already own)
• Seems good (if not best) option, base laptop powerful enough, eGPU allows for upgradability

• Gigabyte Aero 15X v8 4K w/1070 Max-Q
• Most power in compact portable package, least future proof on CPU and GPU. Have read QC concerns, expensive. Poor resale value

• 9700K (rumored for Oct 2018) or RYZEN 2600 + 980ti ITX desktop rig in Node 202 that can be fit in a backpack + XPS 13, Lenovo Yoga 920, etc. for general purpose
• I like this option, allows for upgradability, but concerned about portability and thermals of 202. Not thrilled about having to buy monitor and peripherals. Can take XPS 13 or other small laptop to and from classes for lighter work.

• Dell Inspiron 8700 & 1070 prebuilt + XPS 13, Yoga 920, etc. for general purpose
• Complete powerful VR-ready system for $1089 (see link above), will soon be outdated, not as portable. Could still afford XPS 13 or similar laptop on the side for lighter work.

Thank you again for any help or suggestions you might have. Much appreciated!
 

profoundnoah

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What is the exact model of the 980 Ti you already own? You could EASILY save quite a chunk of money by building a system and just throwing it in there. It will take a good bit of time before the latest stuff gets thrown into laptops. How urgent is this build?

I agree with you on the issue of portability with the ITX system; that would be more for something along the lines of an engineering/CAD job. I'd stick with the first option at this point, though I'd like to know the complete specs of the one you plan to buy. If you're doing VERY CPU-Intensive work, there might be a bit of throttling. Otherwise, the eGPU gives you the best in terms of upgradability, not to mention that you wouldn't have to worry about separate peripherals/a good panel.
 

Pandorica

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Thanks very much for the thoughtful feedback. I've got the Strix 980Ti OC. It's in great shape. Ideally would have something figured out by the end of August. Even if I just got a mid-tier laptop now and waited for the new Intel CPUs to build the main rig.

A user on another forum suggested that I build a powerful desktop setup and access it remotely from a mid-range laptop that I take around to classes with me. I thought this was an interesting solution, but not sure if it would end up limiting me more than help.

Specs of the XPS 15 I'm looking at:
i7-8750H
1050Ti 4GB (Max-Q I believe?)
16GB DDR4 2666MHz, 2x8
512GB M.2 2280 PCIe SSD
15.6" 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch IPS100% AdobeRGB 400-Nits display
Killer 1535 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
6-Cell 97WHr Integrated Battery

Sonnett Thunderbolt 3 eGPU paired with Asus Strix OC 980Ti (with intent to pick up 1160/70 when available)

As far as I know, the 9570 now supports 4 lanes of PCIe so less significant performance degradation.
I like this option because of the panel, the ability to upgrade RAM, storage, and even without the eGPU, still a pretty capable package.
 

ScrewySqrl

Champion
Moderator
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: AMD - Threadripper 1950X 3.4GHz 16-Core Processor ($749.89 @ OutletPC)
CPU Cooler: ARCTIC - Freezer 33 TR (Black/Red) CPU Cooler ($37.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: ASRock - X399M Taichi Micro ATX TR4 Motherboard ($283.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill - Sniper X 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3000 Memory ($296.98 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital - Blue 1TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($173.99 @ Amazon)
Video Card: Asus - GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX Video Card (Purchased For $0.00)
Case: Rosewill - FBM-05 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($19.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: EVGA - SuperNOVA G1+ 650W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply ($64.89 @ OutletPC)
Total: $1627.71
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-08-02 09:38 EDT-0400

How about a threadripper desktop? 16 cores/32 threads, 1 TB SSD. 32 GB RAM and re-use your 980.

I used a very small MicroATX minitower (there are no threadripper ITX boards), for better portability.

The amount left over can get a ~$875 laptop, or you could replace the 980ti with a 1080ti. Or get a fancier case and water cooling, and a ~650-700 laptop.
 

logainofhades

Titan
Moderator
Mini-itx, that should be easily portable.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: AMD - Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7GHz 8-Core Processor ($319.79 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: Asus - ROG STRIX X470-I GAMING Mini ITX AM4 Motherboard ($208.34 @ B&H)
Memory: Team - Vulcan 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3000 Memory ($279.99 @ Newegg Business)
Storage: Crucial - MX500 500GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($99.99 @ Adorama)
Storage: Crucial - MX500 1TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($189.11 @ Amazon)
Video Card: Asus - GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB STRIX Video Card
Case: Silverstone - RVZ01B Mini ITX Desktop Case ($78.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Power Supply: Corsair - SF 600W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular SFX Power Supply ($114.89 @ OutletPC)
Operating System: Microsoft - Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit ($99.99 @ Amazon)
Total: $1391.09
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-08-02 10:26 EDT-0400
 

Pandorica

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Feb 13, 2015
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Thanks for all your suggestions. I think I've narrowed it down to either the XPS 9570 w/ eGPU or remote desktop with mid-range laptop.

Spent the morning testing the remote desktop idea.

Tried some video and audio editing controlling my brother's custom rig (4770K + 980Ti) with a MacBook Pro across two different wifi networks using TeamViewer. Connection is very solid, decent stream quality and very usable interface. Would be great for renders, running simulations, CPU and GPU intensive tasks, etc. However, resolution and compressed color fidelity simply not feasible for any kind of color accurate work remotely, regardless of laptop screen color gamut or accuracy. The biggest issue is the audio latency, seems to be almost 500ms delay, which basically rules out any kind of audio to video editing remotely.

Too bad because I really like this option. Provides the most hardware versatility and power for the price, especially if I could budget a Threadripper build. Not ruling it out entirely but still considering.

Does anybody know of any lower-latency free remote desktop solutions or ways to reduce audio latency?

Thank you!
 

profoundnoah

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May 12, 2015
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That's exactly what I was thinking would happen. I'm not an expert when it comes to remote applications, but you'd likely need to pay for some service of complete fidelity, not to mention wifi will also be a bottleneck in some cases.
 

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