Need help building i7 3D/rendering workstation


Mar 19, 2010
Any and all comments on the build will be more than welcome. Despite my best efforts at research I still need your feedback.

The purpose of the machine will be primarily to function as a 3D/HD video/graphics workstation and secondary to function as a render machine.

Both goals, and especially the second, require the PC to have as much raw computing (CPU) power as humanly possible. The system should also be very stable as it will be running days, sometimes even weeks on end with full load.

About $1500 or thereabouts. Since I’ll buy it in euro (I'm in Belgium) you shouldn’t worry too much about conversions and just go for an approximate guess. The parts I listed cost about as much as I'm willing to spend on that particular kind of part (CPU, mobo, ...)

Within the next month. Would be willing to wait only if something is around the corner that will suit my needs a lot more than current possibilities.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: 3D and HD graphics workstation. Rendering machine. A tiny bit of gaming if possible.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, screen.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: I’m afraid I’m stuck with a local builder/shop as I’m having it be built there. Luckily they have a pretty wide choice of parts so most if not any of your suggestions are acceptable.

None that I can think of.

OVERCLOCKING: Yes. SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not in the near future.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I know it’s a lot to ask for considering it is to be overclocked and will need a cooler the size of Mt Everest, but I really, really would prefer a PC which runs as quietly as possible. My current one is on 24/7 standby to be drafted by the military for use as a sonic weapon. It’s really driving me crazy to be working next to something that sounds like it’s about to go into orbit at any second.



i7 920 or i7 930.

I prefer the 1366 socket over the 1156 because the i7 920/930 offers more “bandwith” (that’s how I understood it anyways) which apparently makes a difference for video editing.

The CPU would then be OC’d to 3,5 Ghz at least, Hyperthreading enabled of course. I’d get as much as I can. The magical 4 Ghz if possible. But the machine should be stable as a rock, so I doubt that’ll work out.

I’m in doubt about going for a 920 or a 930. Apparently the only difference is that the 930 is clocked somewhat higher. But someone suggested somewhere that the 930 is somewhat newer in design so should be easier to overclock.

CPU Cooler:

I was thinking of getting the Noctua NH-D14. It’s a massive beast, and it seems to be scoring best on all the benchmarks.

Since I just noticed the shop I’m using doesn’t carry the damn thing anymore I might have to go for the Cooler Master V10 which is also reported to cool reasonably well.
Anyone have experiences about which of the two performs better?

If you guys think the Noctua would be a lot better I’ll do my very best to get it.


Cooler Master HAF 922

The only reason I picked this one is because both the Noctua and Cooler Master coolers are immense in size and not all cases will fit them. Reviews also note the case’s fine airflow. I hope I’m right in choosing this case.


Asus P6T probably. I’m a little at a loss as to which mobo to go for. I’m inclined to go for the P6T as it fits my budget and does nice in reviews. But considering I’m OC’ing I’m wondering if I should go for the Deluxe or another line of mobo’s entirely. Your advice on this matter would be much appreciated.


12GB. I know, it’s a lot. But I’m wanting to start running quite a lot of simulations and they’re very heavy on RAM. My workflow is also very “multitasky” so I’m sure the 12GB will come in handy.

Corsair 12 GB DDR3-1600 Hex-Kit Retail. I don’t know anything about RAM and its relation to OC’ing. I heard having a lot of RAM (in this case an insane 12GB) will make it harder to OC. I also have no idea) will make it harder to OC. I also have no idea whether having 1600 Mhz ram or this 9-9-9-24 thing make any difference. The guides about overclocking the i7 didn't provide much information about this.


This is a tough one. I first considered getting a Quadro workstation card… But then I realized they’re all basically consumer type chipsets with some extra RAM and a disproportionate extra cost.

Unless someone can convince me they have some amazing advantage I don’t know about they’re not an option.

I’m torn between the Nvidia GTX260 and the Radeon 5770. The 260 is said to score better in the 2D field (according to THIS test) which is rather important. It’s also CUDA enabled, which could be the next big thing in rendering. On the downside it has only 896 MB RAM, which isn’t enough to run a brand new kind of program which uses the GPU to help with rendering.
Then the 5770 has the advantage of 1Gig RAM. I heard that Nvidia artificially keeps the performance of their gaming cards down when dealing with Adobe graphics software, so that people will buy the Quadro cards. I’m not sure if this is true or not.

I occasionally game although the ability to do so or not isn’t a deal breaker.

Hard drive:

I honestly have no idea. I’m probably going to be editing HD footage so I’m guessing I’ll need some speed. I was advised against the raptor since it’s not safe enough. A SSD is outside my budget.

Currently I’m going for 2HD’s WD Caviar Black 640 GB. I don’t know anything about RAID.

Help with this would be great.


Corsair CMPSU-650TX
Will 650 be enough?

Here’s my questions summarized:

920 or 930?

Cooler Master V10 or Noctua NH-D14?

Will the case fit the cooler?

Which motherboard should I get? Overclockability is a prime concern of course.

Will the RAM be a hurdle to OC'ing?

Which GPU to get? The GTX260 or the Radeon 5770?

Which hard drive solution to get to ensure the best data rate while editing?

How powerful a PSU will I need?

Thanks heaps in advance for reading my wall of text. And even more thanks for any reply.
CPU: i7-930. It's an upgrade of the 920. That is, unless the 930 is a LOT more expensive. Here in the US, it's only $10 or so more.

HSF: Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus. It's one of the best AND one of the cheapest.

Case: If you don't need a massive GPU (under 11 inches), you can get a smaller Antec 300 Illusion.

Mobo: Spend a tad more and get a USB 3/SATA III board (Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R or Asus P6X58D Premium).

RAM: Agree on the 12 GB for your uses. Look at other brands besides Corsair. They're typically on the expensive to insane side of the prices. You want to get 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 (timings 7-7-7-x) sticks, but if those are too much, get 133 mhz CL 7 sticks.

GPU: Workstation GPU. The workstation cards aren't just consumer cards. They're tweaked to put out super high quality frames at a slower rate. Consider it the "quality over quantity" approach. Comsumer cards rely on the brute force method. They push out lower quality frames as fast as possible.

In addition, workstation GPUs are more throughly tested. You are very, very unlikely to have a problem with the driver or supporting other hardware/software. Not only that, but you get much, much better customer service.

I would definitely look up some benchmarks in your exact programs. I tend to lean towards nVidia in builds like this.

HDD: A SSD is out of budget (with everything else). The Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB are faster than the WD. They're also cheaper/GB and run cooler and quieter.

PSU: Depends on the GPU, but most likely yes.


Mar 19, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions.

The 930 is only €20 more expensive so I think I'm going for that one.

Researching the Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus (which is a very good cooler) I came across the Zalman CNPS10X Flex. So that's another 2 excellent options.

I'm also going for the (cheaper and better) Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R.
Weird thing tho about this mobo (and the P6T too) is that it doesn't seem to support 1600Mhz RAM while there are plenty of builds out there with this mobo and 1600Mhz RAM... Should I go for 1333 in stead then? I think I'll have to since CL7 sticks for 16000 Mhz are a bit too expensive it seems.
I found 2 CL 8-8-8 1600Mhz 6Gig sets (GeiL 6 GB DDR3-1600 Tri-Kit) for about the same price as the ones I found before.
It's either that or 2 sets of Corsair 6GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20 which is the cheapest CL7 RAM I could find.

As for the GPU. I did some more research and came up with some interesting info. Apparently CAD software (be it just CAD or Maya) runs its viewports using OpenGL. So it pays to have a GPU with the latest OpenGL. The Radeon 5770 has OpenGL 3.2 which is rumored to be sufficient for good viewport rendering. This would be a nice compromise considering the workstation cards I can afford hate too little RAM.

The HD you suggested appears to be very good so I'll switch to that one too.
It supports 1600 mhz RAM, it just doesn't default to 1600 mhz. RAM defaults to 800 mhz, 1066 mhz or 1333 mhz, but can use sticks at up to 2200 mhz. That means you'll just need to manually set the sticks to make sure they're running at full speed. 1333 mhz CL 7 is the sweet spot for RAM right now.

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