Build focused for 3D and Rendering

Hey! I would very much appreciate you lovely folks' opinion on upgrading my current PC to attune for 3D work. (I use ZBrush, Maya, etc) At the end of 2011 I managed to get a PC with these specs:

Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2600 CPU @ 3.40GHz (8 CPUs), ~3.4GHz

Memory: 8192MB RAM

GPU:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti 

Power Supply: CORSAIR TX Series CMPSU-650TX 650W

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO GEN3

Keyboard: Logitech G110

Mouse: Logitech G500

At the time it was a good build and ran fast. (At least I think so; hey it ran most games maxed..)

Anyway, I do play games but not as much as I used to, so I believe the upgrade(s) would need to be primarily CPU focused. (Couldn't hurt to upgrade that a little too anyway) Could someone advise me as to the top rated CPU's at the moment as well as a more price-friendly alternative. The price range isn't a big issue but I don't want to go crazy - I'm not the one paying for it. Oh and finally, I am living in England so unfortunately I can't buy from Newegg.


Thank you for your tiiiiime!

moar ram, better nvidia gpu, is all u need

If i remember correctly zbrush is cpu and ram intensive.So a 6 core ivy-e cpu would be nice but they cost more than haswell 4 cores.

You have a z68 mobo so you will have to change it when you change the cpu.

i7 4930k if you want 6 core and overclockability,i7 4770k if you are fine with a 4 core,their overclockability varies from chip to chip and they run hot at load.

x79 mobos don't have native usb3 and only have 2 sata 6gb ports from the chipset,quad channel memory

z87 mobos have more sata 6gb ports from the chipset and native usb3,dual channel memory

Unless your scenes have high poly count a pro card isn't needed.radeon 7970 or its rebrand r9 280x has the highest compute power of gaming cards at the moment,nvidia crippled the 600 and 700 series in order to sell quadros :)

So tell us what you think and we will give suggestions.

AMD cards generally score MUCH better in Maya than nVidia cards, most of the time about twice as fast. This is odd in that Maya is not particularly GPU intensive, AND uses PhysX, so it has to do with OpenCL, which performs 2.5 to 5x better on AMD cards than on nVidia cards. The only exception to this is the nVidia K5000, but that's an expensive sucker at about 1750 dollars. I would definitely go with an AMD Firepro, the performance benefit in Maya is HUGE, because of the much better double precision compute performance.

It will be very hard to find a better value than the AMD FirePro W5000 as a dedicated 3D card. The number of triangles per second this card spits out for the price is huge in comparison to it's competition, even inside the AMD range. It will spit out about 4 times as much triangles per second than the similarly priced though still 10% more expensive nVidia Quadro K2000, and that will give you about 40% faster double precision complex rendering times (nVidia cards use PhysX which deflects a load from the CPU, whereas AMD cards don't have this, this reduces the speed benefit of the AMD cards somewhat, but about 40% is still a huge deal, and it's only a 400 USD professional range card). The FirePro W5000 is a small card with a small cooling assembly, fits all systems, doesn't require a particular PSU or heavy cooling in your PC case, so it's a pretty safe bet in terms of system compatibility.

You'll also want more RAM, I would say 32 GB should get you a lot of speed increase, but I wouldn't change the CPU just yet, the 2600 is still a very capable CPU and newer Intel SKUs from the consumer range don't show that much of a performance increase that the extra investment would be justified by the extra performance.

Extra performance, if needed, would be realized through a socket-2011 system with a hexcore Xeon or even better through a dual Xeon machine, but that comes at a price. I have a dual Xeon machine with two AMD FirePro W7000's for use in my company now, and that runs like a dream. For the price of two W7000's, you can't even buy a single W8000, and the performance benefit in 3D from a W8000 is barely better than from a W7000. In fact, I used to run that machine as my own workstation with a pair of consumer grade nVidia 680's, and those were as expensive per piece as the W7000's, but they are just unbelievable slow in Maya in comparison to the W7000's. So if you're going for high end performance and a Xeon-system, keep that in mind. I was quite dissatisfied with the performance of the dual Xeon system with the nVidia's, especially with the endless driver issues and downtime, but now, I really like that system, it's crazy fast and very dependable. If you're building a machine that will be used for 8h or more per day for business, I think a dual-Xeon with two W7000's is definitely the price/performance sweet spot.

At the price of some quadcore HT Xeons now, you can get a dual Xeon-setup for a good price/performance ratio, effectively building a 16 logical core beast with very high bandwidth and huge OpenCL double precision performance and poly count. A good dual Xeon mobo can be had for as little as 400 dollars these days, less than a consumer toy blingboard from Asus. And you can use 64 GB or more of ECC RAM.

The other thing you'll definitely need is a good SSD, that makes a huge difference in performance, and together with extra RAM and a professional grade GPU is a part that will increase performance hugely for the investment. I would recommend a Samsung 840 Pro or a PCI-e SSD, and although the latter has much better performance than SATA-SSD's, it also costs a lot more, and maybe they are not quite worth the investment, unless you're doing animation productions. I was able to make a deal on a very fast professional PCIe SSD board by buying a left over last year model, but there aren't that much good deals in that category. I would recommend that if you can't make a good deal on one, hold on until next year, because the prices of those are dropping fast, and by next year you'll be able to buy a 1TB PCIe high-throughput SSD for less than 1000 dollars.

Thanks for the reply. Well I'd go with the z87 mobo and most probably the i7 4770k just to keep the price down a little. (Also means I've gotta learn how to install that properly into my tower case. yay!) Would it be safe a safe option to upgrade my power supply or is it okay for the moment? I kind of assumed it'd be alright for what I upgrade this time around but maybe look into a better one in a few years.

 I don't know much about AMD cards as I've usually stuck with nvidia. I'm a little hesitant on which way to go due to future cards being released with both companies and how they perform against each other.. but again, gaming isn't my #1 priority. (Would be nice to get a card that lasts for the next 3 or 4 years though)

Thank you for an indepth response wow!

Okay, so taking the CPU out of being upgraded for now, I guess in about 2 years or so I'll need to upgrade it instead? What dual-Xeon mobo would you suggest? Around about 400 dollars is nice. If it goes too far over that I'd need to start skimping on the price of the card.

Of which; thanks for giving some suggestions for AMD cards. I've always stuck with nvidia cards and so I don't know much about AMD cards. - Although I have heard a lot of the time there can be driver problems and tiny technical faults that nvidia doesn't come across as often.

That being said; as a comparison, would the AMD Firepro W5000 stay at a regularly high standing with other graphics cards on the market at the moment? I'm going into University next year in September so to buffer the cost of any more upgrades in the 3-4 years whilst I'm there it'll need to run fairly well. - The option for that then would be to buy a slightly better card now and not invest more money in a shorter period of time if I went for the cheaper option? (I'm really quite clueless about what AMD cards compete with nvidia cards comparably) When I first got my current graphics card (nvidia 560ti) it quickly dropped as nvidia brought out their 600 and 700 series.

Should mention also, which I forgot to say, I've got a M4 Crucial 250GB SSD that my OS is installed on, everything else (files etc) is on a 1TB harddrive. Thank you for the info though, it might be useful if I decide to switch out my harddrive eventually.

Look your CPU is not that old. It probably has another year of life before it throttles modern GPU's. Just grab a high end Nvidia card and AMD are good but wont compete with nvidia's support in 3D animation. And if your mobo supports it, You can throw your old 560 into a secondary slot and some renderers will use it for extra performance. You cant do the same if you buy an AMD card. 

Get a Titan if you can aford it as the extra 3gb's of vram will be bliss but if not, get a high end GTX 780. Something like a lightning or an ACX. The GTX 770 maybe if you need more Vram (4GB version) but honestly, if you cant afford a GTX 780 then dont bother yet and just save for it. Better buying a high end card and upgrading in 3-5 years than a cheaper card and upgrading in 1-2.

I just thought I would note that while AMD cards will perform better in the viewport, They wont do as well rendering if you grab the best renderer for your card.

Also if you want to do any sort of gaming, Stay the hell away from AMD Firepro's for Nvidia Quadro's/Tesla's. a GTX 780 will perform as well as a high end Tesla ($3,000+)  for a fraction of the cost. The only downfall is the viewport. While on the gaming front, a Quadro k5000 will perform about as well as your GTX 560 ti while costing as much as 3 titans.

If you are modeling with over 30,000,000 poly's then maybe you need to go the professional 3D design card but you will need to have a separate gaming system to do any real sort of gaming like Bioshock infinite.

The only difference between professional 3D cards and a Geforce card is the drivers and the price. Many quadro's have a GPU from a lower end Geforce but cost so much more.

Of course, I said below i'd probably wait another 1 or 2 years before upgrading the CPU with an alternative focus on the graphics card instead. All options. And unless I can get the Titan cheaper than it's price on Amazon; then the GTX 780 would probably be my option for an nvidia card unless really persuaded for AMD. (I do lean towards nvidia cards though) If I go for that card, I'll upgrade my motherboard at the same time.

I see! Thanks, I doubt I'll have much time for any intense gaming anyway, (Maxing out graphics for every game 100% isn't my biggest priority) With my current 3D work I don't tend to go over 30mil polys but for more complex scenes etc that might be something to take into account in the future. If so, I can probably get that extra power from the CPU if I upgrade in a year or two. (I think??) The GTX 780 seems the best bet.

I guess that pretty much answers all performance questions. At several times the performance level of a Titan, how much more future proof performance does one need right?

The W5000 is a pretty solid Maya-card, and you can always add a second one in the future in XFire or GenLock, but AMD has already implemented the connectorless GenLock/XFire system that just works over the PCIe-bus, that feature has even already made it to the consumer cards, i.e. the R9 290x. The W5000 is GCN architecture, which is the current AMD architecture that is entirely being embraced, and has the "AMD mystery connector" for future functions that AMD has not revealed yet, but will probably have to do with some kind of deeper system integration for enhanced performance.

It's not a gaming card, it's a professional level card with supreme performance, but at a very good price/performance level, and it's a card that you could use in your next system 3 years from now for instance. AMD always goes for bandwidth and streaming processors over number of transistors, they focus on overall performance and compute performance of their cards, not on software acceleration technologies, but on raw power and sheer data throughput speed. That's what you need for professional 3D graphics, because it means a huge poly count per second, and that's what it's all about. Probably in the next generation of gaming, the poly count will also become more important than things like anti-aliasing and other post-processing technologies, because the source textures are likely to become much denser because of more available VRAM and higher monitor pixel densities. So the W5000 is a wise choice in my opinion in more than one way, again, especially for the price. The W7000 has more bandwidth, but not that much more performance, and it does cost 50 % more, and it doesn't come is such a convenient form factor as the W5000, which is even compatible with an ITx build, it's really small, discrete and doesn't require that much power, when you see the card it's hard to believe that it spits out so many triangles per second, great stuff.

I use SuperMicro EEB boards, which might not fit your case, but if you don't mind EEB, I would definitely recommend the ASRock EP2C board with the Intel C602 chipset, which costs less than 300 dollars, and has some serious features and seriously good build quality. I like it better than SuperMicro boards and than the Gigabyte EEB board I bought recently. The ASRock gives the impression of a better overall finish, ASRock has made the BIOS with obviously more care than others, the implementation of the PCIe ports is great, with 4 full x16 PCIe 3.0 slots, and the parts used are of good quality. Yet it's not that expensive.

The ASRock board also runs on a single CPU if needed, so you can buy one now and add a second one later. I would go with an E5-1620, which costs less than 400 dollars, and is therefore cheaper than a consumer grade and feature-wise handicapped i7-4770k. That is a quad core with hyperthreading, so 8 logical cores. If you get a second one, you have a total of 8 physical/16 logical cores on your system, all running at 3.6 GHz. I wouldn't worry about longevity of that configuration, it's plenty powerful, especially on a board with 4 full blown PCIe 3.0 16x lanes, which can be filled up with up to 4 AMD firepro cards if needed for HPC grade 3D performance. And those E5 cores don't even require that much power, you don't even need a crazy PSU for them.

If you already have an SSD, I wouldn't invest in a further SSD solution quite yet, prices of PCIe SSD solutions will drop to consumer level in the future.