Building a Render and Sim Beast

So I do a lot of pretty intense visual effects and rendering and with this year's tax return, I thought I would start looking into making a computer that would not only fill my current needs, but also be expandable for several years to come. My price range on this is <4000 USD without peripherals and this unfortunately is the first time I've built a full computer.

The programs I tend to use are Houdini (uses a lot of ram for large simulations, lots of cpu for renders, and a decent amount of gpu for the viewport) and the Adobe Production suite (takes advantage of cuda and cpu threading). Basically I am looking at a potentially multi-cpu configuration that I can slowly fill up with 128 Gb of ram as I need it and a decent graphics card that supports CUDA and maybe SLI.

Here is what Houdini developers suggest:

and here is Tek Syndicate's tutorial that I currently think is the closest to what I can afford:

Some questions I have about the tutorial are how to set up the memory accelerator - which I think sounds interesting - is it something that comes built in to the motherboard or the drives, or is it something I must buy separately? How useful is this feature?

So here is my PCpartspicker list that I have put together so far:

Any tips or build ideas would be great. Like anyone I am always looking to boost performance and cut costs. Thanks!

Hmm. Does nobody have any advice or did I just accidentally select the perfect build? :P

Unfortunately a build of this caliper is something I'm not comfortable with.  I can only point out possible points to consider.

I have heard that the 256-bit interface on the GTX 980 is sometimes limiting for compute applications.  Normally, nvidia's compression algorithm allows all 4GB of VRAM to pass through the smaller-than-usual bus width just fine.  You may want to see if the programs you are using are affected by this.

850 Pro is a newer revision of the 840 Pro, and seems to be cheaper at the moment:

I have not dealt with dual CPU workstations, so I can't comment on wattage estimates.  However, there are some cheaper 1000w power supplies that perform exceptionally well and are cheaper.  Specifically, the EVGA P2.

I also think that your CPUs are using a different socket  than the motherboard you've chosen.  Your CPUs are LGA2011-3, but your motherboard is using the older LGA2011 socket.  These are not pin compatible, and you'll need to find a LGA2011-3 motherboard with dual sockets.

Another youtuber(Barnacules) did a pretty beast build with dual Xeons which you might find interesting.

Thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone Noob. Excellent catch on the CPU, I forgot that v3's are Haswell. Looks like that means I'll either need to change the motherboard to support it and get the more expensive DDR4 ram, get two equivalent (but more expensive) v2 version CPU's, or reduce my clock speed for a cheaper CPU. Probably will have to take the third option, since the other 2 will push me over budget. Any other options you can think of?

I also appreciate your comment on the memory and power supply. I'll look into those.

I checked on the graphics card and it seems to work well with the programs I am using. The only other good option is the gtx 760 ti which is unusually hard to find and is often more expensive despite being older.

Also I appreciated the video.


I'd lean toward the newer LGA2011-3 platform simply because it's a newer platform.  If you ever wanted to upgrade it in the future, you can.  I can't think of any other options at the moment.

If the GTX 980 works just fine, then go for it.  The 780 ti is from the previous generation, and is therefore getting hard to find.  Its MSRP is also higher.

Also I just remembered something.  The Define R5 only accepts boards up to the ATX form factor since the motherboard tray is actually recessed a bit.  You might want to look into the Define XL R2 or larger case for such a large motherboard.

I also did some reading on the Newton R3 and it seems like a pretty good unit.  The EVGA does seem to perform a little bit better in terms of rise time and ripple, though.

Newton R3:

EVGA Supernova P2:

Also the Newton R3 uses some chinese capacitors here and there, while the EVGA seems to have japanese all-around.

I recently wrote a document for a friend for building a workstation alternative to the base MacPro. If you want to take a look for inspiration... it is still a draft tho (and English isn't my first language).

Btw, are your simulations, lets say, "mission critical"? Would it crash for example, if you get memory errors or change the accuracy in any way? If so, I would suggest to stay away from gaming hardware and get Quadros (CUDA) or FirePros (OpenCL) and DDR4 with ECC. My research for that document suggests that it isn't just marketing tricks to get more money out of those workstation-grade GPU's. I will list sources at the end when I'll finalize it (the article that is).

Since you already want a multi-cpu rig (Xeons), you should invest in those things. Just my opinion. If you also want to play games on it, then I understand going for gaming hardware.

Thanks for all the feedback guys! After taking all of your comments into consideration I have tweaked my setup a bit.

I do have some questions though. It seems both Oubiewan and Petsoukos prefer the Xeon E5-1630 v3 which despite it's rather attractive price and high clock speed is only one core. Is there a reason for this preference, wouldn't a single core have some massive disadvantages when tested against an 8 core processor with 2/3rd the speeds? Currently I'm going with the same CPU's as before and upgrading my motherboard and ram to fit.

Thanks Noob for the power supply suggestion. After looking into the Supernova, I decided to go with that, especially once I found out I would need 1600 watt power supply if I ever decided to throw in another graphics card.

As for the graphics card, as much as I would like to get a workstation card like a Quadro, my current budget won't allow it despite the fact that I have found that crashing is something of an issue with these cards. I think I will stick with GTX for now and upgrade later. My current choice is the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 4GB WINDFORCE which provides me with an extra DVI port and is generally considered one of the best builds for the 980.

Noob was also right about the box, so I have opted for the Fractal Design Define XL R2.

So a few people I have talked to feel like I could find a better price for a HDD without sacrificing speed or reliability. I feel like they should be right, but am not sure what to look for. Any advice?

My first pick would be Western Digital Blacks.

My second pick would be Hitachi Deskstars.

How much storage are you looking for, specifically?

Well since I deal with media creation, the more space the better. I would say that the most I would be accessing on a regular basis would be about 2 terabytes though. I'm fine with storing older projects off computer.

Xeon E5-1630 v3 which despite it's rather attractive price and high clock speed is only one core.

Do you mean single CPU vs. multi-cpu? Because E5-1630v3 is a quad-core part. I only chose this CPU in my document, because I was comparing it with the base-model Mac Pro CPU. If you want to go with a multi-cpu config, then you should get @All" target="blank">E5-26xx v3 part.

I also understand  getting GTX vs Quadro if you're in a tight budget. You will probably get better performance out of it.

From what I read there on the sidefx-Forums, this build right here should do the trick quite decent.

Ignore the monitors and the peripherals, and of course the prices, which are in Euros. I put together this build a while ago with video editing in mind, but it might fit your needs, too.

Thanks ChrisG, I'll take a look.

Okay, I'm back. Nice build, have you actually built this computer? If so I would love to hear your experience with it.

I really like your case choice and have added it to my latest build list. I also wish I could afford a AMD FirePro W7100 but it is just barely out of my price range at the moment. I've ended up having to settle for the GTX 780ti since it seems to be the highest affordable model that supports both Houdini and Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine.

@petsoukos, sorry I somehow missed your last comment. I could be wrong about that. It's just that it is listed on wikipedia's Xeon page as a unicore, however looking at other sites, it does seem to be listed as a quad. Hmm.

What is your guys opinion about using a SSD as a smart cache for a HDD?

Latest Build:

No, I haven't build that one. At least not yet. I put this together to determine how much it would cost me to hire someone for editing and build him a really decent workstation. But the investment is not worth it right now, other things go first. Maybe next year.

I'm actually shocked how expensive that Nanoxia case is in the US. I just ordered a Nanoxia Deep Silence 2 for my Server build for 75€. They are pretty good quality though.

Very nice build, I would like to see it once it's done, so post pics and some benchmarks if you have the time.
But what exactly do you need a 1600W PSU for?

Well it was originally because the graphics card I was looking at was a crazy power hog. However, since I ended up going with the gtx 780, I am thinking about maybe switching it out for the 1300 Watt EVGA SuperNOVA G2 Gold since it is currently on sale. While still a little overkill for my current setup, I do plan on upgrading this in the future and would like some head room.

You're right about the Nanoxia being expensive. I keep waffling between it and the Fractal Define XL R2 which is lower price but without some of the nice features that the Nanoxia has. Either way I like both of their understated look and soundproofing which is something I haven't seen on any other boxes that are lower priced.

I just wanted to thank you all for making my build what it is. You have helped me avoid a number of goofs that would have cost me a lot of time, money, and confidence. I definitely plan on posting a video of the build and, if I can figure out how, maybe some benchmark tests.

I just ordered a be Quiet! Silent Base 800. I think it looks pretty good, has good airflow and sound dampening and the, to my liking, very decent beQuiet Silent Wings fans pre-installed. I think that is a pretty good deal.

I think Logan also talked about that case in a recent video as the case for Pistols new rig.

Nice looking case. Unfortunately I don't think it can take my size of motherboard. I really like it's style though.

Alright, the money is in! I'm setting up the order forms and will be purchasing by the end of the day. Last chance for any improvements to the build!

Pretty awesome build.
The only thing I'm not so font of is the storage config. With that kind of power I'd go with an M.2 drive for the OS and Apps and 3 2-3TB drives in Raid 5, But that's just me.