Getting started: rendering & light editing

I've been doing some 3d modeling/rendering + 2d graphics for a guy, and we're talking about getting a dedicated rig for me.  I won't be building this myself (he already has someone who builds for him), but I want to have a good starting point when I talk to him.

Budget: uncertain; I'd like to keep it below $1,000 USD.  I live in the US.  


  • 3D modeling (Blender) and rendering (Blender, Kerkythea); mostly stills but some short (<5min) animations.  
  • 2D graphics, both bitmap and vector images.  Mostly Gimp, Inkscape.
  • Light video editing (Cinelerra).  Short videos (<10min), usually <=720p.
  • Web development is a secondary usage.  I'd like to be able to comfortably support a few VMs (including windows) simultaneously for dev environments + testing.

Peripherals:  I already have peripherals, but if I can keep the cost reasonable I might be able to get a second monitor.  Support for dual (or triple) 1080p monitors is required.
Overclocking: not in the plans for now.
Watercooling: I would expect (?) that watercooling would be necessary, or at least desirable.  An enclosed, prebuilt kit would probably be best.
I look forward to your advice.

Does he need GPU acceleration? I'm not an expert on rendering PC's but i have some basic knowledge and this would be my suggestion.

I know you said there will be no overclocking, but I would recommend waiting for the new i7-4790K, since the base clock is 4 GHz and boost 4.4 GHz, but if you can't wait, the Xeon E3-1230 V3 is an i7-4770 without integrated graphics.

The R9 270 supports triple monitor setup and can be used for OpenCL acceleration (or if you need CUDA, get something like a GTX 750 ti/ GTX 660)

Hope I helped :)

A big help, thanks.  I would think that GPU acceleration is needed.  Some quick searching tells me Blender's rendering engine, Cycles, works well with CUDA.  I'm looking at Asus' gtx 750ti OC 2GD5… and I found a different case, Antec's eleven hundred (not that cases matter to me that much; but this seems to have good airflow and plenty of space).

Here's a revised parts list:

Going back to cooling, would a cpu cooler be worth considering?  I'm in southern california.  Even with the AC on, during the summer it can get into the mid-80s in my office…?

Also, in case it makes a difference (or if anyone wonders), I'll be running linux on this.  Probably Debian (or Debian-like), maybe Arch.  I've heard Nvidia drivers are working a lot better on Linux lately; if anybody knows about the 750ti specifically, it would be great to hear about it.

You REALLY don't need water cooling. What you need is a well ventilated case and as powerful hardware as you can get for the money. I would recommend something like this:

It is over budget, but I am guessing this is for a business and you will want to cut back rendering times and some data redundancy. You should run the HDD's in Raid 1 as an automatic backup (mirrored). I also included 2 additional fans in the case to increase airflow so the system shouldn't have problems running 24/7 while rendering. The aftermarket CPU cooler is strictly to promote long term stability of the CPU since you will be doing rendering projects.

You could reduce the price by removing the fans, second HDD, and CPU cooler.. They aren't "necessary", but they give you data security and help to ensure long term reliability.

The CPU says it includes a cpu cooler.  Not good enough?  I haven't found any info on what the included cooler actually is.

On the GPU front, I discovered that Blender specifically recommends nvidia:

Cycles has two GPU rendering modes: through CUDA, which is the preferred method for NVidia graphics cards; and OpenCL, which is intended to support rendering on AMD/ATI graphics cards. The implementation of OpenCL is only in an experimental stage and disabled in official builds.

That's really the only reason I need a GPU anyway.

Airflow: agreed.

HDDs: in principal, I agree.  If it fits in the budget, I'll go for it; but in the short term I have extra places to store my data and I have good habits with git.

Why do you recommend the GSkill memory over Kingston?

Included cooler is your typical intel LGA1150/LGA1155 stock cooler.  It's actually not that bad, and will work just fine at stock better.  Since you guys are picking Xeons, I suppose you won't be overclocking.

The G.Skill sticks have a CAS latency of 9, while the Kingstons have 10.  They are technically better(lower CAS is better).  However, I would take the Kingstons, as the lower CAS latency isn't worth the $20 price difference.

I updated the build. I took out the CPU cooler and I put in the next level of nvidia graphics, but it is more expensive. The GTX 760 is good for gaming but has less cuda cores.

Strictly for CAD, I would recommend a GTX 670 over the GTX 760. The problem I see is that there aren't many available.. and even then the price is almost the same as the GTX 770 4gb.

If you need to stay in budget, the GTX 760 is still a very good card, but if you can find a GTX 670 on sale, then I would scoop that up without hesitation. I would highly recommend the 4gb model for 3d rendering and driving multiple monitors.



Strictly for CAD, I would recommend a GTX 670 over the GTX 760.

…I assume you mean 770, not 670?  That's what's in your part list.

Thanks for the advice on the GPUs.  That's probably where I need the most guidance.

I switched out the HDDs for 2TB Seagate Barracudas - same price, still raid1, twice the storage.  I also went back to the AData SSD.  I like the fractal case you picked.

I suppose you won't be overclocking.

No, probably not.

However, I would take the Kingstons, as the lower CAS latency [of the G.Skill memory] isn't worth the $20 price difference.

Does anyone "Second" this advice?  My instinct is to agree.  Kingston is a brand I've had good experiences with.  Never heard of G.Skill.  I've read some positive reviews, but didn't find many in the first place.  Does anyone know about the quality/ longevity of their memory?

why not take out the extra drives and get a bigger ssd ? you can find a 512gb in your price range and you can you always buy more hd down the road.

and cooling is only going to be issue if you want your pc to be quiet - the stock cooler is going to scream when you render something - if you want something cheap get a cooler-master 212 ($30) - i have a closed water cooler h100i and it stays pretty dead silent since I only have the pump running most of the time (room temp is around 80-90+ during the hot days its still silent) 

gskill vs kingston .. get what ever one is cheapest in my opinion they both burn out in the same time-frame (have both cant tell the difference) 

why not take out the extra drives and get a bigger ssd ?

I had that thought.  If the HDDs are not in the budget, I'll switch to AData's 512gb SSD.  (it's $129).

I think this is a pretty good starting point for me.  I'll let everyone know what is decided upon.  In the meantime, if anyone has further advice, I'll be happy to hear it.


Hey, no problem. Let me address a couple of your comments:

1) The 770 is my first choice, Next is the GTX 670, then the GTX 760. The 670 has more Cuda cores for CAD work.

2) CAS Latency - $20 is $20 but CAS latency is a significant factor of ram speed. I personally wont use anything over a CAS of 9 for performance unless the frequency is above 2400mhz. There is nothing wrong with it, but just be aware that rendering and ram intensive tasks will not be as fast.

3) HDD's: I chose the caviar blacks because they are the highest reliability and longest warranty. Running them in Raid 1 (automatic backup) would give you the data security you would need. The seagate barracuda's are still good, but they are not in the same class. Seagate also offers a server grade HDD for a higher price as well.

4) A larger SSD can be good, but you just lose the data security. I think this really depends on your file size. If your files are less than 128GB, then perhaps you just need 2x128gb SSD's and 1 HDD for backup. When you finish working on the file, you could just transfer it to your HDD and clear the second SSD for the new project.

This will have a few benefits:

  1. You separate the drives by task so each drive can use its full bandwidth for each task. You will have one drive for the OS and programs, and 1 drive just for writing your rendered files too, and your HDD won't be used at all except for transferring completed projects to. Overall better performance.
  2. Increased drive longevity. Instead of having one large drive working hard most of the time, you have 1 in mild use (OS and programs), one used intensively sometimes (rendering and active project files), and the HDD only active during file transfer. This will greatly increase drive reliability and longevity.
  3. Data security (though not as good as having a complete backup). If your project SSD fails, then you have a backup on the SSD, If your program drive fails, you still have your project files... but if your HDD fails without a backup... then you might be in trouble. 


Any thoughts on PNY's GTX 770?  It seems a little …inexpensive… to be true.

Memory: I'll take your advice on it.

HDD: TBH, I think the hard drive might not make it into the final build anyway.  I have drives I could cannibalize, plus external drives.  And, as I mentioned above, long-term storage is decentralized.

SDD:  I like it.  I'll take your advice on this, also.

Looks like nvidia has current linux drivers for the 770, and I've found mainly positive review on how well they actually work.  I know nvidia's linux drivers have been horrible in the past, however.  Anyone have first-hand experience?

I checked the reviews for the PNY GTX 770 before I put it in the build and only found good things on both newegg and amazon. I think the build looks really good, and sorry I missed the part about the decentralized long term storage.

I did find some ram for a bit cheaper for the same specs though. Even the same company. I personally like the looks of the "sniper" series as well.

I checked the reviews for the PNY GTX 770 before I put it in the build and only found good things…

Ha, lol, I'd taken it off and found another one, then found it again and put it back in.  I'd forgotten it was the same one you chose.

sorry I missed the part about the decentralized long term storage.

Nah, it was an offhand remark, and would probably have been missed it entirely if one didn't know what "git" was.

I think the build looks really good

Me too, I'm talking to my guy now and we'll see if its in budget.

Thanks again, to everyone!

okay, budget's not a problem, but he wants me to look at an AMD processor.  I've been looking all day, but none seem as good as what I have here… and I've seen other intel chips that look better.

I don't have a brand loyalty.  Can I get a round of opinions?  Is there an AMD chip that would give me a better machine?  Thanks in advance.

The E3-1230 v3 is an i7 with no integrated graphics and has no overclocking capability.  Even so, it's still much, much more powerful than something like an FX-8350.  The high end AMD chips are all based off the FX-8320, and are pretty much overclocked and sold as a higher-end chip.  Intel is better(although not as price-performance friendly), and there's really no argument around it.

It looks like you don't want to overclock, but the next step up would be an i7-4770k or i7-4790k.  LGA2011 isn't really doable in this budget, so imo the build right here: is about as good as you'll get.

Aside: would it be worth waiting for the 4790k to be released?  
It's listed at $340 on newegg.  It's compatible with my current build, right?

I am not too sure if the B85 chipset allows for Devil's Canyon compatibility.

You may have to change the motherboard to a Z97(or H97, if you want to go with a non-K part)