Help with Building a Workstation/Gaming Rig

Hello all,

I'm planning on becoming a professional concept artist (great interest in art/design/tech), although my tech expertise is not quite what I'd like it to be so I need help building a computer to smoothly run what I want to do.

Usage: Zbrush, Photoshop, Heavy file saving and transfers, Medium-high Gaming, Running 3 HD Displays.

Budget: $3000 (Planning on buying parts over time, though I'd like to not go over $2500 if possible)

Help Needed: Choosing all parts (apologies to the PC master-race for my naivety)

Help with choosing a motherboard, cooling and graphics card needed especially.

I greatly appreciate any and all help given as I'm pretty confused :S


Are the monitors already purchased or are they part of the budget? I ask because 3k/2.5k with monitors is going to be a bit of a stretch.

The monitors are separate costs ahah, I'm not that naive. Don't really need help with peripherals, just the case and parts of the computer itself.

Ah thanks man, I'm aware of Newegg's combo deals and such but 90 percent of them aren't available for me here in Australia. I'll just have to keep looking for better local outlets.

You could go with an aircooler instead if you'd like. 

I'm 99% sure the Define XL will fit that mobo despite what PCPartPicker says. 

Depending on your workload  780/780Ti SLI setup may be more advantageous 

Thank you very much :) (Can anyone agree with this list? Just want to be sure)
I think I'll go with a single 780ti, checked with GPU Boss and it seems pretty good just on its own.
Also, what's the benefit in buying three 1TB HHDs and three 128GB SSDs over fewer drives with greater capacity? I do understand a bit about things like redundancy and RAID, would I get that many drives from a performance and backup standpoint or because I'd get a better deal? (Sorry again for my incessant questions aha)

Well a single 780 Ti is very good for gaming and for CUDA.

R9 290X or an R9 290 is very good for gaming and for OpenCL. It also has more VRAM which can be a plus.

Look at the programs you intend to use and see which ones they use either OpenCL or CUDA and go from there. Some can use both and in that case OpenCL is always usually a bit faster than CUDA acceleration. AMD cards do much better jobs with OpenCL than nVidia cards often times nearly 3 or 4 times the performance. AMD cards however, can't use CUDA because it is proprietary nVidia stuff.

The 780 Ti from a price to performance standpoint isn't very good. A 290X will come close in most games, maybe 2-10 FPS slower usually and can even be faster in others so better price to performance there. While an R9 290 offers the best price to performance being only a little bit slower than the 290X. SLI/CrossFire may be a little much for your needs but that is your call. The PSU I picked has enough power so if you want to add another card in the future it will be no problem.

From a gaming perspective, if you want to run your three monitors in Surround or Eyefinity having two cards would be a big benefit.

There are a few benefits to multiple drives.

1) Smaller capacity drives are often times more reliable. After 1TB reliability drops pretty quick. So more smaller drives are usually better.

2) RAID- RAID allows you to run multiple drives together as if they are one. This allows for, depending on the RAID level (0,1,5 ect...) an increase in speed and offers you redundancy. I noticed you said you'll be doing large file transfers. RAID is perfect for that. With SSDs in a raid setup you'll be pushing, depending on the drive, 1000+ MB/sec speeds.

I did my own twist on the build, I went with a single card as you were saying but you could switch it to 2 770 4gb versions instead for a similar price.  I made some other minor changes and in all reality this power supply is way over kill for the build, you can easily step it down.  If you ever plan on going sli after the 1 card this does give the room to grow. 

To echo what other people have said, don't buy your parts over time! Save up and buy your parts all at once if you can (at least over a couple of months, not over many months)

Prices on parts decrease over time, so you will end up saving $100-$300 by simply waiting until you are ready to build.

  • RAID was mentioned but generally not advised unless there is some sort of build in mirror for your OS drive, there really isn't a whole lot to be gained there. Data storage it is a nice bonus but then external backup storage becomes part of the budget as well because things always break.
  • Swap out the 3 SSDs for a Samsung 840 Pro of preferred capacity, keep two of the hard drives to have the optimum OS/Cache/Media setup that Adobe software really likes.
  • If you're only doing Photoshop then pick which ever videocard tickles your fancy. You can work it with OpenCL or CUDA, although CUDA has a very marginal performance edge. Don't expect to see any major OpenCL improvements until CC 2014 v2/3 or whatever their naming convention becomes by then. Rule of thumb has always been Nvidia 2GB or better because CUDA is already well established. Zbrush according to its site says its software rendered so its not going to help. SLI/XF from a production standpoint is kinda pointless unless you're working in something like Premiere Pro which is (finally) designed to work with it.
  • If you're not gaming on all 3 monitors just drop down to a single card and reap the savings, also allows a smaller PSU (like an AX760) to reap even more savings.