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Upgrading or building a new PC? This is the thread for you!

quad damage
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PolyHertz quad damage
If you need a new computer, or just want to upgrade your old one, this thread is for you!

Building a PC can get very expensive, and many simply don't know enough about computers to make an informed decision on what to buy. This thread aims to help those who are less tech savvy, or whose knowledge is simply out of date, get the best PC their budget allows.

Below you'll find several component categories, each with information you should know before deciding what to buy, and a small select list of quality parts that have been well reviewed on major online retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, etc.
At the very bottom there is also a list of PC builds for various budgets. 

Thread last updated: Jan 2021


What to know:
    -Return policy; Do they accept open box returns, do they charge for returns, how long after purchase can returns be made?
    -Where do they ship from? Shipping costs, taxes, and return policy can all be greatly affected by this.


    pcpartpicker.com (Should probably only be used for quick price/compatibility overview. Not all retailers it links to are reliable)
    store.cablemod.com (Custom order PC cables. any color, any length. Useful for building a PC with a clean interior / better airflow)
    nowinstock.net (Cant find the newest GPU/CPU/etc. in stock anywhere? This site shows hour-by-hour who has stock)
    siliconlottery.com (Offers CPU delidding service, for those who really care about CPU temps, but don't want to risk opening one themselves)


What to Know:
    -As of the Ryzen 5000 series, AMD CPUs are now leading the industry in single threaded performance.
    -The better a CPUs single threaded performance, the better it'll be for physics simulation & most modeling tasks/tools.
    -The better a CPUs multi-threaded performance, the better it'll be for rendering/baking/multitasking.
    -CPUs can run faster by 'overclocking' them, but they will run hotter and need better cooling. 'Deliding' can significantly lower temps.
    -Intel CPUs must have a 'K' or an 'X' at the end of their number to be overclockable (ex: i7-8700K).
    -You can get a fair unbiased overview of CPU performance here: https://www.cpu-monkey.com/
    -Warning! Do NOT trust userbenchmark.com if comparing AMD and Intel CPU's! They purposely skew benchmark results in Intels favor.

Understanding CPU performance:
    -The faster each core in a CPU can run (IPC multiplied by GHz) the better its per-thread performance.
    -CPU core performance stacks so long as a program is designed to take advantage of the extra cores/threads.
    -More cores isn't always better, Example; A CPU with 4 slow cores (2+2+2+2) vs. a CPU with 3 fast cores (3+3+3).

    $4000   - AMD Threadripper 3990X (64 cores)
    $2000   - AMD Threadripper 3970X (32 cores, 3.7~4.5ghz) (Socket sTRX4)
    $1400   - AMD Threadripper 3960X (24 cores, 3.8~4.5ghz) (Socket sTRX4)
    $800    - AMD Ryzen 5950X (16 cores , 3.4~4.9ghz)
    $550    - AMD Ryzen 5900X (12 cores , 3.7~4.8ghz)
    $450    - AMD Ryzen 5800X (8 cores , 3.8~4.7ghz)
    $300    - AMD Ryzen 5600X (6 cores , 3.7~4.6ghz)
    $750    - AMD R9 3950X (16 cores , 3.5~4.7ghz) (Socket AM4)
    $470    - AMD R9 3900X (12 cores , 3.8~4.6ghz) (Socket AM4)
    $340    - AMD R7 3800X (8 cores , 3.9~4.5ghz) (Socket AM4)
    $310    - AMD R7 3700X (8 cores , 3.6~4.4ghz) (Socket AM4)
    $210    - AMD R7 3600X (6 cores , 3.8~4.4ghz)(Socket AM4)

    $???    - Intel 11700K (8 cores) (releases in Q1 2021. Slightly faster per-thread then Ryzen 5000 CPUs, but MUCH less energy efficient)
    $650    - Intel i9-10900K (10 cores, 3.7~5.3 ghz)
    $380    - Intel i9-10700K (8 cores, 3.8~5.0 ghz)
    $???    - Intel i9-9900KS (8 core , 4.0~5.0 ghz) (LGA 1151 Intel 300 series)
    $400    - Intel i9-9900K (8 cores, 3.6~5.0ghz) (LGA 1151 Intel 300 series)


What to know:
    -The amount of VRAM can greatly affect performance with 4K textures in Substance Painter
    -When using an exclusively GPU-based renderer the entire scene needs to fit in VRAM, otherwise the render will fail.
    -Having multiple GPUs improves performance in certain renders (Octane), but do nothing for viewport performance in Max/Maya/etc.
    -Large GPUs may sag due to weight, which can cause damage to the PCIe socket. If necessary, use a 'GPU brace' for extra support.
    -GPUs creating high pitch noise ('coil whine') is common. Avoid putting your ears near it or risk permanent ear damage / hearing loss.
    -AMD GPU's don't work with IRAY (found in Substance Painter/Designer), Arnold GPU, or VRAY GPU.
    -AMD GPU's are known to have driver stability issues which can manifest as crashes in UE4/Unity, or the entire screen going black.
    -NOTE: GPUs are in very short supply right now, and scalpers are raising the prices dramatically! Try to be patient and not overpay!

    $4700   - RTX A6000, 48GB VRAM
    $1500   - Geforce RTX 3090, 24GB VRAM
    $1000   - Geforce RTX 3080 Ti, 20GB VRAM (rumored for February 2021 release)
    $700     - Geforce RTX 3080, 10GB VRAM
    $500    - Geforce RTX 3070, 8GB VRAM (roughly the same as a 2080 Ti, but with 3GB less VRAM)
    $400    - Geforce RTX 3060 Ti, 8GB VRAM
    $330    - Geforce RTX 3060, 12GB VRAM (more VRAM then 3080, but slower overall then 3060 Ti) (releases late February)

    $1000  - Radeon RX 6900 XT, 16GB VRAM (roughly equivalent to a Geforce 3090 in raster performance)
    $650    - Radeon RX 6800 XT, 16GB VRAM (roughly equivalent to a Geforce 3080)
    $580    - Radeon RX 6800, 16GB VRAM (roughly equivalent to a Geforce 2080 Ti)

Old GPUs that're badly priced (sold at prices at or above newer+faster models, so avoid unless find on sale / used deal):
    $???    - Geforce TITAN RTX, 24GB VRAM (roughly same as 3070 but w/3x the VRAM. Recommended maximum price of $900)
    $???    - Geforce RTX 2080 Ti, 11GB VRAM (roughly same as 3070 but with more VRAM. Recommended maximum price of $600)
    $???    - Geforce RTX 2080 SUPER, 8GB VRAM (roughly the same as 3060 Ti. Recommended maximum price of $400)
    $???    - Geforce RTX 2070 SUPER, 8GB VRAM (slower then 3060 Ti. Recommended maximum price of $350 or less)
    $???    - Geforce RTX 2060 SUPER, 8GB VRAM (much slower then 3060 Ti. Recommended maximum price of $300 or less)
    $???    - Geforce 2060, 6GB VRAM (much slower then 3060 Ti. Recommended maximum price of $250 or less)


What to know:
    - 32GB is the minimum amount of RAM a modern PC meant for creating 3D art should have.
    - Mhz = higher is better (DDR4-3600MHz is faster then DDR4-3200MHz). AMD CPUs especially benefit from faster RAM.
    - CAS latency = lower is better (CL14 is better then CL16)
    - RAM sticks = more is better (4x 8gb DDR4-3200 is faster then 2x 16gb DDR4-3200)
    - "Dual Rank" sticks are better then "Single Rank".
    - When choosing RAM, first check for "Up to ___MHz RAM supported" on your CPU specs, that is the MINIMUM speed you should buy.
    -After installing RAM make sure it is running at the correct MHz in BIOS, by default it may be under-clocked (run slower then rated)
    -Most motherboards expect ram to be installed in sets of 2 ("dual channel") or 4 ("quad channel"). Ignoring this may result in errors.
    -There is a special type of RAM known as ECC (error correcting code) which has improved reliability over standard RAM.
    -ECC RAM is supported by all modern AMD CPUs, but Intel only supports it on specific workstation/enterprise CPUs and motherboards.


What to know:
    -Most setups these days use an SSD for the OS and apps, while a cheap mechanical drive (HDD) is used for file storage.
    -SSD's: The slowest use SATA, the fastest use NVMe with PCIe 4.0.
    -HDD's: They're all slow compared to SSDs, but hybrid drives and ones with 'CMR' (instead of 'SMR') tech offer the best performance. 
    -HDD's live longer the less often they spin up / spin down. (so in Windows make sure "Turn off Hard Disk after" is set to "Never")
    -For improved reliability; set up two drives in whats called a RAID1 array, where data is mirrored across both drives in case one fails.
    -For data backup, you want a NAS (Network Attached Storage) which stores your data both locally and offsite (in case of fire/flood/etc.)
    -For long-term data archiving, M-Discs are likely your best bet. They are special DVD / BR discs rated to last 1000 years by the US DoD.
    -Servers sometimes use a special connector type for SSDs called "U.2" or "U.3", but it's very rare to see in normal PCs.
M.2 SSD (NVMe):
    $300    - Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus (1TB) (overall fastest SSD currently on the market as of Jan-2021)
    $230    - Samsung 980 Pro (1TB)
    $220    - Western Digital Black SN850 (1TB)
    $170    - Sabrent Rocket 4 (1TB)
    $160   - Samsung 970 EVO Plus (1TB)
2.5' SSD (SATA):
    $110   - Samsung 860 EVO (1TB)
    $90     - Crucial MX500 (1TB)


What to know:
    -The type of motherboard you need for your CPU depends on the socket and chipset it's designed for.
    -Chipset/Socket examples; an i7-8700K needs an LGA 1151 300 series motherboard. A Ryzen CPU needs an AM4 socket motherboard.
    -Almost all motherboards use Realtek audio, but some give it a different name for marketing purposes (ASUS's 'SpremeFX').
    -Micro ATX and Mini ITX boards are all generally supported by standard ATX Mid/Full PC towers, they don't need special towers.
    -Thunderbolt 3 support is important if you want to use an external GPU.
    -On ASUS boards the "Multi Core Enhancement" feature makes all CPU cores run at max Turbo Boost speed (increasing CPU temps).


What to know:
    -It's recommended to get at least a 650 watt PSU these days, or more depending on your GPU.
    -You should always use a surge protector. (preferably one where you can tell when it needs to be replaced, which they all do eventually).
    -Be aware that power surges can come through your ethernet cable.
    -A cheap/poor quality PSU can result in the early death of other components in your PC, as well as affect general stability/performance.
    -"80 PLUS" ratings (Bronze, Gold, Platinum, etc.) measure efficiency, i.e. how much power is wasted. Higher rating = lower power bill.
    -The wattage rating (ex: 750W) Is how much it can output to your system, not how much it will draw from the outlet at peak load.
    -Warning: Do NOT mix and match / re-use cables between modular power supplies. Doing so could easily destroy your PC.
    -Warning: GameMAX PSU's can not be trusted, as they seem to have counterfeit and/or mislabeled units in circulation (see here)!
Titanium rated:
    $440    - Seasonic PRIME TX-1000 (1000W)
    $350    - Seasonic PRIME TX-850 (850W)
Platinum rated:
    $290    - EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2 (1000W)
    $280    - Seasonic FOCUS PX-850 (850W)
Gold rated:
    $150    - EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G3 (850W)
    $150    - Seasonic FOCUS GX-850 (850W)
    $120    - EVGA SuperNOVA 750 G3 (750W)
    $110    - Seasonic FOCUS GX-750 (750W)



What to Know:
    -Air cooling is the cheapest and most reliable form of cooling.
    -High end air coolers are massive, don't fit in all ATX cases, may block RAM sockets, and can damage the motherboard if PC moved.
    -Water cooling is best for those who intend to have their PC render for days at a time, or do overclocking.
    -Water coolers can be bought pre-assembled (all-in-one/AIO), or built from individually chosen parts yourself (custom).
    -"Closed loop" AIO water coolers are designed to never be refilled or require maintenance. They are set-and-forget just like air coolers.
    -Custom water coolers can perform much better then AIO coolers, but are expensive and require occasional maintenance.
    -Water coolers if leak can destroy your PC.
    -With a custom water cooling setup, mixing parts that use different metals (copper, aluminum, etc.) can result in galvanic corrosion.
    -When attaching cooler to the CPU use no more then a grain of rice worth of thermal paste for best results.
    -Case fan size (120mm, 140mm, etc.) is measured from one screw to the next along the border, NOT diagonally.
    -Case fan power connectors are universally compatible with all motherboards no matter if they have 4-pins (PVM), or 3-pins (FLX/ULN).
    -Liquid LN2/CO2/LHe & Phase cooling; Only used for the most excessive of overclocks. Not viable as every day cooling solutions.

CPU Air Coolers (fans):
    $99     - Noctua NH-U12A
    $90     - Noctua NH-D15 (get the SE-AM4 version if using an AM4/Ryzen motherboard)
    $80     - Noctua NH-D15S (fits better on X99 boards, but one fan less then regular NH-D15)
    $90     - Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3
    $90     - Cryorig R1 Ultimate
    $60     - Noctua NH-U12S (get the SE-AM4 version if using an AM4/Ryzen motherboard)
    $35     - Cryorig H7
    $30     - Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
CPU Water Coolers (All-in-one):
    $120    - NZXT Kraken X61
    $110    - Corsair H100i v2 (requires a special bracket that's sold separate to work with AM4 systems)
    $90     - Corsair H80i
Case fans:
    $30     - Corsair ML
    $20     - Noctua NF-S12A
    $15     - Be Quiet! Silent Wings 2
AM4/Ryzen compatible Coolers:
    $90     - Noctua NH-D15 (SE-AM4 version)
    $60     - Noctua NH-U12S (SE-AM4 version)
TR4/Threadripper compatible coolers:
    $80    - NH-U14S TR4-SP3
    $70    - NH-U12S TR4-SP3
    $70    - NH-U9 TR4-SP3
Thermal paste:
    $8     - Arctic Silver 5
    $8     - Arctic MX-4


What to check:
    -Will it fit all the parts you've chosen? (i.e. be sure to check both the overall dimensions and internal layout)
    -Does it have optical bays? (This is very important for some, and not at all for others)
    -Is it designed with water cooling in mind?
    -How good is the ventilation?
    -Does it have sound dampening? (For many people, a noisy PC is annoying)
    -Does it have both USB Type-A and Type-C ports at the front? Type-A is common, but Type-C is the new & increasingly popular standard.
    -WARNING! The riser cables included with the NZXT H1 case are known to catch fire! NZXT has issued a recall.
Towers (optical bays):
    $190   - Be Quiet! DarkBase 900
    $130   - Corsair Carbide Series Air 540
    $120   - Corsair Carbide Series 500R
    $100   - Phanteks Enthoo Pro
    $90     - Nanoxia Deep Silence 3
Towers (no optical bays):
    $150    - Phanteks P600S
    $140    - CoolerMaster H500P
    $140    - Lian Li O11 Dynamic (only for liquid cooled setups)
    $120    - Phanteks Enthoo Evolv
    $90     - Phanteks Eclipse P400S
    $90     - Fractal Design MESHIFY C
    $90    - Lian Li Lancool II
    $70    - Be Quiet! PURE BASE 500
    $60     - Phanteks P300
Mini ITX cases:
    $280    - DAN A4-SFX (Only available through overclockers.co.uk)
    $210    - Streacom DA2
    $200    - FormD-T1 (requires assembly)
    $190    - NCASE M1 V6 (Community designed, funded via kickstarter. Only available through ncases.com)
    $170    - IN WIN 901
    $110    - Lian Li TU150
    $120     - Velka 3 rev 1.1 and the riser cable (the riser cable is mandatory to fit a dedicated GPU in the case!)
    $60     - Cougar Case QBX


What to know:
    -Common Issues; back light bleeding, dead pixels, ghosting, yellow tinting.
    -Screen types; IPS (best color accuracy), VA (best contrast, but has ghosting), and TN (fast pixel response, worst color accuracy).
    -Adobe RGB support is only important for print work. sRGB is all you need to care about for games/video.
    -Panels can reproduce more colors the higher their bit depth. They generally come in 6, 8, and 10-bit variants.
    -Manufacturers regularly lie about panel type / bit depth. Some 'IPS' panels are actually VA panels, some '8-bit' panels are 6-bit, etc.
    -Only Quadro/FirePro GPUs support 10-bit with OpenGL.
    -Modern screens use HDMI and/or Display Port, with older standards (DVI / VGA) generally requiring adaptors.
    -Color calibration almost always has to be done by the user.
    -For color calibration devices, if you have trouble using the included software, try this: displaycal.net

4K IPS screens (99% sRGB minimum)
    $1100   - BenQ SW271 (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
    $550    - LG 27UK850-W (27 inch. 81% Adobe RGB)

1440P IPS screens (99% sRGB minimum)
    $950    - NEC PA272W-BK (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
    $600    - BenQ SW2700PT (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
    $500    - ASUS PA279Q (27 inch. 99% Adobe RGB)
    $330    - ASUS PB258Q (25 inch. 75% Adobe RGB)

Tablet screens (1080p unless otherwise stated):
    (NOTE: Wacom tablets are considered the best you can buy, cheaper alternatives are more likely to have build quality and/or driver issues)
    $2,000  - Wacom Cintiq 27QHD (2560 x 1440)
    $1,700  - Wacom Cintiq 22HD
    $800    - Wacom Cintiq 13HD
    $500    - Huion Kamvas GT-191
    $300    - XP-Pen Artist 15.6
    $330    - VEIKK VK1560
    $360    - Gaomon PD1560

Color Calibration devices:
    $90      - X-Rite ColorMunki Smile
    $130    - Datacolor S5X100 Spyder5EXPRESS


What to know:
    -Onboard audio has reached a point where it will be good enough for most people. But for everyone else...
    -Years ago, for good audio quality, you would get a dedicated sound card (i.e. an internal DAC / Digital to analog convertor).
    -These days, for good audio quality, you get an external DAC.
    -Windows OS only requires drivers for a USB DAC if it can go above 96khz. Many DAC's avoid going over 96khz for this reason.
    -Linux and MAC/iOS don't require a USB DAC to have drivers unless it goes above 192khz.
    -CD audio is all 44.1khz, and iTunes/Spotify audio is all 44.1khz to 48khz (but not lossless unfortunately).
    -For extra durability, get a DAC with a 6.3mm audio plug and use a 3.5mm adapter if needed (6.3mm plugs are FAR more durable).
    -If you want to convert analog to digital (that is, to record audio), look into getting an external "Audio Interface".

External DAC's (Outlet power):
    $500    - Denon DA-300USB (192khz / 6.3mm)
    $280    - AUNE X1s (192khz / 6.3mm)
    $270    - Mayflower Objective 2 + ODAC Rev. B (96kHz / 3.5mm)
    $110    - Micca OriGen+ (192kHz / 6.3mm + 3.5mm)

External DAC's (USB power):
    $290    - Apogee GROOVE (192khz / 3.5mm)
    $200    - AudioQuest DragonFly Red (96khz / 3.5mm)
    $170    - Audioengine D1 (96khz / 3.5mm)
    $150    - Audioengine D3 (96khz / 3.5mm)
    $150    - JDS Standalone ODAC Rev B (96kHz / 3.5mm)
    $100    - AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 (96khz / 3.5mm)
    $60     - Zorloo ZuperDAC (192khz / 3.5mm)


What to know:
    -CPU speed; Laptop CPUs have finally caught up to the performance of average desktop CPUs as of mid-2020. Don't buy old ones! 
    -CPU types; Laptops can sometimes use desktop CPUs, but uses more power, and generate more heat shortening the laptops lifespan.
    -GPU speed; While as this may soon change (w/RDNA2), atm Nvidia laptop GPUs are faster and more power efficient then AMD ones.
    -GPU upgrades; Limited to your existing GPUs generation (ex: 1060>1080), but laptops w/Thunderbolt3 can use external desktop GPUs.
    -RAM; Most laptops max out at 16GB of RAM, but for modern 3D workloads it's recommended to get one that can handle 32GB or more.
    -Screen; You'll want 1920x1080 or better, and IPS for color accuracy. Touch screens are normally only available on slower laptops.
    -Screen vs battery; G-Sync/120hz screens can't switch to an integrated GPU so battery life is much worse for web browsing and such.
    -Keyboard; Many laptop keyboards lack the right side 'number pad', but some 3D apps (such as Blender) use it extensively.
    -Ports; You'll likely want 2+ USB-A ports, USB-C port w/Thunderbolt 3 support, ethernet port, HDMI, and 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks.
    -Cooling; A cooling pad is recommended to increase the lifespan of your laptop, especially if regularly maxing out the CPU/GPU.
    -Battery; Extend battery life by lowering recharge threshold (ex: only perform full rechange when charge goes below 60%).
    -Theft/Recovery; Keep the serial number for police in case the laptop is stolen. An internet tracking app can also help them.

----------Suggested Desktop PC setups----------

Note that these are 'balanced' setups, and not necessarily the best for everyone within that budget.

Budget: Under $3500
    CPU: Ryzen 5950X
    GPU: Geforce RTX 3090 24GB
    RAM: 64GB (4x16GB. 3600MHz or higher, at CL16 or lower)
    SSD: 1TB Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
    HDD: 2TB
    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U12A
    Tower: Fractal Design Meshify C
    Power: Seasonic FOCUS PX-750 (750W, Platinum rated)

Budget: Under $2500
    CPU: Ryzen 5800X or 5900X
    GPU: Geforce RTX 3080 or 3070 
    RAM: 64GB (4x16GB. 3600MHz or higher, at CL16 or lower)
    SSD: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus
    HDD: 2TB
    Tower: Fractal Design Meshify C
    Power: Seasonic FOCUS Plus (750W, Gold rated)

Budget: Under $1500
    CPU: Ryzen 5600X or 3700X
    GPU: Geforce 3060 Ti or 2070 Super
    RAM: 32GB (2x16GB. 3200MHz or higher, at CL16 or lower)
    SSD: 500GB Crucial MX500
    MOBO: ASROCK B550M Pro4
    Tower: Phanteks Eclipse P400A
    Power: SeaSonic FOCUS (650W, Gold rated)


  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni sublime tool
    Going to toss this in here as well.

    General computer/pc/laptop discussion thread.

  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    I'd rename low end GPUs to entry level, low end GPUs are more like $100. 

    The monitor or display section probably needs to be expanded upon greatly, there's color calibration, frame rates, latency, gsync, etc to consider.

    Looking at the midrange , 32GB of ram with an i5 seems a bit unbalanced to be, but that's going to depend a lot on the workload and applications. The $140 PSU and $160 with that is complete over kill though, you can easily get by with spending $50 less on each.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Yea a lot of this needs to be expanded on, but I thought it's a good enough starting point for now to be worth posting.

    I looked into G-SYNC monitors, and only came across three with IPS panels running at 1440p:
        $715    - Acer XB270HU (1440p, 27 inch, 144hz)
        $760    - Acer XB271HU (1440p, 27 inch, 144hz)
        $750    - ASUS ROG PG279Q (1440p, 27 inch, 165hz)

    I changed a few things on the entry/mid setups and bumped their GPUs up to something better. Not really sure if a Geforce 960, even with 4gb vram, should be getting recommended these days...
  • Eric Chadwick
    Great initiative! Moving to Tech Talk, and marking as a Sticky.
  • Mehran Khan
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    Mehran Khan polycounter lvl 7
    no love for a 970?
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    @Eric Chadwick

    @Mehran Khan
     Nope. Its a relatively good card, but at the price it goes for there are just better options these days. Plus, it has an issue with its vram that can cause problems for various apps (mentioned in the "What to know" part of the GPU section).
  • Mehran Khan
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    Mehran Khan polycounter lvl 7
    @PolyHertz how do apps differ between available vram and Ram, I mean if I have 32gbs of ddr4 and 4gb of vram how will substance designer use this ram?

  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Generally, anything that needs to be read/written and processed multiple times per-second (such as vertex/edge/face/pixel data) will be stored in VRAM, and everything else that doesn't need to be accessed so rapidly will be stored in the standard RAM.

    For Substance Designer, the RAM usage is primarily tied to graph complexity, while as the VRAM usage is tied to displayed texture resolution.
    Substance Painter especially benefits from large amounts of VRAM if you want to work above 2K texture resolution.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    VRAM has much higher bandwidth which allows 4k textures stream in at 60 fps, desktop RAM would struggle to keep up with that kind of workload.
  • Cuvey
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    Cuvey polycounter lvl 6

    Hi! I was wondering, since you seem to know so much, if you could help me to understand what to get for my new computer, because I’ve done quite a lot of research but I’m not exactly tech-savvy

    I’m primarily a 3d modeler, but most of the time I also do all the textures, materials and rendering. I mostly work in Zbrush, 3dsMax, Maya, V-ray and Keyshot


    Right now I have:

    CPU: Intel Core i5 750 2.67GHz

    Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 240

    Storage: 2 Western Digital WD Green WD10EARS 1TB 5400 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5

    RAM: x2 4gb Kingston DDR3 9-9-9-24 (right now I can’t open my case so I don’t have the details)

    Motherboard: ASUSTeK P7P55-3

    Power Supply: Sentey BXP600-PS 600w

    Case: Vitsuba Master


    I don’t know the rest. Everything is about 6 years old except for the power supply that is new because last week my old one decided to explode and damaged the motherboard too, so that’s patched up as well

    It’s not up to even your entry level set up, but believe it or not I’ve been working with it professionally for years. I can sculpt millions of polygons with no problem and manage to render big scenes with many layered complex vray materials, if I have enough time. What I absolutely can’t do is use Vray RT and play videogames. Also I render very very slow, but still it’s manageable, and I have some trouble when dynameshing a whole model in a high resolution to prepare for 3d printing. Viewport in 3dsMax and Maya lags a lot when dealing with big scenes but I manage freezing everything, that somehow makes it work fine

    So, what do you think should I get considering what I do? I live in South America and will try to slowly buy the parts from the USA, so budget is quite important. And if I’ve managed so far with this specs it seems to me that what you describe as high end might be a bit overkill, but I’m not sure

    I understand that for Zbrush, Keyshot and Vray CPU is what’s used and that for viewport and videogames you need a good GPU. But then there’s CUDA, and Vray RT using GPU instead of CPU and people claiming Quadro cards are pricely and not worth it, and bandwith, and clock speed vs how many cores, and SLI (What’s SLI?), and suddenly I don’t know what to do anymore. Also, specifically what do I need a lot of RAM for?

    I’ve been told more than once that the difference between Quadros and GTXs is that one is for gaming and the other is for professionals, but then I was told one was for rendering and the other for animation, and in general people don’t make up their minds.

    You can see I’m pretty lost here, so I’d appreciate any help

    Sorry for the long text, and thanks!


  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    Quadros are not needed for game artists, and can actually be more trouble than beneficial. They are good for very specific workloads and use cases, that don't really apply to the games industry.

    Don't worry about SLI, it's not supported by a lot of games and software.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage

    Quadro cards are NOT important except for very specific uses. They are designed for accuracy (64bit double precision math) over speed. They can be beneficial for people in the CAD / Solidworks side of the industry whose software is designed with that level of precision in mind, or for scientific applications. But, for everyone else, the only real benefit workstation level GPUs offer is in their sizeable amounts of VRAM (on the more expensive models), which is simply not something that's worth the price/performance trade offs for most artists.

    SLI is a system where you link two or more identical GPUs together in a single case for increased performance. The only real reason to use it as an artist is for GPU rendering, as it's generally not well supported for anything else (outside playing games, but even those can get what's known as 'micro stutter' with an SLI configuration).

    RAM, having large amounts of it will allow for VASTLY improved performance (with a good GPU/CPU) in 64bit programs that can take advantage of it, such as Substance Designer or ZBrush 64bit. Basically, if you run out of / max out your RAM, your PC will then be limited performance wise by how fast your had drive is, and hard drives are -extremely- slow.

    Fyi, the 'entry' level PC is what I'm suggesting in order to comfortably run all of the most modern 3D apps like UE4, Marmoset Toolbag 2, etc. for at least the next 2 years.
    You can absolutely do 3D with a weaker computer using programs that were designed to take advantage of very old PC components like 3DSMax, Maya, and ZBrush, but if you want to do modern high-end 3D it's best to build a PC that will be able to handle everything that's available now and in the very immediate future.
  • Cuvey
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    Cuvey polycounter lvl 6
    ZacD said:
    Quadros are not needed for game artists, and can actually be more trouble than beneficial. They are good for very specific workloads and use cases, that don't really apply to the games industry.

    Don't worry about SLI, it's not supported by a lot of games and software.
    Actually I work more on animated shorts than video games, does it make a difference?

    Cool, one thing less to worry about


    It seems I've been told erroneously that Quadros were the way to go for animators (I'm not an animator though). You're one of many that, since I've began researching lately, told me I should not get one. So I guess I won't

    Thanks for explaining what SLI is, at least I won't have to think about that

    And thanks for clarifying about the "entry" level PC. I thought it meant something like what I have know, that lets you work fine if you've got patience to wait for things to get done. So I think maybe a mix bewteen the mid range and high end should do fine for me. I don't have enough knowledge to make a list of parts myself, so I'll have to trust a list made by someone else
  • RevoMA
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    RevoMA polycounter lvl 2
    PolyHertz said:

    High End 'Extreme' (Budget:$3700)
        $1100   - CPU:  Intel i7-6900K
        $1200   - GPU:  NVIDIA Geforce TITAN X, 12GB VRAM (2016 model)
        $220    - RAM:  64GB (4x 16GB)
        $320    - SSD:  Samsung 950 PRO M2 512GB
        $110    - HDD:  2x 2TB in RAID1
        $230    - MOBO: MSI X99A SLI PLUS
        $90     - CPU fan: Noctua NH-D15
        $190   - Tower: Be Quiet! DarkBase 900
        $160    - Power: EVGA 220-T2-0850-X1 (850W)

    Hi, many thanks for writing this extensive guide. I have a question about the high end build quoted above. 

    With regards to cpu choice, could you expand on why you chose the 6900k as opposed to the 5960x? 

    I am currently thinking about which processor to get out of these two and my line of thinking is that the 6900k is newer and has IPC gains whereas with a 5960x you get a much better overclocker, so my understanding is that if one was to overclock a Haswell E is the better choice. 

    Any thoughts on this? 

    Many thanks again! 
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Well, the 5960X is generally going to be the better choice for those that want to overclock their system, but my assumption is the vast majority of buyers wont be doing that (either because they don't know how, or they're worried about messing with such an expensive part). The 6900K offers much better out of the box performance, the reason I chose it is as simple as that.

    Though, the air cooler I listed (NH-D15) is complete overkill for anyone not doing overclocking :p
  • RevoMA
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    RevoMA polycounter lvl 2
    I see, that makes a lot of sense. Would you also advice the NH-D15 for overclocking (vs an AIO like the H100i or X61)? 

    Would you recommend a different motherboard for overclockers? (I have no idea if motherboard choice makes much of a difference). 

    Would getting 2 kits of 4x8gb (32gb x2) be equal to the single kit of 4x16 you have in the build?

    Many thanks again! 

  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Yes, the NH-D15 will do just as good of job as those coolers, while also being quieter. Here's a comparison: http://www.relaxedtech.com/reviews/noctua/nh-d15-versus-closed-loop-liquid-coolers/2

    The motherboard should be perfectly fine for overclocking, and has a section in the BIOS specifically for that purpose.

    For RAM, yes you could do that. There is a small speed advantage in using all your RAM sockets as opposed to leaving some open, however it'll also be more expensive if you choose to upgrade later on as you'll need to replace all your RAM sticks instead of just adding a few more.
  • ryebot
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    ryebot polycounter lvl 3
    This thread has been a huge help to me as I've been piecing together my own workstation build. Thanks!

    The word "overclocking" scares me. Are the performance gains worth buying a more expensive cooler and the extra effort? I've been on the Mac side for years, but building a PC for the first time, so I've never really gotten deep into hardware stuff like this.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    The main benefit is for those that do a lot of rendering / baking, which can often take a very long time (especially on systems with a basic 4 core CPU). Even if you're not overclocking, the more expensive coolers can be worth getting just to have a very quiet system.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    You don't even need a very expensive cooler to do some overclocking, a $30 cooler will get you close to the same overclocks as an AIO liquid cooler, maybe .3 GHz less at most. 
  • DyrusNotSmurf
    @PolyHertz how do you feel about the new X99 gigabyte designare http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5812#ov . I was watching alot of videos over CES and this motherboard popped up, I was thinking of getting one since one of the selling points was it can be used for a workstation and a gaming pc ( Which would be nice running UE4, Maya, Painter, Zbrush, and Keyshot, along with playing games on ultra with a nice gpu ), but I had doubts since this mobo is for the new Intel extreme 6900 cpu they just made that's like 1500$ and I don't have that in my budget.

  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    @DyrusNotSmurf That motherboard will work fine with any socket 2011-3 CPU, not just the 6900K (which is actually an 8-core CPU priced around $1k, you're thinking of the 10-core 6950X). It will also work fine for the purposes you listed. However, other then Thunderbolt support, metal PCIe/RAM shielding, and LED lights, I don't see anything listed that really sets it apart from boards half its price.
  • EarthQuake
    Hey, this is really cool, thanks for putting in the effort!

    If you want to go further with the monitor section, it would probably be worth pointing out differences between 6-bit and 8-bit color, and different types of panels. For instance, the Dell P2416D is a 6-bit VA panel rather than an IPS, and there are many forms of IPS, like e-IPS which is a cheaper, usually 6-bit panel. 6-bit IPS/VA panels tend to have good viewing angles (good for art) but worse color accuracy than 8 or 10 bit H-IPS panels and such. Perhaps best not to get too esoteric, but maybe just list the specific panel type and bit depth of the screen.

    Also seems silly to put a GTX 980 in "low end" considering it is a $400+ card and performs between a 1060 and 1070, but I guess if I were building today I would get a 1070 rather than a 980. I would say something like a GTX 960 4GB at ~$160 is low end, along with 1050 if/when it comes out.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Yea the 980 performance wise is a mid-range card, but only having 4gb of vram puts it in a weird spot when even cheap $250 options now have 6gb or 8gb of vram. I'm not entirely sure how to classify it as a result.

    Good call on the monitors. I'll add some extra info about VA and the various types of IPS panels, and 6/8/10bit.
    I actually intended to add some info about higher refresh monitors too (120hz / 144hz), since I figured they could be useful to animators, but I wasn't able to find anything online about animators using them at all.
  • EarthQuake
    Yeah, I don't think animators care about that, animation content is typically authored at 24 or 30 fps, 60 fps at most. I think it's more gamers who get worked up about 120hz.
  • Elyaradine
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    Elyaradine polycounter lvl 11
    I just wanted to say thank you for putting this up!

    I'd been looking for a home workstation in the $2000 range, and what you've got here is a little better than what I was going to get otherwise.
  • RevoMA
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    RevoMA polycounter lvl 2
    @PolyHertz can I get a second opinion on this partlist please? 


    I am thinking of it as a starting point really. Which is why I got the X99-e WS there, with view of populating all PCI-e slots with graphic cards at some point. It was either that or the Deluxe II. Actually, this is a point I am very confused about. At the moment I work with Zbrush, Modo, C4D, Keyshot and Octane. How many gpus do I need for optimal performance? Does having 2-3 1080s work well enough for viewport + rendering (in which case I would save some money and get the Deluxe II) or do I need all 4? I dont mind waiting on renders, its the live performance that I am worried about.
    I am on a Mac at the moment so have no idea really. 

    I went with 2400mhz RAM for price and stability. At the moment I am undecided between the Savage currently in the partlist and the Corsair Vengeance LPX http://uk.pcpartpicker.com/product/RVnG3C/corsair-memory-cmk32gx4m4a2400c14

    The cpu cooler was chosen because the two fan version (D15) would block one of the expansion slots, so went with the single fan version.

    I only have SSD in this build. How important is having M.2 drives for painting, modelling and rendering? If my understanding is correct, faster drives would be ideal for editing more so than CG (?).

    And finally, would the case be OK with 4 gpus? It has 8 expansion slots, so would populating them with blower-style, double-slotted gpus work temperature?
    Another option for the case would be the 750D which has 9 expansion slots, but I am reading that it allows a lot of dust and the use of internal space is not so efficient like the Luxe. 

    Help me please! 

  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    @RevoMAThe build looks good. To address your specific questions;

    For the best viewport performance, you'll want to get the best single-GPU solution you can afford. SLI is only really useful for GPU rendering, as basically no 3D modeling programs viewport supports it. In fact, only dual-GPU SLI is officially supported anymore by Geforce cards, starting with the new 1000/Pascal series chipset. Tri and quad SLI can still be achieved, but support will likely be very hit or miss going forward.

    For RAM, Corsair is generally considered the higher quality brand, but you should be fine either way.

    M.2 drives are more useful if you're working with apps that rely heavily on scratch discs, such a Mari or Quixel DDO. ZBrush can benefit in some instances too, particularly if you're still using the 32bit version. For most apps though you wont notice a difference except when loading them.

    The Luxe case should be OK for a quad SLI setup, but not great. It's going to be a tight fit. Again though, I don't recommend quad SLI unless you are doing a ton of GPU-based rendering and are OK with the fact that it's being phased out.
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni sublime tool
    I think you'll end up getting a full size case and not really utilizing it completely. @PolyHertz said, you probably won't ever utilize more than 1 GPU on a day-to-day basis. Here's what I would recommend and you'll probably save some $$ too. Save up all that extra cash and then upgrade whatever you need to 2 years down the line.


  • RevoMA
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    RevoMA polycounter lvl 2
    @PolyHertz @beefaroni ,

    Thanks a lot for the replies and input, really appreciate it. Will definitely reconsider the multi gpu setup. I keep reading that for octane the more gpus you have the better, and I had just assumed it was for viewport. Maybe I will settle for two cards if the viewport is smooth, I am not particularly worried about render times.

    Much appreciated guys!  
  • m4dcow
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    m4dcow interpolator
    Should throw these new intel ssds up onto the list. 1tb M.2 for $360 (ships in Q4), 512gb for $189.
  • jderiggi
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    jderiggi polycounter lvl 9
    Thanks so much to PolyHertz for this original post and to everyone else for their thoughts as well! Been really useful while trying to choose parts. I'm a character artist doing heavy Zbrush sculpting and Keyshot rendering, but also real time painting in Substance Painter and real time rendering in Marmoset.

    I plan to grab either a GTX 1070 or 1080 graphics card, with at least 32GB ram, but I'm mostly stuck on a CPU. i7 6800K or Xeon e5-2620 v4. Both are similar costs, but Xeon's are known for more CPU power hungry apps like Zbrush. Don't want Substance Painter to suffer though in real time painting. Thoughts? Here's a part list on pcpartpicker.com - http://pcpartpicker.com/list/psqLsJ. Thanks in advance!


  • wirrexx
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    wirrexx polycounter
    After my GF got sick and we we're in trouble with money, i had to sell my PC, she left me after that and i have no money or PC, so my question is, with the money coming in (from selling a couple of gaming stuff), i have to go for a laptop while finding a job and place to live in, any tips on what laptop should do me 3D work good? 

    Ue4, 3ds max, photoshop and zbrush.

  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    What's your budget? For UE4, I'd suggest trying to get something with a 860M or 960M or better. Which is going to start at around $700. 
  • wirrexx
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    wirrexx polycounter
    Zacd its about 800 Euro!
  • MikeWal
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    MikeWal polycounter lvl 3
    Hello, first of all, thanks for this thread, really helpfull for me, since i haven't upgraded my pc in years. I'm planning on buying entry lvl pc, and everything is fine, except i can't find  Tower: Corsair Carbide Series 100R and Power: Corsair CX600 in my country stores. Couldn't find Roseville either, can you suggest something for similar price (tower and power)? I found Aerocool KCAS-600 and it looks pretty ok, but i'm still not sure.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    jderiggi said:
    I plan to grab either a GTX 1070 or 1080 graphics card, with at least 32GB ram, but I'm mostly stuck on a CPU. i7 6800K or Xeon e5-2620 v4. Both are similar costs, but Xeon's are known for more CPU power hungry apps like Zbrush. Don't want Substance Painter to suffer though in real time painting. Thoughts? Here's a part list on pcpartpicker.com - http://pcpartpicker.com/list/psqLsJ. Thanks in advance!
    @jderiggi I would personally go with the 6800K over a single e5-2620 due to the large differences in clock speeds (3.4ghz vs 2.1ghz when using all cores, or 3.6ghz vs 3.0ghz Turbo Boost). Some apps might be better with the Xeon, but I think the vast majority will run better with the 6800K.

    About GPU/RAM ; The 1080 isn't that much better then a 1070, and has the same amount of vram. On the other hand, in ZBrush 64gb of ram can make a huge difference over 32gb (assuming you're using 64bit zbrush).

    MikeWal said:
    i can't find  Tower: Corsair Carbide Series 100R and Power: Corsair CX600 in my country stores. Couldn't find Roseville either, can you suggest something for similar price (tower and power)? I found Aerocool KCAS-600 and it looks pretty ok, but i'm still not sure.
    @MikeWal The tower honestly isn't that important, as long as it can fit your parts and has at least somewhat decent ventilation. I added a good cheap NZXT model in the first post though. If you can't find that either, just pick whatever yo think looks nice and seems sturdy (a $50 budget for the case wont allow for many choices either way).

    For power supplys it's generally enough to just go by brand when on a budget. Aerocool is not considered a good brand, and If there are no Corsair ones around, maybe see if you can find one under the Cooler Master brand instead.
  • jderiggi
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    jderiggi polycounter lvl 9
    @PolyHertz Thanks very much! I was considering doing just what you recommended for those exact reasons. Thanks again!

  • nechasto
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    nechasto polycounter lvl 5
    Hi, does anybody have experience with 2x 4k monitor's running on QUADRO K5200 8GB. I am mostly using 3ds max, z-brush, v-ray, keyshot (no gaming). I know that it is supported via DP 1.2 on 60 Hz but how does it perform. I don't want to buy a second 4k monitor just to find out that it is overkill for the Quadro k5200 8gb.
  • MikeWal
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    MikeWal polycounter lvl 3
    Thanks, PolyHertz, one more question, is it good idea to buy GTX 1070 instead of 1060 for entry lvl pc? Cause in my country it costs only 100$ more. Or it's not worth it?
  • lukx
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    lukx polycounter lvl 3
    I'm thinking about 2 x Xeon E5-2630 v4 or i7-6900k build. But I heard that with Xeons things aren't that responsive as with i7 cpu. Also what about gaming. Will Xeon be as strong with geforce 1080 so I'll be able to play games with ultra settings?
  • ZacD
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    ZacD polycounter
    The E5-2630 only turbos to 2.80 GHz which is a bit slow for ultra gaming.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Hey guys, just a heads up; Apparently a lot of EVGA cards are having issues with screen artifacts, black screens, and in some rare cases; bursting into flames:


    There's also some concern that the cards may have what could be considered a design defect, where the VRMs are not properly cooled (which may or may not be the cause of the above issues). EVGA has responded by essentially saying 'nothing is wrong with out cards', and making thermal pads available for those that want better cooling (and feel comfortable enough to take apart and put back together their card).

    UPDATE Apr-2017 : https://www.reddit.com/r/nvidia/comments/65015u/evga_vrms_are_still_exploding/
  • Eric Chadwick
    This thread is so full of win.

    I'm looking at upgrading my 3 yr old laptop, which is my main home setup for doing freelance work. Sometimes I need to bring it with me to do onsite work with clients.

    The best option for me, balancing performance & portability, so far seems to be the ASUS GL502 with the GTX 1070.
    + 32GB RAM
    + 1 TB SSD

    1080 seems to be better if you're running a 4k monitor, which I'm not. I have a 27" second display, and I don't want 4k on a 15.6" laptop display, that makes things way too small. I was thinking about a 17" but those are too heavy to move around.

    They don't seem to offer the Windows 7 downgrade option. I have two desktop PCs at home for family use with Windows 10 on them, and they seem to crash quite a bit, getting hung on the Win10 BSOD. Maybe it's just because they're older spec PCs (HP Pavilion Elite, GTX 260). Anyhow, not relishing the thought of having Windows 10 to depend on.

    Any thoughts or input would be great to hear.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    @Eric Chadwick

    A GTX 1070 should be perfectly fine. The 1080 atp is overkill for any resolution below 1440p.

    For Windows 7, it should be possible to install it yourself, but you'll probably need to create a custom boot image to do it (one with USB3 and NVMe drivers built in). Here's a guide for doing that: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/guide-installing-windows-7-on-an-nvme-ssd-from-a-usb-3-0-thumbdrive.783921/

    Also, about the SSD, make sure you get an NVMe based M.2 for your OS drive, as it will be several times faster then a SATA based M.2 . The site you linked to doesn't mention brand/model of the M.2 drives though, so they might be junk...I'd get in contact with them to confirm what brand/model drives they include with the laptop, and if they're poorly rated see if you can get the laptop without an M.2/SDD at all and just buy/install one afterwards.

    Alternatively, you could look for companies that sell newer laptops with Windows 7 included and list brand/model for their drives. GentechPC is one I've used before that does this (though its been a few years).
  • Eric Chadwick
    Thanks PolyHertz!

    I have Win 7 Pro on an unused extra HDD, sounds like I can use that to make the boot image.

    Is NVMe really that much faster for the kind of work we do? Not sure if it's worth the doubling or tripling in price. Especially if I'm going for 1TB SSDs.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    Honestly, it's a real crap-shoot as to whether you'll see significant improvements or not; Most programs are going to be CPU bound when it comes to loading files on these faster drives. Saving large files or editing 4K video should benefit from it, but I really couldn't say if the difference will be worth it to you.

    If you really want a 1TB drive for your OS/Apps, I wouldn't bother with NVMe at the current prices. If you do however decide to go with one instead of SATA, I would wait for the new 960 EVO drives to be released as they should be both faster and cheaper then the current 950 PRO drives.
  • m4dcow
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    m4dcow interpolator
    Thanks PolyHertz!

    Is NVMe really that much faster for the kind of work we do? Not sure if it's worth the doubling or tripling in price. Especially if I'm going for 1TB SSDs.
    Technically the NVME drives are quite a bit faster 2600MB/s vs 530MB/s (the limit of sata 6) but in general real world scenarios the improvement is modest. Although things like reading multi million poly zbrush sculpts are done quicker than a regular SSD.

    Whether that sort of performance is worth it is up to you really.
  • throttlekitty
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    throttlekitty Polycount Sponsor
    Thanks PolyHertz!

    I have Win 7 Pro on an unused extra HDD, sounds like I can use that to make the boot image.

    Is NVMe really that much faster for the kind of work we do? Not sure if it's worth the doubling or tripling in price. Especially if I'm going for 1TB SSDs.
    It really depends on the work and pipeline; basically anything disk I/O related. Working with many, many large files in Photoshop would benefit from a faster scratch read/write. Or in 3d, having many referenced or cached files and textures would be a benefit in raw speed and parallelism.

    Incidentally, I've a coworker installing a new NVMe this week (the new one from samsung), and is in the process of an annoying pipeline change where he needs to open some 50 heavy scenes to make a few small changes by hand. He decided on doing half now and half later to see the effect it has.
  • PolyHertz
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    PolyHertz quad damage
    @throttlekitty Let us know how it goes. :)
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