Re: Workstation Help!

Postby seandavidson » June 27th, 2013, 4:04 pm


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Cyberdemon wrote:Just to clarify (I'm not sure if this is what you meant) more ram will NOT improve multi-tasking while you render.

Modern rendering software will eat up 100% of the available cores. That's why your computer will suck at doing anything while you're rendering even if you have 64 gigs of ram.


That is something I did not know. Thanks for the info, Cyberdemon.

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby NURB » June 27th, 2013, 4:05 pm

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I knew you'd have a good opinion... Thanks for chiming in.

I'd take Cyberdemon's advice.
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby hatts » June 27th, 2013, 4:07 pm


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Cyberdemon wrote:Modern rendering software will eat up 100% of the available cores. That's why your computer will suck at doing anything while you're rendering even if you have 64 gigs of ram.


There's a lot of factors to consider, though. Many rendering packages incorporate a "low priority" feature which will have the rendering job ease up a bit if the user is trying to do other things. Other packages let you set aside whole cores during rendering. (This is a tick in the "RAM doesn't matter" checkbox.)

However if s/he gets into motion graphics or any poly modeling, there are plenty of functions which utilize RAM. Video rendering, dynamics simulation, retopologizing, all use RAM. (This is a tick in the "RAM does indeed matter" checkbox.)

But, really, RAM is so cheap, there's nothing wrong with erring on the beefy side. 32GB is crazy but not as crazy as a $3600 laptop (I KID).

Lastly, a beastly enough computer will remain entirely usable while rendering. Having a properly cooled desktop instead of a groin-melting laptop will definitely help.
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby Cameron » June 27th, 2013, 4:31 pm

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Everyone where I work does CAD and rendering on their macbook pros. Plus, the industrial design is great, so it's good to show you personally value your field in your purchases. Even if I want windows, I just run boot camp (for Solidworks).

For the budget you have, I would get a maxed out MBP, honestly.
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby NURB » June 27th, 2013, 4:48 pm

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Cameron wrote:Plus, the industrial design is great, so it's good to show you personally value your field in your purchases


But sometimes the cobbler's children have no shoes...
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby Cyberdemon » June 27th, 2013, 5:02 pm

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The thing I hate about my Macbook Pro is that it really sucks for running Windows.

The retina display is great but it is not optimized (in OSX or Windows) for most applications. As a result you usually end up with tiny windows, less than stellar GPU performance, or you go with the next best compromise which is running it in 1080P which is kind of a sin.

The other thing I've found on my MBP is Windows does not have the correct fan support under boot camp. I had to purchase a laptop cooler, and download a fan control app to set the fans to full blast while I'm gaming. Even then, the machine gets scalding hot after a few hours of gaming. I've already had several full system lockups due to heat, so I can't say it makes me want to recommend it as a machine for rendering on. Nothing like waking up the next morning to find your CPU hung overnight and nothing got done. My machine was hitting 105° C - which if you've ever looked at how processors work, they start shutting down at 100C to protect themselves from damage (yes C, not F). That's absolutely insane, and the heat travels VERY quickly through to the top of the keyboard.

Don't get me wrong, I love the machine in many other regards - but for the purposes of pumping cad it's kind of like buying a BMW X6 because it's a good "off roader" sometimes it's worth it to get the Jeep and not care what people think.

Personally I like HP's current lineup of Elitebook workstations (I also run a 8560W) - they have some of the Macbook flare (keyboard, metal chassis) with the PC things that make me happy (dedicated VGA port, ethernet jack, docking station).

The macbook isn't a bad choice, but it's not as perfect of a choice as I once thought it would be after owning one for a few months.

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby scrotum » June 27th, 2013, 6:22 pm

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I've always been a fan of HP's EliteBook line of workstations, you can buy a very capable system for under $1,500.

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby nxakt » June 27th, 2013, 9:37 pm

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If you are looking to do it all on one machine and move it from place to place then a strong laptop is the solution.

As mentioned before, cooling is the Achilles heel of working on heavy renderings, I know that feeling of waking up in the morning to find a shut down machine due to overheating instead of a in depth rendering.

I now have a big, angular, matte black, heavy, Asus Gaming laptop. The laptop has never overheated even during multiple day rendering sessions with all threads maxed, it has two big fairly unattractive fans at the rear that carry all the heat away, which on the very occasional time it sits on my thighs means that there is very little heat felt.

I am not looking for any nods of approval when I flip up the top of my laptop in public. Actually the looks are of shock, :lol:

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby Cyberdemon » June 28th, 2013, 8:25 am

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Sager (Sagernotebook.com) also makes very solid machines AND they have some seriously high end desktop replacements:

http://www.sagernotebook.com/index.php? ... ame=NP9570

This guy can get equipped with a GTX 770M (Consider what apps you run and if you need the Quadro card for full support) - as well as the 6 core extreme edition CPU and a SSD + 32 gigs of ram for under $3500 and that's a beast if you're just looking for computing power.

With that said, it's 12 freaking pounds without the power brick (which is probably 3-4lbs for a machine that big). Expect to get either really strong shoulders or a hernia if you want something that is actually transportable for long distances. You certainly wouldn't want to make an hour long commute with that thing.

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby j2cervin » June 28th, 2013, 8:42 am


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I would recommend getting way more than 8 gigs of ram. At the cost, you might as well go with 32. You will be thankful for it as soon as you toss some displacement in the scene. Seeing "unloading geometry" will always ruin your day.

If you are really serious about going the 3D route, I would really stay away from the laptop. We have the top end dell and it will throttle itself after a bit due to the heat issues. Also, dont expect more than 2 hours of light duty CAD work on a machine with top end specs. I think that the desktop example given is a great one, and leaves you with 1k to get yourself a decent laptop to stay mobile. You can model/prep your scene on almost any decent laptop. Almost all the top rendering programs will allow you to distribute the rendering to the desktop to take advantage of the power it can supply. Also, you can upgrade the CPU on that machine if you ever want to later. And trust me, you will.

I wish I had more ram/processors in mine most days:
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby NURB » June 28th, 2013, 9:31 am

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Holy crap! What are you doing? Rendering the new Star Wars movie?
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby seandavidson » June 28th, 2013, 9:45 am


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Hey guys! Thanks so much for all the advice and guidance throughout this thread.

After careful consideration I have decided to stay away from a Laptop and am now in the process of detailing a desktop to suit my needs. While it would be great to have a laptop to work where ever I please, I do not feel that it is absolutely necessary and will probably be happier with a more reliable and upgradable machine. Hatts, in an earlier post directed to me to http://pcpartpicker.com where I could piece together my machine, so I think that is where I shall start.

If anyone has any other suggestions for powerful workstations, by all means, lead me to them.

I am planning on using the i7-4770k processor with either a quadro 4000 or geforce 780 card and 32 Gb's of ram. I am lacking a motherboard, cpu cooler and an appropriate power supply, so I need to do some research on appropriate parts for my machine.

Many thanks, once again!

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby Cameron » June 28th, 2013, 10:21 am

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CyberDemon - that's crazy hot. I have also had several-hour gaming sessions with my home MBP and the fans are fine (full blast). Never seen temps, but pretty sure they are not that high.

Also, Windows 8.1 has HD resolution support.

@NURB - the Cobbler's kid has $3500 for shoes. He can afford some nice ones. =)

Unless someone is a professional renderer and not a designer, I don't know why they wouldn't want a laptop these days. To each his own!
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Re: Workstation Help!

Postby Cyberdemon » June 28th, 2013, 11:07 am

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A few comments:

For $3500 you could actually build 2 decent desktops (one for work one for school) and still have money left over for a cheap laptop.

@J2: Keep in mind that when you've got a 12 core machine like that, you'll want more ram per core for rendering tasks. We have 64 gigs in our 16 core render farm because it balances out 2 gigs per thread. On a quad core laptop the benefit really isn't there.

The OP is a student. Do you remember what kind of work you did as a student? Also a lot of stuff being mentioned is really specific to high end Viz. I don't think the OP will be worrying about displacement issues running out of memory unless he's at a point where he actually knows what that is and why he'd use it.

The biggest reason not to spec the machine with that much RAM is that it's easy enough to upgrade and anytime you spec the machine with it from the start you're paying for 3X the margins. Case in point - Upgrading the Thinkpad W he's looking at from 16G to 32G is $360 - to buy it on Newegg is $120. That's $240 that could have been spent on beer.

8-16G is plenty. I just decided to open Keyshot with a 800 meg rendering file, a couple full production product Pro E assemblies, a few hundred megs worth of Illustrator and Photoshop files, a 200 meg Alias file, + all my Firefox windows etc and I didn't hit the physical memory cap and the machine was still running acceptably.

Don't overkill what you can upgrade later for cheap.

Re: Workstation Help!

Postby bngi » June 28th, 2013, 11:07 am

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My pre unibody mbp has been above 100C comsistently aswell, until i disassembled it and removed the large chunk of cooling paste and applied new. (And deepcleaned fans and heatsinks)

Still scorching, but not on fire.
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