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What PC to build?

Mar 17, 2010 5:27 AM

A question often asked is what system to build for NLE.

Basically you can think along three roads, a budget PC, an economical PC and the warrior PC. Notice that MAC is not mentioned here. There are three reasons for that, one is I'm not qualified to really advise on MAC's, two is that they are way overpriced and three they are severely limited in component choices. So this is all about PC.

Whether you want to have a budget, economical or warrior PC, there are a number of common components that you will always need, a case, a PSU, CPU cooler, monitor, keyboard, mouse, DVD/BR burner and stuff like that so I'm not going into those components.

So what is this all about?

1. CPU
2. Motherboard
3. Memory
4. Disk setup
5. Video card

This is certainly not intended to be a full description of what to buy, but only to point you in a direction that will make it easier to make your own list of components required.

Budget: i7-860, Economical: i7-930, Warrior: Dual X5680

Budget: ASUS P7P55D, Economical: ASUS P6T WS Pro, Warrior:  SuperMicro X8DAH+

Budget: 8 GB, Economical: 12 GB, Warrior: 24+ GB

Disk setup
Budget: 3-4 SATA disks, Economical: 5-8 SATA disks (plus raid controller), Warrior: 12+ disks and Areca ARC 1880iX-16/24 controller


Video card
Budget: ATI HD 5670, Economical: nVidia GTX-285, Warrior: nVidia Quadro FX 3800+

Effectively at this moment (March 2010) that means in approximate costs for the 5 components and not counting everything else you may need,


Type PC
Approximate budget
Budget$ 1,200
Economical$ 2,100 (excluding RAID controller)
Warrior$ 8,500 (including Areca RAID controller)

These figures are around minimum to budget for. I hope this gives you something to ponder about.

Branched to a new discussion.
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 7:49 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Very nice little guide!


    the only thing i would make comment on.

    the 860 and 920/930 are the same price.

    the boards for each are only $30 apart. (p55 being slightly less)

    so the cost of a P55 vs X58 are not that big a jump.

    4 vs 6 gig or 8 vs 12gig not a big stretch..

    however for many the 860 is more than they need. (DV, HDV)

    FYI the 860 overclocks very nicely to 3.6GHz without voltage increases.


    As to the Apple my biggest reason for not recommending them to clients right now is not about cost or choices.

    its all about OSX inability to properly mutli-thread.

    at least Adobe is much better on an Apple right now that Final Cut! FC is rather embarressing.



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    Mar 17, 2010 8:40 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    I was on the verge of pulling the trigger on this deal : px?refid=desktop-studio-xps-9000&s=dhs&cs=cadhs1&~oid=ca~en~70702~stud io-xps-9000-en-feat_3~~

    From $1,938
    You Save $440
    Now $1,498 (before taxes)


    Then a friend looked around for me and assembled this hypothetical build :

    Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Edition 64BIT Dvd OEM
    •Limit 5 per customer.
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $145.87 $145.87

    Western Digital WD1001FALS Caviar Black 1TB SATA2 7200RPM 4.2MS 32MB 3.5IN Dual Proc Hard Drive OEM
    •Limit 5 per customer.
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $98.88 $98.88

    XFX Radeon HD 5850 XXX Edition 755MHZ 1GB GDDR5 4.5GHZ 2XDVI HDMI Display Port PCI-E Video Card
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $334.80 $334.80

    LG BH10LS30 Bluray Writer 10X BD-R 16X DVD-RW Lightscribe SATA Retail Box
    •Limit 2 per customer.
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $169.88 $169.88

    Asus P6T X58 ATX LGA1366 DDR3 3PCI-E16 PCI-E1 2PCI CrossFire SLI SATA2 GBLAN Motherboard
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $253.80 $253.80

    Antec Truepower New 750W Modular Power Supply ATX Active PFC 80 Plus SLI Ready Blue 120MM PWM Fan
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $125.01 $125.01

    Antec P183 ATX Tower Case Black 11 Drive Bay 4X5.25 1X3.5 6X3.5INT No PS Front USB & Sound
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $146.65 $146.65

    2 X OCZ XTC Platinum OCZ3P1333LV6GK DDR3-1333 6GB 3X2GB CL7-7-7-20 Triple Channel Memory Kit
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    •$20.00 CAD Mail in Rebate for this item - click here
    Yes $168.71 $337.42

    Intel Core i7 920 D0 Stepping Quad Core Processor LGA1366 2.66GHZ Bloomfield 8MB LGA1366 -SLBEJ-
    •Usually Ships in 1 to 2 Business days.
    Yes $324.32 $324.32

    Payment Detail
    Shipping & handling $0.00
    Insurance $29.05
    Sub Total $1,936.63
    GST(5%) $98.28
    No PST - Outside BC residents $0.00
    Total $2,063.96


    In both cases, I was going to add at least 1TB as a 2nd HD.


    Rig will be for Photoshop, Sonar audio editing, and full screen HD video playback (not editing). No gaming. No overclocking.


    Dell's video card is a 5770. The custom build is a 5850. Both may be overkill. Dell's PSU is 475W. The custom build's is 750W. Dell's OS is Win7 Home, the custom build's is Win7 Pro. Dell's blu-ray only writes CD/DVD. The custom build writes BD/CD/DVD.


    Is either one of these a no-brainer? Any red flags? Please note that price *is* an issue right now, as I'm being hit with all kinds of emergencies simultaneously... but my current rig (7 years old, upgraded to an Opteron 180 somewhere along the way) is falling apart on me. After a false-alarm HD failure scare this past weekend, I don't want to keep pushing my luck.


    PS: I'm in Canada, these are all in CND prices.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 9:04 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Harm Millaard wrote:


    Dell XPS is brain damaged from the start: The BIOS is crippled, not allowing any overclocking.


    Did you miss the part where I went out of my way to mention that I wouldn't be overlocking?


    The part about not wasting a 1TB drive as the OS drive makes a lot of sense, though. Thanks.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 9:14 AM   in reply to jyeager11

    as mentioned the Dell is silly the power supply is barely enough to boot the default config.

    add harddrives and a serious video card forget it....

    IMHO a 700W is minimum and a qualoty one at that not some off brand.


    the only good for video dells are in the workstation area and then they are way more than a custom builder.




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 9:20 AM   in reply to jyeager11

    I plan to build a 64bit computer later this year, after CS5 is out, with my CURRENT plan being...


    Intel i7 CPU + ASUS P6 motherboard + Win7 Pro 64bit (have that from site license @work) and 12Gig Ram


    320Gig boot drive and 320Gig scratch drive and 1T data drive (SD video only, to make home movie DVDs)


    Since I'm not sure the CUDA/MPE engine will do anything for me with SD video, I am still deciding between nVidia GTX 285 and an ATI with 1Gig of display ram (will also use Photoshop)


    I also do NOT overclock

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 11:07 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    not a good company...

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 11:20 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Sorry Harm, that wasn't intended to come across as snarkily as it did.


    I'm slowly walking away from the Dell set-up, mostly because of the inadequate PSU.


    My main question now is... if my sole points of interest are :


    1) Photoshop (ridiculously high resolutions, ie 4GB+ psd files)

    2) HD video playback (full screen - currently 1920x1200 but could potentially go even higher)

    3) Very intensive multi-layer / live FX / 24b wav music editing


    No gaming, no overclocking, and very little video editing (I'm leaving that door open, but I've no immediate plans to).


    In this scenario, would an ATI 5850 or even a 5770 be a waste of money that could be put into more or better ram?

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 12:20 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Harm Millaard wrote:


    In your custom setup, you already have 12 GB of memory (with nice timings BTW) s


    You mentioned "nice timings". As someone who knows very little about ram, I'm not sure what that means, but thought I'd ask you what you thought of another opinion I got in another forum telling me to ditch the 1333 and go with 1600.


    Keeping in mind I'd be on an i7 920, I'm budget-conscious, what the difference would cost and what I'd get in return, how wise is that advice at this point in time?

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 12:42 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Harm Millaard wrote:



    The nice thing about your memory is the 7-7-7 timings and the 1333 speed is more than enough to support overclocking to around 3.6 GHz. If you want to go further, let's say to 4.0 GHz, then 1600 memory would definitely be advisable, but keep the CAS at 7.



    If the real benefit of going 1600 is overclocking, then all the more reason to stick with 1333. Right?

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 1:05 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    actually this is completely not right.


    even NOT over clocking your CPU, you can run your memory @ 1600 and should be.

    1600 is NOT JUST FOR OCING. and you can OC with 1066 if you know what you are doing (dont recommend it either)


    period period




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 1:31 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    shoot no! i am not helping either. we have thought about looking our clients out of the bios

    but then i couldn't rag on Dell for it

    it also depends on what board you use and ram you use.


    XMP profiled (correctly profiled) Ram.

    if you choose use XMP profile in the bios

    "Should" auto profile.


    past that i dont give out bios setting.

    i dont have the patience (thank God my support guys do...)






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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 17, 2010 4:07 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Harm, I did have a one module in a set of three go bad and OCZ quickly replaced the whole set.  I have had my i7-920 experimental computer running at 4.2 GHz with my 1600 6GB Platinum OCZ with 7-7-7-20 timing.

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    Mar 18, 2010 7:03 AM   in reply to Bill Gehrke

    man thats a nice OC. i have not seen one go to  4GHz in months. much less 4.2GHz.

    mine is @ 3.8GHz.




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 18, 2010 8:36 AM   in reply to Scott Chichelli

    Of course I would not operate in a normal video editing mode at that speed.  The motherboard is my ASUS P6T7 WS Supercomputer.  While it may be an ideal CUDA platform, it is a lousy disk performer.  I have a faster (R)AID array than Harm (because a risky eight disk RAID 0), but cannot even come close to his disk intensive AVI encoding score of 1.4 seconds, the best I have seen is about 3.9 seconds.  Also if you scan the Results page you will see it is not my setup, all AVI results for this MB are lousy.  I cannot verify this but I suspect that the two nVidia N200's that are on this board may be the cause.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 6, 2010 9:45 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Thank you very much for your extensive efforts to educate...your advice is succinct and pertinant, the fruit of many years experience, I'm sure. Thanks for sharing with us.  I've read the links you sent & printed them to use while I compare options.

    If I had more time, I'd build way to learn! Thanks again.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 8, 2010 9:15 PM   in reply to Mother Macabre

    Greetings, I've read this thread with eager (but, admittedly ignorant) interest.


    I'm creating patient-education programs with audio/video/graphics/animation etc... and need to keep my focus on the content vs. the technology.


    Are there any technically sound, pre-configured and optimized for "Adobe CS5"  available for those of us who don't know enough about hardware to build a sytem ourselves?



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    May 10, 2010 7:51 AM   in reply to Qurve Learning, LLC

    Send me a PM Sara and I will help you.

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    May 11, 2010 2:39 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Hi Harm Millaard,


    First of all I would like to thank you for the great posts I've seen here, about hardware in general, and the rich information you have been providing for long. Then, as I need to assemble a NLE PC capable of dealing with 2 or 3 simultaneous layers of AVCHD and TOD video files with average 35GB size, with a 2.500,00 € [$ 3.000,00] budjet, after reading most of your articles I've managed to come with the following configuration:


    - 1x CoolerMaster RC-690 II Advanced (89,90 €)
    - 1x Fan 80mm NoiseBlocker Silent X1 Black/ Blue (4,40 €)
    - 2x Fan 120mm NoiseBlocker Silent XL2 Black/ Blue (6,00 €) (12,00 €)
    - 1x Corsair HX-850W (165,00 €)
    - 1x Asus P6X58D-E Skt1366 iX58 (224,00 €)
    - 1x Intel Core Quad i7 930 2.8Ghz Skt1366 8Mb (277,00 €)
    - Noctua NH-D14 Fan 140mm (69.90 €)
    - Asus GeForce PCI-E GTX470 1280Mb GDDR5 (359,90 €)
    - 2x Pack 3x 2048Mb DDR3 GSkill PC3-16000 (2000) CL9 RipJaws Tri-Channel (194,90 €) (389,80 €)
    - SSD Intel 2,5" SATA-2 80Gb X25-M (225,00 €)
    - 4x Western Digital SATA-2 1TB 7200rpm 32Mb Black (85,90) € (343.60 €)
    - N/A [available USB 2.0 2TB device]
    - 1x DVDRW Blu-Ray LG BH10LS30 8x SATA LightScribe bulk (189,00 €)
    - 2x DVDRW SATA Asus 24B1LT 24x LightScribe Black bulk (26,00 €) (52,00 €)
    - PCI OEM w/ 2 Firewire + 1 Mini-Firewire (9,90 €)
    - Sharkoon Media III Card-Reader (5.25/3.5/USB) (10,90)
    - 1x Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit PT OEM (112,90 €)


    TOTAL: approximately 2.500,00 €



    Well, what can you say about this assembled machine? What modifications would you do? Any recomendations?



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 11, 2010 3:05 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Thank you for your fast reply!


    Notes: The "2x" DVD is a typo! It was from another custom machine! And extra Firewire is needed for several peripherals [client arguing]. And I guess you may be right with the SSD HDD..


    Now, imagine you can spend more 500,00 € [maybe $ 750,00], what would you do to increase performance and reliability? And for Win7 what are the main settings that I should do?


    Software to use: Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, Corel Video Studio Pro, Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection.


    PS: I had some problems in the past with some PC configurations that used to stuck / crash during HD editing [not rendering], that's why I chose that particular graphic card.




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 12, 2010 12:59 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Please, tell me what difference will Pro Win7 produce in spite of the Home Premium version, concerning a NLE PC.



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 12, 2010 5:31 AM   in reply to cjvieira

    the biggest is the 16gig memory limit, whilte 12 is ok 24 is best

    with pro you can have up to 192 home is 16


    also with Home you cant be on a domain. fine for at home networking but if in a corp environment with a domain you cant connect.




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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 12, 2010 2:49 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard


    I'm a video editor using a Sony ZI and editing in HDV burning in SD. Hope to up grade to NX5. Need a new computer to use Cineform Neo 4k and CS5 Production Studio.


    The following suggestion has been made:

    Gigabye GA-P55M motherboard with Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire and eSATA ports,


    8 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM (4x2 GB)


    Intel Core i5 750 quad core processor (2.66 GHz)


    2x1 TB 7200 rpm WD "Black Series" HDs-32 MB cache


    nVIDIA GTX 285 video card - dual monitir support


    2x LG DVD Rewritable drives with Nero software


    Mini tower case with room for 3 Hard Drives


    Win 7 Pro 64 bit


    Rosewill 650 watt 80 plus Certified power supply- energy efficent and quiet


    3 yr warranty


    $1700 approx



    What do you think of such a set-up? How can it be improved and hopefully lower cost or at least not increase it too too much?








    Scottsdale AZ

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 30, 2010 4:28 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Hi Harm Millaard


    I seriously need help choosing the components for my next pc!


    I’ve been trying to come up with a decent configuration over the last few weeks but each time I star to choose components I seem to blow my budget. I live in New Zealand where PC components tend to be more expensive than what they are in the US/ Europe.


    I am currently a media assistant at a marketing firm and find that I often need to take my work home to work to tight deadlines. I plan on using on my future PC CS5 (for work) and Avid Media Composer (for my own personal projects). Potentially I would like to play around with Maya as well at some point.


    I’ve never built my own PC before but I’ve decided that I would like to give it a try. That said while I can use a computer (fairly well) I still have allot to learn in terms of putting one together.


    My budget is $4000.00 (New Zealand dollars)


    I have come up with the following list of components so far:


    CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-960 3.2GHz Quad-core with Hyperthreading

    MB: Asus® P6X58D Premium Supporting SLI/CrossFire, USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s

    MEMORY: 12GB Kingston HyperX Triple-Channel DDR3-1600MHz Low Latency


    DVD-RW: LG Electronics GH22NS50 DVD Writer, DVD 16R/22W/8RW, CD 48R/48W/32RW, Internal, SATA, Black, OEM   

    SOUND CARD: Creative Sound Blaster 5.1 VX Sound card, 5.1, PCI

    WIRELESS ADAPTER: D-Link DWA-520 Xtreme-G, Wireless Adapter, 108Mbps, 802.11b/g, PCI   


    (RAID 0) 2x VelociRaptor WD1500HLFS, 150GB, 10000rpm, 16MB Cache, SATA-2

    Caviar Black WD1002FAEX, 1000GB, 7200rpm, 64MB Cache, SATA-3


    As you can see so far I’m missing cooling, a case and a power supply, potentially a RAID Controller card, usb ports (i would also like to add a HDMI output port) etc


    Could you please give me a hand and modify what I have above in any way that you see fit and help me by completing the list of all the other components that i will need?


    I would really appreciate your help!!!!

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 30, 2010 6:46 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    I second all of Harm's comments, but when you get through a very important step is to make sure you tune your OS (hopefully Win 7 64) to get rid of the garbage that Microsoft has to include to cover every possible use but features that are not necessary for an editing machine.  As an example one function that you will not need is Tablet PC components, there are about two dozen or more of these that I turn off.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 30, 2010 8:25 AM   in reply to Bill Gehrke

    Hi Bill,


    Is there a list/link anywhere of what functions in Win 7 64 to turn off, in addiiton to the Tablet PC function?



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