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some days ago my boss told me to inform myself about actual workstations which are good for 3d grafic tasks. Now I am comparing prices and benchmarks of several systems.
What do you think about something like this?
Dell Precision 650:
- 2 Xeon @ 2.8 GHz
- 2 GB ECC-DDR Ram
- 2 x 80GB IDE (connected via Raid-0)
I think it is not realy economic to buy the 3.2GHz CPUs. The small boost of power does not excuse the unbelievably expense.
What do you think?
What about Opteron systems?
The second big question is: which grafic card serves my needs best?
There are so many different types of grafic cards that I do not understand the differences. Actualy I work on an ATI FireGL4 (128MB).
What do you think I should choose for the workstation?
- Wildcat VP990 Pro?
- Wildcat 4 7110?
- ATI FireGL X2-256T?
- PNY/Nvidia Quatro FX 1100/2000/3000?
I am working with 3ds max 6 and Photoshop.
Would be great if you could give me some advice. I am not very familiar with hardware. ;-)
Thanx a lot!
PS: sorry for my bad english.
05-15-2004, 03:36 AM
True, the prices to performance ration of cpu inflation is a bit much. Check whether there is the 1MB L3 Cahce for those 3.2s. That will change performance, but still don't know if it's worth it on a budget. Those 2.8s should be just fine.
Regarding Opteron systems, as far as I know, I've heard nothing but good things about them and would highly recommend researching that direction as well.
Not so sure about going prbuilt with DELL for a workstation. I recommend looking into other resources like BOXX. There are a few other highly recommended companies that prebuild workstations, but I can't remember at the moment.
Don't know if you're concerned about budget cause self build is an option and will save you some money, but may be a headache.
I'm not so sure about RAID 0 though because I was warned about drive failure and sure enough it happened to me. It's about a 1-10 probability, but maybe not that high, depending on what you're storing. Make sure you have a good hardware RAID card for those drives if that's what you're going for.
For the video card, Quadros are the preference in my opinion, however, I'm not so sure about whether it's better for MAX, though I'm pretty sure they are swell. Wildcats are good cards too i guess. Then the FireGLs gets you decent workstation performance to not so good workstation performance according to some and the gaming performance of the Radeons.
05-15-2004, 05:14 AM
this recently got lost, so I'll recreate it here again
outlining the advantages of the Opteron Architecture
(as youll see this primarily applies to multi-processor systems)
AMD Opteron Coverage - Part 1: Intro to Opteron/K8 Architecture (http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1815) @ anandtech
Go Deep (http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1815&p=4)The difference in pipeline architectures is what makes a clock-for-clock comparison between the Xeon and Opteron invalid (much like the Pentium 4 to Athlon XP comparison was invalid on a clock-for-clock basis). The Xeon's architecture allows it to reach high clock speeds at the expense of doing less work per clock cycle, the appropriate comparison ends up being one of cost and real-world performance, not one of clock speed.
The more pipeline stages you have, the less work is done per clock and thus the higher you're able to clock your CPU; this is the reason the 20-stage Xeon is currently at speeds of 3GHz, compared to the 12-stage Opteron which is debuting at 1.8GHz.
in short, its not just how fast you run, but also how long your legs are, a Westy (http://www.leader.es/valleblanco/westy3.jpg) need to run twice as fast as a Wolfhound (http://www.arrakis.es/~pablol/wolfhound.jpg) to cover the same ground
AMD's 64-bit strategy - x86-64 (http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1815&p=5)
The benefits of a 64-bit microprocessor architecture are mainly memory related; if you take two identical microprocessors, make one 64-bit and one 32-bit, the advantage of the 64-bit CPU is that it can address much more memory than the 32-bit CPU (2^64 vs. 2^32). For those that were hitting the limits of 32-bit memory addressability (4GB), Intel's only high performance solution was to transition to Itanium, but if all you're looking for is more than 4GB of memory and solid x86 performance, then you're SOL from Intel's perspective.
AMD's 64-bit strategy is significantly different; AMD has always been focused on the current customer needs, not on the vision of the computing future 5 - 10 years from now and this is reflected in their 64-bit strategy. The strategy is simple and has been done before in the past; stick with a high-performing x86 core, and simply extend the ISA to support 64-bit memory addressability - the end result is what AMD likes to call x86-64.
In legacy mode, the K8 will run all native 16 or 32-bit x86 applications, the processor basically acts just as a K7 would.
Things get interesting in "long" mode where a 64-bit x86-64 compliant OS is required; in this mode, the K8 can either operate in full 64-bit mode or in compatibility mode. Full 64-bit mode allows for all of the advantages of a 64-bit architecture to be realized, including 64-bit memory addressability. One of the major features of the K8 architecture is the fact that the number of general purpose registers is doubled when in x86-64 mode, and thus this feature is also taken advantage of in full 64-bit mode.
Compatibility mode gives you none of the advantages of a 64-bit architecture on the application level, as it is designed for running 32-bit apps on a 64-bit OS (hence the name compatibility); The extra registers and 64-bit register extensions are ignored in this mode. Compatibility mode is important because of the 2GB process size limitation under Windows OSes. Although 32-bit Windows offers support for a maximum of 4GB of memory, each process can only use a maximum of 2GB of memory - the remaining 2GB is reserved for the OS. By running a 64-bit version of Windows (when released) and a 32-bit application, compatibility mode allows for each 32-bit process to have up to a full 4GB of memory, with the OS using anything above that marker.
Finally we have 64-bit long mode, where there is more than meets the eye. In addition to > 4GB memory addressability, in 64-bit long mode, applications have access to twice as many named general purpose registers. Remember that registers are basically high speed memory locations on the microprocessor where temporary values are stored. For example, if you were to compute the sum of two numbers, both of those numbers as well as the final result would be stored in these registers.
There is an immediate advantage if your running over 4GB of RAM and a 64bit Operating System (Linux (http://www.suse.com/us/private/products/suse_linux/prof/index.html) or Windows 64bit Evaluation (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/64bit/evaluation/default.asp) and while not that many applications are coded to employ the long mode, animation software will be among the first
Look what we found, an on-die memory controller (http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1815&p=6)
The benefits of an integrated memory controller are clear - low latency memory accesses and an extremely fast controller design thanks to the fact that it is manufactured using the latest processes using the fastest transistors.
You can see that the integrated memory controller of the Opteron is significantly lower latency than the nForce2's dual-channel DDR memory controller. It is also worth noting that the 875P memory controller is extremely low latency, especially for an external controller - but you have to keep in mind that we're comparing two different clock speed CPUs here when we're comparing to the Intel platform. While the platform may have a latency similar to that of the Opteron, the CPU is running at a much higher frequency meaning that more clock cycles are being wasted in the same amount of time:
The above graph shows the number of clock cycles wasted on waiting for data from main memory, here we see the clear advantage of having an on-die memory controller.
The downside to the on-die memory controller is that in order to get support for new memory technologies, you need to replace your CPU, not just your motherboard. AMD has built functionality into the K8 core that allows an external chipset to disable the on-die memory controller and use an external one. However, remember that a K8 without the integrated memory controller is basically like an optimized K7 with a longer pipeline.
Considering the need to employ ECC RAM, and the amount of RAM a typical workstation would employ, especially to take advantge of breaking the 2GB application limit above, its unlikely that the typical animator would be "upgrading" RAM speeds on a regular basis, rather older workstations wiould be added to a rendering farm\cluster and new one replace it
Multiprocessor Mecca (http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1815&p=7)
The culmination of all of this is that the K8 core (and thus the Opteron) scales very well with the number of CPUs you have in a system, much better so than any Intel processor.
Whereas the Xeon only sees an 11% increase in performance from going to two CPUs, the Opteron sees an impressive 24% performance boost! These are not numbers to scoff at; AMD has clearly designed the Opteron for serious multiprocessing environments. We hope to be able to bring you 4-way scaling benchmarks very soon.
Another interesting thing about the K8 architecture is that it has already been engineered for use in multicore designs. AMD's Fred Weber mentioned to us that the logic for multicore, single die Opteron processors has already been verified, although nothing has taped out. The process is actually quite simple; AMD produces two Opteron cores, removes the physical layers of the Hyper Transport links and connects the two on a single die.
and this leads us to the two greatest potential advantages
one that AMD has announced that dual cores are on the way, and that they will be employing the current Opteron 940 socket and thus its possible and potentially likely that a dual processor board bought now could be upgraded to a quad processing powerhouse in the not too distant future, and that while Intel has also announced their intent to release dual cores, they are much farther out than AMD, and with the current architecture they are bottlenecked,, Xeons dont scale well at all
unlike Opterons with their on die memory controller and Hypertransport, and its unlikely that their dual core will employ the current socket and architecture
the above excerpts are from the initial release of the Opteron
a more current article would be below, and describes why the L3 cache is so important to the Xeon
AMD Opteron vs. Intel Xeon: Database Performance Shootout (http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.html?i=1982)
Future Xeon and Pentium 4 processors will ship with the x86-64 extensions enabled but architecturally they will be identical to the currently available Prescott based Pentium 4. The architectural similarity between Intel's IA-32e ad IA-32 processors (IA-32e is Intel's marketing equivalent to AMD64) is an important point to note as it means that if Opteron is able to outperform Xeon in 32-bit mode, it will maintain a performance advantage in 64-bit mode as well.
FSB Impact on Performance: Intel's Achilles' Heel (http://www.anandtech.com/IT/showdoc.html?i=1982&p=3)
We've alluded to FSB bandwidth being a fundamental limitation in Intel's multiprocessor architecture, and now we're here to address the issue a bit further.
A major downside to Intel's reliance on an external North Bridge is that it becomes very expensive to implement multiple high speed FSB interfaces as well as a difficult engineering problem to solve once you grow beyond 2-way configurations. Unfortunately Intel's solution isn't a very elegant one; regardless of whether you're running 1, 2 or 4 Xeon processors they all share the same 64-bit FSB connection to the North Bridge.
The following diagram should help illustrate the bottleneck
In the case of a 4-way Xeon MP system with a 400MHz FSB, each processor can be offered a maximum of 800MB/s of bandwidth to the North Bridge. If you try running a single processor Pentium 4 3.0GHz with a 400MHz FSB you'll note a significant performance decrease and that's while still giving the processor a full 3.2GB/s of FSB bandwidth; now if you cut that down to 800MB/s the performance of the processor would suffer tremendously.
It is because of this limitation that Intel must rely on larger on-die L3 caches to hide the FSB bottleneck; the more information that can be stored locally in the Xeon's on-die cache, the less frequently the Xeon must request for data to be sent over the heavily trafficked FSB.
What's even worse about this shared FSB is that the problem grows larger as you increase the number of CPUs and their clock speed. A 2-way Xeon system won't experience the negative effects of this FSB bottleneck as much as a 4-way Xeon MP; and a 4-way Xeon MP running at 3GHz will be hurting even more than a 4-way 2.0GHz Xeon MP. It's not a nice situation to be in, but there's nothing you can do to skirt the issue, which is where AMD's solution begins to appear to be much more appealing:
First remember that each Opteron has its own on-die North Bridge and memory controller, so there are no external chipsets to deal with. Each Opteron CPU features three point-to-point Hyper Transport links, delivering 3.2GB/s of bandwidth in each direction (6.4GB/s full duplex). The advantage is clear: as you scale the number of CPUs in an Opteron server there are no FSB bottlenecks to worry about. Scalability on the Opteron is king, which is the result of designing the platform first and foremost for enterprise level server applications.
Intel may be able to add 64-bit extensions to their Xeon MPs, but the performance bottlenecks that exist today will continue to plague the Xeon line until there's a fundamental architecture change.
Ive placed my bet
Dual Opteron 244s (1.8GHz)
Tyan K8W (AMD series 8000 chipset)
PNY Quadro FX3000
4GB PC2700 (Crucial) and plans to add more
Windows XP 64bit Eval
05-15-2004, 06:52 AM
lol. That's the longest post I've seen yet Czar. Great resources as usual and the upcoming processor battles as well as gpu ones will be interesting to watch within the next year or so. Hopefully competition will keep innovative new technology and lower prices coming in the near future also.
That sounds all interesting. But it is a bit too much theory for me. :rolleyes: But sounds great anyway.
We will not build a workstation by ourselves. What we need is a box ready to go. No trouble with hardware etc..
Yesterday I had a look at http://www.boxxtech.com . They do also sell some interesting workstations. But "unfortunately" I am living in Germany. And I do not think that boxxtech will ship their hardware to Europe.
Dell seems to be the best choice at the moment. Or what do you think about hp? They have many workstations. But you can not configure them as you can at dell.
Is there someone who knows another good alternative to dell and hp (and who ships to Germany as well)?
If I have understood you guys right, the Quatro FX series seems to be the most powerful grafic hardware available on the market for the moment. Is that right?
Thanx for your good commends! :)
05-15-2004, 01:14 PM
that was part of a little discussion that MadMax and me where having regarding how AMD has Intel by the shorts right now in the server market (where dual, quad and oct processors are common) or of course a rendering monster.
Intel just announced they have killed two processors from development, they are having difficulties with 90nm fabrication and have elected to follow AMD in both 64bit extention and dual core development, and probably most telling, Dell, a tier one server provider has adopted in part the Opteron platform
all in all, AMD has arrived, and can no longer be dismissed as a second class supplier, its a similar situation to that of a couple of years ago when Intel mistepped with RDR RAM and the Athlons pulled ahead in performance, only this time its happening at the very top end (Barring Itantium Territory) it remains to be seen exactly how much hay they can make of it before Intel recovers the inititive again, its still a David vs Goliath senerio
05-15-2004, 03:24 PM
We would be happy to ship to Germany! We have product placed all over the world. Feel free to call me directly at 512-225-6313 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be happy to give you a competitive quote.
05-15-2004, 03:37 PM
just to throw my 2 cents worth in on this, I wouldn't buy a pre built system from any one but BoXX.
I met Ed at Siggraph, great guy and a pleasure to deal with. These guys are most definitely not your generic call center/what can I sell you type of zombie.
They are a great bunch and they know their stuff.
05-15-2004, 03:47 PM
I've had to work on various Dell Precision systems, and while I will say their machines are quiet, I wouldnt wish one on my worst enemy as far as build quality and support is concerned.
Two good friends of mine have Boxxes and thats what I'll be getting once it's time to upgrade.
My only gripe is I'm not a huge fan of the look of their case, but thats minor. :shrug: How bout makin' the 3dBoxx look more like the old HDBoxx?
05-15-2004, 04:38 PM
dmeyer...I'm a big fan of the old HDBOXX look as well. We try to put a fresh spin on the look of our cases every year or so. It's always a huge debate internally so we try to put our ideas in front of some customers before finalizing decisions. Next time out perhaps we'll post some ideas here at cgtalk and see what we get back!
05-15-2004, 07:56 PM
Personally Ive never bought an integrated system
but while the learning experience is valuable
getting it right, and properly optimized is next to impossible
within any reasonable period of time for anyone without
considerable integration experience
I too would highly recommend BOXX ;)
Ed Caracappa, any comment on the above info?
(accuracy, inaccuracy, rumor ect)
Im specifically interested in where youd see the value ratio change (single>dual>quad for a given platform) to the animation\rendering task at hand, whats overkill, this is an important metric, this might be eventually, that sort of thing
(I would understand if venturing such opinions publically might not be in your company's best interest of course)
05-15-2004, 11:50 PM
No worries man! I'm always happy to spew my opinion. All my sales reps will start by asking what software you're running. If you're using a multi-threaded application we're going to have you consider a dual processor machine. Bottom line, if you're using max, maya, xsi or even lightwave you should consider a dual proc machine with 2gb of memory and a good graphics card ( I like the nvidia FX 1100 right now for bang for the buck). Call me anytime, I'd be happy to advise no matter where you go buy...
05-15-2004, 11:51 PM
oops, my direct line is 512-225-6313 or 877-877-2699 ext 313.
01-18-2006, 05:00 AM
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