Custom Built 3D Workstation


Hi. I am currently looking into building a workstation for 3d graphics. I will mainly be using 3d max, photoshop, premiere, after effects, for 3d visualization jobs. I have read many different reviews of hardware, and would just like some clarification on what items would be compatable together. What kind of motherboard, graphics card, ram etc would you reccommend?
Some guidlines for the type of system components are:
dual xeon processors
2 gig ram
250GB+ hard drive
Nvidea quaddro fx or ati card? which is better for 3d max?

I’m not too clued up on technical issues of computers, so I dont really know the difference between all the numbers added onto the end of components names. Explanations of some of these would greatly help.
Any suggestions are welcome.


Hey, how much are you willing to spend? I just bought a dual Xeon workstation a month or so ago, and it cost me R30,000. But it was totally worth it :slight_smile:

My specs:

• Dual Intel Xeon 3.06GHz
• Intel Vero Beach Mainboard
• Windows XP Professional (you’ll need this to use HP on your processors)
• 2 Gb DDR Kingston ECC RAM (VERY expensive, but EXCELLENT quality)
• Matrox Parhelia 256MB DDR
• Logitech Cordless Desktop (blatant luxury, but when you’re spending so much you might as well go overboard!)
• 2 x 120Gb Western Digital SATA hard drives

I got all my parts from a supplier in Cape Town and built it up myself to save on costs. I had to buy a large Intel server chassis to house it because the motherboard is very big.

Regarding a display card for you, I think that the Quadro cards have better Max performance than the ATI cards… but a Max fundi will have to chime in here with more info on that…


My budget is about R30000 - R35000, because I was looking at getting a quaddra ti laptop from rockdirect, but decided to custom build a pc because I would be able to get more for my money. Which supplier did you get your stuff through?

I really need a system upgrade. I’m running off a p4 celeron with 512ram. Nearly tearing my hair out at the speed.


Eeek I bet you must be suffering with that system :argh:

My supplier is Gencom :slight_smile: I think you should be able to get all these parts from Rectron though. Give them a call. Be sure that you get the right components (especially in terms of RAM) for whatever motherboard you buy - a lot of the dual Xeon motherboards have to use registered and/or EEC RAM, which can be a bit more pricey than regular RAM. Kingston is expensive (I bought two 1Gb sticks and they cost nearly R2500 each), but very good quality RAM that shouldn’t cause any problems. The Xeon motherboards can be kinda picky. Also, if it supports SATA hard drives, then go for that, but be aware that they can be tricky to set up :slight_smile:


what are sata hard drives, and what are the advantages of using them?


a bit off topic, but i noticed a few people who want to upgrade these days, i wonder, is it a season to upgrade? i ask, because i imagine that with siggraph and all, one would wait till all new technologies are announced and thus making current top of the line hardware cheaper, making them not so top of line, but pretty close and a lot cheaper to the next top of the line hardware. for example, nvidia announcing the new line of pci-e quadros.

and also with new announcements of deals, new products, etc. one would also save a bit of cash for some new/improved software, from the money he/she would save from not buying just yet.

i am in no way a professional, but i like to think business-wise, especially in the fast moving world of computer technology.

just a thought, wait a couple of weeks and you never no what might happen (unless of course you’ve got a super cool deal on a super cool workstation :bounce: )

good luck on your purchase. :thumbsup:


If you are willing to wait until some of the parts become available, the new 800mhz fsb xeons just launched. I don’t know how long it will be until they are available their, though. If you do decide to wait, you could get many of the newer technologies in your workstation, such as PCI-e, and DDRII.


not a bad idea, waiting for prices to drop. How long do you think it will take before you see a drop in current top of the line components?


SATA is serial ATA. It is relatively new, and is slightly faster than ATA hard drives. They are very popular for using if you’re going to set up a RAID (which would be useful for you if you’re going to be doing a lot of editing, which I assume you are if you’re going to be using Premiere).

As for prices of things, they change everyday :slight_smile:

Fahad, personally I had to upgrade because my work was just killing my other computer (a P4). I didn’t have time to wait as I got a big job in doing feature work, and so I had to go right there and then and buy a new machine.


well as i said, i’m not a professional, i’m just speculating

i would say generally perhaps after siggraph (ends 12th aug) you’ll see prices generally do down for current technology.

i see you’re from south africa, so i don’t know how the computer market is there, but if it’s anything like saudi arabia, then anything highend is way, way over priced (compared to the american market). for example, a nVidia Quadro FX 500 costs these days about 2500SAR, which is about 660+ US$, but go to and you’ll see it’s much much cheaper than that. so maybe with these new technologies being introduced, i can afford an older quadro for the price of newer technology.

i know that didn’t help much, but just an extra thought :slight_smile:


thats another thing. What is the difference between RAID 0 and RAID 1?


raid 0 offers higher transfer speeds at the cost of data security, while raid 1 offers data redundancy.

price wise, you might want to both wait, and find someone in the U.S. that could buy you the parts and then ship them to South Africa. Although, whatever money you would save by doing so might very well be spent on the costs of international shipping, and importation costs. If that does happen, though, I think the hardware would be better than if you purchased it in South Africa.


Fahad, I think our hardware isn’t too badly priced here… actually, I think it’s pretty much the same as what people pay in the States :slight_smile:

Metro_Digital - the one type of RAID is mirrored (basically the one HD mirrors the other) while the other is striped (basically the two act as one). Not a very eloquent explanation, but that’s roughly it (unless I’m mistaken… it’s pretty late and my brain is a bit stupid today).


thanks for the brief explanations. I kind of get what you mean. What quaddro card do you think would be a good one to get?


yeah you’re quite right, i forgot about deadlines and such. heh. but yeah if i were professional i don’t think i could wait either. more power to you! …

btw … how is your setup? i went over to and found that it wasn’t cheap at all. are prices in South Africa generally expensive? I want to know just to see if the market here is a rip off or just like the rest of the world … and have you thought of ordering direct from the US?


I believe that SATA drives are faster than regular IDE drives, and have an 8mb buffer, which also helps with speed. the benefit of this extra speed will be most beneficial to you i think since you plan on working with premiere and after effects, thus giving less chance of frames being lost when you transfer video to your hard drive.

or at least, this is how i understand it



Heh well no it wasn’t cheap :slight_smile: But if you look at the Boxx/Alienware workstations that cost that much (approximately $5000), then it is a very similar setup, so as far as I am concerned, our hardware is similarly priced to that in the States (okay well it’s a little cheaper in the States). Ordering from the States from here would probably end up costing more though because shipping costs are hideously expensive. I’m very happy with this computer so I don’t really care about how much it cost :slight_smile:


yeah good point about shipping costs … damn!

heh … i live by that … and you wouldn’t believe how much trouble it’s gotten me into.


sorry this is way off topic. Do you think an event like siggraph will ever be hosted in South africa, or do you think there is not enough interest here? I would really like to attend it one day. It sounds sooo cool.


from what i gather, Siggraph is exclusive to Los Angeles for various reasons, but hey, save up till next year and you can buy a ticket!


Hehe no way will there ever be such an event here in South Africa. The animation industry here is too small and far too bitchy. Plus it’s the arse-end of the dark continent.

Do yourself a favour and attend either Siggraph or 3D Festival sometime though :slight_smile: I went to 3D Festival this year and had an absolute blast - it’s held in Copenhagen, Denmark every year around April/May. Denmark is really expensive but it’s such an awesome place to visit, plus the festival is really cool (it’s basically just an excuse for all the cool people in the industry to get together and have wild parties around Copenhagen). I was supposed to go to Siggraph (I was registered for the event and had my accommodation booked and everything) but then the bloody US Consulate here in Cape Town wouldn’t give me an appointment for a visa (they said they were too busy). Needless to say I’m pretty pissed off, but at least I know to go to the Consulate much earlier next year if I’m still in the country.