Well, as I am also about to get a new work computer - i can share some of my experience of looking for it.
1st advice I can give you is don’t worry about advice or suggestions from people who sell computers. Maybe there is 0.05% of computer retailers who deal specifically in computers for digital content creation - and (!) make it a point to stay up to date on the latest technologies and their benefits for this specific field. These kinds of outfits will also charge you a pretty penny for their trouble - and I dont think thats recommended for a single user trying to get the most out of his hard earned money. Sadly, most computer dealers can be described as aspiring to exist somewhere towards the opposite end of the spectrum from what I’ve described above.
On the other hand, on this forum are exactly the people you should listen to. You should do this by trying to create where possible an averaged overview of opinions on each pc component. Thankfully there have been quite a few discussions lately as well as lists compiled compareing the performance of most different computer builds available today - In tasks such as rendering (I found some here as well as at the Maya forum - perhaps you should look for information specific to Lightwave). So, look around.
As I have gathered there are currently two options for a new build which are cost effective each in its own price area. Both are built around AMD processors - as it is clear that Intel offers nothing at the moment for a Digital Content Creation computer. Its processors are currently lesser in performance, consume more electricity, and, experience higher temperatures - at the same or higher price.
- The moderately priced yet good performing and very upgradable - amd X2 machine.
You should base this around an AMD X2 3800 processor which is considerably cheaper than the X2 4400 mentioned above yet offers almost the same performance and is better suited for overclocking (should you choose to).
Memory - Two 1gb sticks of DDR400 (pc3200) memory from a leading brand (OCZ, Corsair)
Motherboard - Asus A8n sli Premium (or one with the same chipset but without sli such as A8n E - but you should check for this yourself.) - Or DFI Lanparty SLI DR. (they also offer slightly cheaper versions with same chipset only without the SLI option) Basically what you want on the motherboard is the 939 socket and the Nforce 4 Chipset.
Graphics - Nvidia 7800gt or gtx. - Lightwave (as i gather) does not benefit from the more expensive quadro cards.
Hard disk drive: Hitachi T7K250 or Western Digital WD250KS - these have a good price point and are both recommended. If you want to spend a bit more get the WD400KD SE.
Seagate and Samsung also have Sata \ 2 drives with near the performance of the first two I mentioned.
DONT - forget a good Power Supply
This setup with or without SLI will give you the best value per your money as well as allowing some future upgrade to newer faster processors which will become cheap once the new AMD socket begins to replace the 939. For example this setup will perform about the same as a dual processor Xeon machine costing about twice as much…
- Your other option - is to get the more expensive Tyan K8WE (no scsi) Dual Opteron board and populate it with one or more single \ dual core Opterons. With two Dual Core 275 \ 280 Opterons this Build gives Almost twice the performance of any other computer available today (obviously including Intel’s Dual Xeons). For more details on this build and its options look at other discussions with wiser folks than myself.