An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: $1,000 Performance PC with Style- Part III

23 10 2012

So far I have given you a break down of what I need overall, and most of the system specifics. Today, I am going to run down the rest of the build.

Component #6: Power Supply

Part of planning for it is getting enough power.  New Egg has a calculator ( http://c1.neweggimages.com/BizIntell/tool/psucalc/index.html) to help you figure out your power supply needs. One thing to keep in mind is to look at both what you are building now, and what your optimal load out is.  I built MY machine knowing that I was going to overclock my PC and add a second graphics card, so I got a massive power supply.  This machine will not be overclocked, but might get a second card, so I will plan ahead for it.  I put the specs for the build in (I put a performance MB in to play it safe), and got a moderate 477 Watt rating.  This is fairly middle of the road, but already can give you a sense of one of the advantages to building your own system vs. buying a pre-built with plans to upgrade later.  Pre-built systems often have the smallest power supply possible, so if you want a new, or second graphics card, you are also buying a new power supply.  So for a baseline, right now, I need a 500 Watt power supply.  If I add that second graphics card, and go to 4 sticks of RAM? 674 Watts.

Now you know the size you need, but how do you pick one? Hell if I know.  This is where looking at customer ratings is key. New Egg is pretty good about it’s ratings, actually sending out emails asking for reviews of items you have bought from the site, and when looking at the text reviews you can choose to only see verified owners (the people who bought the component from New Egg).  Take the Corsair brand TX750. I picked a Corsair because they are a well known brand, and I bought one of their supplies for my own build.  This has enough plugs to run two graphics cards, and enough power to run them, plus a second optical drive if I go nuts. The second thing to do is look at the ratings. I always start by reading the low rated reviews first. This will give you an idea of if people had the power supply frying on them after some use, if people were getting units that were dead out of the box (therefore not hurting other components, and returnable), or if people were buying the wrong thing.  This has a rating of 4/5 with 300+ reviews, 47 of which are 1/5. About 1/2 of the bad reviews were for DOA units (which seems to be fairly average), and some more had issues running out of the box and then died.  I’m not to worried, so I would still go with it, but this is where you have to just do some homework, pull up some alternatives, and see how things compare to each other.

Component #7: Hard Drives

As I mentioned before, the trick with a hard drive is finding the balance of speed, power, and price.  What some people don’t think about is the fact that this isn’t necessarily an all or nothing game.  If you need a LOT of space, and have a moderate budget, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to slow speeds.  One of the more popular things now is to get two hard drives.  One, a very large, moderately fast, but affordable drive to keep all of your files on, and most of your programs on.  Second, you get a smaller, much faster Boot drive (What they Operating System boots off of).  Depending on the size, you may also be able to put a few of your more important programs on here.  The key here is to remember that programs, when it comes down to it, are massive libraries of files.  When you use something like Photoshop  every-time you decide you want to use a filter, it needs to run the program for that filter.  Unless the filter’s program is in the RAM because you are using it for a second/third time, the computer needs to run around, find that part of the program, and run it.  If you have the program on a slow drive, it will take a bit longer to find and retrieve. However, if you are running thousands of these subroutines a day(which if you use one program often, you probably do), this will add up.

So, my advice would be to get one large traditional Hard Drive, and one smaller Solid State Drive to boot off of.  For the large drive, I am picking a Terabyte- it’s what I got for my build, and 2 years of Photoshop and 3D models later I still haven’t had to run around clearing space. It’s a beautiful thing. For the main storage drive I am selecting the Western Digital 1TB Black SATA III.  Western Digital and Seagate are the longtime brands for Harddrives that I tend to lean towards, and with a 5 year limited warranty,  2000 reviews averaging 4 /5, and a forty dollar discount at the moment, that’s good enough for me.

The Solid State drive I would shoot between 50 and 100 Gb.  This will be enough to take your O/S and a few programs, but shouldn’t be getting into the insane price ranges.  For this build specifically I want SATA III for at least the SSD, as that will allow me to take advantage of the faster drive speed with faster data transfer speed (When in doubt, look for bottlenecks in speed.)  Right now on NewEgg I can get the OCZ 2.5″ SATA III 60Gb (AGT3 model).  It is a moderately priced 60 GB SSD drive from one of the most well known SSD makers around.  This drive has 4/5 on NewEgg with 546 reviews, and its on sale for $62.

Misc.

This stuff is based a bit more on sale prices and brand name/reviews for me, so it’s pretty flexible.  You need a Media drive, and a wireless card, plus a mouse, keyboard and monitor(or two) if you are building a rig from scratch.  You may decide that you want to go with a Blu Ray drive, and forgo the burner option, or you may want to pony up the big bucks so you can burn BluRays (burner’s are in the $70-$130 range), but I am going to stick to a simple DVD-RW.  Realistically, find a drive from a brand you know, with decent reviews, that is cheap.  You should be in the $15-$25 range with no problem.

When you get a wireless card, the main thing to keep in mind is what your signal needs are. WiFi is rated as A, B, G, or N. A and B are kind of hard to find, and slow.  Today, you will mostly see routers and cards that are G, or N.  One good thing is these are all backwards compatible to the less powerful ratings (A is lowest, N is highest).  So if you have an N router and a G card, or a G card and an N router, it will still work, it will just be throttled to that G rating.  For most everyday use, G is fine. However, N is roughly 10x as fast, and has 2-3 times the range. So if you are moving big files, especially within a local network, or if you have a tricky time getting a great WiFi signal, move up towards N for both your adapter and your router.  I have a G router, and this is a local work machine, so it won’t be downloading any movies either, so I am going to stick to a simple G card (PCI Express) for around $20.

Another thing to keep in mind: the number and configuration of the PCI slots on your motherboard. Because I went with the Micro-ATX, the board I picked only has 3 slots, which are arranged in a way that means if I do run two graphics cards, there will not be room for my WiFi card.  One solution is to get a USB adapter, another is to buy an ethernet cord and hard-line your connection.  Its not a huge issue, but it’s an issue that you need to think about before you start buying things.

Picks:

CPU: i5-3450                                                                                                  –  $195

Motherboard: GIGABYTE G1.Sniper M3                                            – $170

RAM: (DDR3 1066 240 Pin,) Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4Gb) – $52

Graphics: GIGABYTE GTX 560                                                               – $180

Case: Fractal Design Define Mini Black                                                – $100

Powersupply:   TX750                                                                                – $110

HDD:   1TB  SATA III  WD Black                                                               – $110

SSD: OCZ 60 Gb SATA III                                                                           – $62

Optical:    DVD  burner                                                                                – $20

Wireless:                                                                                                            – $20

Total:                                                                                                                   – $1020

With a DECENT mouse and Keyboard, and a couple of good ~20″ monitors, that should put you right in the $1,600 wheelhouse.  For a machine you should be set with for YEARS.

Next time: Putting it all together.





An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: $1,000 Performance PC with Style- Part II

16 10 2012

Last time I ran through the basics of what I need.  Now it’s time to really start picking components to build my system.

Component #1: Processor

I would start picking components with the processor.  This is one of the components that is tougher to upgrade once a machine is built, and you need to make sure you get what you want.  I am going to go with the i5-3450, which Toms Hardware ranked (in September 2012) as the best processor for the $150-$200 price range.  I went with this over a slightly cheaper or more expensive one for a few reasons.  In terms of more expensive options, the next-best choice up is not $40 better on the surface, but when you get into overclocking and things of that ilk.  I have no plans to go there with this rig, so that’s wasted cash basically.  Beyond that, you get to diminishing returns, and to get a modest increase in performance, you could either tune a $240 chip, or buy a $1000 chip. It seems the bottlenecks start to lie else where in the system at that point.  I also generally wouldn’t go to the next tier of processor down, since as I mentioned before, apart from overclocking your processor, you cannot easily upgrade your processor, so spend the cash for quality parts now.

Component #2: Motherboard

Next up is finding the motherboard you need.  It needs to fit the processor you have picked, have expansion room for the graphics/WiFi cards you want now, plus possible expansion, and be able to support the RAM load you will want.  It also needs to have the ports for things like USB’s and HardDrives that you want.  Make sure the connector types you want (USB 3.0, SATA III) are supported.  This is honestly the weakest part of my component understanding, and I tend to really scour NewEgg and Toms Hardware for recommendations, in general, and as a match for my specific processor.

Motherboards are also very important because the motherboard size will determine what case sizes you can use. I managed to find a few Micro ATX boards that should still give pretty great performance, while allowing me to look at a smaller form factor. I went with the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper M3 because it offers a few more connections I was looking for, for not much price increase.

Component #3: Case

This is a tricky pick for very different reasons then the rest of the components.  This is the part that you will be looking at day in, and day out, for the next several years.  Unless you choose a case with a window, you’ll never see the rest of the parts you pick apart from an occasional can-of-air clean out.  You also need it to handle the various parts you want.  Because of this, I went with Fractal Design’s Define Mini.  It has a clean black look, is designed to keep your system quite, but if heat becomes an issue it has openings you can open, allowing more noise out, but more air in, even adding additional fans as needed.

Component #4: RAM

Because the motherboard I selected runs the RAM in dual channel, you want 2 or 4 sticks of RAM in at a time to allow them to run at the fastest speeds possible. I have used Corsair memory a few times, with no complaints, and selected one of their 8Gb packages, the Corsair Vengeance.  It runs at the max speed my motherboard can handle (1600), and would allow me to buy another pair later to up to 16 Gb if I wanted, although that may well not happen unless this turns into more of a 3D graphics rig than it is currently intended to be.

Component #5: Graphics Card

For the graphics card, I am going with a mid-line choice, but that could be run in tandem with a second card to create a workhorse in the future.  One of the best choices according to TomsHardware is the GeForce 560 from NVidia, coming in at “just” $170.  Not only is it a great card on it’s own, but it also got an honorable mention as one of the best cards for ~$330 when run in tandem(called SLI for Nvidia  cards, and Crossfire for ATI cards. There are some differences in how they run, but unless you are going pretty high end, you likely won’t see a huge difference.).  I doubt that will be an option I will go with in the future, but it’s good to plan for it now.  The card is normally $179, but at the time that I’m writing this, there is a $20 mail in rebate. You have to remember to file it, but it’s things like these that REALLY help, as that basically bought you your DVD drive.

Next Time: Components II





An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: $1,000 Performance PC with Style- Part I

9 10 2012

A while back, I started a series on how to build your own PC based on my experience building my own rig.  I’m going to pick that up again, but as my build is a year and a half old at this point, I’ll look at what I would build today, and what I could get off the shelf for the same price.  As I already have my gaming/graphics rig, I’ll be looking at what I would build for my wife, who is also a Landscape Designer/Planner.

This means there are a few key differences in what I’ll be getting.  For my machine, I bought one of the largest towers I could find to get the best cooling, and expansion potential, possible.  Amy doesn’t want a box that is 22″x22″x9″ sitting on her desk, so I will be looking a bit more compact.  She also doesn’t do as much 3D work as I do, so I might go a little lighter on the graphics card than I might for mine.  The first step is to set a budget.  I’ll look at a budget a bit smaller than the $1,500 I used for my build: $1,000.

Protip: Wait for sales.  I saved around $300 on my build by putting trackers on items I was looking at on NewEgg.com.  I got a package with almost the exact RAM I was looking for for free with the exact motherboard I wanted, just by waiting a couple weeks.  Which brings me to my other tip: NewEgg.com is your friend.

Right off the bat, as a windows family, $140 is gone to pay for Windows 7 Professional (64 bit) from NewEgg (Windows 8 has not been released at the time of the writing of this).  Its important if you are building a new PC at this point to get a 64-bit OS.  Among other things, it allows you to use more than roughly 3.5 Gb or RAM, which is the most a 32-bit system can see.

Now, if you just dive into shopping and try to buy a bunch of things, you’re going to get scared, and hide; unless you are a total hardware guru, at which point I am flattered that you are reading this, but it probably won’t help you a ton.  Along with NewEgg, I am also a huge fan of TomsHardware.com  They do a series called “System Builder Marathon” where they do something similar to this, at three different price levels, roughly every 6 months. They also have very good, in-depth reviews of much of the best hardware around.  The trick is, they may have done their latest builds 4-5 months ago, with budgets that bracket what you have, and that are designed to do something else.  It can be tricky to navigate a $2,400 Gaming rig and a $1000 Media server if you have $1,500 for Photoshop and CAD.  They however, are great places to start, and to make sure you don’t forget some vital piece of hardware.

There are two places you can start looking at your build: guts, and Case.  If exterior style is the most important thing, and you don’t care if it has much power, start with the case (as would be the case if you were building a Home Theater PC that just serves to play music and movies).  You could find a tiny case, or one that is small and brushed steel if that’s your style, but it may not fit components you otherwise need. I need this machine to do some decent work however, so I’m looking first at things on the inside first.

What do I need on the inside of this?

  • Looking through reviews, I really am liking the sound of the Intel i5-34xx series (part of the new “Ivy Bridge” line), so that gives me a starting point for the CPU.
  • It will also start to point me towards and away from certain motherboards based on compatibility. Motherboard size is one thing which will determine what cases I can use.
  • I will need at least one graphics card, so I’ll need a case with a decent amount of space, and a Mother Board that has at least a few PCIe slots.
  • I have software on disk, so I need at least a DVD burner.
  • At least 1 Harddrive.  It would be nice to do two, one large traditional drive, where GB are cheap, and one smaller Sold State boot drive to speed up everything, where GB are expensive. (Would love one huge Solid state, but as even a 240 Gb drive would cost in the $200 range, I’m out of luck)
  • Oh, I need RAM and a Power Supply, but those have little effect on the case.

So I need at least 3 drive bays, and room for 2 PCIe slots for a large graphics card, plus it would be nice to have an extra PCI for a WiFi card.

Next time: Choosing Components I





Design Studio: Project 1, Episode 2

11 04 2011

Now that I have a site and a client, the first thing to do is to walk the site, and create a site analysis based on what the client needs and what the site and borrowed landscape provides.  My first cut at the site analysis stayed at a large scale and was somewhat bold.

This analysis was made with Sharpies on a trace sheet laid over the base map, and serves as a first step to get the big issues onto the page.  I then stepped down to a more detailed analysis using a wacom tablet on my PC.  This allowed me to work on top of both the base map, satellite photo, and my first analysis map, all with variable opacity, while still having the control/feel of a pen.

This analysis map is what I used for my conceptual design phase on a site scale.    This would still be for internal use in general, and would be supplemented by fine detail analysis maps if needed.  The text is also a good indicator of my current skill with a tablet, as I do not have the best handwriting, but the wacom only makes it look worse at this point.

Now that I have a working analysis map, I’m going to work on programming of the site, and conceptual designs.  The program I came up with preliminarily was to have a large space for entertaining that would also function as a semi-public space, like traditional shared backyards. In most of the concepts I also looked at more of a private outdoor space, both as more of a contemplative area, and as an area for small gatherings/date nights.  I wanted to include a small garden for both vegetable and herbs for cooking, and at least one turf area for any future kids/dogs.  I also wanted to make sure I included an area for infiltration and slowing of any flooding behind the garage. Once I had these basic building blocks, I started the conceptual phase with a method one of my professors was a huge fan of: 10 conceptual designs in 10 minutes.  Admittedly, I took more like 20 minutes, but I still got good results.

This method forces you to rethink ideas you already had in your mind.  To come up with 10 distinct ideas in a short amount of time you are forced to think about things in new, and a more instinctual way.  Also, after five or six conservative concepts, its gets easier to go nuts and do something a little more off the wall.  I took these concepts, and decided I wanted to explore the idea of a raised deck as the private space in the rear (from Concept 4), and the idea of a deck with planters built in for shading and easy herb access (Concept 5).  I also wanted to look into making the “party parking” into grass-pavers, which would increase my usable turf space greatly in the narrow yard.

On a technology side-note: I was somewhat surprised with how well the Wacom worked for this process.  In some ways I had no real hope for it replication the  experience of pen on paper, but it actually did a good job.  There are some drawbacks- fine pen control is tougher and requires another level of hand-eye coordination that even my gaming-trained mind does not quite have, and unless you buy an expensive model, you are drawing on a smallish 5″x8″ area instead of a sheet of trace the size of your table.  However, there are some benefits as well.  You can easily make a pallet of pen colors based on what the program is, and have more options than Sharpies would give you, with quicker color switches.  You can also either draw everything on one layer, or each part on a different layer, so if you like one part of a concept, you can just edit other layers, leaving you favorite untouched.  You also have the power of a perfect eraser and undo, so anytime you draw a bad line, with a single click it is completely gone.

 

Back to the design, I then pulled the two pieces I liked into a single file, giving me an idea of roughly what the two part would look like.  I then started by rough blocking the rear deck and the infiltration area in the rear, before moving to the house, and tweaking the deck slightly, moving the stairs, realigning the driveway/parking, and trying out routes for a path to the basement door.

 

I went with this deck shape because not only would it would allow for some elevated views to the creek to the south, but it would also pull your eyes in that direction. The plantings would be a mix of herbs and grasses, providing the deck with slight screening, and easy access to the herbs from the kitchen.  In my next edit I tried running the path through the grass paved area, providing the path for when cars are not parked there, and also act as stepping stones out of the parked cars.

I then tried re-aligning the sidewalk under the deck to avoid the intersection being directly at the base of the steps.  This was made very easy because my sidewalk was on its own layer, so I was able to completely change the sidewalk layout without having to touch the things I liked, like the driveway/grass pave arrangement.

 

 

I then realized that with the path going through the grass area, when people were over there was no choice but to walk through the grass.  I moved the path to become a border for the parking, and added a flagstone-ish path to the rear to get it down on “paper”.

I then decided to take a step back, and take another look at the deck shape.  I did a quick viewshed/privacy analysis from deck level, noted in hot-pink.  The tough call area to the right is because there are new neighbors, and which the yard is a beautiful wildflower garden at the moment, that may quick, and dramatically change this summer.

I then went back and re-looked at the deck, moving the stairs back to the driveway side, and had a path running to the side of the house from under the deck.

This is where I stand as of now:  I am still tweaking the deck, but also looking at the turf area, so I can make them play off each-other.  This is a good look at the kind of work you can do with the wacom too.  I’ve only used it a few hours, mostly for this project, and I’m amazed at how quickly you can try and retry things, which is so important when working with things like geo-morphic shapes.  This is after many iterations of the turf area, but because I am using the wacom instead of trace, its still readable.

This week I plan to be at 80% site planned.  I should have a few rough sections, and be to the point of detailed design.  Let me know what you think, both of the blog series, and the design!





An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: Choosing Components

8 01 2011

The first step in picking what components you want in your computer, whether you are building a custom setup, or buying one off the shelf, is looking at what software you expect to use.  I was looking for a rig that would work for Photoshop, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Thea Render (3D-Rendering Engine), and of course, games from time to time.  The next thing is to figure out what each one of these software packages rely on most heavily- Processor, RAM, or Graphics Card:

Photoshop: Here are the system requirements:

  • Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 1024×768 display (1280×800 recommended) with qualified hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics card, 16-bit color, and 256MB of VRAM

The newer Photoshop versions make use of graphics cards more and more, but in bigger file sizes they also rely heavily on Processor and RAM.  The amount of layers, filters, and file sizes you normally work with will determine how much of either of these you need.  As I am looking to do plan graphics, printable high quality at 36″ x 48″, with many (40+) layers, I, in short, need a LOT of both RAM and Processor.

AutoCAD: The stated system requirements for 64-bit AutoCAD11 (2D) are:

  • AMD Athlon 64 with SSE2 technology, AMD Opteron® processor with SSE2 technology, Intel® Xeon® processor with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology, or Intel Pentium 4 with Intel EM64T support and SSE2 technology
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 GB free space for installation
  • 1,280 x 1,024 true color video display adapter 128 MB or greater, Microsoft® Direct3D®-capable workstation-class graphics card

First, you can run a PC at either 32-bit or 64-bit, 32-bit can only see up to 4 Gb of RAM.  Generally if you are building a new system you will go with 64-bit to increase the amount of RAM you can use now, or could upgrade to in the future.  None of these are amazing stats, but the RAM is slightly more powerful than the rest of the system- if all the components were equally important I would expect to see a Pentium 4 paired with 1 Gig of RAM and a 256 MB Graphics Card, or a P4 3.0 GHz (processor speed)/Dual Core Pentium 2.0GHz, 2 Gig RAM, 256 Meg Graphics Card.  This basically tells me that for 2D CAD the RAM is a bit more important than the Processor (which comes more into play with CAD’s modeling tools), and that while you need a Graphics Card, it does not need to be a great one by any means.

SketchUp: Recommended resources:

  • 2+ GHz processor.
  • 2+ GB RAM.
  • 3D class Video Card with 512+ MB of memory or higher. Please ensure that the video card driver supports OpenGL version 1.5 or higher and up to date.
    *SketchUp’s performance relies heavily the graphics card driver and it’s ability to support OpenGL 1.5 or higher. Historically, people have seen problems with Intel based cards with SketchUp. We don’t recommend using these graphics cards with SketchUp at this time.

While Processor and Graphics card are needed, RAM is the biggest limiting factor, in my experience, when you have large scale and or detailed models.

Thea Render: I could not find any system requirements, likely because the program is still in beta (testing phase), and while it currently only uses Processor and RAM, they are adding Graphics Card based rendering in a future update.

Games: For this I took the example of one of the newer PC games that has come out, and one that I wanted to be able to run at full bore- Civilization 5.

Minimum system requirements are:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 256 MB nVidia or AMD Graphics Card

When running it with these specs on a laptop I could play it, but far from maximum settings.  The recommended settings are:

  • Quad Core 1.8 GHZ
  • 4 Gig RAM
  • 512 Graphics Card

Gaming is generally more Graphics Card intensive than productivity software, in part because the architecture of the graphics card is better at drawing faster – for better frame rates, while processors can do more math faster.  So in an enclosed system like a game where it is working with a small set of parameters, Graphics Cards shine.  But when you have many layers of images all affecting each other, the processor takes the lead back.

What am I left with after all this?  To get the best out of all my software, I need a good Processor, RAM, and Graphics Card- I can’t save on one to improve the others.  I also know I use a lot of this software more intensively than most, and I want to be future proof for a bit, so I need to exceed these system specs.  One place where I can save a little money now is in the RAM and Graphics Card.  That is because these are fairly easily upgradeable- with the right mother board you can add RAM to your existing RAM without replacing it.  Also, with the right Motherboard and Graphics Card, you can run in SLI or Crossfire – a method of tethering two Graphics Cards together in your system, and having them act like one, much more powerful card.  The nice thing both both of these is that you can spend, say $300 now on a Graphics Card, and in a year spend $200 on another card, and get nearly the same performance that you would have gotten by spending $700 now.

That being said these are the basic specifications for my new computer:

Processor- Intel Core i7 (Quad or 6 core) with a speed of at least 2.5 GHz and I want the ability to overclock in the future to upgrade slightly.

RAM – 6 Gig (Most motherboards can now handle in the range of 24-36! Talk about future proof!)

Graphics Card – 1 Gig at least, unsure of if I am going to go nVidia or AMD, it depends on the exact card (more later)

Hard Drive – 1TB I use some HUGE files (200 Megs for a single photoshop file), and I don’t want to worry about space for a while.  I may do a solid state boot drive down the road.

Optical Drive – DVD RW for sure, I probably don’t need a BluRay drive, as I could add one once burners get cheaper

Motherboard – Needs to fit my processor, and at least 2x my graphics card

Case – needs to fit everything, have great cooling, and have lots of room for additional Hard Drives, burners, and maybe even water cooling (if I overclock in the future).

Next time I’ll start looking at each individual item, and how I picked which to go with.

Ignoring the odd artifacting, this is what Civ 5 Looks like with the laptop:

And this is what it looks like with the new build:





An Advanced Course in PC Hardware: What goes into a Computer

3 01 2011

One of my first posts on this blog introduced the different computer components and what roles they play for a Landscape Architect/Designer in general.  Its time to re-hash the topic in a little more detail, and look at not just what components do what different software, but how you pick components, and how you can build your own system from scratch.

There are a few advantages to building your own machine.  For one thing, you know you get exactly what you want.  You can find the exact balance of power, size, and price that you want- you don’t have to work within the parameters of what Dell wants to offer you.  Also, you save a sizable amount of money.  I would say I paid roughly 60% market price for my PC, and I got higher end components then would have been in a pre-assembled system.

The downside is you have to do some leg work to ensure that your machine will work correctly, but if you take the time to do your research, you can get a great machine.  There are many resources around for building your own PC both in terms of research and purchasing.  I did most of my research at tomshardware.  They review individual components, and also have a series of PC builds they do each quarter that they write up that are a GREAT reference for finding the tech you want, for the price you want, in arrangements that will actually boot up.  In terms of purchasing my parts, I mostly relied on New Egg. They have some amazing deals on some great hardware, offer good support options, and ship fast and cheap for when your anxious to get your build going.  I also picked up a few items at Best Buy, as sometimes they will have sales or clearance items that will be tough for even New Egg to beat, and as I work there it was not exactly out of my way.

These are the basic pieces you need to make a fully functional PC:

1. Processor/Heat Sink

2. Graphics Card

3. RAM

4. Hard Drive

5. Motherboard

6. Optical Drive

7. Case

8. Misc. (Card Readers, Sound Cards, second Hard Drives)

9. Power Supply

Each of these items depends somewhat on each other for compatibility reasons, but what you want to do now, and in the future, productivity-wise is going to be the determining factor.  I ranked them in the general order of importance in terms of what you are trying to get out of your system.  For instance- the power supply doesn’t matter to you except that it is of good quality and gives enough power to your system for it to work without fail.  You can’t pick it until you pick everything else, but it doesn’t REALLY effect any of your other choices.

What I’m going to do is first describe what I wanted out of my system. I will then run through each of these components, describing what they do, what effect they have on the programs I wanted to run, and what exact product I ended up getting and why.

Once that is done, I’ll be writing another blog describing the step by step of how I took those components and made the system I am blogging on (while running a 3D model render in the background) right now.

For the time being, I’ll leave you with a photo of the international headquarters of Frank Varro Rendering.





Looking for rendering critique

23 11 2010

Hey guys,
I’m working on getting a freelance Architectural and Landscape Architectural rendering gig going using a newish engine called Thea, and wanted you guys to look at a few of the component models I have so far. Let me know what you think. The car and bench are tweaked Sketchup components that I re-skinned, the trees are from Tree[d], which the exception of the pine, which someone shared in the Thea forums. The Stop sign is original, and the people are default SketchUp people, and I’m not sure if they are the way I am going to end up doing people or not.

I’m trying to get these set so anytime anyone needs a design with a maple rendered, I’m ready to plug this in.

First, the trees. I spend a LOT of time with these trying to get not just the right bark, the and the right shade of leaf, but the right translucency, as its what seems to give the leaves a look of life. The redbud was a real trick since when it is in bloom its a very skeletal structure, and is VERY pink, but at times it looked almost on fire.

Maple-

Ginko (Young)-

Redbud-

Next is the park bench. I used a Sketchup component, and tweaked the model SLIGHTLY, and reskinned it in thea.

The stop sign is the first piece I made 100% on my own, and I’m decently happy with. I have NO idea if you can get it to act like there is the reflective-prism film, so I just made it fairly reflective, but added a bumpmap so it doesn’t reflect straight back like a mirror.

I’m pretty happy with my car. I got the model in Sketchup, and tweaked it to smooth some edges, add depth in areas like headlights, and then got the materials nailed down. The car here has its headlights off, but I do have two IES lights in the model so I can turn them on for night scenes.

Lastly, here is everything thrown together in one mish-mash. The key thing here is that the car, for instance, will never be the focal point of a model. so while as a stand alone you see the polys, when its in a model as a set piece, the fact that it reflects the model and sits so well really makes it an asset if you ask me… but I’m not asking me. I’m asking you. so let me know what you think!

 

If you like the look of the engine (This is unlicensed version, full will not have the water marks), check out TheaRender.com