CPU or GPU?

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Hello everyone,

I am building my first computer! I am very excited. I have 1,000 dollars to work with and I am currently debating on what to invest the most in. First off let me say that the PC will be used for rendering and creating 3D graphics as well as for occasionally playing some games, but mostly for graphic design for a video game. I will be using programs like Blender, Unreal Development Kit and Visual Basic just name a few. However in order to make high poly 3D models a good graphics card is required. From what I understand Game Developers prefer the Nvidia Quadro series but that card is way too expensive for me right now. So I was thinking, I wanted to drop like 4 or 500 on a high end graphics card but that means that my CPU will not be top notch. I was just going to settle for the Core i3 2nd gen processor because I figured that although it isn't the best, it is still pretty good and it will fit in my budget. Or do you guys think it is better to invest more into a CPU and less on the GPU? Also does it matter what kind of Card you get in particular for Graphic Design?

Edited by Hodgman

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Wrong forum...I'd say you need the Lounge.

About your question...I'd say that it depends on exactly what you are doing.  Example, the Quadro series is built more for offline rendering.  This isn't the same thing as creating 3d art.  Blender can use your average gaming cards just fine.  It does have support for GPU and CPU, but assuming you get a good enough video card for your purposes, I'd put the money into the CPU.  You could maybe get a faster i7, a MOBO that supports quad-channel RAM, and at least 8GB of RAM, and then get a pretty good video card.  Unless you are using a compatible video card, Blender will have to render on the CPU, so the CPU and RAM speed(and the quad vs.dual vs. tri. channel) will greatly affect that.

For game design itself, in general you need a machine that is built for gaming, even if it is lower level machine.  My cheap acer laptop actually works just fine, with an i5 and integrated intel graphics.  It can actually play many games, and considering I don't develop AAA games, rather mostly 2d games, it works fine.  Game development software for the most part doesn't have high requirements, although that depends on the engine and the resulting game you are developing.  Even photoshop doesn't have the requirements some people may think it does, though it can utilize higher capacities.

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Quadro is not needed unless you are an industry professional. The NVidia GTX series are consumer cards. The 660 is the current gen gaming model. There are also 670 and 680 models if you can afford it.

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Rather than spending $500 on a video card and getting an i3, you would be much better advised to put another$100 into an i5. The difference between a 670 and a 680 is about %15 whereas the difference between an i3 and an i5 in programs like 3dStudio and AutoCAD can be close to %100.

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Rather than spending $500 on a video card and getting an i3, you would be much better advised to put another$100 into an i5. The difference between a 670 and a 680 is about %15 whereas the difference between an i3 and an i5 in programs like 3dStudio and AutoCAD can be close to %100.

Exactly this...and especially when the 660 or maybe even slightly lower gen(or maybe a cheaper ATI card) would be plenty for the games the OP wants to play.  In general in the gamedev world you get more "bang for buck" factor in the processor.  Lastly, I would see if you can make space to get atleast a 128GB SSD.  Even the slow SSDs are much faster than "normal" HDs, and you can still get a nice cheap 1tb @7200rpm here at newegg and maybe cheaper if you search for it.  This combination would allow plenty of space for most people, and the SSD would decrease boot time and program load time a lot if you have the core software(of course including OS) on that SSD.

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I wish I had 1k to drop on a system. I used to just wait a few years and spend my dinky $300-$400 tax return check on a new box...

But then I took an arrow to the *BANG* (frying pan)

*Benny Hill music*

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especially when the 660 or maybe even slightly lower gen(or maybe a cheaper ATI card)

Though I generally suggest people get AMD cards, as they're a better value for the money and use less power(especially the 7850), for 3d rendering, NVidia is really the best card to get. No, it's no quadro, but CUDA really does make a major difference.

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However in order to make high poly 3D models a good graphics card is required. From what I understand Game Developers prefer the Nvidia Quadro series

The only impact your graphics card will have on "making" models is how good of a framerate you'll get in your 3d editor.  It has zero bearing on what you can actually make.

The 3d editor is actively rendering your model as you build it, so if you want to work on a 300k polygon model fully-textured and lit with immediate response and no lag from the tools(so 30fps or higher), then you'll want a nice healthy graphics card.  But even for that, your standards (like everyone is mentioning, the 660 would almost be overkill) will work find, definitely no need for a Quadro.  You'll want to make sure you have the memory/cpu/ssd (in that order of importance IMO) to handle your development tasks.

There's a vast difference between hardware needed for creating game assets, and hardware needed for efficient render-farms.  If you were making Blizzard-quality rendered cutscenes, that Quadro would make a lot more sense.

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but CUDA really does make a major difference.

Of course this only applies if the application in question is using CUDA; if it's using OpenCL or D3D's compute shaders then AMD are just as good, in some cases better depending on workload, than NV. Don't drink all of NV's CUDA Kool-Aid....

(In fact unless you know for certain that you'll never want to run on anything other than an NV card I'd just avoid CUDA all together. It isn't portable and its somewhat a dead-end technology. Placing your efforts into industry standard solutions is generally a better idea...)

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I would like to point out that new GPU's/CPU's (really every component) comes out ALL the time, by the time you have more money the best options may have changed. This happens almost every year. I heard somewhere that the nvidia 700 series will be out later this year. What usually happens is that parts come out at a inital higher price to their relative counterparts (i.e. GTX 770 -> GTX 670), but slowly decrease in prices, until the next series (GTX 870 -> GTX 770), same with everything else.

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I would recommend AMD GPU. They have pile of stream processors, and mainly fast memory, it makes the rasterizer very powerfull. You do not need to buy extra expensive one, just buy bit higher middleclass and save money for potential crossfire pair. If you develop 3d aplications, I would buy extra NVIDIA cheap card so that you solve out NVIDIA/ATI incosistencies. You will need solid powersupply. As for CPU, if you develop 3d models, I gess you have got multiple software running, so then you need a lot of RAM and maybe more than 2 cores. I would buy 3 RAM sticks and a triple-channel MB. If you choose CPU, be mainly conserned on the size of cache, and the ram frequency maximums, so the 1666MHz RAMs will not be in vain. If I would have 1K dolars, I would set theese priorities.

GPU-AMD- 5000 MHz RAM UP, 1900 processors UP, 256 bit , 2GB at least

MB - triple channel , 1666 MHz RAM frq, i5 family CPU gaining theese parameters, 2 times PCI 16x 2.0 slot

CPU - i5 core over 3.5 GHz, 4 cores, large L3 cash, fast BUS

RAM - three 4GB sticks, 1666 MHz, DDR3

Power - some solid brand , 600 W

HDD- 64mb cache, SATA 2

If I had money left, I would play with water cooling. But this is stupid idea

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Johnny, you don't buy a triple channel mainboard to put an i5 on it. It's dual-channel only!

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Blade, could you reason up why triple channel is not a solid step feature in oppose to dual one? I would be curious to know, totaly no offence!

my reasoning is:

if you exhoust RAM, what happens on 3d development PCs, those days bottle necks are RAM operations,(read,write) not CPU, so if you have raster editor opened with 12 10MBpix images, 3ds max open..... you will run out of 8GB just like that! Frequency matters, but I favor 1333MHz RAM over 1666 ones too, for I cannot add up 200 dolars for CPU that will utilize them at that rate, but I believe this is common on those days budget Intel CPUs.

, but you are right that socket 1156 is maybe not supporting triple channel, but I think that i7 came on 1156 socket too, I would stress to OP she should investigate very well on what she is buying and discuss it, in a manner that it will not "just run" but will "use all the features not downgraded"

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About RAM speeds, I have profiled them, and I found out that 1066Mhz compared to 1333MHz are 1066/1333 slower. I had a cycle that was just coppying bytes (read-write operation), and the ratio was just like that. And programs are mainly just writing to memory and reading from it, they perform logic and algebraic assembly operations in an amount, that is rather much lesser.

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In general yes, faster RAM is better, and triple channel is better than dual channel, but as pointed out, the processor and the motherboard have to support it.  On the other hand, if I were buying a new computer today, I would likely go for a quad-channel setup.

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Ram speeds are basically meaningless.

Games like Crysis 2 have been developed on engines that have been optimized for almost-decade-old game consoles, where memory speeds are very slow. As a result, they'll be designed in such a way that will tolerate slow memory, which means they're not a very good benchmark for testing fast memory.

They'd be better off testing something like Minecraft written in Java, which likely has horribly non-optimal memory access patterns

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Truth be told, I don't particularly think you need a super-high-end anything to do this kind of work, or certainly for learning purposes. For the most part, having slower hardware won't prevent you from doing anything, it'll only delay you (slightly). Professionals pay big money for marginal speed increases because the other per-time-unit cost of associated software and manpower is such that one-time hardware costs are easily re-couped. As it is, it sounds like you have more time than money at your disposal, so your considerations might reflect differently on your outcome.

Granted, more never hurts, but we also live in an age where even fairly average computer components are far more capable than is strictly necessary.

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Truth be told, I don't particularly think you need a super-high-end anything to do this kind of work, or certainly for learning purposes. For the most part, having slower hardware won't prevent you from doing anything, it'll only delay you (slightly). Professionals pay big money for marginal speed increases because the other per-time-unit cost of associated software and manpower is such that one-time hardware costs are easily re-couped. As it is, it sounds like you have more time than money at your disposal, so your considerations might reflect differently on your outcome.

Granted, more never hurts, but we also live in an age where even fairly average computer components are far more capable than is strictly necessary.

So true, but there are cases that limit certain developers greatly, and even best metal will not do. I have seen it myself. You do not want to close 3ds max for you can smoke a cigarete till it opens, you have zbrush open, raster editor open, and 8 GB is minimum of RAM gonne when you come to work. Or if you realize you cannot put Skin modifier on a 100K model that has 120 bones, becouse you have just 8 GB RAM.... and you didnt even animate it yet !

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Sure. SSD and gobs of RAM ought to be a part of any modern system. 8GB today is pretty much the minimum for practical "real work" beyond word processing with a few apps open. RAM probably more than any other component causes hard limitations on what you can do. On the other hand, whether you get GPU A or GPU B that's even 2, 4 or 8 times faster may be uncomfortable, put it probably doesn't outright stop you from doing anything.

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Blade, could you reason up why triple channel is not a solid step feature in oppose to dual one? I would be curious to know, totaly no offence!

In the most technical of senses, it's an improvement. The same way someone who is 1828mm tall is taller than someone who is 1825mm tall. But for all intents and purposes, these people are the same height. Yes, triple channel is faster. But very few applications get much of anything out of even 1866 ram. Bear in mind that those ram benches I posted were of triple channel ram. Even triple channel ram over 1600 is basically worthless. It's even slightly worse at dual channel.

But the main issue is that only socket 1333 supports triple channel ram. Socket 1333 is an enthusiast platform and is priced accordingly. There is no such thing as an $80 socket 1333 motherboard. The cheapest cpu is about$300 and isn't nearly as powerful as $250 1155 chips. There was a time when 1333 was top of the line. Now it's basically a collector's item. Share this post Link to post Share on other sites Socket 1333 is old news, first-generation i7s (Nehalem) -- the microarchitecture is 2 generations ahead of that now (Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge). The equivalent platform is now Socket 2011, which supports quad-channel RAM, and up to 8 dimms, and processors with 4 or 6 cores if money were no object. It's cheaper than a 1333 platform was, but a mobo + the cheapest (Sslllooowwww...) quad-core socket 2011 CPU is ~$600 alone.

Unless you need and can afford one of the 6 core cpus, need 64+ GB of RAM, or gobs of PCIe lanes, you're far better of with a socket 1155 platform.