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new workstation advice

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Advanced Member level 6
Dec 24, 2004
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New England, USA
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I am eyeing the new I7 2600K processor, and thinking about buying a new worksation for instensive computing. The new I7 is much cheaper than a Xeon would be. But after some fairly extensive searching on the web, I have seen a lot of discussions about the tradeoffs. Was wondering what you guys were thinking on the topic.

I will be doing Sonnet or HFSS simulations, microwave analysis (agilent genesys) as well as microwave PCB layouts (altium designer) and 3d machine drawings (Solidworks).

I was looking at some really impressive gaming computers, like from Ibuypower, that have SSDs in Raid 0 for operating system/program/swap files, 16 GB ddr3-1600 ram, and top line graphics cards (gtx580 etc.) for maybe $3500 usd.

But elsewhere I see some comments that the I7 and those type of graphics cards are not really optimized for true number crunching workstation operations. They say things like you need a WS certified motherboard and a workstation oriented graphics card like a Quadro FX4800 or better.

Not being a computer geek....any advice out there? Anyone do a recent system build for a smoking new workstation that does not break your bank account?

Are those generalized benchmarks, or something specific to a program like HFSS?

Interesting how the I7's outperform most xeons.

I am learning as I go. Apparently a good workstation build will have a "worstation" type graphics card in it, like a Quadro 2000 or Quadro 4000, and those ARE compatible with either I7 990 or I7 2600K. Its a bit of a rip off, because there are gamer cards at 1/2 the price out there that are actually more powerful, but the drivers are optimized for gaming instead of engineering (i.e single precision vs double precision, etc)

ALso, for a mix of engineering programs (electronic and 3d Drafting) you need both a good graphics card AND high processor speed. Some programs benefit from more cores, but some do not--it all depends on the specific program.

So far I am looking at an I7-2600K overclocked at least 20%, water cooling, and a quadro 4000, with a whopping big power supply, and possibly water cooling to the graphics card too (which run at 70+ deg C typically with air cooling).

The one thing I am torn between is going for that build today, or waiting for the new I7 "enthusiast" chips coming out in 5 more months. I7-2600K limit of 16 gb of ram is a serious limitation, and the boards will not be upgradeable to the new chip style. Quad channel memory...mmmmmm!

One thing I have heard mixed reports on is using a SSD for the OS and the engineering programs. Some say it will speed things up, others say the drive will simply fail quickly due to too many write/read cycles.

---------- Post added at 16:27 ---------- Previous post was at 16:20 ----------

BTW, as far as a supercomputer motherboard, I fear I would not be able to figure it out!
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