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Old 02-19-2009, 06:10 PM   #1
Will Vincent
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Build your own (high end) editing/post production computer and save $$

A lot of people will settle for whatever system they can buy off the shelf at the local big box store, or from one of the many manufacturers (Dell, Gateway, HP, etc) -- OR buy a Mac -- to handle their editing/post production needs. I figure this is due to a few reasons:

  • They are not aware of other options
  • They just want it to work, and are willing to pay whatever cost necessary for that
  • They've heard of building a computer, but don't know how
I'm sure there are a few other reasons, but primarily I am going to focus on the last one. Most people, I think have heard of custom building a computer but they've never attempted it because they don't know how and don't know even how to begin to figure it out. Also, let me just point out now that this will be centered on the PC side of the equation -- I have nothing against Apple, but clearly if you're going to get a mac, you're not going to be building it piece by piece like this. So, if you please lets keep the mac vs pc talk out of this discussion.

Ultimately it's really not that difficult to build a computer, you need a handful of components to make it work, and then add on other pieces to achieve the functionality you're after. This how-to will document the hardware build of my new machine which has specs capable of handling 2-4k RED footage.

I ordered all of my parts from newegg.com on the evening of Friday 2/13/2009. They arrived this afternoon (2/19/2009). Shipping is generally quicker, but there was a weekend and a 'holiday' involved that slowed things down a bit, so the parts didn't ship out until Tuesday the 17th. I order all of my parts from newegg because they always have quick shipping, a lot of items ship free, and their customer service is top notch. I've never had a problem with anything I've ordered, but all the reviews that I have read with people having to return or exchange parts are always glowing with regard to how newegg handled them.

Ok, on with it...

The parts list:
  • 12 gig Supertalent 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM (Link)
  • Nvidia 9800gtx video card (Link)
  • Asus p6t mother board (Link)
  • Corsair 850w power supply (Link)
  • Coolermaster v8 heatsink (Link)
  • i7 920 2.66Ghz quad core cpu (Link)
  • 2x 500 gig 7200 rpm sata drives (Link)
  • 1x 640 gig 7200 rpm sata drive (Link)
  • LG super multi 22x sata dvd burner (Link)
  • Rosewill case (Link)
  • Arctic silver thermal paste (Link)
  • And an anti-static wrist strap (Link)
Total price, with shipping (before mail in rebates) : $1,531.82
(Before shipping it squeaked in JUST under $1500, 14 cents under to be exact...)
There is $55 in mail rebates. Doesn't "feel" like much, but when you do the math it's 3.7% of the TOTAL purchase, which ideally isn't bad.

To be fair, I haven't actually priced things out amongst the manufacturers, but I'm quite certain you would spend ~2x this to get a comparable Dell or HP or whatever.. a comparable mac is also likely to run your somewhere in the neighborhood of twice this price.

Ok. Before we get ahead of ourselves here, I should point out that this price does not include the monitor, mouse or keyboard as I'll be reusing my existing 22" LCD, mouse and keyboard. Nor does it include any software costs as I already have all of that as well. So you would have to figure in those amounts as well if you don't already have those things available. Either way, we're in pretty good shape when it comes to a Computing Power/Dollar figure.

I will be assembling this machine sometime either later tonight, tomorrow, or over the weekend and will be documenting the entire process to share here so if you were so inclined you could build a similar system.

The Plan:
The quad core processor is capable of handling a 64bit operating system, so I will use XP64 because it is stable, less bloated than vista, and well supported for all the components. This will not only make it a faster system in general, but will let me address all of the available ram.

The two 500gig hard drives will be configured in a RAID 0 array, as the motherboard has an onboard RAID controller. RAID 0 combines all of the drives in the array into a single usable drive. The end result is that you have a larger capacity drive with a higher data rate because the reads & writes are spread over multiple disks. This is important when you are working with large video projects because read/write speeds become much more important.

One last note for now... artic silver is some of the best thermal paste you can get. If you build a computer, you would be silly not to use it and a good cpu cooler (the stock coolers are ok, but not the best option). As for how to apply thermal paste, the less the better basically.. arctic silver has good instructions available for proper application on their website. AND the anti-static wristband really is a must. You just spent a bunch of money on high quality parts, an extra couple dollars for a wristband that will prevent static discharge would be plain STUPID not to invest in. Static discharge can destroy computer parts, and often times the damage done isn't immediately noticable, only to rear it's head when the warranty has expired. So, get and use the anti-static wristband.

More to come...
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Last edited by Will Vincent; 02-19-2009 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:29 PM   #2
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I'll argue that the DIY PC route works very well if you are the computer geek (not a bad thing) type of person due to the need to support the computer if anything goes wrong with it. For some people, that's not the right route... I won't mention any names here (you know who you are )

I have to shout out for my apple homies Nothing wrong with the PCs though... you can put Mac OS on them, they can't be all bad.

On to the prices:

Comparable Mac + 2 year warranty = $1693
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://www.apple.com/store
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2GB
500GB Serial ATA Drive
Apple Mighty Mouse
Apple Keyboard (English) + User's Guide
AppleCare Protection Plan for iMac - Auto-enroll
Yes, less harddrive and less expandability, but drop and go, no assembly, full warranty plus free fixing when it breaks. Comes with iMovie, will run FCS2 like a champ... But to upgrade, yes, about twice as much for the mac pro

please note
slightly more drive space
slightly less RAM... Apple uses a better (Unixy-er) paging system for memory usage
I changed to Nvidia graphics to match the PC spec
More Firewire support on the board (400 and 800)
Better audio on the board
Support for a second 4 core CPU (8 cores total currently up to 3.2 Ghz)
Support for up to 32Gb RAM
Support for up to 4Tb Drive in the case
Support for up to 4 Video cards if you feel the need for extra displays at full HD

So comparing a DIY windows PC to an apple doesn't necessarily work as you have to add tons to the PC to spec it to the same level as the lower end Mac Pros. Yes it costs more, but it's got more stuff out of the box... and comes with tech support you won't have to go into a shop for.

$4784
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://www.apple.com
One 2.8GHZ Quad-Core Intel Xeon
8GB (4x2GB)
500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
750GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB
One 16x SuperDrive
Apple Mighty Mouse
Apple Keyboard + User's Guide
AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac Pro (w/or w/o Display) - Auto-enroll
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Old 10-13-2009, 02:29 AM   #3
DarkAngelFilm
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more to come eh
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Old 10-13-2009, 11:11 AM   #4
CDCosta
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I can't believe you picked that case with such great PC parts


I think with Windows 7, PC is going to start really taking Mac for a ride.
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Old 10-13-2009, 07:11 PM   #5
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Function before fashion... but fashion is important too I'd be happy to see Microsoft provide their customers with a good UI experience and stable platform, it'd be good business finally.
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Old 10-14-2009, 11:53 AM   #6
cstegner
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knightly:

I just got a Dell XPS 9000 drop and go, no assembly, full 2yr warranty, free fixing when it breaks and expandable as hell computer with:

Win 7 free upgrade
1TB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
9GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz - 6 DIMMs
Intel Core i7-920 processor (8MB L3 Cache 2.66GHz)
Dual Drives: 16x DVD-ROM Drive + 16x DVD+/-RW w/ dbl layer write capability
Dell 24 inch S2409W Widescreen Flat Panel
Large (cool looking bonus) case
with mouse, keyboard

expandable to 32bg of ram,

for $1263.87 w/ free shipping.

I love PC's


Will: I built my last two machine from scratch and usually for a good savings. But these days with all the specials and deals that are going around you can get sometimes an even better machine for less from a large manufacturer with warranty all ready to go. Also you forgot the cost of the OS (assuming your not going with linux).
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Old 10-14-2009, 06:10 PM   #7
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Cool, I'm curious to know if they've gotten better at out of the box security and virus protection (not a dig as the commercials would have you think about us mac folk, a serious concern - it impacts productivity and that just sucks no matter the platform).

The ROI numbers in the past used to make it easy for me as a mac freak to justify Macs over PCs to businessy types when necessary (i.e. graphics departments that had been previously outfitted with Macs - retraining art folk BAD!). It's gotten more difficult to make those cost comparisons over the years...

That said, I'm typing this post on a 5 year old mac laptop that has never gone down, never crashed, never had a virus and only restarts for system/security updates. (cue the computer problems ), so for me the case is pretty solid. My home gateway finally died (Hard Drive failure after 7 years of continuous use, no sleep time 24/7, thousands of brute force hacking attempts a day via SSH), and my main machine is still ticking along (4 years old) famously for editing and whatnot - same conditions as my laptop.
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:28 PM   #8
cstegner
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Yeah at my work two guys use macs and I use my PC and we all do the same work and doesn't really seem like anyone has an unfair advantage over anyone else. Just a preference thing at this point.

I have had virus protection installed for the past 8 years or so and I have no idea how anyone ever gets their system infected with a virus anymore. There really is no excuse for it. Virus protection is pretty much invisible from the user until it matters and honestly I can't really think of a time that it's even been needed in the last few years. I just don't go around downloading random stuff from random people and I stay safe.

As far as laptops go there is no denying that the macbook pro is as sexy as they come (well and maybe the dell adamo but it cost just as much) so macs win the style/looks department for laptops (not wild about the desktop styling), and PCs win the price point.

But style matters otherwise people wouldn't buy $50,000 mercedes over $15,000 hyundais
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Old 10-14-2009, 09:19 PM   #9
CDCosta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cstegner View Post
knightly:

I just got a Dell XPS 9000 drop and go, no assembly, full 2yr warranty, free fixing when it breaks and expandable as hell computer with:

Win 7 free upgrade
1TB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
9GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz - 6 DIMMs
Intel Core i7-920 processor (8MB L3 Cache 2.66GHz)
Dual Drives: 16x DVD-ROM Drive + 16x DVD+/-RW w/ dbl layer write capability
Dell 24 inch S2409W Widescreen Flat Panel
Large (cool looking bonus) case
with mouse, keyboard

expandable to 32bg of ram,

for $1263.87 w/ free shipping.

I love PC's


Will: I built my last two machine from scratch and usually for a good savings. But these days with all the specials and deals that are going around you can get sometimes an even better machine for less from a large manufacturer with warranty all ready to go. Also you forgot the cost of the OS (assuming your not going with linux).

Theres so many great things about building a PC then buyign one.

Sure, they may have the same stats (2.4ghz Quad core, 1TB HDD, 8gb Memory, ect)

But they don;t use quality parts, they are harder to upgrade, buildign your PC lets you know more about it and how to fix it. After your dell dies in 2 years, youll sell it for parts and buy a new one, when you could have replaced a part for $30-$100. It's still cheaper.
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Old 10-14-2009, 09:33 PM   #10
cstegner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CDCosta View Post
Theres so many great things about building a PC then buyign one.

Sure, they may have the same stats (2.4ghz Quad core, 1TB HDD, 8gb Memory, ect)

But they don;t use quality parts, they are harder to upgrade, buildign your PC lets you know more about it and how to fix it. After your dell dies in 2 years, youll sell it for parts and buy a new one, when you could have replaced a part for $30-$100. It's still cheaper.

Just because you are purchasing a pre-built computer does not mean that you cannot replace a broken part. It's just the same as a computer you build yourself, except someone else has already put the pieces together for you.

And like I said the XPS 9000 is an extremely expandable (upgradable) system. It has 6 dim slots, upgradable to 32GB of RAM. It comes with four hard drive slots. It's not built with cheaper parts, an intel i7 920 is the same processor whether you get it from newegg.com or if it comes in your dell. Comes with an intel motherboard and those are the two most expensive parts.

CDCosta, usually I completely agree with you and have learned a lot about film making from your posts, but I got to call you on this one. your post was just very wrong in many ways. One thing I do agree with is that you can learn a lot from building your own system, but like I said I have built many many systems.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:28 PM   #11
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I actually prefer not to put my own together, I'd rather spend the day on preproduction or building a camera rig than putting a machine together. So a build your own PC isn't really even an option as far as I'm concerned... I gave up my life for 10 years fixing computers, I don't want to put them together in my free time - I have creative work I'd rather be doing.

It's a tool, I like building things, but I don't want to have to make my own hammer to be able to nail 2 boards together.
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Old 10-17-2009, 02:45 PM   #12
DarkAngelFilm
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If a hammer costs $10 and a hammer head and shaft separately cost a combined $7 I would put it together.
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Old 10-17-2009, 04:39 PM   #13
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@Cstenger

i guess i was a little hard headed in my post, And i was refering to cheaper consumer pcs, ive never bought a $1000 pc so ill take your word for it.

but building it is always funner
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Old 10-19-2010, 03:10 AM   #14
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I've just chanced to an iMac and I'm loving it. I'm still running my Adobe products instead of the Mac stuff. I'm never going back.
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Old 10-19-2010, 05:32 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by srbclarke View Post
I've just chanced to an iMac and I'm loving it. I'm still running my Adobe products instead of the Mac stuff. I'm never going back.
They've got you forever now
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