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I've looked around for a good desktop rig to suit a 2K budget computer focused on graphic design/ rendering capabilities, but I'm have trouble finding exactly the type of setup that I'm looking for. If anyone is a hardware guru and has a great understanding of how to extract the very best GPU power and Display quality from a budget, and don't mind throwing it into a new egg wish list for me, I'd truly be grateful. Here is the setup I'm looking for:

  • Triple, high quality monitor display
  • Performance based on the idea that I'll need to handle high resolution and many layered images within photoshop
  • Performance based on the idea that I'll be using Blender to render 3-D Designs, which is able to use GPU to render 3D models.
  • Performance based on the idea that I will likely have 30+ browser tabs open, be running text editors in the background, and be doing all of these things at once, and need the setup to be able to handle it all with no sweat.

I have a TB of external memory, so that should save some cash on memory that doesn't need to be accessed with a great amount of speed, but the 2K does need to cover the three high quality monitors, a large tower with room for upgrade, a disk drive, a mouse, keyboard, and USB ports.

*Edit:

I think the builds suggested here will be helpful many users seeking rendering machine setup suggestions. I hope this fit's the format, and of course, isn't a duplicate question. I've looked and not found a satisfactory answer anywhere on StackOverflow! I thank you all ahead of time for your suggestions!

New: Thanks for the suggestion to move this to superuser.com! I reposted it here: http://superuser.com/questions/601279/building-a-computer-specifically-for-graphic-design-2k-budget

Thank you for your answers everyone, I was able to change the terms of what I needed to search for to meet the 2K budget thanks to all of your helpful advisories. The user-base here is far beyond the quality and knowledge level of any website in the world, in my opinion. Thanks again!

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closed as off-topic by DA01, Matt, JohnB Aug 20 '13 at 21:04

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I asked a question that's similar about two months ago...maybe it'll help you! –  Brendan Jun 6 '13 at 13:20
    
2000 pounds or dollars? –  user Jul 7 '13 at 13:52
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This is a hardware question, not a design question. –  DA01 Aug 20 '13 at 17:50

4 Answers 4

up vote 0 down vote accepted

As many have mentioned, it's going to be pretty difficult to build a great machine for under $2,000. But it really does depend on what you want in it.

What you should care most about is RAM, your video card, and the processor (at this is the 'meat' of your machine. Everything else you could get something cheaper (assuming it's compatible).

I would recommend this video. It's a video series where a guy builds a great machine for video editing. It's also nice because the parts he chose are compatible with OSX, meaning you can use a Windows or Apple operating system (or anything else) on the computer.

If I remember correctly he built his set-up (not including monitors/keyboard/mouse) for around $2,200. but it could be more/less expensive depending on where and when you buy the parts. I personally usually wait for Black Friday, here in the US, for buying all my electronics (or Cyber Monday). This usually saves me a couple hundred dollars.

To summarize his build, it's 32GB of RAM, 12 core 3.2 GHz processor, a 2GB video card, and a three raid-0 array of 128GB SSDs.

Here is a list of the components he used:

Things to note about this build are:

  • You don't need 3 SSDs, it's just what he chose and you could omit one or two and still have it function (though of course you'd want a back-up/storage drive to accompany it).
  • You don't need a 1000W PSU, you could buy the bare-minimum needed to run the set-up and still have it function.
  • You can find a cheaper case.

These things will bring the price down a bit.

Most of these parts are also available on newegg and some are less expensive while other are a bit more expensive, so it definitely helps to check everything out.

Keep in mind this does NOT include any displays, so that'll cost extra. But if you want a nice machine, you'll have to pay for it.

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You won't get 3 "high quality monitors" for 2k. You just won't. "High quality" assumes you're referring to accurate color rendering and high definition displays.

At an average cost of at least $800 each, you're looking at $2400 or more just for monitors. Of course size is a factor. 20" monitors cost less than 30" monitors obviously. You may be able to drop a tier to something like the Dell Ultrasharps, which are okay but not great, and cost much less. The screens are polarized which can make calibration pretty difficult.

In terms of other hardware, it's all your choice based on budget. You could spend $1k on a graphics card with 3GB of vRAM. However, such cards don't often drive 3 monitors so you'd need 2 cards.... and there again goes your $2k budget.

Video cards which offer 512MB or 1GB of vRAM will work. They will simply be slower. And you can get a 1GB card which supports 3 monitors.

I'm not entirely certain how anyone here could determine your needs. It really all comes down to where you want to sacrifice performance based upon your budget.

The first thing to do would be to price out your case, power supply, logic board, and other items which don't offer much difference. Then see how much money you have left for monitors, video cards and RAM. I think your'e going to quickly find that $2k is a bit unrealistic for a "high performance" 3-monitor system. $3k-$4k is more realistic.

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Monoprice has some relatively inexpensive IPS monitors. I have not seen one in front of me, so I've been on the fence about getting one. They've got decent reviews, but it's a pretty new product for them so I'd prefer to wait a while before taking a chance. Also, there's the whole "buying a monitor from a company known for cheap cables" aspect that makes me weary. –  JohnB Jun 6 '13 at 14:59
    
Interesting. I'd need to see one though. Still, for 3 you're looking at $1200 minimum. Still blows the budgets completely. –  Scott Jun 6 '13 at 15:23

There is no need to spend more than 150$ on any single component, with the exception of the monitors.

In 3 years, your purchases will be .25x the price per component and you can re-up on the parts that lack. Future proof has never been a real consideration except for stock brokers and lawyers who don't know any better.

Even with 30 browsers tabs, this sort of thing is eminently swappable and not real time. It hogs memory, but that is pretty much it except for flash ads, in which case "Adblock".

For the 3d rendering, you should have a backup server anyway, so include a beefier processor and queue your rendering on the server. ("Watched folders" etc. http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.6/Manual/Render/Performance/Netrender)

Good color fidelity on your monitors is critical. These will be the only thing you will still want to use in 5 years.

TLDNR; Cheaper components, a second computer as server and renderer, invest your time and money in a display device (at least one. the other 2-3 don't need to be matching).

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We have had a similar question asked awhile back here. I have an answer of what my own setup is and what I run, but if you read all the answers it would help you pick out what you need to buy. Good places to purchase new hardware for computers that I have experience with is Amazon, Tigerdirect and Newegg. Make sure to shop around because I have seen some parts cheaper on Amazon over all three and some days Newegg is cheaper. If you are on a strict budget you could always check out some computer forums such as overclock.net, and they usually have some hardware for sell cheap in good condition. Don't scrimp out on monitors!

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