Building a PC for Jitter, Unity, video-mapping, and VR Advice for a MacHead...

    Apr 29 2018 | 5:05 pm
    I've always had a freebie PC around and a high-end mac. Looking to actually spend some money on a PC. Here is what I got so far....
    Big case, power supply, nice video card, SSD drive
    I need a motherboard, CPU, and ram. First question AMD vs. Intel - seeming like intel.
    Motherboard - looking to spend $100-$250, would like ability to support 2 video cards, lots of USB 3 ports. Decent audio quality, though for audio driven work I would use my RME.
    CPU - something fast, but affordable.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciate. Thanks!

    • Apr 30 2018 | 12:22 pm
      Asus PRIME are a good motherboard at a reasonable price. They support multiple video cards through the PCI-E slots, plus have onboard video. Not sure how many cards you can get total, but since some of those might be multiheaded, I think the sky is the limit.
      For RAM you just buy something non-generic with the right timings. I got Corsair Vengeance.
      Motherboard plus 16 GB came to £280, so likely within your budget.
      You have no real choice about on-board audio and it's all decent these days. Boards only compete on how many channels and features you will never use. CONTINUED
    • Apr 30 2018 | 12:43 pm
      You need a processor to match the socket on your motherboard. In my case this is LGA 1151, part of the Z270 chip set, supporting 7th generation chips. Sheesh, the terminology!
      Without getting esoteric, these are the basic specs for the Kaby Lake / Sky Lake chips supported by my motherboard: i7 = 4 cores, 8 threads, 8MB cache i5 = 4 cores, 4 threads, 6MB cache i3 = 2 cores, 4 threads, 4MB cache
      But now Coffee Lake is in the mix. These need different motherboards, naturally. Chips look like this: i7 = 6 cores, 12 threads, 12MB cache i5 = 6 cores, 6 threads, 9MB cache i3 = 4 cores, 4 threads, 6 or 8MB cache Note that the i3 has no hyper-threading in this generation (for the first time). The marketing has it that the higher numbers are better, that is, i7 is better than i3. This is not necessarily true. Even from the characteristics above you can see a marginal difference between i5 and i7, unless you are going to be doing tons of multithreaded work.
      Of course the raw clock speed is also important, but this translates into different performance single or multiple processor performance. The Passmark score comparison and single thread tables help.
      Then, consider power consumption. The more power, the more heat generation, which means more cooling is necessary, and this translates into noise. If you want a quiet environment for recording (computer in studio) or even listening, this is an important factor. I prefer a system with passive cooling, which means a giant heat sink. So I prefer to keep heat low and reduce stress on all the components. (The opposite of the Apple approach.)
      Finally, there is price. The bleeding edge costs a mint and won't provide any real improvements. Until recently I was running a system three motherboard/chip generations old. Did I notice? No. Anyway, to conclude. I bought the Intel Core i3-7350K 4.2 GHz. This has single-core performance the equal of any chip in the line-up, but was only one-third the price of the fastest i7 and generates one-third less heat. In terms of multicore it is the worst in the line-up, as one might expect. It has half the score of the top chip. But... an old rule of thumb has it that doubling scores normally translates into 20% real-world increase. So, the lowly i3 won for me.
    • Apr 30 2018 | 12:47 pm
      My decision may not work for you. It was based on foreseen audio use, with some basic video rendering. For 3D video work, you may wish to go for the fastest possible i7 if you have the budget.
      However, it's your GPU that matters the most. You didn't mention that. A graphics card can easily cost the same as the rest of the system combined. You do not want to be using the onboard chip.
    • Apr 30 2018 | 5:39 pm
      Thank you Robin! Here's a question about multi-threading for anyone? I am trying to decide whether or not to go with the new coffee lake chipset. Searching forums it is unclear how max is using multi-threading, but I am one of those that has had to run two instances (once three!)of max in the past to get better performance. I know poly~ multi-threads audio, but I don't know if jitter(non-cpu) On a PC (or mac for that matter) . Also, who knows what is under the hood for max8? PS - I already bought a GeForce GTX 1060 SC for my super-crappy PC planning to upgrade awhile ago. It is amazing how simultaneously slow and fast that machine is. I've tested some intensive games (i'm not a gamer, but always follow the tech), and am blown away by the visuals fluidity, but everything else is super glitchy. Excited to see what it is like after I upgrade. I am probably going to go in the i5 direction. Just need to know if I should go coffee-lake. Is that more "future-proof" or potentially a dead end? I don't see why I would ever want to downgrade a processor. Is coffee lake the new standard?
    • Apr 30 2018 | 6:30 pm
      Lifecycles are so short, so all chips are a "dead end". The next time you come to upgrade you will need a new motherboard (which means new RAM) to go with the new chips.
      Coffee Lake is a great example. It uses the same LGA 1151 socket as Skylake and Kaby Lake. But you need a new mobo anyway, because they are physically but not electrically compatible. Go figure.
      As for performance, it's really impossible to know. The only way to test properly is with one specific hardware and software setup, plus the ability to swap out different chips. Only then could you make a direct comparisons of what the increase in cost/power would mean. But of course this sort of A/B never happens in the real world.
      GPUs are specifically designed with instruction sets for games, and the games are specifically designed for the GPUs. They advance in lockstep. Other applications? Not so much. You may or may not see any improvement (as you note). Frustrating? Sure is! But I am no expert, just a techie trying to survive. So maybe an expert will chip in (so to speak).
    • May 02 2018 | 2:38 am
      decided to go coffee lake i5-8400. Ordered Asus Rog Strix z370-E gaming motherboard. Will keep the list posted when I get the machine put together. Excited to experience the PC world transition. This machine should come in under $1000 and exceed my $2500 iMac 4K specs! We'll see....