Knowing What Hardware to Use for a Custom Built Computer
Knowing what hardware to use for a computer build is arguably the most important part of the process, and is unfortunately one of the most generalized phases as well. Too often, people assume that a well-known and powerful piece of hardware will work well for their scenario, or they assume that cost is always directly related to performance.
This is not always the case, and it takes a trained person to know what really works best per use case.
At Top Flight Computers, we design every computer with the specific usage in mind. This takes into account CPU-heavy situations, GPU-heavy situations, memory capacity needs, memory speed, storage, cooling, efficiency, and overall system noise.
There are more factors we take into account, which all play a part in a truly custom-built system.
If you mainly use Adobe After Effects, and find yourself doing mainly "standard" projects, then a massively multithreaded CPU will actually hold you back in overall performance.
That being said, if you do "standard" projects, but find yourself needing more than 64GB of memory, we take that into account, as keeping rendering content in memory (and not having to re-render content) can be worth the performance hit.
Of course, as the CPU changes, the motherboard, power supply, and cooling can change as well. Even the case can change.
If you find yourself working in Octane, you'll want to devote quite a bit of capital towards video cards.
Octane is one of those programs that scales very nicely with extra video cards, the "diminishing returns" concept doesn't apply here.
While a GTX 1060 is a decent GPU, a GTX 1080 is better, and a GTX 1080Ti is even better (about 20-30% better than a GTX 1080).
However, with all things, you have to take into account the overall situation. Sure, 4 GTX 1080Tis will work wonders for Octane, but you'll also have 4x the power draw and 4x the heat output.
You also need a CPU and motherboard that can properly run 4 GPUs. If you're tight on physical space, and render power/sqft is a critical concern for you, you also need to be aware of cooling.
While a large multi-GPU tower build looks amazing, it takes up a lot of space for only giving you maybe 4 video cards. In that scenario, a rack-mounted GPU render farm would make more sense.
To the gaming world, if you REALLY only want to game at 1080p/high, have no care for RGB/liquid cooling/overclocking, and don't intend to upgrade for several years, then an air-cooled i5 would work well. If your budget is a little lower, or you want to be able to add extra CPU juice over the years, you might go with a Ryzen 3.
The video card chosen somewhat depends on games played, framerate desired, and monitor refresh rate.
Of course, there's the top-of-the-line/overkill gaming scenario. While there's less "work" involved here, you still need to know what your client is specifically doing.
Merely applying an i9-7980XE because it's the "best" can often be a complete waste of money.
Streaming games does use multiple threads, but not to the degree of the 18-core i9-7980XE. Especially taking into account the nearly $2,000 price tag of that CPU.
You always have to know exactly what the system will be used for. Use the benchmarks and test results as your guide.
While a Xeon CPU might have a lot of threads, and be more "validated", in certain scenarios it can drag down performance by quite a bit. The same goes for Quadro GPUs...if the application doesn't benefit from the specialized drivers, you might consider something else.
That being said, it's ultimately up to the client. Our job is to educate you on what works best for the scenario, and give you the information you need to make the call.
If you're ok with the performance drop, but need ECC support, run 10-bit monitors, and want the additional OEM support of the enterprise-grade gear, then that's what we spec.
At Top Flight Computers, we design every computer with the specific usage in mind. This takes into account a multitude of factors including overall performance, software compatibility, physical size, cooling requirements, power draw, and long-term reliability.
About Top Flight Computers
Top Flight Computers designs high-performance custom-built computers. We specialize in workstations, gaming computers, water cooling, and network storage solutions. We are based in Cary, North Carolina, and we ship across the USA. Check out our previous builds and our page on Facebook.