Nerd Rant: Hardware – DIY vs. Pre Built

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Part of: Nerd Rant
Nerd Rant

This is an experimental post. As we often sit down to discuss different topics from our Entagma life, this time we just switched the camera on and created a vlog-type movie for you. Just the right thing to watch on a otherwise boring “no-new-tutorial Monday”.

After Mo’s post about building his own workstation we started to discuss further what the best strategy is to acquire a machine for GPU rendering. Buying off-the-shelf hardware has advantages, building your own box has advantages too. Here’s 20 mins of Entagma talking about the pros and cons of building your own PC.

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  1. I think your opinions are pretty spot on when it comes to custom build vs. premade.

    Like in Germany if you let the shop setup your hardware it’s around 100-200€ extra, which still is much cheaper as if you go with a premade PC. You also usually have a few options there, like if you just want them to put the HW together and install the OS yourself, also extended warranty options if you want to.

    Additionally, as you discussed (and showed in the previous video) today is much different from 2000 or so. I remember killing my first AMD back in the day because I broke the attachment for the cooler and tried to fix it with copper wire (don’t ever do that. Bad idea). CPU burned at the 1st boot.

    Things like that don’t happen anymore. Not only has it become easier (well cooler installation can still be a pain) but the hardware itself has a lot more safety implemented. If you forget to attach the additional power lines above the CPU your system won’t go up in flames.

    I would recommend it mostly over premade systems. In my experience the reliability and speed is mostly in your own hands as well. Obviously sometimes stuff just breaks, but that can happen either way and as you pointed out, and at that point only redundancy can save the day (night) not support contracts.

    I can entirely understand if someone don’t want to care about all that but my personal opinion is that a bit of caring about the tool you’re using can go a long way in helping you not only to understand the issues and be able to deal with inconveniences on your own but also in terms of performance. My custom builds are free from any HP, DELL, Lenovo, whatever anoyingware that may interfere with either processing power or are otherwise an inconvenience. I therefore have to deal with all the smaller and larger issues of the system directly, but after around 2 decades of self-building and maintenance (and a lot of BSODs in the 90s) I have zero issues on that end other then actual hardware failures.

    What I would take a look at, if you chose the route of building your own, is warranty and what it includes. For instance Zotac has a limited warranty of 2 years on all or most of their GPUs. But if you register on their site it will extend to 3-5 years. That won’t help immediately you if your PC break down in crucial states, but at the least you will get a replacement for free and sometimes even a better one as you bought initially.

    I also like that you’re doing this. I would appreciate other opinion/help pieces of you two regarding whatever related to the topic of computer graphics.

    And a slight disagreement: Hardware can be damn beautiful when you present it the right way πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the video!

  2. I’m really glad you decided to bring up this subject. It is a terrifying experience to build your PC for the first time.

    After the company I had been with for eight years shut down, I was thrown back into the freelance market about three years ago. I didn’t have a machine and I knew I needed a workhorse PC (had been Mac exclusive for thirteen years prior to this) to handle volumetric and particle work.

    I spent three months researching, questioning, arguing, learning, giving up, diving back in, before finally figuring out a list of components. I still remember that terrifying moment after assembling everything on the kitchen table and pushing the power button. I told my wife that this investment is either going to blow up or I will have a computer of my own making. When it posted, I had a massive wave of relief come over me. I am still using that machine today.

    I do like the advice on redundancy. That is very true when in a grind and something breaks. I didn’t have the financial resources to do so back then, but am looking to make another one possibly soon.

    The advice I would share to first timers is to understand the work you are primarily going to use the machine for first and build optimally towards that. Doing volumetric and particle work, I knew I needed good GPU power as a priority. I built around that. For me I mostly do TurbulenceFD in Cinema4D for volume work, but also have been educating myself with Houdini for a number of years (with your great informative tutorials in the mix of course) . So I locked down my GPU and CPU first and then found motherboard to fit both. Then worked my way up to RAM, then cooling and case. Side note, I agree with Mo about fan versus liquid cooling. This gets harder with four graphics cards vs two I feel though.

    I also agree about the LED FX crap. Just a waste of wires, and electricity. Function over fashion for me. However though I do have plexi windows, not really by choice, more due to case space options I found. I’m not opposed to seeing the components, it allows quick check on dust build up, fan functionality and general workings without having to move and dismantle the case.

    I got lucky and the GPU build I went with just happen to work well with Redshift3D that I implemented much later after making the machine.

    I think mixing in more talk about setups is helpful to both amateur and pro alike for the motion graphics and VFX user’s out there, so again thanks for talking about this subject.

    Keep on doing the great work that you both do.

  3. Max Massloh

    Hi you two,

    at first, thanks for your awesome videos. I built exactly what you were talking about. I built a quad 1080ti custom watercooled built for redshift with an AMD 1950x. I have to say it was totally worth my time. I learned so much and the benefit of the custom water cooling is an almost quiet pc with reasonable temps on all GPU’s. So I think if you want to use all power coming out of your GPU’s you will not come around building a custom water cooled pc. Otherwise your cards will most likely throttle themselves down.
    I have to say my PC is not working right now because I think the CPU died, but I’m using it for learning and fun right now, not for working so I have the time waiting for new components.
    So the tip, having a fallback PC is totally right and everybody should consider it.

    And by the way, I have a window in my case ^^ but only because there is mostly enthusiast stuff to buy and you will hardly come around RGB lighting and windows if you are building custom loops. In the beginning I thought the same. Ugly shit…but ok… let’s buy it. And I have to say, after building, I’m proud to see what i’ve built.

  4. Just wanted to chime in and say i agree with the above comments. And don’t forget that many of the LED’s on modern hardware, especially the newer MOBOs serve diagnostic purposes and are not simply for decoration. So yeah go with a ‘window’ but go glass instead of plex since the latter scratches way too easily. Otherwise great rant and hope to see more, perhaps on subjects other than hardware:)

  5. Consider that you can by at components and a local computer store can handle the actual build process often for very little cost. I really don’t bother any more with doing the actual full build myself, each time faced with a new socket or cooler than already requires an uncomfortable level of force or alike.

    After 20+ years of building my own PC’s – I’m completely happy to pay $50 for assembling – rather than dealing with it myself.

  6. Hey guys, cheers from Prague! πŸ™‚ Just a quick question as you mentioned Linux – are you running it as a primary OS? Manuel? Thanks!

    • Heyhey Vit!

      Mo here – I’m running Linux now (again) since a few days as I took on a simulation heavy job. Went with Mint 18.3 (Tried Mint 19 but that caused some trouble during install so I opted for the older, more stable version). I’ll try running a benchmark vs. Win10 to see if Linux is actually faster or if it’s purely subjective πŸ™‚

      That being said I’ve got Linux installed on a second drive so I can select if I wanna boot Win10 or Mint. Still need Windows for Adobe Suite and a bunch of other tools.

      Cheers, Mo

      • Thank you! Great to know, will keep an eye for the benchmarks πŸ˜‰


  7. Christian Weckmann

    Finally someone who understands me not understanding the need for a PC that looks like a red light district or carnival. Why? It’s actually consuming more power just for lighting the thing up. It’s not efficient in any way. It would at least have a use if it was to attract mosquitos or something to lure them into a high voltage death trap, but it is just distractingly illuminating your surroundings, casting annoying colors on things. Astronomy has a term for this: light pollution. πŸ˜›

    And.. if the PC is running, are you looking at your PCs case or at your screen(s)?

    Thanks for all the work you put into your (tutorial- and rant-)videos!

  8. I allways build my own system without problems. But in April this year a friend of mine build his own system and it was hell. This system crashes whenever it es idle for a longer time (completly weired). He has to do months of research till the system finally operated well.

    Thats why I choose for my new workstation that I donΒ΄t want to build it on my own. Mindfactory offers for only 100 Euro to build the System from parts I choose. They told me if something I have chosen doesnΒ΄t work and it was no problem to change the parts. 2 weeks later I have my system of dreams very cheap and without the fear of destroying somthing accidently when building the system. The system worked fine but if not i would have sent it straight back on garantie.

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