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Help me spec out a machine.

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by amusicsite, 14 May 2012.

  1. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    I'm looking to get a new PC.The main task of this machine is to crunch video as fast as piratical. This would mainly be for applying gradings, filters and scaling video into different formats.

    Considered getting a Mac as I mainly use Final Cut at the moment but it seems Apple is ditching the Pro apps and going much more consumer friendly. So though it would be a good time to try out Linux.

    My current set is a Mac mini with two Hitachi HTS545050B9SA02 hard-drives which are RAID-0 (striped) into a 1TB hard drive. I have Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53 GHz and 4 GB of memory. Plugged into this is a Firewire 2 HD and a couple of Firewire 1 HD's.

    I rarely get to use the hard drive to their full extent because the processor is the bottleneck. It's OK with SD video, but HD stuff takes quite a bit longer to process.

    I don't need a computer that is over speced or top of the range, one of the things that is important to me is the noise. I love the Mac mini for being more quite than my hard drives. In fact I am probably going to move over to a single raid array box for all my hard drives and get one as quite as possible as the WD one's I have are too noisy for me. With this I will probably make sure it has all the current ports like thunderbolt.

    So what I want is a small quite machine with a couple of HD's not bothered about CD/DVD drive either as I have a USB one I use. Then enough memory and CPU power to crunch the video as fast as the hard drives can deliver it.

    At the moment I'm weighing up the options so will consider systems like 2xSSD's striped to a striped raid array over thunderbolt type set up. I always read from one and save to the other to maximise throughput. But will also consider the low end this will just about do it and may even consider a small distributed network of small PC's if that work out the better option.

    So what do you think. What's worth having and considering and what do you not get good price to performance. Also would like to know how quick a dream machine does it :p:
  2. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    Your existing setup sounds like it ought to render video fine. I guess you must be dissatisfied with it in some way though or you wouldn't be asking! :coffee:

    I put together my video projects in Linux on an AMD Quad Core X4 640 processor with 4gb 1333Mhz ram and a 1GB ATI graphics card with hd out. It has 3 hard drives - no RAID in use - a 1TB, a 500GB and a 250GB. I call them the Three Bears :rolleyes:... I find the CD/DVD-RW useful myself as I am forever changing distro / upgrading / making images of the system for backups, and running the imaging software from the CD/DVD.

    My backup system is a dual core AMD 5000+ at 2.6Ghz with 2GB 1066Mhz ram and a 500mb Nvidea graphics card with hd out. It also has 3 hard drives. It copes fine with video tasks, but is a bit slower in the rendering. Most of the projects I do are 10 mins or so, so it's not really an issue.

    As you mention you're thinking of giving up Final Cut, what's Linux solution have you in mind for the video editing?
  3. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    I'm not sure on what software to run yet but fairly convinced I can find what I need.

    My set up is OK. Typically I'll spend an hour or so per hour of footage, when shooting live concerts, getting the video graded and throwing on a few effects. Then an few hours rendering and about 20-60 mins converting it.

    Ideally I would like to shaved those times to 1/4 of that speed. I like layering up the effects and that takes some crunching.
  4. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    I see what you mean. The most complex my projects get is a mixed bunch of 5 or 6 clips (.MOV, .VOB, .mp4 - all of which I have permission to use, by the way :thumbsup: ) with some cutting, resynching of audio, fading / compositing. I keep away from the more power-hungry transitions and effects mainly because they aren't needed for what I do. I've even used my i3 laptop with 2gb memory and running the video software from a dvd to crunch video and send it up to YouTube before now.
  5. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Been looking at these.


    iCUBES Stealth H55 WiFi - what a great name :p:

    thinking of...
    Intel Core i5 660 3.33GHz 4MB
    4GB DDR3 1333 PC1066
    Seagate 1TB SATA 32MB
    Zotac GeForce G210 1GB DDR3
    PC Build and Test - could do it myself but it's only £20.

    Which comes in at £541.70 a tad more than the cheapest Mac mini...

    2.3GHz : 500GB
    2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    2GB memory
    500GB hard drive1
    Intel HD Graphics 3000
    OS X Lion

    Which is what I would typically go for.
  6. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    The iCUBES Stealth H55 WiFi has a LGA1156 socket with Intel QuickPath technology. The iCUBES Stealth H55 WiFi with support for high-speed DDR3-1333 MHz memory and PCI Express x16 expansion, all in a miniature mini-ITX platform. Features 10 USB 2.0 ports, 7.1-channel high-definition audio, digital optical S/PDIF audio output, 6 SATA 3.0Gb/s ports and one eSATA port, 802.11n WiFi (300Mb/s)

    All seems quite pokey to me. What do you think?
  7. beanz

    beanz Staff Member Staff Member

    A lot of it is down to personal preference. I'm a fan of full size base units. I like having the space to do stuff.

    Can the boards take more than 4gb memory? Depending on whether you want to have e.g. a photo editing prog running and maybe do some audio editing at the same time as video crunching complex projects, it could be useful (opinions differ; some say to concentrate on the graphics card more) to at least have the option of expanding. I'm upgrading the memory on my system to 8gb courtesy of Fathers' Day this year because the memory is relatively cheap and I do tend to multitask heavy apps.
  8. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    It does take 8gb total. I was thinking one 4gb stick and can slap in another if I need. I have 4gb at the moment and even when video crunching, browsers open and a bit of photo editing all at the same time, it rarely uses all the memory. So 4 to start with... If I can resist the urge to fill that other slot...

    The small form is what I want. I have not had a full size machine for about 8 years and don't intend to have to open the machine once I buy it. Though it will be nice to actually be able to open it, unlike the last two Mac mini's I had.

    Photo and audio programs run well on most machines with 2gb RAM and any old duel core is more than good enough if you don't have tons of background processes running. Unless you are doing 30 channels of audio with effects or A0 pictures with many filters, its just not a problem.

    Video is the main thing and that is mainly about throughput, the bottleneck is typically the CPU/ graphics card.

    I don't know much about this these days but I guess an i5 and 1gb graphics card will be much better than my duel core 1Ghz with integrated graphics I have now.
  9. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

  10. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    So the options there are...
    Graphics cards.
    Zotac GeForce GT 220 1GB£64.87 all incVAT
    Zotac GeForce GT 430 1GB DDR3 £67.25
    Zotac GeForce GT 240 1GB£74.17
    4GB DDR3 1333 PC1066 £20.40
    Corsair 4GBKit(2x2GB)DDR3 1600 £23.94
    Corsair 2GBKit DDR3 1333Mhz £27.12
    Corsair VEN 8GB/K 1600MHz DDR3 £50.40
    With slots:
    DDR3 - 1066/1333 2 x 240 PIN DDR3 Dimm Slotts Up to 8GB Ram

    So the next thing to spec out is whether it's better to go for the 1600MHz DDR3 and if so which memory card would utilise the extra speed the most. No point paying extra for higher speed memory if the machine can't utilise it.

    Also most of the graphics cards concentrate on the 3D performance of the cards, I really care about 2D performance...
  11. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    After a bit of reading up it appears the CPU plays a much bigger role in 2D video crunching and most graphics cards only help with 3D, which I'm not that interested in for this machine.

    So I'm thinking now that it might be better to go for the Intel Core i7 870 2.93GHz CPU along with Corsair VEN 8GB/K 1600MHz DDR3 to have the fastest memory and best processor. If I drop down to the Seagate 500gb SATA 16MB Cache hard drive and back to the Zotac GeForce G210 1GB DDR3 graphics card that would be £617.05

    Not 100% sure about using the Corsair memory especially after reading this: http://www.kitguru.net/components/memory/harrison/channel-reports-spike-in-corsair-memory-problems/ but then again all companies have their bad patch and it seems they are typically a good enough brand. Also the memory is not top of the range stuff so hopefully it's a more stable production cycle.

    Also for the extra £70 I think it would be a much more future proof system. It would easy to bump up the system in the future by upping the graphics card and maybe slotting in a 512GB SSD 6GB/S hard drive when they cost a lot less than the current £620.88!
    Shaun likes this.
  12. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    So are you still shopping or have you ordered a machine? :D
  13. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Still shopping. Next month maybe. Got a Pi to bake first :wink:
  14. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    Oh yeah - have you managed to get it to boot yet?
  15. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    YES :)

    No gui though, have to brush up on my Unix commands...
  16. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    It's not as bad as you might think ... just have another machine nearby so you can Google stuff ... :laugh:
  17. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Got to get a text only browser for it and get it networked :wink:
    Shaun likes this.
  18. theloafer

    theloafer Regular Geek

  19. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

  20. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Never did get round to upgrading the old mini just kept going...

    Still I feel I really must now, so been looking around. Glad I waited, the new Mac mini's are a non upgradable toy. So they are out of the question.

    The pro Mac would be nice but at £2.5k a bit steep. So been playing around with the mini atx machines again...

    BitFenix Phenom M-ATX Case (NVIDIA/Black) Processor (CPU)
    Intel® Core™i7 Quad Core Processor i7-4790k (4.0GHz) 8MB Cache
    Memory (RAM)
    16GB KINGSTON DUAL-DDR3 1600MHz (2 x 8GB)
    Graphics Card
    4GB NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 970 - 1 DVI, 1 mHDMI, 3 mDP
    Hard Disk
    500GB 3.5" SATA-III 6GB/s HDD 7200RPM 16MB CACHE
    Power Supply
    Processor Cooling
    Corsair H55 Hydro Series High Performance CPU Cooler

    £909.17 ex VAT.
    £1,091.00 inc VAT and Delivery.