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Going to Build a Workstation - For Game Dev! Need Help
Posted: Posted May 1st, 2018 by mariomguy

My computer is a modded Lenovo Ideacentre workstation. It came with an i7-3770, NVIDIA GT 640, a 300 watt PSU (seriously), 12 GB of RAM, and 2 TB of HDD storage space. I upgraded the PSU to 450 watts, GPU to EVGA GTX 960 FTW, and replaced the HDD with a whopping 1TB SSD!

Now, this CPU has given me a solid 6 years of tremendous joy, but it's time for an upgrade. Lighting builds in UE4 should not take half an hour on preview settings. I will be developing games, so it needs to be a capable workstation and a decent graphics powerhouse, but not insane. I'm looking for the best bang-for-your-buck here:

CPU: Intel i7-8700
GPU: EVGA 1160 (unreleased, as of this writing)
RAM: 2x8 16 GB DDR4
SSD: Sandisk SSD Plus 960 GB
PSU: 450w 80+ Platinum grade FSP Modular Arum

Things I need to figure out:

Case - I'd like a sleek white tower that's easy enough to carry when I have to transport this computer from place to place (happens during monthly game dev meetups). I found a perfect model similar to a lunchbox design that was discontinued. I'm afraid of going micro-ATX because I hear they're very difficult to build, and this is my first time. Any suggestions?

Motherboard - I need at least 4 USB 2.0 ports on the back. Wi-fi is optional (I have direct ethernet to my computer now). I'd rather not spend more than $120 on a motherboard. One GPU only, but must be compatible with latest Intel CPU. Any suggestions?

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8th Gen uses the same slot as previous gens, but to take full advantage you'll want an intel 300 series motherboard.

If you're not going to overclock or have dual GPUs then avoid the Z series motherboards. Their only noticeable advantage over the other models is that they can overclock & have multiple GPUs. (I don't know American prices but they are probably above the budget you've set anyway).

I think your best bet is probably a H370 series, they're basically as good as a Z they just lack the overlocking and dual GPU and I think they will fit into what you want to spend. Some of the models will go over your desired price, but it looks like there are several models that fit into it.

After that you drop to the B series which is where you start to lose features & power to bring the price down. Those would definitely fit into what you want to pay but at the sacrifice of some power.

In terms of USB ports on the back, I would expect most 300 series motherboards to have a combination of USB 2 and USB 3 ports on the back and at least four in total.

When it comes to cases, I tend to prefer larger one with lots of room to work with so I don't really have much experience with "portable" cases. Though I have been briefly looking into it as I have a 2nd PC that I take places to do LAN parties with friends. From what little research I have done, it does seem that some of the newer designs feature a removable tray for the motherboard so that you can assemble most of it outside the case and then all you have to fiddle with is the cables when you put it in.

Posted May 2nd, 2018 by Moonray

That should be good enough. One slot for GPU, 4 slots for RAM (only need 2), 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.1, and memory speed is good.

The removable tray sounds both awesome and scary. I keep hearing how micro ATX builds are challenging, but if I have an SSD and no CD drive, is it really that bad? My PSU is larger than typical, and my GPU is medium-sized.

Posted May 3rd, 2018 by mariomguy

Found a nice case!:
In-Win 301 mini tower :D

Now all I need is RAM. DDR4, 2666 Mhz, 16 GB of it. Wish me luck!

Posted May 5th, 2018 by mariomguy

CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 2666 Mhz

Not bad. Is there any benefit to having a single 16 GB RAM stick to two 8 GB sticks?

The price of RAM is INSANE. $182 for 16 GB. SMH

Edited May 5th, 2018 by mariomguy

For gaming itself I don't think the difference is noticeable if there even is one (though having two sticks is obviously good as a failsafe, if one dies you can still operate the PC).

I believe for other memory intensive tasks it's better to have dual channel (two sticks). I don't know if your game dev stuff will fall under this, but if it does then you will find it advantageous to go dual channel.

Posted May 5th, 2018 by Moonray

I keep hearing how micro ATX builds are challenging, but if I have an SSD and no CD drive, is it really that bad?

It really depends on the case. You can get some really compact cases (because of the smaller motherboard size) that are a pain to work with but considered worth it because they're more portable and take up a lot less space. The one you linked doesn't look like that'll be a problem.

Posted May 5th, 2018 by Moonray

Gaming and Dev are two completely different things:

Gaming - Eh, any old i5 will run it.
Dev - If I run this on the server at 100% for an hour, I might be able to get a preview how this new trash can looks with the new lighting!

Gaming - Eh, 4 GB RAM is plenty.
Dev - Project requires 8 GB VRAM and 64 GB general RAM JUST to open!

Gaming - Eh, Intel's integrated graphics can run the game on medium settings.
Dev - 1070+ or GTFO

Gaming just needs graphics, and an SSD will help with load times. Development requires a workstation powerhouse to be able to work effectively. $1,400 is the cost of the bottom-of-the-line workstation for game development (at least in UE4). Using the parts I already have previously, I hope to spend less than $650 to get an entirely new machine up and running.

Posted May 5th, 2018 by mariomguy

4 GB RAM is definitely not plenty, especially with the RAM requirements of newer WinBlows OSs. 8 GB is a middling amount and 16 is what I usually see people build gaming rigs with.

You're right about Intel integrated graphics not being a joke, though. I used to play DayZ, Crysis and Left 4 Dead on a damn HP Pavilion G7

Posted May 6th, 2018 by nullfather

I agree with Null that 4gb isn't sufficient for modern gaming. With a game & everything else running I'll frequently see my usage go above 4gb.

16gb is overkill for gaming (8gb should be more than sufficient) but a lot us go for it anyway because you can never have too much!!!

But as you said, you need plenty anyway for your game dev stuff.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by Moonray

16gb is overkill for gaming

A bit, but it can get weighty when you consider people having Spotify or iTunes open in the background and streaming on Twitch while they play a modded game and other such shenanigans of excess.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by nullfather

I have 16 GB on the basis of futureproofing. No one app/game uses it all, but there's a few games which push it to 8GB. It's only a matter of time I suppose before RAM requirements get pushed past 8GB.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by Arch

UE4 officially recommends all devs use the 32-bit executable for PC games: this means the game uses a max of ~3.5 GB. Some games may exceed this limit, like the most extreme open world games at the highest texture settings, but generally speaking 4 GB should be more than enough to run your OS AND the game, and more is not necessary unless the game is 64-bit and can actually take advantage of it. The heaviest files in a game are music and sound: unless your game is extremely unoptimized with light baking and textures, that should never be the problem.

But development is another story. You're running the game, the engine, a 3D program and some model painting/texture programs all at the same time as part of a typical workflow. Some projects like Epic's Kite Demo from 2016 won't even open unless you have 64 GB of RAM! Regarding RAM, Epic officially recommends "As much as you can afford." Shit!

Posted May 6th, 2018 by mariomguy

I've got to run all my 300 hentai/Tails Gets Trolled mods on Skyrim Special Edition somehow m8.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by Arch

generally speaking 4 GB should be more than enough to run your OS AND the game, and more is not necessary unless the game is 64-bit and can actually take advantage of it

You can technically get away with it for a lot of games, sure. Windows uses 2 GB, however, and that only leaves 2 GB for the game, peripheral apps like a VoIP client, a music streaming service, an internet browser, etc., which many people use in various combinations. Games like GS:GO and TF2, which are games that don't require heavy-duty rigs, will consistently top out the rest of the RAM by themselves.

Like I said, 8 GB is pretty much middle-of-the-road.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by nullfather

GTA 5 - Min 4, Rec 8
Witcher 3 - Min 6, Rec 8
Assassin's Creed: Unity - Min 6, Rec 8
XCOM 2 - Min 4, Rec 8
Watchdogs 2 - Min 6
Titanfall 2 - Min 8
Paragon - Min 4

Of the biggest AAA titles in recent years, 4-6 GB seems to be the minimum requirement for the title. As Windows continues to eat up more RAM, 8 GB seems to be the recommended requirement for most games, but most games can run on less. For all new rigs being built today, 8 GB is the DDR4 standard. I do not believe DDR4 sticks are available for less than 8 GB.

Posted May 6th, 2018 by mariomguy
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