Well, after a twelve year run only using Mac computers, I am finally back in the windows world. My 2010 Mac Pro tower has been a great and amazing machine - I've made and learned so much using it. In recent years, I've upgraded it as much as I could - new video card, SSD hard drive, loads of RAM, but at it's core, the guts and brains of it are just getting too outdated. Though Apple has been talking lately about revitalizing the Mac Pro and they have just announced a new iMac Pro, I think those options will come too late, be too expensive, and still not have all the parts and components I need. Half of my workflow now depends on GPU based rendering - specifically NVIDIA CUDA driven cards - a supplier that Apple just won't provide anymore. Even though Corona (A CPU renderer) is my current favorite, Octane working on the GPU is an amazing experience on the right machine. So I really needed both. Switching to Windows is not something I took lightly - I'll admit, I'm not thrilled about it, but I also don't agree with people who get religious about computers or software. I just want to make stuff. I've had the machine for a few days not and the adjustment is harder then I thought, but the sheer raw power of this machine is unbelievable. Once I get everything dialed in, it will be a major upgrade from the previous machine. I decided to have a custom machine built. I thought about doing it myself, but I wanted it properly overclocked and stress tested as well as wanting a warranty. I went with AVA Direct who have been great and very helpful in picking the parts and specs. Here is the machine:
- Fractal Design Define Series XL R2 Black Pearl, No PSU, E-ATX, Full Tower Case
- ASUS X99-E WS/USB 3.1, Intel X99 Chipset, LGA 2011-3, DDR4 128GB, M.2, USB 3.1, E-ATX Retail Motherboard
- INTEL Core i7-6950X Ten-Core 3.0 - 3.5GHz Turbo, LGA 2011-3, 25MB L3 Cache, DDR4, 14nm, 140W, Retail Processor
- Extreme Overclocking, 20% and Up Performance Increase
- 2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FOUNDERS EDITION, 1480 - 1582MHz, 11GB GDDR5X 352-Bit, PCI Express 3.0 Graphics Card
- G.SKILL 64GB Kit (4 x 16GB) Ripjaws V DDR4 2400MHz, PC4-19200, CL14 (14-14-14) 1.2V, Non-ECC, Black, DIMM Memory
- EVGA SuperNOVA Series 1200 P2 1200W, 80 PLUS Platinum ECO Mode, Full Modular, ATX Power Supply
- NOCTUA NH-U14S, Socket 2011-3/1151/AM3+/FM2+, 165mm Height, 220W TDP, Copper/Aluminum, Retail CPU Cooler
- SAMSUNG 1024GB 960 PRO 2280, 3500 / 2100 MB/s, V-NAND, PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe, M.2 SSD
- WESTERN DIGITAL 2TB WD Black WD2003FZEX, 7200 RPM, SATA 6Gb/s, 64MB cache, 3.5-Inch OEM HDD
- ASUS PCE-AC68, Internal, IEEE 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, Dual-Band 2.4 / 5GHz, 600 / 1300 Mbps, PCI Express 2.0 x1, Retail Wireless Adapter
- Standard Wiring with Precision Cable Routing and Tie-Down
- MICROSOFT Windows 10 Pro 64-bit DVD OEM
- 2 x ASUS PB277Q 27", WQHD 2560 x 1440 TN LED, 1ms, HDMI / DP / DVI-D / VGA, Speakers, VESA, Black LCD Monitor
- LOGITECH K740 Illuminated, Ultra-Thin, Wired USB, Black, Retail Keyboard
- LOGITECH B120, 3 Buttons, 800dpi, Wired USB or PS/2, Black, OEM Optical Mouse
- Silver Warranty Package (3 Year Limited Parts, Life-Time Labor Warranty)
Two video cards for real GPU horsepower, and while it has 10 CPU cores (the Mac has 12) - those 10 cores are much more powerful and overclocked, so I still feel like I am gaining in the CPU department. Scenes that would crash Octane or just not load seem to fly on the new machine. So while I had written off Octane for serious large scale work, I think it might be back in the running. Corona is still my favorite for it's look and ease of use, but now I have options. I've also upgraded to (2) 27" monitors - so now I can have a dedicated render window when I am lighting, without having to open and close windows all day long.
Here is the first image that I'm sharing outside of beginning testing from the machine. Not the greatest image I've ever made, but it is meant to be a real stress test for the renderer. The outer walls are made of 2 inch thick frosted glass that are backlit, the inner walls are 1.5 inch thick clear glass (with some smudges), and the sphere is an ice material. Also the floor has heavily blurred reflections - all these things are the hardest and slowest things to render usually. Blurry reflections are the worst since the computer has to calculate the reflections clear, and then blur them based on the roughness of the material that is reflecting, so twice the work. Glass can be notoriously hard to clean up and keep noiseless. Octane chewed through all of this on this machine with the final 1920x1440 render taking about 7 minutes. For all that math, I think this is amazing. Curious to see what Corona does with the same scene. Ultimately, final render times are not my main concern - for me it is all about how fast I can work in real time when lighting. The point of this machine is to get away from tweak, render, wait, sucks, tweak, render, wait, sucks... etc. I can have a full size window open on the second monitor and see all the lighting and materials change in real time which is the best way to work and impossible to go back from.
The adjustment is pretty shocking. I'm sorry to see how crappy the system fonts on windows are - such a minor change could make the whole experience much more pleasing. I still have the Mac and am using it for post processing and email, music, etc. It will take a while to get fully acclimated. I've been surprised at how hard the transition has been mentally and emotionally. More then windows vs. mac - it's more about having everything organized and in place on my machine where I can move around without thinking. Right now, just navigating my files on the new machine takes concentration. But I know this will get better. Thanks to my wife Jane for the encouragement in buying this machine and the commitment it takes from our family for such a large inestment. I'm looking forward to the next level of work.