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Resolve 12: DIY Windows PC build for 4K video, Update #12

June 26, 2015

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

[Update: Scroll down to see a different type of computer case.]

As discussed in my previous post, for the past several months I’ve been thinking about building an entry-level, “starter” Windows PC to run the full version of the Davinci Resolve video editing and color grading software included with my BMPC-4K camera. I haven’t made up my mind to buy the hardware and build it yet, but I’m getting close.

rosewill_stealth_case

I’d use the system to learn how to use Resolve (the new version, Resolve 12, due “soon”) to edit and grade 1080p and UHD 4K footage in a 1080p timeline, initially for my personal use. I might later add more hardware to the system if required to speed it up, especially for client work.

Click here for PDF.

Win_PC_5930K_r12

This configuration (revision #12!) would be a bit different from my previous shopping list because PC hardware products, features, performance, and prices change frequently.

For example, AMD’s long-anticipated new R9 Fury X GPU was finally formally announced last week, and initial gaming benchmarks (for example) show it to have only about the same speed performance as the already available, similarly-priced NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti. As of this writing I don’t know how Fury X performs as a GPU for Resolve. Meanwhile, the 980 Ti has proven to provide very fast performance with Resolve in actual use.

The main reason this configuration would include a NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti GPU because it has 6GB of VRAM, compared to the Fury X’s 4GB of VRAM. 6GB should be adequate for most of my UHD 4K editing needs, whereas 4GB might not be enough. It’s a tough call because the Fury X has the advantage of having far more shader processors (4,096) compared to the 980 Ti (2,816). With Resolve, generally the more shader hardware the better. Resolve 12 could be very fast using a Fury X with most 1080p and some 4K projects. However, with some 4K projects, the 980 Ti’s 6GB of VRAM could be more important. The 980 Ti requires somewhat less power compared to Fury X, too. My impression is NVIDIA is better than AMD when it comes to the quality & frequency of their software driver updates, but I could be mistaken. AMD’s new/old rebranded Radeon R9 390X GPU with 8GB VRAM is less-expensive, but more power hungry and somewhat slower compared to the newer 980 Ti and Fury X.

As in previous versions of my shopping lists, this config uses an Intel i7-5930K Haswell-E 6-Core CPU because it supports 40-lanes, compared to the less-expensive Intel i7-5820K Haswell-E 6-Core CPU, which only supports 28 lanes. 40 lanes should theoretically result in better performance if I later add a 2nd GPU card or other devices. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have the budget for an Intel i7-5960K Haswell-E 8-Core CPU, but maybe I’d upgrade to one later. Then again, if I get lucky and win the lottery, I could replace the 6-core CPU with a Xeon 18-core CPU, up to 128GB RAM, and a GTX Titan X 12GB VRAM GPU, and so forth. But I probably won’t win the lottery anytime soon.

This config would include an ASRock X99 Extreme4/3.1 ATX mainboard because it’s relatively inexpensive and includes a USB 3.1 card (USB 3.1 is up to twice as fast as USB 3.0). If I understand ASRock’s mainboard specs and user manual correctly: If desired I could eventually install a 2nd 980 Ti GPU, with both GPUs in full-speed x16 slots (“PCIE1 @ x16 mode; PCIE3 @ x16 mode”), and with space available for small cards such as the bundled USB-3.1 card in slot #2 , and perhaps an optional DeckLink Mini Monitor card in slot #5.

As noted in my previous post, my shopping list includes a SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB SSD because not only will it be a relatively fast and large capacity storage drive for “active” Resolve project data, but it’s also the least-expensive 1TB SSD recommended by Blackmagic for use with my BMPC-4K camera. The 1TB project data SSD would be mounted in a StarTech dual 2.5″ trayless hot swap backplane. If desired, a 2nd identical 1TB SSD could be mounted in the StarTech bay and configured as a 2x larger and very fast RAID-0 drive.

This configuration would have a relatively energy-efficient Enermax 850-watt, 80 Plus Platinum rated power supply, which I believe will be adequate to support a 2nd 980 Ti GPU if I were to add it later. The Rosewill Stealth case in this config has a built-in drive dock on top, convenient for transferring camera footage from an SSD, making backups to bare HDDs, etc. I already own some components (system SSD, data HDD, monitor, DVD-R, keyboard, mouse) which would help keep my initial costs down.

My shopping list includes the full version of Windows 7 Pro 64-bit because I don’t currently own any version of Windows, so I can’t upgrade from a previous version. If I understand Microsoft’s upgrade policies, if desired I can upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 for free within 1 year of 10’s release. I’ll wait a bit to see if there are clear advantages (i.e.: compatibility, performance, security, stability, UI, etc.) to upgrading to Windows 10 Pro.

Lastly, as a long-time Mac user, why am I considering building a Win PC, instead of buying a new Mac? Because: A Mac configured with specs similar to the above system would cost far more and/or would be far less expandable or configurable — in other words, an expensive dead-end. And since I already own the full version of Davinci Resolve, I don’t have to buy software such as Final Cut Pro X (not my cup of tea) or Adobe Premiere (I’m not interested in renting software).

But wait, there’s one more thing …

Click here for PDF.

Win_PC_5820K_r12

This “barebones” configuration would be considerably less-expensive than the one discussed at the top of this blog post. The goal with this config is to keep the cost as low possible, but still be able to run Resolve reasonably fast — with certain limitations. This config is based on an Intel i7-5820K CPU instead of an i7-5930K. As noted above, both have 6-cores and are equally fast, but the 5820K’s 28-lane support essentially rules-out adding a 2nd GPU. Note this config features the same GTX 980 Ti GPU as discussed above, because Davinci Resolve makes full use of a fast GPU with “lots” of VRAM.

The Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3 LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 motherboard in this config would have less memory expansion capability (32GB max. vs. 128GB max.), and USB-3.0 (not USB-3.1). This config’s “project data” SSDs would be smaller but faster (RAID-0), and there’s a smaller power supply (adequate for 1 GPU, not 2). Later, if more performance were desired, each individual component could be a candidate for replacement/upgrading — CPU, PSU, storage, memory, motherboard, etc. “Later” prices will be less, too. It’s just a different approach.

Speaking of different …

… here’s something different:

DSCF0399

DSCF0464

Click here for PDF.

Win_HTPC_5820K_r13

The configuration above is only slightly more expensive than the previous barebones config, and would be housed in a Silverstone GD09B “home theater PC” (HTPC) style ATX case. A HTPC case sits horizontally on a desk or shelf, not vertically on the floor like a traditional PC. The GD09B is a relatively compact and lightweight ATX case, measuring only 17″ wide by 14″ deep by 6.7″ high, and weighs only 10 pounds empty. Because the case’s height is small, the CPU cooler must be a low-profile design, such as the Cooler Master S524 v2 on my list or the smaller and less-expensive Silverstone AR02 cooler for example. This “small” case has room for big GPU video cards like the GTX 980 Ti. I like the idea of this case because it’s relatively small, semi-portable, and horizontal. I could put a monitor, other gear, or papers on top. I’m sure my cat would like sleeping on it in the wintertime.  🙂

This configuration would be mostly identical to the barebones config listed above it, with the same 5820K CPU, GTX 980 Ti GPU, Gigabyte GA-X99-UD3 motherboard, and other components. The Silverstone GD09B case comes with 1 quiet PWM 120mm fan and has 3 additional 120mm fan mounting vents with easily-accessible dust filters. One of the 120mm side vents is for the ATX-size power supply’s own fan. I’d add 2 quiet PWM 120mm case fans. The 3 case fans would pull cool air into the case, with warm air flowing out its rear & top vents. My hope is the case and CPU fans (all PWM) would keep the system adequately cool under load, and run relatively quietly at idle and moderate loads.

(Silverstone also sells a model GD10B HTPC case that includes 3 quiet 120mm fans for about the same price as the GD09B with its 1 fan. But I don’t like the large drop-down door on the front of the GD10B covering the external drive bay and USB-3 ports. Some users might like the door, but I’d find it annoyingly in-the-way and something that eventually might break. There are also true rack-mount computer cases, such as from Logisys, but these cases are typically larger and heavier than the GD09B HTPC case.)

As with the other 2 configs above, I’d install a StarTech dual 2.5″ SATA backplane in the case’s 5.25″ external drive opening for mounting removable 240GB or larger SSDs configured as a fast >480GB RAID-0 array for active projects. I’d install a 240GB 2.5″ SSD inside the case to hold the OS and apps, and also two 4TB 3.5″ HDDs inside to hold misc. data. The case has 2 front-mounted USB-3 ports and headphone/mic jacks. I’d plan to use my external Voyager-Q drive dock for backups onto bare HDDs via USB-3, and later maybe add a USB-3.1 or Thunderbolt card for faster backups to an external USB-3.1/TB dock.

Again, I haven’t made up my mind to pull the trigger yet on any of these systems. I’ll probably wait until after Windows 10 and Resolve 12 ship before I decide to proceed or if I need to change my plans. For example, Resolve 12 under Windows 10 might require >16GB RAM, or Resolve 12’s GUI might require a >1080p resolution monitor, etc. So, research continues …

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

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