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Ali_M May 29, 2010 14:45

Advice On Hardware For CFD
I'm an aerospace-engineering student and I do some CFD work and it usually tends to use a lot of PC power. I used to have a laptop to run this, but it no longer can run even the simplest of simulations and I'm forced to switch over to a desktop. I would really like to build a full-on work station, but I do not have the resources to pay for such a beast. I've put together a list of components that I think would be decent for my application and I wanted to get your opinions on whether or not the parts are the right choice for what I want to do and also on how I can optimize the parts by picking brands that are more compatible with one another.

The system is going to be run for the majority of the day and I definitely plan on overclocking the system, if possible. I will do a bit of gaming on it from time to time as well, but I assume that shouldn't be a problem. I will also most likely do SLI once I can afford a second video card. Here are the parts:


Casing: COOLER MASTER HAF 932 RC-932-KKN1-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case

I'm not sure how I feel about this case because it's made out of steel (I'd prefer aluminum or composite, if available), but I hear it's a great case and it's liquid-cooling friendly.

Motherboard: ASUS P6X58D Premium LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard

Processor: Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition Gulftown 3.33GHz LGA 1366 130W Six-Core Desktop Processor Model BX80613I7980X

I was debating between this and the AMD six-core processor because AMD is WAY cheaper, but from what I understand Intel performs better with CFD applications.

Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9Q-16GBRL

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1501FASS 1.5TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

I want a solid state drive, but there's no way in hell I can afford that LOL.

Power Supply: Antec TPQ-1200 1200W Continuous Power with PowerCache Technology SLI Ready CrossFire Certified

Video Card: EVGA 015-P3-1482-AR GeForce GTX 480 (Fermi) SuperClocked 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16

I was debating between this and ATI, and I decided to go with Nvidia because from what I understand nVidia is more compatible with Intel processors.

Sound Card: HT | OMEGA CLARO Plus+ 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Sound Card

Optical Drive: ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM

Non-essentials: Stuff I don't need, but would be nice to add on. :-)

Monitor: ASUS MS238H Glossy Black 23" 2ms Ring stand & Ergo-fit LED backlight HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor

Speakers: Logitech Z-2300 200 watts RMS 2.1 Speaker System

I didn't add a cooling system because I wasn't sure what to pick. I'm going to be overclocking this PC and running it for the majority of the day, so I would like a cooling system that can keep the computer at the lowest temperature possible. I would like to go with liquid cooling but I don't know much about it, so if you guys have any recommendations, please let me know.

Again, I'm trying to optimize my setup to get the most efficient desktop possible. If you guys have any suggestions as to a part that might be better for the system, please let me know. I would like to keep my budget around $4000, but I wouldn't be adverse to letting it go over slightly.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

- Ali

JBeilke May 29, 2010 15:46

1) think about a xeon w3680
2) 16GB RAM is probably not enough
3) it's better to use a "nvidia quadro" card for engineering openGl stuff.

Ali_M May 29, 2010 16:29

Thanks for the input! I looked into the Quadro video cars, but they all seemed way out of my price range. The only one that falls around what I can afford is the 5500, but I hear that that's no longer in production.

As far as the ram, what would you consider to be a good number? The current motherboard that I have selected can only handle 24 GB, so if I need more, I'll have to switch to a new board.

Thanks again for the help.

- Ali

fgal June 1, 2010 13:46

I built a config some month ago for such things (I am also an aeronautical engineering student). Some advices I'd give :
-If you can pay 1100 $ for a CPU, think seriously in buying a SSD drive of 80Gb for your system, the difference is absolutely huge.
-About the CPU, think also about Xeon processors which are designed for computation, even if as you I did the choice of the i7 (950 in my case)
-For the RAM, it depends on which cases you want to run but we use to say that the order of magnitude is 1Gb per million cells. Then 16 Gb is largely sufficient for 3D cases like a whole Airbus RANS case... (depending on what you want to do again) And you must think also that more cells mean more computation time, and the ration flops/Memory must be equilibrated otherwise the computation will last weeks...
-ATI video cards and Intel procs are totally compatible, hopefully.
-SLI configurations are never optimal in terms of price/performance ratio. Buying a card of the next generation costs less than twice the price of a card and is more interresting in terms of performance.

Enjoy your computations !

PS : where are you studdying ?

RobertB June 3, 2010 15:23

Are you sure that the memory bus can really support 6 cores at this clock rate? I would be surprised, you should look for benchmarks for the code you use.

My guess is that the lowest clock speed of the highest memory variant of Intel will probably be the best value. Remember the Intels naturally overclock if they can, which helps for pre/post processing.

You always want as much memory as you can get, especially for a node that will also do pre/post processing.

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