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Win7 64-bit station specs

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Dave JohnsonWin7 64-bit station specs
by on Aug 17, 2010 at 2:51:56 pm

First, sorry for posting yet another set of hardware questions here, but AE and Premiere are my most resource-intensive programs, so only AE and PP users can speak on these issues from direct experience. I've read many similar posts, FAQ, etc. and I'm familiar with the system requirement minimums, but have a couple specific questions ...

I'm about to order a Windows 7 Pro 64-bit workstation primarily for what I consider mid-range AE work, but also for some Premiere Pro, Encore, Photoshop, etc. (FCP is our primary NLE). This doesn't need to be a high-end AE machine, but at the same time, it will need to go well beyond "basic" AE work and be able to do so for the next 3 years. Note this an employer system so, on the one hand, I'm not implying a limitless budget, but on the other hand, we're not talking about an individual's personal budget either.

I know the more RAM the better for AE and that CS5 can use 4Gb per core so RAM needs depend on the processor(s), but starting with nothing other than the 2Gb RAM minimum requirement isn't realistically helpful. For example, I've read some recent posts that say 8Gb is still too little, yet our IT folks want to give me a main board that maxes out at 16Gb RAM ... would you agree that 16Gb RAM is a decent initial setup amount, but would be a bad idea to max out at 16Gb RAM so I should push for a system that can handle more?

I'm also trying to decide between two separate processors or one (two 4-core or one 6-core). I understand the basic math says 8 cores is better than 6 so my question is really about the number of distinct processors versus just core total. In other words, if both options total up to 8 cores, and all else is equal, any reasons either two separate processors or just one is a better choice? Note, this isn't a situation where starting with one means a second could be added later.

Lastly, I know graphics cards don't make much difference for AE so this is the least concern, but considering I do use Premiere as a secondary editor, is the NVIDIA Quadro FX3800 sufficient (it's the lowest model on the PP Mercury Engine requirements) or might it be worth stretching the budget another $600 for the FX4800?


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Walter SoykaRe: Win7 64-bit station specs
by on Aug 17, 2010 at 6:45:50 pm

[Dave Johnson] "I know the more RAM the better for AE and that CS5 can use 4Gb per core so RAM needs depend on the processor(s)"

With CS5, any instance of AE can address all the RAM in your system. Per-core (really per-instance) thinking is still useful for setting a minimum amount of RAM, but with 64-bit CS5, the sky is the limit.

[Dave Johnson] "For example, I've read some recent posts that say 8Gb is still too little"

One of those posts was probably mine. You should plan on setting aside a couple gigabytes of RAM for the operating system and any other applications you want to have open. For example, on a 4-core system, 8 GB won't really leave you my recommended minimum of 2 GB per core, because you can count on at least 2 GB being used by the OS.

[Dave Johnson] "yet our IT folks want to give me a main board that maxes out at 16Gb RAM ... would you agree that 16Gb RAM is a decent initial setup amount, but would be a bad idea to max out at 16Gb RAM so I should push for a system that can handle more? I'm also trying to decide between two separate processors or one (two 4-core or one 6-core)."

I'll group these two thoughts on RAM and processor count together, because they both relate to your motherboard. Your mileage may vary, but 6-core processors tend to come on single-socket motherboards, which tend to have fewer slots for RAM. Dual-socket motherboards tend to have more slots for RAM.

If it's in the budget, I'd aim for 24 GB, which should accommodate either 6 ore 8 cores pretty nicely.

[Dave Johnson] "I understand the basic math says 8 cores is better than 6 so my question is really about the number of distinct processors versus just core total."

Again, it depends which CPUs you're looking at, but the 6-core workstations tend to have higher clock speeds than the 8-core workstations. That means that while the 8-cores will perform better at highly parallel, multi-threaded tasks, the 6-cores will perform better with less parallel, single-threaded tasks, because they'll each run on a faster single core.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Dave JohnsonRe: Win7 64-bit station specs
by on Aug 17, 2010 at 9:31:41 pm

That's great info, Walter. Thanks so much for your help yet again.

Man, I sure wish the O/S and software developers had given us more forewarning to start saving up our pennies before dropping the long-awaited 64-bit bomb on us! lol


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Todd KoprivaRe: Win7 64-bit station specs
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:10:21 am

I'll just chime in to say that Walter is right on. (As usual.)

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
Technical Support for professional video software
After Effects Help & Support
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