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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Building a PC in 2019

14 December 2018

For the first time in many years, I upgraded my hardware this year.

As regular readers will already know, I moved up to an Intel i7 8700 processor and a low/mid-level GTX1060/6 video card for my video rendering machine.

The performance increase for video editing/rendering has been staggering. In fact last night I was rendering up a new video and just marveling at how fast this piece of kit really is. Instead of rendering taking four minutes per minute of actual video, that minute of video now only takes 15 seconds to render -- that's a 16-fold increase in speed!

However, there are still elements of video effects (VFX) that take too long.

3D camera-tracking, particle simulations, 3D raytracing, temporal denoising and other actions still require waiting on the computer.

Hell, this is 2018, "waiting" is so last-century!

So, funds-allowing, I'm probably going to build another rig next year, with the goal of shifting everything to Linux and eliminating the waiting.

A faster GPU is going to be pretty important... however the RTX series of cards seem to deliver less value than the old GTX, at least in terms of grunt per dollar. I'm going to have to wait and see on this. Maybe AMD will come out with something to eclipse NVIDIA, but I'm not holding my breath.

From a CPU perspective, AMD certainly tick all the boxes in respect to value.

For ultimate raw power it's hard to beat the ThreadRipper series of processors although the third generation Ryzen 7 chips look to be very keenly positioned if leaked information is to be believed.

Perhaps the only fly in the ointment is Intel's announcement of its next generation CPUs and the addition of a new set of instructions designed to further improve single-threaded performance. Could this create a division between Intel and AMD that might effectively put AMD at a disadvantage in the marketplace?

So why the move to Linux?

Well Windows 10 is the devil's spawn!

I have finally managed to suppress its previously uncontrollable lust for automatic new feature-version updates that kick off at exactly the wrong time and break stuff that worked in the previous version. This took quite a bit of registry tweaking and even now it still interrupts the shutdown process with mandatory updates.

It seems that despite what you want it to do and tell it to do, Windows 10 will do what it wants in respect to data-sharing, updates and other activities.

There is also the issue of Windows 10's rather poor scheduler. It seems to be incapable of taking full advantage of today's hi-core-count CPUs. It's very interesting to compare benchmarks run under Windows 10 compared to the same tools run under Linux when using hi-core-count CPUs. It is very clear that Windows hits a ceiling in respect to scheduling on these CPUs and much of the benefit is lost -- whereas Linux continues to scale its performance nicely as the core-count goes up.

Fortunately for me, my productivity tool of choice (Davinci Resolve Studio) is available for Linux so will go with me to the new platform once it's built.

Of course there are a myriad of other considerations to be carefully considered before committing to specific CPU/GPU and other choices...

Cooler technology (for CPU and GPU) has come a long way since the old days of passive radiators on "Pentium Plus" processors. Now there are a raft of different air and water cooling options and apparently RGB is also very, very important (LOL). In fact, I was kind of gobsmacked when adding another 16GB to my current editing machine, that there was so little choice in the non-RGB marketplace. It seems that "bling" is more important than "bits" these days.

So, over the coming months, I'll be keeping a very close eye on what's available and what's new in the hardware market. Hopefully I'll either score some great deals on previous-gen gear when the new 3rd gen AMD processors are rolled out -- or I'll find one that hits the sweet-spot for value within that new range. As for GPUs... well I guess I'll probably settle for a second-hand GTX1080Ti (or two)... unless the street price of the RTX cards falls significantly.

I'd love to hear readers' anticipations of the next 12 months and what they'd be using if they were building a new "power" system. Tell us your preferred hardware configuration.

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