Videoguys' DIY 6: Quad-Core Editing System

Last spring we updated our DIY5 article to reflect the then latest round of Dual Core processors. Almost as soon as the article came out, we found ourselves bombarded with questions about Quad core CPUs. Back then you paid a pretty hefty premium for them, so we didn't feel it was necessary to build a DIY machine for Quad core. That pricing model held true until the end of last year, when Intel dropped the prices on their Quad core processors and made them just a slight premium over a Core 2 Duo. We knew what we had to do, and the plans for DIY6 where set in motion.

diy_6-1.jpgBefore we get into the actual nuts & bolts of our DIY 6 machine, I think it is necessary to go over our findings for Quad vs. Dual core processors for NLE. When it comes to the actual editing of video, most of the current video editing applications will not fully utilize all 4 cores. Interestingly, we found that our NLEs did at times utilize all the cores, but it wasn't across the board and it wasn't always a noticeable improvement.

The biggest exception to this is encoding. We found that with the encoders integrated into our NLE apps and the latest stand alone versions you will get much faster encoding. Not all encoders and all formats will take advantage of Quad Cores yet, but many do and with each new revision, multi-core encoding grows. Whether you need to encode to DVD or Blu-Ray, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4, Flash or other web-streaming format, having Quad cores will be a big advantage for you.

For us to see the full advantage of Quad Core computing and video editing we are going to need to have true 64 bit applications optimized for Vista 64 bit. As we've posted in other area of our website, we simply can't recommend Vista at this time. The 32 bit version is a recourse hog that brings nothing to the table for video editing. Vista 64 bit is more powerful, but good luck finding drivers for your hardware. It's not a pretty picture. I know that someday (hopefully soon) I'll be singing the praises of Vista 64, but for now we still stand by our recommendation / warning - DO NOT RUN VISTA for your NLE workstation!

Microsoft seems intent on forcing everyone's hand on this. As of today, word out of Redmond is that Windows XP will be pulled out of production June 30th. It will still be supported, but you won't be able to buy it. A growing group of XP advocates and power users are petitioning Microsoft to save XP. It worked for Cagney & Lacey, perhaps it will work for us! Regardless of the outcome, I know that our vendors are working on 64 bit versions and drivers for Vista 64. Hopefully we'll start seeing the first of these this summer.

Check out our DIY-6 Quad Core Video Editing Workstation - NOW UPDATED!

DIY6 Build I with ATI Radeon Card.
Recommended for use w/ Matrox Hardware & Adobe Software

APRIL, 2009

Motherboard ASUS P5K3 Deluxe


ASUS P5 Q3 Deluxe


Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor


Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Yorkfield 2.5GHz LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80580Q9300


RAM CORSAIR 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TWIN3X2048-1333C9 - Retail


CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TW3X4G1333C9


Boot Drive Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500AAJS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0


Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200AAJB 320GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive - OEM


Video Storage RAID 0 Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500AAJS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0 (qty 2)


Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200AAJB 320GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100 Hard Drive - OEM (qty 2)


Case APEVIA X-TELSTAR-RD Red/Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer Case, No Power Supply - Retail


APEVIA X-TELSTAR-RD Red/Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Computer CaseNo Power Supply - Retail


Power Supply Thermaltake TR2 RX W0146RU ATX12V Ver2.2 450W Power Supply 115/230 V


Thermaltake TR2 RX W0146RU ATX12V Ver2.2 450W Power Supply 115/230 V


DVD Burner Pioneer BDR-202 Blu-Ray Burner


Pioneer BDR-203 Blu-Ray Burner


OS Windows XP OEM


Windows Vista 64 OEM


Graphic Card MSI Radeon HD2600XT PCIE 512MB


Radeon HD 4850 PCIe 512MB






Upgraded Graphic card solutions
Nvidia Quadro FX 1700 by PNY Technologies - $499.95

+ $359.95

NVidia Quadro FX 3700 by PNY Technologies - $899.95

+ $759.95

In depth Descriptions and Information about DIY6 Components

diy6-cpu.jpgASUS P5K3 Deluxe
With our DIY6 machine we decided to go with the Asus P5K3 deluxe motherboard. We picked it out for several reasons. We've had great success with Asus motherboards in our DIY configs in the past, and this mobo proved to be another winner. It's based on the Intel P35 Express chipset that supports the latest 45nm Quad Core CPUs, Dual-Channel DDR3 memory, and has a ton of tweaking / overclocking tools that allow you to unleash the full performance capabilities of the CPU, memory and other key components.

DIY6 Update: The Asus P5K3 Deluxe motherboard is no longer available. We are recommending the Asus P5Q3 as the replacement. We have not yet built a machine using this motherboard but we have gotten excellent feedback from our customers and users on web forums.

For the CPU we selected the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz for under $250. We found this to be far and way the best performance / price value. The next step up is the Q6700 model for over $500. I just can't justify that big jump. Our rule of thumb is that if the jump in price is $200 or more, you're paying too big of a premium. When the Q6700 falls into the $400 price range, then we'll recommend making the jump. Until then the Q6600 is the way to go.

CPU Note: We put together the parts list for our DIY6 machine back in December of ’07. Since then Intel has released and is shipping the Core 2 Quad Q9300 Yorkfield processor based on the 45nm production process, at the same price as the Q6600. While we have not tested the Q9300 in this configuration, we are confident that it will run great in it, as will the more expensive Q9450. Initial reports from our favorite tech sites are that out of the box this CPU will outperform the Q6600, but that the Q6600 offers far more overclocking capabilities than the Q9300 which will allow you to achieve higher performance. Keep in mind that overclocking can be risky, so please use caution.

We went with a pair of Corsair 1GB DDR3SDRAM memory sticks. We wanted to see if the new DDR3 technology lived up to the hype. WOW! These puppies are fast, even before we started playing around with the ASUS Memspeed overclocking technology. When the time comes to upgrade to Vista 64 we'll definitely add at least another 2GB. Especially since the price has fallen from over $250 when we first put the build together to under $150 for the pair of 1GB sticks!!

apevia-dial.jpgAPEVIA X-TELSTAR-RD Red/ Black Aluminum ATX Full Tower Case
What can I say - I love this case. It's built fantastic. Sturdy, well designed and sexy. The glowing meter on the front of the unit lets everyone know this baby is a high performance machine. Plenty of cooling, but pretty darn quiet. FireWire and USB jacks right in the front where I like them. Add in the Thermaltake 450W power supply and you can see we went a little over the top here. You can easily save $100 by going with a cheaper case like the Apevia MX Pleasure (with 500W power supply) we used in our DIY5 Update for around $120.

One note on the case. The drive bays get in the way of installing a full size card like the RT.X2. This was a bummer for me – until I spoke to Matrox and found out that the new RT.X2 LE is a ¾ card and fits! It’s snug, but now I have the best of all worlds – Quad core processing, a sexy case and the Matrox Hardware Advantage!

Now in your choice of Graphic Card Flavors!
What happens when you have two very powerful and popular NLEsolutions that require different graphics cards? You build and test two different flavors of your DIY machine!

diy6-graphicscards.jpgAs I mentioned before, we wanted to install the Matrtox RT.X2 card in our DIY machine to run with Adobe CS3 Production Premium. When we talked to Matrox we decided that the Radeon HD2600XT card with 512 megs of RAM would be our best value performer. At under $200 it's a graphics card even the most budget conscience DIYer could afford. We ran the Adobe Production Premium CS3 and Sony Vegas Pro 8 and Pinnacle Liquid in our DIY6 machine for a month or so with the Radeon card and had fantastic results. When Matrox was able to get us a beta version of the RT.X2 LE card last week we knew it would be even better. We were right!

DIY6 Update: The ATI Radeon HD2600 series of graphics cards are getting hard to find. We recommend going with one of the more current ATI 38xx or 48xx series of cards with 512 megs of RAM.

Back in March Avid dropped the bomb on the industry. They cut the price of Media Composer in half to $2,495. Even more significant, they lowered the price of the upgrade to $495! With Xpress Pro owners now able toupgrade to Media Composer software for $495 we knew that we would be bombarded with questions about system compatibility. Even more important, we knew that many users would ask for guidance on building or buying a new machine for Media Composer. We had to make sure that DIY6 ran Media Composer great. So we popped out the Radeon card and went with the latest Quadro FX 1700 card. While not yet approved by Avid, we know that the FX1400 and FX1500 were our go to graphics card recommendations for Media Composer users. In fact, we found that most of our Media Composer software tech calls where graphics card related, and that upgrading to a QuadroFX card fixed the problems over 90% of the time!

We are happy to report that the FX1700 and Media Composer are running GREAT in our DIY6 machine.
For a limited time we are offering an exclusinve bundle of the Avid Media Composer Upgrade, PNY Quadro FX1700 card and Class on Demand Complete Training for Avid Media Composer for just $999.95!

For those editors doing a lot of compositing work that requires even more OpenGL performance we recommend upgrading to the Quadro FX 3700 card. This will give you outstanding results with your Avid or Adobe software it also delivered the highest level of real-time GPU HD performance with the RT.X2 family of hardware.


Add the G-Tech G-SPEED eS 4TB

We decided that we would also run the DIY6 machine with two different storage configurations. The first was our standard 3 drive SATA setup. A dedicated drive for the OS and programs, with a RAID 0 striped pair of drives for video, media and projects. Configuring the motherboard for this configuration took some work. We found we could not use the on board RAID controller because it would not allow us to have a non-Raid boot drive and a RAID for storage. We decided that instead of adding a 4th drive and striping it for the OS and programs, we would run a software RAID 0 using the XPhard drive set-up utility. This worked great and the performance was outstanding.

I wanted more. One of the things we've been really excited about this past year was the emergence of eSata storage for video. Now you can get the same performance as FibreChannel at a fraction of the cost! Why? Because the FibreChannel host adapters are expensive - over $1,000. So we decided to install a G-Tech G-SPEED eS 2TB storage solution. SMOKIN! Not only do we have throughputs able to handle everything we can throw at it, we get fail-safe redundancy to protect our data and insure that even with a drive failure, we can keep working. If you're going to be earning money editing and producing video, I urge you to consider upgrading your storage to G-Speed eS.

What's next?
We've now tested our DIY6 Quad core machine with the leading hardware and software (Avid Media Composer, Adobe CS3 Production Premium, Sony Vegas Pro 8, Avid/Pinnacle Liquid and Matrox RT.X2) and the results have been outstanding. If the sky is the limit you can go with an Octo-core machine (Dual Quad Cores), but we have had such outstanding success and performance that we can only recommend these configurations for the most demanding and professional editing needs. The reality is that with today's current state of technology (32 bit applications and hardware running on a 32 bit OS) you're only tapping into a fraction of the full capabilities of this rig.

Our hope is that later this summer Windows Vista 64 drivers and optimized software become available from our vendors. At that time we'll begin our efforts on our next DIY project - Building a multi-core 64 bit NLE Workstation. Until then, you are going to be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck than our DIY6 Quad Core.

For those looking to build the most powerful 8-Core workstation you can, we recommend the latest new motherboard from Tyan the Tempest i5400XT (S5396). Based on the new Intel 5400 chipset this Dual Xeon motherboard gives you two 16x PCIe and one 8x PCIe slots so you'll be able to add all the addition hardware you need for more professional level work.

Videoguys DIY Video Editing Workstation FAQ
For almost 5 years we have been publishing our DIY articles. In our latest article DIY6 we built a blazing fast Quad-Core computer that we tested with the leading video editing hardware and software. The results have been outstanding! Many times we get asked the same basic questions each time a new article gets published. So to make life easier for you and us, we have put together this our DIY Video Editing Workstation FAQ.

Tom's Hardware



Pipe Dreams: Six P35-DDR3 Motherboards Compared

With support for DDR3 memory and the next generation of FSB1333 Intel Core 2 processors, Intel's P35 Express chipset is the most forward-looking part in its portfolio. But support for advanced technology isn't going to alter its market: The P35 Express is designed to replace Intel's legendary-overclocking P965 mainstream part.

Quad Core Showdown: AMD Phenom X4 9850 vs. Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300

Reviews: In one corner: the dual-die, 45nm Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300. In the other corner: AMD's revamped B3 stepping Phenom X4 9850 "true quad core" CPU. Both weigh in at 2.5GHz, but who's the real performance champ?

Intel Core 2 Q6600 G0 Stepping: Cheap Quad Core Just Got Better

For $266 you now have a tough decision to make: do you buy two 3.0GHz cores or four 2.40GHz cores? In our last review we found that if you're doing any amount of 3D rendering or media encoding, the Core 2 Quad Q6600 at $266 ends up being the better value. Of course, if you want the best of both worlds you could always overclock the 2.40GHz Q6600, giving you four, much faster cores.

Game on with Asus, DFI and Foxconn Mobos

Three Gaming Motherboards With Intel's P35 ChipsetPC gaming certainly has changed a lot over the last few years. At first, there were PCs on which people could play games when they weren't using the machines for office work, email or other more-mundane applications. Now there is a bevy of dedicated gaming PCs on offer and a growing variety of components designed just for the gamer enthusiast.

A Trio of P35 Motherboards

Earlier, we wrote about Intel's recently announced P35 chipset. Code-named "Bear Lake", the new core logic offers support for both DDR2 and the latest DDR3 DRAM. Intel also built in some new features into its I/O Controller Hub (ICH9) series, including support for external SATA (including a port multiplier) and up to 12 USB 2.0 ports.

Intel P35: Intel's Mainstream Chipset Grows Up

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Intel Intros 3-Series Chipsets with FSB1333 and DDR3

Once a year, Intel upgrades its chipset families. While the launch date for mobile and server chipset solutions keeps changing, June has been the traditional time frame for major desktop chipset releases. We've seen as many as five chipset generations for the Pentium 4 between 2000 and 2005, and the current 965/975 chipsets have powered the Core 2 processor family for almost a year. Intel will present its new 3-series chipset family June 5.

Core 2 Quad Q6600: Four Cores for the Masses?

At the start of November, Intel fired a shot across AMD's bow in the CPU wars with their first quad-core CPU, introduced to the market well in advance of AMD's four-core offerings. The Core 2 Extreme QX6700 may have been the introduction of the first CPU for regular consumer PCs to use four cores, but it wasn't exactly a mainstream offering. Priced at about $1,000 (in lots of 1,000 units), it fell right into the pr

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