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Videoguys’ DIY 11: How to Build an Affordable Editing & Streaming Workstation with Balanced Components for the Best Performance

Videoguys DIY 11

For more than 10 years Videoguys.com, one of the world’s leading resellers of video editing and production equipment, has been publishing DIY articles as a service to customers. These guides will help you choose the best system components for your non-linear editing workstation.

Our new tech guy, Scott Smith, has completed our much anticipated new DIY11 build. It’s a screamer! The goal was to put together a top notch NLE & Streaming machine for around $1,500. Scott did the research and the build is complete and tested. Holy smokes! This machine runs lightning fast, the case is whisper quiet and the NLE performance is superb. Great job Scott!

Videoguys’ DIY 11 Build

ASUS Z97-PRO Motherboard (or Asus Z97-A/USB3.1) $202.99
Intel 4790k i7 Quad-Core $339.99
G.SKILL Ripjaw DDR3 1600 16GB Set (2x8GB) $79.99
ASUS GTX970 Graphics Card with 4GB memory and 1,664 CUDA cores $329.99
Crucial M500 240GB SSD Boot Drive $114.99
Phanteks Enthoo Pro Case $99.99
Corsair HX750i Power Supply $119.99
Noctua NH-D14 Cooler $74.99
Pioneer BDR-209 Internal Blu-ray Disc/DVD/CD Writer $75.00
at Videoguys.com
Microsoft Win 7 Pro or Windows 10 64-Bit OS $139.99
ASUS ThunerboltEX II
PCIe Card
$70.00
Grand Total: $1,647.91
*prices based on mid-March, 2015 online prices. Prices subject to change.

Balance Baby!

The most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a new computer for video editing; whether you edit with Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, Grass Valley Edius or Sony Vegas Pro; is balance.  The performance will only be as good as the weakest link in the chain. For video editing the chain has 4 key links – motherboard, CPU, GPU and RAM.  If either of these four points is below the other 3, you will bring down the overall NLE performance of the workstation. In addition, if one of the components is significantly higher performing than the other three you are not only wasting money on it, you may actually get poorer performance and the super fast component can create bottlenecks in other areas.

Scott picked the ASUS Z97-PRO motherboard with Thunderbolt II, based on the latest Haswell chipset. There are actually two flavors of this motherboard available. The ASUS Z97-PRO (WiFi ac) or the non WiFi version. The version without Wifi is certainly less expensive and works exactly the same in all other aspects. We spent about $40 more to get the motherboard with WiFi because we need the connectivity.  If you only use wired networking in your edit suite, you can save the money while ASUS is blowing out the non WiFi model. We recommend these two articles which helped us choose our motherboard, along with real user feedback found on Newegg.com

We also had a little hiccup with the graphics card. Initially we were going to go with a GTX760 card. – a tried & true, proven performer. Unfortunately this series has reached the end of the line, and we had to find a new replacement.  We picked the GTX970 series, packed with 4GB of RAM and 1,664 CUDA cores.  While we saw some comments and concerns posted about this card online, we did not run into any issues with it at all.  The GTX970 GPU is our new go to recommendation for DIY workstations.

I’m, going to kick the article over to Scott now. He’s going to go over each component in more details. Enjoy the article, watch the video and have fun editing!

Let’s start with the 4 key components:

Motherboard
ASUS Z97-PRO

The Z97 is a more refined version of the previous Z87 platform featured in our last DIY build. While the core functionality of the Z97 is similar to the Z87, it also has support for SATA Express and Mobile SATA (aka M.2). Also, it has been noted unofficially that many Z97 based boards now feature 2 internal USB 3 headers instead of 1; however, this will vary by manufacturer. Despite these benefits, the biggest reason to go with a Z97 is that you will also be able to an upgraded Broadwell chipset should you choose to do so in the future.
April ’16 Update: Asus Z97-Pro motherboards are no longer available. We are recommending the Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1 as a solid replacement for around $150

GPU
GTX970

While a well-built machine must be balanced, there is no doubt that the graphics card is extremely important when it comes to the performance of your NLE build. We only recommend cards based off of NVIDIA graphics chipsets for both their performance and optimization within Adobe and Avid. Adobe has optimized all of their software to take advantage of NVIDIA’s CUDA technology. DIY 11 features a GeForce GTX970 with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory and 1,664 CUDA cores.

CPU
Intel 4790K
Quad Core i7

Intel has hit a homerun with their new 4790k i7 chip, it packs massive performance at a great price, even with it being only quad core. It comes clocked at an incredible 4GHz with a boost frequency of 4.4GHz, so it’s safe to say that you can push 4.4GHz out of this processor at all times using the simple overclocking tools in the ASUS Z97-PRO board’s EFI BIOS.

Videoguys Tech Note: Intel Xeon Processors are considered the top choice for professional content creators and production teams who need a workhorse for hours of daily operation. We chose the Asus motherboard and i7 for the lower cost and excellent value and know it will be more than reliable providing the power necessary to edit HD video. Going with a Xeon would cost a lot more and would also mean upgrading the motherboard and RAM to Xeon compatible models that could add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the build. When we looked at the cost of a DIY Xeon workstation we concluded that an HP Z Workstation with 3/3/3 year warranty is a far better investment!

RAM

We have been recommending G.SKILL RAM for years and have been very happy with its performance on this build as well as previous builds. As a rule of thumb, Videoguys now recommends 3GB of RAM per CPU Core.  Since RAM comes in 4,8 or 16GB sticks that comes to 12GB for a Quad core, 16GB for a Hex core, 24GB for an 8-core etc..  We decided to go with 16GB for this build which is what we consider the new minimum for people who want to do HD editing in native compressions like H.264.

Videoguys Tech Note: RAM prices can fluctuate greatly, especially depending on how you choose to achieve the total RAM goal. For example, using 4×4 to get to 16GB might sometimes be cheaper than using 2×8 or it can be the other way around. If you find a good deal on a 32GB RAM set (which has to be a 4x8GB on this build, since our board only has 4 RAM slots) we recommend you purchase it, you won’t regret it.

…and now, the rest of the components that make up Videoguys’ DIY 11

SSD Boot Drive

Solid State Drives are becoming more and more popular in all different forms, from a true fully solid state (no moving parts) drive to new “hybrid” drives that contain both solid state storage and traditional spinning platters. Our build features a 240GB Crucial Solid State boot drive. We also recommend SSDs from Intel & Samsung. You need to make sure you select an SSD from the premium performance series, not the lower cost options. These premium SSDs are far more reliable and faster. Running a solid state for your operating system (for which we still recommend Windows 7 Pro) and applications will greatly improve boot time of the machine and application performance. For your editing/raw footage storage we suggest hooking up a G-RAID with Thunderbolt for maximum throughput.

Thunderbolt 2

Enthusiasm for thunderbolt has not slowed down, especially with G-Technology releasing more and more drive options using the technology.

Thunderbolt allows you to attach an external 4, 6 or 8 bay storage solution and get sustained throughput comparable to an external RAID controller card like an ATTO R680 or Highpoint RocketRAID 4522. These RAID controllers cost around a thousand bucks and require special drivers that may be challenging to set up. External Thunderbolt RAIDs are very easy to set-up. All you have to do is plug it in, format and go. You can even daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt drives. Blazing fast Thunderbolt transfer speeds also mean that you can copy your data from your camcorder or DSLR or GoPro much faster. And we know, the faster you can copy the footage, the sooner you can start editing!

Thunderbolt Video Storage

Videoguys recommends G-Tech external drives above all others! G-Tech uses only the highest quality 7200RPM drives from HGST. In fact all of our G-Tech RAID solutions use HGST Enterprise class drives. These drives are engineered for the most rigorous 24/7 environments. Numerous independent tests have determined that HGST Enterprise drives are the most reliable in the industry. G-Tech matches this incredible reliability and performance with sleek, sexy styling to deliver the best external drive solutions in the industry for video, photo and audio content. Whatever your workflows are, G-Tech & Videoguys have a solution that will meet your needs and budget.

Check out the G-Technology Thunderbolt storage solutions:

g-drive ev atc G-DOCK Thunderbolt G-RAID USB 3 g-raid thunderbolt 2
G-DRIVE ev ATC

Is an all-terrain drive solution that shields a high quality, lightweight, removable GDRIVE ev RaW USB hard drive.

Starting at:
$129.95

G-DOCK ev Thunderbolt Enclosure

An Expandable Storage Solution for Two Hot-Swappable Hard Drives. (Drives sold separately).

$299.95

G-RAID with USB 3.0

Removable Dual-Drive Storage System with USB 3.0 interface, RAID 0, 1 or JBOD, and up to 400MB/s transfer rates.

Starting at:
$529.95

G-RAID with Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3

GRAID with dual Thunderbolt™ 2 and USB 3.0 ports, up to 480MB/s transfer rates.

Starting at:
$599.95

 

GSPEEDST-12TB

G-SPEED Studio RAID-5 solution with  Thunderbolt 2
We Stocked up on G-SPEED Studio Solutions at incredible prices with incredible savings of up to $1,350!!!

G-SPEED Studio includes four removeable 3TB drives in a 4-bay housing that can easily be configured in RAID-5 to combine fast transfer speeds with data protection. In RAID-5 one drive will index data allowing your information to be restored in case of a drive failure. Recommended for all video professionals.

GSPEEDST-12TB
$1,999.95
$899.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-16TB
$2,299.95
$1,199.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-24TB
$2,899.95
$1,749.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-32TB
$3,599.95
$2,249.95

buy now

 

Phantek Enthoo Pro Case

We decided to try out a new case for this build and I must say this it was a pleasant surprise. This Phanteks case features 6 easily removable drive holders that can accommodate full size drives or SSD’s. On top of that it includes 2 incredibly quiet fans with their own power distribution block so you do not need to use two fan power ports on your Z97 board. The cable management in this case is simply incredible, it has a ton of different grommet locations to get cables where you need them without being seen and built in tie downs on the rear of the case.  It also comes with plenty of spare screws in a nice plastic organizer which is a cool bonus. From a tech standpoint it has two front USB 3 ports, two USB 2 ports, one headphone jack and one microphone jack. It looks sleek, stays cool, and doesn’t leave a mess of wires visible. What more could you ask for?

Performance

All of this talk is great, but what really matters is how this computer performs. We did some exports and the results were pretty impressive. DIY11’s performance blew us away! We rendered out a 40 minute 1080p AVCHD project with some minor effects in just 11 minutes! Our test 27” iMac with an i7 Processor, 16GB of RAM, and AMD graphics did it in about 40 minutes.  This machine was even used to edit and render out the video for this very DIY build! As for heat, well, this computer is one cool cucumber. We saw temperatures around 60 degrees Celsius under 100% load using CPU testing software.


Quad core XEON HP z440 Workstations
Starting at $2,999.00
Octo core XEON HP z640 Workstations
Starting at $3,750.00
Dual Hex & Octo Core XEON
HP z840 Workstations
Starting at $4,999.00

Videoguys’ DIY 11 vs HP zWorkstations

While we do offer our DIY guide and recommendations, we do not sell these systems or their components. We purchase our parts from on line stores like newegg.com or tigerdirect.com just like you.

Videoguys does have HP Z workstations available for sale. Scott, Gary and the other techs that helped build DIY11 actually work with HP, Adobe & Avid to create Videoguys Tech Select configurations which are optimized to deliver the highest possible NLE performance bang for your buck.  We can also custom configure an HP Z workstation to meet your specific needs and budget.

HP Z workstations do have some key benefits over the DIY machine. The Z is a turnkey workstation class solution, all of the parts used are of a higher level meant for constant usage and higher stress loads. Our HP Z workstations come with a 3/3/3 parts, labor, and onsite warranty. As far as hardware goes you are looking at a Xeon server-class processor vs an i7 desktop level processor in the DIY and the new DDR4 memory standard vs DDR3 in the DIY.  HP Workstations also use Quadro based graphics cards vs the gamer cards we use in our DIY builds. While the gamer cards give you more CUDA processing bang for the buck, Quadro cards deliver an added level of stability and reliability that go beyond gamer cards. They are designed, built and optimized for Content Creators.  While you can’t run a Xeon processor or DDR4 memory in our DY11 build, you can upgrade to a Quadro card if you’d like.

 

Videoguys DIY 11

For more than 10 years Videoguys.com, one of the world’s leading resellers of video editing and production equipment, has been publishing DIY articles as a service to customers. These guides will help you choose the best system components for your non-linear editing workstation.

Our new tech guy, Scott Smith, has completed our much anticipated new DIY11 build. It’s a screamer! The goal was to put together a top notch NLE & Streaming machine for around $1,500. Scott did the research and the build is complete and tested. Holy smokes! This machine runs lightning fast, the case is whisper quiet and the NLE performance is superb. Great job Scott!

Videoguys’ DIY 11 Build

ASUS Z97-PRO Motherboard (or Asus Z97-A/USB3.1) $202.99
Intel 4790k i7 Quad-Core $339.99
G.SKILL Ripjaw DDR3 1600 16GB Set (2x8GB) $79.99
ASUS GTX970 Graphics Card with 4GB memory and 1,664 CUDA cores $329.99
Crucial M500 240GB SSD Boot Drive $114.99
Phanteks Enthoo Pro Case $99.99
Corsair HX750i Power Supply $119.99
Noctua NH-D14 Cooler $74.99
Pioneer BDR-209 Internal Blu-ray Disc/DVD/CD Writer $75.00
at Videoguys.com
Microsoft Win 7 Pro or Windows 10 64-Bit OS $139.99
ASUS ThunerboltEX II
PCIe Card
$70.00
Grand Total: $1,647.91
*prices based on mid-March, 2015 online prices. Prices subject to change.

Balance Baby!

The most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a new computer for video editing; whether you edit with Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, Grass Valley Edius or Sony Vegas Pro; is balance.  The performance will only be as good as the weakest link in the chain. For video editing the chain has 4 key links – motherboard, CPU, GPU and RAM.  If either of these four points is below the other 3, you will bring down the overall NLE performance of the workstation. In addition, if one of the components is significantly higher performing than the other three you are not only wasting money on it, you may actually get poorer performance and the super fast component can create bottlenecks in other areas.

Scott picked the ASUS Z97-PRO motherboard with Thunderbolt II, based on the latest Haswell chipset. There are actually two flavors of this motherboard available. The ASUS Z97-PRO (WiFi ac) or the non WiFi version. The version without Wifi is certainly less expensive and works exactly the same in all other aspects. We spent about $40 more to get the motherboard with WiFi because we need the connectivity.  If you only use wired networking in your edit suite, you can save the money while ASUS is blowing out the non WiFi model. We recommend these two articles which helped us choose our motherboard, along with real user feedback found on Newegg.com

We also had a little hiccup with the graphics card. Initially we were going to go with a GTX760 card. – a tried & true, proven performer. Unfortunately this series has reached the end of the line, and we had to find a new replacement.  We picked the GTX970 series, packed with 4GB of RAM and 1,664 CUDA cores.  While we saw some comments and concerns posted about this card online, we did not run into any issues with it at all.  The GTX970 GPU is our new go to recommendation for DIY workstations.

I’m, going to kick the article over to Scott now. He’s going to go over each component in more details. Enjoy the article, watch the video and have fun editing!

Let’s start with the 4 key components:

Motherboard
ASUS Z97-PRO

The Z97 is a more refined version of the previous Z87 platform featured in our last DIY build. While the core functionality of the Z97 is similar to the Z87, it also has support for SATA Express and Mobile SATA (aka M.2). Also, it has been noted unofficially that many Z97 based boards now feature 2 internal USB 3 headers instead of 1; however, this will vary by manufacturer. Despite these benefits, the biggest reason to go with a Z97 is that you will also be able to an upgraded Broadwell chipset should you choose to do so in the future.
April ’16 Update: Asus Z97-Pro motherboards are no longer available. We are recommending the Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1 as a solid replacement for around $150

GPU
GTX970

While a well-built machine must be balanced, there is no doubt that the graphics card is extremely important when it comes to the performance of your NLE build. We only recommend cards based off of NVIDIA graphics chipsets for both their performance and optimization within Adobe and Avid. Adobe has optimized all of their software to take advantage of NVIDIA’s CUDA technology. DIY 11 features a GeForce GTX970 with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory and 1,664 CUDA cores.

CPU
Intel 4790K
Quad Core i7

Intel has hit a homerun with their new 4790k i7 chip, it packs massive performance at a great price, even with it being only quad core. It comes clocked at an incredible 4GHz with a boost frequency of 4.4GHz, so it’s safe to say that you can push 4.4GHz out of this processor at all times using the simple overclocking tools in the ASUS Z97-PRO board’s EFI BIOS.

Videoguys Tech Note: Intel Xeon Processors are considered the top choice for professional content creators and production teams who need a workhorse for hours of daily operation. We chose the Asus motherboard and i7 for the lower cost and excellent value and know it will be more than reliable providing the power necessary to edit HD video. Going with a Xeon would cost a lot more and would also mean upgrading the motherboard and RAM to Xeon compatible models that could add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the build. When we looked at the cost of a DIY Xeon workstation we concluded that an HP Z Workstation with 3/3/3 year warranty is a far better investment!

RAM

We have been recommending G.SKILL RAM for years and have been very happy with its performance on this build as well as previous builds. As a rule of thumb, Videoguys now recommends 3GB of RAM per CPU Core.  Since RAM comes in 4,8 or 16GB sticks that comes to 12GB for a Quad core, 16GB for a Hex core, 24GB for an 8-core etc..  We decided to go with 16GB for this build which is what we consider the new minimum for people who want to do HD editing in native compressions like H.264.

Videoguys Tech Note: RAM prices can fluctuate greatly, especially depending on how you choose to achieve the total RAM goal. For example, using 4×4 to get to 16GB might sometimes be cheaper than using 2×8 or it can be the other way around. If you find a good deal on a 32GB RAM set (which has to be a 4x8GB on this build, since our board only has 4 RAM slots) we recommend you purchase it, you won’t regret it.

…and now, the rest of the components that make up Videoguys’ DIY 11

SSD Boot Drive

Solid State Drives are becoming more and more popular in all different forms, from a true fully solid state (no moving parts) drive to new “hybrid” drives that contain both solid state storage and traditional spinning platters. Our build features a 240GB Crucial Solid State boot drive. We also recommend SSDs from Intel & Samsung. You need to make sure you select an SSD from the premium performance series, not the lower cost options. These premium SSDs are far more reliable and faster. Running a solid state for your operating system (for which we still recommend Windows 7 Pro) and applications will greatly improve boot time of the machine and application performance. For your editing/raw footage storage we suggest hooking up a G-RAID with Thunderbolt for maximum throughput.

Thunderbolt 2

Enthusiasm for thunderbolt has not slowed down, especially with G-Technology releasing more and more drive options using the technology.

Thunderbolt allows you to attach an external 4, 6 or 8 bay storage solution and get sustained throughput comparable to an external RAID controller card like an ATTO R680 or Highpoint RocketRAID 4522. These RAID controllers cost around a thousand bucks and require special drivers that may be challenging to set up. External Thunderbolt RAIDs are very easy to set-up. All you have to do is plug it in, format and go. You can even daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt drives. Blazing fast Thunderbolt transfer speeds also mean that you can copy your data from your camcorder or DSLR or GoPro much faster. And we know, the faster you can copy the footage, the sooner you can start editing!

Thunderbolt Video Storage

Videoguys recommends G-Tech external drives above all others! G-Tech uses only the highest quality 7200RPM drives from HGST. In fact all of our G-Tech RAID solutions use HGST Enterprise class drives. These drives are engineered for the most rigorous 24/7 environments. Numerous independent tests have determined that HGST Enterprise drives are the most reliable in the industry. G-Tech matches this incredible reliability and performance with sleek, sexy styling to deliver the best external drive solutions in the industry for video, photo and audio content. Whatever your workflows are, G-Tech & Videoguys have a solution that will meet your needs and budget.

Check out the G-Technology Thunderbolt storage solutions:

g-drive ev atc G-DOCK Thunderbolt G-RAID USB 3 g-raid thunderbolt 2
G-DRIVE ev ATC

Is an all-terrain drive solution that shields a high quality, lightweight, removable GDRIVE ev RaW USB hard drive.

Starting at:
$129.95

G-DOCK ev Thunderbolt Enclosure

An Expandable Storage Solution for Two Hot-Swappable Hard Drives. (Drives sold separately).

$299.95

G-RAID with USB 3.0

Removable Dual-Drive Storage System with USB 3.0 interface, RAID 0, 1 or JBOD, and up to 400MB/s transfer rates.

Starting at:
$529.95

G-RAID with Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3

GRAID with dual Thunderbolt™ 2 and USB 3.0 ports, up to 480MB/s transfer rates.

Starting at:
$599.95

 

GSPEEDST-12TB

G-SPEED Studio RAID-5 solution with  Thunderbolt 2
We Stocked up on G-SPEED Studio Solutions at incredible prices with incredible savings of up to $1,350!!!

G-SPEED Studio includes four removeable 3TB drives in a 4-bay housing that can easily be configured in RAID-5 to combine fast transfer speeds with data protection. In RAID-5 one drive will index data allowing your information to be restored in case of a drive failure. Recommended for all video professionals.

GSPEEDST-12TB
$1,999.95
$899.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-16TB
$2,299.95
$1,199.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-24TB
$2,899.95
$1,749.95

buy now

GSPEEDST-32TB
$3,599.95
$2,249.95

buy now

 

Phantek Enthoo Pro Case

We decided to try out a new case for this build and I must say this it was a pleasant surprise. This Phanteks case features 6 easily removable drive holders that can accommodate full size drives or SSD’s. On top of that it includes 2 incredibly quiet fans with their own power distribution block so you do not need to use two fan power ports on your Z97 board. The cable management in this case is simply incredible, it has a ton of different grommet locations to get cables where you need them without being seen and built in tie downs on the rear of the case.  It also comes with plenty of spare screws in a nice plastic organizer which is a cool bonus. From a tech standpoint it has two front USB 3 ports, two USB 2 ports, one headphone jack and one microphone jack. It looks sleek, stays cool, and doesn’t leave a mess of wires visible. What more could you ask for?

Performance

All of this talk is great, but what really matters is how this computer performs. We did some exports and the results were pretty impressive. DIY11’s performance blew us away! We rendered out a 40 minute 1080p AVCHD project with some minor effects in just 11 minutes! Our test 27” iMac with an i7 Processor, 16GB of RAM, and AMD graphics did it in about 40 minutes.  This machine was even used to edit and render out the video for this very DIY build! As for heat, well, this computer is one cool cucumber. We saw temperatures around 60 degrees Celsius under 100% load using CPU testing software.


Quad core XEON HP z440 Workstations
Starting at $2,999.00
Octo core XEON HP z640 Workstations
Starting at $3,750.00
Dual Hex & Octo Core XEON
HP z840 Workstations
Starting at $4,999.00

Videoguys’ DIY 11 vs HP zWorkstations

While we do offer our DIY guide and recommendations, we do not sell these systems or their components. We purchase our parts from on line stores like newegg.com or tigerdirect.com just like you.

Videoguys does have HP Z workstations available for sale. Scott, Gary and the other techs that helped build DIY11 actually work with HP, Adobe & Avid to create Videoguys Tech Select configurations which are optimized to deliver the highest possible NLE performance bang for your buck.  We can also custom configure an HP Z workstation to meet your specific needs and budget.

HP Z workstations do have some key benefits over the DIY machine. The Z is a turnkey workstation class solution, all of the parts used are of a higher level meant for constant usage and higher stress loads. Our HP Z workstations come with a 3/3/3 parts, labor, and onsite warranty. As far as hardware goes you are looking at a Xeon server-class processor vs an i7 desktop level processor in the DIY and the new DDR4 memory standard vs DDR3 in the DIY.  HP Workstations also use Quadro based graphics cards vs the gamer cards we use in our DIY builds. While the gamer cards give you more CUDA processing bang for the buck, Quadro cards deliver an added level of stability and reliability that go beyond gamer cards. They are designed, built and optimized for Content Creators.  While you can’t run a Xeon processor or DDR4 memory in our DY11 build, you can upgrade to a Quadro card if you’d like.

 

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By Gary, March 20, 2015