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Hardcore workstation build for a first-timer?

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I'm interested in building a rip-roarin' Core i7- or Xeon-based system to be used mainly as a Web development workstation, and partly as an HD video editing rig.


I have a decently powerful Windows box (Core 2 Quad Q6600), but that's been gathering dust while my main work system has been a 13" Macbook (last generation before the 13" became a Pro). I don't think the former is going to cut it for what I want to do.


Basically, I'm just sick of waiting for my computer to catch up. I routinely need to run the following all at once:


  • one or more Windows XP or Windows 7 VMWare instances for cross-browser testing
  • a graphics editing program like Adobe Fireworks, with several large comps open
  • Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, each with dozens of open tabs
  • TextMate, with several large projects open

This is not to mention 6-7 additional minor apps. As you can guess, my Macbook very often slows to a complete crawl while I wait for the apps to catch up. This is even with 4GB RAM and an OC Z Summit SSD.


I'm willing to spend a lot of money to build a desktop that can run anything I throw at it with blazing speed. My initial ideas are an i7-980x CPU (or an i7-970, if it's out fairly soon), or dual Xeon E5520 processors. I'd like to run 24 GB of memory as fast as possible (ideally triple-channel, or whatever is best right now). I want to be able to open a few VMWare instances at once, alongside everything else, with no problem. I also need to run at least 2, but preferably 3-4 1920x1200 or 1920x1080 monitors.


One big question - is registered/buffered/ECC, etc. server memory really necessary? I've read arguments that it is when you're dealing with so much memory, and arguments that it isn't. I can handle the occasional system crash, but I don't want to happen every day - or even every week, ideally. Once or twice a month, I could handle.


I don't want to go completely crazy with the price (i.e., I'll spend a lot but want to keep diminishing returns in mind). I'd feel comfortable spending up to about $3000 for the case and its guts; beyond that, the specs would really have to justify it.


I'd be a first-timer to the OSx86 approach, and I unfortunately don't have a lot of time to tinker, and would need a pretty stable/reliable system. I'd ideally like to follow a tried-and-true build guide if one exists for a similar system.


What components and approach would you recommend? Can anyone point me to a solid build guide for a similar system? Thanks very much for any help!

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Just curious, what mobo is your Q6600 running on? I'm not suggesting don't build an i7, just you might be able to hack your existing system too if the board and graphics card are compatible. I've done most of what you list just fine with a Q6600 based Hackintosh -including a ton of video editing, mulitple apps, Virtual machines running, etc. before upgrading it.


Anyway, for 3 grand you can build a monster Hackintosh easily.

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