Building a computer for the first time... Vray, Rhino, Revit, Adobe, etc...


Hello All!

   My wife and I both just graduated from The Ohio State University with B.S. degrees in Architecture.   After recently relocating to Western Mass, my wife will be attending uMass Amherst to obtain her Masters Degree in Architecture, whereas I will be seeking full-time employment at a firm.

  Anyways, now seems like a good time for us to invest some money into a nice computer for our home studio.  I've been told that building a computer on my own will best the best "bang for my buck", so to speak.  I personally have never assembled a computer from scratch, but I do have plenty of experience dealing with complex electrical components.  I was hoping that I could get some advise from you all on the best way to get the most performance out of my build, while sticking to my budget.  Keep in mind that this computer will be primarily used for 3d modeling and rendering, and my wife and I have no interest in pc gaming.  Programs used will mostly consist of Rhino, Autocad, Revit, Vray, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

  We need to stick to a budget of $2000.  We want to have the ability to use 2 monitors, but if the second monitor doesn't fit into the budget right away, we can always add that later.

Thanks in advance for any advice!


Jul 14, 14 4:38 pm

Get an Intel processor. Go with at least an i7. 

You will need at least 16gb of RAM. The higher the clock-speed of your RAM (Mhz) the faster your processor can access information. It can be worth it to spend more on faster RAM, but getting more of it is a better value. I would go with 32 gb.

You will need a video card. Lots of dispute on this one (whether a consumer-oriented gaming card - Radeon HD or R9 or NVIDIA GT760 or better is good enough, or if you need to step up to a Fire Pro or Quadro)  Do some research. Whichever you decide (Pro, or consumer) I would recommend AMD over NVIDIA.

You should get a Solid-State Hard Drive for your primary drive. Go for at least 240gb.

You should get a secondary spinning drive. 1 Terabyte drives are pretty cheap now.

Windows, of course. 


if you stick to these parameters, your computer should run most programs fine. If you are planning on running physics simulations, doing engineering design analysis, heavy environmental analysis, or other intensive tasks, you should probably learn more about computers and really think before trying to build something that will work for these tasks.


If you want to dig a little deeper, finding a good Motherboard is worth your time. What makes a motherboard good? the latest SATA III connectors, USB 3.0, EIFS (Advanced bios features) lots of PCI expansion (you will definitely need AT LEAST 1 PCI 16x slot for your graphics card) mSATA slot for WLAN card, 6 slots for RAM (instead of the usual 4) and a whole host of other things that really impact the longevity and ability to upgrade your machine.


oh, get a good 80+ Gold rated power supply.

Jul 14, 14 5:51 pm

Thanks for the replies!  This is what I've got so far, but I think I need to trim the fat in some places.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  Keep in mind, this is my first build.

Jul 14, 14 6:42 pm

That is a lot for monitors. I just got two really nice Asus 24" monitors for $130/ each. Watch NewEgg and Amazon.


That is not the graphics card I would recommend. Sorry to be so blunt. We have one in a computer at my day-job and it sputters in comparison to an AMD HD7000 series card on Rhino visualization and modeling. I also find the included AMD software MUCH more acceptable on a workstation than the included NVIDIA software (which you WILL have to use to manage settings)


Should be able to get a Western Digital Caviar Blue or Black 1TB HDD for around $60


That Intel SSD is quite expensive (compared to other similar volumes) but is probably worth it.


Are you planning to overclock your processor? If not, you could probably step down from that one to another i7 save a few bucks.

Jul 14, 14 7:14 pm

Okay.  When selecting a graphics card, what is the significance of memory vs clock speed? Also, I'm noticing that several brands offer the AMD HD7000 series cards.  What brands are better than others, or does it even matter? 

I did find a WD Caviar Blue for $55.

As far as overclocking, I'm not really sure yet.  

Jul 14, 14 10:16 pm

Memory is the amount of dedicated RAM the card has built into it, clock speed is the speed of the processors in the card. 

For CAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, 1 GB of memory will probably be enough.

For Rhino, Revit, Premier, In Design, etc, you will want at least 2 GB. 

Clock speed is important... but most newer graphics card are fast enough. Here is a great site for researching and comparing hardware:


Different brands will start with the same AMD card - (basically just memory and stream processors) and configure the card differently with different display outputs, cooling systems, etc... My advice would be to get on Pass Mark and compare the AMD HD 7850, 7950 and 7870 that you have shown on that page. Look at what display outputs each card has - I prefer HDMI or Display Port outputs, with DVI + coming in third place. Then choose what fits your needs better. 

I have an AMD Radeon HD 7850 card in my workstation (at work) and a 7950 in my workstation at home (actually 2x HD7950 2GB cards) and both are easily fast enough to preview Rhino models with 1,000,000 + vertices or fairly complex files in Revit, and they both respond really well to Adobe programs. 


My choice (without researching on the link I included above) would be that XFX HD 7870 Ghz edition card. 2nd fastest clock speed and 2 GB memory sound good, plus it has the display outputs that I like. And it is the cheapest card there.


what programs are you specifically using?

Jul 15, 14 1:47 pm

I'm mostly using Rhino, Vray, and illustrator.  It looks like the 7870 ranks similarly to cards that cost more than double what I can buy the XFX card for.   I guess in this case, cheaper price doesn't necessarily mean inferior quality?  I will do some more research on the XFX brand name to make sure I'm not making a mistake. 

if you don't mind me asking, what is the benefit of running 2 video cards? 

Jul 15, 14 3:35 pm

i think running 2 video cards mostly benefit gaming.  hmm, i could be wrong but in my experience, NVidia Graphics card seemed to have better compatibility than AMD.  I guess it's also because I use programs that utilizes CUDA engine (3ds Max, Premiere, AfterEffects, etc).  actually, you should visit Autodesk website for compatible and certified hardware for AutoCAD, Revit, and 3Ds Max.  

I am not sold on getting a workstation graphics card.. my office workstation has AMD Firepro V7900 but it is really expensive ($700 ish).

Samsung 240GB SSDs are pretty cheap and they are really good.  I'd highly recommend 840 pro. 

Jul 15, 14 4:20 pm

there is no reason anyone would go with 2 video cards - your $$ is much better spent getting extra memory in a video card for doing CAD work. I have two for a bit of a specialized reason, i like to play around with GP-GPU computing and physics simulations, so it is a special case.


Workstation graphics cards generally have more stable drivers on older hardware. I have never had trouble with stability on my workstation here. We also have some machines with Fire Pro's and they perform mostly the same as other cards. 

Jul 15, 14 5:46 pm

Here is where I'm at...

Am I missing anything?

Jul 16, 14 9:01 pm


Any feed back on your system.

I have been struggling in attempt to run architectural software on my Macbook Pro through Parallels and despite the computer being spec'd out and supposedly powerful I have had really mediocre results with things like render times in Rhino and just general graphics performance. So I am biting the bullet and putting together a Windows comp just for these tasks. I would be very interested to know how your system is performing.

Nov 9, 14 6:45 am

Your disappointing experiences with Parallels and Boot Camp are very similar to mine.  The MacBook Pro is not a viable computer for producing architectural work.

Nov 9, 14 11:47 pm

I used to build my own computers and for my work too, but these days use for everything. They have very good specs and parts, and one can also buy a next day warranty. Also, they are quite friendly and accommodate lots of demands. At the least one should look at the specs.

Bootcamp runs JUST FINE for most architectural software, including rather heavy files on Revit. Parallels is a pile of shit. Please do not use Parallels or any other virtualization software, as it takes a toll on the system.

Nov 10, 14 12:50 am
null pointer

Make a reddit account, and go to their buildmeapc sub-reddit.

Those guys are pretty much the best at doing this, way better than asking in archinect (no offense intended to anyone, there's a lot of more hardware heads in reddit than here).

Nov 10, 14 10:24 am

one thing I would strongly advise is to not go cheap with your power supply. I had a $2500 budget for my custom build and I had to make choices about what parts to get with the budget I had. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of getting a really powerful graphics card, 32 GB of RAM, a really awesome motherboard, and an i7 processor and only to found out that if I wanted to do a really involved rendering that I would risk not having enough power in my power supply. Just make sure you don't make the same mistake I did. If you are going to go with a gaming machine, get at least a 1200W power supply. 

Nov 10, 14 12:18 pm
RM Studio


Parallels is definitely not the best way to use the Macbook Pro on a Windows environment. You are in an emulation space, and you don't use 100% of the machine. How much cache disk space you gave, how many cores, and the RAM?

Bootcamp is different, that is using 100% of the machine, as it's not emulation...

Jun 19, 15 1:29 am

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