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Prebuild Advice for Heavy Excel Calcs


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#1 voros

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 02:27 PM

My work is data analysis and with the data files I'm now seeing, it seems like it would benefit me to upgrade from the budget machine I built in 2007 (single core processor).

Excel is the tricky part in that for as much abuse as it takes in my field, no other solution combines the flexibility I need with the tools that either come with it or can be built for it. If I change my mind on how I want to attack a problem, Excel is a lifesaver compared to other methods.

But it badly bottlenecks under the current setup when I try and feed it the data sizes I want/need to feed it. I've gone to an Excel board to try and get some Excel specific advice on hardware solutions and the advice was essentially get an i7 with a SSD.

I guess my basic question is, when it comes to power needed to process lots of calculations in Excel how does that change your specs compared to power needed to run a gaming machine (which is not what I need this for)? Where does the expense need to go? The processor, RAM, the hard disk itself? And then obviously once that's answered it then becomes an issue of case, power supply and other cooling concerns. Do I need to go with Intel's speed over AMD's price point? That sort of thing: how much do I really need to make the difference I need it to. Saving minutes while working isn't the biggest deal, saving hours is. I'm assuming 64-bit OS is a given at this point.

I'd like to get in under $2,000 (not counting monitor, speakers and other things like that) but if there's a price point a little above that where suddenly things get much better, I'm willing to listen. Are the i7s strictly a gaming thing or can I really enjoy the benefits (above cheaper solutions that are still vast improvements over my current setup) in terms of raw mathematical calculations as well?

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#2 DJBPace07

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 11:09 PM

Excel will usually do well under mid-range configurations. I believe an i7 may be overkill as the difference between both Intel and AMD doing Excel really isn't that major. Here's an idea:

Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW - This isn't a gaming PC, you don't need a large full-ATX case to hold a big GPU. This should do well in this application. $50

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 AMD 890GX - The 890GX is mid-range AM3 motherboard. It comes with support for, obviously, AM3 CPUs, DDR3-1333 RAM, Crossfire, USB 3.0, and SATA 6. The GX means there is an on-board graphics card so you don't need to buy a dedicated one. Unless you are gaming or running GPU-accelerated editing programs, this is a decent motherboard. $134

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz - This is a high-end six-core CPU. This CPU will not perform anywhere near as well as Intel's i7 six-core CPU, but you will be saving $800 with AMD. In Excel, the difference between this CPU and Intel's six-core is between three and ten seconds. Excel isn't a heavily threaded application, at least the 2007 edition, so the extra cores might not always be beneficial. $199

Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W - Corsair makes some good power supplies, this is probably more than you need unless you later decide to get a dedicated GPU. $90 (Before $15 mail-in rebate)

Hard Drive: Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC128MAG-1G1 2.5" 128GB - An SSD should further help with performance. SSD's are great with random read/write operations. $264

RAM: CORSAIR XMS 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 - This is a single stick of DDR3-1333 memory. Since you are going to be manipulating lots of data, I think, you should max out the amount of RAM this motherboard will take, which is 16GB. $179 ($44 per stick, times four)

ODD: ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - A simple, basic optical drive. $18

Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM - You may be able to get away with Home Premium, but this SKU does include certain functions small businesses may use. $140

Grand Total: $1,078 (Before taxes, shipping, and rebates)

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#3 voros

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 02:21 AM

Thanks a bunch for the response, very helpful.

One funny thing about the case you suggested is that I'm staring at it as I'm typing this :) , so you can pretty much scratch that $50 off the list if I go with your build.

A couple of things:

Folks cry and moan about stock coolers constantly, should I consider adding an after-market one here, or does the stock with the AMD above do the trick?

Add about $300 to the price for Office 2010, I sort of need Access and unfortunately only the professional edition comes with it. Plus Excel 2010 apparently utilizes multiple cores and extra memory better than Excel 2007. Microsoft no longer is offering upgrade level pricing for Office. I hate spending this, but it's the most important software I'm going to install on this thing besides the OS so it's unavoidable.

I am just starting to learn about SSDs, I'm assuming the standard move is to run the OS and Applications off the SSD and then use the cheaper mechanicals for storing larger amounts of data? I won't need to buy another drive as my current one (1 TB) will do fine, but I will have to store the Excel files on there because my Excel files would chew up that 128 GB in no time. I'm not sure what that will to do to any performance gains I might see while working in Excel (obviously saving the file on the mechanical will take longer).

With 16 GB of RAM and what looks to be a pretty good CPU, am I needlessly gimping myself if I don't throw a video card in there? I'm unlikely to be gaming, but if I have everything else to run graphics intensive apps and an extra $100 is the difference, should I just spring for it anyway? Or will it bring in additional issues of heat that will cause me to have spend elsewhere as well? Honest question, I don't really know if there's a correct answer to it.

#4 DJBPace07

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 10:47 PM

I must be psychic when it comes to cases!

Stock coolers are usually fine unless you are overclocking or in a very hot environment. That Thuban CPU is known for being cool to operate. Sadly, I cannot find metrics on how the Thuban CPU's perform with Office 2010, most review sites typically review with games or encoding operations, which, you'll be happy to know, X6 CPU's do rather well with Handbrake since it favors physical cores instead of Hyperthreading. You can get larger SSD's but the price jumps quite a bit, a 160GB SSD is about $300, 240GB is about $400, 256GB is $450. The price per GB with SSD's are, obviously, quite high, which is what limits the size, mostly. As for the GPU, it is entirely a judgement call, the on-board GPU should handle standard computing tasks well enough, but if you game or encode, you may want to purchase a dedicated GPU, like the PowerColor Go! Green AX5750 1GBD5-NS3DH Radeon HD 5750 1GB, which is a low-end card that is passively cooled, or the XFX HD-685X-ZNFC Radeon HD 6850 1GB which offers better performance for the same price. That 5750 is designed for light gaming and to be used in an HTPC, so noise and cooling isn't as much of an issue, whereas the 6850 is a mid-range gaming card that performs between the Radeon 5830 and 5850.

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#5 killerx525

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 06:36 AM

Now that's really big passive cooeler i've seen on a graphics card :woot:

>Michael 
System1: CPU- Intel Core i7-5820K @ 4.4GHz, CPU Cooler- Noctua NH-D14, RAM- G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB Kit(4Gx4) DDR3 2133MHz, SSD/HDD- Samsung 850 EVO 250GB/Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB/Seagate Barracuada 3TB, GPU- 2x EVGA GTX980 Superclocked @1360/MHz1900MHz, Motherboard- Asus X99 Deluxe, Case- Custom Mac G5, PSU- EVGA P2-1000W, Soundcard- Realtek High Definition Audio, OS- Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
Games: APB: Reloaded, Hours played: 3100+  System2: Late 2011 Macbook Pro 15inch   OFw63FY.png


#6 voros

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:25 PM

Looks like I'm set, with only one small change from your suggestions:

Case: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 CAC-T05-WW. This is the change. It's a newer version of the same case, with a see-through side panel. Isn't any more expensive once shipping is factored in. Also I decided that I have all the parts to have another fully functioning machine as a backup, so I'm using the old case for that purpose.


Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 AMD 890GX. Same. Decided this graphics solution is good enough for my purposes, and if at some point it isn't, that can be dealt with. I'm assuming that I wouldn't want to mess with 700 chipsets at this point, and the 800 chipsets have a price point that narrow what I can really do.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz. Same. I was considering this one before I even asked for help, so this is good.

Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W. Same. Easiest thing to replace.

Hard Drive: Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC128MAG-1G1 2.5" 128GB. Will give this a shot, though I will be adding a second mechanical drive (1 TB) that I already have for storage.

RAM: CORSAIR XMS 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333. Same. I'm hoping that this will be the biggest factor in speeding up my Excel calcs.

ODD: ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner. I'm sure I have extra ones of these laying around so I could just use my current one, but for the price why bother chancing it.

Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM. Same. There's a combo rebate with this and the power supply as well.

Also added Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business Product Key Card. Will try and live without Microsoft Access for a while and even if I can't manage, buying Access standalone appears to be cheaper than the professional version since there's another piece of software included in that which I don't need.

The grand total with Shipping is $1,250 which is right where I wanted to spend, and less than I was willing to ultimately spend.

Hopefully there will be no issues.

Edited by voros, 17 February 2011 - 02:26 PM.


#7 DJBPace07

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 10:40 PM

Looks like you're good to go. Let us know how everything went with this setup!

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#8 voros

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 01:44 AM

I'm not sure what the correct etiquette is on this, so I'm bumping the old thread to discuss an upgrade to this machine. If I should start a new thread instead, let me know.

The machine runs fantastic, though ultimately the Excel program itself has limits that can't be exceeded even with a machine from NASA. I appreciated the help.

However it does look like I'd get some utility out of an upgraded Graphics card after all (plus I'm a little more flexible financially now). I see the suggestions here, but I wonder if at this point over a year later there might be something different I should do? On everything else this thing is an absolute monster and I feel like I'm running in quicksand on other people's machines. Why not bump the graphics up while I'm at it?

Any help?

Edited by voros, 21 May 2012 - 01:44 AM.


#9 ReviverSoft

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:06 AM

Hi,

How much are you willing to spend on the card?

You also need to keep in mind the card's power consumption, which could either have you using the same PSU or require you to upgrade to a higher wattage one, in which case you will need to factor in the cost.
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#10 voros

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:38 AM

Hi,

How much are you willing to spend on the card?

You also need to keep in mind the card's power consumption, which could either have you using the same PSU or require you to upgrade to a higher wattage one, in which case you will need to factor in the cost.

Well the money is somewhat flexible, but generally I want a substantial upgrade on what I have now. Between $100 and $200 would be fine if that got the job done.

However, I'd just as soon not buy another power supply unless I have to. If I can substantially upgrade my graphics while not having to upgrade my power supply, that would be preferable. If I can't, well then I can't.

#11 DJBPace07

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 11:37 AM

Your PSU is more than sufficient for all but the most high-end of cards. That is assuming you are using the PSU in the above build.

For your budget, I would consider the XFX Double D HD-687A-ZDFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB, even though it is a little older. If you have more cash, the XFX FX-785A-CNFC Radeon HD 7850 Core Edition 2GB is even faster.

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#12 voros

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 01:35 PM

Yeah the build above is the right specs. I'll have a look at the Graphics Cards (although I guess it's hard to call them 'cards' now) and see if I like. Thanks for your help guys, before and now.




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