What is the best UE4 PC setup? (Mainly CPU) And why?
I'm planning on building a new PC later this year, and I'm trying to gather info about which components will help me get the most out of UE4, but I've been looking for hours now and I'm no step closer to the final decision.
Could you guys please help me out with giving me some advice on what you think would be the best components to buy for a new game developement machine, and WHY you think that those components are the best option?
I have a flexible €2500 budget.
Ofcourse some parts are easier to decide on: -32 DDR4 RAM -1 or 2 TB SSD
So I mostly need advice on the GPU and CPU, but ofcourse advice on other parts is also more than welcome!! I'm open to all brands.
Thanks in advance!
asked Jun 28 '18 at 10:31 AM in Everything Else
I'm not going to list parts - part lists are stupid and fall out of date near overnight - I can however teach you how to decide for yourself
This post was written in mid-2018, if you are reading this in 2025 it is most likely wrong - and I approve of your holographic quantum computers.
I certainly wouldn't say there is a inherent "best" setup, but I can provide some general knowledge. I've used Unreal on several (very different) systems so far, ranging from laptops though to workstations - the following is my working opinion, and like many things may be biased. Also, this is going to be a long post, I spent several years working as a Hardware specialist before becoming an industry graphics programmer.
TL;DR I know most people can't be bothered to read things, so here's the short bullet-list (before commenting ur wrong read the appropriate section below
I highly recommend Nvida graphics cards, anything above a GTX750 seems to work flawlessly with both rendering and PhysX. Don't get tempted by workstation cards like Tesla etc, they actually tend to have worse performance for typical rendering processes (though are far superior for physics, vector processing and ray-tracing, so if you are looking for visualization they may be helpful). I have personally had all kinds of problems with ATI graphics cards in the 15-years I've been doing graphics programming. They are good for low-budget machines - and many users will gleefully state their virtues. But honestly even hardcore supporters generally agree the Catalyst drivers suck. When it comes to buying a GPU always check the benchmarks, and keep in mind there are huge differences between a GT750, GTX750, and GTX750Ti. In short a single letter can make a massive performance difference. I'm not going to suggest a specific card as prices are subject to fluctuate massively. I will say, you definitely do not need the latest graphics card. The performance gain between the previous-model and the latest is often as low as 5%, and the price difference is often 50%->150% more.
I'm going to refer to this concept as "price per Flop" (floating point operation) - You want to find the balance between good performance and low price. As an example, when the GTX-Titan came out the price of the GTX950 dropped so far that you would be spending near $500 more for only 8% more performance - Fine for an enthusiast who wants "the best", but certainly not suitable for a business purchase.
That said, this doesn't always hold true the Nvidia 10 series is about 30% better than the equivalent 9 series. and a GTX 980 is better than a GTX 1060... But the 1060 has better performance per dollar. In short, Think before you buy.
As I said above, check card benchmarks, sites like GPU benchmark are often helpful for this - make a decision for yourself on the day of purchase given the best prices you can find - and most importantly never believe anyone who says this is the best part right now. For all I know in three days time ATI might bring out some optical-quantum masterpiece and everything else will be appalling in comparison.
on a final note about GPUs, people often seem to think that "ATI only works well with AMD processors" or "you can't mix ATI and NVidia in the same machine" ~ these statements are false, a PCI-E port and graphics driver are universal and modular (and have been since 1980). In rare cases with legacy hardware this was true, certainly not in the last five years (assuming you buy quality parts). In some instances (such as ASUS and MSI branded parts) certain manufacturers make special optimizations for same-branded hardware, because of this I highly recommend buying motherboard and graphics card from the same manufacturer - but it's often only a couple of percent better, if at all.
I am a great fan of AMD processors, they are often not as good as Intel in overall processing power, but cost much less. Also the new Ryzen Gen-2 are actually out-preforming Intel in certain areas. AMD processors tend to be superior for multi-core and vector data processing (such as for example, compiling shaders in the Unreal Editor, while playing the game, as visual studio compiles something in the background). And as I said above, they tend to be a lot cheaper than the Intel offerings of equivalent processing power. For example around six months ago a previous generation AMD processor (am4) with equal power to an I7 from the previous generation cost half the price. As I've said before, such statements will often change - so check the benchmarks before you buy. Intel processors tend to be slightly better out of the box than AMD - this has held true since the Core-2-duo of nearly ten years ago, but you pay for that improvement.
Calling a Solid State Drive a Hard-Drive is an accurate statement in modern culture, so I will use that term interchangeably. Magnetic Storage (the classic Hard Drive) tends to have far superior capacity, and Solid State tends to have vastly superior speeds. However anyone that buys a SATA SSD is, in my opinion making a terrible mistake. Almost all modern motherboards have an M.2 adapter, and every motherboard has a PCI-E slot. M.2 SSD units are cheaper, faster, and all-around better than their SATA counterparts. However often there are problems booting from these devices. Which is fine, because you do not want to install windows on an SDD ~ SSD drives lose storage-cells over time, and having windows crunch though millions of system files at every boot makes this issue worse. A modern PC can boot from cold using a Magnetic-HDD in 2 minutes, if you are an enthusiast that wants to show off your 10-second boot times, by all means install windows on a SSD. But for day-to-day use in a work environment you want a reliable system - and a cup of coffee before you start work. I recommend buying a M.2 SSD with at least 256GB of storage (which you will use for Unreal and your projects only), and two Western Digital Gold or Black Magnetic storage HDDs (if possible in a RAID array to prevent data-loss) for backups and your Operating System. Why WD Gold? Because I have never had a WD Black fail in the last 15 years - Yes the one I dropped out of a window was broken, but I still have a working WD hard drive made in 1998 (a premium 500MB drive as well!) Yes, there are other Hard drive makers, yes they are as reliable - but I can only speak from my experience. I currently use two WD Gold in a RAID configuration as stated above - I have near SSD transfer-speeds and the safety of knowing if one does release "the magic smoke", my data is safe.
It doesn't matter - seriously, it really doesn't matter. Screw everything to a piece of plywood if you want, It will work fine. Sure, if you plan on overclocking and water-cooling you might want some fancy-thing, but when the radiator pump fails and the processor starts burning up (that happened to a friend of mine only last month) you will cry. Sure, play games on your amazing workstation, but if it's for Unreal-Dev it's a workstation first - meaning you want reliable, don't overclock, don't water-cool. And don't bother investing in a better heat-sink unless you live somewhere hot or humid (like summer Virginia) - In which case you want to put the machine in a box with extra cooling and a dehumidifier anyway).
Anything about 750W will do for almost everyone (unless you have 4GPUS or something) - get a Modular one if at all possible. Always check it has the correct adapters for the motherboard (ATX, PCI-E, EATX, etc). I use a Corsair - buy a good brand with a warranty. But it doesn't really matter, A phone charger is a phone charger - a PSU is a PSU
DDR3 2100 or above, at least 8GB That's it - you are not trying to break benchmarks, you are making a workstation - everything else (CAS etc) is not relevant if you buy a good brand (Kingston, etc). Make sure it has a heat-spreader attached as standard, that helps keep the lifetime long. Modern Computer Memory is a masterpiece of reliable volatile storage - engineering genius beyond the scope of most human beings, and it works. It stores data, it retrieves data. Much of the memory overhead of unreal is just moving data between the HDD and the GPU anyway, which brings us to...
This is what really matters, buy a bad motherboard and it doesn't matter what you put inside it, it will suck. more often than not people post on hardware forums with things like "I upgraded to a GTX titan but my graphics still suck", they are using a stock Dell motherboard with a PCI-E X4 port, that's called a bottleneck, and you do not want a bottleneck
Finding a good motherboard is pretty simple: Does it have the socket for the CPU you want? (eg: AM4, LGA 1151, etc). Does it have an M.2 Port for your SSD? Does it have SLI/Crossfire support (get this, even if you don't need it today, it's always cheaper to buy a second GPU from last year than a new one. Does it have a PCI-E x16 slot? Does the PCI-E port drop to X4 if you use two GPUS? this is a killer on many cheap motherboards, avoid it Does it support the memory you want? (if the motherboard says DDR3 1800, it's not going to run DDR3 2100 at full speed, same applies to DDR4 or anything else. What Chipset does it use? research this often low-end boards have crappy chipsets that bottleneck everything.
Many modern CPU's (such as the AMD-FX, I5, etc) have graphics devices inside the processor - In most cases you don't want this, you lose CPU power for the price. Many motherboards have an onboard GPU of some kind - it doesn't actually matter. I have integrated AMD graphics along side three NVidia GPUs from two different generations - I use the onboard graphics to give myself two more monitors (for a total of six - I am hardcore yes). Don't rely on the integrated graphics - often they suck, but don't be worried about them either (this isn't 2010, when it was a problem)
And most vital: Does it have a good onboard sound and networking device? Sound cards are for weird people that think platinum-plated analog cables are better, they are called "audiophiles", if you are one - buy something great for yourself! If not, make sure the onboard sound is good quality, 7.1 Dolby is pretty standard these days. do not get integrated WiFi if you do not know what a Cat5 cable is, you like using WiFi - that's fine, but having microwave transmitters inside your metal-computer case almost always causes odd static in the sound and other strange and weird issues. Yes the magical RF-voodoo should prevent these issues, but the reality is - it doesn't. I speak from many years of disabling such devices on DJ-equipment to the joy of the musician when the "crackle" goes away. Ensure the integrated Ethernet controller supports "gigabit LAN", you most likely will never plug in a gigabit capable Cat5-E cable, and your router most likely doesn't support gigabit (especially if you live in the USA). However if you need it, you have it, and it's normally free and the sign of a good motherboard.
I can recommend the MSI gaming series, MSI normally use Military grade parts, have fantastic BIOS support, great utilities, and rarely explode.
where do I buy this stuff?
If you are in the USA, I recommend Newegg, I've bought from them before and they are cheap. If you are in the UK (or certain parts of Europe), Scan and Overclockers are great - Scan even has a (very low cost) insurance that allows you to have parts replaced even if you broke them yourself during install - something I learned to regret not using on one occasion.
Do not buy from Amazon or Ebay, yes above 90% of sellers are legit and the parts work great, but sometimes you will get parts that are either dead on arrival, or strait-up scam - not to mention often poor packaging or delivery services break it and they refuse a refund. (especially in the USA). Yes you can claim your money back or something - but that's two weeks where you have a computer missing a essential part sat next to you, and tears streaming from your eyes. Or worse you simply don't know whats wrong because you can't boot the machine.
Windows 10 is today's king, buy a legit copy, give Microsoft your money - it's worth it, they did a good job.
The competition? MacOSX is designed for average users (and really sucks to develop C++ on, XCode sucks, etc) and doesn't even work on modern hardware. Linux is broken unless you have a PhD in Bash and think Emacs wasn't outdated in 1995 (even then expect 200 missing dependencies and six hours in a terminal before your GPU works as expected) please don't get upset Linux users, I was like you for ten years; I started in the Angry Hamster Kernel for Slackware. if you enjoy hammering Bash shells and dealing with the suck of GDB, enjoy it, but even Ubuntu does not work for normal human beings - and they will get confused, upset and angry.
You may find that your brand-new motherboard and brand new CPU/GPU doesn't turn on - for example with Ryzen Gen2. Often a motherboard is shipped with a BIOS that is a year or more behind the times, and new CPU support is often added with an update called a flash - this often involves needing a older-generation CPU. almost all good part retailers will gladly provide this service to you for a nominal fee if you encounter this issue or you can buy very low end CPU
My current workstation cost me $1300 including Graphics cards, CPU, Memory, Hard drives, and everything else - it falls short for unreal due to having a pretty pathetic CPU that makes shaders take a little longer to compile, but it's overall the waifu/dream of most gamers that drop $5000 or more on alienware-rubbish.
$2000 should get you something amazing if you spend your money well and aren't afraid to put your computer together. If you have zero hardware experience, it's easy as long as you know what a screwdriver is and read the manual; you-tube teaches you everything. Or find a local computer-repair-techy-guy (that doesn't work for apple, that's a different ecosystem)and pay them $100 to assemble it for you.
as I sated at the beginning, this is my opinion based on several years of experience with hardware and software development - I am not a fanboy that will punch someone for not using the Divine hardware of company X, I do not care what you buy as long as it works for you; and most importantly I am often wrong like every human being
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