The best $1,000 render node for 3ds Max

OK, so it isn’t really a contest. But there is a real, practical reason
for doing it! I need a new render node!
I’m trying to find the best machine I can for $1,000. This
is actually a lot harder than it used to be ‘back in the day’, as
machine options are all over the place.
My farm is a mess. There is nothing like any other. I’m retiring the
slowest node and replacing it’s hardware-if I can do it for $1,000.
So here are the boundaries/rules for the discussion:
1. Available on the web through any number of vendors for the entire
solution. A URL is needed for each part, groups of parts, or entire
2. Low-end video out (render node).
3. Windows XP-compatible 32 bit hardware. Made for a 3ds Max 8 NR/DR
node. Multiple cores and processors are encouraged!
4. 120vac, 60Hz power.
5. NIC and a minimum HDD size. All files will be accessible via the
network where I have RAID drives serving everything up.
6. 2GB RAM.
7. Stand-alone solution. That is, not a blade requiring additional
housings, chassis, racks, etc. Other than this, form actor is not a..
well, factor!
8. Each solution should be presented in a single posting, illustrating
that all parts are compatible with each other. In other words, simply
saying that a certain chipset is best is not really useful for someone
trying to put an entire box together. What is useful is a complete list
of parts, with their URLs, so that someone like me could just go buy
the stuff.
9. To this end, if someone has posted a system that is close to what
you would have posted, simply edit their post and replace the
component(s) you want changed with the ones you suggest and update the
total, as per:
10. Include the price (in USD) of each line item, as well as the total,
in each post.
11. Multiple machines are not an option, as licensing costs go up, thus
offsetting any performance gains.
12. New is best, and preferred. If refurbished, it will need to be from
a reputable vendor with an exceptional service record offering an
equivalent warranty.
Another consideration for declaring a winner (well, the one I’ll
actually buy!) is the cost of shipping. Consider that each individual
part from separate vendors could equate to up to $100-$200 in shipping.
A $1,000 solution now becomes a $1,200 one.
Therefore, a solution involving the fewest amount of vendors (or free
shipping), or more practically the solution with the lowest overall
cost, is the one that will be used.
I anticipate more than one solution, and discussion around each. This
is because fast, older hardware may be cheaper to acquire than newer,
equivalent hardware. Be sure to back up your assertions with actual
benchmarking data whenever possible.
Prize? Hmm. Honorable mention not enough? Remember, I’m the guy paying
for the system you determine is best, so what else other than money?
Name the system after you?! :) Ideas?

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