Nice. Not heard of Houdini before.
RealFlows amazing for particle systems though, but not sure if its a standalone program.
As fo testing your comp, run some kind of benchmark.
CustomPC has a good one, which allows you to test with other PC's, and PC's of the magazine:
It uses all free software, like for instance the art package GIMP for testing of media, which opens up like 32 files, and performs effects on them, and also does some decoding.
After decoding, it also then plays the file you've decoded, while decoding another video.
Then performs the result at the end.