Before rabbiting on about swinging dick components and suchlike, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the philosophy and thinking behind selecting them, as not everyone is the same.
Six months ago it quite happily played Skyrim at 1920 x 1080 on the 46″ screen with everything turned on.
Before that I can’t remember for sure.
Before that a 300 MHz slot 1 Pentium
So you can see I have a refresh cycle that isn’t that frequent, so each upgrade is a real one, rather than incremental.
I have always allocated the budget as being 25-30% on the mainboard, 25-30% on the CPU, and the remainder on the remainder.
I have always stayed a step or two away from the best possible available at any price components.
I have always favoured Intel CPU’s, and have always tried to buy on the tock cycle (Intel does tick tock where tick is a new architecture and tock is the revision of that) unless I was going to build at the end of a tock cycle.
I have always been *extremely* fussy about mainboards, quality and exceeding all the specs being everything, whizz bang go faster stripes and shit being nothing.
I never overclock.
I never use stock heatsinks.
I always use sealed steel cases of decent quality, nothing with windows or tons of grilles to let dust in and noise out.
I always build tidy and pay great attention to thermal rejection and internal airflow etc.
So, start as always with the motherboard, it’s got to be an intel, so really a choice between two sockets, and for me socket 2011 is a complete no brainer, it is more future proof than 1155.
A-bit are no longer with us, and it is a main PC and not a server, (if it was a server it would be Supermicro or Intel) so pretty much to my mind that means Asus.
Asus do quite a range of X79 socket 2011, and as usual I avoid all the “gaming” models and the base model, which leaves you a choice between two versions of the PX79PRO, the standard version or for 40% more the so called workstation version, and frankly I can’t see the justification for the extra bucks.
Mobo sorted, let’s move on to CPU.
Socket 2011 I can choose between Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, or Xeon, only *significant* differences between the i7 range and the xeon range is xeon’s are multi cpu capable, and have potentially more cores… up to 12 at present, double the i7 which comes in 4 or 6 core flavours at present.
Multi CPU capable is pretty pointless, but I can at some point in the future when prices have dropped put a “twice as powerful” CPU in.
So “tock” is Ivy Bridge, and the 4 core 4820k Extreme it is, why not six cores, because I am not going to install triple GFX cards, and that is the only justification for the extra cores at present… desktop software *still* isn’t multi-core optimised beyond 2 cores per process… and anyway the 4 core 4820k appears as 8 cores to the OS etc.
HSF, Noctua D14, because as HD used to say back in the seventies, anything else is less…
RAM, well thanks to going for a X79/2011 mobo we have quad channels, so let’s feed that bitch, 8 sticks of 4 gig DDR3 with a base spec of 1866, which is the fastest *standard* timing the mobo supports, and since anything more than 4 gig is invisible to a 32 bit OS it has to be a 64 bit OS.
Mass storage, always the bottleneck, SATA3 maxes out at 6gbit, and a *good* SSD can fill that, but any system is slowed down by having a slow hard disk fitted internlly anywhere, so dual 256 GB OCZ Vectors, mass storage is on the NAS box on the gigabit LAN, so I have 8 TB of storage 40 feet away on a gigabit connection, 1000 mbit / 8 = 125 mbytes / sec, but being realistic spinning mechanical disk doesn’t average much more than 60/70 mbytes sec overall, so sticking it on the end of gig-e doesn’t slow it down any, and not sticking it on the mobo direct attached doesn’t slow down the SSD’s.
PSU is modular by choice, much tidier, better airflow, and buy em by weight not output, so a 600W Corsair CXM will do the job… yes it is enough, GFX and CPU between em use a max of 350 watts, and switch mode PSU’s work better at a decent loading, same as a diesel.
Which only leaves GFX, and I was simply going to swap the very capable Radeon 6850 (itself an upgrade from an earlier Radeon 3850) from the old main PC to the new one, then I thought, meh, fuck it, ships, spoiled, ha’p’orth or tar, and grabbed a Radeon 7870, but made of point of buying an Asus to match the mobo and a Direct Cu model to cut fan noise and improve cooling etc.
The case itself is a bog standard Cooler Master Silencio 450 midi tower job.
Hopefully, you can see the workings here, and the philosophy applied to this build was exactly the same as all the others, choose the mobo first, and carefully, it is the backbone of the system that you are going to be using in my case for the next 5 years or so, and everything else more or less chooses itself by compatibility with the mobo, and with my general ethos and rules of thumb.
Part 2 I’ll deal with the build, OS selection (7 or 8.1) and real world use and speeds…
In my experience one of the better speed tests is to grab an archive of around 5 gig of multiple complex files, I usually use something like a rar copy of backup of the internal storage on my mobile, and pack and unpack it on various drives at various compression level settings from “store” to “max”…
On the current Core 2 Duo Q6600, even on the internal SSD, because it is an early sata interface on the old X38 mobo, this is *usually* a disk bound operation, depending on rar settings.
More CPU intensive stuff is more complex, because you have to differentiate between the CPU bogging down, and the CPU being starved by the RAM.
I should also state at this point that one of my policies (hence the never over-clocking, always using quality components, always building tidy and watching cooling) is that the fastest PC is one that never ever ever crashes.
I don’t care how fast your immersed in liquid helium cooled overclocked to a motherfucker PC is, if, for example, it doesn’t stay up and stable long enough to finish that level in the game or convert that video or compress that archive, then it is useless to me…. my Core 2 Duo is faster…
In terms of money here we are talking £1,200 UK Pounds Sterling for the bits, which is not beer money, but if you build properly and each build gets 5 years use like mine do, then per year or per day it really isn’t very much at all.
The build I am doing is a loooooooooong way from the ultimate that could be built, I did one of these for a customer about 6 months back, a single full tower case containing a single PC running win7 pro, and the parts list came to a shade over £20k…… £3k worth of GFX cards, £14k 3.4 Tb PCI-E SSD 2.8 gb/sec read write, £2k CPU, the fucking thing was and is unbelievably fast, but the guy is editing “4k” video, so it has apparently already paid for itself.
But, the build I am doing is about as far as you can go and still be “sensibly” spending money, go any further and you find yourself in the land of diminishing returns per buck spent….
Cut back on the budget 20% and you’d lose more than 20% of the performance.
so, watch out for part deux.