July 18, 2011
I've had more or less the same PC, with various updates, since 2007. I've written about most of it here:
While the advice in those original articles is still quite sound, my old 2007 era case was feeling mighty creaky. I needed a new chassis. I also wanted a motherboard that supported native 6 Gbps SATA for the latest generation of SSDs that truly benefit from them. The buzz around the Sandy Bridge based Core i7-2600k was nearly deafening, and I've fallen completely in love with my last HTPC build based on the same technology. (Oh, and even if you already read that article, read it again because I added new PicoPSU and case information that takes it from awesome to sublime – on the order of 17 watts idle!)
So I decided it was time to build myself a nice Sandy Bridge system. What I ended up with is easily the best case and motherboard combination I've ever laid hands on. Read on!
I cut out a lot of the initial research work by relying on my old, dear friends at Tech Report and their current workstation recommendations:
As for the case, I was impressed by the Tech Report review of the Corsair 600T, which even comes in a heart-stopping pseudo stormtrooper white. WANT.
When it comes to power supplies, I'm crazy about efficiency, and fortunately there are now lots of so-called "80 Plus Gold" PSUs out there now, offering a staggering 90% efficiency under most loads. Power supply efficiency is important, because the rest of that heat is dumped back into your case. The less efficient your PSU, the more heat buildup you'll have under load. I chose the Seasonic X-760 – which, when bench tested, indeed delivered the promised 90% efficiency – but any high quality 80 Plus Gold model will generally do.
The CPU (and possibly, depending on your tastes, the video card) is the biggest heat generator inside your PC. The better and more efficient the CPU cooler, the quieter your whole system can be. This also affects how much you can overclock. I chose the Thermalright Venomous-X Silent Edition on the basis of it being the current top dog for efficiency, and because it had a simple mounting system. Large coolers can be a real bear to install. And did I mention it comes with an especially quiet fan out of the box, too?
Once I had all the parts in hand, it was a simple matter of building it up, as documented in my previous post series. I adore this Corsair case; it is an absolute joy to work in. Everything in it is cleverly designed, from the rear cable routing area with rubber grommets all over the place for easily passing cables back and forth, to the tool-less 2.5" and 3.5" bays, to the super easily removable side panels. It's like they read a giant list of all my prior complaints with every PC case I've ever used and fixed every. single. last. one of them.
The end result is what you see here:
There are some significant tweaks visible in the above picture that I do recommend:
- Use tin snips to remove the rear exhaust grill. We don't need it back there, and the exhaust airflow is critical. Fan grills affect low-speed fan airflow more than you'd think:
Wire grills also have an effect: ~20%. This was checked with an anemometer on several different fans of 80, 92 and 120mm size, at full and lower speeds. The airflow reduction went as high as 24% but it was never below 19%. At 12V, the reduction in airflow with most fans will be relatively harmless, though there is an increase in turbulence noise (audible to me). But at the low airflow rates SPCR members run fans, I think the airflow reduction is significant.
- Install a 140mm rear exhaust fan. The Noctua NF-P14 is expensive at $25 but is cleverly designed to give you 140mm of super-quiet fan in the space a 120mm fan would normally take. It just barely fits in the rear exhaust fan slot with a little nudging. But it does fit; it's the beige fan in the above picture. It also comes with its own speed reducers and accessories.
- Use fan speed reducers on all the fans. The case has two 200mm fans, and the 140mm fan we're adding. I couldn't get the Asus motherboard's "QFan" fan control system to work, as it seems to require 4-pin fans, and all the ones I had (including the ones that came with the case) are 3-pin. While I do prefer dynamic, temperature based control when I can get it, the next best thing is to use hardware to slow down the fans. I like the Zalman-ZM-RC56 resistor connector as the simplest solution, but it's getting hard to find for some reason. The Zalman Fan Mate 2 will also work, and allows you to individually adjust the speed of each fan. The case also has a built in fan controller – that's the knob you see on the front top – but I found it too limited in range for my purposes.
- Add acoustic foam to taste. Between inexpensive eggcrate foam and thin, adhesive backed open-cell foam, you can easily reduce that last 10-20% of fan noise to a very pleasant white noise. It works well in the areas pictured, and also on the interior of the side panel "facing" the fans. See item 6 in my Building a Quiet PC post for details.
And then, of course, the overclockening. What kind of geek would I be if I didn't attempt to turn this baby up to 11? This is another area where Sandy Bridge is a revelation: so long as you buy one of the blessed "K" series processors, overclocking is as simple as setting the multiplier to the desired value. It is ridiculously simple. And my results, for once, were immediately as good as the ones everyone else was crowing about: 4.4 GHz totally stable!
(beware: there is one nasty little issue with the Asus motherboard's auto-overclock feature. The PLL Overvoltage setting, which auto-overclock "helpfully" enables, completely bollixes up resuming from sleep. Just turn it off, and all is well. I don't even want to tell you how long it took me to figure that one out.)
The total package with a nice SSD delivers a near-perfect Windows Experience score:
I won't lie to you. This is not a compact build. It's big! Those roomy side areas come at a cost, and that makes it a very wide case. But that's to be expected for a desktop powerhouse machine. And since my last case lasted me from 2007-2011, I'll happily accept a little bulk for something that's easy to work on and upgrade over time.
It's a fantastic new reboot of my system, and I didn't expect to be this excited about the final result. This is not merely an incremental improvement over what I had, it's much quieter, easier to work on, and when overclocked to 4.4 GHz, noticeably faster too. (I do slightly mourn the loss of 8 GB of RAM, but I'll survive.)
In this build, I already had hard drives, DVD drive, a sound card, and so forth … but for completeness' sake I'll list everything here if you want to mirror this setup. Realize that some of this comes down to personal taste, so I'm just listing what I recommend. Feel free to change anything out, and bear in mind that Sandy Bridge has decent default onboard video as well.
Remember, if you can put together a LEGO kit, you can build this totally sweet PC for yourself, too. Good luck and happy building!
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Very nice.There is a lot going on in that box but it doesn't look cluttered.I've promised myself to build a system from scratch when Windows 8 comes out.
Important note for those planning to go the integrated graphics route: the P67 motherboards do NOT have the output headers needed to actually use that GPU that's sharing die space with the Sandy Bridge cores. If you want to use integrated graphics with a K series CPU, you need a Z68-based board. The one Jeff lists above will work, as will any other with the Z68 chipset.
Also note that with the Sandy Bridge graphics, you'll be limited to two displays. Even if you never do anything more taxing on the GPU than watch a 1080p video, you'll probably still want to upgrade to a Radeon 6000-series card for the triple-head output capability. Jeff's already talked at some length about why this is desirable for a professional programmer.
I recently built myself a similar system (i5 2500K, Asus P8P67 Deluxe), and you should be stable at 4.5GHz at that that voltage - I am. I mean sure, there's differences between every CPU but that's an extra 100MHz for each core you could be using ;)
I'm very curious about your SSD setup with this exact motherboard (since I have it as well with the same CPU). Have you been affected by the Vertex 3 BSODs with this setup (c.f. the OCZ forums)? Did you use the white tipped 6G SATA cable that came with the P8Z68-V Pro? Are you using Intel's RST driver? Did you have to apply the registry hacks to prevent stuttering/freezes? What Vertex 3 firmware are you on? 2.09?
Thats' a nice rig, think I might have that as a base for the system I'd like to build.
One question would be if there would be enough room for a hardware RAID5 setup, and if the cooling setup could handle the extra drives?
Interesting; I was seeing a bit of that -- but also with a clean build and a traditional 2.5" HDD -- and it seems this might be the resolution:
> Guys, the hot-swapping label is misleading. Set to disabled puts the Intel controller into a type of safe mode. This was done for compatibility issues with some drives, mostly older ones. At initial setup this setting should be set to enabled for all ports. Only if you have a drive that doesn't work properly should that individual port be changed to disabled. I had asked that enabled be made the default setting before the Vertex3 was ever released. It appears that some of BIOS' are no being released set like this with the remainder to follow.
So you probably want to go through and make sure all the SATA ports are set to hot-swap enabled per that advice from the OCZ rep.
I had the stuttering issue (i.e. everything freezes for ~90 seconds) that went away with the Intel RST registry tweak and setting the SATA ports all to hot-swap enabled. However, I still had a KERNEL_INPAGE_ERROR type of BSOD (apparently some I/O error with the paging subsystem) when I was doing some heavy SQL Server work. The scary part is that on reboot the drive is unrecognized and doesn't become visible to BIOS until a power down and cold reboot. I went BSOD free for 3 days and then got another one. At that point, I updated the firmware from 2.08 to 2.09 and haven't had a BSOD since (but it's only been a few days, so I don't know if it's really fixed). It seems like the 2.09 firmware is a bit of a hack (perhaps just throttling the SATA6 connection) which is why they don't recommend you update unless you're having problems.
FWIW: I have a Vertex 3 240G Max IOPs drive which is slightly different than the regular V3 (reportedly better quality 34nm NAND vs 25nm).
I just wanted to ask about your situation because OCZ claims that it's only happening to ~1% of users but it seems like quite a bit more are affected. Furthermore, OCZ support staff in the forums want to fault Asus's cable as being inferior for reliable 6Gbps traffic (which seems odd). I'm curious if OCZ is seeing these problems earlier because they were the first out with a Sandforce 2xxx drive, or if it's something unique to their firmware or board design.
I'm hoping you go BSOD free and don't run into it, but just wanted you to be aware in case you see it too. Thankfully, SSMS autosaves your SQL work in progress, so I didn't lose much of my DB update I was working on at the time.
I had the same issues on my Agility 3, fixed it by updating to 2.09.
Preface: I've been advising, building, testing and fixing builds for a long time. Just a hobby, but I've learnt a lot along the way. I can even fix certain motherboard hw defects.
A few things (it started with two):
- Fractal Design Define R3 would've given you a great case with sound dampening built in.
- Sound dampening does raise the overall temperature, so be ware of that.
- Your cooler is facing the wrong way. Maybe this one is different, but typically they suck air in, so you want the fan on the right or bottom to grab cooler air and push it towards the rear or top exhausts. Currently physics says you are hampering airflow by having the fan blow into the case against the cool draft coming from the intakes. As far as I am aware, you cannot flip that fan to move the air the opposite direction.
- You always want positive or negative airflow. Positive means more intakes meaning hot air will be forced out of the case. Often times people find it leads to less/more focused dust. Negative is more exhausts. Most people do this by default. Moving the hot air out causes air to be sucked in regardless of intake. Creating a perfect equilibrium between the two often creates stagnant air, depsite wht you would expect.
Cool. I used your 2007 post as the basis of my previous machine (since had upgraded video card and purchased a Vertex2 SSD).
About 4 weeks ago I completed my latest build with similar specs to what you've done here, except I bought a Vertex3 120GB and WD Black 2TB and kept my old Vertex2. Also I used the GA-Z68 UD4-b3 board and kept my old P182 case because it's so friggin awesome still. really happy with the performance so far.
Does the lack of VT-d support noticeably hurt the i7-2600K's virtualisation performance relative to that of the i7-2600, or are casual users (who happen to run VMs) unlikely to notice?
I choose the nonK 2600 for that exact reason, but I have no benchmarks. Plus I had no desire to overclock, and this was a micro ATX system I was building. I also choose an H67 board, figuring that the integrated graphics would come in handy when I put this machine in for server duties.
Did you look at the NH-D14 cpu cooler? it reigns supreme. I'm at 4.5ghz @70*c (2500k). Corsair also makes fancy water coolers. The latest are h80 and h100 (1/2 rads respectively).
You could also put your 2 HD's in the same cage and remove 1 from the case entirely. It will help air intake. And you could probably even move the HD cage to the bottom of the case for even more airflow. I know the Corsair 650D (my case) supports this.
Also, I hope you tweak your cabling a bit ;)
See pics in this thread:
I'm currently looking for a replacement for my trusty 2007-issue MacPro. Your new rig has me considering getting a Wintel machine for the first time in just over a decade :-)
If it could run OS X *and* Windows 7 like my 'Pro I'd do it now, but I'm not sure that it will :-(
So you bought a motherboard that supports SSD caching, and still spent $500 on a 240GB SSD? That's interesting to say the least :) What's your rationale behind this?
My current machine's lasted me since 2005 or 2006, so I haven't really kept up-to-date on most of the newer hardware, but I've recently begun feeling The Call, so this post is perfectly timed. :)
One thing I thought I did hear despite being out of the loop was that triple-channel RAM was the new hotness. Is it not worth getting a mobo that supports it?
Congrats on your new PC. This should be enough hardware to run the latest Microsoft software for a while.
I can't seem to find the articles right now (either form tom's hardware or anandtech) but benchmarks for z68 ssd caching are not very promising. You really only benefit from reads (writes happen at hdd speed) and even then not as often as you would hope. It's still much more worth it, especially to a poweruser to just get a big sdd.
Not all mobo's/cpu's support triple channel. I think, but I could be wrong, x58 based (lga 1366) mobos are the only ones. Triple channel memory was targeted towards xeons and high end i7's. I don't even think any sandy bridge processors support it.
I'm fine building Legos, but Lego provides very nice picture book instructions.
BTW, can you adjust TypePad to let me use my Facebook or Twitter credentials without asking me to give it permission to rape me when it really doesn't need anything other than my identity?
Only the mid and low end Sandy Bridge CPUs are out. The triple (even quad) channel Sandy Bridges should be coming early next year, with socket 2011. And from what I read some time ago, 3 channels was not substantially better than 2, unlike 2 vs 1.
Timely article, I just ordered a similar set of parts to upgrade my system. I went more in line with a build from Tom's Hardware: i7-2600k, ASRock Z68 Extreme4. I've got a couple of Intel X-25M G2s that I bought last year that seem to still be going strong, so I'm going to keep them for now instead of upgrading to something faster. I already have a nice Cooler Master case with plenty of fans but I'm going to steal some of your fan ideas and the tip about foam for sure. (why didn't I think of that?)
Great post as usual, but I gotta say, that is one ugly case.
Some power measurements, when overclocked:
Idle at Windows desktop: 128w
Prime95 full load: 255w
video stress: 210w
Prime95 + video: 332w
I'm going to get myself my supreme custom build in a year or two (got a budget build for now). My most important parts are the cpu, a good cpu cooler, and lots of ram.
Also, don't get on-board video if you game or watch HD video. It's well worth the cost to get a low end dedicated gpu if you even do those things.
That's a nice machine you have there Jeff, it looks beastly. I'd have to say if anything, I look forward to the 8 - 16 gigs (got 4 now) in my future machine. Ram gets sucked up so fast it's not funny.
Looks cute. One question -- will this run Skyrim at 2560x1600 with decent FPS?
I thought I'd already posted a comment, but apparently my connection fooled me yet again! I was wondering if maybe you could post a table-like comparison like you did on a previous post with this OMG setup plus a slightly less powerfull and an even more basic one... why? Because I'm on the market for a nice piece of machinery but I'm only planning to put forward about 1K, and I bet there are more people like me around! :D
Congrats on the post too!
Corsair 850w 80 Plus Gold PSU
Prime95 + video: 332w
You'd get ~1% more efficient under full load if you'd go with a ~650Watt PSU. ;)
And since you're PC is hardly ever under full load you'd benefit even more from a smaller PSU since you're idle draw is about 15% of the available power. I'd say your PSU is overpowered but maybe you wanna go crossover? ;)
Also, why do you still have a optical drive? Real nerds install Windows from USB! ;)
What's that thing on the right on the last picture? Some kind of Mini Mamecab? (rotated screen?)
Man, I wish I had $2K to throw at a new computer. (And that's without discrete video, and not counting monitor!)
@Jean-Luc Spielmann: How do you watch DVDs? :-)
I really like your series of blog posts about computer assembling, but you should really make a server assembly guide Jeff. It is very hard to find quick and easy information about that.
Especially I would like to see a guide about building a 2 CPU desktop machine because a friend of mine does some 3ds Max. The rendering times are crazy and very CPU-dependent.
How do you decide what data goes on the SSD and what goes on the traditional drive?
In my case the Noctua NF-P14 doesn't even barely fit. When I put the covers on the case they squish the fan and it starts making horrible noises.
Anyone else had the same problem? I'm guessing that either filing down the relevant bits of the case or the outside of the fan casing will fix it.
Needs moar blue leds, fans, plexiglass windows and plastic.
what..still no 3d? oh c'mon!
I'm confused; did you use the Seasonic X-760 or the Corsair 850w 80 Plus Gold PSU?
Must be PC building season. I decided it was time, too, to make the upgrade. My system (in progress) described at http://dubbadubdub.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-egg-pc.html
The Sandy Bridge architecture should last for a few years, and I'm looking forward to the Socket 1155 sticking around, also.
Looks like a great machine to play Company of Heroes on :)
There's one thing to be said about the Corsair 600T case in general: lose the 200mm fans! I found them to be quite wobbly low-quality units, and they produce an annoying noise at any useful speed. The top fan can be disconnected without much trouble, but the front one needs replacement.
Sadly there don't seem to be other fans fitting the case as-is (with a 150mm square mount). I'm currently thinking about installing a pair of 120mm Coolink fans that I have sitting around and which are almost inaudible even at full speed.
The other annoying thing about the case is that it will produce loud cracking noises at the slightest temperature change, likely due to its weird mixed-material construction. So if you open a window, or start a game or application that increases power draw, things get loud for a while.
In retrospect, I really shouldn't have bought it. Chances are that the plastic parts will turn rather more yellow than the painted metal over time.
My beef with high end chassis are the obnoxious cliche LEDs. Considering products that have them make me feel like sheeple, easily manipulated by the company's marketing department. DO NOT WANT!
I'm also confused (see Per Zetterlund, above): did you go with the Seasonic X-760 or the Corsair 850w 80 Plus Gold PSU? One is mentioned in the article, the other is shown in the full list at the bottom.
So yeah, this case is not just "wide". It's friggin' HUGE. I have an existing Antec case that isn't too small and this white thing just dwarfs it. Seriously, it's a good 6" longer from front to back, 3-4" taller, and 3-4" wider. (Plus because it's rounded, it actually seems even less compact than that).
It's a nice looking case and does seem well designed, and I guess it'll be better for my fat hands and all, but just be forewarned. I did buy everything else here too though, just looked at your rig and needed a new computer and went for it.
Nice fightstick peeking out from the side there ;)
Thanks to you, I learned many interesting things. I hope to learn more. I congratulate you for these wonderful shares. Keep it up!
Thank you for all your ennormement proposals on this site. Your shares are very attractive and very rewarding. Congratulations to you.
Since you used your existing hard drives, did you have any problems with the OS detecting new hardware? I recall that in past years, WinXP required you to re-authorize when it detected a new motherboard. Did you have to re-authorize the OS or anything else, and if so, what did you have to do?
Hmm.. In the age of more and more powerful laptops why do you choose to build a clunky desktop machine? Any particular reason?
If you do also use laptops - how do you sync work?
I have the same problem. 140mm Noctua is at the edge of the chasis and closing the side panel will cause it to make noise or stops it completly.
To keep the case quiet when the temperatur changes, release the screws around the side window a bit; the case metal and window plastic expand at different rates, and the screws are too tight from the factory, causing the cracking noise.
This reminded be of my new i7 build that I blogged about as well. I scored a 7.0 instead of 7.9 because I did not overclock and my Windows test would not even score when my SSD was the only drive; I had to add in my HDD as a secondary drive before it would score. Everything else scored 7.6 besides the drive. My main drive is a 128GB SATA II SSD. I did my entire project for under $1200. The costs go up exponentially when buying the larger SSDs or to get the extreme performance graphics cards, so I think I did well. Nice machine Jeff, and if you have a chance, check mine out as well:
My New Computer: A Developers Dream:
You sure can get the 2600k up to "much" more than 4.4GHz on air and still have stable temps.
You should be able to at least add another 1000Mhz, but you would need to get another CPU-cooler, looks like you could be able to fit a D14 cpu cooler in there, if you can, get one.
Here's a picture on how I've arranged my fans, which reduced my temps by 10c: http://www.overclock.net/gallery/data/500/Beta_Evo_Schemo_-_2c.png
It's a really nice build though! :)
Thanks for sharing this pretty useful information. I noticed that you've added a powerful PSU. I would like to share my finding - I'm also building a new system with the goal of using possibly the most high-techy things available today. One of my desires is to build a completely quiet system. With no moving parts whatsoever, if possible. So I bumped onto these "passive-cooling" PSU's, the most powerful of them is at 500W - has just appeared on market and is not even available for purchase in Europe. So I chose one that I could get in here (http://www.techaddicts.net/reviews/zen400/zen400.html). I was afraid that with my setup of a Core I7 Extreme CPU, 24 gigs or RAM, 2 PCI-e SSD's and a 4Gb Video card, I won't have enough power from that PSU.. So, last night I was walking around in Tesco, and I found a Watt electricity usage monitor socket, like this (http://www.amazon.com/P3-International-P4400-Electricity-Monitor/dp/B00009MDBU/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1316810429&sr=1-1) - I plugged it into my socket from where all goes into the comp. and the result (power consumption) was roughly 225W at peak (190W on average) and 22W lowest - that is including a UPS, a Dual Core with 4 SATA drives, and a 27" LED monitor... So this socket could be a useful thing for measuring power consumption :) - It could also tell you how much you would pay for the electricity... (I'm not playing games on my computer though)
That really seems like a sweet PC.
Now I've built PC's in the past. But let's say that I want to find a place that builds PC's for high performance like this one that I can just buy off the shelf.
Most high performance PC sellers seem to be targeting the gaming market. I'm not a gamer. Just a developer that wants a PC that's SUPER fast so that I'm not finger tapping while waiting for a compile to finish or for a development too or browser to load.
I asked the question over at StackOverflow and got totally smacked down. :-) http://stackoverflow.com/questions/7562262/what-and-where-to-buy-a-serious-developers-pc
So I ran back here with my tail between my legs. ;-)
It's not as much the "time to assemble" that concerns me. It's the "time to research and decide what to buy" that will get me. I guess I can just copy your list of hardware and just make a clone and I won't be disappointed.
@Mark Sicignano: That's what just happened with me on StackOverflow just a few days ago, for a very similar reason - I asked what if the development machine is much faster than my "production" environment (our web servers) - how can I 'simulate' a slower environment.. (that was in the frame of choosing a new computer, assembled from various parts, based on almost a 3 week-long research..) so I got -4 votes in the first 15 minutes after posting this question, without any constructive comments to complement such a cruel/predatory behavior. So I had to erase my question as soon as I could before my 'reputation' would go to -200 for just asking a reasonable question... So, exactly, the research itself is pretty frustrating - especially for a busy developer that has to deliver results to his clients...
I'm going to get myself my supreme custom build in a year or two (got a budget build for now). My most important parts are the cpu, a good cpu cooler, and lots of ram.
Water Heaters Indiana