This computer was a learning curve as my first computer. My wife and I had decided in 2013 that we needed to stop wasting money on laptops and to build a computer. Despite the advances of technology and the easy ability to look up information, I was under the impression that you needed “tools” to still build computers. Like soldering equipment and things of that nature. No idea it was essentially plug and play now for desktop computers. All computers I had ever used came from 1 of 2 places:
1 Built by Asian guys at computer shows, in casino ballrooms, who would take about four hours to “build” your computer with their soldering equipment and everything else.
2 Compaq/HP computers. That was the only brand(s) my parents ever bought.
Well thanks to my lovely wife, I became educated, started buying computer magazines, and looking up stuff on the internet. This is what I learned in no particular order:
1 Computers are only as complicated as you make them.
2 Research/Planning is very important before you buy stuff.
3 Building computers is fun.
4 You shouldn’t let biases cloud your judgment.
5 After listening to the wisdom of 4 pick the right parts for the job. To do this, spend as much time on 2 as possible.
6 Enjoy that you are making something, even if inspired by or attempting to copy someone else, enjoy it.
7 Things change, you, equipment, requirements, etc., so be clear on what you need for where you want to be. This sounds similar to 2 doesn’t it. It’s the third time 2 has been mentioned. It’s that important.
8 Ask questions to get answers. Don’t assume, it can cost you.
So I started with AMD and have changed over to Intel. The migration was mostly due to issues I was having with my AMD components. Mostly the original Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3 Rev. 4.0. The motherboard I had was just problematic. The options in the BIOS wouldn’t always apply themselves when activated or deactivated. The USB 3.0 header for the front computer ports wouldn’t respond half the time. I couldn't overclock the CPU. The LAN chip was problematic for me. This motherboard, specifically this revision, wasn’t Linux friendly at all. I failed to look that up. So that cost me, literally.
Personally, I hated that motherboard. It made me feel like I can’t buy Gigabyte motherboards anymore. At least not AMD. The BIOS/UEFI were horrible to navigate and were poorly set up compared to other manufacturers. I feel like MSI has the best BIOS/UEFI set up. I also like how they color code them to match the board/theme.
So far my ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer is outshining my older 990FXA-UD3. The BIOS/UEFI is easier to navigate and has a smoother layout. It’s more responsive and works right away. The CPU pins are on the board and not the chip itself, which is a much better design in my opinion. I hate that AMD chips have the pins on the chips and are then put into the board. It leaves more opportunities for bent pins.
Intel chips are worth the cost if you have the money for them. AMD is not bad, but they aren’t number one for a reason. There is nothing wrong with them being the budget option. I started with AMD, was a fan boy, but I wanted a better CPU. Same goes for Nvidia cards over AMD cards. They are better for a reason. Intel and Nvidia also play better with Linux out of the box. Note, I said better for those people running Linux on AMD systems. I still like AMD for what they are trying to do, I just feel like they need to focus on where they excel. That means better APUs, using better hardware and manufacturing processes, along with better dual graphics configuration for stronger cards. I still think about an A10/R7-250 combo one day.
So because I failed to do 2, I learned and changed out components. Which points to 8. I spent around $600 on three new components to get a system that does what I want it to do. Almost the cost of an entire system build from scratch. But hey, I should be good for awhile now, bar any parts breaking.
CPU-The Xeon is a great CPU. Most Xeons are if you are looking for long term hardware that won’t crack under pressure. Server processors are made to run hot and long. So they make sense for applications that can take all night, rendering! Also, they will have a longer life span over their home consumer brothers even if you don’t have heavy needs. Side note, better performance for the price if you aren’t going to OC either.
CPU Cooler- Price to performance, period. Push/pull with Cougar fans for increased efficiency. Cooler parts last longer, that statement is a matter of fact, regardless of the percentages gained from a push/pull configurations. No OCing, so why water cool? I also love the look of the push/pull set up. One fan on the front or rear just looks off balance and wrong.
Mobo- The ASRock Fatal1ty H97 Killer came with a Killer NIC that was Linux compatible which was a must. I want Linux to connect out the box. It “can” overclock even though it is an H97. So if I wanted to give my Xeon a slight bump, I could. But I wont. It’s an Intel board, also more Linux friendly out the box. I don’t need two GPUs, ever. I don’t see the point, personally, and don’t want it. I am fine with a single dedicated GPU. Blender also uses a single precision floating point for Cycles rendering and has better CUDA support. So no SLI, and this board supports Crossfire exclusively.
Memory- It works and has a “low” CAS latency? Most important thing is that it works.
Storage- Intel 520 for Win10. I got the 520 from my wife as a hand me down on her constant upgrades for her old laptops. Although we have converted her to a desktop user now as well. The 500GB is for Linux, but will be replaced with a 250GB Corsair SSD once my wife upgrades again. I won’t need a massive SSD for Linux...yet. Right now though the 500GB needs to be put to use. The 1TB is for media and games (Steam for the win). All Windows programs are stored exclusively on the 520 with any saved files on the WD 1TB.
GPU- The EVGA GTX 960 4G SuperSC is a beast compared to my old Sapphire R7 260X. Now I roll 1080p. 4GB on a 128 bus may seem not worth it to some people, and for those people, good for them. I will be utilizing programs though that will take advantage of the 4GB of VRAM though (Blender, Cycles rendering with CUDA cores). Also, even at 1080p some games are taking advantage of the 4GB of VRAM (Assassins Creed Syndicate). On the Linux side of things, this card will be perfect for current and future plans.
Case- The Corsair C70 was a case I always enjoyed and got approval from the misses on for its looks. It works, and has room for what I need. I enjoy the removable drive cages as I took the middle cage out for increased airflow to the GPU. The only thing that doesn’t work, is the HDD light. The side panels are easy to remove which is a plus, and the carry handles work great. The only problem I have with the case is the vented side window. It let in so much dust I thought it was ridiculous. To fix that I ordered the smoked window from MNPCTech. Less dust, better air flow/pressure, win/win. One of the best upgrades to the case.
Power Supply- Bronze rated, works and supplies enough power. No plans to OC or have multiple GPUs so the size is perfectly fine. I probably wont change it until it dies. When that happens, I will probably go full modular.
Optical Drive- For ripping CDs from the local library. That is all it does now. Streaming/Digital Downloads have really made these things less significant, but they are still useful if you now what to use them for.
Case Fans- Cougar fans for three reasons. I like the looks, price, and performance they offer. Now I have seen/heard what Noctua can do first hand from my wife’s computer. They are great, but I like Cougar. I think they are No. 2 on a lot of lists for good reason. However, I might get two Noctuas to replace the stock case fans I put on the top for exhaust.
Monitor- Damn good monitor back in 2014, and still damn good today. I don’t necessarily like the border, but it does a great job. I like the matte finish as well. Glossy is bleh in my opinion. At the time of purchase I thought it was stiff on price, but it is worth it.
Keyboard- The CM Storm QuickFire XT with brown switches is a great board. My wife and I had originally planned to get two WASD keyboards, but she did some research. The CM QuickFire line has great reviews and are completely compatible with the WASD key caps. So we saved some money their. I haven’t ordered the custom key caps yet. Custom designs take time, and I’ve been divided on that.
You can check out my wife’s build here, The Nostromo.
Added the photos with the Xeon in place and the ASRock board. Along with both Cougars on the Hyper 212.
One thing I'm not a fan of when it comes to the ASRock board though is where the fan headers are located. Three are on top above the socket, two are right under the socket so a tower cooler gets in the way, but "helps" hide the cables. The last hookup is on the bottom, that isn't really a problem. It's the two in the middle that are annoying. Thank goodness for splitter cables.
Future Upgrades again...
A GPU bracket from MNPCTech because I like how it looks more than anything else. The GTX 960 is not a heavy card by any means. I don't have any sag issues on the MOBO. I just like the way that it looks and why not have the support?
Two Noctua 140mm fans for the top exhaust. It won't go with my Cougar collection at all, but I think they will be worth it for the airflow:noise ratios.
A fully modular PSU. Sleeved cables/extensions for the PSU. The cables/extensions will also be for the system fans. That is one thing I would like to say I don't care for on this MOBO, the fan pin locations. Power, CPU1 and CPU2 are all on the top of the board, okay, that is fine. Chassis fan 1 is located on the bottom of the board, still okay. Chassis fan 2 and 3 are located under the CPU Socket, left corner, next to the network chip, right above the GPU and parallel to the actual RAM brackets. NOT OKAY. The cables can be ran, but it looks awkward and runs cables across the board for no reason I can see, other than ASRock's personal [maybe evil] joy. I won't let those pin locations beat me though.
M.2 SSD for the main Linux drive. One more SATA SSD to replace an HDD. That would give two for operating systems, one more for ? and one HDD for mass storage still.
Custom paint, maybe.
Custom keys for the keyboard.
And anything else I might want that is not yet decided.