Ok, so I thought I’d go ahead and share this build since I got some good feedback on here the while I was getting the part list together. Basically this is a completely new workstation, with the exception of the two WD hard drives. After getting this thing assembled and running optimally I find it to be nothing short of spectacular. Feel free to comment anything that comes to mind as you look through the description and photos. I didn’t include step by step build photos as, let’s all face it, we know where the power supply goes and so on.
CPU- Intel Core i7-6800K
I went with the latest 2011-3 processor in order to get the benefits from the latest manufacturing methodology and the six cores. Though the prices on a Z170 based CPU and motherboard were comparable all the data seems to indicate the 6800K is much more overclock friendly than the 6700K and at the same time, six cores instead of four. While I’m not heavily overclocking right now, I thought the latitude will be good down the road. The core count was important as I will be running VMs which can benefit greatly from dedicated cores.
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 240
This is the newest line of liquid coolers from Cooler Master and to say it’s an evolution may be an understatement. The block itself is improved significantly, as is the pump (two chamber where most are single), as well as the radiator design. All of this and many other tweaks to standard liquid cooler design means quieter and cooler operation. The testing I've done thus far has shown this to be an unit. It’s super quiet and cools amazingly. The only problem I really noticed was the lack of detailed instructions. I haven’t built a machine in quite some time so I was pretty thorough in digesting the documentation that came with much of the hardware and had I been someone with no experience building machines and installing hardware I would have been utterly frightened. A little bonus though, the cooler comes extremely well packaged and the box serves much better than a motherboard box to warehouse extra cables, manuals, case parts, etc. from a build.
Thermal Compound: Arctic Silver 5
So this is a fun tidbit. I was turned on to this stuff a while back when I rebuilt a couple of old machines. I used this to repaste the processors and GPUs. It was great then and great now. The interesting bit is I never really looked at the application instructions and found it to be a revelation. I used to just go with the “grain of rice” method and it worked just fine. This time around while digging through the documentation for all this hardware I decided to see if methodology on thermal compound has changed at all. And boy has it. Arctic recommends a method known as “tinting” along with a longer vertical line applied to the processor cap versus the grain of rice which most people seem to use. Upon seeing all of this I started digging and found most people loved the methods described. There are a couple of nice videos on YouTube which illustrate the line v. grain outcomes. Tinting was a little harder to find solid information on but I did it anyway. Only time will really tell if there will be any measurable benefit but I remain optimistic.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X99P-SLI
While almost any board in this price range would have worked well the only options I even considered were the Asus and Gigabyte boards. Overall, the Asus boards were slightly less feature rich while also more costly. I've also had great luck with the long term durability of Gigabyte motherboards. The big issue I had here is the fact that New Egg doesn’t seem to employ anyone capable of reading a serial number printed on the box. The boards with serial numbers beginning with “155” had a previous BIOS version from the factory which doesn't have the instruction set for 6xxx series processors. Unfortunately, these boards aren't equipped with q-flash plus which allows the user to upgrade the BIOS without a processor or memory installed. This means even a brand new board will have to be shipped back to Gigabyte for update unless you have an older 5xxx series processor handy. The way I see it, this is a problem with New Egg, not Gigabyte. They should be capable of noticing a customer’s order includes a 6800K with this board and select the appropriately versioned board. Failing that they could simply return their entire stock of 155 serialed boards for update to prevent their customers from the delay and headache. As such, I had to wait about two weeks from receiving the hardware to actually put any of in the case. Once I was able to install it though, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Sure Gigabyte boards have their downsides, mostly with their software packages, which I don’t use, but the board works very well, has an outstanding feature set, and, even if it lasts half as long as my previous Gigabyte boards, should be a tank for years.
Memory- G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 64GB DDR4-3000
64GB?!?!?! A lot? Yeah, sure. Overkill? Probably. I've used G.Skill memory for years and never had a bad stick. ‘Nough said. The DDR4-3000 is fast enough for overclocking but not too crazy to be ultra cost prohibitive. The board actually supports twice this much ram and has four extra slots so upgrading to 128GB won't be a problem when I really want to take it up a notch. Some board/memory combinations can suffer issues dealing with XMP profiles but I experienced none with this memory on the Gigabyte board.
SSD: Sandisk Ultra II 960GB
I was about THIS close to going for A Samsung M.2 (512GB 950 Pro) but decided the price per gigabyte is a bit high yet. The Ultra II series, as anyone who has used one will tell you, is effing bulletproof. Fast. Reliable. Cheap. Once the M.2s come in something closer to a full TB at a reasonable price I'll probably pick one up as well as a couple more of these Ultra IIs and move my system to the M.2 and use the Sandisk SSDs in a stripe to replace the Western Digital hard drives currently installed.
HDD: Western Digital Caviar Blue 640GB (2)
These are nothing special, just a pair of WD 640 GB 7200RPM SATA drives configured as a stripe. They are mostly going to serve as in-machine cold storage and scratch data. These are the only survivors from my previous machine (Rest in peace homey).
Optical: Pioneer BDR-209DBK Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer
This is a no-frills Pioneer writer. I'll be using this mainly to make long term archives of VMs and other data which may never need to be accessed again. Pioneer’s optical drives are really about as good as it gets so this was really the only choice.
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
Ansel. So hot right now. This is card is a beast. The 8GB of GDDR5X is extremely fast and sizable enough to handle anything out now. I went with this card partially because of the chipset and partly because of the other features. Call me crazy, but I hypothesize that Nvidia engineers who designed the backplate and cooler on the Founders Edition (Shouldn’t it be “Founder’s?”) cards probably know a bit more about their own hardware and how to optimally deploy it than the third party vendors that sell the cards. This has been somewhat borne out in my mind with the stories going around of 10 series cards burning up in various conditions. Not one of those that I’ve heard about has been a Founder’s Edition. In the future I might look into SLI but I'd probably be looking to toss in an EKW liquid cooler setup at that point.
PSU: EVGA SuperNova P2 750 Platinum
Somewhere on Tom’s hardware is a full rundown of PSUs and their expected build quality. Some people may not realize that there are only a handful of manufacturers and models of corse PSU components and all retail PSU brands have good and bad models. I recommend sticking hard to that list and getting something in one of the upper tiers. I went with the EVGA SuperNova P2 in order to give myself a good, clean, fully modular unit that is widely regarded by hardware wonks as one of the best. The capacity of this unit should make Future upgrades a breeze without having to worry about overconsumption. The only reason I skipped the titanium version was simply the fact that the cost increase for efficiency benefit just isn't there and the reality is this model is so underpriced for what you get it's kind of a no brainer.
Case: Fractal Design Define R5 Black (Added 1 Fractal Design GP-14-WT 140mm case fan)
This case was actually recommended pretty strongly on PCPartPicker and I was swayed. I had a couple of other cases by Cooler Master and Phanteks higher on my list but after some hard campaigning by folks here and elsewhere I was won over by the reportedly rock solid build quality and features. Since building it I must say I couldn’t be any more pleased.
Despite some people claiming this case to be loud with the moduvents (top panels) out, it’s unbelievably quiet. You can’t mount a cooler radiator to the top of the case without removing them so I had no choice. A good part of its silent nature comes from the GP14-WT 140mm fans that come preinstalled. I even added an extra to the front to create optimal airflow through the components and compared to most other machines I see this is vastly quieter. The most noise I get from this machine comes from the radiator fans which I have set to performance mode. When I had them on standard or silent you can’t hear a thing. This is under normal load of course, once you make it exert itself you can hear the fans but it’s still very quiet. Things loader than my computer: air coming from the central air ducts, the grain elevator near my house from four blocks away, my cat waking down the stairs. She is fat and the house is old so let’s not chastise her too much I guess.
This thing has amazing airflow, much better than the Phanteks cases I looked at and better features like cable management than the Cooler Masters. You'll notice in the photo that I skipped the SSD mounts on the back of the motherboard tray, this is simply because no case offers proper airflow on that side of the tray and I'd rather keep my drive running cool and efficient. I went with the two front mounted fans as intake and the rear fan and top mount radiator fans as exhaustThe drive racks are all removable so the options for configuration are wide open; including custom loop water coolers. I did skip the window option since I built this thing to use, not look at. Plus, if I do want to see it or show it I can easily take the side off.