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3rd Build: Project APEX - Intel 10-Core/20-Thread mATX Architecture Workstation for my Friend

by LeMonarque


OP: 7/14/2014


I’ve now been fortunate enough to build 3 computers in one year, and I don’t think anything could make me feel luckier except for the caliber of the third build itself. This is going to be a long post, but for a system specced like this that’s almost a requirement. Let’s get to it!

(P.S. - Yes, I did the cup holder thing again.)

A very good friend of mine goes to Kansas State University for Architectural Design. The program there requires that every third year student purchases their own workstation computer, with a recommended budget range of $3500-$7500. Maxing out at $7500 with a prebuilt system from HP or Dell will land you at most an 8-core Xeon workstation with a basic hard drive setup and 16GB of RAM. My friend knows I've built 2 PCs and have helped several people configure theirs, so we got together and said "**** it, we'll build it ourselves!". For less than $5500, which would get you a median price PC within the $3500-$7500 range, we built a $4700 PC that trumps the prebuilts of any big-box company's $7500 offering. Since my friend actually lives in Nebraska and Kansas at different times during the Summer, he also needed a build that wasn't too big. K-State Architectural Design uses some pretty advanced software. AutoCAD, Revit, 3DS Max, Rhino, Grasshopper, VRay, SolidWorks, and the entire Adobe CS6 line.

This is build #3: APEX, the 10-core, 20-thread, 3D modeling and photon mapping workstation that eats prebuilts for breakfast. Leagues ahead of my personal VALKYRIE build, and a monument of my extreme jealousy. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to build something like this.

In nature, the apex predator is that which is hunted by no other - it resides at the very top of its food chain. It is the deadliest, most powerful being of its environment. And this system is going to be the most powerful machine in the KSU 3rd year studio this year…with a good chance of also being the cheapest.

The build:

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Xeon E5-2690 V2 3.0GHz 10-Core CPU $1992.98
Motherboard Asus Rampage IV Gene $254.99

"The Budget Destroyer". I really wanted to fit the e5-2697 V2 in the build (12 cores/24 threads, 2.7GHz), but as big as a $4700 budget seems, it's not so big when you factor in the $800 GPU and $460 disk setup, among other things. I tried to keep the costs of everything else down as much as possible, but the minimum budget for the 12-core was $5000 and sacrificed a lot in the disk setup. Went with the next best thing, the 10-core 2690 V2.

This $2000 monster is no slouch. It'll be a massive benefit with Revit, which uses up to 16 cores for near-photorealistic simulations, and any other modeling program. The rationale is that even with software that does not use that many threads, he'll still see a benefit from such a massive CPU in multitasking - instead of sitting around for an hour while his model renders, he can work on something else too. K-State Architectural Design is notorious for making its undergrads sleep-deprived with how much work they're given, so we wanted to invest heavily into a CPU that could chew through renders and multitask if need be. Task manager was a beautiful thing to behold with its 20 threads :)

The motherboard was really the only option available for a microATX form factor X79 build. It's a great quality motherboard, and as with most ASUS boards comes with superb onboard fan control, which is important in a workstation - low noise keeps you sane when your CPU is under load for hours at a time. The only workaround we needed to do was a BIOS flash without access to an already compatible CPU, as the RIV Gene does not support the 2690 V2 out of the box. Fortunately ASUS USB BIOS Flashback allowed us to flash to a supported BIOS without a second CPU or even RAM installed.

Type Item Price
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U14S $64.99
Case Fan BitFenix Spectre Pro Green LED 200mm Fan $18.45
Case Fan Noctua NF-S12A PWM 120mm Fan $16.99

The higher end of Intel's Xeon e5 lineup are definitely enormous performers, but they're also server processors. As server CPUs they're focused on high efficiency in terms of power draw and thermal output. To ensure stability this CPU in particular actually throttles itself at 86C rather than the 100C of many mainstream Intel CPUs. For this reason, while it's not essential to have an enormous cooling solution, you still want something reliable and low-maintenance (especially for a workstation PC). Pair that with silence and lack of a case window, and every time I'll be coming back to Noctua for CPU coolers and fans.

AIO liquid coolers were out of the question - too many points of failure for a system that's so mission-critical and for a user that's not a PC nerd like me. I have an H100i but if I was going to do studio work with my PC I would definitely go with a heatsink. If the fan dies, you still have a hunk of metal and case airflow for decent cooling until you can find another fan. With an AIO all bets are off until you get a replacement. Downtime needs to be zero in a workstation. For silence I took it even further and got Noctua's largest single-tower heatsink, as the Aerocool DS Cube case supports cooler heights of up to 190mm.

The DS Cube supports a 120mm rear fan, so I went with the spectacular Noctua NF-S12A for the rear (have 3 of them myself and love their airflow:noise). For the front fan I actually broke off to Bitfenix, as the front supports a whopping 200mm fan (a size which Noctua does not currently sell at the time of this writing). 200mm fans offer absolutely insane airflow:noise performance due to their sheer blade surface area.

Type Item Price
Memory G.Skill Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 (Red) $144.99
Memory G.Skill Ares Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 (Red) $144.99

Wanted to max out the RAM on this motherboard, as it's an extremely important factor when working with large model renders/exports. Not much to say here. G.Skill is a reputable brand and the price was right.

Type Item Price
Video Card PNY NVIDIA Quadro K4000 $767.99

This is the second specialty component in this rig. Most users around here are used to hearing about GeForces and Radeons when it comes to talking about GPUs. The less common product lineups from AMD and Nvidia are the AMD FirePro and Nvidia Quadro. Both are marketed as workstation graphics, and rightly so. When you compare the raw specs from card to card when looking at equally priced GeForces/Radeons, workstation GPUs seem pretty lackluster. The main differentials between gaming cards and workstation cards are drivers, support, and software-specific GPU acceleration.

AMD and Nvidia release drivers for their workstation line after a much higher level of scrutiny and communication with software partners than they do for their gaming cards. Driver incompatibility leading to downtime is not acceptable for professional uses. For programs like AutoCAD and 3DS Max, you actually see an enormous benefit from going with a workstation GPU versus a gaming GPU. The main workspace for those programs is called the “viewport” and it runs much smoother on workstation cards. The smoother it runs, the less you worry about sluggishness and the more you can focus on the task at hand. The tool should never be the bottleneck - the creative mind should.

This card combined with the CPU cooler and motherboard's PCIe slot layout caused a minor slowdown in the build. The cooler fins are wide enough that they actually touch the exposed back of the video card! To work around this we just needed to put a layer of electrical tape on the back of the card and the edge of the heatsink to protect the card and prevent it from shorting out. In a normal build this wouldn't really be an issue, but with the motherboard sitting horizontal instead of vertical, there's no sag to create a gap between the two.

Type Item Price
Storage OCZ Vertex 460 120GB 2.5" SSD $91.13
Storage OCZ Vertex 460 120GB 2.5" SSD $91.13
Storage Crucial MX100 256GB 2.5" SSD $109.99
Storage Seagate 2TB 7200RPM 3.5" HDD $99.00
Storage Seagate 2TB 7200RPM 3.5" HDD $99.00

Here’s where things might not be too obvious. At first glance this disk setup looks kind of absurd. It almost doesn’t make any sense. There were a couple things I needed to consider when choosing drives for this system: workflow efficiency, speed, speed consistency (steady state performance), and reliability.

When it comes to graphical content creation software, you have 3 basic tasks that your computer must complete: run the software, read raw materials, and output the raw materials in a finished result. This is the thought process leading to the 3-SSD setup. One SSD has the OS and programs installed on it, another simply holds raw photos/videos or previously created models/textures, and the final one is the destination of export or render files. In this setup, no one drive has to divide its own resources on the same SATA interface by reading or writing data within itself. The OS drive is the “shot caller”. You work in this drive. The shot caller requests raw materials from the second SSD and uses your commands to output a finished result on the export drive. In this way a smooth data pipeline is formed that utilizes multiple SATA interfaces and drives in order to maximize the efficiency of reading and writing data.

When it comes to the individual drives themselves, steady state performance also needs to be considered. The Crucial MX100 is merely an OS and programs drive. Most tasks when working on the drive will be done in short bursts (opening programs, booting up, opening a new tab, etc) while all of the work done on the OCZ Vertex 460s will involve long render times and big data movement. A simple building design may be several gigabytes in size. Steady state performance is the measure of how well a drive consistently keeps up its read/write speeds when writing large amounts of data over time. OCZ has a lot of top performers in this regard (Vector, Vector 150, Vertex 460, Vertex 450) even if they are not the fastest drives in terms of short bursts like the Samsung 840 Pro/EVO or Corsair Neutron GTX, which is why the Crucial is the boot drive while the OCZ’s are the “work” drives. The right hardware for the right tasks.

Finally we come to the dual 2TB hard drives. These are merely backup drives. Specifically, NAS-rated hard drives set up as standalone volumes for maximum redundancy. These are not in RAID1 so as to avoid the case where my friend accidentally deletes a project and loses everything. In RAID1 the project would be deleted from both drives simultaneously. As standalone volumes he would simply lose the data from one drive and be able to copy it back over from his backup on the secondary drive. The only downside is that when backing up files, he must manually copy each file twice. But that’s the small price you pay for maximum redundancy when you've only got space for two 3.5" drives. RAID1 may be the worst concept to have been created for hard drives as it often gives users a very false sense of security and has the potential to work against the desired goal of data safety.

Type Item Price
Case Aerocool DS Cube Black/White MicroATX Mini Tower $119.98

We needed something small enough to be easily taken to and from Kansas State University and his home, able to fit into a small computer locker when not in use, and yet still capable of housing 3 SSDs, 2 HDDs, possibly a Quadro+GeForce, and an ODD. As he’s an architectural design major, he does also see the value in good aesthetics and obviously was financially able to afford a case with nice aesthetics. And actually the case isn't overly expensive compared to the market. Enter the Aerocool DS Cube.

I’m not going to lie, this was a challenge to build in. Clearance and airflow are not going to be a problem, but just the process of working in the case was much harder than any mid or full tower. I suppose that comes with the territory though. I’ve always heard about small form factor builds being a challenge, but I’ve never had to experience the challenge until now. We packed 3 SSDs, 2 HDDs, and a PSU with full length cables to power all of them in this little mATX case!

Cable management would usually be pretty decent in a case like this, but sadly the only free space for bundling up extra cables is the lower left of the rear side panel. Which happens to also be where the 2 backup drives need to be connected. It was a real pain being able to plug in those drives with all the cable clutter already there. I couldn’t really see where I was going - just had to look at the keying and stick my hand in the general vicinity hoping I’d catch the pins. The SATA power cables on this Silverstone PSU have extra long reach, which honestly is extremely welcome for tower cases but very hard to work with for a small form factor case like this. I should have gone with a Silverstone PP05-E short cable set, but I didn’t know what to expect going in and so we had to build with what was already ordered.

Overall I am actually very impressed with this case. Most of the troubles we had would have been solved by using the PP05-E kit, which is no fault of Aerocool’s case design. Just an oversight by me, the parts selector. The case supports an incredible amount of hard drives for the motherboard standard it needs to accommodate, and supports them in stacked bays instead of flat mounts in every which way (I’m looking at you, Bitfenix Phenom M/Prodigy M). Cooling is typical of most of these squat, chubby sort of SFF cases: few fan mounts, but supports enormous fan in the front and has large CPU heatsink clearance. The aesthetics are amazing and my friend loves the black/white contrast, much like myself. The aesthetics of my VALKYRIE build rubbed off on him I think.

Type Item Price
Power Supply Silverstone Strider Plus 850W 80+ Silver $119.99

850W is probably about twice as much as his system draw is going to be running a stock Xeon and a K4000. The main deciders here were price at the time of purchase, full modularity, and room for expansion to RAID cards, a supplemental GeForce rendering card for Adobe applications, a larger hard drive array, and possibly upgrading to a dual-CPU motherboard later. Few of which are things that will fit in the current case, but the case used right now was only chosen because he’ll have to transport the build fairly often. In the future when this is no longer a problem, he can keep the PSU while expanding instead of buying a borderline one now and needing to buy another one later.

The ends of each cable were pretty stiff, but I liked that Silverstone color coded the connectors so that the mandatory ones (24-pin, CPU 8-pin, SATA power) were black while all the expansion ones (molex, PCIe) were blue. Again, I really wish I’d gone with the PP05-E short cable set.

One interesting thing about this PSU: it doesn’t have an On/Off switch on the back. So I wouldn’t pick it for a water cooling build where you need to cycle your loop by flipping that switch. Other than that though I don’t know if lack of an On/Off switch is a good or bad thing.

Type Item Price
Optical Drive Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer $16.99

I passed down this legendary piece of hardware to my friend. This is the very same optical drive used as a cup holder in my VALKYRIE build. Once we saw that the computer successfully POSTed and entered the BIOS, we put a celebratory cup into this holy optical drive in order to continue the tradition. The Rampage IV Gene comes with hard drive labels, and my friend, in a stroke of genius, suggested that I label the optical drive “Cup Holder 1”. One of the best ideas I’ve ever heard!

Type Item Price
Monitor Acer K272HULbmiidp 2560x1440 27.0" $399.99
Keyboard Cooler Master CM Storm Devastator Mouse and Keyboard Bundle $29.99

For the peripherals my friend had some simple requests: 1440p and a functional mouse and keyboard, both without breaking the bank.

At $400 the monitor was no slouch in terms of the hit on his wallet, but it was actually the cheapest matte screen 1440p monitor available, excluding the Korean PLS imports from the likes of QNIX and Crossover. It has a decent tilt stand, but I would have liked to see the ability to swivel and rotate. There’s no backlight bleed at all and we couldn’t find any dead pixels, so great job on Acer for that. Believe it or not, a 1440p monitor was actually outlined in his school’s list of recommended hardware. The reason being that each student is assigned a locker to safely store their computers in. There isn’t enough space in there for multiple monitors, so the college recommends the highest resolution IPS display a student can afford.

The mouse and keyboard are the peripherals equivalent of the Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler - absolutely massive value for money. The keyboard floored me. Not only does it have on/off backlighting and volume control buttons, but the keys are all made of a matte, soft-touch plastic to avoid fingerprints. The letters are all laser-etched to eliminate wear and tear. The physical feel of the rubberdome keys was fantastic. Almost as good as my Cherry MX Brown mechanical keyboard! I’ve never felt such sharp, tactile rubberdomes before. Great keyboard.

The mouse has 3-stage DPI control in the form of a rocker (same as the Gigabyte GM-M8000X that I own and adore) and blue LED lighting. Clicks were sharp and mechanical with no squeaking. Overall the bundle is absolutely amazing.

Type Item Price
Other CyberPower PFC Sinewave UPS (600W/1000VA) $132.57

This is actually one of the more interesting items out of the bunch, which is weird to say since it’s essentially just a battery. This is a UPS, or Uninterruptible Power Supply. Basically it’s a surge protector that stores energy from the wall socket. The computer is always running off of this battery power and the UPS is constantly being charged up. Because it charges at a faster rate than the system is drawing power, there is no sudden shutdown in the case of a power outage. Your system keeps on running, giving you time to save all your work and shut down fully.

This is great to have for workstation use, but I always advocate it to anybody running RAID so that their array doesn’t drop. For my friend’s purposes however, this is going to be a life saver in a power outage. It may be $130 and he may never use it, but it only takes one power outage to justify the price. Kind of like insurance. To test out the functionality of the UPS, we let it sit overnight to charge up, then the next day I had my friend run Cinebench. Halfway through the test I got up and unplugged the UPS from the outlet, entirely disconnecting the system from any outside power. It just kept on chugging! It was surreal to watch.

Type Price
Total Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available. $4738.11

And there we have it! I doubt I’ll ever get my hands on such high end computer hardware for years and years. The build itself went fairly smoothly. There were several challenges that could have been solved using that short cable set, like trying to squeeze in the PSU and wiring up the hard drives.

If I have any misgivings, they're all about the fact that this had to be ready before this coming Fall semester. I'm sure many of you know that X99, DDR4, and Haswell-E are on the horizon and X79 is on the way out. This is the sort of computer you build to last for years on end (imagine throwing out a $2000 CPU!), so it's unfortunate that we didn't have the time to wait and take advantage of the new releases coming later this year.

EDIT 7/23/14: And as of yesterday...the new releases include the Quadro K4200 later this year.

I have some brief test results to share from the short time I had with the system:

We set the fans to their lowest RPM between the 0C - 50C temperature range in ASUS Fan Xpert. When under load, the CPU never goes above 55C thanks to the huge 200mm intake and 140mm heatsink. Basically his computer is dead silent 100% of the time. You can’t hear a darn thing with your head next to the side and it's cranking out 15.02 points in Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5 Multicore:
- Temperature: 52C
- Score: 15.02

Cinebench R11.5 Single Core:
- Score: 1.22

Cinebench R15:
- Temperature: 55
- Score: 1340

I almost cried manly tears when seeing that ridiculous Cinebench R11.5 multicore result. Then I remembered that the benchmark doesn’t take advantage of the system’s multiple disk setup, meaning for real world tasks it will be even faster than this benchmark can tell. Absolutely amazing.

Thank you for reading! This time around I had a real camera with me instead of a camcorder. I took every picture with an old Nikon D70, a new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, and individually edited in Photoshop CS6. It's a labor of love. I don’t think I got enough glam shots of the finished build, but I did my best to capture the build process and steal some artsy angles/compositions along the way. Once again thank you to the staff of PCPartPicker.com for the wonderful site. It never ceases to be an incredible tool when configuring a build.

Good luck with the rest of your time at KSU, brother. I hope this machine we built together serves you well and makes your life a little bit easier. And of course, don't be afraid to brag to every other black-box prebuilt PC user in your class about how your PC is nicer looking, faster, and 2/3 the cost of theirs! Go get that degree.

- LeMonarque

Comments Sorted by:

infinitemerald 1 Build 21 points 57 months ago

This is the first build on PCPP that I've seen that someone finally has taken advantage of the RIVG MicroATX in combination with a Xeon. Hats off to you ;)

Also, very nice part choices, nice lengthy and informative description, and great pictures. I'd just like to see what his entire setup would look like to accompany this thing :D

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 10 points 57 months ago

Thank you!

His setup basically looks like the picture with the keyboard/mouse sitting in front of the monitor haha. He doesn't need speakers. He does have a pair of Monster DNA on-ear headphones from 2 years ago.

In reality though he's a college student in a killer program, so that picture's probably missing Ramen noodles, a pile of tissues, a pillow, coffee, and day old popcorn lol.

infinitemerald 1 Build 3 points 57 months ago


If he's becoming an architect, I know what I wanna be XD

ib10xs4u2 14 points 57 months ago

Easily the single best write up I have seen yet on this site. I don't know what you majored in but you clearly have a brain and know how to use it. Promise you won't become either a lawyer or a politician. :) Great pictures too.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 5 points 57 months ago

Wow, that's high praise! Thank you. And I most definitely will not go into law lol

SpicyPickle 1 Build 8 points 57 months ago

It's lovely.

Well done sir!

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 3 points 57 months ago

Thank you sir! I'd +1 you again for the name if I could

SpicyPickle 1 Build 1 point 57 months ago


j0e652 1 Build 4 points 57 months ago

Whats with the electrical tap on the gpu and cpu cooler?

NVM missed the explanation in the wall of text XD.

[comment deleted]
Mincading 12 Builds 4 points 57 months ago

Really nice write up, i actually took the time to read it LOL. Well done, mate :)

[comment deleted]
Way2ManyLamas 4 points 52 months ago

I want to comment, but let me first pick my jaws back up

lrosiak 1 Build 3 points 57 months ago

FANTASTIC! Thank you for the thorough and balanced write-up. It makes me really happy to see these massive builds that are not for gaming, for a couple reasons: one is that there's more to computing than gaming, and two, that there are a lot of impressive functions to computer building, such as CPU power and disk storage, that are not really pushed by gaming.

(Incidentally, my own path is kind of unusual in that I had no interest in computer gaming until I had cause to build my first workstation, at which point I discovered and loved PCPartPicker, and then, having an amazing computer with lots of CPU and graphics power, I got really into gaming as a way to take full advantage of this piece of equipment I now owned.)

I am bookmarking this to use as reference because this has inspired me to either upgrade my current X-79, 3930k build to a Xeon E5-2690, or build a second one with that CPU. When I was building mine, I don't remember seeing that one. I may have determined that $2k was too much, but my build was over $5k which makes $2k not seem so much, considering it's reasonable for the CPU to be 2/5 of the cost. The other calculation I'd have to consider is that my 3930k is overclocked to 4.4ghz, and I don't know whether Xeons can be/it's a good idea to overclock. I'd have to figure out whether getting 66% more threads, but at 31% slower clock speeds, is worth it, and on second thought it may not be.

Not to get too off-topic, but one of the things I was surprised at when building a computer designed to run as many independent threads as possible was that there weren't many cost savings in doing it all in one box; I guess that's why servers scale horizontally and not vertically. That is, I'd be better off getting two 3930ks for $500 each, getting 12 threads, than one of these 10-threaders at $2k. That's too bad, because building huge boxes is fun.

Of course, you still need to buy all the other parts if you're going to make two builds instead, and plus there's the issue of graphics and peripherals, which means you'd basically want to make one a headless server, and the issue of disk access, which means I guess an NAS that would be a third box shared between the two computers, which is something I haven't ventured into yet.

Secondly (and again going on my rant about maximizing number of threads, inspired by the 20-thread build here, but not directly applicable since this is for CAD) there is the issue of cloud services, which lots of people would have you believe are more economical for getting tons of threads, depriving us of building these glorious machines. It is true that with economies of scale, etc., I pay a monthly fee for high-RAM, high-disk servers that at the prices it would take to build them, it literally seems to me that these providers are losing money. But for computing (CPU) in the cloud, EC2 in particular is so expensive that if you're using them for prolonged, and not burst, I think your own mega-CPUs are the way to go, and the convenience of not having to make everything distributable with multiple boxes and a NAS can justify a single mega-CPU like this.

SO... I will see where were are with X-79 vs X-99 when it comes time to upgrade or rebuild in the next couple months.

Finally, about the architecture school... this is a great real-world case for needing to have such a supercomputer, but the locker situation seems weird to me. I would have thought they'd just keep it in their dorms and work on it there. Otherwise they have to go to a different building, take out the computer and plug it in every time they want to use it?

The locker situation necessitates the small form factor, but that also strikes me as a highly unusual need--most people building powerful machines don't also need to prioritize size--but you did an amazing job pulling it off.

I haven't looked at prices on 1440p monitors in a while but that seems like a really good deal, and easily the same or less cost of three 1080 ones.

polarbehr 4 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

there are cheaper e5's out there...

vikingXcore 4 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

great job on the pics, parts, price, and cable management! I want to see what this beast can do. tell your friend to make this happen. do it now. go. go now. right now. go.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 4 points 57 months ago

Sits friend down in front of PC - "Cmon, do architecture."

Thank you :)

infinitemerald 1 Build 1 point 57 months ago

I laughed harder than I should have. Reminded me of this

thunderdan602 1 Build 2 points 57 months ago

That's is one helluva work station. Good job.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

Thanks! And yeah I'm pretty jealous of my friend! Just kinda sat there for a moment during the build and stared at the CPU after unboxing it. Budgets of entire builds stuffed into that little 3"x3" square...

thunderdan602 1 Build 2 points 57 months ago

He should be set PC wise for many years thanks to your skill. Excellent work.

rjc34 2 points 57 months ago

All too often people think of RAID1 as a backup, which, as you mention here, it's absolutely not.

That said, it's definitely not the devil you make it out to be, and it really does have proper uses.

In this case, I would recommend putting the pair of 2TB drives in RAID1 not for backup, but for redundancy. This way should a drive fail the system will remain fully functional without any downtime, and avoids any chance of user error in forgetting to manually transfer something to both drives, etc.

Of course with that you'd want an actual backup to go with that. Ideally something external, from a USB 3.0 2TB drive, all the way up to a multi-TB RAID NAS box. With the right software (hell, Windows has all this stuff built-in) you can have the rig automatically backup the 2TB RAID1 array (and even the SSDs if you wanted) to the external backup device.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

You know, I was just telling him about this last night actually! I'm currently looking at some external options right now. It's up to him to source the funds by the time the semester starts (he really does have a super tight budget despite the cost of this PC >_<).

Do you know if the rear eSATA on the RIVG is wired to one of the internal SATA ports? We could always go with USB if it is. I'll have to do some research on the matter or contact ASUS.

Thanks for reading the post :)

aackthpt 2 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

Great build and nice work! Probably the best way to go given all of the constraints together. Although I have to wonder how large said locker is (or how I'd do this for "real life"), because I have to wonder if it would have been better to build 2x i7 (or something else? lower end Xeon for one?) machines and get a KVM also for that money. Design on one, render on the other... more or less your own personal render farm.

As I'm not familiar with rendering I don't know if it is best (or mostly) done with CPU or GPU or whatnot but I'd have to imagine the combination thereof could be better optimized for each task.

The only other comment I would make here is that I think the Quadro 6000 is faster than the K4000, and can be had for about the same money (or less depending on patience) used on eBay. If it had been me I'd have been sorely tempted to go that way.

Funny, now that I read more comments, many of my thoughts mirror lrosiak's, though it sounds like he has a lot more need for big computing than I do IRL. LOL.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

Locker fits a small mid tower, keyboard/mouse, UPS, and a 27" monitor! Crazy, right?

As for the K4000, KSU specifically lists a Kepler-based Quadro GPU in its requirements for students. I suspect this is due to the fact that these systems are built to be used in the 3rd year of a total 5 year course of education, and as these applications are highly software specific, the university wanted to give its students the most "futureproof" options. Autodesk in particular releases new versions of their software yearly. For mission critical use I personally would also favor a new card with full warranty and support.

aackthpt 2 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

The thing that I find crazy about that is that they request people buy a commercial workstation in that class when they only have space for a "small mid tower". I'd think lots of the workstations in that class would be in larger boxes than that. Virtually all the workstations I've ever seen in industry are in a full mid-tower not a small one.

Are the requirements actual requirements, or are they more like guidelines the way the cost target is? I'd of course let the person whose workstation it was make the decision, but support and warranty - bah. I'll take the option at 1/3 the price and buy another if I have a problem.

Not that I wouldn't want a Kepler GPU if I really felt I had a use for it and felt like throwing down the cash.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

Yeah unfortunately we're talking hard requirements, not guidelines :/

aackthpt 2 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

Breakin' the law, breakin' the law

Way2ManyLamas 2 points 56 months ago

ooooooh super nice build but to much thermal paste!

jkkavan 3 Builds 2 points 55 months ago

I am commenting here because I want to show this to my buddy when he gets off work and comes over. I got here shopping for the Asus monitor. I started reading and I couldn't stop..jaw slowly lowering to my jockey shorts. I became incontinent and soiled myself.

Damn. To build something like this with someone else's money, yet budget aware, and, having built and/or fixed friends and family boxes, no pressure or anything ( your friend drops out and has to join The French Foreign and fight ISIS(L) because your box failed the night before The Largest Final Exam of All Time).

I re-furbed a box for my daughter to run ArcGIS. (Think Photoshop for Cartographers). Nothing like this, but with a clean Win 7/64 PRO install on a new SSD & 2 Radeon 7770's/AMD FX8350/16Gb RAM/WD 1Tb HDD, ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0 it ran pretty well. Did you try at least on game? Good pictures as well.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 55 months ago

Haha well I've known this guy for almost 7 years now. We went to high school and were on the cross country and track teams together for all four years, so he trusts me to be very thorough and complete in everything I do. I did try to be very budget aware like you said and I always laugh a little to myself remembering that the little CPU is almost half the cost of the build since the rest is relatively value-based!

I won't lie though I did feel the pressure during the BIOS Flashback process and right before pressing the power button for the first time! Other than that I'd argue a well-done custom built PC is already better built than any Dell/HP box, even in their workstation lines. That PC you built for your daughter is a beast as well! AMD is underrated.

So far the only game he has tried is Neverwinter. He gets 660/660 Ti'ish performance on it maxed out, which makes sense if you compare specs between it and the K4000. The price premium comes from enhanced viewport performance in 3D modeling software.

Variable.variables 2 points 55 months ago

Amazing build... How did you (or your friend) get almost 5000 USD to spend on a workstation?

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 2 points 55 months ago

Thanks for the kind words :)

The $5000 came from a combination of KSU scholarships and his own money. I know that his scholarship didn't cover all of it, so he split the remaining cost 50/50 between himself and his parents. I don't know what the exact costs were since that's personal to his family.

Variable.variables 2 points 55 months ago

Is he enjoying KSU? (Not sure what to think of Kansas...)

TribeofHenry 2 points 52 months ago

This build is just wow. And then some more wow. It's impressive that you'd take all these high powered part and stick them in this case. I'm wondering though if the lack of front vents choke the 200mm fan?

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 52 months ago

Thanks for the kind words! There actually are vents on the front - they're just sort of "hidden" around the edges of the case.


(All those black slits in the front)

It's definitely not the most ideal ventilation design, but it doesn't starve the build either.

TribeofHenry 1 point 52 months ago

Ah! I noticed those but didn't know how effective they would be. I'm going to do a build using this case soon (y)

maior 2 points 51 months ago

A tip of my hat to you! Amazing build. Truly. If I ever need a more powerfull workstation I will definatly use your build as a reference! For now my laptop is enough (old but good Lenovo W510) but should the need arrise, most definatly.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 51 months ago

Thank you sir! One of my friends actually has that laptop.

16aswag 2 points 51 months ago

That is... starts crying beautiful ;-; How do you like that mouse and keyboard? I've been thinking of getting it

Txhqno 1 Build 2 points 51 months ago

Such a kick *** case, +1 for that!

Simon_L 1 Build 2 points 50 months ago


+1 :D

SparklyAwika 1 Build 2 points 48 months ago

Probably the most overkill DS Cube build I've seen. Congrats!

floridaboz 4 Builds 2 points 47 months ago

Outstanding set up, but when i ran across pic 36 (the cup holder) i spit my drink out. Then again, if you build a $4100.00 it should have everything... including a cup holder.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 47 months ago

Thanks! If only they made 5.25" mini toaster ovens for hot pockets...then the stereotypical gamer setup would truly be complete.

floridaboz 4 Builds 1 point 47 months ago

brb, got to contact the patent office....

CarnivoreFox 2 points 47 months ago

Wow! Build one for me? Or do you think I could put it together if I ordered the parts? I used to make some pretty cool Lego space ships. :)

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 47 months ago

Sent you a PM xD

Realdeal36 2 points 18 months ago

How is the beast holding up today? Is your friend still happy with the performance thus far? I ask because I'm also going to school for architecture and I plan to build a workstation next year when I transfer. I wanted some perspective from a seasoned architecture student before I blow a whole lot of dough.

Some questions:

  • Was the size of SSD storage enough? How about RAM?
  • How are the GPU acoustics while modeling/rendering? I imagine the K4000 to be pretty loud with the single-slot fan. Does the 200mm help keep it under check?
  • If he could change anything about the build what would it be?

Any answer would help out greatly. Thanks!

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 18 months ago

Hey! Sorry this reply has taken so long. I'm studying architecture now as well and the workload is pretty intense! I'll answer your specific questions first, but I think there are a few important things you should know afterward.

  • Storage and RAM: the SSDs and RAM were more than large enough for what he was doing. In fact, the SSD setup was a bit overkill. As years passed he became less and less organized with relegating specific files to specific drives and ended up just working off of an external drive for flexibility. He didn't notice too much of a performance hit unless he was rendering.

  • Fan acoustics: The acoustics were fine unless he was rendering, in which case his PC fans would all ramp up to 100% for several hours while his images were being computed. He never complains about the noise.

  • What would he change: He'd probably simplify the SSD setup into a RAID 10. Like I mentioned, he eventually dropped the multi-drive organization because it was a lot to maintain. When you're in the zone and ready to work on your design, the last thing you want to think about is your hard drives. You want to use your tool, not think about the tool itself. So a simplified storage volume that itself was fast is probably what I'd suggest to him looking back. And that's what a RAID 10 is.

So now some context/info and lessons learned!

My friend graduated from KSU this past May and immediately moved to New York City to work for the arch viz firm DBOX. His employment there was a direct result of his obtaining an internship (the only student intern they'd taken in years). The internship itself was a direct result of his ability to produce photorealistic and stylized renderings of his work. Without this computer, he would never have been able to produce renderings of necessary quality in a timely enough fashion to turn in before deadlines.

In studio his computer was consistently the fastest in the context of rendering through VRay or handling very large projects in Revit. Projects that took his friends days to render often took him just a few hours.

HOWEVER. I will say this from both his experience and my own current experience: you do not need a supercomputer for architecture school. It's actually perfectly viable to use a laptop and have the flexibility of working anywhere you go and anywhere that is convenient. Traditional modeling software like Rhino, Grasshopper, Revit, etc. don't require much when you are forming a structure, laying floor plans and walls, cutting doors, etc. The vast majority of architecture school is designing a building and then creating diagrams and digital drawings to represent your design intent effectively. Rendering is just one part of that representation and relative to the whole, it's not something that will make or break a project.

Your building itself, physical hand-built models, and your diagrams/process work will be what communicates your design intention to your professors and peers. The role of a render is to convey the atmosphere of your design.

What I'm trying to say is that unless you want to make rendering a big part of your work focus, you won't need a powerful computer. And in the years since my friend's build, significant advancements have been made in cloud rendering (sending your files to a render farm, having that farm perform the computation, and receiving your render back via the internet).

In my friend's case, a nice desktop was a great solution because he knew he was more interested in rendering projects than actually designing the projects themselves. And it's what he does for a living now. But the vast majority of students in architecture are more interested in designing buildings and spaces, and for that I would suggest saving your money whether you decide on a desktop or a laptop.

I personally do all of my architecture work on a laptop and I know people who make their entire way through school on a laptop. It's just more convenient since work can take you to different locations. Part of the reason is that most people only have one computer, and for a college student it makes sense for that one computer to be a laptop.

Think carefully about just how much you need a super powerful computer to do your work. I'd save as much as you can. To be frank, most of the laptops that my classmates are just decent enough for playing current games at 1080p under Medium settings. It really doesn't take much unless you're interested in visualization, which will be a personal undertaking and added work to what you already have to do for class.

Architecture school is expensive. You may do a lot of large format printing for presentations, as well as spending lots of cash on materials to build models of your work. Credit hours for architecture also tend to cost more than other majors because of technology fees and equipment. And as silly as it sounds, the workload might lead or tempt you to eat out more as planning everyday life becomes more difficult, or splurge on entertainment/nights out. Life just kinda adds up in different was as an arch major. So save as much money as you can.

I hope all of this helps. Architecture school is at once the most demanding and the most rewarding thing I or my friend have ever done. It's brutal and fulfilling at the same time and a lot of passion and drive goes into it. Best of luck!

Realdeal36 1 point 18 months ago

Wow, I don't know what to say! You answered all my questions and then some. First of all, I had no idea you were going for Architecture. You stated in your Valkyrie build your intentions and uses for your computer, so I assumed that the programs you listed weren't related in any way to Architecture. I'm guessing you changed majors? ;)

Some other things:

  • I can't say how thankful I am about you sharing your experience. I'm currently at a 2-year school looking to transfer to a 4/5 year school for my Baccalareate (or go the extra year for licensure, haven't decided). You telling me that students are able to go through their entire schooling with a mediocre laptop puts my worries aside. For so long I was under the assumption that I needed a beast of a computer going into a higher tier school. Thanks for proving me wrong.

  • I currently have a Lenovo P50 (Intel I7-6700HQ, 16GB Ram, Quadro M1000M) which does everything I need to (almost). Last semester was my first time using Vray (trial version). It produced some nice results, but man did it take forever. Half of the time the render would crash or things would become unresponsive for 30 mins or more when doing "heavy" renders. I know my laptop may be better than most, but I felt like I was wasting too much time. All of the work I do is in SketchUp and AutoCAD, so you see how much this affected my perception of what a capable computer is.

  • I know I need a better computer, in most part because I can't play the games I want to (Skyrim won't even launch); but the question is how much of one and at what cost. I think I have a better idea from the advice you've provided.

Again, I greatly appreciate what you were able to provide. You went above and beyond and have given me sound advice, not just on computers, but also the mindset/lifestyle of an Architecture student. And for this, I can't thank you enough.

P.S. If you could, I'd like a little more insight on what the minimum it takes, program wise, to create a decent project at your school. Just for comparison's sake, so I know what and what not to focus my time and resources trying to learn.

bcredeur97 1 point 57 months ago

You put way too much thermal paste. A short line in the middle is sufficient for LGA2011 chips. But i wouldn't worry about it, just know for next time so you dont use all your paste up.

Other than that great build, nice cup holder idea with the optical drive lol.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

Yeah I noticed that when reviewing the pictures afterward. I should have known better. I do think the picture makes the globs look a little fatter than reality, so maybe the camera really does add 10 pounds :P Definitely something I need to look out for in future builds though.

Thank you!

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LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 57 months ago

Yeah I was afraid because LGA2011 has a massive heat spreader compared to AM3+ or LGA1555. Live and learn!

aidanjt 1 point 57 months ago

You would have been far better off getting 3 equally sized SSDs and running them in RAID0. Modern operating systems, SATA controllers, and SSD firmwares are very very efficient at command queue sorting and optimising I/O. Infinitely more efficient than running software and assets and outputs, all with different throughput needs across 3 separate drives and having drives with idle bandwidth while some others choking at other times.

Anyway, that's done now.. But some continuous backup software (Acronis true image springs to mind) to duplicate the working drive to the backup drive would be a good idea, that way the software can maintain file versions and deleted files as changes are being made, that would take the grind away from your friend so he can focus on getting work done instead of juggling files all day.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 2 points 57 months ago

Ah, I just followed the traditional workstation disk setup for graphical content creation - maybe that standard needs to be revisited! I'll definitely ask him to try out his Vertex 460s in RAID0 to see if he gets a performance improvement.

Thanks for the tip about Acronis. I have used it for cloning an OS drive before during laptop SSD upgrades, but I never thought about it for automatic backup drive cloning. Derp.

aidanjt 2 points 57 months ago

No problem. He has a cracking machine going there!

N0VAxForgotten 1 point 46 months ago


LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 46 months ago

Haha I'm not a KSU student but if my friend saw this he'd probably be shouting EMAW!! like a madman :D

N0VAxForgotten 1 point 46 months ago

Like everybody else here does XD

TacosNachosNarcos 1 point 37 months ago

-spends almost 4000$ on workstation pc; -buys 30$ mouse and kb bundle GG

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 1 point 37 months ago

Called having a budget, mate! Peripherals you can buy later no problem. But in the moment of building you get the most for your money in the tower.

TacosNachosNarcos 1 point 37 months ago

I think someone spending almost 4000$ on a xeon workstation should at least consider getting a decent mouse and keyboard, even though I'm spending over 1600 euros on my full setup and getting a 50$ combo xDDDDDDDDDDDD

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 2 points 37 months ago

He did get a decent mouse and keyboard. Cheap doesn't mean bad if you do your homework on what you're buying and buy smart instead of throwing money at your computer.

robbyg13 1 point 37 months ago

$4000 cup holder? :O

Gooberdad 10 Builds 1 point 37 months ago

Bad *** little pc. +1

starforceone 1 point 36 months ago

I love your build, and your guide is very detailed and informative... I'm having trouble deciding if I should invest in the E5 2960 or if the i7 5960X is good enough and just get a higher end GPU? I will be using it for editing 1080p videos with Adobe Premier CS6. This will also be a gaming PC when I have some free time.

ewheck 1 Build 1 point 21 months ago

That looked like a LOT of thermal paste on that cpu!

FurryJackman 3 Builds 1 point 20 months ago

A little late to the party, but when you used your ODD as a cup holder, it reminded me of this: https://boxsetsandbooksblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/it-crowd-ecosystem.png

dylanbistany -1 points 53 months ago

way too much thermal paste bro

loadedaxe 1 Build -1 points 52 months ago

Way too much thermal paste. That will only cause high temps.

What are you going to do when all that electrical tape gets gooey from heat and runs off the devices and leaves a gooey mess? There are other ways of isolating, your method is going to cause serious problems down the road.

Props for the write up, but your part selection and build methods are terrible. For the cost of this build, you skimped in every worse possible way.

LeMonarque submitter 3 Builds 4 points 52 months ago

Ouch, okay. The high temps you speak of are actually 55C, which is fine. Too much paste was used, but in real terms the CPU is not in any danger.

Black electrical tape has a melting point of around 80C, which is nowhere near what the GPU PCB or NH-U14S heat pipes reach. The glue itself could be an issue, but I'm not worried with the amount of pressure that is locking it in place. Simple fix would be to just stick a piece of rubber between the two, which I think I will do anyways.

Thanks for the writeup props, but I don't see where the skimping was done. Could just be my bias though. Would you mind pointing them out and explaining so I can learn from those mistakes? I feel like I could have done a lot worse. Especially since my friend originally wanted a 2697v2 without increasing the budget.

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