My <$2000 "dream" computer, situated around a MSI Gaming motherboard and MSI GPU, would be a bit different than what most people would consider a "dream" computer....
I don't really need a new computer but I'd certainly love to have the following. Thanks MSI and PCPP for hosting this competition!
Looks like a few part prices have crept up and pushed me over the $2000 mark. I do have access to a Microcenter that has this CPU for $899.99 as an in-store walk-in, which would drop this build to a listed $1918
CPU i7-5960X :
For the type of things I'd like to do with such a machine, the CPU really should be the focus of the build. With a dual socket board and E5 Xeons failing to fit within the requirements of the contest, I would happily "settle" for an overclocked 5960X. (oh how awful...). I would really like to do more youtube content creation, but I usually find myself frustrated with the long render / transcoding times for these projects. A 5960X would deliver the most possible performance scaling for the applications I would likely be using for this. (I'm a Linux junky)
CPU Cooler Phanteks PH-TC14PE_RD :
I don't personally have much enthusiasm for mechanically pumped liquid cooling solutions. I've tinkered with one before and wasn't impressed. Decibel for decibel and dollar for dollar they strike me as more of a novelty, or a solution to a problem that is largely imagined. It isn't until we get into very large sizes at greater cost (280mm or larger usually ~$120+) that the mechanically pumped liquid cooling solution begins to pull ahead of a big liquid heatpipe tower by a margin worth bothering with. Unfortunately, these systems still come with the risk of leakage, pump failure (usually non-repairable), and pump noise/vibration (hit and miss). From my perspective, I just have no interest in subjecting a $2000 build to these down-sides when there is a liquid heatpipe solution that is quiet, reliable, and has only 1 easy to fix failure mode (fan failure). The PH-TC14PE performs very similarly to a Noctua D15, but at a lower price point, with much better aesthetics. Obviously I've opted for the red version here to fit a red/black color scheme.
Comparison to D15 and others: http://www.anandtech.com/show/9415/top-tier-cpu-air-coolers-9way-roundup-review/12
Comparison to H110 and others: https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Phanteks/PH-TC14PE/6.html
Hard to argue with that sort of cooling vs noise vs cost for a machine like this. A 4.4GHZ overclock (my goal for this) should be easily attainable baring an unusually bad dud of a CPU sample.
Have a looky here:
5 samples of 5960X hit 4.5GH+ on a Kraken X41. If we apply a little google-fu and perform some sensible cross-referencing of reviews, we can conslude that the X41 and PH-TC14PE would actually perform about the same in terms of thermal dissipation and resulting CPU temperatures. The X41 would cost more and be louder while doing it though. A perfect example of why I'm not interested in mechanically pumped liquid cooling for this build.
Due to the "shoehorned" nature of this build (cramming a $1000 CPU into a $2000 build), there really isn't going to be room in the budget for a motherboard that can deliver insane levels of clean power to the CPU socket to make use of a more powerful CPU cooler anyway. The 5960X, being an 8 core part, can in fact consume and dissipate more power into the same cooling solution at the same operating temp as a 6 core part. Watt for watt, cooling the 5960X is actually easier than a 5930K/5820K due to the reduced thermal density. Furthermore, in a watt for watt comparison of VRM stress, the 5960X is actually harder on VRMs than a 5820K/5930K, as it will hit a given power level at lower voltage and higher current than the 6 core parts. Current is really the key limitation for VRM's. All these things considered, I don't believe throwing a giant AIO or custom loop on this configuration would buy much if any tangible improvement in overclocking on this motherboard with this CPU. The PH-TC14PE is a very logical stopping point for value in this configuration.
Motherboard MSI X99A GAMING 7 :
The contest requires a MSI Gaming Z170A or X99 motherboard. This is the least expensive motherboard that fits the contest requirements and my preferred CPU choice for such a build. It also happens to be, a wonderful feature rich motherboard that would work really nicely for a build like this. One thing I noticed in MSI's product page for this motherboard, was "SteamOS ready." This tells me I should have a trouble free experiencing installing linux distros on this machine. Granted, this is not normally an issue, however, at this time a Skylake build is still a bit challenging on many linux distros. It's nice to know that it isn't likely that I'd run into an issue with kernel support for USB controllers or the SuperIO or LAN or Audio etc.
Features that jump out at me as especially nice are as follows: dual-BIOS, CMOS clear button, debug LED, beefy isolated onboard audio with headphone amplifier, great quality high efficiency CPU VRM design, and USB 3.1 actually built-in (unlike many X99 boards that claim to have USB 3.1, but actually just ship with a USB 3.1 PCIE card in the box). Doesn't hurt that this board also looks freakin beautiful. I guess it's going to be a red/black theme ;)
Memory F4-2400C15Q-16GNT :
I would actually buy a second kit equal to this kit to add to this build, in order to fill all 8 DIMM slots with 1 rank of memory, thus fulfilling what I believe to be an ideal memory configuration for an X99 build: 2 ranks of memory per channel spread across all 8 slots (aesthetics / OCD fulfillment), totaling 32GB. This configuration would support both rank and quad channel interleave, with the lowest possible load on the memory controller and memory VRMs without compromising on any interleave capabilities.
From a performance perspective, 4 X 8GB DIMM's would accomplish the same result (2 ranks per channel for rank interleave + quad channel interleave totaling 32GB). Way I see it, we can spread out those memory chips on 8 bare DIMM's (no clearance issues) and have very nearly the same "heat spreading" performance that we'd get from a 4X8GB configuration with small heatspreaders (fit under the phanteks). That being said, thermals aren't really an issue with DDR4, so this sort of rational falls into the "unnecessary academic rationalization" category. I don't foresee a use for more than 32GB RAM in the life of such a build, given what I would likely do with it, so I actually like the idea of running 8 X 4GB here.
I would probably custom tune the memory speed, timings, and voltage for the fun of it. Realistically, it doesn't effect performance a ton, but I enjoy tinkering with subsystem optimization and would have actually have more fun overclocking a budget RAM kit than using an easy-mode XMP profile overclocked kit. I imagine that at 1.35V these could probably hit ~3000MT/s or better at CAS 15.
I actually really like the aesthetics of this G.Skill kit. The black PCB's with black memory chips look great to me. This is largely irrelevant as they will be pretty much hidden under the phanteks cooler anyway, but at least I would know that the RAM looks great and matches the red/black theme in a unique/hip way while being a great value. It's also important that the RAM actually physically fit under the CPU heatsink in this build. Something that a LOT of DDR4 won't do. I find it interesting, that with this advancement in memory technology, that has reduced power consumption, there seems to be a lot of memory kits with larger-than-ever heatsinks on them. Most of them look awful IMO.
Storage PNY CS2111 480GB :
I was hoping to shoehorn a Samsung 950 Pro into this build, but it just isn't happening. AHCI it is.... Speaking of which, due to the AHCI/SATA bottleneck, there is no tangible difference in performance between this PNY SSD (which uses a proven Silicon Motion Controller and Micron MLC NAND) and a Samsung 850 Pro in single client workloads like launching software or transferring files around. The only place any difference will show up here, is in benchmarks that create workloads that simply don't happen with single client usage. The CS2111 is basically the exact same SSD as a Crucial BX100. In the 480GB size, it has enough interleave opportunity to perform with higher end drives near the AHCI/SATA choke point.
I would add additional storage drives to this build on an as-needed basis. I would like to leverage the Seagate ST5000NM0024 (5TB, 7200RPM, 128MB cache, 1TB platters) for project drives, and Seagate ST8000AS0002 (8TB archive drives) for backup and media storage.
Video Card MSI GTX 960 GAMING 4G :
From the perspective of this competition. I have to pick a 900 or 300 series GPU from MSI and this happens to fit the budget. So... yea. How about a middle of the road GTX960? Boring? Ridiculous? Insane? Almost certainly the weakest GPU you'll find in any of the submissions for this competition, but for this, it makes perfect sense. Allow me to explain.
From a linux workstation functionality and performance perspective, this is about as good as it gets unless we are using some very specific applications for some very specific workflows. Even from a gaming perspective there are very few games that are either linux native or can be made to run in linux that would benefit from a more powerful GPU unless connected to a very high resolution display configuration. I like the fact that the GTX960, unlike its more powerful brothers (970/980/980Ti etc), actually comes with a more advanced fixed function video engine (H.265/VP9 @ 4K). While this is certainly not a requirement for this build as it has enough CPU power to handle software decoding and playback of these formats, I see this as a good feature to have for the purpose of testing for playback issues of custom tuned software encoder settings. Otherwise, the GTX960 4GB offers plenty of GPU grunt for openGL/CL/CUDA acceleration in linux applications and games, to the point of being largely overkill in most circumstances. I'm opting for the nvidia route here as I prefer nvidia's binary driver implementation in linux over AMD's solution, and I also prefer the way that nvidia deals with multi-monitor support on kepler/maxwell over AMD GCN cards. I believe it is more flexible/useful than eyefinity as it works with up to 4 monitors of just about any size/type/connection passively. AMD's multi-monitor implementation gets messy beyond 2-3 monitors, requiring the use of active adapters and hubs in many situations.
While I do not immediately see any reason for a more powerful GPU than this, if I did need more GPU power in the future for GPGPU acceleration in more advanced video editing software (hopefully support for this will become more widespread in linux editors), I would probably dedicate this GPU as a user interface GPU, then add a dedicated compute GPU, thus eliminating the interactive performance issues that are common when GPU's are used for compute and active displays at the same time.
I opted for the red/black version of the card to match the color theme going on here.
Case Inwin 707 :
My list of requirements in a case for this build are as follows:
8+ 3.5" drive bays: check.
Decent cable management. The 707 has nearly an inch of space behind the tray, and grometed pass-throughs on the tray, including a proper "clean" EPS power routing. Check
Red/Black theme with big Window and unique looks. Check
8 Expansion slots. Not 7. Check. (more clearance between PSU and I/O and/or PCIE cards).
Not a Fractal Design or Corsair Case. Nothing wrong with Fractal Design or Corsair. They are wonderful. But I want something more unique/unusual for this build. The In Win 707 falls right in line with the road-less-traveled approach that I like to take when possible without any major compromise's in quality or functionality.
This case has a fan mount behind the CPU socket. This is a VERY good place for a fan in an overclocking rig. Really helps keep socket/VRM temps down. Remember, the "other half" of those mosfets is surface mounted to the board and is sinking heat to the motherboard itself. I would certainly be installing a fan back there. This is a very cool and rare feature on case's.
I like that this case has 4 X front mount USB ports. Not all case's have this.
Admittedly, this case is not without its faults. I would probably do a mod or 2 to"fix" some of the negatives. As I understand based on reading one review, this case does not have rubber feet. This would be a pretty easy fix.
If you would like to learn more about this case: https://www.google.com/search?q=in+win+707+review
PSU 210-GQ-1000-V1 :
The build as configured, with the intended overclocking goals, would technically run just fine on a 650W-750W PSU. I actually considered doing this, as it would afford a 950 Pro 256GB SSD (instead of the PNY CS2111 480GB). Unfortunately, PSU's are a lot more work to replace than SSD's, so the PSU won the battle there. The idea here is to have a nice quality power supply with enough headroom to support any upgrade paths I imagine to be likely for this build. The possibility of adding a dedicated compute GPU to something like this is real enough within the life of the machine that a more powerful PSU is justified. The 1KW GQ manufactured by FSP is plenty of quality for my tastes, and has the connectivity and power to handle the foreseeable upgrade paths this build could take.
Maximum power dissipation:
5960X@4.4GHZ + VRM loss's = ~300W.
MSI GTX960 4GB: ~140W
GTX980Ti (compute card add-on): up to ~300W
That leaves over 250W of headroom in the worst case scenario (torture test) for drives/fans/chipset/ram/usb/ethernet/sound/superIO/etc. That's plenty, even if I totally fill the thing with hard drives and fans.
If you are looking for PSU reviews: http://www.realhardtechx.com/index_archivos/PSUReviewDatabase.html
Yep, that's the makings of a 5960XTC14PEX99A7R16GNTCS2111V320034R707GQ1000.
Thank you for checking out my submission to the MSI Build Your Dream PC Guide competition. If you like this build, and think I should have it, toss me a vote. If you don't like this build, or don't think I should have it, well.. too bad. I guess there's no down-voting allowed in the competition because apparently, if given the opportunity to cheat, a lot of people do!
If I win; I won't be donating the proceeds to starving children in afcrapistan or indoslauvia, or using the computer to make say-no-to-drugs or quit-smoking or climate change awareness public service address's.