Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me! New Computer Build

My Resident Geek gave me an early birthday present this year...a brand new computer, and it's crazy big and crazy fast.  I'm mainly writing this just to make all of you envious and jealous of course, but in case you are contemplating building a new system, here is a list of components proven to work well together, and work VERY well for Second Life.

Motherboard:           ASRock X99 Extreme 4
CPU:                        Intel Core i7 5930K
CPU Cooling:          Noctua NH D14 (what a monster!)
Case:                        Silverstone Fortress FT02
Memory:                  G.Skill 32GB DDR4 2400GSKILL 32 GB (8GB x4)
Powered by:             EVGA NEX750G
SSD:                         Samsung EVO 850 Pro 540 GB
Hard Drives:            Western Digital Caviar Black 3TB  (4 drives in RAID 0)
More Hard Drives:   Seagate Barracuda 3TB (2 drives for backup, caching, and archiving)
Optical Drives:         LG 14X and 16X Blu-Ray burners
Graphics:                  EVGA Nvidia GTX980, 4GB
Monitors:                  2 Dell U2711 27" connected with DisplayPort cables
OS:                           Windows 8.1 64 bit

Overclocking:    The Geek just used the one-button auto-overclock feature provided in the ASRock "A-Tuning" applet, and the machine ramped up to 4.3 GHz without muss or fuss.  The huge Noctua cooler and the unique positive pressure, bottom to top airflow of the Fortress case keep the temperatures crazy low.

I'm crazy about my new computer and about my not-so-new but still wonderful Resident Geek!

Note:  You don't need all this power just for Second Life!   A much less expensive system will do just fine as long as you have a good graphics card.  I use this machine for video editing, Photoshop, and 3D modeling and animation as well as SL, so I wanted top-tier performance.

Are there any downsides?  Not really, but there are a few things you should be aware of.
  • Older optical drives may not fit.  We had to take out an older LG Blu-Ray burner because the back of it collided with the motherboard.  The newer and shorter ones will do fine.
  • The Fortress case is a unique design.  Three huge, slow, quiet fans draw in air at the bottom and one fan exhausts air out the top.  To work with this airflow, your CPU cooler should be oriented to blow in the same direction, and your graphics card should be a model that exhausts out the rear of the card.  
  • A radiator may be fitted at the bottom if you water cool.  
  • The motherboard is rotated 90 degrees, so all the connectors are up at the top too, covered by a snap-on grille.  This presents a clean and neat appearance, but cables may need to be a bit longer, or re-routed to reach.
  • Although it has a very clean and neat appearance, if you shove the thing under the desk accessing the cables and components and opening up the case may cause your Geek to swear a lot.  Consider getting a stout wheeled platform and leave enough slack in your cables to let him roll the beast out to work on it.
  • The case is physically huge, but it is a mid-tower case in terms of space inside.
  • The motherboard doesn't have legacy connectors like IDE, a rear serial port, or Firewire.  (There is an on-board serial connector, but you'll need to hook that to an add-in port in one of the rear card slots.)
  • The power supply is fully modular and very versatile, but you may still need extension cables if you have a lot of drives to hook up.
  • When switching to Windows 8, you may want a third party app to add the familiar Start menu back.  I'm using a free one called Classic Start Menu by Ivosoft.
One last tip for novice computer builders:  The website PC Part Picker is a great resource.  You can assemble a component list, and the site will check to make sure they will all work together, and find you the source offering the best price on each item.  You can even set it to alert you when a price drops to a set level.  We've bought from NewEgg and Amazon for years, but thanks to PC Part Picker we've recently added Outlet PC and NCIX US to our list of favorite PC component vendors.

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