The new build is complete but, of course, that's just the start of a couple of weeks of work, testing and transferring my working environment across from the old machine.
Just to recap, this replaces my ageing dual Opteron workstation and the aim is to have a machine that I won't feel guilty leaving switched on during the day, which is barely audible for regular 2D work, eats Photoshop for breakfast, enjoys a spot of H.264 video editing for lunch and for dinner can wolf down the likes of Oblivion
or Flight Simulator X
at 1920x1200 and still beg for more.
I had originally intended to reuse the case but that wasn't going to satisfy my need for exceptional and
quiet cooling so I started the spending spree with a Lian Li:
- Case: Lian Li PC-X2000
These aren't cheap, unfortunately, but the cooling is fantastic and it was a joy to work with.
- Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe
These are less easy to find now but they have the advantage over the V2 model that they include an onboard SAS controller which, like all SAS controllers, can also run a SATA drive.
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920
The slowest of the i7 family but also the most overclockable.
- CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-C12P plus mounting kit
I initially fitted this with an Arctic Cooling PWM controlled fan but for some reason the motherboard wasn't picking up the fan speed so I reverted to the supplied Noctua fan which works well.
- Graphics: Asus ENGTX285/HTDP/1GD3
I've become a bit of a fan of Asus recently and as this standard GTX285 card was also amongst the cheapest the decision was easy
- Graphics card Cooler: Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME GTX 280
I initially had some mechanical issues with fitting this cooler and decided to add extra VGA and VR heatsinks, despite Arctic Cooling saying they weren't needed on the GTX285, but the end result is great cooling and almost no noise. Recommended!
- Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D
6GB should give Photoshop plenty of headroom
- Boot Disk: Samsung PB22-J 256GB SSD
This hangs off the SAS controller and works a treat but for large file transfers it's hardly faster than a RAID 0 array. Time will tell if the 0.2mS access time will help justify the cost - more as I continue testing but my initial feeling is that this was a step too far.
- Storage: 4 x Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB drives as 1.8TB RAID 10 array
I had originally intended just two of these as a RAID 0 array but in the end I opted for RAID 10 to take advantage of the extra redundancy.
- Optical Disk: Pioneer BDR-203BK
This Blu-ray unit was also supplemented by an old PATA DVD drive which I wanted to retain as it's region free.
- PSU: Enermax ERV850EWT
This PSU is almost silent.
- OS: Vista Ultimate x64
To be replaced by Windows 7 as soon as that OS is released.
I think my best summary of this machine is that it's a civilised thug. Hardly noticeable when idling along but can produce the horsepower when asked. Both the SSD and the RAID 10 array can produce data continuously comfortably in excess of 100MB/s and, while I didn't design for an ultimate gaming rig, I'm perfectly happy with a 3DMark 05 score of 16,800. That's nearly double what I had on my old dual Opteron 265/8800GTX machine which operates at about five times the volume.
But it's very early days and it won't be until I have a full suite of software installed and I can compare timings with Photoshop that I'll know how far into the next decade this machine will take me. Halfway would be nice and it would help spread the cost a bit.
Oh, and here's what it looks like inside before I replaced the fan on the CPU cooler with the original Noctua unit:
The optical drives mount sideways on in this case so all that can be seen from this view is the back of them.