I'm currently planning a new machine for later in the year to replace my ageing dual Opteron workstation. I thought I'd share a few thoughts and then look forward to seeing what improvements are suggested...
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.
The budget will be generous but not unlimited. Here are my tentative specs:
- Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe
Like most of the current x58 motherboards this one ain't cheap but it's well reviewed and is eminently overclockable
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920
The slowest of the i7 family but also the most overclockable.
- CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-C12P plus mounting kit
Well reviewed at SPCR as a heatsink and it has the advantage of directing air straight down to the chipset heatsink surrounding the CPU but I wasn't too happy about the lack of PWM fan speed control so I'm opting for the following..
- CPU Heatsink Fan: Arctic Cooling AF 12025 PWM
Great warranty and at it's slowest speeds whisper quiet.
- Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 285
New kid on the block but it's more power efficient than the older 280 series. While both the 280 and 285 draw just 25W when idle the full load 183W TDP of the 285 compares very well with the 236W of the 280 (sources: 280 and 285). I'm leaning towards Asus again but the priority will be quietness when idle so I need to do more research and probably wait for later models fitted with custom cooling.
- Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D
Certainly not the cheapest memory on the planet but it's low latency and 6GB should give Photoshop plenty of headroom
- Boot Disk: Intel® X25-E SSD
OK, I'm in fantasy land here and I might have to scale back my ambitions.
- Storage: 2 x Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB drives as RAID 0
RAID 0 for speed but, of course, that means even stricter attention to a decent backup strategy. If the price of those nice Intel SSDs doesn't come down then this array would also become the boot disk.
- PSU: Enermax ERV850EWT
At 850W this is actually more power supply than I need but the key here is that at my likely peak power requirement of 450W or so the Enermax unit is running at over 90% efficiency and the fan speed is still so low that the PSU is almost silent. As always there's a drawback and that's the price but, as they say, silence is golden.
- OS: Vista Ultimate x64
Yep, I'm one of those odd characters who actually like Vista.
OK, lots of other components to specify but these are the performance related ones and I hope to save money by recycling the old case, optical drives etcetera. The graphics card consumes about 25W at idle, the Samsung drives add another 15W so I wonder whether the total power consumption can get down to about 100W at idle? Still more than I'd like but it's hard to see where power savings can come from and still have a quiet machine that's 80% of the way towards the bleeding edge when prodded. Any ideas?