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New Mobo, CPU, & Case: seeking advice for first build of a workstation

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March 21, 2013 8:49:13 PM

Hello,

My main computer died earlier this week, so I am putting together my first build and would greatly appreciate your expertise.

Also, I apologize for posting and seeking advice here, instead of reading the previous posts of this forum in great detail, but this computer that I’m using is my temporary replacement machine and is about to die itself.

I am looking to build a powerful computer to handle the following tasks:

  • Running virtual machines
  • Running macros hours on end (I’m looking at 6 hours a day at least if the side business is good)
  • Utilizing RAID configurations, specifically RAID 0, 5, or 6 --- I have been using and loving Intel’s ICH#R chipset over the past 6 years.
  • Occasional gaming, typically SC3 and other real-time strategy games.


  • I will be retaining the following parts from the old machine:

    • 2 SSD HDs—128GB Crucial SSDs (hence raid 0)
    • 4 Std HDs—Brand new WD standard HD’s & 4 very old hard drives about to die (therefore, raid 5 or 6)
    • Graphics—1 x EVGA GeForce GTX 260
    • Monitors—1 x 28” Hannspree monitor, and 1 x 22” Hanns-G monitor
    • Battery BU—1 x APC backup unit
    • Misc old fans and various remaining parts (because why not?)


  • The following are items that I am unsure of keeping (both line items are about 4 years old):

    • RAM — 4 x Crucial 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300)
    • Internal PSU — 1 x PC Power and Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active


  • New items that I will be purchasing include:

    • A new computer case (I’m looking at these three so far—1, 2, 3—please see footnote #1)
    • A new motherboard (it must do RAID 0, 5, or 6 - I would prefer Intel’s ICH#R again—being able to support more than 6 drives would be fantastic as well).
    • A new CPU (currently leaning towards Intel’s Core i# series—please see footnote #2)


  • I'm thinking the budget is somewhere around $700 for the three categories above, and maybe another $500 or so on miscellaneous items as well, if needed to support these three main purchases or replace the aforementioned two items above.

    Footnote #1 (Computer Case): I think these HAF’s are good for me, because I live in AZ and the temperatures in my condo may get up to 90 degrees or so during the summer (trying to not A/C the entire place just for my computer to run macros while I’m at my day job). Also, the cpu cabinet will be located on the desk behind my 28” monitor, and I have lament flooring, so carpet dust particles aren’t too much of a concern. In addition, a better than average quiet case would be nice, but I’ll be running 4 old HDs, so I’ll take what I can get there.

    Footnote #2 (New CPU): Does one typically have to buy a heatsink or any new fans, etc, when buying a new CPU?

    Also as an aside, I was running XP SP3, and may upgrade to Windows 7 sometime in the future, idk for sure yet.

    I know I have written a small novel and I apologize for that. If you kind experts could provide any feedback, it would be immensely appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,
    Cark

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    a c 93 à CPUs
    a b V Motherboard
    March 21, 2013 9:35:01 PM

    Extremely well written - this is a pleasant surprise to get to respond to.

    First, no worries about not reading the forums - you've got a unique case, and we're here to help.
    I'm going to answer as many of your questions as I can, but bear in mind that I might miss a few (gently remind me) and I know gaming - so I'm not sure the needs of what you're looking for. And... on to the answers:

    1) Cases are very personal choices. I don't happen to like any of those three, and would want more cooling - my choice would be something like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    2) For a new motherboard, I'm going to come out and say that you want an Asrock Z77 Extreme 6. It's a great quality board, and has 4 SATA 3 ports and 4 SATA 2 ports.

    3) For the CPU, I'd get an i5-3570k. If macros can make use of hyperthreading, which I doubt, bump that up to an i7-3770k. (The only difference between the two chips is that the i7 has hyperthreading.) Both will come with stock coolers, but they'll be noisy. If you want to overclock, or just want a quieter cooler, I'd buy a $30 Hyper 212 EVO. It's a great little cooler, and will get you to 4.2-4.4GHz with ease should you choose to overclock.

    4) You want new ram. That's DDR2, which is slow, and it's only 4GB. Grab 8GB of DDR 3 - 1600MHz ram with CAS 9 at 1.5v. Preferably sticks with low heat spreaders; something like these: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    5) I highly recommend you upgrade to Windows 7. It's a very, VERY nice operating system, and will run extremely smoothly. (And I personally would avoid windows 8 simply because it isn't mature enough for me yet.)

    6) As for a power supply, I'm not sure I'd trust that. Grab a 550w unit of a reliable brand - it'll be about $70.

    All of these recommendations are made without a tight budget in mind - if that is a factor, let me know. (But they aren't expensive parts, and they're wonderful. Only thing I'd say is that if you're gaming, you'll want to upgrade your graphics card.)
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    a b à CPUs
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    March 21, 2013 10:14:00 PM

    doesn't anybody buy xeon processors?
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    a c 93 à CPUs
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    March 21, 2013 10:22:59 PM

    swifty_morgan said:
    doesn't anybody buy xeon processors?


    Not sure a Xeon is cost effective here. Yes, it's the best you can get, but an i7 is going to come real close to that for a lot less money.
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    March 23, 2013 5:53:06 PM

    DarkSable,

    "Ask and you shall receive", right? I sincerely appreciate your previous posting. It provided guidance to me when I was completely lost. Thank you so much for your insights - they were and still are very much appreciated.

    As an aside, it was kind of ridiculous moment I had the other day (Friday morning). I had just arrived at work and checked my email on my phone. I noticed a reply to the forum had been made, so I visited the site. After reading your posting, I had the strangest feeling… It was as though my main objective for the day (mainly to gather advice), had just been achieved in an instant, and it was only 7:30 AM! Needless to say, it took some motivation to endure the subsequent 8 hours of work, but I managed to get through it. Lol.

    As for today, I have made excellent progress in making decisions on the final purchases. Although, I still have two more questions that I am hoping that you can help me with, if you don’t mind.

    DarkSable said:
    1) Cases are very personal choices. I don't happen to like any of those three, and would want more cooling - my choice would be something like this:…


    I am on the fence between your suggestion and another one I found. I shall see how that plays out, idk yet…

    DarkSable said:
    2) For a new motherboard, I'm going to come out and say that you want an Asrock Z77 Extreme 6. It's a great quality board, and has 4 SATA 3 ports and 4 SATA 2 ports.


    That was a great recommendation, thanks again. I have searched Newegg and am leaning towards this piece of hardware, here. With this specific motherboard in mind, would you have any reservations about the previously recommended RAM? (i.e. should it be a different speed, etc).

    DarkSable said:
    3) For the CPU, I'd get an i5-3570k. If macros can make use of hyperthreading, which I doubt, bump that up to an i7-3770k. (The only difference between the two chips is that the i7 has hyperthreading.) Both will come with stock coolers, but they'll be noisy. If you want to overclock, or just want a quieter cooler, I'd buy a $30 Hyper 212 EVO. It's a great little cooler, and will get you to 4.2-4.4GHz with ease should you choose to overclock.


    I concur, going with the i5-3570. I may be able to make use of the HTT with the virtual machines, but that’s kind of a peripheral activity solely for testing new software and miscellaneous other things of that nature.

    DarkSable said:
    5) I highly recommend you upgrade to Windows 7. It's a very, VERY nice operating system, and will run extremely smoothly. (And I personally would avoid windows 8 simply because it isn't mature enough for me yet.)


    I have been using Windows 7 for the past couple of years at work, and agree that upgrading is a good idea.

    DarkSable said:
    6) As for a power supply, I'm not sure I'd trust that. Grab a 550w unit of a reliable brand - it'll be about $70.


    I apologize, but I tried to research the PSU stuff this morning and my head almost exploded. From what I understand, I’m looking for a high-end modular power supply that is gold rated. The only problem is, that I can’t make a decision on the company. Do you mind, possibly providing one more recommendation for this final mental block that I’m having?

    And if you don’t have time to respond these two questions, then don’t worry about it. You’ve been so helpful already. Thanks again for all of your insights.

    Best regards,
    Cark
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    a c 93 à CPUs
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    March 23, 2013 6:35:40 PM

    The TB4 is a great motherboard, but extremely pricey. Do you have ANYTHING that uses a thunderbolt port? If not, scrap that in favor of a regular Extreme 6 - the only difference between them is the thunderbolt ports. As for what ram works with it, well... I personally would go find some black ram that fits the color of the motherboard, but that's just me. :p 
    (If you do go ram hunting, here's what you're looking for: DDR3, 1600MHz, Cas 9, 1.5v, and low profile. [i.e. none of the purely decorative heatsink fans on top.])


    I've got an overclocked 3570k, and I can tell you that it'll run virtual machines just fine, long as you aren't running more than, say, two at a time. That being said, make sure you get the "k" version of the processor - that's the one that can overclock, should you choose to do so. (With a hyper 212 evo and an extreme 4 or 6, getting an overclock to, say, 4.2 GHz is going to be very easy, and won't even require a voltage change.)

    As for the power supplies, this thread is going to be your best friend: http://www.eggxpert.com/forums/thread/323050.aspx
    Any tier 1 or 2a power supply is going to be what you want. Modular (or semi-modular, which just means everything is modular except for the two cables required for the computer to run anyways) is going to be your friend when it comes to cable management. As for the rating, you can take either bronze, silver, or gold. All of them are very good and indecate reliability. Since there's SUCH a premium on gold-rated, I generally go for silver, taking gold only if it's not way more expensive. (The seasonic X series are my go-to choices for gold, since I do small form factor, and they're 140mm most of the way up the chain, whereas, say, corsair jumps to 160 and 180mm.)

    If you don't have the time, and just need a straight recommendation, here's what I use in most of my builds. It's slightly pricier, but it's built like a tank, is virtually silent, and puts out considerably more power than it's rated for. (Most power supplies either put out just what they say they can, or for the bad ones, WAY less than they claim.) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


    Oh, and final recommendation. If you're hunting around for ram, and can find these in stock, buy 'em. The specs aren't the best in the world, but these things overclock like gangbusters. If you're willing to put in a little time overclocking, they can get up to some insane specs, since they're low voltage but handle more just fine. (*Disclaimer: Like overclocking anything, a lot depends on luck. Tom's, apparently, hasn't gotten good chips when they've tried this ram - I've used it in several builds and been very satisfied every time.) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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    March 24, 2013 8:58:34 AM

    Hey DarkSable,

    Thanks again for your input – always immensely appreciated.

    Regarding the TB4, I noticed that Thunderbolt uselessness. I’m not so much interested in that technology. Rather, the way they described the RAID, is what grabbed my attention.

    For instance, the (regular) Extreme6/LGA’s description has the following verbiage:

    "Storage Devices
    SATA 3Gb/s—4
    SATA 6Gb/s—4 x SATA 6Gb/s
    SATA RAID—4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s and 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s by Intel Z77, support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10"

    I understood that final line to mean, that I may have a single RAID configuration with the 4—3GB/s SATA’s, and another one (maybe two?) configurations of the 2—6Gb/s configuration(s). Or rather,
    1 configuration @ 3 Gb/s @ 4 drives, RAID of 0, 1, 5, or 10, along with
    1 or 2 configurations @ 6 Gb/s @ 2 drives, RAID of 0, 1, 5, or 10

    The Extreme6/TB4’s description reads as follows:

    "Storage Devices
    SATA 3Gb/s—4
    SATA 6Gb/s—2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by Intel Z77—2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors by ASMedia ASM1061
    SATA RAID—0/1/5/10"

    I interpreted this verbiage to mean that I could have any number of drives in any RAID configuration (e.g, all 8 in RAID 5, etc). And the extra line of verbiage in the “6Gb/s” section, was merely describing the manufacturer of the 6Gb/s SATA connectors. Am I reading this correctly?

    Also, what is this nonsense that I’m seeing of 32-bit Windows 7 only supporting 4GB of RAM? I'm going to have to go the 64-bit route, to utilize all of the soon to be purchased 8 Gb’s of RAM, won’t I? (or I may get 16, decision pending).

    Regards,
    Cark
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    a c 93 à CPUs
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    March 24, 2013 11:03:51 AM

    You aren't, sadly. That's just the person who wrote the description of the motherboards being lazy - the raid would work the same damn way for all of them. (Or else the 6GB/s ports would limit themselves to 3GB/s.)

    What you can do with the Extreme 6 is set up a raid array however you like between four drives on 3GB/s connections, and a second raid array between the drives on the 6GB/s connections. (But honestly, at that point, you're far better off buying a raid card than relying on an inbuilt controller. Embedded controllers are really only designed to handle a couple drives in raid 1 or 0.


    And no, that's not nonsense - a 32GB OS can only support 3.6GB of RAM, including VRAM. It's just how it works, and yeah, it's frustrating, but it doesn't matter that much; just buy x64, which will be faster anyways.
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    March 27, 2013 9:53:29 PM

    Hey DarkSable,

    I wanted to give you an update. I pulled the trigger Sunday night and ordered the PC… I essentially bought everything you told me to LOL!

    Including the Asrock Extreme6 LBA mobo. I had searched for good RAID PCI cards that could handle 8 SATA ports and that were priced reasonably, but they don’t seem to exist at the moment. I don’t expect there is much demand for such a solution, when the hot products these days are the SSDs (e.g., why RAID 6 or 8 SATAs together, when 2 or 3 SSDs deliver the same performance?).

    I also bought the CPU case you recommended. Due to the additional fans and better mesh filters. I couldn’t be happier with this choice. This case is phenomenal and I can’t wait to build this thing. The CPU, RAM, and PSU are all as you recommended too.

    Thanks again, for providing timely and accurate advice throughout this whole process. I feel like I owe you my first born or something lol. See you around.

    Regards,
    Cark
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    a c 93 à CPUs
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    March 28, 2013 1:03:13 PM

    Glad to hear that things are going well!

    There really isn't much like having a nice case - and that one is bloody amazing; I'm glad you like it. You probably could find a decent RAID card, but like you said, there's not much point. (Also, putting SSDs in raid is somewhat pointless - a single SSD is as fast as a RAID 0 array.)

    If there's anything else I can help you with, just let me know; I'm more than happy to help.
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