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Please review small workstation!!

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September 12, 2007 7:32:22 PM

A friend of mine from work is building a small workstation for himself and has asked me about components. He doesn't really have a lot of money, but I recommended "the basics":

Cooler Master Centurion 5
Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz
Asus P5K Deluxe
Mega Pack OCZ 4GB DDR2-800 Low Latency
Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme
SATA DVD Recorder Samsung (Black)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
Corsair VX450W PSU
XFX 8400GS Video Card (basics only)
Noctua NF-S12 120mm Fan

Because this is a workstation, I selected better-than-usual cooling for him. We're also from Brazil, which means our room temperature can get to the 30 degrees Celsius... So an aftermarket heatsink is a good idea.

What do you think? Any comments would be appreciated!!
September 12, 2007 8:23:39 PM

What is this workstation going to be used for, because the 8400GS is a weak card even for basic graphical work, if he's going to be using CAD or another similar app he may need a Quadro or FireGL...
September 13, 2007 12:21:50 AM

No no, no graphical work whatsoever. It's scientific calculations that are only CPU intensive.

I think I got a SLACR Q6600 (G0 on both cores!). With the U120 Extreme and P5K Deluxe, I might even get a healthy 3.0Ghz OC... question is if that's OK for scientific work or not. Heh....
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September 13, 2007 12:39:53 AM

Looks mostly good. The Noctua fan is considered to be a poor choice when used with heatsinks with tightly packed fins like the U120 Extreme; the Scythe S-Flex fans may be a better choice. Also, 8GB of memory may help depending on the application.
September 13, 2007 1:43:59 AM

Thanks accord99. I already did a few changes: I found a place that sells Panaflo fans. Two 120x38mm models were quite interesting:

Panaflo Medium Speed (FBA12G12M-1BX)
Panaflo Ultra Quiet (FBA12G12L-1BX)

They're both quite heavy-duty. In this cooler Master Centurion 5 case (I found another place that sells these Centurion 5 cases very cheap), I was thinking about getting two of the "Ultra Quiet" ones (they spin at 1700rpm and are 38mm deep!) and placing them in a push-pull configuration - one attached to the U120 Extreme and the other one right behind, used as a replacement for the generic 120mm case fan that Cooler Master puts in it. Sounds good, eh?

The Centurion 5's front is perforated and with air filters, which kind of guarantees a wind tunnel effect. Even more so with these high-quality fans!

Also, I've switched the PSU to an equally-expensive, but probably much better Seventeam Thundering H80 - ST-600-EAD-05G (600W). Is this a good idea?... I don't know, I read that this 600W PSU is great, but I noticed it has only one 80mm fan... will this be well cooled?...

Thanks again.
a c 99 à CPUs
September 13, 2007 3:22:38 AM

Mephistopheles said:
A friend of mine from work is building a small workstation for himself and has asked me about components. He doesn't really have a lot of money, but I recommended "the basics":

Cooler Master Centurion 5
Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz
Asus P5K Deluxe
Mega Pack OCZ 4GB DDR2-800 Low Latency
Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme
SATA DVD Recorder Samsung (Black)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
Corsair VX450W PSU
XFX 8400GS Video Card (basics only)
Noctua NF-S12 120mm Fan

Because this is a workstation, I selected better-than-usual cooling for him. We're also from Brazil, which means our room temperature can get to the 30 degrees Celsius... So an aftermarket heatsink is a good idea.

What do you think? Any comments would be appreciated!!


The hardware sounds pretty good, although I'd make a few suggestions about its deployment:

1. Make sure you have a 64-bit OS or you will not see all 4 GB of your RAM. Plus, if you have a 64-bit version of your software or can compile it, you will likely see a performance boost over the 32-bit version.
2. You will want to have an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) if you run calculations for more than a day or so at a time. Trust me on this one, I lost a run I was doing for 40 days due to the power going out for five minutes- I was extremely pissed. A UPS would have kept the unit going or at least let me suspend it, saving my run.
3. Are you sure 4 GB RAM is enough? I don't know your workload, but almost every number-crunching task I've ever done has taken as much RAM as I could throw at the machine, which was 4-8 GB in a dual-core machine. Your proposed machine can take 8 GB RAM maximum.
4. DO NOT OVERCLOCK. You will likely cause your computer to make calculation mistakes if you do. If you want more speed, refund the Q6600 and buy a Q6700 or a QX6850 instead.. Also, overclocking will cause the computer to throw off a lot more heat than it does at stock. You have a production machine here- overclocking a production machine is probably #3 on the list of things not to do do, behind using untested OS/program updates and using the computer to surf porn and catching viruses.
5. You should consider using a redundant HDD array if you have calculations that run for a significant amount of time. Then when an HDD dies, it won't take the machine and your last calculation run down with it and force you to re-run the calculation.
6. Backups...never bad to make sure that important work gets backed up from the machine often. I might sound paranoid, but I've seen too many people lose things off computers when HDDs die, and they do die, often at the most inopportune time. It's no big deal to slap a new HDD in the computer when it dies when you maybe lost a few hours or a day's worth of work, but it's a big pain to re-run weeks or months of work that died along with the drive.

There, that should help you out some. I have built and run several number-crunching machines and am more than happy to help with any issues you might have or questions you want to ask.
September 13, 2007 7:25:30 AM

I would stick with the Corsair. It's manufactured by Seasonic, one of the most highest regarded PSU manufacturers and is efficient and quiet. 450W is also more than adequate to power the system. Also, I would probably stick to just 1 fan on the U120 Extreme, it combined with the single fan would enough to keep the CPU cool while minimizing noise.
September 13, 2007 10:49:39 AM

MU_Engineer said:
The hardware sounds pretty good, although I'd make a few suggestions about its deployment:

1. Make sure you have a 64-bit OS or you will not see all 4 GB of your RAM. Plus, if you have a 64-bit version of your software or can compile it, you will likely see a performance boost over the 32-bit version.
2. You will want to have an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) if you run calculations for more than a day or so at a time. Trust me on this one, I lost a run I was doing for 40 days due to the power going out for five minutes- I was extremely pissed. A UPS would have kept the unit going or at least let me suspend it, saving my run.
3. Are you sure 4 GB RAM is enough? I don't know your workload, but almost every number-crunching task I've ever done has taken as much RAM as I could throw at the machine, which was 4-8 GB in a dual-core machine. Your proposed machine can take 8 GB RAM maximum.
4. DO NOT OVERCLOCK. You will likely cause your computer to make calculation mistakes if you do. If you want more speed, refund the Q6600 and buy a Q6700 or a QX6850 instead.. Also, overclocking will cause the computer to throw off a lot more heat than it does at stock. You have a production machine here- overclocking a production machine is probably #3 on the list of things not to do do, behind using untested OS/program updates and using the computer to surf porn and catching viruses.
5. You should consider using a redundant HDD array if you have calculations that run for a significant amount of time. Then when an HDD dies, it won't take the machine and your last calculation run down with it and force you to re-run the calculation.
6. Backups...never bad to make sure that important work gets backed up from the machine often. I might sound paranoid, but I've seen too many people lose things off computers when HDDs die, and they do die, often at the most inopportune time. It's no big deal to slap a new HDD in the computer when it dies when you maybe lost a few hours or a day's worth of work, but it's a big pain to re-run weeks or months of work that died along with the drive.

There, that should help you out some. I have built and run several number-crunching machines and am more than happy to help with any issues you might have or questions you want to ask.



One of the better replies I've seen of late!!!!!

:sol: 
September 13, 2007 11:24:56 AM

Thanks for that, MU_Engineer. You're right about not overclocking. I kind of "knew" that, but I couldn't help but think that the U120 extreme and a G0 Q6600 would be a great OC... But you made me come to my senses. No OC!

Also, about that 8GB of memory, well, I'm getting the 4GB at such a low price that going to 8GB would be +35% or so on top of the price for all components. We don't have that kind of money, unfortunately...

And thanks for your comment about UPSes. We've got that covered: we already have a good one here.

Also, about that "two fan" configuration, I wasn't actually thinking about placing two fans on the U120: I was only going to put one on it, and the "pull" fan would be the 120mm case fan directly behind the U120. I've done this before and it works wonders. My only question is wether to use the 120x38 Panaflos or something cheaper, like 2x 120mm Akasa Amber Series Double Ball Bearing fans... The Panaflos push more air, but at 1700rpm, I think they'll be louder too...

That's about the only choice I have left to make.

Also, accord99: thanks for your input. I've worked with Corsair PSUs before and like their PSUs a lot, so I might just change back to the VX450. Too bad I couldn't find a HX520...
September 13, 2007 1:55:20 PM

Damn, I can't find the P5K Deluxe anywhere!

Now I have to choose amongst the following candidates:

ABIT IN9 32X-MAX (nVidia 680i)
ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition (i965)
ASUS Striker Exreme (nVidia 680i, expensive as hell)
MSI P6N (nVidia 680i)
ABIT AB9 Quad GT (i965)
Asus Commando (i965)
Asus P5N32-E SLI (nVidia 680i)
Abit AW9D-MAX (i975X)

Which one should I get? I think maybe the first order of business would to choose the chipset. 965, 975 or nVidia 680i? I might be able to get hold of a "Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3P rev 1.0" based on P35 if it's really that much better... but right now, I'm having difficulty deciding. All options listed above are probably very respectable motherboards...

I'm kind of afraid the nVidia ones won't handle the memory well because of compatibility problems... And the Abit AW9D, IN9 32X-MAX and MSI P6N all look like very heavy-duty motherboards... Why do I have so many choices? Now I'm confused. :( 

Please help!!! Which one should I go with?...

Edit: The store owner gave me a discount which allows me to - if I don't get the most expensive motherboards above - get, say, an OCZ EvoStream 600W PSU or an Antec 650W TruePower Trio - TP3-650 or OCZ 700W GameXStream. I like the idea of modular cables of the EvoStream, because this computer will have a window... but I'm not sure it's worth it. Damn, I'm in one of those days that I simply can't decide anything...
September 13, 2007 4:11:55 PM

The Asus Striker Extreme just dropped in price 15%. I think that I'll just go with it... And get the Corsair VX450 too. That's my current decision... hope it's the right one...

Also, I've chosen to go with the Akasa Amber Series 120mm fan indeed. It's a double ball bearing fan that should be quite OK... I think.

Thanks for all the input.

Any last minute comments would be appreciated.
September 13, 2007 5:43:16 PM

shoulda gone with AMD
September 13, 2007 5:43:38 PM

its alway sbetter to go with second best
September 13, 2007 5:44:20 PM

why u ask...cause...well...
!