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Seeking advice: ~$1.4K Software dev wrkstn - solid config - i7

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October 16, 2009 9:55:54 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This week
BUDGET RANGE: Under $1,500 for bare bones system
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Software development, compiling code, general office (NOT games)
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard/mouse/monitor will be reused
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: www.newegg.com or www.amazon.com
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: US
PARTS PREFERENCES: None
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No
MONITOR RESOLUTION: DUAL - 1920x1200
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Seeking best price/performance with focus on reliability and longevity

Planning to build a dozen workstations for software developers. Performance of the machine while compiling code and running 2-3 concurrent guest OSes under vmware Workstation is key; graphics performance not critical at all. I'm not seeking exotic tweaks or parts that add 4% to performance and 40% to price. I'm happy to change configuration to hit nice price/performance sweet spot if performance is "reasonable."

BY FAR the most critical part of this configuration is that the system "just work." I will happily spend an extra $300 on higher quality components or a configuration that is known to "Just Work." Note the extra money is going to get something that works reliability; not faster performance. :-)

The next most critical consideration is longevity of the platform -- having an expensive developer stop work due to a power supply failure or an issue caused by new video drivers costs hundreds of dollars. We're seeking quality components that "just work forever."

Developers currently use dual monitors; a mixture of monitors (all 22+"); seeking dual DVI ports if possible as we will probably roll team over to larger DVI monitors soon. Very little intense graphics work; think web surfing, code editing, and email.

Plan to use 64-bit Windows 7 Enterprise as the OS

The primary reason we are considering building these ourselves is it seems commercial systems load up the machine with lots hardware we don't really need. By the time we get to a machine that supports 8G and an SSD they have too much "fluff."

My configuration below pushes the two critical parts of the configuration used by developers -- memory and disk. We plan to use 80G SSD as the OS and working partition. If a developer wants lots of space for music or whatever, we will drop in 1T SATA drives. If they need another work partition (for compiles or whatever), we will happily put in another 80G SSD.

In summary: Price/performance -- nothing exotic -- "it just works" -- longevity of build -- quality of components

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-860 Lynnfield 2.8GHz 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
  • MOBO: ASUS P7P55D LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
  • GPU: ASUS ENGTX260 GL+/HTDI/896MD3 GeForce GTX 260 896MB 448-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail
  • RAM: CORSAIR DOMINATOR 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMD8GX3M4A1600C8 - Retail
  • Case: Thermaltake Element S VK60001N2Z Black SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
  • HDD: Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH080G2C1 2.5" 80GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - OEM
  • PSW: Thermaltake toughpower W0105RU 700W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Certified 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail
  • HSF: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7 compatible RR-B10-212P-GP 120mm "heatpipe direct contact" Long life sleeve CPU Cooler - Retail
  • DVD: PLEXTOR Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X ... CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD/CD Writer LightScribe Support - OEM
  • MOUNT:Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound - OEM

    Buying the combo on CPU + MB + Case and ignoring rebates (remember, I'm building 12), the price is currently $1,432 each.
    October 16, 2009 11:39:00 PM

    CPU + Mobo: Intel I7 860 + Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2
    Gigabyte works great, hasn't failed me yet :) 

    GPU: GTX 260 is overkill, this XFX 4650 will do you. Has 2 DVI ports which you said you'll need.

    Case + PSU: Cooler Master 690 + OCZ ModXStream 500W
    Case is professional looking and has good cooling. You won't need 700W unless you plan to run two graphics cards in Crossfire/SLI.

    DVD: Cheaper one http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    You mentioned you don't want to overclock so you won't need that aftermarket CPU cooler and thermal compound.


    With the changes above and everything else the same, it should add up to $1,149.93 :) 
    October 17, 2009 12:32:27 AM

    ^+1 for the GPU. +1 for the Case& PSU combo also.

    The Dominator RAM is over priced, it's not needed unless going for Max OC.
    Get 2 sets of these: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
    GSkill 2*2GB (2 sets = 8GB) DDR3 1600 = $172. This will save you $88.

    Also, Tankguys has the SSD for $40 cheaper: http://www.tankguys.com/hard-drives/intel-x-25m-80gb-so...

    edit:
    Ahh.... I see why you got that case combo. It gives you a $90 discount with the SSD doesn't it?
    Eitherway, you can save more if you do what we said.
    Related resources
    October 17, 2009 12:37:28 AM

    @ Shadow: How did you even spot that? I completely missed that :lol: 
    October 17, 2009 4:13:43 AM

    Thanks for the pointers so far.

    GPU: The XFX 4650 looks like it will work; they have 64-bit Windows 7 drivers on their (rather annoying) support site. Very few reviews of this card floating around; wish I knew how stable it is under real world use. Any advantage to buying both the MB and GPU from ASUS? Fewer issues? It would be well worth the $100 difference to me to avoid even a hour of frustrations...

    Memory:
  • I'd like to confirm that I'm not confused. Section 2.4.2 in the ASUS motherboard manual says, "You may install 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB unbuffered and non-ECC DDR3 DIMMs." I should be able to put four 2GB sticks in and have W7 64-bit see all 8G, right? Should perform "great" if all four sticks are exactly the same?
  • The "qualified" G.Skill memory is F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK -- the difference seems to be DDR3 1333 vs DDR3 1600. Should I stick with the "qualified" (slower?) memory?
    October 17, 2009 3:09:42 PM

    XFX have a double life time warranty. Don't worry about their quality :D .

    Quote:
    I should be able to put four 2GB sticks in and have W7 64-bit see all 8G, right?

    Correct. Basically, what ASUS was trying to say was you can't use ECC RAM with that board.

    Quote:
    The "qualified" G.Skill memory is F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK -- the difference seems to be DDR3 1333 vs DDR3 1600. Should I stick with the "qualified" (slower?) memory?

    Doesn't matter. Get the cheaper option. The GSkill I linked to should work fine.
    October 17, 2009 4:13:11 PM

    Quote:
    XFX have a double life time warranty. Don't worry about their quality :D .


    I agree that is a great warranty. :-) Recall that I'm trying to find something stable and that "just works." Any failure -- regardless of warranty -- would be a bummer. The hour to debug, pull, and replace is the issue I'm trying to avoid.

    Worst of all would be display driver issues under Windows 7 64-bit. Likewise a major bummer would be a GPU's manufacturer deciding that they won't support the card I buy now with new drivers in six or 18 months. Does XFX have a good record of supporting cards for 3+ years with new drivers? Same question for ASUS?

    Thanks again for your comments! :hello: 
    October 17, 2009 4:41:32 PM

    1. The cards are supported by the GPU manufacture when it comes to drivers. XFX/ASUS/EVGAm,et al has NOTHING to do with drivers. That goes to AMD(ATI) and nVidia. Considering that you can find drivers for the HD2xxx cards for Win 7, you should get driver updates for at least 2 years.

    2. XFX,EVGA,Sapphire,ASUS have some of the highest quality and low failure cards (and in ASUS/EVGA cases, low failure on motherboards) in the market.
    !