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Building Computer over 2 years for Computational Prowess!

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February 24, 2010 12:24:40 PM

I am a first year PHD student and I am getting Fellowship that allows me 900 dollars a year for computer equipment over three years. I need to spend 900 by the beginning of May and then I can spend another 900 starting an August. My next 900 dollars will be available August of 2011. My plan is to have a working computer by the end of August this year and then do upgrades the following year. This computer will be my primary computer for research in High Energy Particle Physics. I am going to be running code primarily written in c++ and also using root a lot. Power consumption is not a question and I need at least 4 TB storage space at the beginning. Often a file I am working will can be 2TB in size. Running some games would be nice, but not the deal breaker here. Most graphics intensive game I have played recently is Oblivion and Crysis, but Crysis maxes most cards. I would also like to look into doing some programing using the GPU for simulations. I have never built a computer from scratch before, but have upgraded hard drives, cpu, graphics cards, ect in the past. Also the computer will be mine not my universities or research groups.

Primary Operation System: Ubuntu Linux
Secondary Operating Systems: Windows 7 Pro (have student license already), and perhaps Scientific Linux.

Over clocking is certainly on the menu.

I need to full deal, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and all.

I am thinking at first ($1,800 available)
i7-920
12 GB ram (if the processor can use more and it would be worth it 24gb?)
1 SSD as primary HD
3 1.5 TB drives in Raid 0 or 4 1.5 TB drives in raid 5
Graphics Card

I am not sure what is a good motherboard, cooing solution, if I need a raid controller or not.
Also I would like some recommendations on if you think it would be better to get one big monitor like a 28" 1920 x 1200 or two normal sized monitors. I will be looking at this thing a lot for the next 5 years.

Then a year later ($900 available)
4-5 more hard drives
More ram

or optionally:
new 6-core Intel processor


Tell me what you think. Thanks so much in advance!

Best solution

February 24, 2010 12:39:56 PM
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What programs are you running? This will impact both the RAM and the GPU, as some programs (especially work related ones) tend to like certain GPUs. It's very likely that more than 12 GB is not necessary.

Do you need to put those files on external disks?

Are you going to overclock?

Couple of notes:

You do realize that you can use RAID 5 with 3 HDDs, right? RAID 0 isn't a good idea, as you would be TRIPLING the chances of losing everything. I would also stick to the 1 TB drives and buy more of them. They'll be faster for right now.

Here's what I suggest:

CPU: i7-920 $289
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 $249 after rebate. Supports up to 10 SATA connectors (9 for HDDs after optical).
RAM: Patriot Extreme Performance Viper Series 12GB (6 x 2GB) 1333 mhz CAS Latency 7 $340
HDD: 4x Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $360 total ($90 each)
Case: CHIEFTEC BRAVO BA-01B-B-B $100 after rebate. Needed for the massive number of HDDs.
PSU/GPU: Antec Earthwatts 750W and 9800 GTX+ $215 after rebate
HSF (if overclocking): Coolermaster Hyper 212 $30
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $25

Total: $1,608. Definitely not getting a 28" monitor or two smaller. I recommend the Asus 21.5" 1080p model for $160 after rebate. You're also not going to be able to afford a SSD with spending so much for the RAM (which is as cheap as 12 GB can get and still perform well) and the massive amounts of HDDs needed.

You're not going to be able to game very well on this computer. You've got to spend way too much on the CPU, RAM and HDDs to afford a good gaming card. I would look into getting a workstation GPU (nVidia's Quadro or ATI's Fire lines).
February 24, 2010 12:53:13 PM

Quote:
What programs are you running?

Pretty much just Root. Also programs that I will write in c++.

Quote:
Do you need to put those files on external disks?

No, I will download the large files, run analysis (output is small and will be backed up at an external location), then delete the large files when I am done. The 4TB raid array doesn't have to be backed up. If something goes wrong I can re download the files.

Quote:
Are you going to overclock?

Yes.

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February 24, 2010 12:57:48 PM

I'm not too familiar with Root. You might want to check if it runs better using nVidia cards or not. If not, you could probably get some better gaming performance from an ATI card...

As for the backup, the board I included is not a USB 3/SATA III board, so you'll be fine.
March 3, 2010 12:36:42 AM

Best answer selected by kresso.
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