I need some help on a new build. I was hoping to hold out just a little while longer for multi-GPU to scale better and 3D gaming to mature, but my plans have recently been accelerated after my trusty & beloved old NCCH-DL became the unfortunate casualty of a fried Northbridge chip.
My goal is to optimize performance for all applications - gaming, encoding, development & simulations, running multiple resource-intensive VM's simultaneously, and of course playing Crysis 2 on max settings at 4800x2560 in 3D Vision Surround.. ;-). I'm expecting to pay a hefty premium for all this, though not to the point of putting down thousands of dollars for mere 2-3% performance gains.
I'm in Canada, though have no qualms ordering parts from abroad if it works out to be cheaper after exchange rate/customs/shipping (or for items unavailable domestically).
- 1x Ultra X3 1600W PSU
- 1x EVGA GTX295
- 2x Samsung 213T 1600x1200" LCD
- SSD-based RAID5 storage array that does 800MB/s+ read/write (requires one PCIe x8 slot)
- 1x EVGA Classified SR-2 dual-socket motherboard (a.k.a. 270-G-W555, due out any day now)
- 1x 6-Core Xeon Gulftown Westmere-EP, 3.07GHz stock, A0 stepping. Cherry-picked and apparently overclocks on air to ~4.8GHz (turbo, 24X multiplier) @ ~200BCLK & ~1.58 Vcore. Will back off a bit if required for stability.
- 12GB RAM (need help - see some options below)
- 4x 2TB disks in RAID10 for bulk storage
- Case and cooling (also need help)
When CPU/RAM prices come down and graphics/monitor manufacturers get their act together for ultra-res 3D gaming (hopefully within 8-12 months), I'll add:
- second Xeon Westmere CPU (board can handle different model CPU's from same family, so I assume different steppings won't be a problem)
- additional 12GB RAM
- 3x 30" 120Hz screens, for surround 3D gaming at 4800x2560 PPP. If impossible, then a single 30" to be flanked by my existing Samsungs for 4960x1600 in 2D mode (assuming PLP finally arrives)
- As many are needed of the most suitable GPU's (motherboard has 7x PCIe 2.0 x16 slots)
I normally don't future-proof like this, as I figure by the time it becomes cheap to upgrade an old system the platform is already well on its way to extinction and you get more bang-for-your-buck on the new stuff. In fact I'm still struggling with whether to hold off on this luxury powerhouse altogether and just get a cheap i7 920 overclocked to 4+GHz in an Asus P6T to tide me over.
However with the delay of PCIe 3.0 and no significant platform improvements expected until Haswell in 2012 I figure I should be able to stretch the life of this beast a little longer than usual. (Yes there's Sandy Bridge but aside from AVX it seems to focus more on power reduction and mobile scenarios).
Aside from core count, one compelling reason I'm going with Westmere is for its AES instructions (TrueCrypt acceleration) and supposed virtualization improvements.
It's been years since I built a high-end PC and it seems every time I do this the whole industry has evolved dramatically and I have to start learning again from square one. If you see any glaring mistakes or incorrect assumptions above please shout out! Also..
1) What's the difference between UP/DP/MP CPU's? I assume these mean uni-processor, dual-processor and multi-processor, respectively. But from what I can tell the Westmere UP's work just fine in dual socket configurations (as per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_future_Intel_micro... ) and the DP's work fine solo (since I'm told the DP chip above would work in a single-socket P6T).
2) Several RAM options are linked below. I'm leaning toward 1600MHz. Any thoughts on whether the price jump to 2000MHz+ would be justified for this rig? Any better memory suggestions?
3) How will eventually filling up all 12 RAM slots affect overclocking and speed (e.g. increased latencies/voltage?)
4) I predict obsolescence of this computer will be driven more by GPU advancements than CPU/chipset innovations. Does anyone know how long it took after PCIe 2.0 was released until we started seeing graphics cards that significantly outperformed their PCIe 1.0 counterparts using the new slot? It would help give me a frame of reference for life expectancy of this rig after PCIe 3.0 hits the market.
5) Need some help choosing and configuring a case. If I'm forced to go with something enormous, then I'd prefer to have space for additional hard drives. I currently have a NAS and wouldn't mind getting rid of it and adding an 8+ drive array right in my case instead of the RAID10 one mentioned above.. access will be much faster than over ethernet.
6) One other perk I'm considering is water-cooling to minimize noise. I'm not averse to the idea but imagine it’s a real pain when you want to swap out parts or change things. I haven't done water before.. anyone have suggestions?
I appreciate any help and advice the community has to offer!
The Classified SR-2 is a monstrous 13.58"x15" (some call it "WATX" form). The consensus seems to be Mountain Mods.
No doubt a lot of people will think this build is ridiculous. If you have compelling arguments for why I should go the i7 920 route (aside from the obvious price differential) I'm open to hearing them, but please keep in mind the focus of the thread is this Classified SR-2 based build – appreciate if you'd stay on topic and don't hijack it into a flame war.
What did you end up using, and discover?
I am looking into building a system with the EVGA board to put several Nvidia Tesla's in.
Got any recommended "gets" and "stay away from's"?
The EVGA board was taking too long to become available for purchase so I ended up going with a single-processor ASUS P6T6 instead. I really wish my timeframe could have allowed me to wait, but what can you do.
The OCZ RAM is good but I had to do a slew of testing (Memtest86 and Prime95) to get a stable system. I've found when you have too many sticks, keeping up the clock speeds gets trickier. I bought 9 sticks (for a 6-slot board) and tested them all individually, gradually bumping up clock speeds on each until Memtest86(+?) failed. I then used the best 6, and ended up having to enter about two-dozen or so parameters manually ("auto" gave substandard defaults).. then brought up the voltage bit by bit until things were stable at my desired speed. A few months later I started getting BSOD's and after some more Prime95 testing it turned out one stick had gone bad.. swapped it out, and the system is purring like a kitten again. Hopefully the story is better with the EVGA mobo (I think they have extra power plugs near the CPUs/RAM, and probably better all-around engineering than ASUS), but I'd still plan to spend some time fiddling with RAM if you have more than 6 sticks. May want to simply buy faster sticks and run them at a slower speed to give you extra headroom.
Stay away from Ultra PSU's - heat is high and efficiency is poor. I swapped out for a Silverstone Strider. Although I have to say Ultra's customer service for PSU's in Canada is awesome.. I had a compatibility problem between it and the nVidia GTX480 video card (the power plugs don't lock in snugly enough and you get intermittent connections) but they quickly sent me an upgraded model, no questions asked, and didn't make me pay the difference.
The SSD's in RAID have worked out amazingly. Not cheap, but definitely on my "gets" list from now on.
Since your build will be heavy, I suggest going with a case that has casters on the bottom. I didn't do that, and regret it every time I have to lug my rig anywhere. Filters on all your intake fans would be a plus, too (if it doesn't come with them, just get some thin air conditioner filter screening and mod it yourself). Remember to vacuum them every few months. Keeping dust out will prolong the life of your components, and makes it a good deal more pleasant when you need to venture inside your computer. Speaking of cooling.. Noctua fans (NF-P12) have worked well for me (super quiet, great airflow). A cheaper alternative would be Gelid FN-SX12-10 which also aren't bad. DO use silicon fan mounts (e.g. Nexus SFM-1000).
That's all I can think of.. good luck with your build!
(ps. Mousemonkey thanks for letting me sneak this reply in here before closing the thread)