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In Pictures: Puget Systems' 16-Core Genesis II Quiet Edition

In Pictures: Puget Systems' 16-Core Genesis II Quiet Edition
By
Spotlight On Puget System's Quiet Workstation

I thoroughly enjoy building my own PCs, upgrading parts, and reformatting my SSD to the glorious performance of a clean system. But I also have a lot of respect for the boutique system builders who were (and usually still are) enthusiasts themselves. They simply made selling PCs their work, too. Every so often, one of them sends along a bit about a recent project and I'll ask for the back-story for Tom's Hardware.

The last time Jon Bach, president of Puget Systems, told me about one of his projects was back in 2009, and we published What Does A $16,000+ PC Look Like, Anyway? That was four quad-core Opterons with 32 GB of memory, and something like six terabytes of mechanical storage. Sixteen grand. In 2009.

More recently, Jon sent over the details on a 16-core setup with 64 GB of DDR3-1600 for less than half as much ($7400). But the specs weren't even the highlight. Front and center was the fact that Jon was citing near-silent acoustic figures. As someone who has actually built workstations across several generations of processor architectures, I know this isn't easy. What follows is Jon's walk-through of Puget's Genesis II Quiet Edition.

Chris Angelini
Worldwide Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Hardware

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  • 1 Hide
    jimmysmitty , August 22, 2013 10:04 PM
    That case is ok. They did a good job on the insides to make them look nice. My one issue, with all dual CPU systems, is that you have to have the fans pull air from the bottom. So normally, like this one, one CPU gets to pull hot air from the back of the GPU.

    Still not bad. Probably a killer work station though.
  • 5 Hide
    expl0itfinder , August 22, 2013 10:12 PM
    Needs more threads.
  • 3 Hide
    razor512 , August 22, 2013 10:22 PM
    Good system but crazy price markup. if you were to build that system yourself, you would spend $5,401.87 (add an extra $100 for windows if needed)

    thus you are paying them $2025.13 to put the system together for you

    even worst, when you build the system yourself you are paying retail markups on each component you buy and it is still $2025.13 cheaper.

    The least they could have done is charged you the same price it would cost to build the system yourself. they will still make a large profit as they are not paying retail for the parts they use (they are paying much less through wholesale)


    Furthermore, the system you build yourself is better because you have a longer warranty. Prebuild systems do not qualify for individual component RMA's to the company that made them, meaning if your prebuillt system has a 1 year warranty on the parts then everything in it has that 1 year warranty. meaning you lose the CPU's 3 year warranty, you lose the RAM's lifetime warranty, You lose the videocards 3+ year warranty

    you lose the the 3-5 year warranty on the storage, and a host of other warranties longer than the 1 year crap a prebuilt system may give you.

    furthermore this company and pretty much all others will not cover shipping cost, so if a minor item breaks on the system you may end up spending close to $100 to ship the entire system back for repair when a DIY build will only need you to send back just the broken part.
  • 2 Hide
    audiophillia , August 22, 2013 10:38 PM
    is that thing there helping support the graphics card? if so that should be standard pretty soon with all the over the top coolers we have been seeing.
  • 2 Hide
    bambiboom , August 22, 2013 11:42 PM
    Gentlemen?,

    The Puget Systems Genesis II appears to have a good general intention and is neatly done. Good photographs. There are, though some aspects to consider, some niggling and others more central.

    There was an error in the text > "We tested dozens of coolers in an effort to figure out which one would work best on 115 W CPUs." As they are discussing a pair of Xeon E5-2687W's, that should read "150 W CPU's." My understanding is that the E5-2687W is one of the few specified by Intel for "liquid cooling" which I take to mean water piped and pumped. And, potential builders of systems using the E5-2687W should look carefully at motherboards (LGA 2011) specifications as quite a number in the small print say, "up to 135W CPU's". There must be a reason for these two notations > the E5-2687W is a hot one. I see a lot of 2687 systems use 135W-rated boards, but I always like to err on the side of caution as these systems operate under extremely variable conditions. This situation may change as there have been noises that there is an upcoming V2 of the 2687W that will be 130W, as is the impending E5-2697 twelve core. Writing a project contract proposal and running simulations or rendering for eleven hours place extremely varying levels of stress.

    The Gelid Tranquillo CPU cooler (under $45) has impressive acoustic figures- "tranquillo" indeed > noise is quoted as 12-25 dBA, but I should like to see a heat pattern photograph of those two $2,000 CPU's after 10 hours of animation / rendering. In a Dell Precision T5400, two quad core Xeon X5460's running at 58-60 C and DDR2 RAM at 70-74 C during the ordinary 3D CAD grind will be 75-77C and 90-93C after rendering for only one hour. Having quiet is one thing, but longevity and stable operation of the components under the stress typical in this kind of system would be a higher priority.

    The Asus Z9PE-D8 WS motherboard is a good one > Intel C602 is my current workstation favorite, but there is also an Asus Z9PE-D16 WS, having several advantages over the Z9PE-D8. The "16" means 16 RAM slots- twice as many, which support twice as much RAM (512GB), quad LAN, and is also more than $100 less expensive. Not a lot of users will have more than 256GB of RAM- I would have this kind of system with 128GB, but I've added RAM to every system I've ever had. I said when I bought my IBM 486 DX2 50MHz in 1993, that 2MB of RAM was just fine. < Note: that's "Mega" and not "Giga". A convenient way to have 128GB is 8 X16GB, but that would not be expandable in the Z9PE-D8 without tossing the 16GB modules and buying 32GB's- which can cost $400-$900 each, i.e. possibly $4,000 to replace RAM that already cost $1,200. On the Z9PE-D16 WS- just add another 8 X16GB.

    There is also the slightly delicate question which has already been suggested in others' comments, and that is, the degree by which the Genesis II is comprised more or less entirely parts out of catalog, such that an individual builder could achieve the same results for considerably less. For the $6850 base system, there are the dual E5-2687W's, but with the highly improbable combination of only 16GB RAM > which I would think of as unacceptably 8GB per CPU, a single 500GB mechanical drive, a GT 610!, which is a $30 video card which, being generous, could present less than minimal capabilities for > "4K video editing, post-production, 3ds Max, multi-gigabyte Excel calculations for weather analysis, bio-imaging, RF design work, and, by night, gaming" - and Ubuntu. Any of those tasks listed is really talking about 4-6GB memory and for weather analysis, I'd want a Tesla or Xeon Phi coprocessor- or two or three- in the room. I must be wrong about the GT 610- it's a GTX 680 right? Upgrading this kind of system is typical, but in this league, the base system should have lot of fizz for it's intended uses but instead, it reads as seriously disproportionate- the base Bugatti Veyron that comes with 16" Cooper snow tires and AM only.

    For this cost- well perhaps a bit more, a person could order from newegg / amazon the same CPUs / case / power supply, plus have sixteen RAM slots, louder but higher performance cooling, a 512GB SSD for the OS / Applications, 8TB of enterprise grade storage on an LSI 8 port RAID controller, 128GB or RAM, a Quadro K5000, and Windows 7 Ultimate. A Quadro K5000 is by the way, $1,700 and not $30. Puget Systems, to have this system appear to have serious intentions should have at least a Quadro K600 or Firepro V4900 as the rock-bottom card. I'm reluctant to harp on a problem in perception, but in the list of uses, adding "and, by night, gaming" , considering the dual eight core Xeons and $30 video card seems a bit casually tossed onto the pile.

    Yes, a good system and having a certain elegance, but inspiring specification or innovation not included and in base specification, barely useful and for a pile of brass.

    Cheers,

    BambiBoom
  • -4 Hide
    cRACKmONKEY421 , August 23, 2013 12:17 AM
    Finally, a computer for lazy techy rich people ;) 
  • 2 Hide
    cypeq , August 23, 2013 5:16 AM
    Quote:
    Good system but crazy price markup. if you were to build that system yourself, you would spend $5,401.87 (add an extra $100 for windows if needed)

    thus you are paying them $2025.13 to put the system together for you

    even worst, when you build the system yourself you are paying retail markups on each component you buy and it is still $2025.13 cheaper.

    The least they could have done is charged you the same price it would cost to build the system yourself. they will still make a large profit as they are not paying retail for the parts they use (they are paying much less through wholesale)


    Furthermore, the system you build yourself is better because you have a longer warranty. Prebuild systems do not qualify for individual component RMA's to the company that made them, meaning if your prebuillt system has a 1 year warranty on the parts then everything in it has that 1 year warranty. meaning you lose the CPU's 3 year warranty, you lose the RAM's lifetime warranty, You lose the videocards 3+ year warranty

    you lose the the 3-5 year warranty on the storage, and a host of other warranties longer than the 1 year crap a prebuilt system may give you.

    furthermore this company and pretty much all others will not cover shipping cost, so if a minor item breaks on the system you may end up spending close to $100 to ship the entire system back for repair when a DIY build will only need you to send back just the broken part.


    Don't forget that ever between IT professionals there are people who don't have time or pleasure in building and testing every workstation they need.
    Companies on the other hand would rather order few machines like that than make their desingers and such spend work hours on building computers. When you consider money wasted by company on you doing tasks generating 0 income... and it's usualy n times your earnings... gains if any are debatable
  • 1 Hide
    bambiboom , August 23, 2013 6:58 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Good system but crazy price markup. if you were to build that system yourself, you would spend $5,401.87 (add an extra $100 for windows if needed)

    thus you are paying them $2025.13 to put the system together for you

    even worst, when you build the system yourself you are paying retail markups on each component you buy and it is still $2025.13 cheaper.

    The least they could have done is charged you the same price it would cost to build the system yourself. they will still make a large profit as they are not paying retail for the parts they use (they are paying much less through wholesale)


    Furthermore, the system you build yourself is better because you have a longer warranty. Prebuild systems do not qualify for individual component RMA's to the company that made them, meaning if your prebuillt system has a 1 year warranty on the parts then everything in it has that 1 year warranty. meaning you lose the CPU's 3 year warranty, you lose the RAM's lifetime warranty, You lose the videocards 3+ year warranty

    you lose the the 3-5 year warranty on the storage, and a host of other warranties longer than the 1 year crap a prebuilt system may give you.

    furthermore this company and pretty much all others will not cover shipping cost, so if a minor item breaks on the system you may end up spending close to $100 to ship the entire system back for repair when a DIY build will only need you to send back just the broken part.


    Don't forget that ever between IT professionals there are people who don't have time or pleasure in building and testing every workstation they need.
    Companies on the other hand would rather order few machines like that than make their desingers and such spend work hours on building computers. When you consider money wasted by company on you doing tasks generating 0 income... and it's usualy n times your earnings... gains if any are debatable


    cypeq,

    You make some very good points regarding the way workstation systems are acquired.

    I would add that I've never visited an architectural, engineering, interior, industrial design, or graphic design office in which there were hardware / performance enthusiasts. There would however be outside IT consultants buzzing in to mend the network and load software and I have known of cases where that consultant was commissioned to build a system. The focus is on completing the work and interest in the innards is actually discouraged- note the systems with locking rings to padlock the service hatches- and "intrusion" switches. Traditionally these companies ordered systems from Dell, Apple, IBM, or HP on leases with solid service contracts and the emphasis was reliability to performance.

    Businesses are, as you indicate, are extremely careful about time allocation- the overhead meter can be devastating. My brother's architectural firm still uses 2006 Dell Precision 390's and I had to argue to upgrade a spare CAD system- and I provided the parts- changing the Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz CPU to 2.67, swap the heatsink to the big one used with the quad core Q6600, add 2GB RAM to have 4GB, update BIOS, reload all the software, and change the 128MB Quadro FX 550 to a 512MB FX 1700. The Passmark Performance Test rating changed from 397 to 733 with the CPU mark going from 586 to 868 and 3D going from 74 to 253, but the upgraded system has never been used- it's too time-consuming for anyone to swap and set it up. Two hours' time would cost twice what the system was worth.

    There is certainly a market for systems such as those by Puget Systems, but my intuition is that they will be purchased more by smaller, specialized firms such as animation, rendering, video editing, graphic design, possibly research / scientific firms, and by individual practitioners with an eye on productivity than by large AE firms.

    As for comments about the price differential between building and buying, to which I added, there is a considerable time in researching components, ordering, stocking, assembling, configuring, testing, troubleshooting, packing, advertising, processing orders, plus facilities and so on- having a business. Whether the results justify the price is open to question, but the way systems are acquired and used is an important consideration in that equation.

    Cheers,

    BambiBoom

  • -2 Hide
    Andrew schaefer , August 23, 2013 7:51 AM
    so whats the name of that motherboard i didn't know dual cpu motherboards existed?
  • 2 Hide
    filippi , August 23, 2013 8:25 AM
    Nice termal shots. Very informative. As far as I´m concerned, it was a great friday picture article.
  • 2 Hide
    dalethepcman , August 23, 2013 9:30 AM
    Puget makes really nice systems, and have great support and warranty. While $2000 may seem steep to some, many people (as other have stated) don't have the time to research a quiet, cool high end number cruncher.

    There is a market for these types of systems between a rackmount and a desktop, traditionally called workstations. Just because it doesn't have a Dell/HP/IBM logo doesn't mean its not good hardware, and worth the money spent.
  • 1 Hide
    v1zzle , August 23, 2013 10:22 AM
    Beast Mode!
  • 2 Hide
    rby608 , August 23, 2013 11:08 AM
    @razor512 You do not lose the manafacturer's RMA warranty with a pre-built system. I just RMAd my WD HDD from a pre-built system; no problem. Three year old system, five year manufacturer's warranty was still good. . People on this site should be saavy enough to know that what you are paying for in pre-built systems is warranty and tech support, primarily. But, yes, Puget systems have always been over priced, and I've been following them for years. You can get better from other resellers, for less.
  • 1 Hide
    m32 , August 23, 2013 11:23 AM
    Is it me or one of the coolers don't have an opening in the top to exhaust hot air? That isn't good.
  • 5 Hide
    jonbach , August 23, 2013 12:07 PM
    Quote:
    Good system but crazy price markup. if you were to build that system yourself, you would spend $5,401.87 (add an extra $100 for windows if needed)

    thus you are paying them $2025.13 to put the system together for you

    even worst, when you build the system yourself you are paying retail markups on each component you buy and it is still $2025.13 cheaper.

    The least they could have done is charged you the same price it would cost to build the system yourself. they will still make a large profit as they are not paying retail for the parts they use (they are paying much less through wholesale)


    Furthermore, the system you build yourself is better because you have a longer warranty. Prebuild systems do not qualify for individual component RMA's to the company that made them, meaning if your prebuillt system has a 1 year warranty on the parts then everything in it has that 1 year warranty. meaning you lose the CPU's 3 year warranty, you lose the RAM's lifetime warranty, You lose the videocards 3+ year warranty

    you lose the the 3-5 year warranty on the storage, and a host of other warranties longer than the 1 year crap a prebuilt system may give you.

    furthermore this company and pretty much all others will not cover shipping cost, so if a minor item breaks on the system you may end up spending close to $100 to ship the entire system back for repair when a DIY build will only need you to send back just the broken part.


    Thanks for the comments! I'm the owner at Puget Systems and wanted to take a minute to respond. Actually, there's quite a few misconceptions in your comments. With sites like NewEgg and Amazon, you'd be surprised how good "retail" pricing is these days. We might get a few dollars off, but not much more than that.

    I've actually never heard of someone losing a manufacturer's warranty due to buying through a system. We have customers using manufacturer warranty all the time! There are a few companies (EVGA, XFX) that require the end user to register within 30 days of buying their PC. Perhaps that is related to what you experienced?

    We cover shipping both ways for 30 days for warranty work, and after that, we still cover shipping of the PC back to you, for life.
  • 1 Hide
    kittle , August 23, 2013 3:30 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Good system but crazy price markup. if you were to build that system yourself, you would spend $5,401.87 (add an extra $100 for windows if needed)

    thus you are paying them $2025.13 to put the system together for you

    even worst, when you build the system yourself you are paying retail markups on each component you buy and it is still $2025.13 cheaper.
    <snip>


    Thanks for the comments! I'm the owner at Puget Systems and wanted to take a minute to respond. Actually, there's quite a few misconceptions in your comments. With sites like NewEgg and Amazon, you'd be surprised how good "retail" pricing is these days. We might get a few dollars off, but not much more than that.

    I've actually never heard of someone losing a manufacturer's warranty due to buying through a system. We have customers using manufacturer warranty all the time! There are a few companies (EVGA, XFX) that require the end user to register within 30 days of buying their PC. Perhaps that is related to what you experienced?

    We cover shipping both ways for 30 days for warranty work, and after that, we still cover shipping of the PC back to you, for life.


    I most cases you get what you pay for.
    yes you can save around $2k by getting the parts yourself, and spending your weekend assembling it, installing windows, etc, etc. but its really only a "savings" if your time is worth nothing.

    I got my last PC from puget systems. I wanted something that "just worked", so I had a chat with one of their sales guys. a few weeks later my new system shows up. I dropped in my existing video card, installed drivers and was off gaming within an hour.
    After a few months my HD started having problems. A chat with their tech support, some basic troubleshooting, and they cross-shipped me a new HD. I dont think newegg or amazon will do this (but i could be wrong)

    That was 4 years ago. the system STILL kicks butt on everything I throw at it.

    If you want cheap, this is not the store you are looking for.
    If you want something that "just works" ... call and have a chat

    disclaimer: I was not paid to post his msg.
  • 1 Hide
    doogansquest , August 23, 2013 3:59 PM
    Apple has always been bottom of the barrel when it comes to desktop and workstation computing; dollar to performance wise. This thing is a beast!
  • -1 Hide
    razor512 , August 23, 2013 6:23 PM
    While the loss of warranty is not always the case, some companies will require proof of purchase. And depending on how the company orders the parts, eg you may order a gaming PC, and the WD black drive dies 2 years later.

    you go to their site, enter the serial hoping to get an RMA, and you are vomited on by this crap

    No Limited Warranty Product was originally sold to a system manufacturer. Please contact the system manufacturer or the place of purchase for warranty service.

    And you can call the company and they will be happy to replace the drive, but since you are not in your 1 year warranty window, it will cost you more than what the drive is worth, and you will have to send the system in.

    There is no telling what supply chain these companies will use and it is a gamble with really bad odds in getting hardware where you can RMA the components after the 1 year warranty ends.

    Some companies also require proof of purchase when applying for an RMA and the order form from a prebuilt computer is often not valid (they instead direct you to contact the company that made the computer). For the few that do not, if you are lucky enough to get a device with a serial number that has a warranty and does not need proof of purchase then you can easily RMA components.

    If you build your own system, then you have a 100% chance at getting components with the advertised warranty. + you wont have to pay $100+ to ship a heavy computer across the country (most computers that pass initial testing, will not fail in the first 30 days, but initial testing will not do much to spot a part that has a defect that will cause it to fail 6 months from now.


    Building a computer does not take very long, and to respond to the comment about running a company. Which will impact your bottom line more, missing deadlines and work opportunities because your fastest computer will be gone for 2-3 weeks, or overnighting a replacement part or swapping in a spare on hand and being back up in running in a few minutes?

    For the money saved by building it your self, you can have a bunch of spare parts on hand. (depending on the company, a network issue or a failed work station can cost the company thousands of dollars each day in lost productivity).

    When I interned at a hospital, the IT department had boxes of spare parts for their current systems, so if anything failed, someone can rush over and immediately replace the failed component. (it was more cost effective to have spare parts which may never be used than to deal with lost productivity of waiting for an RMA)

    Time is money but many companies that can afford a computer like this, will likely have an IT staff who will have enough time to build workstations (though in the medical field they buy overpriced systems then order tons of spare parts on top of that to minimize downtime if any failure happens).
  • 4 Hide
    jonbach , August 23, 2013 6:45 PM
    Quote:
    you go to their site, enter the serial hoping to get an RMA, and you are vomited on by this crap

    No Limited Warranty Product was originally sold to a system manufacturer. Please contact the system manufacturer or the place of purchase for warranty service.

    And you can call the company and they will be happy to replace the drive, but since you are not in your 1 year warranty window, it will cost you more than what the drive is worth, and you will have to send the system in.

    There is no telling what supply chain these companies will use and it is a gamble with really bad odds in getting hardware where you can RMA the components after the 1 year warranty ends.

    Some companies also require proof of purchase when applying for an RMA and the order form from a prebuilt computer is often not valid (they instead direct you to contact the company that made the computer). For the few that do not, if you are lucky enough to get a device with a serial number that has a warranty and does not need proof of purchase then you can easily RMA components.

    If you build your own system, then you have a 100% chance at getting components with the advertised warranty. + you wont have to pay $100+ to ship a heavy computer across the country (most computers that pass initial testing, will not fail in the first 30 days, but initial testing will not do much to spot a part that has a defect that will cause it to fail 6 months from now.


    Wow, that is really strange, we truly have not seen a manufacturer deny a warranty like that. In fact, I'll go on record here -- if one of our partners tries to pull that on one of our customers, we'll cover the replacement ourselves.

    I don't mean to pick on you here, razor512, but I do have a few other things to add! If a component fails and you are capable of swapping it out, we will definitely advance ship out a replacement....especially if we're just talking a hard drive, video card, or something like that. We're using more and more modular power supplies so that we can swap those in the field too. The only really tricky one is often the motherboard, and does often require that it come back.

    In terms of when parts fail, I have some useful data here. We log each and every component failure. I pulled a report for all part failures in 2012. Of course, we are extremely liberal about what we call a failure. A fan is louder than normal? FAIL A power supply has a scratch in the paint? FAIL So, with that caveat, the numbers:

    Sample size: 103093 parts
    Total failure rate: 0.97%
    Failures caught in our testing: 0.77%
    Failures in the field: 0.22%

    So, we catch about 3/4 of the failures here. Of the failures that DID happen in the field:

    28% happened within 30 days
    42% happened within 31 days to 6 months
    26% happened within 7 months to 1 year
    3% happened between 1-2 years
    1% happened after 2 years

    I hope that is helpful info!
  • 0 Hide
    nss000 , August 23, 2013 7:41 PM
    Complaining about a 25% builders markup on a top-drawer ritz-sys? Pathetic! What a whiny snot-nose pack a' peons. Put a birch rod on their *zzwholes to shut their flapping gobs and learn them **place**. But then you can't explain how a servant is properly treated if ... if you haven't grown up with servants.
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