Ultimate PC Build 2015

by fwhagen Tue, 13 October 2015

Intel-Core-i7 The time has finally come to rebuild The Beast.  I built it back in early 2008 and did it’s final upgrades a few months later.  It ended up with 8GB RAM and an SSD, and could run nearly everything.  But with no more room to grow and the divorce finally over having put this off two more years, the time had come to go big.  I had a couple goals in mind for this machine.  First, I wanted to build something to last and to do so without compromise.  Second, since DirectX 12 has the potential to revolutionize gaming once again with multi-core support, I wanted a video card that supports that as well as FreeSync are a must.  And more RAM goes without saying.

Claymore_CpuZ_thumb2 For this workstation, I started with an i7-5820K.  This is the smaller of the 2 Haswell Extreme CPUs, other than the insanely priced 8-core top.  It’s is a 6-core Hyperthreaded monster, running at 3.3GHz, with no GPU to interfere with heat or power.  It needs a specialized 2011-v3 socket with the x99 chipset and the new DDR4 RAM controller, which I gave 32GB to chew on.  It runs like a demon.  The 2 greatest upgrades from my previous system, beside the CPU itself and 4x RAM, are a full SATA III bus and native USB3 support.  USB3 finally gives me speed on the flash drives and other devices that I have acquired finally, and SATA III makes the Samsung 850 Pro simply amazing.  Windows 10 boot times from the end of post to login are less than 10 seconds.  It is crazy!

Here’s the configuration:

Case Fractal Design Define R5 Titanium
PSU CORSAIR RM Series RM750 750W
Motherboard ASRock X99 Extreme6 LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 Intel Motherboard
CPU Intel Core i7-5820K Haswell-E 6-Core 3.3 GHz Desktop Processor
Memory CORSAIR Vengeance LPX 32GB (4 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 - Black Model
Cooler Zalman LQ-320 Water/Liquid CPU Cooler 120MM
Video Card SAPPHIRE Radeon R9 290 4GB 512-Bit GDDR5 Tri-X OC Version Video Card
SSD Existing Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SATA III Solid State Drive
Monitor ASUS MG279Q Black 27" 144 Hz WQHD 2560X1440 IPS Panel, Free-Sync Monitor

R5 My second case from Fractal Design is even better than the one I used on the server.  I was originally planning to put everything from this build into my old Antec P182, but the video card was a bit too long.  I solved that short term by pulling the drive cage out, but then I couldn’t mount all the drives I wanted to put in it.  And the PSU was too big.  Meanwhile, since I was going to rebuild Mars into a system for my son, I tried to mount the old motherboard in my old server case.  It didn’t fit at all.  So to solve all the above, I simply bought the Fractal Design R5 Titanium Edition.  As much as I loved the R4, this one is even better.  Even though there is no problem with the video card, I removed the center drive cage for better airflow.  In fact, all the cages can be removed, if desired.  There are fan mounts all over this box too.  And a cool tray to mount 2 SSDs behind the motherboard for even more space.  The entire case is lined with heavy sound absorbing material, so it is very quiet too.  Even the front door panel is reversible, so I can put it on either side of my desk comfortably.  It is a truly awesome case.  I am very pleased with it..

The Corsair RM series PSUs are really a fantastic technology.  The fan that they put in it, which is the full width of the unit, remains off as long as it is not under much load.  So it is normally completely silent.  With 750 Watts, I don’t think I will run out of room, even if I lose my mind and go CrossFire in the future.  You cannot go wrong with these units. 

X99 Extreme6(M1)The ASRock Extreme motherboards are very well designed and the UEFI bios is a pleasure to work with.  My first ASRock was for my dedicated MediaPC and I was surprised by how nice it was, so much so that I put one in my server too.  Even then, I was leaning toward an Asus ROG board for this build.  But after a lot of research, there were just a few more compelling reasons to go with the Extreme6 series for X99 to support the Haswell-E processor.  And I am not sorry.  LOTS of USB connectors, LOTS of fan connectors, 10 SATA III ports, a nice layout, blue trim, and the awesome UEFI configuration make it a great choice.  Go to the website to see all the stuff it has and can do.  The X99 chipset requires DDR4 memory, which was still a bit pricey when I put all this together, but the motherboard will support up to 128GB RAM.  That should be plenty of room to grow.  I started with 32GB for now.  Like the ROG boards, the E6 has easy overclock settings, which I will discuss more below.

The processor, is very exciting.  An i7-5820K Haswell-E 6-core HyperThreading monster.  I could have waited a few months for the new Skylake chips, but Haswell was a really good upgrade and available at the time I was.  The Haswell-E chips come in 2 tiers:  the insane $1k+ 8-core model and the 2 sub-$500 6-core models.  The main difference between the more reasonably priced 5830K and 5820K are the number of PCI lanes available, which is mainly a concern only to SLI users.  I doubt I will ever use 3 GPUs at once, so I’m good with the lower model.  Six cores is pretty cool, and HyperThreading makes 12 threads in TaskManager.  Multithreaded applications are finally becoming more mainstream, even in the gaming industry, so having the additional cores is only going to future-proof these models even more.  And the “K” means it is unlocked.  Stock-clocked at 3.3GHz, this CPU should easily go much higher.  But only with really good cooling.  In fact, this was a large worry to me with the specs when I was putting it together, but I think I have solved that.  I haven’t done much toward pushing the clocks up yet, but so far it is good.  REALLY good.  I am currently running at 4.2GHz with no issues at all.  SpeedStep ensures that we will not be running at high rates most of the time anyway, so power draw is not bad most of the time.

FAN-LQ-320.1_LGI am still surprised I went liquid cooled, but I was very concerned with the thermal needs of the Haswell-E processor.  I had read that it takes a lot of cooling to keep it under control, even though it has a lower thermal rating than the Core2Quad.  All of the air-cooled solutions I found were simply ridiculous.  There were huge and loud.  So big, in fact, I am concerned with the stresses on the motherboard when mounted vertically.  So I went with a closed-system liquid cooler.  I have always been very happy with Zalman coolers, and have used many of them.  They are efficient, quiet, and mostly good looking.  Even though I also liked the competing Corsair offering, I went with this unit because of the high quality piping, the attractive cooler block, and the versatile mounting capabilities of the radiator.  And I am truly amazed by its performance.  There was a little gurgling sound initially, but that has gone away.  The fans, one on either side in a push/pull configuration, are pretty quiet, with the louder one on the inside of the case.  And so I tested it, in a closed case, under normal operating conditions.  Initial impression:  WOW.  Over-clocking the CPU up to 4.2 did not raise the temperature at idle at all.  It stayed right around 38C, as expected.  Running a full Prime95 heat run, albeit only for a few minutes at this time, raised the temp up to 72C, which is tolerable.  My Q6600 ran much hotter than that.  But the amazing thing about this cooler was how quickly it moves the heat.  As soon as I stopped Prime95, the temperature moved down to 48C at the very next click of the monitoring software.  25C in under a second!?  While I do realize that this is a bad test, the total temperature of the CPU, the case, and especially the water block and radiator had not stabilized, that is an incredible result in my mind.  I am very impressed.  One note about the mounting, the 2011-v3 socket makes installing these things a dream now.  The support is built right into the socket mount:  No need for a backplate, special screws, the dumb twist-locks from before, or anything flimsy or complicated.  

11227-14_R9_290_TRI-X_OC_4GBGDDR5_DP_HDMI_2DVI_PCIE_C03_635596913599268740To complete the build, I bought the biggest and most expensive video card I have ever purchased.  The Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X is enormous; but with 3 large fans, it has to be.  The Radeon R9 290 was once the top of the heap in ATI video, though the 390 quickly replaced it, and now the Fury is available.  But the 290 is still a very capable device.  It supports DirectX 12, Mantle, and FreeSync.  All technologies I am very interested in.  And I really like all of Sapphire’s cards I have had, going all the way back to the HD lines.  I have not really stretched it’s legs yet, but man it plays Minecraft well!  (I kid!  But really, 1440p res with ultra shaders is amazing.)  It does handle Witcher3 beautifully and heavily modified Skyrim as well.

And then I decided I needed a new monitor as well, because, why not.  Yes, this build has gotten out of hand.  27” FreeSync capable WQHD 1440p 144Hz IPS monitor for coding and playing beautiful games.  A fantastic Open-Box buy on NewEgg.  But be sure to look for the recommended settings to really dial it in.  It is like looking at the sun out of the box.  Freesync seems to work fine, but it’s really kind of hard to tell.  Of course, the bast part is that I have not seen any stutter or tearing at all since hooking it up.  There is just one downside, which is the DisplayPort connector.  First off, they are hard to find and too damn expensive.  Secondly, they are an intelligent connector, so when the monitor goes to sleep, it tends to wake up the PC, which then wakes the monitor.  It took me a little while to tune that cycle out of the system.  But it really looks nice.

There is plenty of room for growth in this configuration.  The mobo is only good for this processor line, so I will not be upgrading the CPU from this build ever.  RAM however is supported up to 128GB, so room to grow there.  I can bump it up to 64GB easily by buying another set of the sticks in it now.  The case is enormous and can take any video card as well as 5 more HDDs and another SSD.  I already have the 840 Pro from Mars, which attached to the SATA III controller is startlingly fast, as well as 2 additional WD drives, one Black model and the old Green 1TB from the old server.  But I don’t think I will be doing anything else for quite some time.  It runs really well as is.

This was a long build.  I bought the video card in July and the PSU was originally bought on sale for the server build in April.  I went way over budget due to mistakes or oversights with components.  I didn’t intend to buy a new case or monitor, and the video card was really pre-purchased.  I did reuse the SSD and primary working/data drive, a WD Black 1TB drive, from the old system, as well as all the opticals.  And my son now has a very capable Minecraft and light gaming machine out of it all.  I splurged on the CPU and memory, and the cooler was a new technology for me.  I built the system twice into different boxes, spending 8 hours the first time and 4 the second.  I had to order a number of extra cables to get the fittings just right, which delays things a bit.  But it is all done for now.  It runs quiet and deadly.  I cannot believe just how powerful it really is.  Audio and video encoding is comically fast, HD video rates are 2 and 3 times realtime.  And Windows10 looks very good on it.  I am far more than satisfied and believe I will be for quite awhile.  Continuing with my new naming scheme, I’ve named it Longsword, as it is the final evolution of all my builds and proven extremely useful.



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