dpc's blog

Unix Geek ideas on the go.

My New Rig.

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Some while ago my workstation just stopped booting. Too bad. After a long investigation it seems that mother board has died. As it was two years old already and I needed a decent computing power to work on I’ve quickly decided to build a new one. And this post is about my new computer.

I think it’s pretty nice so I want to share it: maybe some people searching google will land here to read what I think about specific parts that I’ve used. Plus, I’ve promised to describe my impressions to the people that have helped me design it.

Feel free to contact me, if you have any questions. Especially if you’re a Linux user.

Goals

As I’m working from home, my workstation is my tool and I spend many, many hours using it. My last PC had some annoyances, so this time I got some big requirements.

First, I wanted my workstation to be powerful. And I mean really powerful in the sane budget.

Second, I wanted it to be small factor so it’s easy to move from place to place. This is because of my personal reasons.

Third, I wanted it to be as silent as possible, without using liquid cooling and other unusual stuff.

Designing

First, I wanted to thank all the people from the PurePC.pl forum that have given me any advice. At the beginning I was clueless how to fulfill my requirements as I’m not actively following PC hardware technology. But with help I received, I quickly had a promising blueprints. (relevant thread on forum.purepc.pl)

While browsing a web I’ve found a Falcon Northwest Tiki PC and I realized I want my computer to be just like it. Same form, similar performance.

So it seems Mini-ATX and even Mini-ITX boards are getting more and more popular and after a little matching, building a similar setup shouldn’t be too hard.

Parts

At the end, this is the list of parts that I’ve ordered or picked from the old workstation. I’ll write more about them in next sections.

  • ENC: IN-WIN BL 641 300W
  • MB: ASRock Z77 EXTREME4-M
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K, 3.5GHz, 8MB, LGA1155, 22mm, 77W, BOX
  • MEM: A-Data 4x8GB 1600MHz DDR3 CL11 Quad kit
  • GFX: Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile
  • PSU: SeaSonic SS-350TGM
  • CPU Cooling: Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B
  • SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 64GB
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB (HD502HJ)

Assembling

Everything was quite easy. You can see the photos on imgur.

Review

The enclosure is very practical and easy to operate. As you can see on the photos the 3.5’‘ Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB sticks out of the storage assembly, but this is no problem thanks to the fact that assembly bay can be easily detached. This is very handy solution.

The mother board was the bigest surprise out of all the parts. The ASRock UEFI BIOS is the first BIOS that I’ve used that you can operate with a mouse. Another surprising thing are POST times. I’ve got used to the fact that usually BIOSes takes 5 to 10 seconds to check memory, detect disks and do other necessary stuff. But this BIOS boot so quickly that it takes only around one second in whole booting time.

Obviously ASRock Z77 EXTREME4-M has a lot of tweaking and overclocking possibilities, but I haven’t played with them yet. I want to test the system for some time under normal stress, and maybe then I’ll try to do some basic OC. Funny thing: I was woke up in the first night by my computer booting without my intervention. I quickly discovered that it was ASRock Dehumidifier. And later discovered quite hilarious ASRock Feature – Dehumidifier youtube video.

The CPU is really fast. At least comparing to my older box with Athlon II X3, I see around three times better CPU-bound performance. The CPU seem to generate rather small amount of heat. Even with Box cooling everything seemed cool and quiet.

The RAM works perfectly fine. There’s a lot of it. That’s all about it.

The Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile is a little more noisy than I hopped it will be. It works fine and I can enjoy Linux Steam games, but the card is the most noisy component under stress. The fact that it’s small, low-power and has decent performance is nice though.

SeaSonic SS-350TGM is simply great. It’s silent most of the time which I was hopping for. I have to stress all cores and video card for its fan even begging to spin. I love it.

I was a little concerned if Scythe CPU Cooling will fit (especially with memory and video card), but as you can hopefully see on the photos, there’s still free space.

Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B is much better than Box cooling and probably the best cooling I could get into such small and rather powerful box. Under stress the fan is quite hearable, but still quieter than Box cooling for sure. When idle the fan is almost silent. The CPU temperature is lower than with Box.

The storage is taken from my old workstation and rather unremarkable. I use SSD to store my Ubuntu and home directory while I keep heavier stuff on a big HDD.

Altogether, the box works very smoothly. The boot time is bellow 5 seconds from the moment I press the power button and everything is very fast. I almost don’t hear anything when the computer is idle.

That’s all. Summing up: it seems I’ve fulfilled all the goals and I’m happy working on my new workstation.

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