Jan 232015
 
The last time I assembled a home-built PC was over ten years ago.  I’d won an Opteron CPU at an AMD event at a time when those babies were very expensive and among the most powerful workstation options, so I decided to begin there.

Impatient and lacking in funds, I got real resourceful at finding deals.  Many items were of their previous generation; new enough to work for me but often heavily discounted.  Ebay was, unsurprisingly, a great place to shop.  So was Pricewatch.

I housed the assembly in a beautiful, sturdy Silverstone case, my sole concession to paying full price:

My last workstation build

My last workstation build

Ever since the original construction I’ve slowly and steadily upgraded, as we PC builders tend to do.  My creation now hosts two dual-core Opterons, 4 gigabytes of ram, a massive FireGL video card and a 1-terabyte hard drive.  While the workstation has served me well over the years, various components are now so far out of date that I am unable to run certain modern applications.  Most of the issues revolve around the now-ancient ASUS K8N-DL motherboard; the BIOS hasn’t been updated in years and is now incompatible with many utilities and peripherals.

So, for 2015 I’m biting the bullet and starting another build.  Impressed with Corsair’s expansion beyond memory and into gamer supply heaven, I’ve decided to create a “mostly Corsair” workstation designed to support the following needs, in order of preference:

  1. 3D solid modeling
  2. 2D illustration
  3. Music production
  4. Gaming

Although I really enjoy gaming, particularly first-person shooters, the main goal here is to Get Stuff Done.  That means likely sacrificing some high-end gaming capability by going with a workstation graphics card.  These tend to emphasize 3D modeling over the sort of operations necessary for an optimum gaming experience, but in the past I’ve found that they work well enough in most cases tried.

I started with Amazon, creating the customary Wish List and filling it with items that fit the bill.  It made sense to start with components I can actually use now, like mouse and keyboard, and for the former I was drawn to Corsair’s SABRE optical gaming mouse.  Best Buy had a good deal on it, so that’s where I went.

Here’s where twitter became my single best resource: my friend Greg Stoll tweeted about a new site specifically designed to help with DIY PC construction.  PCPartPicker allows you to create one or more configurations and even offers compatibility checks if you want.  They’ve managed to create a rich community experience, where proud builders show off their creations and exchange ideas and suggestions.

I’ve been highly impressed with PCPartPicker so far and can’t recommend it enough.  I began my own configuration and was pleasantly surprised to find the Corsair case I want quite a bit cheaper than Amazon was asking.

Still debating whether to go AMD or Intel for this one.  I haven’t kept up with CPU and motherboard developments well enough to make an easy decision.  So, more research ahead.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on components, so please comment!  More to come, although progress may be slow…

  • I’ve been itching to build a desktop again but as I seem to be moving county every year or two it doesn’t make much sense. Best to keep the bulk down with a laptop. But laptops just don’t give you the same power and bandwidth.

    Anyway, I’d be pretty surprised if AMD were able to outperform Intel, I haven’t checked desktop chip comparisons for a while but certainly on laptop there’s been no contest for quite a while. CPUboss is pretty handy for getting a basic idea of one chip vs another, although still worth doing further research on Tom’s hardware et al.

    • Sorry Alex, you got caught by an overly-aggressive spam filter.

      I hear you regarding mobility. That’s one of the things that delayed me building again. Plus I wanted to wait until I *really* needed it.

      I’m actually tempted to forget a conventional workstation and save up for a newer Lenovo W### series laptop instead. My W510 is *almost* powerful enough for what I need… maybe I can be patient and catch a used W530 on sale.

      That’s another excuse to focus on peripherals first, too.

      As for AMD vs Intel, yeah, I’ll definitely spend some time at Tom’s if I go the conventional route.

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