My latest build log entry for you, the first part of ‘Component Selection’. This is a what-and-why run through of why I ended up with the parts that I did. It’s a lengthy post again, so I’ve put in a few pictures just to break up the monotony. Part Two, covering the cooling loop parts, should be ready soon.Component Selection: Part OneCore System Components
Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D
A more thorough overview of the choice of core components for Ironbeast, explaining the rationale behind each selection and providing some more detail about exactly what I intend to do with them.
The case was the first component I purchased for the Ironbeast project. A lot of different cases were considered (too many to list here), which were invariably the bigger sizes to give me as much room as possible to play with. The final shortlist contenders were Aerocool’s Xpredator X3
(in white), the Antec Eleven Hundred
, SilverStone’s TJ11
, the Cooler Master Cosmos II
, Corsair’s Obsidian 900D
obviously and the Caselabs Magnum SMA8
(all in black). The X3 was dismissed when I moved towards a black-silver rather than black-white aesthetic. The Eleven Hundred went because I wanted more internal space; the Cosmos II because I wanted a side window. The TJ11 stayed in contention for a long time, but I ultimately rejected it because its unconventional internal layout seemed more suited to air cooling than the full watercooling setup I wanted to do. This left the 900D and the SMA8.
I know there are a lot of Caselabs fans here, and that their cases receive very high praise from those who use them. I debated getting the SMA8 for a long
time, but when you add all those customising options, plus the cost of shipping it across the Atlantic, plus the import duty, plus the VAT… they become very
expensive cases. I also find the look a little bit too utilitarian for my tastes, whilst the 900D has just enough subtle styling to appeal to me. However in this instance the major reason for not going Caselabs was the modifications. At the final cost and lead time required to get an SMA8, it would have been better for me to build a custom enclosure from scratch designed specifically for this rig. If I got a lovely new Caselabs case, then started cutting holes in it and throwing bits away, I don’t think anyone would ever have forgiven me.
As it is, a large amount of the 900D is rather surplus to requirements. The three HDD cages, the 5 ½” drive bays, the front I/O panel and the stock cooling fans are all going. The fan mounts are being modified. The motherboard tray is being replaced by a new two-piece custom mounting. The stock front plate and plastic bay covers are being changed for a new full height panel. Although it may ultimately have to be an acrylic fake, I am hoping to make its replacement in a proper mix of brushed aluminium and smoked glass (with some subtle edge-lighting and maybe some etched/frosted detailing) to really give Ironbeast the look it deserves...
The Corsair Obsidian 900D, fresh out of the box back in September, in comparison to a new Alienware X51, my previous 2009 Alienware X58, an old Dell XPS Gen.5 and XPS M1210 laptop, a Sony Xperia-Z Tablet and a strange arcane device known as a ‘pencil’.
Processor: Intel Core i7 5960X Haswell-E
There wasn’t really much doubt about this one. Once I had decided to wait and build Ironbeast on the X-99/Haswell-E platform rather than its predecessor, it was pretty much certain that I would choose the top-spec processor to handle everything that would be thrown at it. I didn’t think it was worth going up a level to a Xeon-series workstation CPU; the enthusiast-grade i7 should be more than adequate. The expensive top-dog 5960X
version was chosen over the cheaper and faster clocked 5930K
or the 5820K
largely because it is 8-core. Although that makes relatively little odds for most current programs it does matter, because it is very unlikely that Ironbeast will be upgraded with a new CPU in its lifetime. Therefore it seemed prudent to invest in a little extra capability by getting the best processor in the range. As I have said previously, when the full cooling system is up and running I’ll have a go at overclocking it. I aim to run it somewhere over 4 GHz normally, then perhaps try and persuade it to go over 5 GHz and maybe see if I can earn a respectable spot on the Haswell-E leaderboard.
Intel i7 5960X. Sorry about blurring the label, I know it’s a little paranoid.
Motherboard: ASUS X99-E WS
The X99-E WS
is the top-spec Socket 2011-v3 workstation board from ASUS, which was chosen for several reasons. It is designed as an efficient and dependable workstation board for more demanding applications, built with higher quality components. This should hopefully allow it to withstand the rigors of running at high level on a daily basis, and often for comparatively long periods of time, which is more important in my case than pursuing the very best overclocks with the Rampage-V. It was also the only one of the then available X99 motherboards which I liked the look of; having a nice colour-matched appearance and a good layout without being deliberately showy. I also liked it because it has the seven evenly-spaced PCIe slots and support for the 4-way SLI/Crossfire setup which I wanted to do. Whilst, at present, multiplexing x16 lanes for all four graphics cards apparently provides little benefit over x8 (at least for gaming), I felt it was probably not a bad thing to have that extra capacity and that the new generation of flagship GPUs would probably be better able to make use of the increased bandwidth.
ASUS X99-E WS (stock gallery-photo from asus.com)
As some of you may know if you read the owners club thread, a lot of people have had issues with the X99-E WS. For anybody considering getting one, I will say here that it is an absolutely fantastic motherboard – in my opinion still the best X99 platform currently available. However, there have been serious deficiencies in quality control and lot of people have received damaged or defective boards. I had to get my first one replaced; I know others have had to RMA a second time. ASUS support was excellent in my case, though I’m told that may have just been dumb luck. If you’re thinking of getting one, don’t be discouraged. I have found it a superb and rock-solid board, when you get one that works. Just be aware it is a problem which has been happening.Power Supply: Corsair AX1500i
Power draw calculations suggested that a 1200W PSU would be insufficient for my needs, and I didn’t want to do a dual PSU arrangement because it would compromise the amount of space that I would have available for the cooling loop radiators. This meant a big power supply. I also wanted one that would produce very reliable outputs, since the quality of the mains supply here seems to a rather more variable than you might expect (though this isn’t that relevant anymore because I now have a very nice UPS). Since I was already using a Corsair case and RAM, the AX1500i
seemed a logical choice.
This is a Corsair AX1500i, because only an expert could figure that out (stock gallery-photo from corsair.com)
RAM Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 3000MHz, 8x4GB
There was never really any doubt about this one either; I knew I wanted to use Dominator Platinum from the start. Good quality memory, but selected almost entirely for the lovely look. In the final build they will have the light bar fittings with a white glow, maybe refinished to match the fittings in a reflective rather than matt silver. My old computer had 12GB of RAM, so going for 16GB seemed a little low; but only right at the end was it ever close to being a bottleneck, so 64GB seemed excessive. Thus I settled for 32GB, and because the 8GB sticks were then still pre-order and I couldn’t afford to wait, in an 8x4GB configuration. The 3000 kit was selected over the top speed 3200 out of caution, not pushing the WS to the maximum memory overclock it supports. That said 3000MHz was probably rather unnecessary. As it is, it runs happily at its rated 15-17-17-35-2T and I’m content to leave it like that for now.
A Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4 pack on my desk.
SSDs: Samsung XP941 512GB & 850 Pro 1TB
The selection of SSDs for Ironbeast was a comparatively late choice, with the main concern being the flexibility to add more if needed. I finally abandoned the use of mechanical hard drives completely a few years ago now, and consequently the need for the 900D’s HDD cages goes too. The drives will be contained within the ‘floorplate’ assembly, and the current layout has room for a maximum of eight. The 850 Pro
was picked on the basis that it has very good reviews across all aspects. Only one is being used at present, alongside two older SSDs from my Alienware, with another to be added soon and others in future if required.
The Samsung XP941
M.2 SSD was a late addition to the design, intended to be used for storing the operating system and applications which will benefit most from the faster access speed. Currently however the XP941 is installed, but not in use - after I read how unacceptably hot it gets for something so close to the surface of the motherboard. I understand that some people have solved this by adding some custom heat sinks, but this will not be possible once the drive is concealed underneath GPUs 3&4. It is likely that I will have to try and integrate a heat sink for it into the custom cooling for the chipset.
A Samsung 850 Pro box, also on my desk.
Graphics Cards: I still have absolutely no idea at this point
The choice of GPUs is the one big remaining question in the choice of core components for Ironbeast. Currently it is operating on a single air-cooled Gigabyte GTX 760
as a placeholder. I know I will require fast top-end cards with a good amount of memory. I have decided that it isn’t worth going up to the expense of professional cards; I don’t do enough of the more complex CAD stuff to need the specialised features, and it still needs to work well with games too. I also know I want to do a 4-way SLI/Crossfire build - mainly because I’ve never had a multi-card graphics setup before and they always look so
The original plan was for three (and then four) of EVGA’s Superclocked
versions of the GTX Titan Black
(as a good compromise between professional and gaming cards), with XSPC’s Razor
waterblocks and a cooling system designed to suit the high TDP. The release of the GTX 980
rather changed that; though the instant speculation about the release of ‘Ti
’ versions, a potential ‘GTX 990
’, a new Titan
and the AMD 300-series
dissuaded me from me getting one. As has been mentioned in earlier posts I continue to delay this decision; with some of the GTX 980 variants
, the Black’s new Titan X
successor, or the currently still under-wraps AMD 390X
as the current top contenders.To be continued...Edited by OCDesign - 4/4/15 at 7:11am