Scott Hanselman

The CodingHorror Ultimate Developer Rig Throwdown: Part 2

June 20, '07 Comments [47] Posted in Musings | Reviews
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NVidia MotherboardI've gotten permission from the wife to build the Ultimate Developer Rig that we talked about in Part 1. I debated getting a MacBook Pro when the latest stuff came out at WWDC, but since I already have a Mac Mini that I hardly use, but that does run Rails happily, so I'm going to wait a year or two to get a fully loaded MBPro.

Originally I'd figured I'd shoot the moon and buy a mega-machine for and obscene amount of money, but then I realized that not only do I not have mega-money, but at some point one reaches a point of diminishing returns.

I want this machine to be ridiculously fast, but I want the price/performance ratio to be ideal.

Here's what Jeff and I finally came up with.

Once You Know, You Newegg

In the coming few weeks we'll put it together, and then add Jeff's special touch which will include sound damping and overclocking. There will be pics and details on the performance before and after, and we'll see what this $1900 machine will be capable of.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 10:49:32 PM UTC
Personally I go for the "overclocker grade" memory as well (no idea about those Kingstons) even though I don't overclock (I have dual Corsair sticks), and I also went for a 620W Enermax Liberty supply, even though I have roughly the same amount of peripherals as you list there: PSU & Memory is one area where I definitely don't count the pennies :P

Salivating at the thought of a 10K RPM OS drive though, tasty :)


nexusprime
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 10:58:32 PM UTC
I hope you didn´t forget to order a PSU. At least it´s missing in the list. ;)
And ensure that the cables of the PSU are long enough, most mainboards have their power connectors at the top.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 11:13:20 PM UTC
The price of Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 is gonna fall to 266 on july 22. you might wanna wait one more month.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Core_2
http://www.hkepc.com/bbs/itnews.php?tid=789466&starttime=0&endtime=0
Praveen
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 11:19:12 PM UTC
I went through a similar build very recently and spent some time researching the options. I arrived at a slightly different setup:

Enermax Liberty PSU (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16817194003). I liked the fact that it has detachable cables so I only have as much clutter as I actually need. I ended up with one bad cable, sent an email to support and had a *complete* replacement set of cables on my doorstep in two days no questions asked. Color me impressed!

Abit AB9 QuadGT Motherboard (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16813127019). My previous board was ABIT and I had no complaints. No complaints about this one either, provided you get the latest BIOS. In particular, I cared about having enough SATA connectors for my various drives.

Patriot 4Gb RAM (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820220227). Inexpensive set of high performance RAM. RAM dropped in price quite a bit over the past couple of months, so I'm thinking about picking up another set.

The case is a matter of taste, but I would highly recommend pickup up a quality aluminum one -- its amazing how much lighter they are. Ok, maybe not amazing, but I found it worthwhile.

One thing that was unexpected to me about the whole experience is the driver support you get these days with x64 Vista (both built in and from manufacturers). The only issue I've run into so far was an old obscure printer. Everything else has had drivers available and works like a charm. Definitely recommended.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:27:45 AM UTC
They have 15k rpm drives now!
I would recommend 4gigs of ram. You will need it.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:42:25 AM UTC
That price on RAM must be really old since RAM has tanked in price. Because of the low prices and you would like to overclock I would definitely go for the upper end of RAM. Newegg has amazing prices with rebates for non-value line of name brand RAM.
and I'm assuming you wanted critique, else why post it. :)

Brian
Brian
Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:44:50 AM UTC
I'll second Aaron on the 4gigs of ram. I won't build my grandma a machine with less than 2gig these days and since upgrading my own box to 4gig, I'd never go back. You did say this new machine is supposed be "grunty".

If you are hesitant to go a 64-bit OS, 4gig is still worth it, you might lose about $100 worth of the ram to mapped memory but you'll keep the full dual-channel speed and it will become usuable when you do switch to 64-bit.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:56:48 AM UTC
@Aaron
These specs include 4GB of RAM. 2 x (2 x 1GB)

@Scott
If it were me, I would ditch the second GPU in favor of an additional 500GB drive so that you can mirror your data. I can't imagine the extra graphics power saving you that much time, whereas RAID-1 will save a ton of time in the event of a drive failure. Just my $0.02. Kudos to keeping it under $2k as well.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:06:46 AM UTC
Sounds like a great rig. Now don't you go bastardizing it by hooking it up to some puny 19 inch Dell LCD monitor ;)
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:17:51 AM UTC
Oh please please tell me that those two video cards will be running a 30" monitor flanked by two 22" monitors in portrait mode! *drool*
Burton
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:38:57 AM UTC
I built my own computer based off the advice given in the last post that was sort of a cross between Little Bang and Big Bang (P180 Case, Core 2 Duo EE6600, MSI P6N 650 SLI, 150 GB Raptor, 2 GB Patriot Extreme RAM, SeaSonic S12 380W PSU, Scythe Ninja 120mm fan rev b heatsink, Vista Ultimate x64).

I had never built my own computer before and my Dell that had just past its 3 year warranty died. I thought I was making a wise move when I elected to go with the "quiet" (according to the reviews) XFX 8600 GT that supports DirectX 10 since there was a deal on it the weekend I ordered everything. It wasn't *loud* per se, but you could definitely notice it was there. After being frustrated for a few days and feeling like I had failed on making a quiet developer rig, I read on silentpcreview about someone else with the same card replacing the fan with a VM-101 heat pipe passive cooling system. I decided to buy that part rather than paying the RMA fee since it was about the same price (to buy the cooling mod as it was to RMA) and no passively cooled DirectX 10 card could be had for the price I paid for the XFX one. In the end, it turned out ok. It's a decent card and it's now quiet. The only thing I really notice is that you can hear the Raptor when it's seeking/reading.

If anyone else is considering building their own computer for the first time like I did following Atwood's advice, don't buy a graphics card that isn't passively cooled (read: no fan). It'll likely be just loud enough to annoy you if you're looking for quiet.

I was very thankful for the post. I had no idea what to buy. I trusted Atwood's advice since I regularly read his blog and give him extra credit that Scott trusts him to build his machine. Two closing comments: 1. be careful not to get any thermal paste on you -- it's messy, 2. be prepared to explain to your wife that the Scythe Ninja heatsink is not something illegal you bought on the black market because it sure does look like it is!
Jeff Moser
Thursday, June 21, 2007 6:00:28 AM UTC
Looks like you can get the INTEL CORE 2 QUAD a little cheaper here - and even more so, if you use their $20 off code INQPF20.

Hope this helps. I can't wait to see the benchmarks.

- Greg
Thursday, June 21, 2007 6:08:50 AM UTC
Hey Scott, that's quite the rig there!

I want to know how it runs because I'm working my boss on more powerful PCs. We're actually working with 4x 19" widescreen TFTs and it's simply amazing. They're running off of two ATI cards using Ultramon to help manage movement between monitors.

But the problem is that our rigs have a P4 and 1 Gig of RAM, so Visual Studio has the habit of sucking up all of the RAM, rendering two of the monitors kind of useless. I want to move up to dual-core and 2 GB of RAM so that I can start using Virtual PC without slowing my computer to a crawl.

Either way, with all of that horsepower, you'll definitely want to find lots of screen real-estate.

One question of curiosity though, why the RAID 0 (mentioned in Part 1)? I mean, I know that RAID 0 on Raptors has some definite benefits, but you've just increased the risk of having your main drive fail. I mean, I can appreciate this for games with massive loads, but really, having a RAID 0 drive fail will cost you much of your productivity gains. I mean, it's not like you need the space, why not just have the Raptors in RAID 1 as well. Or buy three drives, make them RAID 1 and store one away for when the first one gives out.

Point is losing either of your RAID 0 drives is pretty catastrophic and doesn't seem worthwhile from a development standpoint.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:01:09 AM UTC
Making my machine feel a bit crusty. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:24:52 AM UTC
Aye, I would go RAID 1 on your data disks too. System disk; one fast disk - fair enough (but have a spare to hand - waiting even two days to rebuild your PC while a new HD is delivered is a major PITA).

Like other people, I want to know what monitors you're hooking up! I built a beast of a machine for a similar price about a year ago now, but it's missing dual graphics cards. I'm seriously thinking of sticking another card in mine (don't tell the wife) and hooking up a third monitor, but what are the best bang-per-buck monitors around?

All in all, that's a hella lot of power for not a hella lot of money. Good work. I see these ads for machines twice that price and I wonder - are you really getting anywhere near twice the performance/experience/value for money??
Andrew
Thursday, June 21, 2007 9:41:34 AM UTC
Hi Scott,
Look this will be a good performance,but I had experience about MSI MB.
My PC [Intel Core2Duo E6320 + Gigabyte P35-DS3P + 4G DDR2 ram + E7300GE(VGA) ]
I am use MSI P965 but not support 4G(MB include 4 DIMM slot but not support 4G)
I know that was a Memory remap should be enable,but MSI BIOS without it.
BIOS show :4096mb -> 3325mb and server 2003 (32bit) show 3.25G.
So,I change to gigabyt mb,and see I want 4G on server 2003.

PS: nvidia & ATI not provide Server 2003(32bit) graph driver,just only Server 2003 (64bit),So I change to 2003(64bit)
The performance was good for me.I run file share/IIS/SharePoint/SQL2005/Oracle 10G/Virtual Server on this server.

Best regards,
Jerry
JerryC
Thursday, June 21, 2007 9:41:50 AM UTC
Hi Scott,
I selected a Seagate Barracuda NS instead of AS. 500GB would be ST3500630NS. It costs a little bit more for nearly doubled MTBF. It's a 24/7 drive. This line of drives moved me away from SCSI. Before they came out I always used SCSI, mainly for durability. I never had a drive failure in my developer machines for 10 years now.
Kai
Thursday, June 21, 2007 12:00:54 PM UTC
Peter Cyriax (www.paq.ltd.uk, or just phone him... the number's on the site) builds the best cases in the world. I'm 100% serious about this. Check them out. You'll never want an Antec again.

Of course, all of your sound-proofing knowledge will go out of the window the moment you have an actual, honest-to-God quiet case...
Julian Birch
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:03:20 PM UTC
Scott - remember that when you run in SLI mode, you can only use ONE monitor. Unless you are planning on doing some heavy-duty gaming, I wouldn't bother with the SLI setup. And if you are you would be just as well off with one 8800 GTS powering TWO monitors....

For a developer rig I would say that having two mons is much more important than a few FPS in Quake 4... ;-)
Frank
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:34:10 PM UTC
MSI -- Say it ain't so. I've had nothing but heartache from MSI and have happily moved to Asus.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:43:59 PM UTC
That Scythe cooler has a review on Newegg stating this as a con: "should be clear that only has 3wire fan and is NOT compatable [sic] with the newer LGA775 standard 4wire speed control."

And your motherboard has "LGA 775" in its name.

That seems worth investigating before purchase.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 2:47:02 PM UTC
Oops, I have to revise my comment. When my eyes read Corsair, my brain assumed RAM and skipped the rest of the line.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 4:22:56 PM UTC
Looks like a good machine.

I would agree with some of the other posters about MSI. I have only purchased one, for my daughter's machine. It was kind of cheesy. I have always had good luck with Asus. I have an evga in my top-dog machine right now (680i chipset). It seems ok, but not great Vista compatibility -- has trouble waking up from sleep mode, and some of the cooler features, like the built-in firewall in the NICs do not seem do be available when I boot to Vista (I dual-boot XP Pro, and I have lots more tweaking options there)

If you aren't in a hurry, you might want to troll www.bensbargains.net for your parts -- there have been a lot of RAM rebate deals lately.

Also, last month I think that I saw a Lite-On Dual-Layer burner with LiteScribe for around 40 (maybe just
senile)

I noticed that you have SLI video cards. If you made that decision for gaming and you plan on installing Vista, make sure to set up a dual-boot to XP. I have had a lot of games (especially games more than a year or 2 old) that simply refuse to run on Vista -- even after tweaking the compatibility mode settings and trying to let them run as admin. All of the changes in Vista have made it kind of hostile to older software.

J.Marsch
Thursday, June 21, 2007 4:55:09 PM UTC
The two video cards aren't for SLI. They're for UP TO FOUR MONITORS.

I don't know why people see two video cards and assume SLI.. think four DVI ports, people!
Thursday, June 21, 2007 4:58:48 PM UTC
You might also take a look at the recently updated system builder's guide at Ars Technica:

http://arstechnica.com/guides/buyer/guide-200706.ars
Wade C
Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:13:51 PM UTC
Definately a very nice setup. Personally I prefer Asus gear, MSI boards were the only ones that ever failed on me, so I went back to Asus years ago. I know that is a very small sample though ;).

When I saw the 2 video cards, I immediately wondered, what games you were planning on playing on this machine, but I guess the 4 monitors make sense. Though I wouldnt know where to put them on my desk ;).
Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:56:27 PM UTC
This sounds really nice. I'll be interested to see what you find as you put it together. For example are there things on the Mb that are hard to get to because of the case you've chosen.

And why that particular case? I liked the Antec Sonata II because it's fairly good at noise reduction, and you've got Quiet on your list. Now Antec has the Sonata III, which sounds even better.

The last 2 PCs I built I was aiming to keep the noise down, so I chose the drives and fans with that in mind.

Are you putting together a video showing you building the monster? :-)

"It's ALIVE Dr. Scott, it LIVES!!"
Thursday, June 21, 2007 9:06:13 PM UTC
Now we all know the reason for the upcoming blackout of Portland, OR. ;-)
Thursday, June 21, 2007 9:34:23 PM UTC
Others have said it and I'll throw in my vote as well: MSI sucks. Get a nice Asus board...
Friday, June 22, 2007 7:13:06 AM UTC
I've never had an Asus board fail me. Asus FTW.

Just curious - do you plan at all to change your plans based on feedback you receive here?
Jason Mauss
Friday, June 22, 2007 3:24:50 PM UTC
got me salivating like Pavlov's dogs... :)
Friday, June 22, 2007 5:52:00 PM UTC
So, finally... Microsoft releases the recommended configuration for running VS 2005!
GuyIncognito
Friday, June 22, 2007 8:03:02 PM UTC
RAID 0 + RAID 1.. Disk IO is really what's going to slow you down when developing with M$ tools.
Adam
Saturday, June 23, 2007 11:45:45 AM UTC
Scott,

You should be aware that current rumor has it that the price of the Q6600 will drop from $530 to $266 on or about July 22.
http://www.hkepc.com/bbs/itnews.php?tid=789466

If you want a whisper quite rig you will need to control all the fan's speed automatically. I wrote a tutorial on how to do this when using the EVGA 680i 122-CK-NF68 motherboard, which IMO is a hellva lot better MB than what you have choosen.
http://evga.com/forums/tm.asp?m=41049&mpage=1&key=&#41062

Also I think you are overspending on case, power supply, and even the Q6600. I would suggest you can get better value with other Motherboards and components while spending maybe $1300-1400 rather than $1900 and still have outstanding performance and future flexibility. Those new Intel 45nm Penryn family chips are just around the corner.


HarryVT
Sunday, June 24, 2007 4:49:14 AM UTC
I see the CPU you bought has already fallen in price by almost $50! Ce la vie!
Noah
Sunday, June 24, 2007 7:55:24 AM UTC
Noah et. al. - Ya, I'm totally bummed. I've definitely lost money on the CPU. I still think it's a good CPU for what I'm trying to accomplish.

Jason - I've already purchased this system and it's sitting in Jeff's office, so I can't revise my decisions, but I sure can learn from my screwups! I'm really appreciating everyone's comments!
Monday, June 25, 2007 1:05:56 PM UTC
Ah - two video cards for 4 monitors is completely understandable (though for developing I'm not sure if I see the return on more than 2 monitors).

The only reason I assumed you were planning on doing an SLI config is because of the SLI motherboard.
Frank
Monday, July 02, 2007 11:19:03 AM UTC
How come BTX hasn't become a standard yet?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007 7:29:41 AM UTC
It will be really interesting to see how noisy this setup is before and after the sound dampening.

I'll be building a new machine in the near future and one of my main concerns is noise but at the same time, I'm not sure I want to go as far as actually sound dampening what ever I put togheter... Might be a bit to much modding for my liking ;) I have enough hardware skills to put the components togheter but I'm really more of a developer then a modder :)
Ola
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 1:21:33 AM UTC
Also I think you are overspending on case, power supply, and even the Q6600.

No doubt we are overspending on CPU. That's a given (and Scott's choice; I gave him dual or quad options). But quality PSU and case are items you can carry forward for years; I like to invest a little here. The P182 is an amazingly well made case. Have you seen one? It oozes quality. It's probably the best case I've ever worked on.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 10:25:52 AM UTC
Jeff,

"But quality PSU and case are items you can carry forward for years; I like to invest a little here. The P182 is an amazingly well made case. Have you seen one? It oozes quality."

Well yes I have seen the P182 case and don't at all disagree that it's a quality case but for business use desktop machines I prefer the Antec TX1050B /w 500W SmartPower 2.0 which is $130 vs $155+$130=$285. It's drive bay lineup is similar, made of 1mm steel with gun metal black finish with the same amazing Antec quality as the P182 which is really a gamers case with it's 5-120mm fans able to move enough air to fly like a jet plane.
http://www.antec.com/us/productDetails.php?ProdID=61050#
http://www.antec.com/pdf/CaseComparison.pdf
HarryVT
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 5:34:50 PM UTC
Sweet rig. I am in the process of replacing my current system. It is a Gateway from 1998. I haven't replaced it yet because it runs so damn good. Who'd a thought a P-III 933 with 512 MB would run XP pro so well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 8:56:09 PM UTC
Happy New Computer Day!... (as far as i can see from codding horror's twitter)

So, how is it?? Eh? Eh?

What can it do and how good do you feel right now :)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 11:10:41 PM UTC
Hey Scott,
If you haven't purchased the monitors yet, go look at the CHIMEI 22" (1680x1050). (#N82E16824252008)

Right now I have one flanked by two 17", and am about to pull the trigger on another one of these. They are $249 - $30 rebate ($219). Great monitors.

And for Frank, developing on three monitors is, in my mind, an absolute must. I usually have SQL Management Studio on one, VS2005 on the main one, and my project running on a third during debugging.

Lively.
Friday, July 13, 2007 4:00:37 AM UTC
I am seeing only 3G of the 4G 2 x 2G OCZ 6400 RAM installed. q600 installed no OC yet.

Looked everywhere in P6N SLI Platinum documentation to find out what MSI meant by chipset resource deployment which consumes 1G according to MSI.

I am seeing 3G in the Win XP system info. not the 3.xxxx that I expected to see. Also getting 2 values for cpu temps. around 55 idle in Cmos HW monitor vs 34 C in MSI utility. Has not been the greatest of assembling experiences so far with this board in last 2 days.

Friday, July 13, 2007 5:53:10 PM UTC
I am a computer tech, and for cheap good memory, go with kingston. they have the best track record for reliability, and longevity. I have built my fair shore of computers, and the one i have now is great.
Tlitschel
Monday, July 23, 2007 3:05:42 PM UTC
@HarryVT

I have an Antec case similar to the one you suggest just smaller (like TX640B but no side fans). The problem with is the way they mount the hard drives. After I installed a 6800XT AGP card I could not remove the hard drive without removing the video card first.

I agree the P182 + PSU is overpriced but I think the layout of the case and ease of access is worth the extra money. The PSU cost is about the same as any others for that power rating, and you need that much power or more if you are running 4 hard drives.

When I rebuild my system I'm going with the P182 and a 750w PSU to power 2 7,200 drives, 2 10,000 drives, 2 dvd-rw drives, and two dual output video cards. I would get the 1000w version but it is overkill and another $200.

The case and power supply in my case will last longer than the mb and cpu.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.