Scott Hanselman

Ultimate Developer PC 2.0 - Part 2 - UPDATE and PODCAST on Building a WEI 7.9 and RFC for building a GOM (God's Own Machine)

July 13, '10 Comments [76] Posted in Hardware | Podcast
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Big Ass Mobo As a reminder, if you're just turning in, here's our glossary:

  • WEI - Windows Experience Index. How fast is your machine? If you say "I've got a WEI 6.0" you've got a good machine, for example.
  • RFC - Request for Comments. This is crowdsourcing. I want to know what YOU think we need to do to make a machine that is so fast that it'll max out at WEI 7.9 and be a GOM.
  • GOM - God's Own Machine. If the Good Lord had a computer, it'd be a 7.9. We want to build that machine.

There were lots of great comments in the original post. Here's some of my answers to those comments, as well as some on Twitter. The fun thing about doing hardware builds is that EVERYONE has an opinion. Also, since I'm a software guy (although I could totally rock a 486-SX build) your opinion, Dear Reader, is better than mine. I can only explain why I (and Pete, who is doing a similar build with me) made certain decisions.

We hosted a great podcast last week with some actual members of the WEI team and asked their ideas on how we could create the Ultimate Developer PC. You can listen to Hanselminutes Podcast 220 on "Creating the Ultimate Developer Machine 2.0 - How can we get a 7.9 WEI Score for under $3k?" here.

This I Believe - Hardware Edition

There's some guiding principles for this build.

  • We aren't trying to build the Ultimate PC. We don't have 20 grand or whatever the super PC is today.
  • We aren't trying to build the Ultimate Gamer PC
  • We don't want a divorce. We have a budget and we've been saving for 2 years, but give or take a few hundred dollars we can hide in tacos, we've got $3k.
  • We do have some existing parts. I've already got good monitors, as you might as well. I've got a decent case, keyboard and mouse. These don't count. Maybe the case, but you get the idea.
  • If we can stretch JUST a smidge and get a better piece of hardware for a few more bucks, or if we feel that if we DON'T get a certain level of hardware that we'll be sad, we'll go for it. Within reason.
  • We aren't AnandTech and don't claim to be.
  • We value multi-tasking as we do a lot of stuff a the same time. We think more cores is a good thing and you can't have enough memory.
  • Sometimes folks who write hardware websites talk perf, but it's unclear what they are actually DOING with these PCs, other than using them to run benchmarks. We are doing these things:
    • Communicating - Email, Twitter, Skype, Messenger, Communicator all running at the same time.
    • Coding - Multiple instances of VS2010, HippoEdit, e, IIS7, etc.
    • Virtual Machines - I usually have at least one VM doing, sometimes peaking at 2 or 3.
    • Writing - Live Writer, Excel, Word
    • Browsing - Chrome uses like 20-30 chrome.exe processes and thing slow down when Flash is involved.
    • Media - Usually running Zune or iTunes in the background. Sometimes a pinned video or Hulu on another monitor.
    • Gaming - Nope. Zip. I have an XBox, Wii and PS3 for that. And a Vectrex.

The Purchase

So here's what I purchased and what I was thinking when I did it.

  • $965 Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition 3.33GHz LGA 1366 130W Six-Core Desktop Processor
    • I thought about an overclocked P4, but I REALLY wanted an i series and I really wanted a hexacore and something overclockable to 4GHz without being an expert overclocker. Compile times need GHz and multitasking needs multiple cores so even though it's a grand for a processor, I feel good about it. It is the brain.
  • $699 (with combo actually $480) GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD9 ATX Intel Motherboard
    • This was the UD7 before, but when I was on NewEgg they had a deal when purchased with memory that took $219 off it, so it was $699-$219 = $480 for the UD9 vs. the $339 UD7. The extra $140 seemed worth it for such an exceptional motherboard. It's a very flexible board, does 6-core and does SATA 6Gbit/s. It's an Intel X58 chipset, and has seven PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. I HATE running out of room. There's also enough space for dual slot graphics cards. I have four monitors (although I'm starting by running just two in this config) and I need the elbow room. It's also got two gigabit LAN, USB 3.0, and two eSATA as well. It supports 24GB of RAM which is nice breathing room, given I'll start at 12GB.
  • $374 OCZ Reaper Edition 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Low Voltage Desktop Memory
    • Buttloads of RAM. Actually, I'd have preferred 16, as 12 just FEELS a little small. I have 8 now. Good news is, I can double this in a year or so when funds allow.
  • $320 NVidia GTX 470
    • Video cards are like Religions. The only thing that they all have in common is that you think YOURS is the One True Way. Why did I pick this one? I'm religious. No other reason. Why not eat Pork? It's a filthy animal, right? Of course not. But still. You never know! Why not buy ATI? They blue screened me ONE too many times years ago and I just can't do it. They're a filthy beast!
      Now, in fairness, read that paragraph again and swap ATI and NVidia. It works both ways.
      I like NVidia. You may think this is a gamer card, but it really came down to this. I want my Windows, and my (soon to be) hardware accelerated browsers to as well.
    • UPDATE: David in the comments said that I contradicted myself with my religious rant. To the numbers. This card gets me 7.9. I like NVidia. It'll run two 30" monitors no problem. Two of them will run four. It's in my budget and it's the Top NVidia card that'll push the pixels I want. That's why I picked it.
  • $610 Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1 2.5" MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
    • This was a hard one. Folks were suggesting "get a small C: drive" and a large spinning-rust drive for data. I have 2 TB of storage on a Windows Home Server and lots of External Drives around, so let's just say D: drive space is a non-issue. However, I can't abide a 64gig or 128gig C: drive. It's insane. There's no room. This is a great drive, a good balance between size and speed. It'll probably get a 7.7-7.8 WEI, but I really think that RAID 0 array of two drives is overkill. It also seems like I'd be asking for a drive failure. This was a good balance of price and performance. I need to update the firmware before building.
  • $200 SILVERSTONE ST1000-P 1000W Power Supply
    • A number of people thought this was overkill. Fortunately, I can always swap it out or return it if it was a bad idea. That said, when I add in another video card for the other two monitors, as well as a harddrive or three, I'm going to want the extra headroom.

I have likely (and will likely) make mistakes here, but that's part of the fun of building your own machine. Remember, Jedis build their own lightsabers, so you should build your own computer at least one!

I'll be building this in the next week or two.

QUESTION: Is there any interest in a "live build" where we stream the build and the viewers make suggestions, ask questions, etc?

Your thoughts?

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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Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:30:24 PM UTC
Scott,

this definitely shows that you don't need to spend $5000-$10,000 on gear to get a good developer machine.

The timing and the speed of the memory also isn't in the high class - as for 16gb vs 12gb - why not just stay with 12gb (as you obviously are) and see how much you actually end up using. I've gotten used to 8Gb and i rarely, if ever, really need more - that's running SQL Server (plus Express), SharePoint, TFS, Visual Studio (sometimes more than one instance too), browsing (IE8) and Outlook..Still works a treat. Most of my memory is utilised (yay for Windows 7 managing memory better and not leaving me with unused memory (yes folks, unused memory == bad!).

all in all, very nice specs - will definitely beat past the 7.0 WEI mark..can't see it reach 7.9 but you'll definitely be close :)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:30:39 PM UTC
(Sigh)

>Also, since I'm a software guy (although I could totally rock a 486-SX build) your opinion, Dear Reader, is better than mine. I can only explain why I (and Pete, who is doing a similar build with me) made certain decisions.

>Video cards are like Religions. The only thing that they all have in common is that you think YOURS is the One True Way. Why did I pick this one? I'm religious. No other reason.


These two statements contradict each other. If you have non-rational views on which parts you are going to buy then it's pretty much a worthless peanut gallery in trying to help you?
David
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:33:14 PM UTC
Only once? Ill go so far as to say that I have to question the chops of a developer who doesn't build his own machine, unless it's a laptop :)

Been building my own machine since I was 15 or so. Out of necessity at first, had to hustle for parts, but later because you overpay when buying from someone like Dell or HP, and they don't use the best quality component for every piece of the system.

The machine currently on my desk is the same machine I started with, back in 94, just had every piece replaced over the years. But I still have files from my DOS days.... :)
James
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:35:09 PM UTC
Why not something like the nvidia quadro nvs 450 so you don't need the second graphics card? If you are trying to save money that is?
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:39:04 PM UTC
ATI 5870 should be faster than the GTX 285 and use significantly less power under idle.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:44:47 PM UTC
xgene - I really want a card that'll push a 30" without trouble. The Quadro lags a bit on a 30" in my experience.
david - I added an update.
jcheng - I mistyped. It's the 470.
brian - what memory do you recommend?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:00:09 AM UTC
If you would, please detail the rest of your build spec so we can compare yours with Jeff Atwood's dream machine.

And I would be interested in a live stream.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:27:18 AM UTC
I'm a bit surprised that you managed a 7.9 with the GTX 470. I built a new machine a few days ago, and my new GTX 480 with out of box drivers scored a 7.8. It wasn't until I updated to the most current drivers that WEI gave me a 7.9 for graphics.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:27:24 AM UTC
@David

We're all friends here. Get in the spirit of the build!

I personally find this really exciting. I've done a lot of PC builds over the years, but this will be my first water cooled job, and my most expensive one (although that first 486 dx33 cost me a mint as I recall)

Scott and I are still looking for feedback on the bits. We have taken advice on a number of things. Some stuff, like the whole ATI vs. nvidia thing may come down to a little religion, but you have to expect that. I'm the same way about cars, tied to the honda/acura line :) Plus, even if we don't use the advice on our own machine, the community benefits from the collective wisdom here.

I'm going to the beach this weekend, and plan to order the parts for my build when I come back. I hope NewEgg still has the awesome combo deal on the mobo and CPU. :)

@xgene

I'm going to put together a blog post with good/better/best with some classes of stuff we evaluated so you can figure out what type of build you want to do (some won't want water, some won't want 6 core, others want more memory etc.)

Pete
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:28:38 AM UTC
I'm a bit surprised that you managed a 7.9 with the GTX 470. I built a new machine a few days ago, and my new GTX 480 with out of box drivers scored a 7.8. It wasn't until I updated to the most current drivers that WEI gave me a 7.9 for graphics.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:29:25 AM UTC
I'd like to see a live build.
Davin
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:41:31 AM UTC
It will be great to see a live stream ,
and if i were you i would choose ATI HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition :)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:41:40 AM UTC
In the spirit of "don't make me think" where's the total $ spent?

I have that Crucial SSD in my laptop and it rocks :)

[)amien
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:22:56 AM UTC
Sounds like an awesome workhorse you've built there! I work on a laptop. It's an Asus GJ3 GH (8 Gig Mem, i7 Core, 500GB HDD, with a secondary slot for a SSD later.) 17.5" Monitor... I scores 5.9 on the WEI. Cost me nearly 1800 on newegg.

I would love to have a machine like yours, but if it came in laptop size --

Meanwhile I will stay jealous of the awesome. :D

Cheers! :)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:27:42 AM UTC
I'd love to see a follow up of this article where you pick a lower number that is still fast (7.2ish?) and build a budget development machine.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:32:45 AM UTC
Scott,

Long time reader, first time poster.

It's great to see an article on PC building from the developer's perspective. So many reviews are either aimed at gaming-folk or, due to the lab environment of benchmark tools, seem to not test the ordinary conditions of a power-user.

Also, thrilled to see that you're an erstwhile Apple II user (I had an Apple IIc growing up and a bunch of those great Usborne programming books) and a current Vectex gamer. Strange to think that its vector lines still deliver a sharpness with diagonals that high resolution screens still can't quite mimic ...

Thanks,
Iian
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 2:02:53 AM UTC
Any thoughts on the WD VelociRaptor 600Gb for the OS drive instead of the SSD?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 2:45:55 AM UTC
Sounds like a cool build... but one question:
How does it fit in your pack? I know you travel a lot.
I find I just use my laptop with a dock because I can take it home and work every night more easily.
I detest trying to keep files in sync on two machines, and always end up burned.
I know you travel a lot as well... any words of advice?

Gracias
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 3:37:41 AM UTC
I have some suggestion about your graphic card for supporting your extreme mainboard. At this time NVidia GTX 470 is not a good choose for you because it's very hot and so expensive. I suggest you to buy new NVidia GTX 460 SLi that can run a bit faster than NVidia GTX 480 and much cooler than any NVidia GF100-based GPU like GTX 480, 470 and 465.

For more information, please look at the following link.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/3809/nvidias-geforce-gtx-460-the-200-king

PS. If you have much money for buy Ultimate PC, I suggest you to buy EVGA SR-2 mainboard that support 2 Intel i980 CPU or Intel Xeon 5xxx CPU and support 4 ways SLi/CrossfireX.

EVGA SR-2 mainboard unbox
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXLBShXjQmQ&feature=fvw
Soul_Master
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:24:04 AM UTC
Pete/Scott

I might be being grumpy, but I just don't really understand what you're doing. You started out saying 'tell me what to build' but now it's more a 'this is what I'm going to build based on my preconceived ideas'

I have a 5870 and a 480. The current 5000 series are simply better this time. It's nothing to do with 'religion' or even numbers. Scott's criteria is actually 'I will only buy Nvidia' - which I think is actually not in the 'spirit' of this build.

You'll need the bigger PSU for the 470 as it draws a lot more power, is less efficient and runs very hot/noisy. Plus you can run 3 screens on one card with a 5870 while you'll need to start adding more cards on the green side.

PS My 480 only gets 7.8 in wei, so best check before buying that you'll reach the magic number. It runs v. hot so over clocking is tough for this gen if 400's
David
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:26:44 AM UTC
Well nothing has been opened, so there's still time. Can you run three DVI monitors off the 5870 or do I need some kind of adapter? Why did you buy the 480, out of curiosity?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:10:02 AM UTC
Can you run three DVI monitors off the 5870 or do I need some kind of adapter?


By default it works either dvi/dvi/display port or dvi/hdmi/display port. To run 3 DVIs you need DP to DVI adapter. More details and pictures you can find in this article
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:03:55 AM UTC
Cool Scott, I like the live-build idea.
Check out this pc workbench/open air case... http://www.highspeedpc.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=TopTechSTD
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:14:33 AM UTC
I don't understand you're trying to build WEI 7.9 machine and at the same time you've picked SSD which you assume would score 7.7-7.8. Given the overall WEI is a weakest link in the config - what gives?
Why not to do some research on SSDs available on the market and based on benchmarks pick the one with WEI 7.9?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:41:32 AM UTC
Yep the 5870 uses DisplayPort (Apple or high end monitors, otherwise a powered adapter) as the 3rd connector.

I build a few PCs a year (hobby, modding etc) so the 480 was a sample I got a good deal on from a trade supplier. We're a 17 PC household :)

One suggestion would be to post your requirements / specs on reddit.com/r/buildapc - lots of people there keen to help.
David
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:45:00 AM UTC
Interesting project.

Do you have any considerations considering noise? Whenever I build a machine (once every 2 or 3 years) I always end up spending a lot of time finding the most quit components. Is the fan that comes with the CPU really quiet enough?

Palle Due Larsen
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 7:08:48 AM UTC
Good work but I'm really looking for a GOL (a laptop - silence the vuvuzelas!) rather than a GOM since I do most of my heavy coding on the laptop rather than the desktop.

Asked a guy at WEISHARE.net and he said there was no way of sorting entries by class (desktop, laptop, etc). Any idea on how I can get the best bang for the buck in laptops?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 7:22:12 AM UTC
A live build would be awesome - never seen this done before. I've built about three of my own PCs, but never on your budget; always far far less. :(

It would be even better if you could record the live session so people in other time zones can watch it after the event.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 8:19:18 AM UTC
I built a kick-ass PC about 18 months ago, and it still gets 6.1 on WEI

I mainly develop web applications, so didn't see the CPU as being *that* important as I've always found web builds to be mainly I/O bound. I mistakenly thought all motherboard RAID chipsets are equal. So, put my OS on a RAID1 on the ICH9R controller and my data drives on a RAID0 on the GIGABYTE controller. Only to discover, quite some time later, that the GIGABYTE controller actually causes micro-pauses all the time when writing data. Well, that's what I read somewhere, and it did seem a bit jerky (the mouse movement) when the disks were busy. So, I upgraded to a RAID10 of 4 WD Caviar Black HDDs. 640GB flavour, so I could use the inner part of the drives mainly, where seek times would be quicker! Well, that was the theory. But, it's all blown away by the speed of a good SSD. So, I'd be interested in your (and other folks) experiences with using SSDs in a write-many situation such as software development.

My RAID10 gets 6.1 WEI, which is the lowest score I have. The next lowest is 6.4 for the video card. I went for a lower powered video card because I was working within a fairly strict budget (£600 for case, CPU, motherboard, RAM, hard drives). It runs my 2 x 24" monitors @1920x1200 with no problems at all.

The CPU and RAM, which are only a Q6600 quad-core with some DDR2 800, both get 7.0. When I'm doing builds I rarely see the CPU stretched, it's all on the disk system. But, I'm sure if I got rid of the disk bottleneck another one would be highlighted! If it turns out my CPU is the bottleneck, I could probably invest in a better cooling system and overclock the Q6600 quite a bit.

Oh, and as for memory usage; It's only when I spin up a VM (with 2.5 GB RAM reserved) that I see my memory usage so over 5GB. But, it's always nice to have more room ;-)

Anyway, I'm very interested to see how people are getting on (longer term) with their SSDs.

(BTW - the reason I am interested in SSDs longer term is because of the wear levelling technology they employ to compensate for the limited number of writes each cell can do)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:07:27 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

Two questions.

Do you have some form of scroll-loading going on with the comment pictures? If so, cool.

Have you thought about asking NewEgg or vendors for sponsorship? You have a lot of traffic to directly relevant customers - could be a way to get what you want much much shy of that $3K :-)

Other than that, I'm jealous - can't get clearance (from the missus) for a new build just yet lol
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:08:08 AM UTC
All this to run IIS7 ? Life must be hard , talk about recession.
lolcatrompa
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:09:28 AM UTC
I don't understand it - you're trying to build WEI 7.9 machine and at the same time you've picked SSD which you assume would score 7.7-7.8. Given the overall WEI is a weakest link in the config - what gives?
Why not to do some research on SSDs available on the market and based on benchmarks pick the one with WEI 7.9?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:14:32 AM UTC
geekbeing - Ultimately there are no SSDs at that price that I was able to find that would meet my price/size/speed requirements, other than the Crucial. If anyone knows of one, let me know.

lolcat - :P IIS7 runs nicely on my netbook, thanks.

Adam - Jes, jQuery lazy image loading. Saves bandwidth and makes my site snappier.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:17:23 AM UTC
Scott,

Just a thought - try looking into PCIe SSDs, might have greater throughput and therefore be thought quicker by WEI. I've no idea if this is true or not.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:03:51 AM UTC
Great series, Scott. Can you say more about how many monitors this will drive? I'm looking at a 2560 x 1600 for my next machine, I also have a 1600 x 1200 and a 1280 x 1024...would the 470 be able to drive all of these?

To be able to have some benchmark information for Visual Studio development work would be really valuable. What are the things I can do to my machine to make 2010 fly even faster. My upgrades are driven by my primary use case - VS development. Maybe Microsoft could sponsor some sort of public benchmark for VS (and IIS, Blend...)?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:13:58 AM UTC
Good solid choice on the motherboard. I am using it myself. The only drivers Windows 7 didnt find was the USB3.0 and they are quickly downloaded. The eSata is in the form of a adapter for the back so knockls out two of your sata connectors on the board as they need to be connected.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:17:27 AM UTC
PCIe SSD Performance Conclusion:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fusion-io-ioxtreme-ssd,2488-10.html
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:03:49 AM UTC
"Compile times need GHz and multitasking needs multiple cores so even though it's a grand for a processor, I feel good about it. It is the brain."

With visual studio 2010, the number of cores also affects compile time. Good choice on a processor for Coding, Encoding, or any other process that can take advantage of the 12 logical cores.

I would be interested in a podcast of the build. Going to be building a new machine this year, so I am definitely interested in seeing builds right now.

~Chris.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:06:10 AM UTC
This is a pretty cool thing to be building. Can you update the post to cover how much the cooling solution will cost. I have spent a lot of time with cooling in my own builds and get a good result from stock cooling solutions, but for overclock that might be a non runner.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:26:41 PM UTC
Interesting post. I just wish I had $3000 available so I could come on the journey with you. :-)

This may be a dumb question... but while I'm familiar with VS2010, HippoEdit, and IIS7 I have no clue about e. Google / Bing were no help either. What is it (and is it something I should be using)?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:12:26 PM UTC
Stay away from ATI. I picked up a rockin' Studio 17 (with 4pt capacitive touch - sweet, I know) which comes with an ATI card. Now I can no longer run hyper-v on it for all the demos I do. As soon as you add the Hyper-V role the ATI drivers blue screen. Known issue, not fixed. Frustrated.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:14:44 PM UTC
The ultimate developer PC looks an awful lot like a damn good gamer PC.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:58:10 PM UTC
Double the ram only if you plan to run multiple VMs at the same time. Some dev scenarios require it. Most don't. Overall, a very nice system, though I'd be tempted to save a few bucks and drop down to a 4 core CPU.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 2:11:02 PM UTC
Great build! I like the choice of motherboard and CPU.
Make sure the Crucial RealSSD has the latest firmware and you get good 6G cables. TRIM does not work well prior to the last firmware release.
Regarding the video card, I am surprised you haven't considered the professional series of NVIDIA. They provide better stability and is more suited for the apps you'll be running. The GTX runs hot and draws significant power and it will provide no real advantages to you

Have you seen the Quadro NVS 450? It will run your 4 monitors without a sweat (no need for SLI). Another advantage is that it is completely fanless cutting down the noise a bit. I am not sure what this card will score on WEI, probably not great in the 3D category but it can definitely move plenty of pixels for all yours needs and your quad monitors.

Just my 2 cents.
Congrats,
Diego.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010 2:59:46 PM UTC
"live build"? Scott, your such a nerd!
.
.
.
Yes, I'd be interested.
Mike
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:11:38 PM UTC
Live build yes!

Or at least record it so we can go back and watch it!
dm3281
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:33:26 PM UTC
The C300 SSD got me a 7.9 for disk on my new machine, actually, so hopefully it'll pull through for you too.

I'm looking forward to the final build specs and WEI bench!
Colin Dabritz
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:35:50 PM UTC
Don't forget that God also likes playing games, so the NVidia card is just fine ;) Nice to see the upgrade to a 4 series card - should hit 7.9 just fine. Having gone through this excercise recently, my only thought would be memory. I'm sitting at 7.7 memory and 7.8 cpu (7.7 encoding subscore, 7.9 encryption/compression subscore) and I suspect the CPU score is due to memory. Probably need to drop the CAS and bump up the clock.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:41:41 PM UTC
I have to agree with the people recommending the Quaddro cards. It seems to me that parts purpose built for multi-monitor workstations would work better than cards purpose-built for gaming.

The nVidia Quadro NVS 420 even comes with a VHDCI connector with DVI adapter to connect up to 4 DVI displays... it's slightly more expensive than the NVS 450, though.

@brianmadsen:
this definitely shows that you don't need to spend $5000-$10,000 on gear to get a good developer machine.


Even Apple doesn't charge you that much for their high end dual quad-core Xeon machines, which I assume are aimed at people developing OSX applications.
R. Bemrose
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 5:58:21 PM UTC
@R. Bemrose

Worth looking into. Of course, with workstations using so much 3d technology at the shell level, it becomes hard to distinguish between gamer graphics and workstation graphics.

I didn't really consider the workstation cards early on because of price, and because I almost never run opengl apps (most workstation cards are optimized for opengl, or use to be anyway)

Pete
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 6:58:37 PM UTC
Scott,

I don't know about a live streaming build, but I would LOVE to see a video of this PC being made. For that matter, I would love to see a video of a light saber being made too.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:03:13 PM UTC
I would RAID-0 2 Vertex-2 100's or 120's. These are SandForce drives and would definately get 7.9 and sustain around 500MB/s read and great 4k IOPS (better than any single drive).

I get 7.9 on 2x Intel X25-M 80GB G2's. As far as RAID-0 fears go, I just rely on my nightly backup to WHS and a nightly TrueImage to a VelociRaptor 600 D: drive. If an SSD fails, I'd never lose more than a day's work, same as with a spinning-rust drive failure.

I get 7.9 on a I7-920 OC'd to 4.2Ghz on water. I get 7.9 on memory using Kingston Hyper-X DDR-1600 triple channel only 6GB. My ATI 5770 graphics only gets me 7.4 but I don't game, I write code. I went with ATI since it is quiet and cool.

I think, based on your podcast and your choices in this post, you ignored ScottGu's advice on emphasizing hard disk perf for Visual Studio. It is, after all, the tool we live and die by as devs, right?

On the podcast, I wish the WEI team guys would have talked more about what happens in WEI when there are multiple vidcards, and what the "classes" of each score are more. 7 class hard drives need to be SSD. 7 class video needs to be DX11. 7 class processor needs 4+ cores. (it appears)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 9:11:14 PM UTC
+1 for the Pulp Fiction reference.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:17:46 PM UTC
Yes, I'll be interested in the live streaming of a lightsaber.
P.C.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:07:57 PM UTC
Hey Scott,

I'm very partial to the G.Skill range of memory - fantastic performance.

look for the Trident range. Price-wise i'm not entirely sure what you'll get in the US - probably a lot cheaper than over here.

anyways G.Skill is some of the best gaming ram around (performance memory) and couple it with one of their cooling fans you'll get a very consistent performance from them as well.

Patriot is another one you can go for - although they can be a bit pricey vs. performance.
Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:01:56 PM UTC
I would probably turn this list upside down.

Go with an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T (black edition hexcore AMD) O/C to 4ghz+ on air.
Go with a motherboard for 199 or cheaper max it out at 16 GB
Go with a top of the line ATI videocard with support for 3 mons out of the box.

Overclock everything and use a lot of the money for getting SSD's in RAID 0.

The extra performance on CPU / MB level of your config wouldn't be worth the extra money for me at least.
Thursday, July 15, 2010 1:37:21 PM UTC
I just built a new home development machine as well but I'm apparently missing something because I don't see the connection between WEI and a computer being a good "developer machine." The only decked-out luxury I put in this new box was 8GB of RAM and 64-bit Win7 (up from 4GB and 32-bit Vista). With a Core 2 running just under 3GHz, I have all of the horsepower I need for programming, and with only having 19" and 22" monitors to drive, I don't need a space heater masquerading as a video card to make them go. Then again, I'm not a gaming degenerate.

The beef I do have is this: even with Windows Home Server -- which I bought based on your advice, Scott -- doing a simple restore of the previous Vista system was a no-go. The previous system -- which had a motherboard or some other failure -- was all Intel hardware with a 2.6GHz Core 2. The new system has a Gigabyte board with a 2.93Ghz CPU and a video card instead of on-board video. Because the hardware profile is so different I cannot simply restore the system image to the new computer and then run an in-place upgrade of the O/S. In fact, the one time I did do a system "brain transplant" from one dying system to similar-but-different hardware I ended up on the phone with someone in Microsoft's India office for over an hour being lectured about not being allowed to transfer a Windows license from one set of hardware to another. THAT'S WHAT THE F-ING WHS IS SUPPOSED TO ALLOW--WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME NO??? The end result is that I spend my evenings for a week getting the new machine set up to approximately where the previous config had been. Why can't MS system restore work like a Mac OS Time Machine restore???

So Microsoft gets an "F" on this. The only time WHS is really worth it is if your HDD fails. If it's the mobo or CPU, well, you're screwed. So to hell with WHS... there is absolutely no advantage over network attached storage so I won't be bothering with it again. Good luck to all of you True Believers who think otherwise.
Mike C.
Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:10:34 PM UTC
Once you complete the build, you should work with NewEgg to provide it as an official SKU... Yes, I'm asking you to do a lot of work for me :)
Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:38:47 PM UTC
@Mike

The 7.9 goal is parallel and separate from the "good developer machine" goal. We want to hit 7.9 because it's a number, like getting all 10s in a diving competition. At the same we want to build a great developer machine.

Fortunately, while separate goals, getting all 7.9s will not exactly leave you with a crappy machine :)

Sorry about your problems with WHS. Not sure where it fits into this thread, but bummer you ran into those issues.

@All

I think a recorded and edited build might be ultimately better for everyone. It usually takes me a while to build a machine, and It would be good to edit out all the headscratching and foul language ;) Not ruling out a live camera *in addition* though.

Pete
Thursday, July 15, 2010 6:53:55 PM UTC
@Mike C: I'm truly sorry you had a sh*tty WHS experience. I've honestly not had any issues. I've swapped HDs, Mobos, CPUs and whiles sometimes I've had Windows de-activate and had to do the phone dance, it's worked well for me.

Mischa - That sounds like an interesting blog post. I wonder what kind of performance you could get out of it?

We're going to try to nail the WEI guys down to more specifics (they were a little cagey) in a Video Interview later this month.
Friday, July 16, 2010 6:07:29 AM UTC
Live Feed, Live Feed, Live Feed!
SubbaRao
Friday, July 16, 2010 9:21:34 AM UTC
Really enjoy your blog posts! keep up the great work - water cooled machine! how sweet is that!
Friday, July 16, 2010 9:23:30 AM UTC
guys check out my blog here
Friday, July 16, 2010 2:29:23 PM UTC
I'd be interested to know the thinking behind the motherboard. What does a really expensive motherboard get you that a $200 mb doesn't?
Friday, July 16, 2010 5:05:42 PM UTC
If you're already spending a boatload of money why not go with 16GB RAM instead of 12GB? The extra 4GB can actually make a noticeable difference. To speed up my dev box, I created a 4GB SuperSpeed RAM disk and placed the temp folders, 'Temporary ASP.NET Files' folder in there. I will also place SQL Server TempDB in there and any app's own work/scratch disk space. There's heavy IO for these types files and memory is faster than anything. SuperSpeed will save the contents of the ram disk per user interval and when shutting down to an image file. This way you still keep these temp files.

When you open several instances of Visual Studio, the extra memory will help. Large RAW or PSD files in Photoshop use a ton of memory. Plus Outlook, IE, Firefox.. etc. I have all these tools open and when i have lots of memory, I don't need to close an app to free up memory. I bought 16GB (1333 CL7) for $390 from Amazon.
Abdu
Friday, July 16, 2010 6:37:02 PM UTC
Abdu - Does a RAM disk really make THAT much difference? Have you measured? Does it FEEL faster?
Saturday, July 17, 2010 1:13:05 PM UTC
Ditto the laptop comments. This is an interesting exercise (component pron). However, I have a practical need for maximizing ROI on a laptop purchase, and its damn hard to find good info. Search for best laptops and you'll be in the $2200 range. And it's not the kind of thing you can build yourself (or is it?).

Edited video sounds like something I'd watch. Live stream not so much.
Saturday, July 17, 2010 1:44:23 PM UTC
I'm going to assume the live stream would be at a time that I wouldn't be able to watch it, but the ability to watch it after the fact (edited or not) would be very cool.

If you do opt to make it available after the fact, and do edit, having an unedited version available too would be nice. All too often assumptions are made about the level of knowledge on what's really involved for building a machine. For example, where's the listing of cables you purchased, screws, the paste for cooling, etcetera.

All those unknowns that get skimmed over are the only reason I ended up purchasing a low-end desktop to re-build as a testing server a couple of months ago, which I say I'll upgrade as time goes by, but know that I won't ...
Saturday, July 17, 2010 4:00:33 PM UTC
Scott,

It looks like it will be a very nice build. Please make sure to update C300 firmware, motherboard firmware, and any other firmware that you can think of BEFORE installing an OS. It will save you time if things don't go to plan.

Speaking of AnandTech, they have a shiny new article about C300.
Sunday, July 18, 2010 6:56:14 AM UTC
Scott - I installed an SSD, 16GB RAM and RAM Disk all the same time and I didn't do any benchmarks before that. I can do a complete DotNetNuke compile in 4 seconds. If I compile an app tens of times a day, I am writing and deleting files on a heavy basis. Putting these files in RAM instead of the SSD, I am increasing the life span of the SSD. I don't think an SSD is built for too much writing on them. It will decrease their reliability at a faster rate. So using a RAM Disk has two benefits: 1- Fastest IO performance you can ever get. 2- Increase the life span of a hard drive or SSD. An SSD is still a new technology whose proven reliability is not very established.
Abdu
Monday, July 19, 2010 5:21:22 AM UTC
These posts are always fun :)

I personally upgraded to the i7-980X when it came out. I've got it overclocked to 4.0GHz and it rocks. However, I'll be brutally honest -- it really doesn't feel any bit faster than the i7-920 I used to run (it was also overclocked to 4.0GHz). Well, Paint.NET is certainly faster! It's fast enough that the CPU is faster at rendering than the GPU (GeForce GTX 260 Core 216) when using this sweet plugin pack: http://blog.getpaint.net/2010/07/17/gpu-blur-effects-pack-for-paint-net/

Lately any performances issues I might have are due to Comcast, or an occasionally failing hard drive.

Also, you tossed around the idea of RAID-0 SSDs above. Right now this may be a bad idea since most RAID controllers don't know how to pass through the TRIM command, which will result in unfortunate performance degradation over time. It'll be a fun day when we can copy files around the same hard drive at SATA saturating speeds through ... "Speed: 600 MB/sec" indeed :D
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 12:42:29 AM UTC
Oh also, maybe I should point out that my i7-980x only gets rated at 7.8. Maybe you need Dual 6-Core Xeons to reach 7.9?
Thursday, July 22, 2010 7:57:37 PM UTC
From all I can tell, more cores will not push the score to 7.9 - I probably did a poor job of explaining it since I wrote this post at around 3AM or so with a keyboard that was dropping keys every so often (gogo Razer), but it's a matter of pure clock speed for the encoding test.

As far as I can tell, you're capped at 4 threads for the encoding portion and if you dump the CPU results (see the command line on the article) you'll see that you should have a 7.9 core CPU score (encryption + compression) at worst at around 4.00 GHz, but you have 7.7 -7.8 encoding score. I figure you need around 6GHz to get a legitimate 7.9 - any others I would be highly suspicious of tampering with files (and there are LOTS of ways to fool with WEI). Then again...I've been known to misread things at times :)
Friday, July 23, 2010 11:21:25 AM UTC
Look at this: http://www.eet.lv/index.php?ukey=product&productID=889&did=34
Costs 14000$
Could it be a God machine of gamers? :)
Maris
Friday, July 23, 2010 7:10:49 PM UTC
CPU wouldn't cut it stock. And why would anyone pay 14k for that? Ack..talk about overpriced...
Sunday, July 25, 2010 12:41:05 AM UTC
If you do a live build, I'd like to see some close-ups of how you do cable management--especially if you're using one of the Antec monster cases. This is one area that gives me fits, especially given that the CPU power cable is barely long enough to reach and the 24-pin power cable seemed too thick to route through the back of the case (behind the motherboard).
Lothan
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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.