Building a new PC

It's been a while since I've had a full PC refresh, in fact it was back in 2007 - so I've been working with largely the same "bones" of a machine for 4 years (same case, power supply etc.).

I blogged (very briefly) about it at the time, because of the joy that was more then doubling the speed of the machine while overclocking on air.

But over the last years it's been getting to be a bit creaky, even with some  CPU/motherboard refreshes etc. - so I decided to build a new machine.

As a quick refresh, this is what my old development machine looks like.


New Machine

Components I used:
  • Corsair Graphite 600T White Case
  • Asus P8Z68-V Pro Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4GHz Socket 1155
  • Corsair XMS3 Vengeance DDR3 PC12800/1600MHz CL9 4x4GB
  • Corsair H80 cooler
  • Sapphire Radeon HD6850 HDMI Display Port Dual-DVI 1GB (since replaced with an HD6990)
  • Seasonic X-850 850W PSU (Since replaced with a 1200w Silverstone PSU)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD30EZRX 64MB 3TB
  • OCZ Vertex 3 Series SATA III 2.5" SSD 240GB
  • HP ZR30w 30" Monitor + Dell U3011 30" Monitor + Samsung SyncMaster 305T plus 30" Monitor.
  • Sennheiser PC-350 headphones

I ordered all of the parts in this build except the case initially, I had planned on using my existing Lian Li case - but after reading some reviews for the Corsair 600T, I decided to grab one, and I'm glad I did!? At the same time I also grabbed another monitor (HP ZR30w) - Interestingly the parts I decided to use independently ended up closely matching those in Jeff Attwood's new machine, at least in New Zealand my choices are largely factored by price and availability (for example there just aren't that many DDR3 16gb kits around, and the Vengeance XMS3 is one of the cheaper).

As for the new case - The 600T is a delight to work on, loads of room, easy to remove/clean grills and panels, and the extra wide case allowing routing of cables underneath the tray and back in again makes it effortless to end up with something that's tidy and that you won't dread opening up in the future to work on.

I also have to give a hat-tip to the H80 cooler, for a all-in-one water cooling solution, it delivers on performance and is incredibly easy to install, took me all of about 3 minutes.


I love how "clean" this case feels, it's extremely well designed.

Contrast it with my old PC's cabling, when first built:


And the sad state it's in now (I'm in the process of stripping it down/cleaning/rebuilding it - so it's missing a few additional 120mm fans here and there (also check out the "awesome" cable tied fan cooling the memory ;o)


Some catches with this new build I hit:

  • If "hot plug" is disabled for the SATA 3 ports in BIOS, you get intermittent freezes (normally about 10 minutes after booting, freeze can last for up to a couple of minutes) - took a while to figure that one out.
  • System doesn't like resuming from sleep if the PPL Overvoltage setting is enabled.
  • The H80 fans started "pulsing" after a couple of days (The H80 CPU block also doubles as a fan controller, where pushing the centre of the cooler switches between 3 fan speeds) - The pulsing didn't seem to change the performance of the cooler that much, but the noise drives you crazy - I opted to just attach the fans
    to the bundled fan controller that comes as part of this case, which worked around the issue, I suspect the resolution to this issue is to RMA the unit (which I can't be bothered doing now it's installed).
  • I currently have the cooler configured to pull air in from outside - as recommended by the installation manual, but I'm suspicious about this configuration (it's effectively pulling in air being expelled by the video card below) - my guess is in winter this is probably a good/OK config, but with higher ambient temperatures (summer), it's going to perform much worse then the reverse of pushing hot air out of the case... I will need to do some testing to see though, the 600T has some nice air flow
  • HP ZR30w would only display at 1280x800 using the DVI dual-link cable, switching to using display port instead resolved this issue... looking around the web, seems like I'm not the only one to have this issue with this panel... I have to say that from a reliability/build quality/connectivity point of view the Dell 30" panel beats my other 2 hands down, but I think the Samsung and the HP panels both have better images (slightly).

The new machine scores a 7.8, which is pretty standard these days with a good SSD, and I currently have it overclocked at 4600mhz (46.0 x 100) - but haven't had much of a chance to mess with voltages and see if I could push it further.

Real-world performance

The main project I work on these days is a fairly large .Net code base, it currently consists of about 70 projects and around 3,500 *.cs files - I did some quick stopwatch tests to see how much faster things are on the new machine:

Task Old PC New Pc
Start Visual Studio 10 seconds 2.5 seconds
Load Solution 21 seconds 11.5 seconds
Clean Solution 11.5 seconds 2.5 seconds
Rebuild Solution 112.5 seconds 31 seconds
Start Debugger (after build) - time Until login dialog
displayed in app.? Intellitrace disabled.
98 seconds 15 seconds

Those last 2 figures are the "money shot" for me... and these are for single-threaded VS builds, if using msbuild with the parallel option I suspect the build time would be much lower still.

Working Environment

So here's my current development environment - 2 x 30" Panels
(5120x1600) + 15.4" Laptop (with Synergy), new and old machines
currently both sitting under my desk, and my ever trusty G15 Keyboard and Logitech Performance Mouse M950 (Darkfield) mouse.  Note: After writing this I did add a third 30" panel and moved away from using a corner Desk - I'll post an update to this shortly.


Final Thoughts

I'm a happy camper with this new machine, and I'm looking forward to seeing what may  come in Q2 onwards next year with regards to motherboards (dual processor / more memory options).?

Also a quick hat-tip to Jeff @ coding horrorhis post pointed me to the fix for the suspend issue I was having, the post made for interesting reading seeing as it was a very similar spec to my own machine.

Next thing I will be looking at is seeing if I can reduce VS2010 build times still further through some tweaks to our setup, as per this post by Arik Poznanski.

Written on August 17, 2011