Hardware build review/advise for student desktop
I am an Aerospace Engineering student pretty set on going into Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for my Masters after I complete my B.S. next year. I have always wanted to build a desktop and thought it might be a good idea to have a personal computer to use in addition to the school computers for university projects and my eventual thesis. I understand that the university computers are much faster than my proposed build but if I want to build a desktop and if it has ok performance why not? Or is this a complete waste of money? I would like to build it on the cheap side (student budget) for now with the intent to upgrade in the near future. I want to run Ubuntu and Windows 7. For now I will experiment with Star-CCM, Fluent and OpenFoam in addition to using SolidWorks, Catia, MATLAB and Fortran programming. In the future (graduate school work) I will probably only use one CFD program to supplement work on university clusters.
Build 1 ~$1,100 (definitely pushing the budget but I like the idea of the quad channel processor)
CPU: Intel i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E 3.8 Turbo Boost Quad core Quad Channel
CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series Liquid CPU Cooler
MOBO: ASUS PX79LE
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws series 4x4GB DDR3 1600
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 1GB 128 bit
Hard Disk: Samsung 840 Series 120GB SATA 3 SDD
PSU: SeaSonic M12II 620 W
Case: Zalman Z11 Plus HF1 Mid Tower
Build 2 ~$800 (Affordable, significantly less performance? less upgradeable?)
CPU: Intel i5-3570K Ivy Bridge 3.8Ghz Turbo Boost Quad Core, Dual Channel
MOBO: ASRock Z77 Extreme4
RAM: G.SKILL Sniper Series 4x4GB DDR3 1600
Same PSU as above
Same Hard Disk as above
Same Case as above
This is my first build, I am going into this humbly please let me know if:
-there are better parts
-there are compatibility issues
-if the PSU is adequate
-if there is anything else I am missing
-if Build 1 is really that much better and worth it
Thank you for taking the time to read this long post.
I reckon your choice between the two systems comes down to the question of whether gaining $300 of cash flow is worth giving up a significant chunk (i7 could be perhaps 50% quicker than i5?) of the performance. When faced with a similar question, I opted for the i5, which was perhaps an OK decision, because as things panned out, I haven't worked this system very hard. If I had been running it a lot more, I would have been kicking myself for not getting the i7.
That SSD is nice to have, but you will need additional HDD storage as well.
620 W PSU is probably overkill, but you probably won't save much by going for smaller.
I'm glad I went for the H80 water cooler, lots of capacity (hot climate here), very quiet.
I myself just built a budget system about 2 months ago trying to accomplish what you are discussing (total cost ~$1350 including monitor and accessories). So I will give some advice based on what I am seeing on the two build options.
I went with the decision to go with the i5-3570K processor that you have in build 2 so that I could save a little bit of money in that area, while still getting sufficient performance, and put a bit more money into a video card, which I went with the NVIDIA GTX650 Ti. Part of that decision was to make the machine a good all around machine, which sacrificed a little CFD performance.
Some general thoughts about your setup:
- The only harddrive you have is a 120GB SSD. While I like SSD's and have one myself, they are not nearly big enough alone. Mine is a ~160GB and after setting up the dual-boot OpenSuse/Windows 7 I felt I had very little space left. I would certainly look into adding a 1TB harddrive as they are only about $100.
- The liquid cooler in the first build is probably unnecessary, unless you plan to overclock.
- The i5 processor is only a dual channel memory, so if you want 16GB of RAM you have to get 2x8 not 4x4.
I can't really speak more to compatibility as I am not familiar with all the components, but wanted to give you my opinions as I just recently obtained a similar system.
I would also like to note that you shouldn't necessarily assume university computers are faster, as the lab computer I use has an i7, but it is the 2600 model and I have found my new home machine to be significantly faster.
You may want to consider getting faster memory since it should cost very little more.
Storage drive will probably be needed as well.
I would probably go with option 1, you could save some money by getting a cheaper cooler, and video card for that build if the extra money maters that much. In the future when you have an extra $300, is going to be too late to upgrade. I always say spend the little extra money and get the one you really want, you will appreciate it much more.
If you can wait ~ 2 months, IVY-bridge-E is coming out in the beginning of September. Supposedly 10% more performance from what I've read, but it's still too early to see pricing/availability.
I left out the very important detail that I will have a minimum of 1 TB external HDD for storage. I was hoping the 120 GB SSD would be enough for the 2 OS and a few small or CAD files.
I guess my main concern is wether to wait to build this machine or not. I have the time and energy now but may not need it heavily until March 2014. Thank you for pointing out the university computer CPUs might be much older and slower than I considered. That is pushing me more to deciding to build.
1. I wasn't certain but is the RAM speed limited by the CPU? See "Integrated Memory Controller Speed" in the CPU link.
2. Any recommendation for a video card? I'm guessing Nvidia Quadro or ATI FirePro but what model?
3. Thanks for the insight about IVY-bridge-E
1. If you are only going to need the machine later, rather wait, then get either the latest and best when you really need it, or take one step down from that and save some money. Either way, 9 months is a long time in the computer hardware business, and you will certainly be able to get more bang for your buck if you wait until you really need it.
2. From a warm climate perspective, if the machine is not going to be in a cooled environment, definitely get a better than stock cooler, even if it is just a nice big air-cooled one with a large slow turning fan.
3. Read the motherboard specifications about the RAM speed. Generally, for the current i5, i7 and FX-series of CPU's, the standard speed is 1600, and that will be the default setting. However, many (most?) motherboards now support faster "overclocked" speeds, some up to 2400. It means that you will have to tune the BIOS settings to set the required speed, and you will need memory modules that can run at that speed. However, as Erik has pointed out, these faster modules are not actually that expensive, just make sure that you get a decent brand such as Crucial or Kingston.
4. If you are on a tight budget, get a mainstream card rather than a professional Quadro or FirePro. Much more performance for the price.
Thank you everyone for your advice!
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