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A Full Circle (Part II)

The next step in building a PC is of course parts selection and just like selecting a laptop or anything else, first I have to establish what the PC is going to be used for. Answer to that question is quite obvious, first priority for photo-processing followed by a tiny bit of video processing and finally, gaming. The parts selection will based on #1 reliability, #2 price, #3 performance.

Even with usage and part selection criteria established, things became a lot simpler. Lets go through some vital parts and some of the rationale why it is selected.

CPU : Intel or AMD?
Intel i5 or i7 of course!!! Any kind of PC that is going to be used for photo or video processing as its main task needs a fast processor and AMD processors now is still no match of Intel processors in this department. If this was purely a gaming machine, I could save quite a bit of money by going AMD instead and spend more on the graphics card since most intensive processing for games are actually in the graphics card and NOT the main CPU.

Right.. i5 or i7.. but which i5 or i7? There are like 10 or maybe different varieties of the thing! The final choice of the SKU lies in the cost factor, while there are some immensely powerful i7 processors around; the price-performance ratio of those bleeding edge CPU just aren’t good, as usual, the best choice lies somewhere in the upper-mid range of the previous generation of processors, the i5 4690K (K variant for over-clocking).

If the main usage was in video-processing and specifically processing HD or higher resolution videos, then something like the i7 4790 (K or non-K) would be a minimum.

The next major item in any PC is likely the motherboard; of course, motherboard choice is restricted by the CPU choice as well since not all CPUs can go into all motherboards.

Motherboards typically go from the really low-end barebones motherboards right up feature-rich gaming motherboards and finally up to workstation or server level boards. I would have gone for a workstation class board for this PC build due to reliability but sadly they go for around MYR1.5k++ and that money is honestly better spent elsewhere.

And since this is not a gaming machine first and foremost, the Gaming targeted motherboards are no required; so what lies below in terms of reliability and functionality of workstation class motherboards? Those are the premium consumer motherboards that focuses on reliability.

At the moment, only 2 manufacturers sell these boards, that is Gigabyte with their “Black”-series motherboards and Asus with their “TUF”-series motherboards. After browsing offerings from both of them, I finally decided on a Asus Z97 Sabretooth Mk. II retailing at a bit less than MYR800; it has a 5-year warranty, enough PWM fan headers as well as some snazzy ESD protection on the Ethernet & Audio ports.

The Sabretooth also has built-in ports and support for monitors + built-in audio, those are important for diagnosing problems with the graphics card and sound card should those two start to fail.

Cooling & Casing
Choosing the right components for a PC is important for reliability but what really matters to keep a PC healthy is how good is the cooling for the system and that is directly influenced by the casing used. Initially, I was leaning heavily towards a Fractal Design Define S or R5 (in fact, I even ordered one of those but finally cancelled the order) but looking at my old, huge and beautiful Coolermaster ATCS 840; I decided to go to the slightly cheaper option of modifying and retrofitting it for this PC.

I would have to replace the aging 230mm fans, close up some huge holes in the casing and convert it to a more enclosed and ultimately a positive pressure casing.

With that out of the way, for reliability the CPU will also need aftermarket cooling since the PC will likely be used for extended amounts of time (maybe up to 8-10hrs a day) with the processor more or less working at at least 50-70% CPU utilization AND in a non-air-conditioned room with Malaysian ambient temperature and humidity.

The last couple of years saw the increase of quality and the drop in price in CPU All-in-One Liquid Coolers and I decided to go with one of those for reasonable price, good cooling performance and 5-year warranty (again! :P); the Corsair H110i GT.

So thats it, here is a list of the final parts that will be used for the PC/Workstation build:

  • Coolermaster ATCS 840 Casing (old, retrofit required)
  • Seasonic Platinum 860w power-suppy (reusing)
  • Intel Core i5-4960K processor
  • Asus Z97 Sabretooth Mark.II ATX motherboard
  • 2x 8GB Kingston DDR3 2400 ram
  • Corsair H110i GT AIO Liquid Cooler
  • 3x Noctua 140mm FLX fans
  • 1x Coolermaster Jetflo 120mm fan
  • 2x Coolermaster Blademaster 120mm fan (reused)
  • Asus ENGTX580 DCII 2GB graphics card (reusing until I decide I need something better)

to be continued….

  1. A Full Circle (Part I)
  2. Event Photography 101
  3. Nothing but Only The Best 2012 Results
  4. Nothing but The Best 2012 Questions