What is the fastest processing you can get in a small case? Here is a blueprint for a small fast quiet machine you could have on your desk today without doing anything special outside of arranging assembly, something some suppliers will do for a small fee.
|Motherboard||Asus||Rampage II GENE||$307.00||1|
|Memory||A-RAM||2x2GB CAS 8||$184.22||3|
Which case will we use? Antec make a nice range of quiet cases including rubber mounted disks for extra quiet operation. We will start with the Antec NSK 3480 because it has room for everything we want in a desktop except, perhaps, a suitable power supply. At just 380 watt, we might need a bigger power supply.
The power supply is an 80 plus device and 80 plus devices deliver a more flexible range of power than conventional power supplies but we will start with a top end processor chewing up 130 watts. Luckily with modern disks, we will need only a few and we will not use a gaming style array of graphics cards.
The NSK 3480 uses a micro ATX motherboard instead of a full size ATX motherboard and there is a big choice of micro ATX motherboards with one that fits our requirement. The smaller case limits our expansion and it has enough space for our current needs. If you are planning to add lots of huge graphic cards or many disks then choose a full size ATX case. Start with the quiet Sonata range from Antec.
The choice of processor is the Intel Core i7 930. We want an i7 processor in an LGA1366 socket to get maximum memory speed plus the bonus of extra memory capacity but we do not need to pay a premium for trivial processor speed increases.
The Intel i7 960 offers 15 percent more speed than the 930 but costs more than twice as much, $710.00 compared to $334. You are better off spending the extra money, in this case $366.00, on other things including faster disks. We will spend some of the $366 on an SSD.
When you compare the speed of the 960 to the speed of the memory and disks, the 960 will rarely reach maximum speed. The extra 15 percent speed might be used only 1 percent of the time, giving you a total speed increase of only 0.15 percent. A faster disk might speed up disk operations by 50 percent and you might use the disk 5 percent of the time, giving you a total speed increase of 2.5 percent or 2.35 percent more than the faster processor.
Image editing, games, and video often use the graphics processor and leave the main processor running at far less than full capacity. The 930 has the best bang for our buck.
We chose a processor that requires an LGA1366 socket plus benefits from the support chip combination of X58 and ICH10R.
The Asus Rampage II GENE is currently the fastest micro ATX and has everything except USB 3. They add unwanted IDE connectors and have an extra USB chip. They really need an update to remove the IDE stuff plus upgrade to USB 3 and SATA 3.
The DFI Lanparty JR-X58-T3H6 is popular and competes at $195.35 but DFI are dropping their Lanparty division to focus on industrial products. You could buy the DFI product while it is cleared out.
The EVGA X58 SLI Micro is available for $280 and looks like it has cheap components. I do not know anyone who is happy with EVGA products. MSI had a product and nobody stocks it in Australia.
The Asus motherboard works with DDR3 memory up to a speed of DDR-2000. I looked for 4 gigabyte DDR3-2000 sticks and did not find any. They should be available because Samsung makes the chips for them. The best I could find in DDR3-2000 is 2GB with a choice of CAS 9 or CAS 8 at very little difference in price. CAS 8 is faster than CAS 9 and the fastest allowed for DDR3-2000. The choice is three A-RAM 2x2GB kits at $184.22 for a total of $552.66.
The quoted prices are competitive retail prices in Australian dollars on June 11 2010 without counting delivery charges. If you live near one of the good suppliers you do not need to pay delivery. For everyone else the delivery cost depends on the total size of the order. Assembly charges vary from $50 to $100. Your local specialist shop can often compete after you count delivery and assembly charges.
Overclocking is a way to make processors and memory run faster than the manufacturers specifications and it produces more heat which shortens the life of the component plus you have to continually monitor the internal temperatures. We want to use the computer, not monitor the computer temperature. You could overclock our configuration. We paid a bit extra for some components to get heaps of speed without overclocking so we will not have to spend the extra time adjusting overclocking settings or monitoring results. If you want to overclock, start with a larger case for more airflow and to allow bigger cooling devices.
An SSD, Solid State Disk, is faster than a convention disk, is smaller, and costs more. Do you want SSD?
The cheapest SSD is no faster than a conventional disk when reading long files and is slower to write long files. SSD does not make sense for storing long video files when video editing unless you make a lot of money from video editing and can afford the fastest SSD.
SSD does not break when you drop it on the floor and that makes SSD a great choice for portable computers including notebooks. The cheapest SSDs are so unreliable that you are more likely to lose your computer to an SSD failure than you are from dropping your computer. A good conventional disk will park itself in a safe position when dropped. Good notebooks feature the same drop proofing. Good SSDs have a life expectancy exceeding conventional disks. When you buy cheap, both options are bad and when you pay for quality, both options are good.
SSD does not waste power starting up a motor or driving read/write heads across a disk. SSD uses the same power when writing, slightly less power during a read, and saves a lot of power when you set the SSD to go into sleep mode. A conventional disk might be set to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity. SSD can be set to sleep after 0.5 seconds of inactivity.
A 128 MB SSD costs the same as a 20000 MB (2 TB) conventional disk. If you want to store more than a small amount of information, SSD costs big time. The best mixture for a desktop computer is a medium size SSD for your operating system and applications plus a couple of large conventional disks in a RAID 1 array for reliable storage of everything else. A server would use one SSD with some conventional disks in a RAID 5 array.