In this blog we let our self-professed tech geek/ Mac guru/ computer enthusiast/ Senior Editor Michael Jameson guide you through his ideal specs for building the ultimate computer.
Mike is a bonafide computer aficionado he’s been responsible for overseeing the building and expansion of LA Media‘s production edit suite. So what we’re trying to say is he knows his stuff you can trust this man’s opinion when it comes to computers!
Not only does he research this stuff as a hobby and read every issue of Mac User religiously, but he lives and breathes processors, memory storage space and video cards. Nobody at LA Media buys any sort of tech device without first consulting Mike.
Mike has graciously decided to share with us insights on how to build your own computer. Mike proves you can build a kick-ass machine that can be used for both editing and gaming (well, let’s face it you can’t work 24/7, after all…all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!).
An introduction to How to Build the MOST powerful computer
Well… where to start..
Mac or PC?
Well, this is a very straightforward answer… Except for some limited build to order options on the Apple Website, you can’t truly build your own Mac (Unless you want a Hackintosh – which I won’t go into!).
So PC it is… Let’s make this a money-no-object exercise. Fun!
First Things First, the Case
What are you looking for here? Looks? Size? Maybe you fancy some practicality?
Personally, I’d go for a bit of both. Make sure it’s big enough to fit everything you want, but not so big that you have 8 empty PIC-E slots for no good reason!
My favourite case for a Core i7 build is the Mid-Tower Corsair Crystal Series 570|X RGB. It really is a thing of beauty and also very practical. See below…*Homer Simpson drools*
But in our ‘case’ we’re wanting a workstation/gaming monstrosity. So we shall look no further than the Corsair Obsidian 900D.
For the Motherboard!
Here there are a few options to start with. What CPU will you be stuffing in this powerhouse? Will you be using a monstrous Intel Xeon with 22 cores? Maybe two of them? A Core i7 6950X? The new Kaby Lake 7700K overclocked to 5GHz perhaps?! you might want to try out AMD’s new Ryzen CPU…
Ok.. so we want to build a workstation powerhouse that can also fly through the latest games at the highest resolutions.
Quad Strength Graphic Power – 4-Way PCI-E Gen3 x16 link supporting NVidia GeForce SLI and AMD CrossFireX on demand
Supreme Power Solution – Premium components deliver industry-leading power efficiency
Unique BIOS for Dual CPU O.C. – Boost CPU’s overclocking performance up to 10%
Superb storage flexibility– onboard M.2 x4 and support for ASUS PIKE II cards
Easy maintenance–ASUS Q-Code Logger, an easy-maintenance button and Dr Power LED displays unusual power statuses
Let’s Talk about CPU
Well, with the new Intel Xeon v4 Broadwell chips out now, the max core count has increased to 22. So with two of those you get 44 cores and 88 including hyper threading. Wow! The only downside of this high core count (other than the £4,200 price tag) is the lower clock speed. 2.2GHz to be precise with the Intel Xeon E5-2699 v4.
The other option would be the 12-core Intel Xeon E5-2687W v4. Running at 3GHz you get higher single core performance. With this in mind we’ll opt for this beauty as it will help with any gaming we’ll be doing!
Games typically only really benefit from 4 cores, so the higher we can get the frequency per core the better in our case.
As a side note – If it’s a pure gaming rig you’re after, then you’d be best getting a new Kaby Lake core i7 7700K and overclocking it to 5GHz. Like in this baby. And rather amazingly, the whole system is around the price of one of our Xeon CPU’s. Crazy no?
The Perfect Cooling System for the Ultimate Machine
If you want a quiet system then the only way to go is water cooling. Plus it looks cool. End of.
The Corsair Hydro H80i V2 cooler with dual SP120L fans is what we want to have.
Damn it, Scotty, we need more RAM!
ECC, Registered DDR4 RAM is what goes with Xeon’s. No flashing LED’s or swanky colours, instead you get fast, reliable RAM in huge quantities. We’ll have 128GB, please.
We mean this type of Ram not the sheep kind!
What’s the point if you don’t get the Graphics right?
Now we could go down the ‘Professional’ route here and get something like a 24GB Nvidia Quadro P6000… but for what we need it for (Rendering/Encoding and gaming) we’ll do a lot better with consumer cards. 2 of ‘em… Enter the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti. An outrageously fast card on its own… but with two with the option for SLI gaming…. Hell yes! See here…
Power Supply Unit – I’m giving her all I’ve got Captain!
Again as we’re not mucking about let’s go for a decent 1000W Corsair unit here that should give us plenty of headroom.
Firstly, we will need to have a boot/OS drive. Here we’re going for speed. The Samsung 960 Pro 2TB M.2 PCIe blade will tick all the boxes here. 2TB of ridiculously fast solid state loveliness. Check out these specs below and drool…
Experience next-gen performance:
- The NVMe™ interface of the 960 PRO supports PCIe® Gen 3 x4 lanes for an enhanced bandwidth and lower latency than SATA SSDs.
- You can experience massive sequential R/W (read/write) speeds up to 3,500/2,100 MB/s and random R/W speeds up to 440/360K IOPS, respectively*. This superb performance is enabled by an optimised package design.
Break storage limits:
- Samsung provides advanced end-to-end integration, fine-tuning each component for optimal results. Individual chips are optimised to pack more in a package to maximise capacity. The 960 PRO enables you to store up to 2TB, which is unprecedented for NVMe SSDs.
Bank on solid reliability:
- The 960 PRO boasts 1.2 PBW* for the 2TB model. For further reliability, DTG (Dynamic Thermal Guard) monitors and adjusts the temperature of the SSD, protecting data and achieving optimal responsiveness. Plus, the 960 PRO is backed by a 5-year limited warranty**.
Manage your drive like magic:
- With the newly upgraded Magician advanced software solution, you can manage, monitor and maintain your 960 PRO like an IT professional.
- Magician provides personalised firmware checking and additional functions tailored for individual user’s drives. It even updates the firmware automatically to make sure that the drive’s performance stays up to date.
Secondly, we will want to have ample storage. This rather depends on your usage. As we’ll be editing, rendering, encoding etc… we’ll want a very fast external RAID that will give us plenty of space on our project drive.
I think this G-Technology GSPEED Shuttle XL with 24TB capacity will do nicely:
With 8 bays (including 2 EV Series bay adapters) you will get serious capacity and speed. Capacities range from 18TB to 60TB. Plenty. Don’t forget you will need a Thunderbolt card.
With all that material you will need a backup drive too!
Something similar but not as fast – The GSPEED Studio should do. Again with 24TB to match the project drive. If you think that’s overkill, you could RAID a load of internal SATA disks.
This will also require the above mentioned Thunderbolt card.
The 8TB Hitachi He8 (Helium drive) would work well. Four of those in RAID 5 would cover the 24TB with some redundancy and cost around £1K less than the GSPEED studio.
Might as well use all that space in our monolithic case eh?!
I won’t go into too much detail here as there are so many configurations depending on what you need your system for. Essentially though as mentioned before, we’ll need a Thunderbolt card for the project drive.
Fast WIFI cards/Ethernet cards could go in here… Sound cards… Anything you want really!
As we’ll be editing let’s stick a Blackmagic Design Decklink 4K Extreme 12G in here too.
As much as I’d like to NOT have one of these ancient devices, occasionally people may ask for things on DVD or BluRay. To keep these dinosaurs happy you should get a BluRay/DVD writer combo drive.
An LG re-writer should be fine!
Which Operating System should you choose?
Go for Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, unless there’a reason to have an older OS such as legacy hardware etc…
As this will be your visual interface for this magnificent creation… let’s not skimp eh? How about a 34” curved G-Sync monitor… Mmmmm… Yes, please. Done!
You’ll need a mouse and keyboard of course… You may want to get an edit specific keyboard from Logitech for Adobe Premiere, Avid or Pro Tools if you’re a musician… depends on what you use.
There is a raft of excellent mice for gaming which works very well in an editing capacity… One such is the Razer Mamba at £130.
Expensive but you can programme all the buttons which will come in very handy for shortcuts etc…
Also in the same league is the excellent Corsair Vengeance K70 programmable gaming keyboard. Apparently used by one of the assistant editors on the new Star Wars movie. They also make some pretty sweet mice.
Conclusion – Yes there is, in fact, an ending…
Well, that’s it!! We’ve made one serious machine. At probably £15,000 it should last you a while. Hey, and if the Apocalypse does come to pass, those Xeon processors will still be chugging away – assuming you have a medium sized nuclear reactor to run it.
There are some nice little extras that will help keep you drooling as you gaze through the gigantic window into your dazzling creation.
Some discreetly placed LED lights and coloured braided cables will smarten the whole appearance up no end!
Try and get your graphics cards water cooled… Overclock them too whilst you’re at it! They’ll be quieter and more powerful! A no brainer.
Summary / Computer Shopping List
So let’s quickly consolidate what we have created here:
Case – Corsair Obsidian 900D, Black, Aluminium/Steel, 252x692x650 (WxHxD in mm)
Motherboard – Asus Z10PE-D8 WS, Intel C612 chipset, 8 x DDR4, 8 x SATA III 6Gb/s
CPU – Intel Xeon E5-2687W v4, Broadwell, 12 Core, 3GHz, 3.5GHz Turbo, 30MB cache
CPU Cooler – Corsair Hydro H80i V2 cooler with dual SP120L fans [Two CPUs]
Memory – Crucial/Samsung DDR4, up to 2133MHz, ECC, Registered, 1.2V, 128GB (8 x 16GB)
Power Supply – 1000W Corsair HXi, Modular, Silent, 80PLUS Platinum
Graphics – 2X 11GB NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti, 1480MHz GPU, 3584 Cores, 11000MHz GDDR5X
- OS Drive – 2TB Samsung 960 Pro, NVMe, up to 3500MB/s Read, 2100MB/s Write, 440K IOPS
- External – G-Technology GSPEED Shuttle XL with 24TB capacity
- Backup – 4X 8TB Hitachi He8 (Helium drive) Internal Drives in RAID 5 configuration
PICe Expansion Cards
- Blackmagic Design Decklink 4K Extreme 12G
- Gigabyte GC Alpine Ridge AIC Thunderbolt 3
Optical Drive – LG 16x Blu-ray Writer, 16x DVD±R, 8x +RW, 6x -RW, 12x RAM
Display – Asus PG348Q 34″ 100Hz G-Sync Curved Monitor With IPS Panel
- Razor Mamba Gaming Mouse
- Corsair Vengeance K70 programmable gaming keyboard
Follow these ingredients and you will have a beast of a computer to play with! Although lengthy, and well done if you are reading this, it will help you get an idea of what you need to know when undertaking the task of creating a custom built machine.
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