Building an End Game PC in 2018

Over a 30 year career in IT, as a youngster who regularly had a "good" PC, and later years a more conservative approach to hardware expenses, I decided that is time for the end game computer.

If you younger, you call it a "Dream PC", because you can only dream about it. When you a bit older, and do not have to budget for furniture, a car better that that of the "Jones' next door", and children out of the house, it doesn't have to be a dream!

Spending a large portion of your life behind a computer for work, hobby and other entertainment, you can just as well stretch that goals, a get something out of this world, some "super-dooper" system.

My last "big" PC was a 2011 iMac with all the options bumped to the maximum. After about three years it started with its problems, and after spending some money on it, I gave it away for spare parts to a youngster with a start up business in computer repairs. After that, I relied on the standard corporate issued laptops (what a pain) until now.

With some free cash, but obviously my dad not being Rockefeller, my journey to building this end game computer started. This is that journey.

Components

The component table below, provide some rationale, which always took the following into account:

  • Availability in South Africa
    There are just some things you do not want to import, either for warranty-and-return, or other reasons
  • Importing
    Either you obsessed in getting a specific components, or their is no alternative locally available that meet you requirements
  • Overkill
    The fine line between "the best" and "justified" / "utilization".
    I'm a programmer, do some serious 3D rendering and CAD work, and want to do some video editing, and love music.

Component Table

Area Part Selection Purchase Date Comments
X299 Base
Motherboard
Asus ROG Rampage VI Extreme  15

I did consider top end x299 motherboard from Gigabyte, MSI, ASRock and EVGA, but decided on the Asus because of local availability, looks, the on board 10GBps LAN, and because of the availability of a water cooled mono block for keeping the CPU and VRM cool.

I knew about the extreme temps on the VRM mosfets when over clocking a Skylake, so I guess that played a large role in the final decision (getting a monoblock).

No one in South Africa had stock on the Asus R6E, so I had to order it through a local supplier, and waited 1 month for it to arrive.

Memory
64GB Corsair Dominator 3800MHz DDR4 C19  17

I guess the ultimate is the max the M/B will support. I closed the taps on this selection and decided that 64GB is the highest I will go on memory. I did consider the application I use the most, and the fact that i will be running virtual machines for some of the development work I do.

I just did not want to have anything other than Dominators. This also took over one month to get. It was important for me that I buy it in a kit (matched by Manufacturer). After considering the overclock speeds, compatibility, latency, filling 4 or all 8 slots, etc,. the Corsair CMD64GX4M8X3800C19 was the last one standing.

Many, many retailers offer me alternative models, which I rejected and eventually I just asked a supplier to put it on back-order and just get the correct kit / model from Corsair!

CPU
Delidded Intel Skylake-X i9 9780XE 18 core  30

Yea, delidded, with a 2 year guarantee. You didn't think that this is possible (the warranty)? Thanks to Der8auer and CaseKing in Germany, I can get my hands on a delidded CPU, without voiding the guarantee.

I wanted to delidden and replace Intel's "toothpaste" with liquid metal, but was too afraid to void the guarantee on such an expensive CPU. Thanks to the liquid metal, stable temperature at 4.6GHz is now within reach.

(Why not AMD? Several, but just call me an Intel fanboy if you like)

UPS
Corsair AX1600i (80 PLUS - Titanium)  8

Planning to over clock an 18 core i9, with two 1080Ti graphic cards in SLI, not running the PSU on its outer edge, and keeping fan noise under control, 1600W is the right choice.

Again, no supplier carry such a PSU in stock in South Africa - I guess there is no demand for it. Therefore, the back order route was followed from a vendor that sell Corsair products. Surprisingly, it was here in 10 days.

Graphics
Graphic Cards
Asus 1080TI Strix OC  30

2 of them in SLI. One is so lonely.
Justification - Cuda cores, rendering, rendering, rendering.

One 1080 TI would have worked, but if there is some way to decrease rendering time for 3D models, I'm all ears. So I just went for 2 of them. The disadvantage is that if both is running at 16x, 32 of the 44 lanes is gone, just for graphics.

I bought these cards when there was a world wide shortage of 1080TI's, and one day I walked into computer outlet, and there is was. 2 identical 1080TI cards on the shelve. I didn't have enough money in my account, so I purchased on, paid deposit on the other one, and fetched it the end of the month.

Primary Monitor
Dell U3818DW  16

So the primary monitor has to be a 38" so that I get those extra lines with a 3840 x 1600 resolution (rather than the common 3840 x 1440), and that limits me to either a Dell, LG or Acer.

Only the Dell is available in South Africa, and due to the size and shipping cost I can not take the risk of importing. Shipping a defected item this size around the world is an absolutely NO.

Secondary Monitor
Dell P4317Q  11

My use case is specific. Mounted vertically above my primary monitor, I need a display to either show full 4K content in a TV like 16:9 aspect ratio (4K video preview), or to dock applications I want open all the time.

When either coding, working in CAD, or editing video, I want to use the full estate of my primary monitor. The overhead 43" 4K Dell P4317Q will be used to dock other application or even things like a feed from my security cameras.

Sometimes, I also sit about 2.5m away from my desk in a couch listening to music, and a 43" screen will be large enough to monitor / operate apps from this distance.

Case
Main
Xforma MBX MKII  17

This was the first component I researched for my end game PC. A case that is not just thin tin and rattles. Something that can last for 10 or more years.

When I saw the limited Xfroma MBX MKII, designed by Charles, I just fell in love. Nothing I compared to it, measured up. Alternative choices was something from CaseLabs or InWin.

Before any Marxist Socialist start crying, please go live in China, Cuba, Laos or Vietnam and ask the ruler what computer case you are allowed to have that it does not offend any other citizen of that country :-)

Add-Ons
Xforma  6 2 x Quad Radiator Mount
1 x Dual Radiator Mount
1 x EK-X3 EVO.2 Reservoir 150mm
1 x Internal AC Aquaero 6 Pro Mount
1 x DDC/D5 Pump Mount Sled
1 x Crossflow Fan Assembly
1 x Luminous Panel – Black
1 x RGB LED Module for Front Logo Light
1 x Aquacomputer Farbwerk USB / Bluetooth version
1 x Dual TopFan
1 x Slot-Load Optical Disc Drive (ODD)
1 x EVO.2 Floating Reservoir Holder
Sound
DAC Amp
Questyle CMA600i  16

No if we start to speak audio equipment, then the sky is the limited and some self control should be practiced. My objective is too have Audiophile (or Audiofool, if you wish) quality desktop computer audio two way. (1) To a pair f high-end headphones and to a pair of bookshelf speakers.

Becuase I already desided om my choice of headphones, it was important for me to find a DAC that was reviewed and tested with that specific headphones, have balanced outputs and drive 300Ω headphones.

The Questyle CMA600i Headphone Amplifier & DAC was not just reviewed with the Sennheiser HD800 S Headphones, the designer tweaked the design specially for these headphones and the it also meets all my requirements.

Speakers
Swan MK200MKIII  10

Most likely the component I've spend the most time on comparing sound, quality and use case. Use case had the biggest influence on my choice. Here is some of the rationale behind my choice:

  • Am I a recording studio professional?
    No. So "uncolored" near field monitors is not what I'm after.
  • Do I really need the power to fill an auditorium with sound?
    No. My little "man-den" / study is only 9-10m2.
  • Does the sound levels of music affect other people?
    Yes, I stay in a normal suburban house, with neighbors. My dogs do not like very loud sounds, and I like listening to my music at ear bleeding volumes.
  • Acoustics of listening room.
    Yes, many problems. Length and width almost the same. Ceiling only 2.6m, and except for ceiling and floor treatment, not enough space for any acoustic wall treatments.

Considering all of the above, I decided on a pair of Swan MK200MKIII active speakers. I do not fancy the wood side panels, but will first see how it fits in with rest of my setup and may even consider removing the wood side panels and replace it with something of my choice.

Headphones
Sennheiser HD800S  23

The Sennheiser HD800S Audiophile Headphones is as about as high end I can justify. I know there is better, but this is my absolute ceiling.

What is very important in this choice, is that this is not the HD800, but the HD800S model. I also had one or two similar priced headphones on my short list, but they heavier, and then finding a matching DAC / Amp, is also affected by headphone choice.

Microphone
   5

To be continued

  

 

Peripherals
Keyboard
Corsair K95 Platinum  2 Like the fact that I could choose my preference in Cherry switches (Brown), and also that I had the option for better key caps. I went for a full set of Corsair double shot key caps in white, to fit the color scheme of my study.
Keys and Caps  1 Corsair double shot key caps in white, and Cherry Brown switches
Mouse
   1

To be continued

 

Cooling
Loop
14mm 316L S/S  20

To be continued

 

Fittings
   

To be continued - Triple seal, 14mm,  compression fittings

 

Waterblocks
EKWB  

To be continued

  

 

Radiators
??  

To be continued

 

Fans
??  

To be continued

 

Controller
Aquaero 6 Pro  5

To be continued

 

Storage
Internal Drives
Samsung 970 Pro  12

M.2 NVMe Boot up / OS drive (512 GB or 1 TB)

 

Samsung Pro  14 To be continued - Maybe 2 x M.2 NVMe on the Asus Riser DIMM.2 card - This will be the work drive.
Samsung Evo  10 to be continued - Some cheaper SDD for "dump" drives. (downloads, temp backups, etc)
External NAS
QNap TS-453BT3  12

The QNap TS-453BT3 has 4 bays and allows for very fast connectivity with Thunderbolt 3 and 10GbE. The NAS will connect to the Asus XG-U2008 10GbE switch for fast connectivity between the primary computer and the NAS.

The Thunderbolt 3 port on the NAS will be used to connect my Media Server and Surveillance PC (an Intel NUC Skull Canyon) with the NAS. Both system will now have very fast access to the external drives.

The 2nd Thunderbolt port may be used in the future to expand the NAS with TX-800P or TX-500P Thunderbolt 2 enclosure.

Drives  16

Most likely 4 x 8TB drives in RAID 5 (Parity). This will give me 24 TB, 3 x read speed, no write speed gain and fault tolerance of 1-drive failure.

I do not know if I love my data so much that I want to sacrifice more that one drive towards redundancy.

I will further enhance the NAS with an M.2 cache.

Networking
Switch 1
Asus XG-U2008  3

The Asus XG-U2008 is a unmanaged switch with 10 ports, featuring 2 x 10Gbs ports. The 10Gbs port will be used to connect the primary PC (build-in 10Gbs port) with the NAS which also has a 10Gbs port.

All other media and computer devices will connect to this switch. These include: Main PC, Media PC, NAS, Cable Box, TV, WAP (I do not like WiFi devices living next to me all day, so my house has an in-roof Wireless Access Point)

 

Switch 2
Dell X1008p  2

The full managed, POE, 8 ports switch is used for the security cameras in and around my house.

 

Router
???  3

A router that properly support VPN. Router is connected to modem and both switches. WiFi disabled

 

Modem
???  1

40Mbps VSDL modem as supplied by the telecommunication company. WiFi disabled.

 

Cabling
???
   2