This is a software development box for DBMS engine development. No gaming, no fancy overclocking, purely worky work. I never expected to build my own system but here we are.
Background: My current dev machine is a 2009 Mac Pro usually running Linux. US$2500+ new, It's been upgraded with a 3.3 Ghz W3680, various SSD's, and 24 Gb ECC memory, but the Westmere is as far as you can go CPU-wise, and the built-in SATA is SATA 2. It's been a great machine and is still entirely usable, but it's time to move on, and I've been eagerly waiting the supposed 2019 release of a new "modular" Mac Pro.
Except ... I hardly ever run Mac OS on the machine any more, and with Ryzen 2 coming out, I decided to price out a new 2700X machine just for fun. The result was considerably less than I expected; nobody knows what the new Mac Pro will be priced at, but the relatively new iMac Pro is a US$5000-and-up all-in-one. Even if we subtract off for the display, it seems unlikely that a new Mac Pro will start at less than $4000 in a base configuration. If I can build a system for half that, what am I waiting for?
Requirements for this machine: fast, reasonable storage, 32 Gb memory, reliable, and quiet.
Both multi- and single-core performance are important. It's not a performance engineering or benchmarking system (I'd wait for Threadripper 2 for that), but the 6 cores in the current W3680 are a minimum, 8 would be better. A good balance between single-core boost, all-core base, and core count is needed.
It doesn't need lots of storage, I can get by with a 2-3 Tb, but the primary SSD(s) need to be fast, and have plenty of endurance for write-intensive loads. I sometimes need to experiment with different filesystem setups, so the ability to have a half-dozen or so devices is good. Fortunately the days of requiring a dozen striped heads for DBMS performance are gone. (The Sun D1000 with 12 x 18 Gb SCSI drives in the basement still works, and even gets spun up a couple times a year. There's a room heater!)
24 Gb memory is enough for me most of the time, but I couldn't go lower. The cMP has a tri-channel memory controller, for today's dual or quads I'll go for 32 and need to be able to expand later. Although I'll start out with non-ECC memory, if it gives me trouble I want the ability to put in ECC even if it runs a bit slower.
Graphics performance is irrelevant since it won't be used for gaming or video. If it drives 2560x1440 (what my current monitor wants) that's good enough. Budget isn't a constraint, although the more the price goes over about $2500 the more likely I would be to just wait and see instead of building now. I'd like to keep the computer for 5-6 years minimum, so spending more for premium or upgradeable parts is no problem. Appearance is a non-issue; it's going to sit next to my desk in the office and nobody but me (and my wife, and the occasional grandchild) will ever see it.
(Just as an aside, I'm still running Mac OS, just not on the dev machine. I have a retina MBP that is the officey email/web computer.)
I probably could have gone with a smaller case, but I'm not space constrained and the larger case made the build easier. Plus, I may end up loading it with more SSD's or even some hard disks at some point.
I almost went with a be Quiet! or Noctua CPU cooler, but I didn't want to fool with RAM slot clearance, and then I read the good reviews of the Scythe Mugen 5. Just for the heck of it I decided to go with the PCGH edition, which runs two fans instead of one, at reduced speed. It certainly seems to do the job; idle temps around 35C, Prime95 temps in the 70's, and basically inaudible.
Very good price/performance and really hit the cores vs single core sweet spot for me. Although I didn't use the stock cooler, it's nice that a competent cooler is included in the base price. Another plus is that it's not a priori ECC-disabled like most of Intel's CPU's.
I happened to notice that this part is officially in the database, so ... the Mugen 5 is a top value mid to upper range CPU cooler. The PCGH edition replaces the single fan with 2 RPM-limited fans (800 RPM). Cooling performance is slightly worse but for a quiet build, this cooler is hard to beat. Even with both fans at max it's completely inaudible inside the case, and just barely audible with my ear right up against it. (At night, in a quiet room, with all case fans off.) If you're after a quiet build, this cooler has to be on your short list.
All of the X470 boards looked pretty competent. I'm not planning on doing fancy overclock tweaking or I might have gone with the Asus CH IIV. The Asrock Taichi claims to support ECC which I may find myself wanting. Having decided on the Taichi, and considering that I want this build to last a few years, I figured why not spend the bit extra for the 10GBe.
So far so good ... it's a full featured board and has been pretty easy to work with. The BIOS can be confusing, and the BIOS helps and documentation is utter dogcrap. But it's workable. (The helps and doc will typically describe the "xsprotz" setting as "Enables or disables xsprotz". Thanks, but I had the enabled/disabled part figured out already...) With the early July BIOS update, I couldn't get 32 Gb to run at 3200MT/s, but I did manage a stable 3066 without doing any tweaking - good enough for me.
I can't hit 3200, but
3066 seems stable with an out-of-the-box BIOS profile. Fast and bloody expensive.
(I've been running at 3133 MT/s. I can get to 3200 with a bit of tweaking, but it crashes every couple days; a bit more voltage would probably do it, but I can't afford the lost time in the middle of work sessions and it isn't worth nailing down. 3133 is close enough!)
It's generally not easy to feel the difference between a good SATA SSD and an NVMe unit except in benchmarks, but the 970 Pro is palpably faster doing serious work (compiling, QA runs). I spent extra for the Pro since this SSD will be beat on a lot more than the others and the reliability figure should make it worth it.
Perfectly adequate for desktop work and the occasional video. It's a good thing the fan can be turned off, though, because it's bloody annoying; not especially loud but has a buzzy sound that cuts through, even at low RPM. In a louder build maybe one wouldn't notice. Recommended only if you can run it in fan-stop mode, or if noise doesn't matter.
Very easy case to work with, roomy and quiet. I'll probably replace the stock fans since they have a slight hum -- not annoying, but audible.
Rock solid and cool. And, fanless!