Monday, March 6, 2017

Technologies for my 2017 PC build

So, I have embarked on a mission to build a new pc after 10 years. This blog post is to capture some considerations for my choices. I think in 10 years time, this will make for fun reading. :)

What has surprised me in 2017 is the amount of awesome new technology that is now available at the consumer level. Here are the ones that I "must"(ahem) have.

CPU: Intel vs AMD

This used to be a no-brainer. But, AMD's recent Ryzen 7 platform has got me seriously thinking of switching over to the dark side.

My choices are:
  1. Intel Platform - Kaby Lake (4 cores / 8 threads) or Broadwell-E (10 cores / 20 threads) 
  2. AMD Platform - Ryzen 7 (8 cores / 16 threads) 
In order of preference:
  1. Broadwell-E: Has everything I want. Just way too expensive. Also, current chipset that it runs on is a bit too old already. Read below.
  2. Ryzen 7: Great price for the performance. But, gaming benchmarks aren't that great. Also, drivers aren't optimized yet as it just came out a few days ago.
  3. Kaby Lake: Great overall. But should I settle for another quad core? I was already on quad core 10 years ago! Grrr!

Platform: Intel X99, Intel Z270, AMD X370

There are a few interesting platforms to choose from. Here are the main points for me:
  1. Intel X99: Broadwell-E Enthusiast platform with quad channel memory. Only single M.2 and no support of upcoming Optane drives.
  2. Intel Z270: Kaby Lake platform with dual channel memory, support for dual m.2, and future proof with Optane support. Great performance numbers for gaming.
  3. AMD X370: Ryzen 7 platform. No dual m.2 boards (yet). Reduced future proofing due to lack of Optane support.

Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1080, Nvidia GTX 1080 TI, AMD Vega

Here are some thoughts on video cards:
  1. Nvidia GTX 1080: Awesome card! Now $100 cheaper due to TI version.
  2. Nvidia GTX 1080 TI: 30% faster than GTX 1080. Announced but not yet for sale.
  3. AMD Vega: Rumours for now. No official details yet.

Drive Performance: Dual M.2 PCIE x4 NVME SSD 32Gbps RAID 0

I'm going to squeeze the maximum I can from my drives to make this machine usable the many years to come. So, the fastest I can get to now is by using 2 M.2 drives in RAID 0 configuration. Here are the numbers I'm hoping to achieve.

Graphics Performance: 2-Way SLI or Crossfire support

Single super card is still best for now, especially for my plan to do VR gaming. However, I expect they'll find a way to make two cards work even better in the future. (Come on engineers!!!)

Connectivity: USB 3.1 Gen 2 + Bluetooth LE + Wifi 802.11 ac

Yup! I'm gonna want to connect a bunch of devices to this. I'm thinking NAS, USB drives, wireless headphones, and a VR device. But nothing special really.

Other considerations

  1. Quad Channel Memory: Nice to have. Having 8 DIMMs seems too prone to hardware failure in my opinion. I think I can make do with dual channel.
  2. U2: Nice to have. But adoption not there yet. I can use an Add-on card in the future.
  3. Optane Support: I'm not sure if I need this. I imagine the bottleneck will be the interface. So, having a different type of drive might not make that much a difference. Also, I'm sure an add-on card (even if it took a PCIE x16 slot) will probably be created if this technology took off.
  4. 10 GB Ethernet: No other 10GBE yet at home. Will probably look to 802.11ac and 802.11ad. 
  5. PCIE Lanes: For future-proofing.


... Nope! I haven't made up my mind yet. Maybe I need an Intelfuze model to make this decision. :)

Up next, research how to install Windows 10 without a DVD drive. Because my next machine probably won't have an optical drive.

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