In the heat of summer, it is nice to get some time off to fix up around the house and do something that I typically take no pleasure in - rebuilding computers and reinstalling the OS & software! It requires a level of "Zen and the Art of Computer Maintenance" that I can only muster up every few years :-).
If you're like me, at home, you might have a little cadre of computers for work and personal purposes. As painful as it is, every few years, I'll update the OS, maybe tweak the hardware here and there (everything from cleaning up cables, vacuuming out dust, updating motherboard firmware and drivers, and the occasional refreshing of the heatsink compound). Updating a less "mission critical" machine like a HTPC or game machine (such as previously discussed) is not a big deal because in my view, that won't affect the others. However when I update the powerful main Workstation, I try to reuse the parts for some of my "lesser" machines; can't let perfectly good high speed CPU, RAM, and motherboard go to waste.
Back in 2012, I built a reasonably powerful workstation for the time, an Intel i7-3770K quad-core, Ivy Bridge 3.5GHz CPU paired with an ASRock Z77 Extreme4 motherboard and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. This machine has certainly served me well over the last 5 years! In fact, it is with this machine that I've been editing the text and graphics for all these blog posts over the years. But of course in 5 years, computing technology has marched along and I felt it was time to go for an upgrade. This will improve the speed of The Workstation, with repercussions on The Server, and ultimately The Game Machine/HTPC.
After all the work piece by piece over the last 2 weeks, here's my 2017 line-up at my home...
Computer 1 - The Workstation
|A picture from a couple years back with BenQ 32" 4K monitor... But still looks much the same today.|
To round out the system:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 1700 (~$300)I reused the old ASUS Radeon R9 270X graphics card (capable of 4K/60Hz through DisplayPort), assortment of Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD drive, and various Western Digital Green 2TB and Red 6TB hard drives to get it all running.
Motherboard: MSI X370 SLI Plus (~$131)
RAM: Corsair Vengence LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3000MHz (~$150)
Power Supply: Antec HCG-5120M ($75)
Case: Fractal Design Define XL R2 ($150)
|MoBo and CPU - laid out, ready to install... Coca Cola essential in times like this :-).|
|Ryzen 1700 CPU. 8-core, 16-threads multiprocessing monster for great price.|
|Rear panel of the MSI X370 SLI Plus - note the inclusion these days of USB 3.1 and Type C connector just to the left of the multichannel audio connectors.|
|Installed in Fractal Design full tower case.|
Computer 2 - The Server
CPU: Intel i5-6500 (~$200)Although I've changed the power supply, the case, and added a bunch of drives - Western Digital Red 6TB and Red 2TB for a total of around 20TB storage for all my data, videos, images, backups and music of course available over my network. The innards look like this picture I took more than a year back with a fan slapped on that CoolerMaster heatsink in a better case:
Heatsink: CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo ($30)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 ($135)
RAM: Corsair Vengence LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 2400MHz ($140)
Power Supply: Corsair CX 600W (CP-9020048-US) ($70)
Case: Fractal Design Define R5 ATX mid-tower ($115)
With an upgrade to the Workstation above, I now can put the old Intel i7-3770K into my Game Machine/HTPC, and this makes way for me to move the Intel i5-6500 Skylake processor previously in the HTPC to upgrade what was the old AMD A10-5800K APU which had been the heart of this Server for years. Since 2013, the A10-5800K had been offering 24/7/365 duty running a web site, audio server, and movie/video server for the home.
The i5-6500 Skylake CPU offers a lower TDP (65W) than the old A10-5800K (~100W) by virtue of more advanced 14nm lithography (as compared to 32nm for the A10) among other optimizations over the years I'm sure. The Gigabyte motherboard also has 8 SATA connectors internally which opens up even more storage capacity over the 6 SATA ports with the previous board used with the AMD A10-5800K.
Unlike the demands of a Workstation, home server computers do not need to be very fast - reliability and power efficiency are much more important. I typically do not ask the Server to transcode video in realtime and audio recoding like downsampling using SoX is no big deal for any decent CPU these days. At most for audio, the CPU will be asked to run my room correction DSP, all done in a Linux VM with BrutefirDRC through the Logitech Media Server as documented. Having said this, yes, when I do server maintenance, I can feel a difference in speed with the new CPU... Things like rescanning the music library (>10,000 albums) go a bit faster. Ultimately these days, it's actually the hard drive / storage speed that makes the biggest difference.
For high stability and security, this machine runs Windows Server 2016 these days. I expect long uptimes of months at a time.
No, dear audiophiles, Windows 10 and Server 2016 do not sound any different; unless you're doing something strange, OS's have no impact on things like jitter. Unless someone can provide real evidence otherwise, with specific examples, it just is what it is based on the evidence in the link provided and my own listening of course. And no, I do not advise anyone to run Windows Server 2016 as a workstation OS... Costs too much and you'll just run into compatibility issues and security hassles.
Computer 3 - The Game Machine
CPU: Intel i7-3770K (bought in 2012)
Heatsink: Noctua NH-U14S equivalent
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L (bought in 2012)
RAM: 16GB DDR3 (bought in 2012)
GPU: nVidia GTX 1080 based (~$550 these days)
Power Supply: SeaSonic SS-400FL2 equivalent fanless (~$120)
Case: Fractal Design Define R5 (~$115)
|Got one of the early ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 cards at a good deal...|
|Mr. Game Machine ready for first boot!|
|A few games... Top left, clockwise - Injustice, Titanfall 2, Tekken 7 (notice the tongue-in-cheek panda character), Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing 3-player splitscreen (great if you have kids - up to 4 players, each with their own 37" screen on the 75" TV).|