New desktop setup

It’s been about 8 or 9 years since I’ve bought a new desktop system for myself. You can imagine the desktop I had was pretty antique and didn’t run the newest software quite well. Running Windows 7 on the Pentium 4 @ 3.2GHz and a ATI Radeon 9800XT was a pain. Even running Windows XP SP3 was a starting to be a bit too much for the system. Most of the time I’m buying a system I don’t need to upgrade too much in the future, perhaps some extra memory, but that’s about it. That’s why I needed to configure some high-end system which would be able to load a developer environment without much delay. Also running multiple VM’s is a requirement. Visual Studio requires quite some disk I/O, so an SSD is needed. VM’s can grow quite large, which means a second bulk storage disk has to be bought also. The more cores, the merrier. Lucky for me Intel had just released the Sandy Bridge architecture processors, which have 4 cores and Hyper Threading, resulting in 8 ‘cores’. An SB system should be compatible with 32GB of memory. At the moment RAM isn’t that expensive, but getting 32GB right from the start might be a bit overkill. I needed to save a bit of money for other parts, so I decided to go for 8GB for now. This means I can run 1 or 2 VM’s at the same time (depending on what’s running on them), which is good enough for now.

I’m a big fan of multiple monitors. For a developer, 2 monitors is the bare minimum. At work I always try to plug my laptop to a second (big) screen. Running with just 1 screen I feel crippled. At home I’ve got a single 24" monitor with a resolution of 1920x1200. It’s good, but it’s still 1 screen. AMD has this nice thing called Eyefinity, which let’s you hook up to 6 monitors. For this to work I needed a graphics card which supported this. At the moment I don’t need to hook up 6 screens, but in the future I might just do that. For this to work you need 2 DisplayPort output connectors. Even though AMD says every HD6850 (and up) should/could support this, there’s awfully few who have implemented 2 of these ports. Lucky for me Sapphire has made a card which has 2 mini DP ports.

For all of these reasons I’ve chosen the following setup:

  • Intel Core i7 2600 Reason: The non-K version can’t be OC’ed, but has some extra virtualization features. Maybe usefull when running VM’s.
  • ASUS P8H67 Reason: I actually wanted the P8P67 (4x 6Gbps SATA), but that one costs a lot more, so this one will suffice
  • Corsair F120 SSD Reason: 120GB as a boot disk is large enough for me (now), also this disk is still produced with 34nm memory which doesn’t suffer the performance loss to the 25nm disks.
  • Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Reason: Well, it’s a good disk and 1TB is good enough for a local disk as I still got a server with 8TB of storage
  • GeIL BlackDragon 8GB kit Reason: Cheapest memory I could find in the webshop
  • Sapphire TOXIC HD 6850 Reason: The two mini-DP connectors for Eyefinity setup
  • CoolerMaster Silent Pro Gold 700W Reason: Has the gold label, so 90% efficient. Also the cheapest I could find with a gold label
  • Antec Three Hundred Reason: Antec has some very good cases. Every desktop I assembly will get an Antec case. They are a bit more expensive, but the quality is good.

After having had some problems with the hardware, I now run the full setup and it’s great! Boot time is under 15 seconds. VS2010 with ReSharper is faster as ever, installing and running software is a joy.

Only thing missing is the Eyefinity setup. At the moment I still got 1 monitor, an Acer AL2423W. It’s a good enough screen, considering it’s age, but it’s 1 screen. I was hoping for a nice deal with several used monitors, but there aren’t many to my liking. For this reason I’ve bought 2 new Gigazone Envision G2461w monitors. They are Edge-lit LED screens, which probably means the colors are a lot better compared to my old screen and use a lot less power. Hope they’ll arrive soon.

The only thing I need now is a VESA desk mount and attach all 3 monitors to them and pivot them, but that’s something for the future.


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