Oct 292011
Oct 012011

Zalman CPU CoolerMy current workstation is a Dell Dimension 9200 and it has served me well for the past 6 years or so, but it is starting to show its age, so I decided to build myself a new one. The most intensive work I do on my workstation is editing large photos from my DSLR, and editing HD video from the same camera. A nice fast processor and lots of RAM will make a huge difference.

I found that amazon.co.uk had very competitive prices and this has the added advantage of only dealing with one supplier – you may be able to find some of the parts cheaper else where, the prices seem to change daily!

The prices below are correct as of 30/09/2011.

CPU: Intel Sandybridge i7-2600 Core i7 Quad-Core Processor (3.40GHz, 8MB Cache, Socket 1155) £230.04
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Note: When I received this processor, it came with a small heatsink and fan. The heatsink has thermal compound pre-applied. You can probably save yourself some money by not buying the CPU coolerI have specified below.

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68X-UD5-B3 (GA-Z68X-UD5-B3) £261.91
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This motherboard allows overclocking the CPU, and I have read at least one report of the i7 2600 being overclocked to 4GHz, so I may give this a go. If I was more serious about overclocking, I would have gone for the unlocked 2600k which is only a few quid more expensive.

RAM: M4A1600CCorsair CMZ16GX39B 16GB (4x4GB) 1600MHz CL9 DDR3 Vengeance Blu Memory Four Module Kit £90.18
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Graphics Card: Gigabyte GV-R687OC-1GD; 1024 MB; GDDR5-SDRAM; 256 bit; 4200 MHz; ATI Radeon; Radeon HD 6870 (GV-R687OC-1GD) £219.10
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Power Supply: CiT 750W Power Supply Unit with PSU and Dual 12V Rails – Black Edition £27.99
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This is a pretty cheap power supply – I’ll see how it holds up and maybe upgrade to something better if necessary.

As expected, this power supply wasn’t up to the job. The motherboard needs a 20+4-pin ATX power connecter and an extra 4+4-pin CPU power connector. Additionally, the Graphics card needs 2×6-pin PCI-E power connectors which were not all available on the cheap power supply. I bought an OCZ TECHNOLOGY OCZ-ZS750W-UK OCZ ZS Series 750W Power Supply from the ever helpful Silicon Edinburgh

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Hard Drive: Seagate ST31000524AS 3.5 inch Barracuda 1TB GB 7200rpm SATA Drive with 32MB Buffer £44.29
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DVD/CD: Sony AD-7261S-0B 24x Internal DVDRWRAM SATA Black Lightscribe £18.02
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CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9900-NT CPU Cooler (PC World £29.97)
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I’ve heard really good things about this CPU cooler, and it should keep the chip a reasonable temperature if I do decide to overclock – besides, it’s got a green LED fan, so it must be good 😉

Note: This cooler comes with a tube of thermal grease, so you don’t need to buy any extra unless you have a preferred brand.

Case: Antec Three Hundred Midi Case £49.98
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A nice plain-looking case with plenty of space for expansion, it comes with a 140mm top fan, a 120mm rear fan and has the option of adding two more 120mm fans on the front if I find it is running hot or noisy.

The courier who was delivering this screwed up and did not deliver at the scheduled time, so I have cancelled the order. I bought an Antec VSK-1000 Tower Case from Silicon Edinburgh – the case has plenty of room for the graphics card, is well made and looks great.
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Monitor: Samsung 2443BW 24 Inch Monitor – Black (already owned)
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This means I have spent a total of £971.48, and I suppose I’ll have about another £20 worth of parts to buy where I can’t cannibalize my old PC. So I come in right on my budget of £1000.

The build went really smoothly, nothing complicated when it comes to putting the hardware together – just ensure that you connect the 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors to the motherboard and the two 6-pin power connectors to the graphics card. The cables can all be routed neatly through the cable management system.

I’m happy with the performance too. My Dimension 9200 scored 4889 on a Geekbench test, the new workstation scores 11534 (these are the 32-bit tests done with the free version of Geekbench – I may purchase it and do some more accurate testing.

If you want to build the same system, here are all the parts you need:

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