In the previous post, I explained the need for a new machine in my home lab and the considerations before buying appropriate components to build one. In this post, I will look at the “Physical Decision Points” and the “Bill of Materials” (read “damage”) for those components. So, without further ado, let’s start:

Physical Decision Points:

In this section, I’ll describe what hardware I bought while keeping in mind the considerations mentioned for each one of them in my last post. So, here goes:

Motherboard: There was pretty much one motherboard left for me as a choice but it’s the one that I probably would have gone for anyway: Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Workstation Board This was the ideal one for me as in addition to supporting the Dual-Xeon setup I was after, it also catered for my needs of having more SATA III connectors.  There is a quirk about this motherboard though that you should be aware of: The form-factor of this motherboard is SSI-EEB – which is NOT equivalent to E-ATX. Well, in terms of size it is but some of the mounting holes are in different places as compared to E-ATX. There are very few casings available that natively support SSI-EEB motherboards, which are expensive and not that great looking. I had to do my research before settling on the one I was happy with.

Casing: I chose Corsair CC-9011022-WW Obsidian Series 900D E-ATX Super Tower as my casing. But wait! This is an E-ATX casing i.e. not SSI-EEB! That’s right and why I had to do my research first. As I mentioned, the available SSI-EEB casings were not very good looking and aesthetics are very important to me, when it comes to building my systems. While this casing is pretty much as expensive as the few SSI-EEB compatible ones, this looks much better. Plus, I like Corsair casings, given I am already using one for my other system. All the research went into making sure the motherboard will align with most of the mounting holes and I know from previous experience that it’s not critical to have screws in all of them. In this case, only two are missing. Since then, I’ve transported the machine up/downstairs a few times, with the big heat sinks and fans attached and there is no impact. So, if you’re going for the motherboard mentioned above, this is a safe casing to use.

CPUs: For my Xeons, I went for the E5 2600 v2 series but more specifically, Intel Xeon E5-2620 v2 – two of those as I went for a Dual-processor machine. That was the goal, however, the motherboard is also capable of running with just one (just be aware that certain PCIe slots depend on having the other CPU present). As mentioned in the previous post, I wasn’t after the high end Xeons as they’re too expensive. These processors are Hex-core with hyper-threading. Having two of them means 24 threads. This is still a big improvement on the 8 for my other machine. On top of that, these are more efficient than the Core i7 I have so overall, I would consider these to be enough for 128GB worth of machines, while being reasonably-priced as compared to the high-end ones. Only time will tell but that’s about all I could afford easily so we’ll see.

RAM: I initially ordered one kit of these Crucial 32GB kit (16GBx2) DDR3 PC3-14900 Once I had the motherboard up and running, I ordered another kit, which is in the system now. Eventually, I’ll buy two more of them, taking the system to 128GB of RAM with all slots full. I’ve used Crucial RAM for a good while now and they’ve never let me down so it’s a good choice.

Storage: For the system drive, I planned to use one of my old Crucial 512GB SSDs, which is in the system now. For datastore and other VM uses, I bought two Crucial M550 1TB 2.5-inch Internal SSD. I also considered Samsung 840 EVO but considering everything, this seemed a better choice to me. See this article for a detailed technical review.

Cooling: I’ve always been a big fan (no pun intended!) of Noctua CPU coolers. So, that was the natural choice this time too. I went for Noctua NH-U12DX i4 coolers. Now, I could have gone for NH-U9DX i4 as well (and they should also fit nicely) but I wanted the fan to be bigger and see if I can get away with one fan per CPU. There is an option to add one later so I’ll buy them if I need to but more fans mean more noise so I didn’t. We’ll see how it goes. Another consideration is RAM slot access but fortunately, the motherboard is designed well enough to have RAM slots a bit further away. So, even with the lower NH-U9DX i4, I think they’ll remain accessible.

Power Supply: As mentioned in the previous post, I decided to go for a 700-800W power supply. This is the one I actually went for in the end: Corsair Professional Series AX 760i Watt Digital ATX/EPS Fully Modular 80 PLUS This is a fully-modular digital PSU and is a perfect fit for my requirements. It also has a link module that connects to a USB header on the motherboard and extracts important data, not just for the PSU, but CPU and FAN metrics as well. One other useful feature is that the fan doesn’t run until it is loaded enough which is about 60% or more so I haven’t seen it running yet (apart from in the self-test – another useful feature). The temperature is not rising and the system has been running constantly so it must be OK.

Graphics Card: The motherboard I bought has on-board VGA so I could’ve used just that. But then I thought that onboard graphics do tax the CPU a bit so for the cost of a cheap graphics card, I can take that load off the CPU. Besides, the system might actually be used for streaming video at times, given it’s in the study and accessible, in which case, good graphics capability will be handy. So, as an afterthought, I went for: MSI GeForce N210 Nvidia Graphics Card Like I said, modest performance would do nicely in this case so cheap and cheerful it is for me.

Well, that covers all that I had to buy so next is cost of the hardware!

Bill of Materials:

Following is what I had to spend on this machine, in the order followed above:

ComponentItemCostQuantityTotal
Total£2,789
MotherboardAsus Z9PE-D8 WS Workstation Board£4001£400
CasingCorsair CC-9011022-WW Obsidian 900D E-ATX Tower£2601£260
CPUIntel Xeon E5-2620 v2£3052£610
RAM (64GB)Corsair 32GB kit (16GBx2) DDR3 PC3-14900£2702£540
StorageCrucial M550 1TB 2.5-inch Internal SSD£3502£700
CoolingNoctua NH-U12DX i4 coolers£592£118
PSUCorsair AX 760iW Digital ATX/EPS 80 PLUS£1351£135
Graphics CardMSI GeForce N210 Nvidia Graphics Card£261£26

This is bearing in mind that I’ve not included the price for the SSD I used as system disk and the 64GB RAM I will add later. All prices are correct as of time of writing (20/06/2014 01:15). That said, this is what I’ve bought and you can always add/subtract stuff from this configuration.

Now you can appreciate why my wife is very understanding. In fact, she wanted to put it all together so the machine is actually built by her!

I guess this is enough for this part of the series. In the third part, I’ll mention a few things that you need to be aware of, if you also go for this combination. Nothing scary – just a few things to make your journey a bit easier. It might take me the weekend to do that one so, see you in Part III!

Link to Part IMy New Dual-Xeon Based Nested Home Lab Machine – Part I

Link to Part IIIMy New Dual-Xeon Based Nested Home Lab Machine – Part III