System Builder Marathon Q1 2016: $1275 Professional Workstation

This month I break the SBM mold by using a true workstation processor and graphics.

System Builder Marathon Q4 2015

Here are links to each of the five articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

  1. $662 Budget PC
  2. $1275 Professional Workstation
  3. $1232 Prosumer PC
  4. System Value Compared

$1275 Professional Workstation

One of my longstanding goals for the System Builder Marathon has been to break the mold a bit and do some experimental builds. By now, I think we’ve gathered enough data from traditional, enthusiast grade components that we’re able to paint a pretty good picture as to which parts will work best with a certain theme and price point. However, we seem to be heavily lacking data on true professional components like workstation graphics cards and motherboards, server CPUs and ECC RAM. With no theme or budget restrictions this quarter to prevent me from doing so, I set out to explore some of the more non-traditional hardware combinations.

The Build

  • Platform Cost: $1,090
  • Total Hardware Cost: $1155
  • Complete System Price: $1275

Sometimes making plans for a System Builder Marathon build are like making plans for war; they’re great until the first shot is fired. The first wave of trouble came shortly after I submitted my purchase request for this quarter’s components. It seemed Newegg managed to run out of almost every LGA 1151 workstation motherboard with either a C232 or C236 chipset, right after I placed my order. I waited a few days to see if the board I picked would become available again, but that never happened and with time running out to finish the build, I was forced to go with the only board available at the time.

The second wave of trouble came when the ECC RAM that I ordered turned out to consist of completely incompatible registered DIMMs instead of the unregistered DIMMs I thought I was buying. There wasn’t any time left to order another set of RAM and still have time to finish the build, so I was forced to use a set of non-ECC RAM that I had on hand in order to keep things moving.

At last with a working build, I was ready to test, or so I thought… The bearing on the stock cooler that shipped with my Xeon processor decided it was going to further contribute to my problems and started making a horrendous rattling noise. Luckily, I have an excess of stock Intel CPU coolers laying around and after a quick switch I was good to go.

Component Selection

Assembly

Other than the joy misery of trying to attach and route cables inside of a MiniITX case, this quarter’s build was largely uneventful and follows the standard build process. After removing the protective cover from the LGA 1151 socket, the Xeon CPU simply drops in to place. Similarly, the RAM seated into its slots without much trouble, and as you can see the photo below was taken before I realized the horrible mistake I had made and had to switch out my RAM.

The stock Intel Skylake cooler comes pregreased from the factory and mounts to the board using the standard pushpin mount. The CPU fan cable then connects to a connector hidden on the other side of the RAM modules.

After installing the motherboard in the case, all that was left was to install the GPU, SSD and PSU, and do some simple cable routing. A modular PSU would have really helped here, but thankfully the hard drive tray at the top of the case also works wonders for disposing of unwanted or excess cables. For everything else that can’t be stuffed away up there, Lian Li is nice enough to include plenty of cable ties and even a few peel-and-stick cable holders to help deal with the mess. The end result looks somewhat like this:

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