15 July, 2016   Rakesh Sharma    Guides .  A budget Workstation build guide

Recently I came across a challenge to build a workstation for one of my friend who started a small software developing company locally for building mobile apps and websites. Challenge is that I have to build a workstation and a high speed network infrastructure that can support wired as well as WIFI network for in-office use as well as giving clients demo on different mobile devices simultaneously, all that in a very tight budget.

Being a friend I have to accept the challenge and so I did, but I am using this opportunity to share my experience among all of you through this guide, giving an idea how the latest hardware and networking technologies can help boost software development and developer performance and showcasing benefit of a safe and stable overclocking.

Key point for the build

Workstation will mainly used for following

  • Programming like PHP or DOTNET web-development, Android and IOS app development. So not much of a multi thread use.
  • MySQL and MS SQL for app testing.
  • Back-end for apps
  • Testing Website. Basically for testing, so at a time not more than one or two instances of above will be running on this workstation.
  • High speed File sharing over the network with existing two PC nodes. Every project has lot of small files like images, scripts, layouts, etc. and current wired network is very slow in sharing small files.
  • A high speed WIFI access with many mobile devices simultaneously while giving demo to the clients.
  • A multi-monitor and slight gaming support too.
  • Slight flexible but very tight budget.

Deciding Hardware

Since I am also a programmer and with my experience I know that instead of multi core CPU a less but high speed core CPU will be more impactful in software development. So definitely we will not be going for 12 cores, 24 cores XEON CPU instead I will be using an Overclocked Skylake CPU.

I have both i7-6700K and i5-6600K CPUs with me so in the end we will test both CPUs in programming scenario and decide the one which gives us the best price to performance ratio.

We have decided the processor, so now board will be a Intel Z170 chipset based. So we are looking for a board that support stable overclocking for Skylake CPU, should have some good networking options as well as should offer lot of storage support for all the latest storage technologies like U.2, M.2 and USB3.1 support.

After searching a lot we found the perfect board for this build, the ASUS Z170 DELUXE.

This board have everything and more we are looking for .

  • Skylake CPU support with stable overclocking.
  • Support for 64GB DDR4 upto 4000 MHz OC.
  • Dual Intel Gigabit LAN Controller onboard . (So now I can bride / pair these network cards together so they operate as a single, faster logical network card, to get better local network speed. Theoretically somewhat 2Gbps of Ethernet connectivity.)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless network onboard supporting dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz with up to 1300Mbps transfer speed.
  • Bluetooth V4.0 for direct and easy mobile or Bluetooth device connectivity.
  • 6 SATA 6Gbps ports supporting Intel Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 and additional 2 SATA 6Gbps ports along with M.2 and U.2 support.
  • Lot of USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 ports
  • Many on-board fan headers for great cooling of the build.
  • And more..

For memory, we know this board supports high OC memory, but due to a tight budget currently we are going for Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) 2400MHz DDR4 kit. Which can be upgraded later but right now we are going with this only.

For primary OC drive we will be using Kingston UV300 240GB SSD, a good price to capacity SSD option.

For storage drives we are going for 4 x WD 1TB Blue SATA 6Gbps drives in RAID 10 configuration, giving a great balance between performance and redundancy.

Since we will be overclocking the CPU (but not up to Extreme level) for better performance, so we need to cool the CPU too. For the cooling solution we are going for Cooler Master Nepton 240M CPU Liquid Cooler for it’s great performance and low noise Silencio fan.

For case we are looking for a mid range but solid build case which can support our cooling solution as well as storage. So we choose Cooler Master MasterBox 5 Case, perfect modular case for our need. We just added second HDD cage to full-fill our 4-HDD RAID10 configuration.

For dual-monitor setup and adding casual gaming support to the build, we tossed in a ASUS STRIX GTX 950 2GB DDR5 card.

For psu, I think a 600W power is sufficient for this build. So we are going for Cooler Master New GX650 PSU. With all Japanese capacitors, black flat cables and 80-Plus Bronze efficiency this PSU is best for our need.

Now we came to the second most important aspect of this build, the networking.

So get best out of the network for my friend I have to look for networking device(s) to full-fill following needs.

  • Bridge/Linked support for 2Gbps wired Ethernet connectivity.
  • WAN connectivity
  • High speed WiFi connectivity
  • Good WiFi coverage, since my friends office is in a garage at his home and want entire house to have internet coverage.
  • Want his current USB printer work as network printer without a PC.
  • And more.

For all our networking needs we found an excellent device, the ASUS RT-AC5300, a wireless AC-5300 Tri-band Gigabit router.

This is a feature packed product offering a WAN port for connecting existing ISP fiber-optic modem for all internet needs. Having 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports to which we can link paired LAN card from the workstation for 2Gbps network connectivity.

Also have a USB2.0 and a USB3.0 port for connecting and converting the USB printer to a network printer and my friend currently have a Seagate 4TB USB 3.0 external drive used for backup which now can be connected to this router and can be used as network storage.

Having an ASUS RT-AC5300 is like having three wireless routers in one. The two separate 5 GHz wireless bands — each with speeds up to 2167 Mbps — and the single 1000 Mbps 2.4 GHz wireless band all work simultaneously. This means that every device connected to the network now can have uninterrupted file downloading, internet access for app or website demo purpose. In fact, RT-AC5300 is able to connect to multiple MU-MIMO-compatible clients at each device's maximum speed simultaneously, unlike standard single-user MIMO where individual devices have to wait for sequential transmissions.

Above all RT-AC5300 have in-build security feature the AiProtection powered by Trend Micro™ improves online safety and security by combining automatic vulnerability detection, malicious site blocking and protecting all stored data and a parental controls to prevent other employes from visiting inappropriate websites and wasting time and internet bandwidth.

Now we have all the hardware, so we start the easiest part the assembling of workstation.

Software

Different developing platform tools were installed and for testing many Virtual Machines were also installed.

Networking Performance

100 Mbps 1 Gbps

Storage Performance

Single HDD Performance SSD Performance 4 HDDs in RAID 10 Configuration performance

Testing

To get program building and compilation benchmarks, we are using our own application on different development tools and recording time taken to build a project, app or software package.

I am using a free tool “Process Monitor” from Sysintarnals which logs process timing up to 7 decimal places in seconds, and we can filter-out and calculate time taken for any process or application or operation to complete.

We will check different application compilation time using both i7-6700K and i5-6600K CPUs at stock and i7-6700K OC

Pricing

**Approx without taxes and may vary

Intel Core i7-6700k Rs.27000
Intel Core i5-6600k Rs.20000
Asus Z170-DELUXE Rs.27800
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB Rs.6000
Cooler Master Nepton 240M Rs.9000
Kingston UV300 240GB SSD Rs.4650
4 x WD 1TB Blue Rs.14400
Cooler Master MasterBox Rs.6000
Cooler Master GX650 Rs.6000
ASUS STRIX GTX 950 Rs.13000
ASUS RT-AC5300 Rs.25300

My friend and his clients are now very happy with this new Work-Area (Work-Station and High Speed network) buils.

Thanks.

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