My New Workstation Build

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve built and tested my new workstation PC. My previous workstation was a Dell Precision T5600 (built circa 2012) with a 6-core Xeon, 24GB of RAM, AMD V5900 GPU, and 120GB SSD. The performance was still fine despite it being nearly a decade old, but it had two issues: It was looooooouuuud, and very power-hungry (200w at idle). So, it was time to be replaced.

Many moons ago I used to work in a computer store, so I’m used to building my own machines. Why didn’t I last time? Because I needed something in a hurry, and somebody had their old workstation for sale on Gumtree, and it seemed like a good deal (and for the most part, it was).

My requirements for the new build were as follows:

  • Silence at idle is a must. The fans can be audible, but not annoying, under load.
  • 16GB of RAM at least, with the capability of holding at least 32GB in the future.
  • On that note, it should be somewhat future-proof. I should be able to upgrade the motherboard, case, and storage independently of each other (something I couldn’t do with the Dell).
  • It has to look good sitting on my desk (completely subjective, I know).
  • At least 8 threads for compiling software with, but the option of replacing the CPU in the future.
  • Support for three 1920×1080 DisplayPort monitors.

And the parts I have chosen to make all this happen?

  • Case: Fractal Design Era ITX
  • PSU: Corsair SF450
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG Strix B460-I
  • CPU: Intel Core i3 10100
  • RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB (1x16GB) 3200MHz
  • SSD: Western Digital Black SN750 500GB

All up, the cost of the parts was around $1000 AUD.

One thing I found quite annoying picking the parts for this machine was that the vast majority of available performance parts were gaming-oriented. RGB lights plastered on everything and designed to look like something that has fallen off an army truck (which ironically does everything they can to avoid having RGB lights). In addition, most of the reviews online, both written and YouTube videos, were written from the stance of a gamer.

Take for example the Fractal Design Era case. Gamers hate this case as it has terrible cooling for the GPU. It’s a legitimate issue sure, but one only faced by gamers. If you don’t have a discrete graphics card in the system, then you don’t have this issue and the case is thermally fine. But the positive trade-off from that thermal design in the GPU area is that it’s an ITX case that looks like it belongs in a modern art museum. Look at it. It’s beautiful!

My other part choices are pretty standard. An i3 is more than enough (it’s got as much power as my old Xeon), 16GB of RAM is plenty (8GB would have been fine if not for Microsoft Teams), and 500GB of SSD boot drive (plus a re-used 4TB drive for storage) is fantastic and surprisingly cheap.

Did I meet my requirements? Yes. It’s silent. It only consumes around 25w at idle and around 150w under full load. I consider that a huge win. The new machine would pay for itself in 3 years with power savings alone. All the fans are zero-RPM enabled and will turn off under idle conditions.

It’s also future-proof. I’ve learned the hard way in my last two computer purchases (the Precision workstation mentioned above, and a Dell XPS 9350 laptop) that a lot of damage comes from tightly integrated components. If one thing breaks or is no longer up to the task, the whole thing has to go. The reason I bought the Precision was that the XPS only had 8GB of RAM, and I needed more so I could run SQL Server and Microsoft Teams at the same time (madness, I know). To mitigate the environmental impact, I bought the Precision second-hand, which raises a different set of issues. Now I had a powerful computer, but I also had a loud, power-hungry, and (yet again) non-modifiable system. This is one tiny peek into the world of throw-it-away consumable technology products.

In my mind, the best way to minimise the environmental damage of our computer use is to make sure everything we buy follows the established standards. They last the longest and can be re-used by interchanging with other things. Take for example the ATX standard. You could buy an ATX case from 1998 and build a modern system in it. In fact, people do that. It has changed that little.

My goal is to have this case and power supply for the next 10 years, and this motherboard for the next 5. I can see a CPU, RAM, and SSD upgrade in the future, but the core platform should last a good long while.


After months of complaining, researching components, finding good prices, and so on, my computer is now virtually silent… and that makes me very happy. When I built the most recent incarnation of my desktop computer, I chose pretty much the cheapest components available at the time. I even stooped so low as to use a triple-core processor (AMD’s Phenom X3 8650). Choosing components this cheap turned out to be a nightmare.

First of all, the CPU’s fan was insanely noisy. When the computer started up you could have sworn a Boeing 747 was in my bedroom getting ready for takeoff. It settled down after a few seconds, but it was still enough to make using speakers pointless. I resorted to headphones.

I fixed this by buying two components. The first was a rear case fan to exhaust more hot air out of the computer. I chose a Scythe model that ran at 800RPM. They are renowned for being virtually silent. Not without reason, too. The second was a Cooler Master Hyper-212+ heat sink. The heat sink itself is about 600g of solid aluminium with copper pipes running up through it. It’s very good at getting the heat away from the CPU. It comes with a fan attached to it, but I took this off. Since I had the rear case fan, and nothing else that produced much heat in the machine, I didn’t need it. So this solved the CPU noise issue.

The next issue was the power supply. The power supply I originally had was a no-name 550W power supply I bought for $50 AUD. I suspect it was worth about $5. The efficiency of the power supply was also questionable. In the end I bit the bullet and decided to buy a new power supply. I did a bit of research on the PC hardware site SilentPCReview, and found 3 power supplies that fitted the bill. One was Antec’s Signature 650w. This is basically the premium model from Antec. The ‘Signature’ in the name comes from the fact that the quality-control checker signs the power supply when they check it. It was a bit on the pricey side though. A similar power supply from a different manufacturer was  Seasonic’s X-650. This was cheaper, and even quieter, but had a few quirks that I didn’t really like. The final power supply, and the one I chose, was Antec’s Truepower 550w. It was slightly noisier than the other two, but not by very much, and was significantly cheaper.

After replacing these components in my desktop, I now have a machine that I can’t hear over background noise (the nearby highway, birds outside, etc) during the day. I can hear a slight hum during the night, but I usually turn the machine off while I sleep, so it’s not a problem. Overall, I’m very happy! I’ll never again buy cheap computer components… it’s very expensive.

My First Coppermine CPU

Yesterday evening in the mail I received, amongst a whole package of computer junk I didn’t really want, a couple of socket 370 CPUs. Four of them, to be exact. One is a Pentium III Coppermine CPU proper (an SL52R), the others are Celerons of various speeds.

You’ll notice that the SL52R is the same sSpec I was raving on about in my last post on this subject. So why did I rush out and buy one? Because to me, it has beautiful proportions. 1GHz is a nice round number. In my opinion the amount of cache is a nicer number than any other amount (256KiB instead of the 128KiB found in the Celerons and some Pentium IIIs), and the core voltage is nicer (1.75V). I would have preferred a 100MHz bus speed (instead of 133MHz), since that’s a nice round number, but you can’t have everything. Plus, a 133MHz bus does go a lot faster.

Unfortunately the picture isn’t mine; my digital camera has decided not to work in the cold this morning.

Pentium III Coppermine SL52R
Pentium III Coppermine SL52R