Description

THE SPEC

I'm an engineer, need to run SolidWorks as a CAD program. Potentially lots of big models, but I'm budget limited. I also do a lot of photography, and want to run Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop with some decent horsepower and a 4k monitor. That's the main goal. No games. Infinity Chrome tabs.

A small machine, real-estate wise, would be great. Hence the microATX. I tend to not need a lot of drives, so I don't need a lot of extra slots. One SSD for the system and software and one data drive is fine. I might want to mirror data to a second drive, but no more.

To be stable, fast, and cheap, I went with a Xeon. I also picked a FirePro, for pro-quality stability with graphics.I picked a card that could handle multiple 4k monitors (over DP1.2) and jumped up to to the 4gb option. I'll probably still start with just one or two 1080p/1440p monitors instead of 4k, since the 4k market doesn't seem to have a color correct IPS 27" 60hz 4k screen for under $600.

I want to start with a workstation quality motherboard - if I start getting more work at home or need more capability, I want to be able to shift from 16GB to 32GB of ECC, for stability and actually showing there are errors in FEA results rather than masking them. At least from what I read.

With the rest of the build, I really just picked good or one bump better than good to fill out the rest of the build. And I really wanted a fine pixel count monitor that I'd be confident editing photos with.

So three potential outcomes of working at home:

Basic - Minimal work at home - system as described.

Busy - Lots of work at home - swap ram from 16gb to 32 of unbuffered ECC. Two 4k monitors when good ones come out. Potentially bigger GPU. Second data drive.

Home business success - Too much work at home - take my giant pile of money to the bank and get a giant ATX tower, relegate this thing to a HTPC.


THE BUILD

I built it in a day, and I'm working on getting all the software up and running today. I spent about two hours breadboarding it (building it outside the case). I'm a first time builder, so I thought I had error codes for other stuff, but the problems I had were simple - just read the various manuals as you breadboard. No problems with the cooler, RAM, processor, etc. I read that "no beeps" equals a PSU error, but I just wasn't looking at error codes: mine was no VGA output.

I thought there was a problem with the monitor output, and I had read the Xeon has no integrated graphics. Nor does the workstation board. For those not in the know, it's easy - your graphics card talks to the motherboard even without a driver, so after reading the error code off the motherboard, I plugged into the graphics card and it worked fine. The VGA output on the motherboard is worthless.

I also learned about CMOS - little battery that lets your computer store error codes even after the problem is solved. I found out about it in the motherboard manual, where it told me to reset CMOS after the VGA error. Throughout the process, I started doing this a lot - just pulling the battery and letting the computer discharge on its own (10min) or holding the power button to accelerate the discharge (10s) . Just repeating what the internet told me, but it seemed to work.

Then I went through the last of the bread boarding - got the drives hooked up, wireless network card, and had my case plugged in to all that as well, so the power switch on it was working. I could get to BIOS, recognize all the drives, so I went ahead and pulled it apart to put it in the case. (so 2 hours so far)

The case isn't amazing. I spent about 6 hours choosing where it install things, looking at order of cables, doing one scheme, finding that the side panels didnt' fit, and starting cable management over. What a headache. I think I got to "clean airflow" but not super clean and pretty to look at or service.

Main changes I did to the case where to pull the mount at the bottom for HDDs and SSDs. It was right in the way of the front fan. Instead, I used the 3.5" bay under the optical drive for the HDD and bolted the SSD on little tabs under that. I did have to drill the holes out - the SSD installed the other direction, but the cable whip would have been all sorts of wonky. I am a mechanical engineer...so out came the drill - i was really careful to hold a paper towel wetted with isopropyl alcohol behind/underneath my drill bit to collect shavings from getting in the electronics.

Also, this case doesn't like any wires on the backside of the panel the motherboard mounts to. There totally looks like room - I ran the power cables from the PSU back there and a bunch of other stuff, only to have to strip it all off later. Lesson (not)learned (for the hundredth time) - check your fitment as you move along and don't assume they left you plenty of space.

Other than that, no problems. Will update when I get a 3D capability or speed test going with the new OS.

Thanks to all the help, especially mdocod!

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Comments

  • 56 months ago
  • 4 points

I really, really like this build. Workstations are the most interesting to me because they are put to use for something larger than gaming. This coming from a 14 year old that loves CS GO lol.

  • 56 months ago
  • 2 points

Could we please see more pictures though ?

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

that is one sexy workstation! :D post some more pics

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice Build !!

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

Roger, more pics are now up there. It'd be real nice if PCPartPicker let you annotate them, but I think you guys will get the jist.

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

Love it. This thing probably flies through everything. Nice job.

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

Loving the workstation build!

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

Cool build! Is it possible to run SolidWorks FEA on a server? You could build a rack in the future and put the heavy lifters on there (Xeon/ECC/FirePro).

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

No idea! I was actually going the other way - instead of a rack, I was trying originally to fit this into a MicroATX Slim Case.

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