Let's Build a Workstation PC! Part 5: Overclock, Testing and Final Thoughts

Mar 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm by -gToon

In my previous four installments of Let's Build a Workstation PC (one, two, three, four), I covered research for the build, choosing the parts, putting the parts together to create the workstation and installing Windows 10. In this Final part, I'll be covering driver updates for the M.2 C-drive, Overclocking and reference tests.

Final Anvil test results show a huge increase in write speed for the M.2 drive

M.2 Driver Update
You may recall that I decided to use a new drive type, the M.2 SSD drive, in my new computer build. This is a small thin card (slightly longer than a credit card) that contains high-speed SSD memory chips. Now, Windows 10 comes with drivers for these kinds of drives so that they will easily work in a Windows 10 system. However, I discovered during my research (thank you, Ram City that the Windows drivers are much less efficient than the manufacturers drivers.

Since I chose the Samsung 950 PRO Series - 256GB PCIe NVMe - M.2 for my C-Drive, I went to the Samsung page for this device and downloaded the latest drivers. I quickly ran the Anvil Storage SSD Benchmark drive test on drive before the update and came up with a reasonably good read speed (4667 Mps) and a terrible write speed (126 Mps). But after installing the new Samsung driver (a bit tricky as you have to go through the Windows device manager) the write speed performance increased dramatically to 3383 Mps! A huge difference in drive performance.

ASUS AI Suite 3 interface

Nvidia Store

Overclocking the CPU
In the past, overclocking your CPU was a nail-biting and tedious affair: you'd adjust the clock speed, then the voltage, etc., etc., Plus you were never sure if your overclock would be stable. A week later you could be working on something and the machine would blue-screen on you and you'd have to go back and re-set the bios to defaults. I often simply chose not to overclock because of the hassle even though modern CPU's have plenty of head-room for overclocking.

I was intrigued with ASUS new system software the AI Suite 3 that accompanies their motherboard package. The application contains 7 different tools for managing your system/motherboard one of which is the ability to test your system for the highest stable overclock. I was dubious at first, but the suite ran like a charm and after 10-15 minutes of testing the AI Suite 3 came up with a healthy 11% overclock. Since I'm using water cooling the additional heat generated by the overclock is no problem.

Of course, if you wanted to manually overclock for a higher percentage, you would run them through the UEI bios, but you'd still have to do trial and error and I'm just tired of all the hassle. 11% stable overclock works for me!

Basic System Tests
I run several basic tests on my system to make sure it was operating at a fairly high level. I don't edit in 4K, so there's no need for bleeding edge performance, but since I have a good 6 core CPU, a high-quality Quadro GPU and speedy drives, I expect the results to be in the top 10% at least.

Cinebench is a rendering test developed by Maxon and is a standard measure of performance for rendering. My scores were very high (in the top 1%) as you can see.

Passmark is a very popular system benchmark that covers CPU, 3D, 2D, Disk performance, Windows performance and GPU. I ran the full suite of tests and came up with flying colors as you can see from the image below. The only slight disappointment was in the 2D tests which put my machine in the top 20%, but I can live with that.

Cost of the Build
Without the Quadro P5000 GPU, the system cost just under $2,000 to build. Adding the Quadro the total jumps to $3,900. For a high-end system, I think that's a fair price since purchasing a pre-built system from a professional builder will most likely start at $5,000 with similar hardware. A mid-level Quadro card such as the Quadro P2000 will only add an additional $600 to the system price, although rendering speed will drop a bit (not significantly).

Final Thoughts
I believe this is my 5th or 6th computer build and it was the easiest and most enjoyable build to date. I think manufacturers has taken the DIY community seriously and have tailored their hardware to be easy to install and simple to operate. With only a few snags, I found that I put in about 4 - 5 hours in building and research for this
workstation. The result is a fast, attractive workstation that has cut my workflow time in half. Combined with a super-wide monitor and video editing is sooo much easier.

If you want to build your own computer, I highly recommend doing so. Although I built a high-end model, it's certainly possible to build a sub-1,000 workstation that will speed your work along and save you some money at the same time. Building a computer is also a learning process that grows your knowledge of computers and hardware which, in turn, builds your confidence!

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