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What Does a $16,000+ PC Look Like, Anyway? 495

justechn writes "Tom's Hardware has an article about custom PC maker Puget Systems, who had just finished a custom $16,000 PC for one of their clients. So what exactly goes into a $16,000 system? How about: Four quad-core Opteron processors, 32 GB of memory, Windows Server 2008, Asus Xonar DX PCI Express sound card, 3Ware 9550SX-8LP SATA 3 Gb/s RAID controller, Two Western Digital 300 GB VelociRaptor hard drives in RAID 1, Two 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s also in RAID 1, and Four 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s in RAID 5. Puget went with MagiCool's Xtreme Nova 1080 radiator, Nine 120 mm fans, Four Koolance CPU blocks, Koolance combined pump and reservoir unit, and Cooler Master Stacker 810 case. In addition to all that hardware, it also runs very quiet and very cool. The temperature of the CPUs is 36 C at idle, 45 C at load."
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What Does a $16,000+ PC Look Like, Anyway?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:10PM (#27186285)

    With all those fans and drives, it can't be very quiet unless it is in another room.

  • by Ninnle Labs, LLC ( 1486095 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:19PM (#27186411)

    Rather, what is the purpose of a system like that that can't be served by a cheaper alternative?

    Bragging rights over throwing away 16k on a computer?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:25PM (#27186499)

    You'd think that for $16,000 they could have put a couple SSDs in there.

  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <> on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:30PM (#27186599) Journal

    I'm just trying to figure out what sort of moron expects 16 cores and 8 hdds to be quiet?

    You could save yourself thousands just by ditching the "near-silent" requirement, and investing in some good earphones.

    I'm going to agree with Ninnle; it's all about ostentation.

  • Re:And no SSD? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:32PM (#27186617)

    Well, who has time to read the summaries anyway?

  • by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:52PM (#27186917) Homepage
    I don't think the machine was built for quiet, I think liquid cooling was used to get more cooling (and this more overclockability) than fan cooling alone would. The machine was built for speed, not noise reduction. Otherwise, why would there be so many fans in addition to the liquid cooling?
  • by Xtravar ( 725372 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:56PM (#27186967) Homepage Journal

    It could be for a music studio. That doesn't quite explain the soundcard... but hell, throw it in for backup if we're already up to $15,800.

    I could easily see a song with 50 tracks with filters needing the horsepower... to run comfortably.

  • Apple Store (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:56PM (#27186969)

    If you want to see a $16,000 computer why not just go to the Apple online store? You should be able to get there pretty easily by maxing out a Mac Pro. :)

  • BAARF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:08PM (#27187145) Homepage Journal

    The RAID5 is probably planned for longer term bulk storage since it can be a tad slower than Raid1.

    RAID 5 isn't worth it. If you want to put four drives in a RAID, use RAID 10 []. Writes are faster on RAID 10 than on RAID 5, and if two drives fail, there's only a 33 percent chance of needing to restore everything from backup, compared to 100 percent for RAID 5.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xtense ( 1075847 ) <> on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:29PM (#27187381) Homepage

    Virtual instruments mostly. A lot of current audio plugins (VST/DX, no experience with macs) are real (and i mean REAL) CPU/RAM hogs. Today, even a simple fm synth with a bit of magical dsp thingamabobs is going to eat into your CPU big time. For instance, Image-Line's Sytrus, a brilliant software FM/Additive synth can eat anything up to 30% of processing time. As for RAM, there are gigantic sample banks out there, easily bigger than a blu-ray disc (Vienna Instruments for example) that don't come with a custom VSTi/DXi sampler, and are thus unoptimized for low/mid-end usage.

    And the sound card? IMO, that's pretty much audio voodoo, with differences unhearable between this high-end piece and cheaper products designed for studio usage (eg. the E-Mu 0404/1212m line). You could make the argument that the AC/DC converters do a better job, but the truth is, more distortion and noise gets through from your external hardware than from the card itself. On that, however, I wouldn't quote me, that's just personal experience, and I haven't been around audio production that much.

  • by Vectronic ( 1221470 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:31PM (#27187415)

    Wow, it's fugly... for $16,000 it should have a case that's the equivalent of a Ferrari, or maybe a black Murcielago, not a dune buggy based on a VW Beetle.

    I know the looks don't matter, but, this still looks like someones case mod they made in their basement out of old PC's and some jiffy markers.

  • This is how departmental IT is done. Or, at least, it's how it *should* be done.

    I notice that you didn't buy two identical machines so that if one went down, you could fail over.

    This is not how IT is done. Or at least, not how it should be done.

  • by glassware ( 195317 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:00PM (#27187751) Homepage Journal

    The best part is, they did the whole job for $16,000 without making the finished product even somewhat appealing. The case is hideous. They didn't even try to make the gigantic fan on the side look like anything other than a calloused tumor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:07PM (#27187837)

    I have access to much higher end hardware than this at work (24-core, 128 GB RAM, 8 ultra-fast SLC SSDs). Hardware that is even capable of running a high-end video card and gaming, if I really felt like it.

    That doesn't make it a gaming rig.

    (Besides, the new Mac Pro, stock, would be faster at gaming in Windows... And faster at video production... And faster running database work...)

  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:13PM (#27187893)

    They answered with the following: "Our client came to us with a need we hear often: he wanted a high performance machine, but wanted it quiet.

    That's easy - stick the compute stuff in a rack in some other room and remote into it. rdesktop, X11, whatever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:16PM (#27187929)

    If you read the article, in the comments the builders say that the customer was an artist that sells fractal images he creates. Fractals are extremely compute-intensive, and parallelize well.

    The only way the customer could do better would be to build a cluster of some sort. However, without programming skills, getting such a cluster to work well with software you already have that's designed for a single machine is basically impossible.

    Another option would be to get something more server-like and store it in a basement somewhere, and have a second computer to actually do the visualization. Not all of us are lucky enough to have basements though... Also, having to deal with the lagginess of windows virtual desktops containing huge (fractal) images would be hell.

  • Re:BAARF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:25PM (#27188079)

    > Other drives made on the same line on the same day are likely to have the same manufacturing defect.

    So what? They still won't fail at the same time.

    I have had dozens of consecutively serial numbered drives in production in various raid farms over the years and never has two drives fail at the exact same time.

    Often within several weeks of each other, but never in the same day or same week.

    You think there is a built in Clock in these things with fail date pre-scheduled?

    The myth of synchronized failure just doesn't exist out side of lightning strikes or similar power or fire related incidents.

  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:28PM (#27188105) Journal
    Or stick it in the next room over...
  • Re:What a waste (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bertok ( 226922 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:33PM (#27188163)

    That's a SPECIFIC application, which was not performance optimized, even by Microsoft's own admission.

    The next version of that APPLICATION, released as part of .NET 4.0 has "10x" the performance. That SCREAMS unoptimized to me.

    I've seen benchmarks of properly multi-threaded applications like video and image rendering software scale 1.9x or better on Windows.

    Realistically, the NT kernel has something like a 1% overhead, if that, especially for CPUs other than the primary. User-mode applications can cheerfully use 100% of each core, the kernel will not get in the way, so why would you think scalability is anything less than 1.9x for the second core over the first one?!? Do you seriously think there's some task it's running on that core at 50% load ALL OF THE TIME? Or that it'll schedule 50% of the time and throw the rest away?

    Even if you get into inefficient applications that do a lot of locks, message passing, and I/O, take a look at SQL Server scalability. My experience is that it only begins to lose steam at 16 cores or so, and that's probably an application issue as well.

    There's people running Windows on 128 and even 256 CPU machines (google "HP Superdome").

  • Actually, they could have gone to a MUCH larger diameter fan, with a lower rotational speed, and still moved a lot more air with a lot less noise.

    Besides, in 5 years an el-cheapo box will have the same performance. Or for less they could have built 3 [] supercomputers supercomputer [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:42PM (#27188869)

    The difference is that the United States of America has the word "America" in it while no other country in either North or South America does. Therefore people from the USA are correctly referred to as Americans.

    There is no country in Europe with the word "Europe" in it, otherwise a similar situation might have arisen there.

  • Re:What a waste (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bertok ( 226922 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:52PM (#27188931)

    Try not to speak authoritatively about things you clearly know nothing about: []

    And if you want detail: []

    The "poor utilization" in the article is a relative term. For most apps running under Windows, scalability to multiple CPUs is not hampered by the kernel. There have been improvements to I/O and networking on many-CPU servers, but it's just a fine tuning, not a massive leap forward.

    600% scalability on 8 CPUs - this is SQL 7 on NT4 mind you! []

    Is that a nice linear scalability graph of a Windows application I see? []

    But clearly I'm an idiot. I run Windows XP 64-bit on a quad-core CPU, and I really do get 4x the WinRar compression speed. I've timed it, because I use it to compress my backups, so it matters. It's 4x faster. Am I an idiot? Do I have difficulty telling time? You tell me.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:57PM (#27188987)
    If they don't like the name American, then they can call us United States of American, or... American for short. Seriously, for the individuals that want to Nitpick about the name, there is no place called "America". There is "North America" and "South America". I'm pretty sure that "North American" is universal understood to be someone from any country in North America.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:36PM (#27189297)

    Server can use 4 cpu sockets vista / xp can not.

    Ah, the joys of deliberately crippled software.

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Friday March 13, 2009 @09:38PM (#27189313) Journal

    Insightful? How about: Illiterate.

    To wit:

    This is how departmental IT is done. Or, at least, it's how it *should* be done. I spent less than $25K on these TWO computers [Emphasis mine]

    He says, right there, that there are two of them. Oh, sure, the rest of the time he's referring to the purchase in the singular sense, but if he's doing it right, he's treating both the live system and its spare as a singular entity anyway.

    Please learn to read before flaming. Thanks!

  • If that was the aim (personally I doubt it) then it's pretty retarded move. Once you get beyond the really budget stuff spending a lot of extra money only buys you a little extra usefull life.

    I bet he could get a machine of half the power and similar characterists for less than half the price. If we assume software bloat tracks capability at a given price point and that in turn tracks moores law than a doubling in computing power only buys you an extra 18-24 months.

    More than doubling your expenditure to extend a machines usefull life from 3 to 5 years does not make sense to me.

    With computers IMO it generally makes sense to buy enough to last you about 3 years and/or enough to get somewhere close to the price/performance sweet spot. Buying more than that is probablly a waste of money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:00PM (#27189455)

    Unfortunately, you're a fucking homo. Literally everyone else in North and South America call people from the USA Americans. Only fucking uptight limp dick little assholes say otherwise.

  • by WCVanHorne ( 897068 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:21PM (#27189565)
    I don't get why this monster needs to be quiet. Since, as mentioned, the video bandwidth is not important just put the darn thing in some sort of mini server room (eg. the corner of your basement) and remote into it. If you can afford a $16k PC you must have a massive pad with lots of far away corners ideal to put this in. Hell put a rack in there and do it right with server grade hardware instead of this mickey mouse hack. Even if video was an issue you can go a long way (~50ft) even without going optical and get decent video bandwidth. Many more cost effective ways to go other than this liquid cooled abomination which will depreciate real quick.
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @01:26AM (#27190367) Journal
    What would twice as much money bought me 10 years ago? Then I realize I can probably build a better computer than it for 1/20 the cost today. It isn't really an investment when you buy a supercharged computer, but more of a passing fling.
  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:29AM (#27191149)

    I think that 50 [cheap netbooks] would be pretty quick in a Beowolf cluster. (Well... an XP gaggle... but I digress)

    Depends on your problem, but for most of them the network latency is a killer if you're trying to do it over wifi. My guess is the sweet spot for most use cases is more like 10 mid-end desktops with gigabit ethernet connected via a reasonably high end switch.

  • idiotic design (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pandafs2 ( 1439191 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @07:09AM (#27191421)
    Two Western Digital 300 GB VelociRaptor hard drives in RAID 1, Two 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s also in RAID 1, and Four 1 TB Samsung SpinPoint F1s in RAID 5.
    What a crap. Just throw in two 15k SAS drives for system in RAID-1 (if you so eager for mirroring) and four 1TB drives in RAID-10 - it will be much faster
  • by this great guy ( 922511 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @07:30AM (#27191501)
    If you have the expertise and time, build it at half the price:
    • Case Cooler Master Stacker 810: $179 []
    • PSU Corsair 1000HX 1000 Watt: $218 []
    • Mobo Tyan S4989WG2NR: $872 []
    • 4 x CPU Opteron 8350 HE Quad-core 2.0 GHz: 4 x $927 []
    • 16 x 2GB DDR2-667 ECC Registered: 16 x $31 []
    • GPU Gigabyte GV-N98XPZL-1GH GeForce 9800 GTX+ 1GB: $180 []
    • RAID card 3ware 9550SXU-8LP: $416 []
    • 2 x HDD WDC VelociRaptor 300GB: 2 x $230 []
    • 6 x HDD Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB: 6 x $100 []
    • DVD Burner Pioneer 20X SATA: $23 []
    • Sound card ASUS Xonar DX: $90 []
    • Liquid cooling system: ~$300
    • Total: $7542 (compare to Puget's price of $16338)

    Also, they made a couple mistakes. Firstly they used 75W Opterons (8350) instead of 50W ones like in my list above (8350 HE) - pretty stupid considering their whole focus was to build a silent system ! Secondly instead of 10k RPM drives they should have used SSDs which are much cheaper per IOPS. Thirdly since they didn't build it with more than 32GB RAM, why pick an expensive mobo supporting 128GB ? They could have saved $400 by choosing one with fewer memory slots supporting "only" 64GB.

  • Compare that... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @10:34AM (#27192295) Homepage

    Compare that to building the thing yourself, with the exact same components: probably under 1/3rd the cost.

    At that price, he could almost justify a Mac Pro! (But seriously: a similar Mac Pro could likely be configured for less!)

    Oh, and seriously: at $16k, I'd expect the system to be small, fanless, and near-hermetic. And, I'd like to see how "quiet" that system is in 12 months once the fans start to take a little wear.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.