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Linux Workstation PC Build

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I got great response on Twitter from people who were interested in building a Linux workstation. In this post, we’ll build a ridiculous PC for under $1,000, plus show a couple add-ons you can make to fit your use case.

Prices were noted at the time of the writing of the post, they may have changed!

NZXT S340

Base Spec

This is the base version of the PC we’re going to build. You can only buy the parts here and you’ll have an amazing linux machine.

CPU $329

Intel Core i7 6700K 4.00 GHz Unlocked Quad Core Skylake Desktop Processor

This processor is a year old, and Kaby Lake is just coming out soon. However, Kaby Lake is not going to be a big boost over Skylake, it’s just a minor iteration. The Kaby lake version of this chip will be at 4.2 GHz.

But, this is unlocked! That’s the K at the end of the SKU. There are reports of folks overclocking it to 4.8 GHz (with voltage changes). I wouldn’t be surprised if you can push it to 4.5 GHz without changing the voltage. My trusty 3770k is still humming along at 4.0 GHz overclock, and it’s four and a half years old!

Motherboard $149

ASUS Z170-A

I love ASUS motherboards, I’ve been building on them for fifteen years. This is the cream of the crop. It’s got m2 for insane solid state speeds, ddr4 ram, and it can leverage the intel chip’s graphics to drive up to three displays over displayport. It’s got USB3 and gigabit LAN, of course. It also has a USB-C port, neat!

Speaking of displays, this combined with the intel chip above can drive a 4K display over displayport. So you don’t need additional graphics.

Also, it has 5-way optimization, which is an auto-tuning tool. You boot into the bios, tell it to do it’s thing, and it will auto-overclock the whole system!

RAM $85

Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 DRAM 2133MHz

A pair of 8GB sticks brings us to 16GB. You can get two orders for a total of 32GB if you’d like. I don’t need more than 8GB on linux, but I have 16GB right now because I play games. I think 32GB is excessive, and you can always purchase it later. Or treat yourself!

Power Supply $70

Seasonic M12II 620

I love Seasonic supplies. They are very quiet. This one is also modular, so that keeps the clutter down inside the system. 620W is more than enough, even if you purchase the add-ons below (more graphics).

Case $75

NZXT S340

I love the look of this case. You can pick a different color if you’d like, they have a bunch of great options. NZXT’s build quality is great, and this case has two included 120mm fans, which will be great for cooling and quiet too.

SSD $185

Samsung 950 PRO 256GB M.2

The new M.2 SSDs are crazy. This one packs 2,200MB/s Read and 900MB/s write. Wow. It’s 256GB but the link I posted has a 512GB option that is 2,500MB/s and 1,500MB/s if you love speed.

NOTE: you can only put one of these in the system. Motherboard has only one M.2 slot. You can buy an M.2 PCIe card and RAID them, or buy a PCIe SSD, or buy a SATA SSD if you need more.

Base Spec Summary

OK, that’s it for the base!

Total before taxes: $893

If you’re used to Apple, this price may shock you. Welcome to the real world ;)

Add-ons

Here are two more things you may want to add to your system.

Liquid Cooler $105

NZXT Technologies Kraken X41

I love the new all-in-one liquid coolers. You don’t have to mess with pipes or leaks or anything. They’re entirely self-contained. This NZXT cooler fits on the front of the case (inside it) we picked. That way, air is taken in the front of the case, passes over the radiator, and is exausted via the rear and top fans.

This cooler goes on just like a normal air cooler, but it also attaches at a fan mount point. When you install the chip, just toss the intel fan cooler and use this one’s water block instead.

Coolers like these are more efficient and much much quieter too, even under load.

Graphics Card $230

Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon™ RX 480 4GB

The new RX 480 line from AMD is an amazing value. You can drop any card into this system and it will probably be fine, and if I offered every graphics option this post would be huge.

I use the RX 480 in my home desktop on linux and the compatibility is excellent.

I also play games on it at 2560x1600. It can play Overwatch completely maxxed out at 60fps.

Also, the motherboard we’re using can fit 3 graphics cards on it (but usually there are diminishing returns after 2). So you can buy a second one in a year or two at a nice discount and double up your graphics power.

Totally Maxxed Out

Totally Maxxed Out Total: $1444

(This includes a second pair of RAM, liquid cooler, graphics, and 512GB SSD).

Bonus Section: Peripherals

I really like the Dell P2715Q 27” 4K monitor, a Das Keyboard, a SteelSeries Sensei, and a Logitech C922x webcam.

On linux, a quick xset m 1 1 will kill your mouse acceleration, making you very accurate.

If you want a 144hz gaming monitor with freesync, the Pixio PX277 looks like a great deal. Apparently the stand is flimsy so you may want to buy a separate VESA stand.

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