What kind of a name is ZaReason anyway?
August 20, 2012 6:01 AM   Subscribe

What kind of power supply (and cooling system) should I get for a tower with an 8-core processor?

I'm configuring a Limbo 6220A tower from ZaReason. ZaReason allows the buyer to choose between various power supplies, and while I'm perfectly comfortable contemplating all the other hardware options, this is something I know little about. If I pick the 3.6 GHz processor and the ATI HD 6970 video card, should I opt for something beefier than the default 350 watt power supply? The other options are:

* 550 watts
* 850 watts Raidmax (I assume this doesn't apply to me since I'm not using a RAID)
* 1200 watts (which sounds like overkill to me)

It should also be noted that ZaReason offers a slightly higher-end AMD tower that comes with an optional $400 water cooling system -- though I assume / hope that isn't necessary.

In terms of other components I'll probably go with an SSD as the primary drive and a HDD as the backup; either 16 or 32 GB of RAM; and I plan on installing Debian rather than the default Ubuntu.

(Bonus warm fuzzies to be awarded to anyone who can tell me how long this particular model has been listed by ZaReason.)

posted by Yesterday's camel to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might find this calculator useful. From looking over your links, 550 should be enough, but if you want to Crossfire you'll need 850.

As for additional cooling, I typically wouldn't bother. Certainly not for an additonal $400.
posted by kithrater at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: The best way to make a power supply last is to not run it at the full rated power. I generally downrate well known and competent power supply vendors by about 25%, and unknowns by 50%.

So, unless you are running a bunch of HDDs, I think the 550W is going to be more than enough, and probably safe.

Finally, what is your workload? If it's fewer threads, then a faster clocked 4-core is going to perform better than a slower clocked 8 core. The real place for 8-core is virtualized machines, if you're planning on running many of them, the extra cores become a decided win.

But if you aren't, and you're not running properly multithreaded apps, you're really not going to see a big difference in performance from 4-core to 8-core, esp. if you're going to cut the clock dramatically to handle the extra cores.
posted by eriko at 6:46 AM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: newegg.com lists the *minimum* power supply rating for the 6970 at 550W. With the 8-core rated at 125W, I suspect you might actually want to go higher than 550.

I know this is off topic but... getting Debian to work the way you want on your system is probably more challenging than putting together the system from parts from newegg. Just as an example, you can get the latest generation top o' the line ATI 7970, from newegg for just $40 more than than zaReason is listing for your 6970. I would put together a shopping list of the parts you want at newegg, compare the cost with zaReason, and give it some thought.

(also, the ATI drivers for linux are still considerably crappier than the NVIDIA drivers, open source arguments aside. I mean, it isn't terrible by linux standards, but they may not work as well as you want...)
posted by ennui.bz at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2012

350 is absolutely too weak. 550 is probably fine, but it won't give you a whole lot of room for upgrades.

I get a sketchy feeling from that site. They're definitely overcharging for the upgrade to the 550-watt Antec (probably this $65 part). They want $150 for a second 1TB hard disk, but 1TB disks cost about $100-120. Of course they need to make money somehow, but these markups are excessive.

You might want to check out http://www.ibuypower.com/ . They are a more well-known custom builder and they offer more hardware choices.
posted by scose at 7:28 AM on August 20, 2012

seconding iBuypower.com if you need to have it built for you. also, they require a 750W PS with the ATI 6970, so keep that in mind.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2012

Response by poster: kithrater, thanks for the calculator link.

eriko, you raise a good point about 4 vs 8 cores, and I may have to think about that. I virtualize frequently, but not necessarily every day, and not while I'm attempting to do a bunch of other stuff at the same time.

ennui.bz and scose, I suppose I should note that my choice is vendor is partially political, in that ZaReason has actually stepped up and signed the FSF's statement in opposition to "Secure Boot". (For similar reasons my initial instinct was to go with an ATI card over an Nvidia one.) I'll certainly take a look at iBuypower.com, and you're right that I should put some more thought into whether I ought to simply buy and install some of the components myself. My interest in ZaReason has less to do with custom building per se; but there's no harm in my exploring other options.

There are other vendors out there that are open source friendly -- ThinkPenguin, system76, etc. -- has anyone had good experiences with them?
posted by Yesterday's camel at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2012

Just wanted to chime in to say I think you're right that the water cooling solution looks to be a tad overkill (and it seems overpriced). You can get the highest end Corsair for about $100 if you wanted to do that after market. Without them mentioning what brand/model it is, I'd be skeptical that it is fairly priced considering the alternatives. They are nice to have however as they are quieter and often more efficient than your standard heat-sink/fan solution...but you normally won't have to worry unless you're really pushing the CPU or overclocking.
posted by samsara at 8:34 AM on August 20, 2012

If you're considering building yourself... just let me chime in that it's really fun and not that difficult. I just built my first system. I had a lot of experience with disk/memory/video card upgrades, but I'd never placed a CPU on a motherboard or hooked it all up from scratch. I felt totally comfortable with it. I read a few sites but actually ended up relying on the manual in my Intel motherboard for the whole process. The hardest step for me was getting up-to-date with the hardware scene so I could select compatible parts.
posted by scose at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2012

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