Building a prosumer PC for gaming and workstation use

For the prosumer who doesn't want to compromise on work or fun

This is the last of a four-part series on building gaming-capable PCs for various budgets and uses. This part focuses on the prosumer market, a market that stands in the middle ground between gaming and workstation useThe first part can be read here, the second part can be read here and the third can be read here.

Even among boutique PC builders and do-it-yourself masters, there is the holy grail where the budget is no object and only top-end hardware is permitted.

After three parts of building a gaming PC, we bring to you the prosumer build guide. Since this is the last in the series, we present hardware that is far more expensive, though it occupies a very tiny portion of the actual market share.

 

CPUs:

The CPUs in the ultra high-end spectrum of the PC market these days are a monster package, both technologically and physically. While Intel's high-end Core i9 CPUs are made for the 2066-pin LGA socket array, their AMD counterpart, the Threadripper, sits on a massive 4094-pin LGA socket array.

Both the enthusiast-grade Core i9 and Threadripper feature a ridiculously high core count for CPUs. There are up to 18 for the i9 with a 28-core variant on the way for an even bigger socket. The Threadripper has up to 32 cores, 4 times higher than the existing highest-end Ryzen CPU - the 2700X. Both CPUs and their respective platforms feature support for quad-channel DDR4 memory for increased bandwidth and up to 64 PCI Express lanes for graphics cards and high-end storage. 

Price range:
Threadripper: Rs 40,000 to Rs 1,80,000

Intel Core i9 - Rs 80,000 to Rs 1,80,000

 

CPU coolers:
Behemoths like the i9 and Threadripper require a lot of cooling because they dissipate upto 200 watts of heat.

To that end, AMD and Cooler Master have created an incredibly powerful air cooler. The Wraith Ripper, a massive monster in itself, is capable of sucking up and purging up to 250 watts in heat. Priced at roughly Rs 12-14,000, it's not particularly cheap for an air cooler, but the kind of power it packs is equal to the price tag. Of course, if you're looking at liquid coolers, we recommend the Corsair H150i Pro. It features three 120mm fans for the radiator and has a rated noise of just 25 decibels.

For the Intel CPUs, the Corsair H115i 280 mm liquid cooler should more than suffice. Air coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 can be used but it's generally a better idea to go for liquid cooling for Intel's high core-count CPUs. The Corsair H115i 280 costs about Rs 14,000 and is compatible even with the Threadripper.

 

Motherboards:

Arguably the most important component of any computer after the power supply, a good motherboard is essential to be able to get the most out of anything you put on it.

The Threadripper uses the X399 socket to go with the 4094-pin TR4 socket. The platform has support for 64 PCI Express lanes and quad-channel memory. We recommend the ASRock X399 Taichi. It is a potent, professional-grade motherboard for the platform. It features support for up to a mouth-watering 128 GB of DDR4 memory, 3 M.2 drives for high-speed solid-state drives and 4 PCI express slots to put in graphics cards, network cards, even more high-speed storage or whatever your fancy. It costs Rs 35,000. Alternately, you can go for the Gigabyte X399 Designare.

Meanwhile, for Intel, we once again recommend the AsRock Taichi x299 motherboard.  It features support for up to 44 PCI Express lanes (Intel's latest enthusiast i9 CPUs have some heavy product segmentation, with the number of PCI Express lanes restricted depending on which CPU you purchase) and quad-channel memory with support for up to 128 GB of DDR4 memory, for the price of Rs 30,000. Alternately, if you choose not to be restricted by the CPU you purchase, we recommend the Gigabyte X299-WU8. That board features a special chip that gives access to 64 PCI Express lanes, but it comes at a fat cost of upwards of Rs 40,000.

 

Memory:

Well, the platform difference ends here, mostly, anyway. Memory, RAM, whatever you call it, it's essential to the functioning of anything on a computer. Want to play games? You need RAM to load data. Want to process massive data sets? You need a lot of RAM to load the data. Want to simply boot into the operating system? You need RAM. Without sufficient RAM, your computer might as well not exist.

Memory manufacturers these days come up with special variants of their kits that are optimised for Intel and AMD platforms.

We recommend using G.SKILL's TridentZ 32 GB DDR4 memory for your builds. The kit runs at 3200 MHz and has a tight latency, enabling faster communication between the CPU and other components. The kit costs around Rs 30,000. It seems a lot, but RAM prices have been rather high for some time now.

 

Graphics cards:

This segment, traditionally the one that has seen the most online debate on which is a better product, has seen much stagnation of late: Between AMD's perceived lack of competition and Nvidia's apparent slowdown in releasing new products, the last couple of years have been rather slow for the graphics space.

However, both sides have come out punching in late 2018-early 2019, with Nvidia launching their Turing architecture-powered RTX graphics cards and AMD announcing a high-end Vega GPU for the prosumer space, the Radeon VII.

If you want to go with Nvidia for this build, we recommend using either the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti or the Nvidia Titan RTX. Both cards feature the highest-end Turing product available with the key differences being Nvidia using a full-sized chip for the Titan along with 24 GB of video memory and the 2080 Ti having a cut-down variant of the chip with 11 GB of video memory. The cards cost between Rs 1,00,000 and 2,10,000.

If, however, you gravitate towards the underdog, AMD, Radeon VII* is just weeks away from launch and is expected to cost around 700 US dollars and translates to roughly Rs 70,000 after taxes have been factored in. The Radeon VII features 16 GB of high-bandwidth memory and is built on the latest 7nm technology. AMD markets this card as a competitor to the RTX 2080 as a 4k-capable device.

 

Monitor:

Since the overall compute and graphics performance makes or is likely to make all the cards mentioned here 4K capable regardless of whether you go for Nvidia's highest-end RTX or AMD's Radeon VII, getting a 4K-capable display is the ideal way to go. To that end, here are two monitors we have zeroed in on:

Acer predator XB321HK 32" 4K monitor w/Nvidia GSync.

The Acer Predator XB321HK is a 4K monitor which runs at 60 Hz. While one could argue that a 120 or 144 Hz monitor is also viable, the reality is that the 2080 Ti is not exactly capable of pushing that many pixels without serious quality compromise on your applications and games. At 60 Hz, you can crank those settings up to the top and still enjoy a smooth experience. GSync is an Nvidia technology that is designed to ensure smooth rendering of images to minimise 'tearing'. It costs around Rs. 80,000.

On the other side, we have the AOC U2879VF 28" 4K monitor with AMD's FreeSync. This monitor supports 10-bit colour by default, allowing it to render over 1 billion colours. It features support for AMD's FreeSync, which is the company's counterpart to GSync and features the same general features. It costs around Rs. 40,000.

Storage:

For storage, we recommend a mix of traditional hard drives and high-speed NVMe storage using the M.2 slots on the motherboards.

 

For storage, we recommend the Seagate FireCuda Solid State Hybrid drive. The drive features a mix of traditional platter-based storage running at 7,200 RPM and flash memory to accelerate the storage. The ideal storage capacity per drive is 2 TB and you can get as many as you need later on. It costs around Rs 11,000 per 2 TB drive.

For the ultra-high speed M.2 drives, we recommend one or more of the Western Digital Black 1 TB PCI Express SSD. The PCI Express platform used for the drive grants it far superior transfer speeds of up to 2.8 Gigabytes per second of write and 3.4 Gigabytes per second of read, meaning most anything you load with it will be ready for use nearly instantly. It costs about Rs 35,000-40,000 per 1 TB drive.

 

Power Supply:

High-end performance requires high-end power, and like we've been insisting on our previous guides, skimping here is not an option.

For this build, we are going with an EVGA SuperNova 1000 G3. The G3 is an 80+ Gold certified power supply, meaning it has high power delivery efficiency of up to 92 percent. It is also fully modular, meaning you only install the cables you need for your build - making cable management easier. In addition to these, the power supply also supports several power management technologies to ensure smooth functioning and protection of your device at all times. It costs around Rs 15,000.

 

Case:

The final component of the build, the case. It's the box where everything goes, and to many people, it also doubles as a status symbol with fancy designs, transparent panels and high-end cable management systems to make the PC more appealing to their friends or guests or whoever they show it off to.

We recommend the Thermaltake Level 20 GT for this build. It features support for several radiator options for liquid cooling, can accommodate massive motherboards and really long graphics cards and has pre-installed fans to make life cooler for gamers and their PCs. It costs Rs 21,000.

 

This build guide is meant to be used as a general guideline for what to go for when building a top-of-the-line PC. When possible, go to your local retailer; you could potentially get better prices than you would on online markets. Windows licences in India can cost upwards of Rs. 10,000 and as such we have not included it in the part lists; we recommend checking out your local retailers and online marketplaces for the best deals on them.

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