Building a $16,000+ PC


We've been receiving a lot of media, blog and Twitter attention regarding the "$16,000+ PC" we built late last year. While most of the reviews have been favorable, the comment fields have been their usual mix of reactions and name-calling. LOL! The extra attention has definitely been fun, although I think our web servers would disagree!!!

Anyways, since there wasn't a lot of info in the reviews regarding the details of the system, I thought I would share just a few comments on the back story and a specs list for those interested.

Back in September of 2008, one of our loyal clients contacted me about designing a new computer system. This was not an abnormal request and one I would receive on a daily basis. However, as we began to detail the functions and needs of the system to be designed (which included heavy number-crunching and fractal animation generation), it became apparent that this was not going to be an ordinary build. The customer already had an 8-core Xeon computer, with which he was currently using at 100% processing capacity on daily basis. Given the factor that the machine would be used 10+ hours a day as a workstation (plus however many more as a leisure machine in the evenings), we needed to design it to run very cool and very quiet. Not an easy task!!

For the next several weeks, I set to researching what available hardware could meet the needs and demands of a such a system. Through many discussion and brainstorming sessions between our head build manager, modification specialists, and Jon Bach (the company president) we arrived at the decision to recommend a custom liquid-cooled, four-quad Opteron, beast of a machine. Some of the parts (like the external radiator for example) had to be brought in from obscure overseas vendors. Other parts (like custom-mounting and other modification pieces) had to be acquired at specialty hardware stores and then cut, drilled, fitted, modified, etc. by our wonderful builders. After all was said and done, the final list of components ended up as follows (partial list):

  • Tyan Thunder n6550EX motherboard
  • 2.0GHz Opteron 8350 quad-core processors (x4)
  • Actica DDR2 ECC RAM
  • GeForce 8600GTS 640MB video card
  • 3Ware 9550SX-4LP SATA Raid controller
    – Western Digital 300GB VelociRaptor drives (x2) in RAID 1
    – Samsung 1TB SpinPoint F1 drives (x2) in RAID 1
  • Pioneer 20x DVD-RW
  • Creative X-Fi Extreme Gamer audio card
  • Corsair HX 1000W power supply
  • Cooler Master Stacker 810 chassis (w/ custom modifications)
  • Koolance water-cooling CPU block, Reservoir/Pump, & Liquid Cooling fluid
  • MagiCool XTREME NOVA 1080 9x120mm radiator
  • Windows Server 2008
  • 3Ware Sidecar loaded with 4x 1TB drives in RAID 5


This computer was such an exciting and fun system to design and build. And I must say, despite the fact that almost every new computer release that Apple announces gives me a bad case of Mac-envy (yes, I'm a fanboy), this computer was the first in a long time to give me serious PC-envy!!

system sideshot

If you're interested in seeing other extreme systems that our designers and builders have put together, check out the following:

8x CPU SuperComputer
Mineral Oil-cooled Computer
Liquid-Cooled Core i7