It’s been just over 1 year since I built my ultimate developer workstation setup. Was it a worthy investment? You bet it was! It’s been used almost every day over the last year and I’ve hammered it with AAA rated gaming titles, aswell as a lot of C# MVC development work. Using multiple Visual Studio windows, Visual Studio Code and Adobe Illustrator it hardly broke a sweat.
Let me take you through how I built it and my thought process behind choosing each of the individual components.
Table of Contents:
- Office Space
- The Build
- The Parts List
- The Completed Build
When I bought my house, one of my requirements was space for an office. At least that’s what I told my wife. Deep down I knew it was to be a ‘Games Room’ with some occasional work taking place in there. The new house had a couple of spare bedrooms so I reserved one! My wife reserved another for her dressing room, so it was a fair deal.
After I’d sorted the space issue out, my next thought turned to what will I be using the PC for? I knew I’d be doing development work and usual internet browsing, emails etc. I couldn’t call it the ULTIMATE Developer Workstation setup if that’s all I was going to be using it for. When I’m not working I want to do some gaming aswell. The PC has to be powerful enough to do both.
If you’d prefer to game on a laptop, I’ve written a similar article choosing the best laptop for overwatch. It’ll give you a good understanding of what laptop you’ll need if you want to play AAA rated games. It’ll also handle dev work comfortably.
I’ve detailed the parts below and added all of the Amazon links so you can find them easier.
Building the Workstation
The Parts List
Micro ATX Case:
The First Part I chose was the case. To have the PC on top of my desk, I knew I couldn’t put a full form factor tower on it, it had to be Micro ATX and I definitely wanted it to be stylish with a clear panel on one side. To start with I looked at some completed builds on PCPARTPICKER for inspiration. The inspiration peaked when I saw the Cooler Master Lite 3.1, it ticked all of the boxes. Clear Panel and MicroATX. I almost forgot the best part, it’s really really cheap for a case of this design too.
Cooler Master Lite 3.1.
Price Paid: £39.95
Next up, the CPU! It needs to be good enough to handle compiling code, running Visual Studio, graphics programmes and gaming. One of my first considerations was to go for an i7 or i9 but considering I needed to upgrade my monitors , it was slightly out of my budget. The next best was an 8th Gen i5. I spent some time researching a few i5’s and eventually settled on the Intel i5 8600k. It’s a six core processor and capable of speeds of 3.6 GHz, which boosts to 4.1 GHz for all six cores.
Intel 8th Gen Core i5 8600k
Price Paid: £212.98
What you may be surprised to learn is that this was my first ever PC build. I didn’t want to go water cooled for my first build. To be completely upfront about it, all I did here was look at ‘customers also bought’ on Amazon and saw that this cooler was often bought with the case I had chosen. It was a blind buy and I’m glad I did as it’s an awesome CPU cooler.
CPU Cooling Chosen:
Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED CPU Air Cooler
Price Paid: £22.48
Workstation worthy Motherboard:
I wasn’t aware of just how many different Motherboards there are! At the time of building the PC I knew very little about PC hardware. Off to Google I went. I learnt that because of the CPU I’d selected I’d need one capable of running a Z370 chipset. Amazon to the rescue, I found a really really Motherboard (according to the reviews anyway), in the form of a Gigabyte LGA 1151.
Gigabyte Z370M D3H Chipset LGA 1151 V2 mATX DDR4 SDRAM Motherboard
Price Paid: £114.35
I knew from my work PC that I’d need at least 16GB of RAM to be able to run Visual Studio and compile large projects. Gaming was also on the cards, so it’d need to be fast! I opted for double the 16GB and went for 32GB of DDR4 RAM. Corsair as a brand comes highly rated so I opted to take their RAM. At the time there was a price spike on RAM due to everybody jumping on the crypto bandwagon! This means that you’ll more than likely find it cheaper than I paid.
Corsair Vengence LPX 32GB DDR4 2400Mhz Ram
I went for a GPU that would happily run AAA rated games on high settings but didn’t break the bank. 4k gaming was really really hard to say no too but my wallet was begging me not to spend a small fortune on a current gen card. I opted for a MSI NVIDIA card with 4GB of VRAM.
MSI NVIDIA GTX 970 Gaming Twin Frozr 4GB
Price Paid: £429.00
The case I’ve chosen is called Cooler Master, however the reviews suggested that things can get a little toasty on the heat side of things. This mean I wanted to fill all 5 fan headers on the Motherboard. Two intake fans, 1 exhaust fan and 2 on the CPU Cooler. I picked these for three reasons.
1. They look really really good!
2. The reviews all say they are really quiet.
3. They came in a twin pack and are very reasonably priced.
Case Fans Chosen:
2 x Corsair Air Series AF120-LED 120MM Quiet Edition Fan 2 Pack
Price Paid: £38.98
The power supply is crucial in that it needs to be able to power all of the vital components inside the PC as well as the peripherals. Next, I understood that I didn’t want to go full 1000w supply but I opted for a 650W 80+ GOLD rated PSU. The ’80+’ efficiency I really didn’t understand until I’d done my research. The 80+ number is basically an efficiency rating on the PSU. It’s simply a rating for how well the PSU converts the AC power it receives from the socket to DC power the internal parts of the PC can use. This PSU is also plenty powerful enough to add extra components in the future, therefore enabling me to continue to call this PC the ultimate developer workstation setup!
Power Supply Chosen:
EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G1, 80+ GOLD 650W Fully Modular
Price Paid: £83.17
I can’t remember the reasons for choosing the last 3 items, it’s storage, it was cheap and it had great reviews.
DREVO X1 Series 60GB SSD 2.5 Inch
Price Paid: £24.99
DREVO D1 M.2 2280 120GB Internal SSD
Price Paid: £38.98
WD 2TB Desktop Hard Disk Drive 5400 RPM SATA 6
Price Paid: £76.49
Firstly, when looking for the monitors I almost settled on DELL. That was a big mistake, if you look at Amazon reviews for a certain model (I won’t name it), a lot of customers have returned them. Therefore, I settled on two LG monitors. They are in a completely separate league all together. My work involves having lots of windows open at the same time, the monitors I’ve chosen allow you two doc windows side by side and being ultrawide I can fit two applications / documents / browsers side by side on each monitor. So they are fantastic for productivity. The only drawback is that because I went for 2 of the 25 inch models, they don’t have internal speakers. That really is the only negative I can think of in over a year of ownership. They are bright, the menus are easily the best I’ve ever used on a monitor and they have multiple modes including a gaming mode. So what did I choose?
2 x LG 25UM58 25 inch Ultrawide IPS Monitor
Price Paid: £350 for both.
Mouse, Keyboard and Headphone stand:
Generic Bluetooth Brand
Corsair K55 RGB
Price Paid: £49.99
Corsair mm800 RB Polaris Hard Surface Mousepad
Price Paid: £49.00
Corsair ST100 RGB Premium Headset Stand
Price Paid: £49.98
The Completed Build:
I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking. Please leave me a comment and let me know if you think this is the Ultimate Developer Workstation Setup! Or have you built one better? You can also contact me and let me know what you think.