I Built a Computer! - Part 1

Posted on May 19, 2020

I’ve been playing around with some tools for running many k3s edge “clusters” at scale for a side project I’m poking around with and started looking in to what it would cost to spin up a bunch of instances in the cloud to test things out. Long story short, you can pretty quickly just pay for a new box. Me being me, I convinced myself that I suddenly needed to build a HEDT (nerd speak for high end desktop). Plus, I occasionally edit some photos and like to think that I have time to play games (haha - with a one year old?!). What more justification did I need? None.

Memory Lane

Truth be told, I haven’t had a desktop since I set off for college back in 2003. Somewhere along the lines I lost the interest/desire to mess around with hardware, and a laptop was good enough. I used to really enjoy pouring through hardware specs and reading up on the latest and greatest, so this project was somewhat of a walk down memory lane. I missed it.


Ok, so I had a few basic goals for my build, namely:

  1. It must be relatively quiet
  2. It must run lots of things in parallel
  3. It must cost less than $2,000 (not interested in a divorce)

Off I went, scouring the interwebs and spending way too much time figuring out what would give me those marginal gains I obviously couldn’t live without. Mostly because it’s how the 16 year old me did it (woah that was before Amazon existed), I obviously went to Newegg and started putting together the list.

Many hours later, this is what I ended up with

Build Parts

Bill of Materials

Total Price: $1,898.01


  • The Ryzen 9 3900x is basically impossible to beat on a performance/$ basis. It has 12 cores/24 threads. Go look up what a 24vCPU instance costs you to run on the cloud.
  • I wanted enough RAM to run many VM’s. Kubernetes is memory hungry. Especially if you are running lots of clusters. I knew I wanted 64GB, and wasn’t interested in flashy RGB effects, so the Corsair fit the bill.**
  • Storage-wise, I already had a fancy Samsung NVMe stick that I planned on harvesting from my NUC that the OS was going to be installed on, so I went with the Intel NVME SSD for its price point. I’d mostly be using it for photo/video storage.**
  • For a video card, I knew I wanted the ability to play some games (occasionally I’ll get lost in Forza Horizon or Descenders), but couldn’t really justify a high end card for how much it was going to get used. (See 2k budget and lack of desire for divorce). The Radeon 5600xt fit the bill nicely at the $300 mark.
  • All of this stuff has to get bolted to something. The ASRock Taichi offered 3 NVMe slots, Wifi AX (I don’t have a wired connection in my office… grr…) and reviews seemed good, so went with it. I don’t care much about overclocking (and value stability), so wasn’t chasing after those features.
  • I wanted an understated appearance that maximized cooling. The Fractal Meshify looks nice without standing out too much. It’s also not huge. It sits quietly under my desk without attracting too much attention.
  • After reading a bunch of reviews, it was apparent that the additional complexity (and expense) of water cooling was completely unnecessary. I could have used the bundled cooler with the CPU, but wanted it to be quiet. What better brand than Be quiet! to fit the bill. This $95 splurge was well worth it. I also went with a PSU that had an eco mode and provided plenty of power for my parts list.

Build In Progress

** For those eagle eyed viewers, you probably realized that there are 2 packages of RAM and 2 SSD’s. They accidentally sent me doubles of those items, and I just couldn’t bring myself to send them back. Who doesn’t want 128GB of RAM and 2TB of storage. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Initial Thoughts

So far, I’ve been super happy with what I ended up with. This system is screaming fast, and probably (definitely?) overkill. It’s still early days, and I’m still getting things set up just the way I want. Stay tuned for Part 2 on OS, tooling, configuration, etc. Happy building!