New PC Build

Back in 2012 I built a PC around the Intel i7 3930K 6-core/12HT processor which I have been using ever since. While it’s still a strong PC, especially with the upgrades (GPU, SSD) I made, I’m starting to feel that editing photos isn’t as snappy as it used to be. I am also curious in how well the new generation of CPUs lend themselves to VGA passthrough. In short, I’m considering building a new PC.

Hardware considerations

My previous PC build using an Intel 3930K on a X79 motherboard – though not inexpensive – has been a good investment.

Today there is a much wider choice of passthrough-capable CPUs. TheĀ  analogy to the i7-3930K would be something like theĀ Core i9-7920X on a X299 motherboard. However, as long as Adobe doesn’t improve multi-core performance, faster single-core performance will be a better choice for photo editing. This is probably true for a gaming PC, too.

A popular CPU is the Intel i7-8700K. But the latest and greatest is the i9-9900K on a Z390 motherboard. The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is yet another possible choice, but less intriguing to me (the 2950X is a little too pricey).

This time I lean towards a CPU with an integrated iGPU that will be used for the host. A dedicated GPU will serve either the Windows VM, or a Linux gaming VM, as needed (see my post here).

Once again, I want to build a PC that will last for many years, and will be able to deal with ever growing demands.

Price Considerations

The i9-9900K is currently the best choice for use with Adobe Lightroom, as shown in benchmarks. Second to that is the i9-9700K. Here the current prices:

  • Intel i9-9900K – ~$580 at Newegg (price varies greatly)
  • Intel i9-9700K – ~$410 at Amazon
  • Intel i7-8700K – ~$360 at Amazon

As to the motherboard, I’m considering:

  • ASUS ROG Strix Z390-H Gaming LGA1151 – ~$190; or
  • ASUS Prime Z390-A Motherboard LGA1151 – ~$190
  • Gigabyte Z390 AORUS PRO
  • Gigabyte Z390 AORUS ELITE

I have no experience with ASrock, but given the fact that ASrock had been responsive to VGA passthrough support requests, I will consider them too.

Other Considerations

My current processor (i7 3930K) is actually based on the Xeon processor line, making it an excellent candidate for PCI passthrough. I have never experienced any of the problems users of lesser/consumer-type processors have experienced, such as poor IOMMU grouping.

A new PC build around the i9 9900K would actually be a downgrade to a more consumer-grade CPU. For example, my current CPU offers 40 PCIe lanes, the new processor only 16. I’ve read that the IOMMU grouping is not as good, too.

The expected performance gain on the CPU side would be around 67% – nothing too dramatic. I would do some more upgrades, mainly a much faster M.2 SSD, which will certainly boost the speed with large image files.

But when I consider the cost of the new PC build (~$3,000), I wonder if it’s really worth it? I might as well hold back and wait for some better offer.

Do you have suggestions? Then please leave a comment below!

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