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Skylake self-build, Joseph Graham 2017

I built this at the start of 2017 because my 2008 AMD desktop was struggling with workloads such as compiling large programs, and some heavyweight web-pages.

Cost was important for me, but I had certain requirements I really wanted:

stylish grey desktop box

Parts I chose

I decided to go for an Intel processor, because at that time AMD's lineup was not performance-competitive with Intel's. Also I know that the integrated graphics in Intel's processors works great with Free Software.

Intel "7th gen", KabyLake had just been released, but I decided to build my computer using "6th gen", Skylake. This is because my favourite Operating System, Debian, takes a long time to add support for new processors, so SkyLake is the newest generation likely to be well supported.

I decided to order the case and motherboard first, and have them in hand before ordering anything else. This is because they are the core components of the machine and have the biggest effects on compatibility.

I chose to use the MicroATX form factor, because this form factor is big-enough for a 5.25 inch optical drive whilst not being unnecessarily huge like ATX.

First parts:

Having received these I got a processor:

I bought the bulk of my parts from Scan, at a cost of £380:

I didn't buy a graphics card. This is because I am happy to use the integrated graphics provided by the processor.

From I got £70 worth of cooling upgrades:

Total spend for the computer was almost £700.

stylish black desktop box

Building it

The case is well made and I like it.

Everything was generally easy to put together, however I had some minor issues:

The power supply provided a slight disappointment. It's a modular power supply which means I only have to plug in the cables I need. This ought to mean less unneeded cables in the computer. However it turned out that the only cable that's not modular, the one that powers the motherboard, is quadruple overlong and really fat. So I have a huge mass of cable anyway. It's otherwise a very nice power-supply though. And I appreciate that it has the 80+ bronze rating (means it's energy efficient).

Another minor issue is the fact that the motherboard only has one system-fan header, so I had to use an adaptor to power the frontal fan off of a SATA-power plug.

The BIOS that came pre-installed on the motherboard had really terrible fan control settings. The BIOS is proprietary so I couldn't fix it myself, but fortunately, downloading and flashing a newer BIOS partly solved my issue.

Still however the CPU fan speed tends to oscillate between fast and slow under load. I thought mboard manufacturers had worked out how to solve this years ago. For example you can have a stepped speed design where the threshold to jump up to and drop down from a speed are different.

Another BIOS issue is present in the newer version. When I set up the self-encryption on the SSD, the BIOS kept trying to boot the wrong thing. The only way to fix this was to disable all alternative boot devices (putting the SSD as the highest priority drive was not-enough, BIOS thinks it knows better).


The result is fab. The computer is faster, quieter, and more energy efficient than my old computer. It meets all objectives.

It runs a fully Free Operating System, Debian, just fine. As Debian Stretch still hasn't been released, at the moment I run Debian Jessie on it, getting kernel and graphics components from the backports repository to have proper support for SkyLake.

What I might have done differently

The most problematic item was the motherboard. Especially it's BIOS, which is both shit and proprietary (thus unfix-able). So if I built it again I would spend more money or choose a different brand for my motherboard. BIOS will still probably be proprietary as this is industry standard practice, but hopefully less shit.


Case: Antec NSK 3100 MicroATX case
Processor: Intel i3 6320
RAM: 16 GiB DDR4 2133MHz UDIMM non-ECC dual-channel memory
Integrated Graphics: Intel 530
Storage: 525GB Crucial MX300, 2.5inch
Connectivity front: 2 x USB 3.0 ports
audio microphone jack, 3.5mm
audio headphone jack, 3.5mm
card reader
Connectivity back: audio line-in jack, 3.5mm
audio microphone jack, 3.5mm
audio line-out jack, 3.5mm
4 x USB 3.0 ports
2 x USB 2.0 ports
VGA port
DVI port
HDMI port
Optical drive: ASUS DRW-24D5MT 24x SATA DVD/CD Rewriter
Networking: Gigabit ethernet port
Penguin Wireless N PCI card; IEEE 802.11b/g/n
Dimensions: width: 180mm
height: 365mm
depth: 430mm

Article Copyright 2017 Joseph Graham

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