PC 2021: Work vs Play

Last year I upgraded my personal PC and enjoyed my first PC build experience, my old PC went to the kids.

A year on, things have pivoted. The kids PC was struggling to run some modern games so I took a look at upgrade options. Considering current graphics card pricing, rather than building two PCs that were capable of gaming the plan was to optimize one PC for gaming and one for working. We share the gaming PC and the work PC can be switched off at the end of the day…


The work PC needs to be fast, quiet and reliable. It doesn’t need a ballin’ graphics card and it doesn’t need to look like a unicorn dance party. Much of last years build is better suited to the gaming PC so the work machine took the existing CPU, memory and storage. The machine is very conservative: a black Be Quiet! 601 case with a Noctua NH-D15 air cooler for the Ryzen 3900X – no lighting effects, no water cooling, no glass panels on the case but lots of sound proofing. The new motherboard is a solid X570 board but no frills: no Wifi, no bluetooth. I had a GT 1030 graphics card lying around so that went in to drive the displays, it’s powered directly through the PCI slot, very quiet and runs cool. Not being able to run games is one less distraction…

A big change in the last 12 months is that Windows 11 / Server 2022 now supports nested CPU virtualization on AMD processors. This has allowed my work PC to be rebuilt as a Hyper-V host with virtual machines running various combinations of OS and dev tools which can now run containers. The RAM needed to support these VMs has meant that the motherboard is maxed out with 128GB. The only gotcha as been Windows Server not supporting the on-board Intel I211 NIC, however there’s a work around. Installing the Intel I218-LM driver makes Windows Server happy and all is well.

There’s a pair of Dell QHD monitors and being left-handed, I use an ambidextrous mouse. I flip flop between a WASD Code keyboard and a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard – if I have a lot of typing to do then I prefer the Microsoft keyboard.

CPUAMD Ryzen 9 3900X
MotherboardASUS ROG Gaming-F X570
CPU CoolerNoctua NH-D15
RAMCorsair Vengeance LPX 128GB DDR4-3200 (4x 32GB)
Graphics CardGigabyte GT 1030 2G
StorageSamsung 970 EVO 1TB (boot)
Samsung 970 EVO 2TB
Samsung 860 EVO 1TB
Samsung 840 Pro 512GB
PSUCorsair RM750
CaseBe Quiet! 601
Monitor2x Dell U2715H
KeyboardWASD Code or Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard
MouseRazer Diamondback

I recently stumbled across a post discussing the machine Linus Torvalds built in 2020. There are some common themes and choices across the builds: quiet, fast, reliable.

The BeQuiet! case is worth calling out – it’s very easy to build in, heaps of space, highly configurable and very quiet. While I don’t plan to open the case much, I do love the push button access to remove either side panel – no screws.


The PC for gaming is aesthetically at the other end of the spectrum. The kids were very keen to go unicorn mode with an RGB party where possible. The PC also doesn’t need to run super quiet as typically whoever is using it has a set of headphones on. The machine ended up with a lot of the PC2020 build: the case, motherboard, AIO cooler, graphics card and power supply.

The main choice was probably the CPU, it didn’t need a crazy number of cores so it came down to an AMD 3600 or 3700X. In the end I went with the 3700X though I’m reasonably sure the 3600 would have been just fine too. With memory, again perhaps a little more than strictly needed with 32GB but this was of plenty for now and leaves room for more later if needed – and it has RGB.

Continuing the gaming theme, the monitor is a 144Hz LG QHD unit with NVidia G-Sync compatibility. The 2070 Super does a great job of driving this and there is no frame tearing. The keyboard and mouse are wireless from Razer, bought mostly because they were on special at the time.

CPUAMD Ryzen 7 3700X
MotherboardASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula X570
CPU CoolerCorsair iCue H100i RGB PRO XT
RAMCorsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32GB DDR4-3600 (2x 16GB)
Graphics CardEVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER FTW3 ULTRA
StorageSamsung 970 EVO 500GB (boot)
Samsung 860 EVO 1TB
PSUCorsair HX850
CaseNZXT 440 Razer Edition
MonitorLG 27GL850-B 27″ QHD
KeyboardRazer Blackwidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed
MouseRazer Orochi V2

The hope is that in 2022, a post about the PCs will simply say – no change, unless I get a second BeQuiet! case.

The old kids PC went to a new home, which helped pay for the upgrade, where it is happily playing Minecraft and some older AAA titles.