in late 2018, I started doing research for a new OBS stream hosting machine for my podcast 'Carbitrage' I did once a week at the time. Our current MSI GL62M laptop was a pretty solid workhorse with a 7th gen quad core 8 thread i5 processor, and a GTX 1050 graphics card, but even this relatively powerful mobile hardware was not up to the task of 3 simultaneous 1080P video encoding streams.
Once the decision was made to upgrade this machine, I started with ditching the mobile platform. I never took the MSi anywhere, so desktop was in. Choosing a desktop formfactor means a lot of really good things for performance on a budget as a lot of desktop processors are much more powerful, and GPUs are in the same light as they're both allowed to have a much higher power consumption and higher thermal envelope.
Starting with the CPU. I went with an AMD Ryzen 3 2200G which is a 12nm Zen+ APU part, a core and process that's still in production and sold today in the 3200/3400G APUs. This processor is a four-core, four-thread processor with an integrated Vega-based graphics processor. Initially, I planned to use the IGP for encoding work as it really is plenty powerful for this workload, however things changed and I'll get in to that below. the R3 2200G ended up being a fairly weak overclocker on the motherboard I chose. Boosting core clock was easy with Ryzen master, but I was only able to boos the CPU cores up to 3.6GHz. AMD's lower power AM4 Zen CPUs come with a boxed thermal solution called a 'wraith stealth', a cut down version of their much higher TDP rated Wraith Spire unit found on most of the 6 and more core X -SKU CPUs. This heat sink and fan proved more than sufficient for the overclocked R3, even with a factory fan profile selected that was near-silent.
By the end of the build, I actually swapped out the R3 2200G for the AMD supplied boot kit A8-9600 APU and did some bench marking. Although the integrated graphics solution was significantly less powerful, and not suitable for gaming on any modern title, the CPU (4C/4T 3.1GHz) was more than up to the task of the DGPU and the frame rates were strong enough where I considered not reinstalling the R3.
Motherboard. Back in late 2018, B350 chipsets were still being sold new, and they have nearly all the feature set of a now commonplace B450 chipset board, just at a bit of a lower price. This Gigabyte AB-350M ended up being under $45 second hand, so I went for it. Overclocking features, four DIMM slots for expandability and a healthy smattering of PCI-E headers alongside an M.2 header. Gigabyte's AB350M features some modest, but present VRM cooling.
Ram. Remember, just above, when I mentioned that I swapped in an A8-9600 boot kit APU to flash the bios on this motherboard? Well, I used that CPU first, and as such I paired it with DDR4 2400 G Skill Ripjaws ram. Reasoning behind this choice was really simple and easy to explain luckily. the locked APUs from AMD, and the A320 chipset boards alongside one another are not capable of leveraging RAM frequencies above 2400MT/s. Seeing that limitation of the A8, I bought a nice but cheap set of G Skill 2400 and called it good. Since I was aiming for a bit slower transfer speed ram, I was able to get 16GB instead of 8, something I believe to be very important as time goes on with V Ram buffers as well for massive new game textures. After swapping over to the R3 for my purposes, I did find that this kit was VERY impressive, and although most modern Ryzen based AM4 systems actually require you to reduce speed from rated XMP to get stability, this 2400MT/s kit was able to boost up to 2733CL16. more than enough for the R3 to leverage some serious gains and an impressive showing.
Case! Coolermaster Q300L. Why? oh, well I'll give two good reasons why: It was cheap, it looks nice. There are additional things worth mentioning about the mATX version of the Q300L like its detachable PSU mounting sled, the poly carbonate side window and unique front and top full coverage dust filters, but we'll just leave it as what it is. Solid budget computer encloserie.
Power Supply Unit: Antec's no longer produced VP430. Budget class, non modular. no cable sheathing, and ketchup/musterd cables. This power supply won't win any beauty contests, but it does pack a name brand, plenty of wattage for the CPU and GPU I chose, and has an 8-pin EPS, 6-pin PCI-E. kicking along a year later now with a R5 1600 under the hood too.
GPU: Remember cryptocurrency mining? GPUs were sold out across the board for over a year, on and off line. No GPU line fared better (or worse, maybe?) than AMD's RX series Radeon GPUs. RX470 all the way up to Vega 56 were very popular with miners, buying dozens at a time, loading a custom hash optimizing bios and letting them scream at 100% for months or years on end. Crypto in 2019 though? difficulties skyrocket, hash rate down, many miners dismantle their mining rigs and sell off the still working hardware at cut rate cash prices. The GPU I selected was an ex ethereum mining GPU from a friend. Bios was flashed back to stock, slotted in to the AB350M's x16 PCI-E slot, and away we went, all for a whopping $75 US. Radeon's RX570 4GB features GDDR5 vram buffer and a very fast 14nm core process die. Performance of this GPU is roughly that of an nVidia GeForce 1060 6GB in many titles, a GPU that costs roughly double to pick up on the used market, near that of a Vega card. This RX allows the R3 to drive most AAA games at 1080P 60-100FPS no problem, and in most cases 1440p performance is also very playable.
Last, and possibly least - Storage. We can't, in this day and age at least put a platter hard drive in a gaming desktop as a boot drive. Budget building is also just that, Budget. SSDs are expensive, and hard drives are cheap. In the $20-25 range, you have essentially two options. 1.) a 1TB Sata HDD second hand 2.) a brand new 120GB Sata SSD. Obvious choice? SSD. fast, easy to install, reliable and enough space to keep at least a couple of your current games installed at a time. Hard drive can be added in addition later for stream VOD saves, or additional game content. Splurge for both if you can, but the SSD really is sufficient.
$350 after tax and shipping, that's about what this rig cost with the R3, and $326 with the A8 chip. Staggeringly good gaming performance, and encoding is a breeze with the RX570 directly encoding in GPU real time.