As a hobbyist high performance programmer, I've been waiting for Intel's AVX512 instruction set for years. And it's finally here!
And really, this is the only point of this build. But I figured that if I'm going to do a build, I might as well try out a few other things that I've been wanting to do a while:
- Maxed out AIO Radiator (360mm x 120mm)
- Tempered Glass Case
- RGB Everything
- A normal ATX build that fits comfortably in an airport check-in suitcase. (I travel a lot between two places.)
- An Anime figurine like in this build.
Parts and Pricing:
This build was somewhat time-sensitive since I've been waiting for almost 4 years for this. But more importantly, I maintain a semi-popular benchmark/stress-tester. And I've had numerous requests for AVX512 support for the past month prior to and in the days following the Skylake X release.
Processor: Core i9 7900X
As much as I wanted to get the cheaper 8-core Core i7 7820X instead, I actually had no choice. There are numerous sources that say that only the Core i9s will have the "full-throughput" AVX512. The lower-end 6-core and 8-core parts only have half speed AVX512. And the Kaby Lake X parts don't have any AVX512 at all.
Other than that, this thing is REALLY FAST! I'm not gonna rule out a future upgrade by trading it up for the Core i9 7980XE. The time I save waiting for my code to compile is totally worth it. The extra PCIe lanes will be useful later if and when I migrate my hard drive towers to it (with 2 PCIe x8 SAS controllers).
Threadripper is a no-go because it lacks AVX512. And I wouldn't be able to reuse this motherboard.
Motherboard: Gigabyte X299 AORUS Gaming 7
- RGB'ed from top to bottom.
- Looks cooler than all the ASUS boards covered with a metal color.
- Has two 8-pin CPU power connectors. Therefore it avoids the problems in this video.
- The VRM heatsinks are real and have an extra heatpipe going to the I/O panel heatsink. This is much better than the motherboards tested in that same video above.
What's not to love about this board? Other than being a bit on the expensive side... (There is one major problem that came up during stress-testing which I'll explain later.)
Video Card: Gigabyte - GeForce GTX 1050
This was actually the hardest part to spec out. It is the only card that satisfied my list of requirements:
- Is somewhat gameable and isn't complete crap.
- Has RGB.
- Is shorter than 9 in. long. Any longer and there wouldn't be enough clearance between it and the radiator to fit the majority of Anime figurines.
The video card purchase came after I had ordered and setup the case and 360 radiator. So I was able to physically measure the space I had before selecting a video card.
Because the margins were so thin, I had to get very precise measurements. So I used the video card from my Ryzen build to figure out exactly how the dimensions that were listed online were being measured in relation to that card that I already had. Then I could extrapolate that to other video cards I was looking at.
It turns out that length measurements listed on Newegg do not include the part of the PCI slot that sticks out. (PCI mounts to the case are shaped like an L with the top part sticking out the back.)
The 9 in. restriction effectively ruled out all RGB ASUS cards as well as all higher-end Gigabyte cards for both Nvidia and Radeon. Not even the Gigabyte RGB 1050 Ti would fit. Looking to other manufacturers didn't give any other options either.
Case: Corsair 460X RGB
It has tempered glass, RGB fans, and is pretty cool to look at. More importantly, it fits into a suitcase that's suitable for airport check-in. And there's enough space to pad down the sides to protect the tempered glass.
Power Supply: Thermaltake - Toughpower Grand RGB 850W
It has RGB. And it's small enough to fit in the case without removing the drive bays. 850W is sufficient since I'm not running any fancy video cards.
Memory: G.SKILL TridentZ 128GB 8 x 16GB DDR4 3300 MHz (Black/White)
This one hurts the most - because it's the only thing that could be RGB but isn't.
The reason why these aren't RGB is because I picked it up back in March while it was on sale on Newegg for $800. While I didn't have a particular need for it at the time, I was anticipating a Skylake X build later in the year. And given all the news about the DDR4 shortage, I knew I had to grab it. And I'm glad I did as it sold out within an hour after I ordered it. It's now listed at $1400. And no I'm not gonna spend $1.4k for the RGB version.
For the 4 months I've had this ram before this build, I ran it in my older 5960X build. But since that was a 1st generation DDR4 system, it couldn't handle high speed memory and wasn't stable above the stock 2133 MHz. But this Skylake X build has no problems running it at 3200 MHz. I may try clocking it higher later.
Storage: Samsung 500GB + Toshiba 7200 RPM Hard Drive
The SSD was pulled from my Core i7 5960X build. The hard drive was one of many I had sitting around.
- Monitor: Picked up at Costco for $300. Been wanting to try out a 4k monitor for a while.
- Keyboard and Mouse I already had lying around.
- Headphones came free when I ordered the motherboard from Newegg. I've never had gaming headphones before. So this is new for me.
- Speakers: Picked up something reasonable at a local store.
This entire build (including the monitor, keyboard/mouse, and speakers) became my secondary work-desk. My primary work-desk remains my Ryzen build.
The overclocking that I did for this build is not the usual overclock. Rather than trying to push the absolute frequency as high as possible, I tried to get the AVX and AVX512 stable at as high as frequency as possible.
At stock settings, the 7900X specifies:
- 4.0 GHz turbo all cores.
- 4.1 GHz turbo 2 - 4 cores.
- 4.5 GHz turbo 1 - 2 cores.
- Only the two "preferred cores" are allowed to hit 4.5 GHz. The rest are capped at 4.3 GHz. It's up to the OS to schedule lightly threaded tasks to the two "preferred cores" where they can clock higher.
- AVX and AVX512 may run at lower frequencies.
If you read around online, you'll find that:
- Most Skylake X overclocks are thermally limited to about 4.6 GHz (all cores).
- When running AVX, you're thermally limited to about 4.2 GHz (all cores).
- With AVX512, I couldn't get above 3.8 GHz (all cores).
Once you exceed thermal limits, the processor will throttle in multiple ways. This may be a drop in clock speed. But more commonly, the clock speed stays the same and the performance plunges for some reason. You can read more about that here: http://www.overclock.net/t/1634045/skylake-x-phantom-throttling
In my current overclock, I run all cores at 4.5 GHz non-AVX, 4.0 GHz AVX, and 3.8 GHz AVX512.
Because I didn't touch the top frequency, I never had to raise the voltage. And I never crashed the system. Instead, the game I played was figuring out which thermal limits to increase to allow me to run AVX and AVX512 at higher frequencies without throttling.
Even though I didn't delid the processor (nor do I intend to), I was rarely able to overheat it by running AVX and AVX512 code. Even when I disable all thermal limits, the motherboard/BIOS still throttles the processor before I'm ever able to hit temperature limits.
This makes it impossible to do extreme overclocks and is my main gripe about this motherboard. Silicon Lottery has also noticed this and he says it makes these Gigabyte boards unusable for his purposes.
So while this Gigabyte board is aesthetically pleasing and boasts the hardware to support extreme overclocks, the software/BIOS currently does not allow it. Therefore, form over function.
(Edit: As of August, this throttling problem has been solved. See the link above.)
Likewise, there are currently no high-powered RGB fans. So if I want extra cooling, I'd need to sacrifice the eye candy. Again, form over function.
- The 3 RGB fans that came with the case were moved to the top and back to make room for the 360 radiator.
- If you take out the figurine, there is enough space to do push-pull on the top two fans of the 360 radiator. If you take out the hard drive cage on the bottom, you can push-pull the bottom fan as well.
- Larger power supplies will require removing the hard drive cage as there is no space to run the cables even if they are fully modular.
- Cable management in this case extremely difficult. There is almost no clearance between the back plate and the side panel. So you need keep your cables low or you can't close the side panel.
- Cables at the bottom of the motherboard (audio, USB 3.0, and case plugs) need to be routed into the hole at the bottom to clear the side space for the figurine. This is difficult because that hole is right in front of the PSU where there is already a lot of cable traffic.
- The tempered glass windows are held up only by the screws. It's very easy for them to fall off (and potentially break) if you don't hold it in place when you remove the screws.
- The front tempered glass window is even more dangerous. The same screw holds both the glass and the cage that mounts it to the case. And the glass is not attached to the cage. I highly recommend putting the case on carpet when you remove the front glass panel. Because it's very easy for it fall off accidentally. And you'd rather it fall on something soft like carpet.
- The power supply is intentionally mounted upside-down to expose the RGB. Thermaltake says it's better to mount PSUs upside down anyways since it draws hot air from inside the case and pulls it out the back. (This doesn't apply to mATX mini-towers where the PSU is mounted on top and already draws air from inside the case.)
- The 360 rad CPU cooler comes with socket mounts that don't match the installation instructions. The product seems to have been reboxed to add AM4 socket mounts. And during that process, they changed all the socket mounts but forgot to replace the old instructions with updated ones for the new mounting mechanism. This led to a lot of confusion for me.
- The VRMs on this motherboard never overheated nor did they come anywhere near overheating under all the loads I put it under. The VRM heatsink on this board along with the heatpipe extension really does the job. This board is probably good-to-go as-is for the Core i9 7980XE with a suitable BIOS update to fix the throttling issues.
- It's somewhat of a letdown that the 360 radiator doesn't have RGB on the CPU water block.
- There are a lot of RGB components in this build from different manufacturers. And because of that, there is no way to sync the lighting between them. There may be a way to sync the motherboard with the video card since they both have Gigabyte Fusion, but I haven't tried yet. None of the other RGB parts (case fans, radiator fans, and PSU) even have connectors to the motherboard.
Possible Future Upgrades:
- Core i9 7960X or 7980XE. But I'll need to find a way to unload the current processor.
- 128GB of TridentZ RGB memory at the current speed or higher.
- Stronger RGB fans for the radiator if and when they come into existence.
- 140mm fans on the top. Currently they are 120mm and there is space for 140mm.
- RGB strips along the side and windows. The motherboard already has headers for these and it's not right to leave them unutilized.