*updated gallery with some additional photos to show different color schemes. Included blue and green as they are very popular. Please go to the end of the gallery for some additional colors. You will also find screenshots of the stability test showing 4.0GHz and XMP Profile of 3000MHz passing stability testing.
While it may not be an ideal time due pricing for graphics card and DRAM there are always those that are interested or looking for ideas when it comes to PC builds. With this in mind along with feedback from users in the community, I decided to do a build that tried to highlight some of the best AMD has to offer with Ryzen and RX Radeon. This build was from the beginning about going all the way with Team Red and even looking at incorporating supporting technologies like FreeSync. Add to that some reasonable overclocking, responsive storage and of course RGB and we have our Red & Black Ryzen Gaming PC.
Additionally, I wanted to use a B350 series as not many have been used in Ryzen builds, and there has been a lot of discussions about whether they can offer a good experience for Ryzen. Hopefully, this serves as a reference to show you can have a great looking build and it also provides an excellent experience when it comes to unlocking the potential within Ryzen CPUs, especially when it comes to CPU overclocking as well as DRAM XMP support.
With the exception of the TT ( Thermaltake ) mod cables, the entire build is monochromatic. With the build being a neutral color ( blacks, grays, etc.) it looks great without any lighting but allows for great contrast and noncompetitive foundation if you bring accent lighting into the build via RGB lighting.
The Thermaltake View 21 chassis offer an aesthetic and design that compliments RGB lighting. The front facade features a distinctive visual aesthetic created by the tinted acrylic front panel which allows for visibility of the three front mounted fans. Also, you have the very trendy tempered glass side panel which is tinted and provides an excellent profile to the build. Furthermore, the AKASA VEGAS X7 fans help to add a distinctive look due to their superb RGB lighting implementation which users high-quality SMD diodes inside the frame of the fans to offer bright and consistent lighting. I usually prefer diffused lighting, but the specular RGB lighting dots on the fans have a fresh feel to them and are lightly subdued due to the tinting in the acrylic and glass. I tried out multiple colors including blue, green, pink, purple and they all worked equally as well as the red color I settled on.
So let’s jump into the components and some of the specifics regarding why I picked them and what the experience was like working with them.
For the CPU I wanted to go with something that mid-range, offers good single thread performance, great multithread performance and supported overclocking. Additionally, I tried to balance the requirements that came along with overclocking and voltage increases and higher core counts which require much high performing cooling solutions. Hence I settled on the popular Ryzen 5 1600 which meets all these requirements while only demanding a reasonable cooling solution.
For the motherboard, I selected the STRIX B350-F GAMING – A solid choice that had no issues with overclocking due to a robust VRM design as well as a proper VRM heatsink implementation. Overclocking is not guaranteed, but I was looking to hit a overclock in the range of 3.8GHz to 4.0GHz depending on the margin of the CPU, aka the silicon lottery. I was also looking to ensure I would be able to run a bit more of an aggressive DRAM frequency, in the range of 2800 to 32000MHz. The STRIX offers a specialized memory topology design and excellent UEFI that helps to ensure memory interoperability & compatibility is top notch and also easy to enable thanks to a one-touch option to read XMP profiles from memory and apply them to the UEFI / BIOS.
Often overlooked especially on mid-range boards are specific features and functions especially for aspects not tied into support from the chipset or CPU. These include fan controls, audio design, UEFI quality, and much more. Here the STRIX offers up some impressive design implementations.
For fan control, it features the latest, FanXpert 4. FanXpert 4 is a combination of hardware and firmware and software that allows the board to support DC and PWM fans ( 3 pin or 4 pin ). It also means you can have full calibration and profiling of the fans on all chassis fan headers. Once calibrated you can use predefined profiles or create your own curve and or fan profile to maximize how they operate under varying loads. It also enables the quietest level of operation as the fans can be set to silent operation ( zero rotation ). Support for PWM output allows for multiple fans to be controlled from the defined parameter of operation for a single output header on the board. All that is required is a basic PWM fan splitter cable. Having this type of functionality and flexibility is great for multiple fan groupings, like those commonly found in front intakes or top mounted intake or exhaust setups.
Beyond fan controls, you have a feature-rich UEFI BIOS with EZ modes and advanced modes. You can quickly adjust parameters like fan speeds, enabled XMP memory, dial in critical adjustments for overclocking, rename SATA ports. An overlooked feature but handy is the integrated UEFI BIOS update utility; there is no requirement to download the UEFI BIOS from another system, put it to a flash drive and then take it to the build to complete the update.
The VRM is robust with a quality heatsink design allowing for stable and cool running overclocking. Additionally, there is a D.O.C.P memory profile option to read and enable XMP values for memory kits For those that care about audio, the STRIX B350-F has you covered. It leverages the audio design developed for the higher end ROG series of boards, and while it does not include the higher end amplifier or DAC on the ROG series, the design is robust and capable. It features full isolation routing of the audio section, the inclusion of the SupremeFX 1220 audio codec, shielding of the codec, dual OPAMP s which produce a nice increase in volume range along with the widening of the soundstage. All to all of these a very robust audio suite that offer customization for different types of games, movies, and music. You also have post-processing for audio, this is is especially welcome for microphone noise.
Last but not least you have the clean design of the board with a monochromatic color scheme as well as dual AURA RGB headers which allow for supported devices like LED strips, fans and more to be connected and controlled by the motherboard RGB AURA software. I used the headers in conjunction with an AKASA RGB splitter to connect all the fans to have fully synchronized fan color controls. It worked perfectly!
Moving to the graphics card I picked the RX 580. While a hard card to get, it has come a long way since it’s initial release, especially with continued driver enhancement. Performance has seen considerable improvements along with a lot of new functionality offered in the latest drivers including overlay supporting, AMD link for monitoring on mobile, Radeon ReLive for game capture and streaming, Enhanced Sync for even better experience and flexibility in the management of your GPU and display.The goal was to offer an excellent 1080P gaming experience and in many eSport centric FPS titles target high refresh rates above 120. For the RX 580 in titles like Fortnite, Overwatch, CSGO this is possible, and it worked great. Add to that all the non-reference design elements of the STRIX card, and you have a card that is cool, quiet and fast.
The STRIX RX580 also features a very specialized and premium nonreference PCB and VRM. The card as a whole from the GPU, to the power components and even inspection of the card, are all placed and produced using an SMT production process, that is called Auto Extreme. SMT production and ASUS version of it with Auto Extreme means that an entirely robotic method was used in the construction of the card, this process offers superior precision and accuracy along with improvements to overall reliability and card quality. Add to that high-quality VRM components a large and robust heatsink and fan assembly, and you are all set.
For many of the other items like the chassis, PSU, CPU cooling I went with Thermaltake. The pricing was reasonable and in alignment with a mid-range build but not compromising on aesthetics or overall quality.
The View 21 chassis is representative of what a quality mid-range chassis should offer, modern, clean aesthetics, good cable routing points and flexibility in mounting various items. In regards to the aesthetics, it also provides the ever popular PSU shroud ( which is a shame as it blocks the RGB lighting built into the PSU. Overall the View 21 is easy to work in, offers flexibility in cable routing and looks good. There is ample room for cable routing and bunching. Good mounting points for everything, reasonable top height clearance. Looking at possible areas or points that may be of concern, I did not find any. Some may want rubber grommets for the cable routing points, but I did not find this detracted from the look of the build.
The CPU cooler is the tried and true Riing Silent 12. A great cooler than had no issues allowing for our CPU to run very cool and quietly at stock while also allowing for our targeted range of overclocking. While some do not like that a larger heatsink blocks the top portion of the motherboard, I feel the size of the cooler is the right mix to offer enough performance but not be exceedingly large. While many like the clean look of an AIO. I do like the simplicity and monolithic aesthetics of a tower cooler, and with the right fan like the one included with it or the AKASA VEGAS X7 I used it can help to add a distinctive look to the build. Furthermore, you tie in that the fan be synced in regards to color with the other fans in the build, and it further adds to the number of color accents in the build. The mounting solution is easy to work with and offers native AM4 support. The quality of construction is good and features nickel plating on the heat pipes to minimize oxidation while also maintain a neutral color scheme where visible. The included fan is also very good and when combined with the four direct contact copper heatpipes and large heatsink assembly ensure you will not have heating issues.
For the PSU. I needed and wanted something with a bit of extra headroom but did not want to go overboard. The PSU and wattage would need to offer enough headroom to cover the build and all its components including overclocks with the CPU, DRAM, and GPU in play while also accounting for possible upgrades in the future. Also, I wanted the included cables to look good ( ideally black ) if someones decided to go with it but not spend the additional money to get custom cables or extensions.
With all that in mind, I end up selecting the SMART PRO RGB 650 WATT. The SMART PRO features a stable power topology and wattage rating while also offering a lot of venting and a large diameter fan to ensure cool operation even under load. All these help to ensure reliable operation. Helping to elevate the PSU and the build overall I also device to upgrade to high-quality cable extensions for the PSU. The TT mod red and black cables are very well constructed, have great color pairings and even come with high-quality cable combs. I continued to be impressed with these extensions every time I use them.
Moving to DRAM / Memory, this was tricky as I wanted to go for at least 16GB which I feel is the requirement for a mid range gaming build and enthusiast level system. It gives you enough for gaming, general applications and anything else but without being overkill. The trickier part is the memory speed. While DRAM does not affect gaming performance to the same extent that the CPU or GPU does it does influence it and can help in application performance as well. As such, I look to find a reasonable frequency that also would not pose too much of a challenge to the memory controller. For AMD this means anything from 2800 to 3200. I end up settling on 3000. We worked with TeamGroup on getting the memory. I tried out two different kits, DELTA R RGB as well Night Hawk RGB they both look fantastic and have a unique aesthetic.
An area not often detailed when it comes to memory is the physical construction quality. For both of these DIMMS the quality is great, and for the Nighthawk DIMMS, I would say they are outstanding! They take it to the next level they may be the most premium kits I used. The Night Hawks have a full metal body with depth and texture and give a sense being precisely machined. Another area that stands out is the rigidity and weight. This comes through when you install the DIMM due to them not have any torsion when pressure applied. Furthermore, the integrated lighting patterns on both kits ( Nighthawk and Delta ) look great. Of course, both offer ASUS AURA support for color control and syncing color across devices. For those who want to take things even further you can take advantage of the per LED lighting on the DIMMs.
For storage, I wanted to take advantage of the PCIe & NVMe support that the B350 chipset offers. While a mainstream SATA SSD can offer a very good experience I wanted something even faster and more responsive. Ultimately it is about ensuring the OS loads quickly, patches/updates quickly as well as game and application installation is reduced to a minimum. This is where you see a difference between an HDD to an entry SSD to a high-performance SSD. With this all in mind, I went with the Toshiba OCZ RD400 M.2 SSD. It offers excellent performance, a great warranty, a quality SSD utility (essential for monitoring and updating ) as well as a firmware which has been shown to be stable and reliable. This is important as it is sometimes overlooked when selecting an SSD.
Last but not least are the system and CPU fans. These were critical as they would set the tone of the overall build as they would be the primary way you see the color in the system. Additionally, I wanted quiet operation while maintaining good airflow. While there are a lot of fans out on the market, it is only recently that AURA supported fans have been released. One of the first companies to do so was AKASA. AKASA has a long history of offering a wide range of cooling solutions. When looking to find out about the new VEGAS X7 fans, I was impressed with just about all elements of the features, functionality and overall design.
They were the first full AURA supported fans I used in a build. They feature great construction, quiet tonality, and smooth operation. I could not ask for more. Some may want a diffused look for the fans which is great, but I think the integrated LED strip implementation offers a very bold, bright and even level of lighting. The great thing about how AKASA implemented AURA support is that they have independent cables for powering LEDs and the fans. This is important if you want to ensure you can still fully control the fans but also have separate lighting control. Subtle items that some may overlook and impressed me on these fans are premium design touches such as damping pads to reduce vibration, clear fan blades which help to maximize light output/illumination as well as transparent cables so as not to add unwanted colors into the build.
AKASA also offers a low-cost easy way to enable synchronization for a higher number of fans when those fans are using an RGB header like the VEGAS X7. Typically you would be limited to two fans ( as the board has two headers ). AKASA offers a splitter that allows for multiple devices to be connected and synchronized to the output color from one header. In total, you have four devices on one splitter and even use one output channel for another splitter. With the combination of the two headers on the motherboard and the use of the splitter I was about to control and sync all the fans used in the build.
Overall hope this provides some reference and inspiration for those looking to put together an all AMD system or one using a B350 chipset.
In regards to overclocking if you are wondering the CPU for gaming can hold a 4GHz overclock without issue but in regards to entirely passing all stress tests and ensuring a balance when it comes to voltage, heat and power consumption I settled on 3.9GHz and 3000MHz for the memory. This was able to be achieved quickly with small adjustments to the multiplier and CPU core voltage. DRAM was achieved by using the D.O.C.P memory profiling option.
Stree testing was completed using ROG RealBench ( have to passed 1 hour ) along with 1 hour of AIDA64 stability tests as well as full pass of PC Mark.