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Build

Ryzen/Radeon Workstation, aka The Frugal Beast Build

by Barak

10
0 Comments

Part List View full price breakdown

Details

Date Published

June 1, 2018

Date Built

May 8, 2018

CPU Clock Rate

3 GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

31.0° C

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.257 GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

8.1 GHz

GPU Temperature While Idle

55.0° C

Description

The initial impulse behind this build was that I needed to replace my aging Macbook Pro that I've had since 2010. This laptop carried me through high school, college, and plenty of recreational gaming and video editing. But now its super old, and since I was struggling to edit using programs like Premier Pro while using a browser without lots of lag and waiting around, I decided I needed to upgrade. And the only logical way to upgrade, in my opinion, was to finally build a PC using all of this year's tax return, plus a tiny bit of savings. The maximum budget I allowed for this build was slightly above $1700.

I knew that what I honestly wanted in my ideal computer were the abilities to edit and export large video files quickly, play video games at a decent resolution and framerate, and handle as many simultaneously open browsers and software that I could throw at it. Basically, the best workstation and desktop I could afford that could still perform well with games at 1920x1080.

Reddit post with complete narrative of the build (aggregate of all part reviews).

One thing that I did to push the price of this whole build even further down was to take out a credit card that rewarded me with $150 back after spending $500 within the first three months of owning the card. I easily hit $500 by paying for this build, and so I slashed the price you see on PCPartPicker by an additional $150. Of course, this is not an advisable move for everyone who wants to build a PC, but for me the choices complemented each other nicely.

Overall, I'm very happy with what I spent for this level of performance. At the end of the day, I came in under budget, with more powerful components and more luxury items than I was originally planning to get. My UserBenchmark results basically confirm that this build is exactly what I intended for it to be: a workstation beast that can play games at a level that anyone besides someone who demands high framerates in 4K will enjoy the hell out of.

The total price of this entire build after every mail-in-rebate, discount, credit card reward is taken into account: $1,488.41

Estimated savings: $529.44

Which means without the deals and savings, this build should have costed $2,017.85

Part Reviews

CPU

I knew that what I honestly wanted in my ideal computer were the abilities to edit and export large video files quickly, play video games at a decent resolution and framerate, and handle as many simultaneously open browsers and software that I could throw at it. Basically, the best workstation and desktop I could afford that could still perform well with games at 1920x1080.

For those reasons, I decided to go with the Ryzen 7 1700 as my CPU. The 8-cores and multi-threading capabilities made it an obvious choice for a workstation, where many different memory and data-hungry programs might be open at one time. I haven't actually tried any video editing on this computer yet, but so far it has done everything from basic browsing, word processing, playing old RTS games and transferring large files in a snap. Of course, this has a lot to do with the other components in my build other than the CPU, but I'm very happy with this CPU so far. In fact, I decided to get this CPU over the Intel i7 8700k, which was my first choice when I started out my build research. The rational behind getting this 8-core with a 3.0GHz clock speed versus the 6-core i7 8700k, which clocks at 4.7GHz and can still be overclocked, is due to a couple of factors:

The first is the price. At MSRP for both CPUS, the i7 8700k is already about $80 ahead of the Ryzen 7 1700 (this has probably changed since I started researching in early April. The arrival of the Ryzen 2xxx gen pushed the prices down some). Also, the i7 8700k is a really popular CPU for high-level gaming (thanks to its clockspeed, and therefore incredible framerates), and so people are not usually getting rid of them on the used market very frequently. Those things were important to me, because A) I wanted this computer to be proficient at multi-tasking and not necessarily gaming, and B) I was trying to get all my components as cheaply as possible, even if that meant buying used or open box computer parts.

Even though I honestly wanted to game on this computer, I realized the difference between the CPUs I was considering was really that the i7 was simply superior at pushing incredibly demanding games to beautiful framerates at high resolutions. But since I don't really plan on gaming that heavily, and since I didn't really intend to spend the money on the type of GPUs or monitors that could truly take advantage of that potential, I decided I'd rather have the 8-core multi-tasking performance with a modest clock speed (which I believe can still be overclocked to potentially 3.6GHz -- I haven't tried yet).

CPU Cooler

I went with the Deepcool GAMMAXX 400 because its performance is incredibly good for its price. I decided to avoid the mega-popular Hyper Evo 212, which is at a similar price-point, thanks to this review from Tom's Hardware:

https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/deepcool-gammaxx-400-slim-tower-cpu-cooler,4460-2.html

I found the Deepcool GAMMAXX 400 with a $10 mail-in-rebate, putting the price down to a paltry $14.99. At that point, I felt like I was essentially spending nothing for a cooler that was going to do everything I needed, and perhaps even let me overclock my Ryzen once I decided to. I haven't gotten my rebate back yet, but even if it was denied the price would still be insanely good.

One thing I will say, though, is that installing this cooler onto the AM4 socket on the motherboard was extremely hard and nervewracking every time. I had to attach it and remove it several times each in order to diagnose different troubleshooting issues during the building process, and that was by far the least fun thing about the entire build. If ease of installation is important to you, there is probably better out there.

Lastly, the GAMMAXX 400 has a blue LED on it, so if you're planning a particular RGB color scheme, know that this thing shines blue all the time, no matter what else you've got going on.

Motherboard

I put a lot of thought into my motherboard requirements. What I decided I really wanted was an ATX sized AM4 board, an X370 chipset for my Ryzen 7, an ultra M.2 slot for a high-speed NVMe PCIe solid state drive, the ability to support 3200-speed RAM, and enough general I/O options and other features to make it worth it. The ASRock X370 Pro4 is the cheapest mobo that ticks all those boxes out there. I noticed that it has no reviews on PCPartPicker, but after researching it thoroughly I decided it was right for me.

To be honest, the visual aesthetics of the mobo were never important to me, but the X370 Pro4 still looks pretty cool. The basic black and white scheme works for me and would work with pretty much any components you could put on it. More importantly, it's one of the cheapest X370 chipset boards out there (which allows me to overclock the Ryzen 7 down the line) and its got an ultra M.2 slot that can unlock even more speed from any NVMe SSD you plug in there. It's even got a spare M.2 slot that isn't as fast, in case you end up replacing your first SSD. Plugging into the second M.2 slot will block one of your smaller PCIe lanes, however.

One thing I wish this mobo had was some lights on it that would indicate its working or doing something. At one point in my build, the PC wouldn't boot, and it took me a long time to figure out how to diagnose the problem. Everything was plugged into the mobo and power supply, and still nothing would happen. No lights, no sounds, no nothing. Of course, even if the mobo had lights on it might not have turned on, but if it did, I would at least be able to eliminate the mobo as possibly being the problem. I ended up getting a friend to lend me a motherboard speaker (why aren't these things included with motherboards, anyway?), and eventually we figured out my RAM wasn't seated properly. After removing all the components and installing all over again it worked fine.

The only other thing I wish this mobo had was a more in-depth BIOS. I would have enjoyed more options.

Right now I've got a 250GB Samsung 960 EVO NVMe SSD in the ultra M.2 slot and it boots windows and any other programs in a flash. I intentionally chose these two products together in order to see how fast M.2 NVMe storage was, and it's no joke. I can't even turn on my computer and look away from the screen for longer than 5 seconds before the thing is booted and ready to go.

I got the ASRock X370 Pro4 for $89.99 after a $10 mail-in-rebate, making it the only motherboard that does basically everything I want it to do for less than $100. I was very happy with this find, especially considering there were no reviews on PCPartPicker to make it stand out.

Memory

Thankfully, these Team Dark Pro sticks advertise right on their Newegg page that they have the Samsung b-dies in them, and the timings of these particular sticks (14-14-14-31) seem perfect for my Ryzen 7. As soon as I opened the BIOS, the sticks hit 3200MHz without me having to do anything. Mission accomplished!

Storage

I put this in the ultra M.2 slot of my ASRock X370 Pro4 mobo and it boots windows and any other programs in a flash. I intentionally chose these two products together in order to see how fast M.2 NVMe storage was, and it's no joke. I can't even turn on my computer and look away from the screen for longer than 5 seconds before the thing is booted and ready to go.

So far it's been awesome, but I realized soon after I got this that 250GB is not a whole lot, and the 970 EVO came out almost right after I bought this, and the 500GB model is only $200. In hindsight I would have gotten that if I had known, but I might get it in the future and put my 960 EVO in my spare M.2 slot anyway.

Storage

Not much to say, pretty much one of the most reliable choices for 7200RPM storage out there. 2TB is not a lot of space, but I was going for cheap and I think this will still last me for quite a while.

Video Card

My choice of the RX 580 had a couple of reasons baked in.

The first was price. Like RAM, the price of GPUs is currently insane thanks to cryptocurrency mining (although recently the prices are starting to subside and things are getting more affordable). Under no circumstances did I want to spend more that $350 for a GPU, and so I wanted to get the best I could for that price. For the longest time I was set on the Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, since that seemed like the sweetspot between performance and my budget. The reason I ended up going with the Radeon RX 580 instead was because I decided that the RX 580 was essentially identical to the GTX 1060 in terms of performance, but many RX 580 GPUs, such as this XFX Black Core Edition, actually have 8GB of DDR5 RAM instead of 6 on the 1060, and also Radeon graphics cards can use FreeSync technology on monitors, rather than Nvidia's G-Sync. This is important because, although these two technologies do the same thing (improve framerate consistency and reduce frame drops), monitors with FreeSync are generally way cheaper than those with G-Sync. So, in order to get an equivalent-performance GPU to the GTX 1060 that could also take advantage of a cheaper FreeSync monitor, I chose the RX 580.

So far this thing has destroyed any game I have thrown at it. Gears of War 4 looks stunning. Old RTS games like Command & Conquer predictably run perfectly. I intend on using this to edit video with DaVinci Resolve, so I'm looking forward to that.

Case

I chose the Phanteks Enthoo Pro M Tempered Glass ATX Mid Tower for a couple straightforward reasons. One, I could get it for under $100. Second, that sexy full-side tempered glass window. Third, it's a very spacious case that makes installing the motherboard and doing clean cable-management very easy. The cherry on top for me was that the front I/O panel faces to the left, which is exactly where I'm sitting at my desk. Since the case sits on my desk, the I/O panel is always directly to my right whenever I need to plug something in, which is super convenient.

I got the Phanteks Enthoo Pro M for $79.99 after a $10 mail-in-rebate.

Power Supply

I used PCPartPicker to measure that my build would probably use close to 400W, so obviously I wanted to clear that by at least a few hundred watts in case I wanted to upgrade to some more powerful components down the line. I figured the small difference in price I was seeing between 650W and 750W PSUs made the 750W PSUs the better value choice, and the other two things I wanted was for it to be fully-modular with an 80+ Gold Certification. The SeaSonic Focus Plus Gold is all of those things, and I got it for $64.99 after a $20 mail-in-rebate.

Only thing I will warn about this PSU is that it's easy to strip the screws in this thing if you aren't careful, but it could also be that I'm just clumsy.

Sound Card

I decided I could afford to experiment and see what kind of sound quality I could get out of a $45 card. The Asus Xonar DGX seemed like a decent choice for someone unfamiliar with sound cards. So far I would say I'm pleased but not ecstatic about it. The coolest thing about this little card is that the driver allows you to simulate 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, move virtual speakers into different locations around your head that change your playback experience, and choose a large variety of EQ settings.

It has some weird quirks and annoyances about it though. Sometimes switching between the Xonar and the motherboard's onboard sound can be annoying because the Xonar's headphone jack is all the way in the back of the computer, which is usually hard to reach for me. Sometimes when I'm listening to something with the Xonar there's a greatly over-exaggerated echo effect, even though I don't remember changing any settings like that. Also, I infrequently but sometimes can hear an almost imperceptible high-pitched whine in the headphones while plugged into the Xonar. I still haven't figured out if this is because of the sound card or some other phenomenon happening inside the case.

Lastly, I've discovered that I can't use the Xonar with some games, which is disappointing since it's advertised as a gaming sound card. There might be some settings somewhere that have simply escaped me, but so far I haven't found a way to use my Xonar to hear Dark Souls Remastered on Steam.

Case Fan

I got an extra 140mm Phanteks fan so that I could have two fans in the front and one in the back (the Enthoo Pro M comes with two 140mm fans included). This fan is shaped slightly differently than the included fans, but when they're spinning you can't tell. I wanted three case fans minimum, and so far this has been an excellent addition. One thing I will say, though, is that this fan's cord was just barely long enough to reach my motherboard's fan header in this case. I had to snake my fan's power cord along the front of the motherboard and then reach the fan header on the far side of the motherboard. However, this is pretty much just a symptom of me deciding to install my extra case fan in the front instead of in the back of the case. Had I done so, it wouldn't have been such a stretch, but I didn't feel like switching out the back case fan, which was already installed.

Monitor

I wanted a nice-looking IPS panel that still had a respectable refresh rate and large screen size, and since I had already bought an RX 580 GPU I wanted one with FreeSync technology as well. The Dell SE2717H was a great find for me since it was the cheapest 27 inch IPS FreeSync monitor I could find anywhere, and when I bought it used on Amazon it only cost me $139.99. Good deal.

I have encountered very short-lived issues with the display, but these are almost always solved with a reboot and are possibly a symptom of my monitor being used.

Keyboard

My requirements for my keyboard were very straightfoward. I wanted good typing experience, I wanted RGB options without the conspicuous design choices of other keyboards, and I didn't want to completely cheap out. I wanted to find a good deal on a relatively pricey keyboard, and a used Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum ended up being perfect for me. This keyboard feels good, it has a reserved design despite having RGB options for days, and it can sync its RGB effects with the mouse I got too (Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum). I have no complaints. A new one costs $100, but a used on Amazon ended up costing me $78.89.

Mouse

The G502 Proteus Spectrum is like the perfect companion to my G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard. They both look awesome by themselves, but you can actually sync their RGB options using the Logitech software. At first I was kind of put off by the unlocked scroll wheel, but then I realized you can switch between locked and unlocked with a button right below the scroll wheel, and so my love of this mouse was restored.

I bought this used, but the savings were really nothing compared to the new price. I would have bought it new in hindsight, but there's nothing wrong with the mouse that I got.

Headphones

I got these mainly because I can't afford the higher-end headphones I want, but for the price these are actually amazing. The sound is really awesome, and combined with the Asus Xonar DGX sound card, these headphones can produce some great experiences. The most appealing thing I would say about these headphones, however, is that they are very comfortable, and I can wear them for hours without them becoming irritating. The only thing I wish I could change about these headphones would be to give them a slightly smaller and tighter fit. I have them on the smallest setting and they still can slide off my head if I headbang too hard.

I got these for $54.99 after a discount on Newegg.

Speakers

Cheap set. One thing I really like about this though is the little volume controller module that you can set on your desk by your speakers. It's just a little volume knob with an audio jack that I can quickly plug into for my motherboard's onboard sound. It does the job.

Other

These strips are really good for the price. The lights are bright, and the magnets in them hold them up with no issues. However, once I got them, I realized I was missing a molex-to-PCIe converter that would allow me to plug the strips into my PSU. After I got that adapter they worked instantly. They also come with a little remote controller you can use to choose a different solid color (there are color-changing options but they all look stupid to me).

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