I’ve traditionally been an Intel builder, with my last build being a Core i7 920 on an Asus P6T motherboard. That was maybe about 10 years ago about the time Faizah and I got married. My Intel builds have been generally straightforward and worry free, so I thought, how could an AMD build be much different?
Boy, was I wrong.
I decided to build this PC after being diagnosed with cancer. When you learn that mortality can be close by, you start to appreciate things more, and thus my sudden appreciation for all things comfy, fast, and most advanced. LOL. Of course amongst these is a dream PC, the latest and the best, with price being no object.
So after a few quick searches on Google for “best high end build”, I ended up with the following components (taken straight from the vendor quotation, with some subpoints of what they came with):
The Parts List
- CPU: AMD RYZEN 9 3900X PROCESSOR
- AMD Wraith Prism Cooler
- CPU COOLER: NZXT KRAKEN Z73 360MM AIO LIQUID COOLER WITH LCD DISPLAY
- RAM: CORSAIR VENGEANCE RGB PRO 8GBx4 DDR4 4266MHZ
- GPU: ASUS ROG STRIX RTX 2080 TI STRIX OC 11GB GDDR6 GRAPHIC CARD
GPU COOLER: NZXT KRAKEN G12 LIQUID GPU MOUNTING KIT (BLACK) GPU COOLER: NZXT KRAKEN X73 360MM RGB AIO LIQUID COOLER
- SSD: CORSAIR 2TB FORCE MP600 M.2 SOLID STATE DRIVE) * 2 UNITS
- PSU: CORSAIR 1000W HX1000 80+ PLATINUM FULL MODULAR POWER SUPPLY
- CASE: NZXT H710I TG E-ATX CHASSIS – BLACK
- NZXT Smart Device V2
- RGB LED Strips * 2 units
Stuff bought from other vendors, or stuff I already have:-
- MOBO: GIGABYTE X570 AORUS XTREME SOCKET AM4 MAINBOARD
- Aorus RGB Fan Commander
- HEADSET: ASTRO A50 GEN 4
- DISPLAY: 65″ LG C9 OLED
- RECEIVER: PIONEER VSX-934
- SPEAKERS: 5.1.2 with KEF-T305 and KEF-CI160ERs
- CONSOLE: PS4 PRO
- CAPTURE CARD: ELGATO HD60S+
- FACE CAM: SONY FDR-X3000 + ELGATO CAM LINK 4K
- REMOTE: LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE
Incidentals procured during the build:-
- Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
- 3.5mm TRRS to TRS splitter
- 3.5mm TRS to TRRS combiner
- 2x MPOW Ground Loop Noise Isolators
UGREEN 4-port USB 3.0 Switcher– introduced static in the Astro A50 voice channel.
- 1×4 Internal USB 2.0 header hub
- CableMod Vertical PCI-e Bracket
- A whole bunch of 3m HDMI 2.1 8K cables
- 5m HDMI to micro-HDMI cable (for the face cam)
- 5m micro-USB cable (for the face cam)
- USB-C to HDMI/PD/USB-A/3.5mm adaptor
- A whole bunch of useless things, like a
UGREEN HDMI 2.0 Splitter that does not support LPCM 7.1.
The Delinquent Vendor
I had wanted the computer shop to help me build this, since I wasn’t sure if I had the time then. I also expected some advice on whether these components would work well together. Well, no such help was given.
Somehow they thought I was going to build everything myself, despite us giving them the motherboard we purchased elsewhere because they had no stock. Since they really contributed nada to this project, I won’t bother mentioning them at all.
The Placeholder Parts
As you may tell from the video, I didn’t fully utilize all the products that I bought, specifically the Kraken G12 and X73 for the GPU. I figured if I’ll be upgrading soon to an Ampere GPU (3090 Ti cometh) I should try to keep the 2nd hand value of the RTX 2080 Ti afloat by not removing its heatsink for only a few months. 😀 The GPU fans have been very silent so far, so another good reason there to leave them alone.
Similarly with the Ryzen 9 3900x CPU, I felt that if I was just gonna use it for a few months then a small step up to the 3950x wouldn’t make much of a difference.
With so many potential upgrades being released by AMD and NVIDIA at the end of the year, an X570 motherboard with PCI-Express 4.0 lanes already sketched in seems the best bet for upgradeability. The Gigabyte Aorus Xtreme is one of those boards.
I originally ordered this kit:
CORSAIR VENGEANCE® RGB PRO 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 DRAM 4700MHz C19 CMW16GX4M2K4700C19 x 2 (32 GB TOTAL)
This kit is on the motherboard’s Qualified Vendor List (QVL), so I expected its XMP profiles to work out of the box (like how Intel does it). We’ll soon see how this is not the case.
But in any case, our ‘favorite’ vendor quietly changed it to this:
CORSAIR VENGEANCE® RGB PRO 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 DRAM 4266MHz C19 CMW16GX4M2K4266C19 x2 (32 GB TOTAL)
Which would normally be fine, but this vendor did not even bother THINKING about why I chose the original SKU. So now I have purchased XMP memory that is not on the QVL, and is now a terrible pain to overclock. I may have had similar issues with my original kit, but I think it would be less likely.
The reason I say that I’ll still have issues is because AMD X570/Ryzen/whatever has an unwritten rule about enabling XMP: it only works on slots lovingly called A2 and B2. So you must only have 2 RAM sticks plugged into your motherboard to make it work; if you have 4 sticks like me, then you’re out of luck and back to a manual overclock.
It has something to do with how AMD connects the memory to the bus. Some slots are daisy-chained to another, so they just can’t sustain the speed or something. I didn’t really read up on it, but a lot of forums say it’s 2 slots or bust. So yeah, between Intel and AMD, AMD may be up top right now, but if you want a less headachy overclocking experience, go Intel.
If you want to get overclocked memory for a Ryzen, get at most 3600MHz. The “Infinity Fabric” thingy between the CPU and RAM runs at 1800MHz for most people (you’d be lucky if you can overclock this) and ideally you want a simple RAM frequency of 1:1 or 1:2 against that clock speed.
Gigabyte™ is Terrible
I honestly don’t know how these guys command such a high price for their stuff at stores. Your VRMs might be the shit but if you have crap software and BIOS as support, you’re going to turn a lot of customers away.
I for one, may never buy Gigabyte ever again. Once bitten, twice shy.
Those memory overclocking issues, may not even be an issue at all on MSI or ASUS motherboards, with reports in forums saying they could enable XMP profiles that failed on Gigabyte motherboards.
The Aorus software, RGB Fusion 2.0, that is supposed to control the lighting on the motherboard, cannot individually address each LED in each of the 3 built in RGB zones. I know the motherboard can do it, because you get a default rainbow effect when you first boot up, but with the software you’re stuck with a single color for the entire zone.
The Death of USB 3.0
One of the reasons I picked the Aorus Xtreme motherboard was because it has tons of USB 3.0 ports (now known as 3.2 Gen 1). But at the end of the day if you have many bandwidth-munching devices on it you’re not going to be able to use all of them at once.
In my example, I have just the following devices connected:-
- Elgato HD60S+ USB Capture Device
- Elgato Cam Link 4K
- Corsair K63 Wireless
- Razer Mamba Wireless
- Astro A50 Headset
These are all I have, but using trial and error I have to figure out which ports are connected to which USB controller and make sure they’re all on different ones. Otherwise, they’d interfere with each other.
So at the back of my case, I have the two Elgato devices, then on the front panel my two wireless devices plugged in permanently.
On hindsight, I should’ve bought a motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 ports. These have a lot of bandwidth for now. I shouldn’t have tried to salvage usage of my USB capture device and just buy a new one.
Side note about Elgato capture cards: They cannot passthrough 7.1 audio so if you plan to have proper living room sound while streaming from a console, get an AverMedia device instead.
Other Build Conundrums
Besides the memory overclocking issue, I haven’t really had any major issues during the build. Minor ones such as:
- I had to slide the case’s cable bar to the right position to allow the E-ATX motherboard to fit. The problem is that the 3 screws that fit the cable bar in place were intentionally tightened really hard at the factory, so I was worried I’d blunt their heads trying to get them off.
- The Aorus motherboard came with this easy front panel adaptor thingie that was not documented. I was supposed to slot my front panel connections into this adaptor and then plug this into another traditional adaptor which then plugs into the motherboard. Much Googling was required.
- Too much thermal paste. The Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut has a special nozzle with a little spatula that you were supposed to use, but a noob like me has no business doing that. Sticking to the usual rice bead method is the best.
- The motherboard only has one USB 2.0 internal header. Surprising, considering the huge number available at the back. I need at least two to control the Kraken AIO and the NZXT Smart Device.
I tried to use the RGB Fan Commander that came with the motherboard, which comes with a 1×2 USB 2.0 hub of sorts, but those 2.0 ports didn’t work, and it’s apparently a common issue with Gigabyte (yet with no fix or solution after all these months).
The solution was to buy an internal USB 2.0 hub.
CableMod Vertical PCI-e Bracket: This vertical riser kit is pretty good, as it allows you to do a GPU vertical mount without having to mod or cut off pieces of your casing. It basically has its own little space at the back for your GPU output ports and cables, which is why it is recommended for anyone using this to buy the 45-degree extension cables too which you can easily pull through the casing’s slots.
I think I still have space in the case to mount another extension card vertically (in front of the GPU, using the case’s built-in vertical slots), and I can probably squeeze in a riser cable underneath the GPU. 🙂
The mess that is RGB control for the PC is something well known and much discussed. Each manufacturer will have their own proprietary protocols, so you can forget about those cool all-room RGB effects without sticking to a single brand.
Fortunately my processor is pretty solid, so I have all of them running: ASUS Aura, RGB Fusion, NZXT CAM, Corsair iCUE, Razer Synapse. But that’s still a lot of resources that could be freed up for other things.
A shining beacon of light is the OpenRGB project, but it’s still quite in its rudimentary stages (I just can’t let go of iCUE’s Rain effect on my RAM :P)
Connection to TV and AVR
Some caveats connecting your PC to a 4K TV with all bells and whistles enabled:-
- To enable NVIDIA G-Sync, the HDMI from the GPU must be directly connected to your TV, and not through your AVR.
- With your PC being directly connected to your TV, you now need another way to send 7.1 LPCM audio from the TV to the AVR. Having an AVR that supports eARC solves that.
- If you don’t have an AVR with eARC, the alternative is to run another HDMI from the GPU directly to the AVR, then set the audio out in Windows to that HDMI connection. This would introduce like a non-existent display area which you may not like, but it seems Microsoft is coming out with specialized drivers in the next Windows 10 Feature release (2004) to make HDMI connections audio-only.
Headset for Everything
The Astro A50 is pricey, but it lets me connect to all my gaming/streaming devices at the same time. Almost. Kinda. Ideally I wanted everything to be controlled remotely, but I made do with some walking:
Walking to the TV from the couch to switch the headset between PC and PS4 mode. While we’re there, we also press a button to switch the headset’s USB connection between the two same devices.
And if I’m mobile gaming, I would connect one end of the 3.5mm TRRS cable to my headset base, and the other end to my phone. This also channels my mobile game audio to my PC for streaming.
There was a lot of noise coming from the 3.5mm jack when plugged in together with the HDMI via the HD60S+, hence the need for ground loop noise isolators. Plural, because they only have those for TRS and not TRRS connections. There’s still a bit of static left, so might be getting some ferum ring static removers to try and fix that.
Here are some quick benchmarks on stock (i.e. BIOS optimized defaults + NVMe RAID 0).
There’s a few low FPS blips during these benchmarks; need to figure out where these are coming from.
Despite all the issues it was actually rather satisfying to be building a PC again. I love how it dimly glows in its purple hue, neither too overdone nor too static. The rainfall on the Corsair RAM, and the Starry Night effect of the top strip, are soothing to watch. Cable management is so much easier these days, and it was easy getting a clean tidy look.
Since we already know we’ve some placeholder items that will be replaced soon, you can be assured of a Part 2 in an upcoming video in the coming weeks or months.
Some of the things I have planned:
- Vertical TB3 PCIe Extension Card
- AverMedia Live Gamer BOLT
- NoiseBlocker NB-eLoop X RGB fans
- Ampere GPU with NZXT Kraken G12 + Z73
- Ryzen 4000 drop in
- Zen 3 drop in?
Stay tuned for more updates!