I've been building computers for over two decades, but this was the first major overhaul of my personal rig in about 7 years. I'd been running a Core2 Quad (Q9550 @ 3.4GHz) previously, and while that system had served me well over a long upgrade path, it was finally time for a serious refresh.
I was excited by AMD's Ryzen release, and began sketching out the upgrade mid-summer 2017. As I have two young kids things like this progress on a rather slow schedule, only being able to put in bits of time here and there. Activity accelerated around November due to the various sales around black Friday when I finally ordered most of the parts over a period of a few weeks.
Alas, I didn't have the budget for a video card upgrade at the time, so now I'm stuck waiting for prices to come back to earth before that component can be brought up to parity with the rest of the system. For now my circa 2012 Radeon HD 7870 2GB will have to do. -_-
UPDATE (7/2018): I found a used Sapphire RX Vega 56 reference card on eBay a couple months ago and managed to get it for $500. Prices are probably better now, but I was getting nervous at the time that good finds on reference cards that hadn't been severely abused for mining might become rare. Anyway, the system is now complete and in the final form that I envisioned!
This was the first time I've ever put so much effort into aesthetics for a computer build. In the past I'd do some cable management purely out of concern for airflow, but when the solid side panels went back on interior looks didn't matter. Over the past year or so I became more interested in the artistry put into enthusiast computer builds, inspired by the amazing work found on PC Part Picker and other places online. I started by modding my previous case with a plexi window and some lighting. Once I opened that door, my compulsion kicked in and I knew I'd want this new system to look its best. I wanted a monochrome theme for the hardware, with any color only added by lighting when the system was powered up.
The blue PCB of the older video card is the only mismatch to that right now. The green lighting is a nod to the Enlightened faction in Ingress, another hobby of mine. Combined with AMD's new Zen architecture it also gives the build its name.
The upgrade was my first foray into water cooling of any kind. I was determined to find a way to fit the EK Fluid Gaming A240 open loop water cooling kit, despite the Corsair Crystal 460X being fairly compact. I spent hours experimenting with possible positions for the pump and radiator before settling on the final configuration. Happily, the aesthetics of the tubing runs actually worked out much better than I'd hoped, with some pleasing mirroring of angles and curves in several locations. Several more hours went into working and re-working cable management, spread over several evenings once the little ones were in bed. Wrestling the cables of the completely non-modular (but exceptional quality) PC Power & Cooling S75QB 750W power supply was a particular challenge. With a lot of experimentation and zip-ties it was managed, and enough space remained under the shroud for a single 3.5" HDD.
As there's only about 3/4" of clearance to the shelf above the system, I created a custom magnetic cover for the top of the case. This prevents any re-circulation of hot air exhausted by the top fan. I did the same for the venting above the expansion slots, though I may remove that one if there's sufficient positive pressure to prevent it being an issue there.
My ultimate plan is to upgrade to an RX Vega 56 video card. At that point I'll expand the cooling loop with EK's Fluid Gaming RX Vega water block and an additional 120mm radiator, which will be situated behind the rear exhaust fan. The loop will then run: pump -> 240mm rad -> RX Vega block -> 120mm rad -> CPU block -> pump.
UPDATE (7/2018): Hooray, this is now complete! The expanded loop worked out just how I'd hoped, and performs very well. I've flashed the Vega 56 with a Vega 64 BIOS, and done some preliminary tweaking to undervolt the card so it's not constantly running into its thermal and power limits, which keeps clocks consistently high in the 1,610-1,630MHz range. I also managed to overclock the HBM2 memory to 1,000MHz (up from the Vega 56 default of 800MHz, and even a bit above the Vega 64 default of 945MHz.) Aside from having quite prominent coil whine under heavy load (bad luck of the draw, there) overall I'm thrilled with how it turned out!
I've not done any overclocking of the CPU or memory yet, but I'm sure my enthusiast nature will nudge me into that at some point. Right now I'm still in the learning phase for this new platform, wanting to make sure I have a solid understanding of all the BIOS/UEFI settings and how they interact before I start pushing the hardware.
My hope is for this system to be as long-lived as my previous one, and with AMD's commitment to socket AM4 I think there's a good chance it will be.
I expect an eventual upgrade to
an NVMe SSD will be in there somewhere, along with at least one new CPU. Also, I think it's safe to say I'm a water cooling convert now. Though a lot of work, it has also been a lot of fun and extremely satisfying to see finally come together and perform so well.
UPDATE (11/2018): I took the NVMe plunge when the new WD Black 500GB went on sale during black Friday! Fairly painlessly migrated the Win10 install from the SanDisk 240GB using Partition Wizard 10 Free, and the speeds are just nuts. Then, casting about for how best to make use of the older SSD, I installed the trial version of PrimoCache and set the entire thing up as an L2 cache against my 4TB hard disk. I also set 8GB of system RAM as L1 cache for the same. I figure that'll help make the HDD a bit less annoying to use as a secondary Steam games library location once the cache gets trained up. I also threw a 2GB L1 RAM cache on the NVMe drive, as I might as well do something with some of that 32GB total memory in the system! If it works out well I may end up purchasing a full PrimoCache license. I looked into the discounted FuzeDrive Basic version offered for AMD's 300-series AM4 chipsets, and while it's only $20, I'm more interested in seeing how PrimoCache works first. I like that PrimoCache is more flexible, can use both RAM and SSDs for multi-level caching, and that it doesn't risk losing data should a cache drive fail.
UPDATE (3/2019): Upgraded the monitor from my trusty Dell U2410 to a new Nixeus EDG27! 144Hz refresh is great, and FreeSync works wonderfully with the Vega 56!
Components carried over from my previous build are listed with $0 prices, so the cost only reflects the new hardware purchased for the upgrade.
Thanks for reading, and take care!
Was going to go for a 1700 originally, but with a black Friday sale putting the 1800X at essentially the price I'd planned, I thought why not? The higher base and boost clocks are nice, and I figure the higher binning may help ever so slightly with eventual overclocking. I still do a double-take when seeing 16 thread graphs listed in Task Manager. I'm thrilled AMD is back in the game and putting some very much needed competition in the market!
My previous motherboard was also from Gigabyte (GA-EP45-UD3R), and I bought this largely based on the trouble-free experience I had with that. I love having dual BIOS as a safety net, and the various ultra-durable manufacturing features fit well with my plan to squeeze many years out of this system. My one complaint would be that auto voltages can be slightly aggressive, and also vary a lot with BIOS version. Not too hard to pin those down manually, though.
I lucked out and was able to nab two of these kits when they dropped down from ~$240 each during a near black Friday sale. I was just going to get one set, and I don't really need 32GB right now... but let's be honest, I let my compulsion to have all 4 DIMM slots filled with RGB goodness get the better of me. It's Samsung B-die memory, and so plays wonderfully with Ryzen. Running the XMP profile 3200MHz at CAS 14 no problem, and with only 0.900V on the CPU SoC. There are some considerations with the lighting control software (G.Skill's cut down version of Asus Aura doesn't play well running simultaneously with any other lighting control apps), but for now I'm just using the real Asus Aura Sync software for the RAM and setting the motherboard LEDs via UEFI. Works fine for now. Four stars simply because it's so expensive.
I bought this several years ago as a first SSD for my personal system at the time. The previous motherboard topped out at SATA II, so now the drive can finally stretch its SATA III legs! It's plenty quick for now, and big enough for OS, main apps, a few games and some workspace. I do want to explore those crazy NVMe speeds in the future though.
Happened to luck out and get this drive for free, lightly used, at a tech meetup. It's much more space than I need for bulk storage, but I like that it's enterprise-grade and has a 5 year warranty. Again, it fits with my intention to keep this system around for a good while.
Just what I wanted as far as size, lighting, and tempered glass. The 570X was too large, plus even with cable management I didn't want to be seeing the rear of the motherboard tray anyway. I did have to remove the case feet and add lower-profile rubber ones instead in order to reduce the height enough to fit it in the desk, but it all worked out. Do plan to invest some serious time in cable management if you get this case, but it is worth it when you do, IMHO.
I would rate this PSU 7 stars if I could. The thing is a tank, and has lasted through multiple builds. It only uses a single 80mm fan exhausting out the rear, but with the sizable heat sinks and crossflow ventilation design, that's all it needs, and it doesn't even get that loud! It's completely non-modular, so there are many cables to deal with, and unfortunately many of those are molex connectors which are rather superfluous now. Still, I was willing to do the cable management work to make it fit, as this thing is just that solid. Very sad it's no longer made!
I actually have the iHAS524-B, but that wasn't to be found in the PC Part Picker database. It works well and does what it needs to. I may eventually upgrade to a BluRay capable drive at some point, but honestly by then I may use optical media so rarely it might not matter.
Expensive? Yes. Worth it to match with the 3 already included in the Crystal 460X RGB? Yes. :-)
Got this refurbished several years back. It uses laptop-style low-profile keys and so is extremely thin as well as easy to type on. Working great and I doubt I'll replace it unless/until it breaks somehow.