Description

This is a software development box for DBMS engine development. No gaming, no fancy overclocking, purely worky work. I never expected to build my own system but here we are.

Background: My current dev machine is a 2009 Mac Pro usually running Linux. US$2500+ new, It's been upgraded with a 3.3 Ghz W3680, various SSD's, and 24 Gb ECC memory, but the Westmere is as far as you can go CPU-wise, and the built-in SATA is SATA 2. It's been a great machine and is still entirely usable, but it's time to move on, and I've been eagerly waiting the supposed 2019 release of a new "modular" Mac Pro.

Except ... I hardly ever run Mac OS on the machine any more, and with Ryzen 2 coming out, I decided to price out a new 2700X machine just for fun. The result was considerably less than I expected; nobody knows what the new Mac Pro will be priced at, but the relatively new iMac Pro is a US$5000-and-up all-in-one. Even if we subtract off for the display, it seems unlikely that a new Mac Pro will start at less than $4000 in a base configuration. If I can build a system for half that, what am I waiting for?

Requirements for this machine: fast, reasonable storage, 32 Gb memory, reliable, and quiet.

Both multi- and single-core performance are important. It's not a performance engineering or benchmarking system (I'd wait for Threadripper 2 for that), but the 6 cores in the current W3680 are a minimum, 8 would be better. A good balance between single-core boost, all-core base, and core count is needed.

It doesn't need lots of storage, I can get by with a 2-3 Tb, but the primary SSD(s) need to be fast, and have plenty of endurance for write-intensive loads. I sometimes need to experiment with different filesystem setups, so the ability to have a half-dozen or so devices is good. Fortunately the days of requiring a dozen striped heads for DBMS performance are gone. (The Sun D1000 with 12 x 18 Gb SCSI drives in the basement still works, and even gets spun up a couple times a year. There's a room heater!)

24 Gb memory is enough for me most of the time, but I couldn't go lower. The cMP has a tri-channel memory controller, for today's dual or quads I'll go for 32 and need to be able to expand later. Although I'll start out with non-ECC memory, if it gives me trouble I want the ability to put in ECC even if it runs a bit slower.

Graphics performance is irrelevant since it won't be used for gaming or video. If it drives 2560x1440 (what my current monitor wants) that's good enough. Budget isn't a constraint, although the more the price goes over about $2500 the more likely I would be to just wait and see instead of building now. I'd like to keep the computer for 5-6 years minimum, so spending more for premium or upgradeable parts is no problem. Appearance is a non-issue; it's going to sit next to my desk in the office and nobody but me (and my wife, and the occasional grandchild) will ever see it.

(Just as an aside, I'm still running Mac OS, just not on the dev machine. I have a retina MBP that is the officey email/web computer.)

I probably could have gone with a smaller case, but I'm not space constrained and the larger case made the build easier. Plus, I may end up loading it with more SSD's or even some hard disks at some point.

I almost went with a be Quiet! or Noctua CPU cooler, but I didn't want to fool with RAM slot clearance, and then I read the good reviews of the Scythe Mugen 5. Just for the heck of it I decided to go with the PCGH edition, which runs two fans instead of one, at reduced speed. It certainly seems to do the job; idle temps around 35C, Prime95 temps in the 70's, and basically inaudible.

Part Reviews

CPU

Very good price/performance and really hit the cores vs single core sweet spot for me. Although I didn't use the stock cooler, it's nice that a competent cooler is included in the base price. Another plus is that it's not a priori ECC-disabled like most of Intel's CPU's.

CPU Cooler

I happened to notice that this part is officially in the database, so ... the Mugen 5 is a top value mid to upper range CPU cooler. The PCGH edition replaces the single fan with 2 RPM-limited fans (800 RPM). Cooling performance is slightly worse but for a quiet build, this cooler is hard to beat. Even with both fans at max it's completely inaudible inside the case, and just barely audible with my ear right up against it. (At night, in a quiet room, with all case fans off.) If you're after a quiet build, this cooler has to be on your short list.

Motherboard

All of the X470 boards looked pretty competent. I'm not planning on doing fancy overclock tweaking or I might have gone with the Asus CH IIV. The Asrock Taichi claims to support ECC which I may find myself wanting. Having decided on the Taichi, and considering that I want this build to last a few years, I figured why not spend the bit extra for the 10GBe.

So far so good ... it's a full featured board and has been pretty easy to work with. The BIOS can be confusing, and the BIOS helps and documentation is utter dogcrap. But it's workable. (The helps and doc will typically describe the "xsprotz" setting as "Enables or disables xsprotz". Thanks, but I had the enabled/disabled part figured out already...) With the early July BIOS update, I couldn't get 32 Gb to run at 3200MT/s, but I did manage a stable 3066 without doing any tweaking - good enough for me.

Memory

I can't hit 3200, but 3066 seems stable with an out-of-the-box BIOS profile. Fast and bloody expensive.

(I've been running at 3133 MT/s. I can get to 3200 with a bit of tweaking, but it crashes every couple days; a bit more voltage would probably do it, but I can't afford the lost time in the middle of work sessions and it isn't worth nailing down. 3133 is close enough!)

Storage

It's generally not easy to feel the difference between a good SATA SSD and an NVMe unit except in benchmarks, but the 970 Pro is palpably faster doing serious work (compiling, QA runs). I spent extra for the Pro since this SSD will be beat on a lot more than the others and the reliability figure should make it worth it.

Video Card

Perfectly adequate for desktop work and the occasional video. It's a good thing the fan can be turned off, though, because it's bloody annoying; not especially loud but has a buzzy sound that cuts through, even at low RPM. In a louder build maybe one wouldn't notice. Recommended only if you can run it in fan-stop mode, or if noise doesn't matter.

Case

Very easy case to work with, roomy and quiet. I'll probably replace the stock fans since they have a slight hum -- not annoying, but audible.

Comments

  • 16 months ago
  • 4 points

Quick update, I can get the RAM to 3200 MT/s by manually applying the values from the Ryzen DRAM Calculator. I know I said I wasn't going to fool with it, but I lied. It appears to be stable, and if that sticks I'll run it that way. The G.Skills are Samsung B-die, and given the eyewatering price I'd like to get my 3200 worth out of them!

  • 16 months ago
  • 1 point

In the 2700X + X470 Taichi system I mention above, I installed G.Skill Ripjaws V F4-3200C14D-32GVK 16GBx2 with Sammy B-die. With the stock 1.10 BIOS it ran 3200 15-15-15-36 out of the box. Last week I updated to BIOS 1.35A Beta and using default XMP it runs 14-14-14-34-48 stable (but subtimings nothing to crow about). My first attempts with RDC 1.2.0 Beta 2 V1 3200 Safe timings (wanted to start with tighter subtimings) were a disaster. I'm a complete noob at overclocking, but like you I want to get my money's worth -- that RAM was expensive!! This week I plan on updating to BIOS 1.50 (AGESA 1.0.0.4) and next week 1usmus expects to release RDC 1.3 with better tuning for Ryzen+. I have high expectations that, with a little fiddling and patience, I'll get 3466 CL14 stable with tight timings. The Taichi VRMs and G.Skill RAM are certainly capable so, unless my 2700X has a below average IMC, it should be a reasonable goal. At this point I'm not aiming for records, just locking in my value paid and run stable -- got work to do!

  • 16 months ago
  • 2 points

Best of luck. Been fussing with temps trying to reconcile the multitude of disagreeing answers, but finally ran across a note in the BIOS where it says you can display Tctrl on the "Dr Debug" LED readout. So what Ryzen Master was showing me was Tctrl, not Tdie, which is good because the Tctrl was hitting mid-80's with extended Prime95 runs. I'd good with mid-70's Tdie.

  • 16 months ago
  • 2 points

Applause, applause, applause!!

Solid, well-thought out choices and thank you for the sensible write-up.

While I enjoy viewing many of the jaw-dropping custom builds, I'm a bigger fan of got-work-to-do builds. This fits the bill nicely.

I'm sure you're enjoying this right now -- and will enjoy great upgrades for years to come.

[Long live your Mac Pro! I say that as an MP early-2008 original owner -- system is still kickin' after 10.5 years, but yeah the upgrades I've added aren't filling the gap like they used to...]

  • 16 months ago
  • 3 points

Thanks. I too like to read about working builds, which is why I made a little bit of an effort.

I had intended to put in a word about the SSD's and why the particular choices. The 970 Pro will see the bulk of the dev / testing work. The Toshiba came out of the Mac Pro and is boot (linux and ugh, windows, mostly for the various cpu / memory test utilities). The two MX500's will run in RAID 0 (for convenience, not performance) and will mostly be a bulk store, and the 860 EVO will be devoted to experiments with filesystems and the like. The Mac Pro can also donate a pair of remarkably quiet WD Black 1 Tb spinners, but I'm holding off on that until I need to run HDD specific tests, which will be hopefully never.

  • 16 months ago
  • 1 point

I've got a 2700X + Taichi X470 + Fractal Defines S build I put together in late April that I haven't yet posted to PCPP. The system is aimed at 3D modeling, rendering, sound design, graphics. I went with MX500 SATA for boot, WD Black NVMe (2nd gen) for scratch disk in M2_1, HP EX920 NVMe for /user folders in M2_2, and WD Red spinner for nightly clones of boot and users. At the time of purchase, the WD and HP NVMe were good value (Samsung hadn't dropped their prices yet). I do like your choices and if I'd pulled the trigger even two weeks later I might have fretted more over my choices -- the Samung 970s, WD Black, and HP EX920 NVMes all have compelling pros/cons depending on use case and price. Certainly no complaints, though -- the system is, shall we say, "very responsive" lol.

  • 16 months ago
  • 1 point

The Define R6 is an excellent choice if you plan to add a lot more drives later. You can even still add a Blu-ray burner or LTO drive if you wanted to since this is an air cooled config.

  • 16 months ago
  • 1 point

Some followup, on the very remote chance that it might help or inform someone else:

  • I had a real problem with hard lockups running linux - random complete system freeze, even the Dr Debug LED would freeze. Turned out to be kernel related, 4.17.4 was no good, I had to run 4.17.9 to get things working. I strongly suspect the amdgpu driver. I also disabled C6 state and set Idle Current Typical, the latter two from the BIOS. Memory is running at 2933, mostly just to be safe, but once I have some breathing room I'll push it back up. I'm sure I can get 3200 with some tweaking. The difference will be very small IRL.

  • I did in fact replace the R6's stock fans. They were OK but were sort of rumbly with a bass note that I didn't care for. I replaced all 3 with 4 Noctua A12x25 PWM's - 4, mostly because the only place I could find the darn things was Noctua direct, shipped from Austria, and I didn't want to spend weeks getting more if I happened to like them. The A12x25's are a little noisier than I expected over about 1200 RPM, but at 1000 and below they are almost silent, and they move a surprising amount of air. When Noctua comes out with a 140mm version I will likely replace the exhaust fan with one, but for now I'm in pretty good shape for temps.

  • This setup is really quiet, to the point where the noisiest component is the GPU fan. It's usually off, and I have it set to start at minimum speed (about 950 rpm) at 40C. The fan is very quiet at that low speed but I can still hear when it fires up. The Scythe Mugen PCGH is completely inaudible even at max speeds and it does a great job cooling. Overall it's quieter than the old Mac Pro which I thought was a quiet machine.

  • It's about twice as fast in general as the Mac Pro, which of course is the real payoff. The build is a big success from both noise and performance perspectives.

  • The CPU thermistor on this Taichi is busted (stuck) and I have a feeling mine isn't the only one. I'm running the fans from Tctrl (and MB temp). I'm not wildly happy about it, but with everything else working OK, I don't want to go to the bother of RMA'ing the board just for the CPU therm temp. Asrock tech support was ultimately helpful, but it took several rounds to achieve a meeting of the minds as to what the problem was; a bit frustrating.

  • If you're wondering about a fanless PSU, and have the budget for it, wonder no more, just buy it. I can't drive the computer hard enough to get it to feel even a little bit warm.

  • 15 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice system mate, I bet it flies!

  • 14 months ago
  • 1 point

Nice build you have!!!! Regarding ram you can probably wait until the latest beta bios goes out of beta and try that.

Just curious... Have you consider installing Mac OS on this build?

I do love Mac os but im not willing to pay so much for the hardware, so i just run both windows and mac os (each on a different SSD) on my pc.

  • 14 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Yes, I think the next BIOS update will help. I have memory at 3133 MT/s now so not too fussed.

I’ve thought about it, but since the Mac Pro didn’t sell, I still have it for Mac OS. And there’s the rMBP and the old iMac as well. Maybe someday.

  • 14 months ago
  • 1 point

Maybe someday.

I would love to install mac os on a ryzen build.... :) Tempting!

Enjoy your build which should last you!

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

I have a long way to go lol Great build and super solid part reviews! :D

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! This rig pays the bills and has been very fast and stable for me.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

Love the build and description! +1

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey Kschendel,

Awesome build +1 and great info +1