For years, AMD was a non-factor when it came to PC’s. If you were looking for a desktop computer to use at home or the office, you’d almost always get one with an Intel processor. You weren’t preoccupied with choosing between AMD and Intel; instead, you’d be wondering if an i5 was enough or if you could afford to splash out for an i7. Thanks to AMD’s Ryzen processors, partly helped by a lack of innovation on Intel’s side, the market share between the two companies has balanced out again. The third generation of Ryzen processors has been available since last year and to that end, we’re going to show you how to build your own high-end Ryzen PC.
Thanks to the resurrection of AMD, most PC gamers have been keeping a close eye on the processors of the company. At the very least we have the manufacturer to thank for waking up Intel and bringing back some healthy competition in this market segment. Quadcore processors were the standard for many years, and now even a regular processor has six cores with multithreading.
On the other hand, until very recently, AMD wasn’t able to win back the trust of consumers completely. The first (2017) and second (2018) generation Ryzen processors haven’t been able to beat Intel as far as single-core performance goes. Gamers rightly noticed that Intel-CPU’s are often faster when it comes to their favorite pastime. AMD also didn’t have a good substitute for Intel’s ultimate CPU – the Intel Core i9-9900K.
The drawbacks mentioned above are precisely the things AMD has taken into account while developing their latest processors, the 3000-series. When it comes to single core applications, the new Ryzen processors are just as fast – if not faster – than the one’s Intel offer. The improvements in Zen2-architecture and the higher clock speeds ensure that each new AMD Ryzen processor can at the very least match Intel’s counterpart. The Ryzen 5 3600 ($174.99) for example is more powerful than the Intel Core i5-9600K ($238.88), and the Ryzen 7 3700X ($294.63) also packs more punch than the Intel Core i7-9700K ($396). What’s more, the AMD processors consume significantly less power thanks to the new 7nm production process.
AMD even has an answer to the Intel Core i9-9900K ($534.99): the Ryzen 9 3900X ($419.99) has a whopping 12 core processor with 24 threads. Each core is more or less as powerful as the Intel 8-core, 16-thread 9900K. The result is a matching price range, but about fifty percent more processing power.
In short, the latest generation of AMD-processors offer more power for the same – or sometimes even a cheaper – price. Intel still has two advantages though. First of all, the performances the Intel Core i7 and i9 offer are enough for most users – the extra oomph AMD offers is mostly important for intensive tasks like video editing.
Secondly – and more importantly – while the single core performances between AMD and Intel are at least on the same level, games that are running on an Intel processor on average still manage to produce higher framerates. This especially comes into play when using a high-end graphics card like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. Combined with full-HD resolution, the latest Intel-processor can offer a better framerate of 5%. In the case of a 1440p- or 4K-screen, there’s still a 3% better framerate. With a mid-range graphics card like the RX 5700 XT, the differences get smaller, respectively 3% and 1%.
These differences are negligible compared to other important factors where the AMD processors come out on top. For example, the Ryzen 7 3700X has, on average, a 34% better performance during intense CPU-use compared to the Core i7-9700K. Combine that with a 25% difference in energy consumption and the 13% difference in price (both in favor of the Ryzen 7 3700X) and the choice for most gamers is easy. When you’re into more than just gaming, the Ryzen is always the better choice, but if you’re only in it to play the latest games, you should also factor the Intel Core i7-9700K and i9-9900K into your decision making. It’s best to ignore the Intel Core i5 entirely: for most modern games this processor already proves to be a constraint.
Let it be clear that AMD is the processor manufacturer of choice these days. If you’re planning to build a Ryzen PC, the following steps should come in handy.
AMD’s biggest competition comes from AMD themselves, as they have one CPU that is so powerful it makes the rest of their line-up less attractive. The Ryzen 5 3600 can be bought for just 175 dollars, but has enough capacity to run new and upcoming games, in contrast to the more expensive Core i5. It’s also powerful enough to carry heavy, creative workloads like photo and video editing.
Getting a more powerful CPU is only a necessity for a handful of specific tasks. Professional video editors should invest in the Ryzen 7 3700X or Ryzen 9 3900X. By investing in a faster processor, you save enough time while working to get your worth out of it. Streamers, CAD/CAM and graphic designers are also advised to use a faster processor.
Still, there’s nothing you can’t do with the Ryzen 5. The Ryzen 5 3600 can run everything smoothly and will keep doing so in the (near) future, and at a great value for your money. If you have cash to spare, you can consider the purchase of a 3700X or 3900X.
All third-generation Ryzen processors come with computer cooling out of the box, while even the most luxurious Intel-processors require a separate cooler purchase. The Ryzen cooler works fine, is silent when the PC is idle and not too noisy when you’re running programs. Most users have no reason to purchase a separate cooling.
However, they’re not completely silent, and it is possible to get a modern computer silent on all occasions. A better cooling system also wins you a small advantage in performance, even without overclocking. When overclocking you’ll want to invest in an extra cooler.
In our tests, three coolers came out on top. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition ($39.67) is very quiet, keeps the processor cooler than the standard solution and also looks the part. The most powerful processor cooler right now is the extremely silent Noctua NH-U12A, although considering the price ($99.90) we would only advise getting one of those when purchasing the Ryzen 7 or 9. The NZXT Kraken-coolers (depending on your computer case the X52, X62 or X72) are the undefeated winners when it comes to water cooling.
Because a part of the communication with the cores in Ryzen systems is dependent on memory speed, it is crucial to have the fastest memory possible. The best choice is 3200MHz memory, especially since it’s just a bit more expensive than the entry level. It is even worth it to consider the 3600MHz-kit if it can be found for a good price.
While we tried out the Corsair Vengeance LPX- and Dominator Platinum RGH Pro kits and the G.Skill Trident Z- and Flare X-kits, most of the memory kits are well-suited for motherboards these days. If you’re in doubt, all motherboard manufacturers publish the QVL, a list with working memory kits that have been tested.
An AMD-system needs a graphics card to properly function. There’s no simple solution to the best graphics card: it’s entirely dependent on if you’re planning to use your system for gaming and/or creative applications. A good all-rounder is the Radeon RX 5700 for a 1080p resolution. For 1440p, we can recommend the GeForce RTX 2070 Super – well fitted for both gaming and Adobe Creative Suite. Consider getting an external graphics card (eGPU), too.
AMD Ryzen-processors use relatively little power – even the Ryzen 9 3900X doesn’t use more than 100 watts during heavy tasks – so heavy power supply isn’t needed. The total amount of power is dependent on the graphics card you’re using. When combining the Ryzen 5, 7, or 9 processor with a GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080, GTX 1660 or 1660 Ti, RTX 2060 or 2070, RX 570, 580 or Vega 56, a power supply of 550 watts should suffice. When using a GTX 1080 Ti, RTX 2080, RTX 2080 Ti or RX Vega 64, you should consider 650 watts.
The examples mentioned above should provide you with enough overcapacity for the use of a few SSD’s and hard disks, and even some lights in the computer chassis. Keep in mind that when overclocking, the power consumption goes up, and you should add 100 watts to your preferred power supply. In either case, you’re well off with the Seasonic Focus Plus Gold and Corsair RMx.
The performance of AMD Ryzen processors is dependent on how cool the system stays. This is because the clock speed of the processor scales to the current temperature. A computer chassis with good ventilation can go a long way in bettering your performance.
The best entry-level is the Cooler Master NR600 ($69.99), which prefers practicality above luxury. The front of the chassis is well ventilated, and it comes with all sorts of extras like handy cable management, a PSU-shroud for good looks and space for multiple SSD’s and hard disks. There’s also a version with an optical drive bay.
For a slight price increase ($97), the Fractal Design Meshify C offers a more luxurious option. All the advantages of the Cooler Master NR600 are present, but it has a nicer design and finish. If you prefer a tight design, the NZXT H510 ($69.99) is an excellent choice.
If price isn’t a factor, the NZXT H700 ($139.99) and Phanteks P600S ($159.99) are fantastic choices. These high-end chassis offer a lot of fans: the Phanteks has three and the NZXT four. They’re also bigger than the other chassis, so you have more space for components (like bigger eATX-motherboards). The P600S is the high-end choice for people that want a USB-C port.
The latest AMD processors are the first ones that support PCI-express 4.0. This means you can buy the gen4-SSD’s, much faster SSD’s that won’t work on current Intel-systems. Most folks don’t have a reason to use these fast SSD’s right now though – having a gen4-SSD hardly has any advantages when playing games or working with creative applications. This might change in the future.
The best SSD for regular use and gaming is an SSD that offers a lot of gigabytes for a good price. Both the Crucial MX500 (2,5inch-SATA) and Intel 660P (m.2 nvme) are of high quality and cost around 100 dollars per terabyte.
When using video-editors, a top model nvme-SSD can come in handy. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus currently is the fastest nvme-SSD available.
When using an AMD processor it is highly advisable to use the X570 Socket AM4 motherboard. We have tested nineteen different models, but it’s still important to keep in mind your wishes and demands. For instance, it’s important to know how many SATA-ports you need for your hard drives and how many USB-ports you need in the back of your system. We have chosen a couple of great X570 motherboards that have a competitive price, but we haven’t found any bad 570 motherboards, so feel free to make your own choice.
A couple of the cheapest X570 motherboards are the Gigabyte Gaming X ($139.99) and the MSI X570-A ($139.99). Both are fine for people who don’t need a lot of fans or USB-ports. The MSI has a few more options, but the Gigabyte has a better power supply, which comes in handy when you want to combine a Ryzen 9 3900X with the cheapest motherboard possible.
If given the choice, we would prefer the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite ($201.99). This motherboard offers a big step up in quality, with better power supply, ten USB-ports and more than enough fans and RGB-headers. There’s also a modern USB3.1-port included.
For most people, it’s a waste to spend more on a motherboard. There are two groups of people that should entertain the following options though. Fanatic gamers that don’t have to factor in a limited budget could choose the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero ($359.99). This motherboard has all the extra’s to do LN2-overclocking, like extreme power supply and loops for water cooling. Then there are the professionals that need the speed and reliability for creative work. They are well off with the MSI X570 Creation ($497.78). It has a whopping fourteen USB-ports, 10GB-lan, three m.2-slots and even an additional plug-in card for two more m.2-slots. This is only a logical choice for people who earn a living with their PC.
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