I have been building computers for several years now and my latest build is a second generation Threadripper build which is aimed fairly and squarely at supporting my daily computer usage while using Slackware Linux. It takes over from a rather elderly AMD FX system which I built many, many years ago.
Of all the systems that I have built for myself this Threadripper system has been the most focussed with most components specifically tied into usage targets. And I thought, Gentle Reader, that perhaps this carefully planned build might have some interest to others, so here it is presented with all of its successes and also its few small mistakes. Let me know if this has at all been useful for you...
I decided to not publish the cost of the components of this system, this is rarely useful because of regional variations in the pricing of components as well as for the fact that the sickening price drops that occur as computer technology ages is almost too much for me to observe too closely! But I can certainly say that the overall build was plotted out on one of those amazing 'partpicker' sites which allowed me to plot out my uneasy compromises between quality parts and expense. And here then is the components and some notes on the build:
CPU and Motherboard
The central plan for this build was always to get hold of as much Threadripper as I could afford and this landed me with an AMD 2950X: a 16 core, 32 thread CPU. The specific purpose for this selection, Gentle Reader, was to make large, complex compiling tasks under Slackware Linux completely trivial. For example on this system Libreoffice 126.96.36.199 can be compiled in 30 minutes, QT 5.13.2 in 50 minutes and Linux Kernel 5.6.11 in substantially less time than this.
The other purpose was to allow for really fast video transcoding, one of my hobbies, and for this the Threadripper CPU just keeps delivering, with the caveat that this effect is seen only with codecs that actually support multi-threaded and/or multi-tiled encoding. As for motherboards at the time of this build there were not a lot of motherboards suitable for the newer TR4 sockets so I purchased the MEG X399 CREATION board. Perhaps more boards are available now but this one has served me well although I am really not that keen on EATX boards...
On a 'maintainance' run on this system 12 months in I finally placed the IO shield on the case, a rookie error I realise. Plus I took the opportunity to replace the thermal paste on the CPU using my usual Artic Silver Thermal Compound with a single, large dollop on the 'z' of the Ryzen logo. The old paste was still ok, just a little dried out.
You will know, Gentle Reader, that a computer case is not the sexiest part of the build. With some experience now I have come to realise that careful selection is required to get hold of a case that is easy to work in, allows for good airflow and also looks good. The case I selected was the Corsair Obsidian 500D and it ticked all of those boxes. Note that it is actually a mid-tower case so a little pushing and shoving was required to fit the EATX motherboard I also selected into it, but it was a reasonable if not fairly close fit. A great case and I would strongly recommend it.
Power Supply Unit
Selection of a suitable PSU for me was a little difficult as I made the great mistake of asking too many people for too many opinions! However my final choice of a Corsair 1000 Watt RM1000X fully modular supply was a good one after I discarded much well meaning but usually misinformed advice. This is a reliable, efficient PSU (80 Plus Gold) from a well known company, it is fully modular so I don't have to wrestle the octopus any more, there is room in terms of power output for my system to upgrade over the years and it has worked out extraordinarily well over the last 7-8 months.
There is a world of 'Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt' (FUD) concerning cooling Threadripper CPUs and I confess that for a time I was a little stymied; this is what happens when you listen to too many conflicting and often strongly held beliefs. However I can tell you, Gentle Reader, that my own experience has taught me that a 2nd generation Threadripper can be more than adequately cooled with a non full cover AIO water cooler. I installed a Corsair H150i Pro 360mm AIO and under full load I have seen no hotter than 63° Celcius (145° Fahrenheit) with ambient 25° Celcius (77° Fahrenheit). These numbers taken from a LibreOffice compile, a more than adequate test.
On my 'maintainance' run after 12 solid months of usage I added two noctua NF-A14 140mm Premium Fans at the top of the case just to keep the air flow in the case optimal and this little bit of work cooled the temps by a couple of degrees which was very pleasing. Ugly fans but quiet and highly efficient. And for you, Gentle Reader, while I was replacing the thermal paste on my maintainance run I took a couple of photos of of the CPU, my dollop of Arctic Silver thermal paste and the AIO head here...
When I bought RAM for this build the prices were still a little crazy so this was a definite limiting factor. However I knew that I wanted 32GB to cater for both running and / or compiling multiple large applications but more importantly to allow several well resourced Virtual Machines to run at the same time. So I picked up 4 x 8GB DDR4 3000MHz RAM, Vengeance LPX, and out of the box I set an XMP Profile in the BIOS to allow an eventual MT/s (Mega Transfers Per Second) of 2933.
While this kept me going for several years I experienced a RAM bottleneck with some larger projects that could only be rescued with the use of zram. So when RAM prices dropped I upgraded to 2 x 32GB DDR4 3000MHz RAM, once again Corsair Vengeance LPX RAM and again I set XMP 2 to get a reasonable MT/s. 64GB matches up nicely with a 2nd generation Threadripper and will now keep me going happily for the life of this build.
This build marked a big change for me in terms of data storage as for the first time I did not use any mechanical drives. Instead I eventually settled on 2 x Crucial MX500 2.5inch SSDs of 2TB each. Now, Gentle Reader, there is a plethora of misinformation online concerning use of these SSDs with or without a companion mechanical drive.
I researched this carefully in terms of life of these drives (the biggest issue) and importantly these drives have a TBW (Terabytes Written) company spec of a more than adequate 700TB. So if I write 20GB per day I will have total write of 7,300GB per year, or 7.3TB roughly. So potentially a 90 year life for the drive. If I go nuts and increase overall writes to 50GB per day I would amass writes of 18,250GiB per year or 18.25TB. In this highly unlikely usage the guaranteed usage of the SSD, based on the company spec of 750TB TBW, would only be 38 years. Convinced? I certainly am!
GPU and Monitor
A GPU can blow out the cost of a computer build so I had a long, slow look at my needs before selecting what turned out to be the perfect GPU for my needs and for this build. I played a few games but I am not a gamer as such, I use MPV for my media playback needs and by default this uses hardware GPU acceleration and I was especially keen to investigate hardware GPU accelerated video encoding.
And so the compromise between quality and price landed me an MSI 6GB GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. This particular card gives me access to the Turing architecture and has been a mind-blowing introduction to hardware video encoding, a great performer with the games that I play and gives flawless playback of the Star Trek: Picard series (among many others!).
My selection of a monitor has turned out to be perhaps a little too much compromise. My space was a little constrained so I decided on a 24 inch monitor and experience has shown me now that I could have fitted at least a 27 inch or perhaps even a 32 inch display. Anyway, the LG 24UD58 Ultra UHD 4K monitor that I ended up with has been good on this setup but I suspect that a better GPU would have deserved a better monitor.
I was pretty set for things like mouse, keyboard, speakers and the like but I did take the opportunity to pick up a few nice 'extras' for this build; a little bit like have dessert after a great main course:
- Secretlab Gaming Chair Time for a bit of comfort as well as a litte bit of style. A truly wonderfully made, comfortable chair with a decent 5 year warranty.
- Pioneer BDR-XD07TB BR/DVD/CD Writer Times have changed and I no longer really use DVDs or audio CDs and my backups are to an external mechanical HDD but this little external drive has been useful for the few occasions that I have to view this sort of media. And a nicely made piece of hardware as well!
These round out the build nicely! For my next build I would love to get a nice table for the computer, my existing table is an old, discarded kitchen table that has many shorcomings. And perhaps one of those nice external SSD drives for backup? Next time...
And so that represents the heart of the Threadripper system that I built in May-June 2019. It has given great performance in the years since that date. In retrospect I don't think I would have chosen any different parts or indeed built the computer differently. I have used the system solidly for the last years and it complements and extends my Slackware usage comprehensively.
I plan to keep this system for 5-6 years and then build myself a newer system; this time seems to be about the sweet spot for my usage: sitting between fair usage and obsolescence. With this in mind I have carefully stored away all packaging, extra cables, screws and oddments to make the components much more saleable in the future and of course much easier to send off in the post! Thus for the first time in my history of computer building I am planning the end of a system even as I am still actually building it! So it goes in the world of computers I guess..
And in conclusion...
I hope that this story of my Threadripper build has been useful for others who are perhaps also contemplating a computer build with similarly fairly tightly focussed needs. Please feel free to contact me with any errors of fact that you have found on this page, any errors of opinion will probably remain uncorrected. In the meantime I am having a great time working with computer hardware and building computer systems, what about you?