Building an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Desktop Machine

Since the AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors were released on July 7, 2019, I decided to build a new desktop machine based on this processor. This was to give me some hands on experience with an AMD Ryzen 3000 series processor, and because I actually enjoy building desktop systems. This new machine will be used primarily to play “World of Tanks”, and I wanted to see if I could build a fairly low-end machine that would perform significantly better than my existing gaming rig.

My old gaming system has a $350.00 6C/12T Intel Core i7-8700K and an older $650.00 AMD R9 Fury Nano video card.

I live fairly close to a Micro Center, so I can take advantage of their bundle discounts when you buy the right set of components together. This can save you over $100 on a complete system.

Component Selection

I’m going to walk through what exact components I selected for the system, with a little bit of reasoning why I made those choices. In every case, I could have spent less money without giving up too much performance.


I decided to get an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, which is an 8C/16T processor that is a mid-range processor in the Ryzen 3000 series. It has a base clock of 3.6GHz and a max boost clock of 4.4GHz, with a 32MB L3 cache. This particular model has a 65 watt TDP (so it uses less power than the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X), and it comes with a pretty decent RGB Wraith Prism cooler. The Micro Center price was $329.99.


Figure 1: The Sweet Spot Processor


I selected an ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4 ATX motherboard.  I tend to favor ASRock motherboards, and all of my recent builds have ASRock motherboards. This motherboard uses the high-end X570 chipset, but it is one of the more affordable models from ASRock.

If you have an existing 300 or 400 series AMD chipset motherboard, you can probably use that with a new Ryzen 3000 series processor, with a BIOS update. You will lose out on PCIe 4.0 support, but that is not a big deal for a gaming system. The Micro Center price was $154.99, plus a $50.00 bundle discount, since I was buying an eligible processor.


Figure 2: ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4


I selected a 16GB G.Skill Trident Z CL15 F4-3600C15D-16GTZ kit (Micro Center SKU 822635), which is two 8GB sticks of memory. Having two sticks of memory puts you in dual-channel mode. Having two sticks of memory instead of four sticks lets you use one DIMM per channel (DPC) which increases your memory performance. TweakTown reviewed this memory here.

Memory performance is actually quite important for AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors. Having higher speed memory with tighter timings makes a significant difference on many synthetic and real-world benchmarks. The price/performance sweet spot seems to be DDR4-3200, with DDR4-3600 being slightly better. This G.Skill Trident Z kit has tight CL15 timing, which is important. The Micro Center price was $199.99, but I actually found an open box kit for $183.96

Video Card

I selected an XFX Radeon 5700 8GB video card. This is the low-end SKU in the Radeon 5700 series. The Radeon 5700 uses less power than the Radeon 5700 XT, but the performance is fairly close in most benchmarks. I do my gaming at 2K (2560 x 1440), so video performance is my main bottleneck. Truth be told, I would have probably picked a 5700 XT card, but Micro Center didn’t have any in stock on July 8, 2019.

The Micro Center price was $349.99, plus a $50.00 bundle discount, since I was buying an eligible processor.


I bought a 500GB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 card. This was actually not what I meant to buy (which was a newer and slightly faster 500GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus), but it was my fault. I had written down my component list and handed it to a sales person to get the components that are locked up, and I simply wrote “500GB Samsung 970 EVO”, so I got exactly what I asked for.  I didn’t notice it until I got home.

A 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SATA SSD is only about $10.00 less than the much faster 500GB 970 EVO. If you use a SATA SSD, you will have to use a SATA data cable and a SATA power cable, which makes cable management more difficult. An M.2 drive goes directly on the motherboard, with no cables required.

As it turns out, storage performance is not typically a bottleneck on a gaming system, as long as you are not using a slow magnetic hard drive. The Micro Center price was $89.99.


Figure 3: Samsung 970 EVO

Power Supply

I selected a Corsair RM750x 750 Watt 80 Plus Gold ATX Modular Power Supply. Modular power supplies make cable management much easier, since you only have to install the cables you are actually using. Because of my other component selections, I only needed cables for the motherboard/CPU and for the video card. No SATA or Molex cables were required.

This is a very good quality power supply that is less money than the Seasonic power supplies that I usually buy. Unfortunately, Micro Center doesn’t carry the full Seasonic line of power supplies. Tom’s Hardware reviewed this unit here.

The Micro Center price was $119.99, plus a $10.00 bundle discount, since I was buying an eligible processor.


I selected a Fractal Design Meshify C Tempered Glass MidTower ATX case. This case has very good airflow, and it is still pretty quiet. It is also quite low on the RGB bling factor, which is fine with me. It is a relatively small ATX case, which makes the build a little more difficult than a larger case. It does have good cable management features though. Gamers Nexus reviewed the Meshify C here.

One thing I might do is to replace the stock 120mm fans with 140mm Corsair ML fans, which would move more air and be more quiet. The Micro Center price was $99.99.

Build Notes

You want to make sure you are running Windows 10 Version 1903, and that you get the latest AMD Chipset drivers so that you will get the Windows scheduler fix for Zen processors and the much faster clock speed ramp-up times for Zen 2 processors. You also want to make sure you get the latest main BIOS version for your motherboard and then make an effort to keep it up to date. This will give you the latest AMD AGESA code, which helps memory performance, among other things.

If you get a Samsung NVMe M.2 drive, make sure to install the Samsung NVMe driver and to install Samsung Magician, so you can stay current with the drive firmware. At a bare minimum, you will probably want to enable XMP in your main BIOS. There are also a number of AMD-specific BIOS settings for things like Precision Boost Overdrive to experiment with.


The total (before tax) for the complete system was $1,218.90. This new system is significantly faster than my old gaming system, and it uses less power, while costing less money. I could have saved more money with some different component choices. For example, I could have gotten a cheaper B450 or X470 motherboard and an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor. I could have used less expensive memory, and gotten a less expensive power supply and case. By doing all of that, I could probably get the price down to around $900.00 for a 6C/12T system that would have pretty comparable gaming performance.

I’ve have some benchmark results in an upcoming post.

Intel Cascade Lake-SP Specifications Leaked!

As the upcoming Intel Cascade Lake-SP server processors are getting closer to their official release date (which my sources tell me is April 2, 2019), some more specifications are starting to leak out.

The Cascade Lake-SP Leak

Not directly from Intel, but from their system integrator partners, in this case HP, which leaked some Cascade Lake-SP SKUs and their detailed specifications. This was in some online documentation about the HP Z6 G4 Workstation, which was posted on February 22, 2019. HP quickly removed this information, but the information is out there now.

The leaked Cascade Lake-SP SKUs and their relevant specifications are shown for the most interesting SQL Server choices (at each core count) on the right side of Figure 1. This is important information if you are planning a SQL Server upgrade in the coming months!


Figure 1: Comparative Skylake-SP and Cascade Lake-SP Specifications

As you can see in Figure 1, the equivalent Cascade Lake-SP SKUs have fairly minor base clock speed increases (100-300MHz). They also have fairly minor Turbo clock speed increases (200-300MHz). The 24-core Xeon Platinum 8260 also gets an L3 cache size increase to 35.75MB. That processor is still not a good choice for SQL Server usage due to its low base clock speed.

New Features in Cascade Lake-SP

To be sure, Cascade Lake-SP does have at least two useful new features compared to Skylake-SP. The first is hardware-level protection from many Spectre/Meltdown vulnerabilities. These will perform better than existing software or firmware-level fixes. The second is support for Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory (Apache Pass). This may be useful for some SQL Server workloads.

So far, there seem to be some gaps in the Cascade Lake-SP SKU lineup, with no direct replacement for the Gold 6128 or Gold 6146. I have been told that Cascade Lake-SP will be a phased rollout from Intel, with not all SKUs being immediately announced.


ServeTheHome captured a .PDF version of the leaked page before HP took it down.


Intel is being less than forthcoming about the available Cascade Lake-SP SKUs and their detailed specifications. This makes it more difficult for you to do informed planning about your exact Cascade Lake-SP CPU choices, and to decide whether you should wait for Cascade Lake-SP to be available or not. Another factor is the upcoming release of the 7nm AMD EPYC “Rome” processors.

Intel is probably very concerned about AMD’s upcoming product release (as well they should be), which gives them even more incentive to be as secretive as possible about the details of Cascade Lake-SP. If you are planning a SQL Server upgrade in 2019, I can help you understand how to use this information to make an informed decision.

What do you think about this? Are you willing to wait for Cascade Lake-SP? Please let me know in the comments.


CPU Upgrade to AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X

About a year ago, I built a high-end desktop (HEDT) workstation based on the then, top-of-the-line 14nm AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X processor. This is the machine that I use for most of my daily work. I have been quite happy with it over the past year.  Here are the main components that I used to build this system:

By design, the system used 100% PCIe 3.0 NVMe NAND flash or Intel Optane storage. All AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors support 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes (with 4 reserved for the chipset), so I wanted to take advantage of that to get excellent total storage performance. This system has 16 physical cores (32 threads), 96GB of RAM, about 3.7TB of storage, and 10 Gbps Ethernet connectivity. It has two empty memory slots, so I can easily go to 128GB of RAM.

New CPU is Released

On August 31, 2018, AMD released the second generation 12nm AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X processor (AnandTech has a great review here). This processor uses the improved Zen+ microarchitecture that offers the Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 features to more aggressively boost more processor cores more quickly, based on available voltage and operating temperature. There is about a 3% IPC improvement and some minor base and boost clock speed increases.

Finding an Open Box CPU

After waiting a bit, I managed to find an “open-box” special for an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X for $765.00 at my local Micro Center, where it looked like someone had purchased the processor, opened the box, but they had not actually installed the processor (since it had no thermal grease residue or even any fingerprints on the heat spreader). Normally, Micro Center sells that processor for $849.99, which is $50.00 less than Newegg or Amazon.

While I was at it, I swapped out the original NZXT Kraken X62 CPU cooler for a Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 CPU cooler, that was actually made for the huge Threadripper CPU size. This Noctua cooler is quieter than the old cooler, and it keeps the CPU roughly 20 degrees Celsius cooler, both at idle and under a full load. The temperature difference is important for the XFR2 feature, which boosts the clock speed of more cores more aggressively if you have a high-end CPU cooler.

The CPU-swap went even more smoothly than I expected. The hardest part was removing the old NZXT CPU cooler and its associated wiring. I was expecting to have to go into the BIOS setup during the first boot and confirm a CPU change, and then I expected that Windows would also want a reboot. I also thought I might even have to re-activate Windows 10 because of the new CPU, but none of this was required. The system booted right into Windows 10 Pro for Workstations with no complaints at all.

Benchmark Scores After the Upgrade

Here are the old and new CPU-Z and Geekbench 4 scores for this system.


Figure 1: Comparative Benchmark Scores

Subjectively, the system seems noticeably quicker for everyday common tasks. It’s hard to say how much of that is because I want the system to be faster after the upgrade…

Economically, its hard to make the case for this particular upgrade. If I sell the old Threadripper 1950X, that would make it much easier to justify. Another argument is that AMD is planning on maintaining full backwards compatibility with existing AMD X399 motherboards when the 7nm Zen 2 Threadripper processors are released in mid-2019.



Figure 2: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X


Figure 3: HWiNFO64 System Summary


Here is an AMD diagram of the architecture of the processor.


See the source image

Figure 4: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Architecture


I really think that an AMD Threadripper system is the best choice for a general purpose, HEDT workstation, especially from a performance/dollar perspective. Intel still has a small single-threaded performance advantage with some of their processors, but the gap is pretty close now. You will have to spend quite a bit more money to get a comparable Intel-based system.