Background: My former roommate (college) reached out to me about building his first PC. He works in video production and plans to use this rig to start taking more side jobs, and advance his own career. So far he has produced two documentaries. Being that this computer needed to serve as a start point for his side hustle, the cost needed to kept low to be easier to recoup. In that same vein, it needed to have enough juice to getting him going and leave room for future expansions. Therefore the budget was capped at $1500 with some leeway for minor overages. (Note that not all prices are accurately represented).
Usage: He works primarily in DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premier.
Research: With his background in video production and cinematography he has been primarily using Apple products to get the job done. Needless to say for what he needed, a Mac was going to be way over budget. At first one of the priorities was to include thunderbolt in the build to keep the capability closer to a Mac. With that in mind I showed him two options, one the Z270 platform (with thunderbolt built in) and the other on X99 (with the capability for thunderbolt add on cards). The result was a range of $1800-$2000 and once again over budget. For comparison I included what he could get with AMD as Ryzen was shaping up nicely. The result is what you see listed, and at the time of purchase I believe the total was $1502 and change. We went a little further over because we forgot to include extra SATA data cables. The only real sacrifice here is the lack of thunderbolt.
Build Notes: I will throw in some of the rationale behind this list. For the motherboard, the two main reasons we went with the ASUS PRIME X370-PRO was support for eight sata drives and USB-C support. After completing the build, I can tell you it was extremely simple to overclock, but more on that later. The SSDs and HDDs were chosen based on the advice of this gentleman. Basically the first 240 gb SSD will be used for OS and programs, the second for cache files, the 480 gb SSD for project files, and the two 1 TB WD HDDs for a Raid 1 storage setup. Simply put we are trying for multiple high speed data lanes to tackle as simple a portion of data at a time. In time there may be one or two more added as more funds become available. Next on the graphics card its a tale as old as a couple months. At the time we were putting this together the original plan was to use a GTX 1070. As many of you well know the mining boom happened. We missed out on several craigslist deals and ended up choosing the second runner up (Plan A: GTX 1070, Plan B: Radeon Pro W5100, Plan C: RX 580). Finally for the PSU, it was only a couple bucks more for a gold rated 750 watt psu. He has plenty of overhead if he upgrades to a more intensive GPU in the future.
Build results: It was a wild ride as I had my buddy do the majority of the installation. He had never handled some of these components before, but overall it was a great success. Total time invested was around seven to eight hours over two days. Day one being initial build and windows install and Day two tweaking.
The good: Initial installation of the motherboard, cpu, cooler, ram, and graphics card was very easy. This was my first brand new or mostly new out of box build, so it was a bit of a learning experience for both of us. You can see in my other build that I am still using a core 2 quad q6600. The seasonic semi modular was a dream to work with, but needed to be planned out carefully. Loading windows was a breeze and after that it was very simple to overclock the cpu. It ran fine at 3.7 Ghz, but temps over time were pushing into 80 C, so I lowered it to 3.6 GHz (The boost clock) for long term use. He will have long render times so I wanted to try and preempt high temperatures. Note this is all on the stock cooler so props to AMD, its great.
The in-between: As noted in the review, the seasonic psu is fantastic, but because the graphics card is low power the included, non-removable power cord used for graphics cards just gets in the way. Not really an issue, but more of a bother.
The bad: The case was purchased on sale and fit his desired aesthetics. I would neither recommend it nor tell you to pass on it. Im middle of the road as it had its highs and lows. The lows though were several and varied. First off to install the motherboard we had to push it tight against the IO shield (which we checked twice to ensure it was fully in). Initially the motherboard would not line up with the stand offs and had to be held down. The second hassle was the included fan controller. Included instructions were not clear on how to complete installation on it, but Google quickly rectified that. Lastly was removing one of the plastic covers on the 5.25" bay. We could not figure it out for the longest time. Eventually we got it off, but I'm still not sure how it happened. Overall the cable management was alright at this price point, but it had to be really wrestled into place. I had hoped by this point that the Ryzen motherboards had matured enough to be simpler to install. I can definitely tell you not yet, but close. First thing I did was update the bios to the latest version (AGESA update). Upon restart it would not even get to the bios. I popped the cmos battery out and put it back in, turned it on and it just worked. You have to take your victories where you can. The other big issue was getting the ram to run at the rated speed. In researching the issue I read a lot of "don't buy corsair ram with this mobo" comments, even though its on the QVL. The okay news is that I changed the timings from I believe 15-15-15-15-36 to 16 and it posted up to 2800 MHz. I had to do it again to 17 to get it to 2993 MHz. It was a four or so point difference in cinebench so I kept the higher speed. Last problem, was one of the WD 1 TB drives purchased OutletPC was damaged upon arrival. He however did not check the condition before the 30 day period expired so he is out on that. The power and data pins/plugs were bent up and the drive was not recognized in the bios. We did try it on a known working sata port and with two cables. Lesson learned, check the condition of packages upon arrival.
The Results: Due to time constraints, I only ran tests on cinebench and at desired speeds, Prime95. At stock CPU speeds and OC'ed RAM, the cinebench CPU score was 1144 cb and OpenCL was 103 fps. After OCing the CPU and RAM, the cinebench CPU score was 1207 cb and OpenCL was 108 fps.
At stock CPU speeds temps were min 28C (idle) and 44C max (under load), as reported by HWMonitor. After OCing, idle was around 32C (idle) and 58C max (under load). Let me know if I should tell him to reapply the thermal paste and cooler.
I can definitely say I am very happy with the result and I will have more details once I get a follow report on its performance with his projects. Working with a modern PC is amazing. You really should take a moment and just appreciate how far we have come even just in the last couple years.
Looking forward: There are several updates planned as he finds the cash. First, acquiring a Blackmagic Design DeckLink Mini Monitor 4K, to be used with DaVinci Resolve Second, adding more RAM to round off at 32 Gbs. After that I've recommended the purchase of an AIO so we can push the CPU a little further. Like all Ryzen buy-ins we are betting on AM4 to show good improvement up till 2020 or so. Around then if he needs more power he can look at the next zen 8 core line.
Hopefully I have covered everything, but if you have any questions I will answer any comments. Please excuse my phones picture quality. I selected the best of the bunch, and when he updates may he will include more pictures and cinebench result screenshots.
Note: The monitor in the pictures is a refurbished dell that I am unsure of the model. He will have two monitors eventually (hence the acer).
This is a wonderful sweet spot in the Ryzen line up. Six cores and twelve threads with plenty of overclocking headroom. This CPU excellently balances price/performance ratio.
Still a little buggy with the latest bios (0805) but it is great for overclocking and future expansions.
Despite being on the QVL for the Asus PRIME X370-PRO, the timings had to be played with to run at stock speeds.
Great card to get a foothold in some decent compute power. Its low wattage and single slot. Don't be thrown off by the blue exterior. Mounted in a case all you see is a sexy black side panel which is perfect for any build.
For the price it gets the job done well. With three fans included and a basement, it has good support and decent cable management. You may have to get forceful during installation, and the included fan controller can be both a blessing and a curse.
Flexible and sexy. If you are using a graphics card that only takes power from the PCI slot, consider going fully modular as you will have one power cord with nothing to plug into that you can get rid off.
It works as advertised and not the other way around.