Ever had one of those days with your PC? Well, I've just had mine and it was a doozy. HTPC 4.3D Hub is a Small Form Factor console PC that serves as my living room gaming and streaming hub. An emergency rebuild was required due to the liquid cooler inside my PC having unfortunately leaked on to the motherboard. Now this is an inherent risk we all know about as PC builders but I've never actually seen or heard of this actually happening to anyone... until now. This makes it my fourth personal build and it's connected to to my 55"4K 3D UHDTV, hence the 4.3D designation.
Somehow, I unknowingly put a bend in one of the tubes right near its attachment to the radiator but couldn't see it due to its placement in my SFF case. My bad, obviously, but the bottom line is that a leak occurred that fried the motherboard and required me to bring it in to Canada Computers for servicing as this was something I had never personally experienced before.
Fortunately, the Canada Computer technicians were equipped with a test bench in which they could verify that the CPU, memory and graphics card were all OK. The graphics card especially concerned me as the other components were reasonably affordable to replace. A near $1000 CDN graphics card on the other hand... Fortunately, the motherboard did not short anything else with it.
Once all was verified, I then had to purchase a new motherboard. I chose the ASUS ROG Strix Gaming B450-I Gaming motherboard as a replacement. It's been a while since I've touched ASUS as I've mentioned I feel they had gotten overpriced over the last few years even though I've always loved their quality. However, their Republic of Gaming line of ITX motherboards made it up here (CC previously only carried Gigabyte's ITX line), it was reasonably affordable being just $40 CDN more than the Gigabyte 450 ITX board they were selling and I know from internet research that ASUS ROG ITX boards don't have the VRM overheating problems of the Gigabyte 450 ITX so I went for it.
I must say, the ASUS ROG UEFI/BIOS is extremely impressive. The AI Tweaker overclocking is amazing, pretty much doing the equivalent job of manual overclocking on the CPU, memory and power settings in about 30 seconds flat once you select the desired core clock multiplier and XMP memory profile. It is especially good in controlling the voltages and the cooler and system fans which I'll get to more below. The AsRock UEFI/BIOS from my previous motherboard is really good and AsRock has excellent Windows based overclocking utilities as well but the ASUS ROG UEFI/BIOS is just absolute genius next to it. It really made me an ASUS fan again. My one and only complaint with this board is that it lacks the SPDIF digital audio optical output that my old AsRock board did. Not a deal breaker or anything, though.
Unfortunately, the Ryzen memory compatibility reared its ugly head and forced me to buy a new memory kit as well. Like I said, it's just one of those days. So I went with the Corsair Vengeance LX DDR4-3000 16 GB kit. Excellent low profile performers. The previous G.Skill AEGIS DDR4-3000 16 GB kit, which I had to get ironically because this Corsair kit which I originally wanted when I first built my SFF console PC isn't compatible with the AsRock B350 Fatal1ty/AC ITX board I previously used, is not compatible with this motherboard. Go figure.
Now the CPU cooler replacement posed an interesting dilemma. We all read about the danger of liquid escaping the cooler but nobody thinks it will ever happen to them. Prior to this mishap, as you can read from my previous builds, the cooler ran for over a year with absolutely no issue at all in my Silverstone FTZ-01 case. So what now? Do I get a new liquid cooler and chalk the situation up to an unfortunate mishap? What's to prevent a leak from happening again? Or do I learn my lesson and go for an air cooler?
I decided to do some research and looked at various low profile air coolers as well as more 120 mm liquid coolers before making a decision. In the meantime, I attached a stock AMD FX box cooler to keep me going. You may recall from my previous builds that this cooler is really the Wraith Max/Prism heatsink cooler with an inferior fan but it does a damn good job of cooling and is able to match a full size tower cooler in cooling ability. And that's when I found something interesting about the ASUS AI Tweaker.
The major complaint about the AMD FX stock cooler is that it runs like a buzzsaw. I can vouch for that, it easily reaches an insanely high 5000+ RPM and sounds like a vacuum cleaner running on high if it's not controlled properly. However, BIOS options were not as developed at the time of the AMD FX CPU 8000 series heyday as they are now and so they usually ran the fan at full throttle leading to all the complaints.
The ASUS AI Tweaker controls not only the CPU overclocking but the fan curve as well and it does an amazing job of keeping the Chassis fan above the CPU to just under 1500 RPM and the CPU fan to well under 3000 RPM and still keeps my Ryzen 5 3600 CPU to 46 C at idle and 63 C under full gaming load. That's pretty much the equivalent of the 120 MM AIO liquid cooler I was using previously but now it's just as silent. In fact, the case fans are now louder than the CPU fan and they're relatively low noise themselves. So it seems the many valid complaints about the loud and overbearing FX stock cooler fan had more to do with proper fan controls than the fan itself. At least from what I am experiencing. As such, my fear of using another liquid AIO cooler and the expense of getting a low profile air cooler are now both irrelevant. I see there are new Wraith Max coolers for sale on Amazon and eBay and I may end up purchasing one for an upgrade. For now, I'll see how the stock FX cooler performs over the next month and then consider whether to purchase the new cooler on Black Friday.
The Ryzen 5 3600 CPU remains the heart of the system. Excellent value, high IPC, 6 cores and 12 threads. Superb value CPU, no point in getting anything less or going higher without 8 cores. Easily overclocked to 4.0GHz under the AI Tweaker at a mere 1.3 V. It can reach 4.1 GHz at 1.35 V and 4.2 Ghz at 1.4 V. Impressive. I have currently left it at 4.0 GHz/1.3 V and am considering whether it's worth it to push it up to one of the other two settings.
Graphics card remains the Gigabyte RTX 2080 SUPER 8 GB Turbo, a two slot turbine fan/vapor chamber cooled GPU card. Excellent for 4K Ultra gaming, especially paired with the Ryzen 5 3600. Watch the fan curves, it will get loud if not controlled properly. I recommend using MSI Afterburner to overclock. Currently I give it an additional 100 MHz on the core and an additional 1100 MHz on the memory.
Since I was already throwing money away at this build, I decided to do an upgrade in storage as well. The ROG B450-I contains a very smartly positioned front accessible heat shielded M.2 SSD slot. As such, I decided to go for my first ever NVMe M.2 SSD. After finding stellar reviews for it, I ended going for the Kingston A2000 1 TB M.2 SSD. It's rated for 2200 MBps read/2000 MPbs write which falls short of the 3000 standard that NVMe SSDs can reach through the PCI interface, but it's still enormously faster than an mSATA SSD.
This made my current 1 TB SATA SSD immediately redundant which itself was an upgrade from my 512 MB SSD. So both are now going in to my nephew's upcoming Ryzen 5 1600X/NVIDIA GTX 1080 hand me down build (which is another build that will be posted here on PCPP hopefully before year's end as I want to get it in his family's hands before Xmas).
My Silverstone FTZ 01-S console case still houses everything, of course. This is the third build this amazing case has seen in two years and I can't recommend it enough. Solid and durable aluminum, pleasing aesthetics, easy to transport.
Fans remain a pair of DeepCool UF 120 case fans as intake on the GPU chamber side and a proprietary Silverstone FN 124 slim fan on the CPU chamber side as intake.
My main monitor is my Samsung 55" 4K 3D UHDTV and my secondary monitor beside it is my Samsung U32J59x 32" 4K UHD PC monitor. I use just a standard Logitech MK320 wireless mouse and keyboard combo which was a gift from my nephews for standard input but not gaming. For gaming, I used a wired Xbox 360 USB gamepad. When I feel like using headphones for either gameplaying or watching streaming video, I use a pair of Walmart Blackweb wireless headphones which were a gift from my sister.
6 cores, 12 threads, excellent IPC improvement over my previous 1600X, easily overclockable pending your comfort with high voltages. At an affordable price, this is the crown jewel of the Ryzen 2 lineup. Great for AAA 4K Ultra gaming. I can't recommend it enough.
Amazing overclocking controls in the UEFI/BIOS, fully compatible with Ryzen 2 with the appropriate BIOS update. Literally made me a fan of ASUS again.
Solid low profile non-RGB memory. Actually overclocks a lot easier than my previous G.Skill AEGIS DDR4 3000 memory.
Solid SSD for bootup and games. This will be leaving my build and going into the nephew's hand me down build. RIght now it's serving as a Windows 7 dual-boot drive.
An excellent value NVME M.2 SSD. A little short of the PCI 3000 MBps read/write standards but it's amazing for the price and has excellent online reviews.
Excellent SFF factor HDD for file storage. Very quiet and fast.
A perfect RTX 2080 Super card for SFF console style cases. Excellent for 4K AAA Ultra gaming when combined with a powerful enough CPU such as the current Ryzen 2 series.
Solid dependable SFX PSU. Has more than enough power for a Ryzen 2 CPU and RTX 2080 Super card combo on a motherboard with 16 GB DDR4 3000 memory, two SSDs and an HDD running.
I finally took the plunge and did the free upgrade to Windows 10 using my legit old Windows 7 key but was careful to place it on my new M.2 SSD separately from the mSATA SSD so I could run a dual boot system and compare them before I hand off the latter to my nephew. To be honest, I'm only mildly impressed. There's some things it does better than Windows 7 and some things it does worse. Better: hardware compatibility, does HDR on my 4K HDR 3D UHDTV, speed. Worse: older software and game compatibility, little to no ability to override its decisions.
Excellent underrated fans housed in noise-dampening rubber frames and attached via proprietary unique silicon pinholders instead of screws. Color scheme isn't the greatest but you can't see them in an SFF case anyway so who cares.
Standard wireless keyboard and mouse. Don't need anything more as I use an Xbox 360 game controller for gaming.