Description

"The Penguin"

"Mr. Tuxedo"

"Linux, GNU/Linux"

How ever you refer to it, I'm just going to call it Linux here. "Linux" is pretty generic, but for as many times as people tell me to settle down with one distribution or another, I'm still something of a distro-hopper. Thus, there is no one Linux for me. There's always a new one to try.


TL;DR

A modest computer to run Linux on, built from carefully selected parts. Most parts were reused; I only bought the CPU, motherboard, and RAM new. I got deals where I could, but made a carefully considered upgrade. If you're going to build this, maybe do it differently.

The Parts and Why

Type Item Price Why
CPU AMD - Ryzen 3 1300X 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor $99.99 Bang for buck
Motherboard MSI - B350 TOMAHAWK ATX AM4 Motherboard $84.99 Future expansion capability
Memory Crucial - Ballistix Tactical 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR4-2666 Memory $54.99 Within budget, enough capacity, on MSI QVL
Storage Samsung - 850 EVO 250GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive $0.00 I've had it for a while, not NVME
Video Card Gigabyte - GeForce GT 1030 2GB Low Profile Video Card $0.00 Had it already, powerful for its size
Case NZXT - S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case $0.00 Originally for WS-1, then used for Bloodborn
Power Supply EVGA - SuperNOVA G2 650W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $0.00 Was in Bloodborn, good PSU
Food Haribo - Gummi Bears 5oz Bag Food $1337 Really expensive...
Other Manhattan Hi-Speed USB PCI Card (171557) $0.00 Left over from Bloodborn

The Nitty-Gritty Details

Just detailed reasoning...

The Why?

This machine was built to replace my Linux box - a Pentium-based Dell Optiplex 780 with 2 gigs of RAM (1066Mhz). That machine was far too slow. It would lock up and stutter loading applications and light multitasking, even with a fairly lightweight desktop environment like Xfce.

I had a few choices

  1. Upgrade the Dell. This was a dead end. It would be maxed at a 65 watt processor, a 3.33Ghz Core 2 Duo (due to the cooler) and 8GBs of 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM. That would be fast enough for most things, for a while. But it wasn't a long-term solution.

  2. Build a new machine, and keep it as cheap as possible. I could use a Skylake i3 (good Linux compatibility), a Kaby Lake Pentium (decent compatibility), or a Ryzen 3 processor (better upgrade path).


The Parts and Rationale

I chose the Ryzen 3 for the upgrade path. I want to keep this machine as long as possible, and while I have very basic needs right now, I wanted the possibility to seriously up the power with as small an investment as possible. However, I needed strong (enough) single threading, which is why I considered the Intel processors so heavily. I knew I was going to reuse parts I had already (case, PSU, GPU, USB PCI card), so that would keep the cost down somewhat. With the right selection of parts, I would also be able to use some things I had in storage, like the M.2 SSD.

Processor

I had two choices for Ryzen 3. The 1200 and 1300X. I was hesitant to go with the 1200, as the single threading wasn't as good as the high clocked i3 and I have a mixture of single and multi threaded workloads. It was very close to a tossup between the i3 and the Ryzen 3, but the discount on the 1300X is what settled it. That's right, the 1300X was on sale for the same amount as the 1200! The single threading was better than the 1200, and close enough for comfort to the i3.

I also have zero intention of overclocking (despite the B350 board, which was chosen for other criteria), so the higher clock speed and XFR is a plus.

In short, what should be sufficient single threading, and good multi threading gave the edge to the 1300X.

CPU Cooler

I was going to use Bloodborn's cooler, but I got lazy and didn't want to clean it off. Plus, when I was reading the warranty for the processor I noticed that it mentions being warrantied only if you use the included cooler. Specifically,

"This Limited Warranty shall be null and void if the AMD processor is used with any heatsink/fan other than the one provided herewith."

That spooked me into putting the stock cooler on it for sure, which works well enough. I'm not sure if they can or will actually enforce it, but I'm happy to abide by it.

Motherboard

I was originally going to use one of the cheaper motherboards I could find (the MSI B350M Gaming Pro), but this one was "only" $15 more. Yes, I could have spent that $15 to get more (albeit slower) RAM, but I realized that since I don't use that much RAM, I would get more use out of a better motherboard (and I didn't want to spend another $15 on top of the extra $15 for the motherboard). The upgrade gave me two PCIEx16 slots (possibility of VGA pass through without upgrading the motherboard), a free PCI slot for my Linux-compatible USB expansion card, and 4 RAM slots instead of two (not that I plan on using much RAM). The mobo is Linux compatible (Phoronix tested), and had the affordable RAM I picked out on its Qualified Vendors List.

RAM

Affordable, fast enough, and on the MSI QVL. I'm going to be running Linux, and the distros I use are fairly RAM efficient. Under the heaviest load I will end up putting the computer under, Manjaro Xfce used roughly 1.5 to 1.9 gigs. If I ever need to, I can throw in another 4GB stick, add a cheap gaming graphics card, put Windows on it, and use it as an entry level gaming rig.

SSD

I had this one already. I regretted buying it over and over, as using it in my other rig required me to take the GPU out in order to access the M.2 slot, so I could reinstall Windows (the M.2 was running Linux). But now it will find a home here.

GPU

I bought this a while ago to test things with, and it's saved me during troubleshooting my main Windows rig. While it isn't currently supported by the OSS Nouveau driver, it's possible to boot from and install the nonfree nVidia drivers with the Manjaro installer. I have it already, I can play light games on it, and it works with Linux. Why replace it?

Case

Oooh. I have a love/hate relationship with this case. I love the look, I hate the drive mounting (no trays or quick releases, just pull all the panels off and remove the PSU), and I hate how easily scratched the window is.

PSU

I bought this for Bloodborn, as it was one of the cheapest quality PSUs supporting two eight pin CPU connectors (via an adapter). Then it did some time powering the Dell after the Dell's PSU went out.

Now it will power this machine.

USB PCI Card

Bloodborn's motherboard came from a server, so it not only had no audio, but also had only two USB ports. It did, however, have a spare PCI slot, so I bought a Linux-compatible PCI card to add USB ports. Still only USB 2.0, but enough for most things, and it adds a USB 2.0 header as well.

Gummi Bears

Never got around to actually buying any, although I was planning on it. I heard they can't run Crysis, so I guess I don't need them anyway.


Performance

Fast. Leaves the old Pentium in the dust (compiled Xonotic in, very subjectively, a third of the time that the Pentium did).

Games

Doesn't lag on single-player Xonotic, runs Minecraft well.

Code

Compiles quickly, although I don't have before-and-after numbers, unfortunately. I did run the Phoronix kernel 4.13 compile test, and averaged about 7 minutes and 23 seconds to compile the kernel.

General use

Snappy. Boots within maybe 15 to 20 seconds (subjectively), and applications load pretty much instantly.

Temps

Pretty good. CPU Idle temps are great, just a few degrees above ambient, GPU temps aren't bad considering it gets little airflow. The GPU hit about 60 running Minecraft. CPU load is a little worse, hitting 52 degrees celsius compiling the Linux kernel.

Ryzen is new enough that temperature monitoring support is just being added in kernel 4.15. So that's what I'm running right now.


Future Plans

In the sort term, I may do something like the Linux From Scratch project, in which case I will need to add a bigger drive. Additionally, I will probably add a second video card and investigate IOMMU grouping for GPU passthrough to a virtual machine.

Long term... If I do far more compiling code, I may upgrade to a Ryzen 7 processor, possibly a 1800X (or whatever succeeds it in the same socket and chipset, if something does) and add much more RAM. I doubt I'll upgrade past that in this machine (so no Threadripper for this one).


Things you may want to change

  • The PSU is overkill. You can get a smaller, cheaper (but still decent) unit.
  • The GT 1030 can be kind of finicky with Linux. If you're going to run light games on it, get a GTX 7xx card (latest supported by OSS drivers), or an AMD RX 4xx/5xx card. The RX cards are faster and are supported by OSS drivers (good ones too). Just don't get a Vega card, support for them is just starting to be added right now (coming up in Linux 4.15).
  • If you're gaming (newish games), or you're a heavy multitasker, consider more RAM. If you're running Windows and going to game, definitely consider more RAM.
  • Carefully consider your workload, and if single threaded workloads are the priority, possibly consider the i3.

Part Reviews

CPU

Fast for everday use, good for the light games I've tested, and reasonably fast for compiling code under Linux (but if you're doing a lot of compiling, look at something with more threads).

Motherboard

Lots of expansion slots, good BIOS, could use more USB ports though.

Memory

It's RAM, it's fast enough, and it does a RAM good job.

Storage

Fast enough for what it does. Not NVMe, so not as fast as all those fancy, expensive drives.

Video Card

Runs fine under Windows and Linux (nonfree drivers), can play Xonotic and Minecraft, too slow for DOOM 2016 (but what were you expecting?)...

Case

The good: easy cable routing, lots of tie-down spots, pretty, easy to remove power supply.

The bad: good thing it's easy to remove the power supply and all the panels, because you'll need to every time you want to install a 3.5" drive. Also, the window scratches incredibly easily (as in, cloth will leave tiny scratches).

Power Supply

Excellent PSU. Well rated, fully modular, and has held up well for me. Also has an adapter for two 8-pin CPU connectors.

Food

I really don't know what to say about these. They won't run Crysis, and I can't SLI/CrossFire them. But they taste good.

Custom

It adds USB ports, but it's a really tight fit. I don't know if I'll actually be able to get it out of my case. Recognized fine under every Linux distribution I've tried.

Comments

  • 24 months ago
  • 3 points

you can add food to pc part picker?

  • 24 months ago
  • 2 points

What? How's that get there!

Yeah, long running easter-egg-sort-of-thing...

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

hahahahahahaha

  • 24 months ago
  • 3 points

Toute mignonne cette configuration :D

  • 24 months ago
  • 2 points

I'm planning on doing a very similar build also with a R3 1300x and a GT 1030. In fact, I'm also planning on putting Linux on it (Debian 9 to be exact).

https://pcpartpicker.com/user/nonoesimposible/saved/VYV4CJ

Would you recommend that I switch to a GTX 7xx GPU? I previously didn't want to go over there because they were so old, especially with Volta coming out in 2018. Also I've heard that the AMD's cards are better for Linux, should I switch to the RX 550? Or should I just keep what I already have?

I am just a little worried about the GT 1030 being "a little finicky with Linux". Not really sure what I should do =)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

It wouldn't hurt to switch to a AMD RX card (not Vega though)... The GTX 7xx cards are better supported than the Pascal cards, but new versions of the OSS nvidia driver (nouveau) does support Pascal cards, and it'll get a box up and running until you can install the proprietary drivers. The AMDGPU driver is pretty good, and available in most repositories (including the Debian 9 ones).

Don't get Volta for desktop Linux, there's no support right now, as far as I know (I haven't heard of any at least), and who knows when nouveau will support it. You may also end up with issues compiling from the drivers from scratch, as I have, until your distro gets a supported driver in the repositories. And that's assuming you have a different, supported, card to boot a GUI off, unless you load the driver code off a USB drive.

If you're doing really any multitasking or gaming, get eight gigs of RAM. Four will probably cut it, but possibly just barely. Frankly, I care more about the quantity of RAM over the speed. I know there's a debate over RAM speed on Ryzen, but from what I found that's really only on high-end video cards in gaming. I kind of doubt you would notice much of a real-life difference, and would do better with more RAM.

The 4 GBs in my machine was basically only to get it up and running, with little multitasking, and no gaming. Now that I remember how much I like virtualizing on Linux, I'm wishing I had more threads and a lot more RAM...

Also, do more research into that PSU. I have not heard good things about that it. EVGA may have fixed the problems, but I don't know. The new "gray label" Corsair CXM ones are apparently decent, and there's some good Seasonics. A PSU is something to never skimp on. Seriously.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you very much for your comment.

I will probably keep the 1030 then, as I don't mind using proprietary drivers. I like that it has a lower TDP than the RX 550 for only slightly less performance.

I would agree that I could definitely use the 8 GB of RAM, but I am already pushing my budget a bit and am afraid I can't afford to upgrade. The cheapest 8 GB stick I can get is an extra $30, which isn't too much, but my budget is really tight.

I will look into the PSU, I didn't see any poor reviews on PCPP or Newegg but then I went to the Amazon page and saw a couple, so I will make sure to check it out. It would be a big shame to get a bad PSU that fries my $550 dollars worth of parts. That said, the bad reviews on Amazon were also concerned with other Semi and Non modular PSUs from EVGA. I'll see.

Thank you very much for your advice. =)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I will look into the PSU

I tend check third-party reviewers like Tom's Hardware and JohnnyGURU. If there's a possible problem with a PSU, they will probably find it.

I would agree that I could definitely use the 8 GB of RAM, but I am already pushing my budget a bit and am afraid I can't afford to upgrade.

I get it, that's where I was at too with my build. Use a light DE like Xfce or LXDE and you should be okay for now. GNOME, KDE, Unity, etc. eat up RAM. To digress, I'm working on taking Ubuntu and stripping out all the heavy stuff like Compiz, then replacing it with ultra-lightweight things like TinyWM. If you really want to mess with that stuff, the "proper" distro is probably Arch or Gentoo (or LFS), but that's a pain because not everything is available out of the box, and some stuff just plain doesn't work. Also, you will get told to RTFM or get another rude response if you go to the Arch forms, no matter how much Linux experience you have, and no matter how unique the question is. But it sounds like you're going to use Debian, so none of that is probably relevant right now.

P.S. Read up on kernel support for hardware. Temperature monitoring for Ryzen is being added in kernel 4.15, which I think is still on rc release right now. IIRC, kernel 4.13 added some stuff for Coffee Lake (but that's more expensive right now). I'm running Ubuntu with a 4.9 kernel (the minimum for Ryzen), and it works fine aside from not being able to see temps.

Thank you very much for your advice. =)

No problem, sorry I'm so long-winded! =)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Apparently Debian 9 has Linux 4.9 (scroll down on it). Not exactly sure though (looking at this screenshot).

However, that means that I won't get any multi-core speeds???? This is getting more confusing as we go. =) https://www.pcworld.com/article/3176323/linux/kernel-410-gives-linux-support-for-zen-multithreading.html

On a side note, Tom's seems to like the PSU all right.... http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/evga-450-b3-psu,5160.html

Personally I wouldn't mind switching to Arch, or a distribution based off of arch like Antergos. However, my friend does not like the idea of using anything besides Debian. Normally I would just use the distro that I like best anyway, but this certain friend happens to be the one who is paying for the PC so I feel like I should submit to their requests.

=)

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

The 4.9 kernel shouldn't negatively impact your build, because the 1300X lacks SMT, so each core is one thread, not two. From the kernel patch log

So, without further decoding cpu_core_id is unique for each thread rather than the same for threads on the same core. This didn't affect systems with SMT disabled.

You're right, the PCWorld article made it sound like it was all Zen processors... Regardless, I'm in the process of putting a freshly downloaded Debian 9 Stretch image on the Ryzen desktop. We shall see how the performance is... It should be a similar-ish test to your machine, but the drive speeds will be slower (I'm out of SSDs), and the mobo is different, so I can't speak to what works on it or not (like IOMMU grouping).

On the PSU front, the model line checks out at JohnnyGURU as well. I don't know what PSU I was thinking of, sorry.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Excuse me, but why didn't you just opt for the regular Gtx 1050? A 1030 with that Ryzen may bottleneck.

  • 24 months ago
  • 2 points

Excuse me, but why didn't you just opt for the regular Gtx 1050?

I had the GT 1030 already. And I wasn't going to spend more money for a non-gaming-focused PC. From the build log,

I have it already, I can play light games on it, and it works with Linux. Why replace it?

It was bought to test stuff like GPU passthrough for VMs on my other machine. This is a general-pupose home pc and light workstation, not a gaming rig. I may test it with a few games, but that's not the primary purpose, and not where the money is going.

With that said, depending on how this machine changes, the GT 1030 may be replaced by a more powerful card. What that card will be will depend on what the host OS's card is, as you currently have to blacklist the driver for the passthrough card. I may or may not try to basically make a Linux chimera, with a gaming card for a Windows VM, and probably a cheap AMD/ATI host card. Or I can go with the hypervisor route or something.

So there's the full explanation.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Ah, I see. No reason to spend money if you have something that still works. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Yep!

As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

... and that's my favorite phrase! Even though I don't abide by it as much as I want to....

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

lol.

  • 23 months ago
  • 1 point

Oh, this is pretty nice. You still running Manjaro on it, or have you hopped already since?

  • 23 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks! I uninstalled the SSD running Manjaro and Debian 9 KDE on two HDDs. I'm not sure what will become of it in the long run.

  • 23 months ago
  • 1 point

Dude 10/10 upgrade from Gummy Bears to Gummy worms they have a longer life span.

  • 23 months ago
  • 1 point

You're right, I really wish I had done that initially. Now it's going to cost me another $3.99 :/

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

I'm building a gaming pc and I got the MSI b350 tomahawk and the ryzen 3 1300x, I need to get some ram which I'm waiting to come back in stock for and I have not GPU yet.

I have all the other parts and it's all built but when I tried booting the pc I get the CPU ez debug LED and I'm not sure why. Also I get the dram LED but that's for obvious reasons. Can anyone help me out?

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

I would imagine it could be because the 1300X has no integrated graphics and there's no RAM (but you got that one). The B350 Tomahawk has video ports so you can use an APU, but I don't believe it has an onboard GPU.

The first thing I can think of is that the PC is booting and can't initialize the graphics card because it's not there. That is, of course, if it can even try to initialize a graphics card when there's no RAM installed. I don't know if it can, so it's entirely possibly the debug light is on because of the lack of RAM, and it can't even get to checking the graphics card.

So, the DRAM light is likely on because there's no RAM, and the debug light is either on because there's no RAM or because there's no graphics card.

Also, try posting in the forums for more help. You'll get a wider audience.

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

Do u think I could have damaged the motherboard by trying to boot it without any ram in it?