Description

I began looking at building a new system during my 3rd year of my B.Eng (mechanical) and stumbled across rumors of Zen 2 CPUs being released in early 2019. Fast Forward to August 2019 and Zen 2 is out with great performance/cost, but mixed reviews running on B450. X570 boards at the time were lackluster with reports of DOA issues and complaints about chipset fans and sub-par VRMs, so they didn't seem much better.

My last desktop used an AMD Athlon 64 2800+ processor, so it seemed like proper timing for a return to Team Red. From that build, I cannibalized the Antec Super Lanboy case with a few mods.

I had recently bought a used Lenovo X1 Carbon as a cheap and ultra portable laptop to bring with me to class daily, but with its specs leave a lot to be desired for larger CAD assemblies, matlab/simulink, or (primarily) games. Around the time of that purchase, I bought a dock, the two Dell 24" monitors, and the keyboard/mouse which were re-purposed for this build.

The low specs of that faux-desktop setup eventually drove me to start this build. It has been 100% stable and I haven't had any issues in the past 5 months running this daily, so I'm very happy with the initial end result, but there is room for improvement.

Note for the PCIe WiFi card: The listed card is a dummy for a very cheap "uBit" 802.11g/n/ac card I purchased through Amazon. WiFi works well, but it is supposed to also have bluetooth which doesn't actually work...

Part Reviews

CPU

I don't need more than 6 cores/12 threads, and the price is easy on the wallet. I haven't managed to swamp it down with anything I've done, and sits around 40% utilization in most games. The stock Wraith Stealth cooler works well, but leaves a lot to be desired in the noise department. When it spools up, it hums loudly, and I have had no success quieting it with the fan curve. Working well with my MSI B450-A Pro after BIOS flashback, you might need to tweak some settings on these older boards depending on board+bios combo.

Motherboard

I originally wanted an MSI B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, for WiFi + second M.2, but that and the Tomahawk were sold out for weeks (MAX boards did not exist yet). The MSI B450 A-Pro was my third choice and I'm happy with how well it works with my Ryzen 5 3600. Pros: It's cheap, and despite what the "AM4 B450/X470 VRM Tier List" says, Hardwareluxx lists the B450 A-Pro with the same VRM package as the Tomahawk. After flashback and CMOS reset, it works well. XMP profile 1 worked to bring my RAM up to advertised speed. Cons: The bios is dumbed down after the update, but works fine. It takes a few extra seconds to get to the windows login screen(~20s total), but I think this is a common issue with Zen2+B450. CPU seems locked to 4.1GHz all cores and does not un-boost. I am running MSI's first bios release for Zen2, and I intend to update at some point. If I were buying today for a Zen2, the MAX is definitely worth the extra $10.

Memory

I wanted a 2x16GB kit for larger Solidworks assemblies, but everything else in this configuration at the time of build was >$50CAD more than this kit. It's not the fastest DDR4, nor the tightest timings, but it definitely does the trick. XMP Profile 1 on my MSI B450 A-Pro brought it up to advertised speeds and I have had no issues since.

Storage

I used the parametric filter for >=1TB M.2 NVMe drive, as I thought 1TB was plenty. The performance difference between the Crucial P1 and Intel 660p is like splitting hairs, I wouldn't hesitate to choose either. It functions as my boot drive and storage, but 5 months in I'm weary of speeds dropping off as it approaches the full mark and will likely add another drive to keep it fast.

Video Card

I bought a used GTX 1070 FE from Ebay for $300CAD($225USD) as it seemed like the sweet spot for price/performance. With MSI Afterburner, I have the fan curve ramped up agressively, Power availability maxed, +100MHz clock and +500MHz memory clock running smoothly with no issues. Heaven Benchmark shows 10% gain over stock and I've had zero stability issues in-game.

Case

My previous build circa 2005 used an Antec Super Lanboy ATX case which I re-purposed to save a few bucks. I removed the HDD bays, replaced the front USB2.0/audio jack headers on the front I/O PCB, and 3D printed a fan mount where the drive bays were. I replaced the original fans/blue LEDs with 3 silent PWM fans. As this case is 15 years old, Cable routing is not spectacular and hooking up the front audio I/O required some thought, but it could be worse. Provides some nostalgia for sure.

Power Supply

I wanted 80+ Gold, 650W+, and semi modular, so here we are. The 650 GQ is supposed to be a very good unit, and mine has been flawless thus far.

Case Fan

I replaced two old/rattly case fans with these higher CFM Arctic P12 PWM fans, and added a second front fan in the drive bays to keep positive pressure in the case (since GPU and PSU act as exhaust fans). Good CFM, quiet, cheap, no RGB - exactly what I wanted.

Monitor

Nothing fancy but what can I say, they work - and I already owned them from my laptop dock setup. No issues using them daily for more than a year.

Keyboard

Seems to be hard to find a normal keyboard nowadays in any offline store - this one was closest to a normal layout (F-key row is oddly small and no right winkey(???)) but it was wireless. $25 and feels like it. I had to run a USB extension because the dongle would drop signal if it is more than 1' away from the keyboard. The mouse it comes with feels like a toy, It felt so light that a sneeze could send it off my desk.

Mouse

I bought this because I couldn't stand the mouse that comes bundled with my Logitech keyboard. The shape of the M510 reminded me of my old MX510 - honestly still a great mouse by today's standards. It's nice for productivity stuff, and leagues better than the toy mouse that came with my keyboard, but once I started gaming I noticed that there's some serious input delay.

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