Here’s a sad fact: until just a couple months ago, my daily driver was an AMD Phenom II X6 1055T. It had served me well since 2011 and miraculously held its own up until its retirement. Honestly the chip still works mostly fine, even if its missing some core code libraries that prevent it from running a fully capable gaming PC in 2020, not to mention DDR4 and PCI Express Gen 3 compatibility. So it was time for an upgrade, and after watching many tech Youtube channels for the last few years, and practicing with a lovely low-end puppy I built for my mom for Christmas, it was time to put my knowledge to the test and build something really special that fit my needs.
The above Linus Tech Tips video asked a really important question: what are developers’ needs? I’m an indie developer, so theoretically I don’t need anything beyond a midrange PC, probably something around the $800 mark. But I figured, if my Phenom could last me over a decade with some levels of discomfort toward the end, then something with some longevity could last me a decade very happily. Considering I don’t just do game development, but also video editing, graphic design, gaming, and I’m always finding new hobbies, I wanted a PC that could hold its own no matter what I threw at it.
With that in mind, let’s talk my build.
Chassis – Fractal Design Meshify C
This case interested me for one reason in particular: filters. My old case, an Antec 900 from 2007, was wide open to the elements, and I work out of my bedroom still. That means one thing: dust. Lots of dust. Dust from laundry. Dust from my sheets. Dust from me sitting next to the computer as my skin slowly dies a sad death. The Meshify was the only case I found that has front, top, and bottom filters, meaning in two months I haven’t had to clean the thing yet, and this weekend all I have to do is take a quick dust cloth to the power supply guard and wipe down the filters. On the Antec, I’d have had to schedule time for a deep clean by this point. This case has been great. My one gripe is the cable management space in the back is a little narrow, and could use an extra quarter inch, but it’s much better than the 900, which didn’t have cable management space AT ALL. Honestly, Linus put it best.
CPU – AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
With CPU’s, I’m a big believer in the Price:Performance ratio. Yeah the 3900X is NOT cheap, but it’s about half the price of its 3950X big brother (when on sale), and monumentally cheaper than Threadrippers. It also beats out second generation Threadripper chips in processor benchmarks, and X570 motherboards are going to be compatible with newer chips for at least a few more years, meaning my upgrade path for the foreseeable future is still wide open if I need it to be. 12 cores and 24 threads of pure Team Red power might be overkill for what I do, but I did not want to end up in a Phenom situation again. I needed a chip that could handle anything I threw at it and this one has NOT disappointed.
Motherboard – ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Plus (WiFi)
I’ve been pairing up my AMD chips with ASUS motherboards since the Windows 95 days, and I wasn’t going to stop now. Going X570 means PCI Express 4 support, and great Ryzen compatibility across the board. FWIW, I’m not using the WiFi, but it’s neat to have the option.
GPU – eVGA GTX 1070 Superclocked
Believe it or not, this is one of the few holdover pieces from my old PC. Miraculously, it worked fine with the Phenom, and it works even better with the Ryzen. Yes it’s four years old now, but the GPU market has slowed down, meaning it’s only one generation behind. It’s powerful enough to run any game on High to Ultra (depending on the game) and works great for video editing, streaming, or nearly anything else, short of ray tracing.
RAM – 32gb GSkill Ripjaws 3200mhz
Again, this was a Price:Performance choice. I wanted to push as much extra speed out of my Ryzen as possible, and with AMD infinity fabric being timed to RAM speeds, I wanted to get a good amount of memory at a fast speed and not break the bank. This particular set goes on sale for around $100 every other month or so, and I still have 2 slots leftover, so if I ever want to upgrade to 64gb, it won’t be impossible.
Sound – Creative Soundblaster Audigy 5/Rx
I can hear you right now. “Wait. Sound card? What?” Yes. I’m a sucker for 3D audio and I use the Soundblaster for my headphones to get just that. On my old PC, I mainly had this installed because the sound died on my motherboard years ago. On the Ryzen, I use onboard audio for my speakers, and the Soundblaster for my headphones. Very optional but a nice addition if you’re wary of using the front audio ports.
Cooling – Noctua Everything
The Antec 900 had many flaws, including the lack of cable management, the terrible hard drive cage placement, and the dust. But oh lord, the fans were bad. The way they were set up at the front of the hard drive cages meant they weren’t replaceable, at least not without a lot of drama. I don’t think the top fan was replaceable at all. This was a big factor in me picking the Meshify C as I needed to be able to replace the fans if they ever died, and needed them to be easily removable for cleaning, fixing, etc.
My 3 primary fans (2 front, 1 top) are Noctua NF-P14s redux-1200‘s. These 140mm beasts make zero sound, do a great job at keeping things cool, and keep the grayscale color scheme. All 3 are equipped with black anti-vibration pads. The front two are also held up with anti-vibration silicone mounts, but the top two are screwed in normally just due to space. The back is a standard brown Noctua NF-F12 I had lying around, also held up with anti-vibration mounts. The fun part is each fan is also hooked up to Noctua Low Noise Adapters, so things only ramp up when it gets really hot, and the rest of the time the machine is whisper quiet.
For CPU cooling, I went with Noctua’s NH-D15 chromax.black absolute CHONK of a cooler. I really didn’t want to take any chances with the 3900X, even if it’s a pain in the ass to get installed. I chose to not install the optional back fan on it due mainly to space, and the rear case fan is very close to it anyway, so the combo of middle and rear fan takes care of the heat wonderfully.
Power Supply – Corsair CX750M
750 watts so I can have more than enough leniency? Check. Modular? Check. Inexpensive AND trusted brand? Check. PC Part Picker puts this machine at 454 watts. The general rule is to multiply expected wattage by 1.5 and that’s the power supply to get. In my case, I wanted to go modular, and this was the best choice on the market in that 700ish watt range. The extra 50 also gives me a little leeway for the future in case of graphics card upgrade or anything.
I have a bunch of storage. My boot (and currently software) drive is a 1Tb Samsung 860 Evo, actually reused from my Phenom PC with a miraculously successful Windows 10 transfer. I then have about 6Tb of mechanical storage for work, music, photos, etc. and a 10Tb external backup drive. I’m likely going to invest in some more SSD’s soon, including an M.2 drive for my games. I can technically have 2 but I’d have to take off the chonk of a CPU cooler to reach the second one and I’m in no rush to do that.
Full Specs List
A quick note about the above link: PC Part Picker lists the value of my PC at over $2000 😲. I did not spend NEARLY this much on it. Yes a good number of components are reused from my old PC, but the big killer here is the graphics card. Since the GTX 1070 Superclocked is no longer available, it’s listed as $625. DO NOT PAY THIS MUCH FOR A 1070!!! You can get an RTX 2070 Super for $5-$15 LESS. So for the love of God, save your pennies and boost your power.
If you’re looking to build a more moderate-powered PC, swap the Ryzen 3900X for a 3600X, saving $200. Go for a slimmer profile CPU heatsink, probably saving more money in the process. Do not skimp on the RAM, the 32Gb of GSkill at 3200mhz is perfect. Pick up a GTX 1660 Super to match the graphical horsepower of the 1070 AND save $400. Forego the sound card and mechanical drive. At that point you’re looking at more like a $1200 PC which will still take you very far.
If you want a low-power PC that still bounces like a puppy, well, that’s another post for another time.