Help me build my PC 2020 Catch All

Are there any good pages out there on the net that explain what each of the RAM timing numbers mean, and specifically what figures to look for when pairing with a fine wine motherboard/cpu? I get that "smaller is better, but costs more", but I don't even know what each component actually represents (read response time? write response time?).

In case anyone wants to make fun of me and my PC part buying, I recently spent way too much money on a heavy-duty industrial USB hub.

USB hubs have been a pain point for me for a long time. I have a lot of USB devices (HOTAS, rudder pedals, steering wheel, left handed joystick for HOSAS, foot pedal, phone charge cradle, etc) and cheap plastic USB hubs are too often failing me. I wanted a serious one that I could also screw into the underside of my desk (tired of adhesive failing and making them fall).

I've used a lot of StarTech products in server and onsite event environments, so I said "f**k it" and bought something that I know is going to be bulletproof and usable for a long time.

While I'm at it, I'm also redoing the cable management under my desks with StarTech's server rack cable raceways to redo my under-desk cable management. I have IKEA SIGNUM trays under my desks, and they're just overwhelmed by my cable mess.

Chaz wrote:

That's actually the exact RAM kit that I got, though mine was on black friday sale for $140. I also got a motherboard with bios flashback for $125. Good thing too, because it definitely needed the bios flashed before it recognized the 5600, and I don't have another AM4 chip I could have slotted in.

ASUS sets CPU-less flashing out as a high-tier feature when they really shouldn't, so to stay in that ecosystem I had to buy an expensive board. In the era of ACPI viruses, I think that's an extremely unfortunate choice on their part.

edit: oh, and I was buying 32 gigs. If you got 32 gigs for $140, I'm a little jealous.

merphle wrote:

Are there any good pages out there on the net that explain what each of the RAM timing numbers mean, and specifically what figures to look for when pairing with a fine wine motherboard/cpu? I get that "smaller is better, but costs more", but I don't even know what each component actually represents (read response time? write response time?).

Here's a short description: Memory (RAM) Timings & Latency: CAS, RAS, tCL, tRCD, tRP, tRAS

The first number is the most important, as it's the most common way that RAM is used. The later numbers refer to other access modes, and they're additive to the first. Each additional number refers to a slower access mode.

Good language compilers know that the later access modes are slower, and try hard to keep their algorithms working with simple accesses that are described by the first number. (ie, "row" is already chosen, pick a new column of cells and read that: this is the base CAS number, the fastest access mode in DRAM.) That headline number matters most because it applies to every memory transaction. Each later number describes an access mode that's less and less frequent.

Those four main numbers, by themselves, don't mean anything. 16 cycles of what? You have to pair them with a signaling speed (DDR4-3600) to turn them into something meaningful. 16 cycles at 3200MHz, for example, versus 20 cycles at 3600Mhz.

Here's another explainer: Choosing Your RAM: What is CAS Latency and When Does it Matter?

They give you a simple formula that uses the RAM speed and its CAS number to tell you the absolute wall-clock latency of a given piece of RAM. As RAM speed goes up, if CAS stays the same, the latency is dropping. 16 cycles at 3200MHz are slower than 16 cycles at 3600MHz.

Basically, pick the RAM speed and size you want (probably DDR4-3600), and then buy the RAM with the lowest CAS number that fits in your budget. The first number matters the most; the later numbers refer to slower access modes that compilers try hard to avoid.

edit: also, Ryzen 3 chips are happiest when the RAM is exactly twice the FCLK; this is a major throughput improvement. Every R3 I've heard of will do FCLK of 1800MHz, so that pairs beautifully with DDR4-3600. Main RAM being at anything other than exactly double FCLK is a substantial speed hit. Even if the RAM is faster than double (say, you buy DDR4-3800, and clock it at that speed), your system will be slower than when they're at a 2:1 ratio. Faster-clocked RAM can impair performance.

Nice. Thank you!

merphle wrote:

Are there any good pages out there on the net that explain what each of the RAM timing numbers mean, and specifically what figures to look for when pairing with a fine wine motherboard/cpu? I get that "smaller is better, but costs more", but I don't even know what each component actually represents (read response time? write response time?).

You can dive in here...

However, hardly anybody enters numbers manually. Instead most folks use the overclocking stuff recorded on the memory modules themselves (XMP, AMP, or whatever it is for your motherboard). Those who tinker will usually try a setting, see if things crash, try another setting, see if things crash, over and over until they find good settings with their particular memory modules and motherboard.

Since memory chips are binned and there are tolerances within that binning, there is no such thing as "if you're using these - use these settings". Combining that with oodles of different chipsets, motherboards, and THEIR manufacturing tolerances makes it impossible to predict what would truly work best in your system.

Plus, for all the time you put in you might get a percent or two more out of your system. Maybe. Or you might get unexplained crashes when things are done a certain way.

With that said, memory tweaking is an interesting thing to some folks. To each their own hobbies.

EDIT: Bah. I had this typed out earlier and forgot to post it. Still, there are some different thoughts in there.

As someone who hadn't built a system in over a decade, when you get the system set up, you need to go into the bios and set the ram to xmp (or the mobo's equivalent). By default, it'll only be running at some much lower speed. Turning on xpm is how you get it to run at the speed it says on the tin.

Which is a really weird thing, and I'm not sure how you're supposed to know to do that without someone telling you.

True, just buying DDR4-3600 isn't enough by itself, you also have to set it to 3600 mode, and then make sure that your FCLK is at 1800Mhz.

Intel came up with a way to store extended info about DRAM right on the chip itself, what clock rates it supports and what timings it can do at each clock rate, and called it XMP. AMD couldn't use that system because Intel wouldn't license it, and came up with their own, called AMP.

Problem is, nobody supports AMP. Everyone uses XMP. So, motherboard manufacturers have come up with translation layers. ASUS calls theirs DOCP, and Gigabyte uses EOCP. You go into the BIOS and, on ASUS at least, choose a DOCP profile for the RAM, probably DDR4-3600, unless you bought something different. I assume Gigabyte works the same way with a different keyword. Either system reads the XMP data, and sets the AMD chipset correctly.

There will normally be at least two XMP profiles, one that's very slow and compatible with everything, and then whatever the best timings are for that chip. Sometimes there are more; my last set of DDR3 from Crucial (which was awesome RAM at the time) actually has four profiles in a range from slowest to fastest. Normally, you'll want to choose the fastest, unless you're troubleshooting something.

Don't forget to also set FCLK to 1800MHz. This was an easy setting to find on this ASUS board. There are, god, probably about a hundred settings you can change in an advanced menu, nearly all of which were total gibberish to me, but FCLK is pulled out as a headliner so you don't have to dig much to find it.

ANTOnline has 5600Xs and 5800Xs (bundled with a 3-month Xbox Game Pass subscription at face value, no markup) available. It's a reputable site, just lesser-known; I got a PS5 bundle from there.

Forced bundles certainly make them less reputable. (cf: Newegg.)

Malor wrote:

Forced bundles certainly make them less reputable. (cf: Newegg.)

That's a totally fair point. At least this is a reasonably generic $30 XGP subscription, and not the specific pieces of hardware that Newegg bundles.

I wouldn’t mind the forced Newegg bundles if the bundle stuff wasn’t crap. I’m typing this looking at a Gigabyte PSU that I wouldn’t inflict on anyone but perhaps Malor.

TheGameguru wrote:

I wouldn’t mind the forced Newegg bundles if the bundle stuff wasn’t crap. I’m typing this looking at a Gigabyte PSU that I wouldn’t inflict on anyone but perhaps Malor.

Good! Use your aggressive feelings. Let the hate flow through you.

Best budget or midrange CPU for Minecraft, Roblox, etc would be a 3300X? Doesn't look like they're available, so 3600 might be overkill, but it's available... (3100 seems even less available than these.)

I am seeing the Intel Core it-10400 at $160.

6 cores at 2.9GHz for $160 really isn't bad at all. Turbo is 4.3, which is pretty acceptable for a single core, so that would probably be pretty comfortable. But it only supports DDR4-2666 memory, and I believe you can't overclock RAM on most or all current Intel chips; they're now using that feature as a market segmenter. That chip is cheap, but the artificial constraint annoys me enough that I probably wouldn't buy one.

I assume that Intel graphics won't be enough to run Minecraft well... I haven't ever tried. If you don't have a graphic card laying around, a different option would be AMD's new 5600U, which is Zen 3 plus graphics, as is the new 5800U. (All of the other 5XXXU chips use Zen 2, which is intensely frustrating. I loathe tech companies that try to make money by deliberately making their product lines confusing.) I have no idea how scarce these will be, however.

Even cheaper, if you can find one: Feeank is pretty happy with his APU from the 3000 series. I don't remember which one he bought. He says he can play RDR2 at 1080p without giving up any shinies he cares about, and he's very pleased with it. I'm sure a chip like that would handle Minecraft just fine. I don't see any AMD APUs in stock at Newegg right now, but I'm not sure if that means they're forever gone, or just hard to get like everything else.

I don't know if they will be selling the HS AMD apus but they are significantly more powerful than the G or U series. At least according to Passmark.

Passmark 3dmark scores for each:
RX 580 - 8804
4800HS - 6999
4500U - 2008
4750G - 2367

Sorry, should've mentioned that I'm not worried about integrated graphics as I've got a couple older cards around. Minecraft without Ray Tracing isn't too rough on a gpu, it's all about CPU.

I was looking more into boards and the AMD is simply cheaper for more than Intel. Probably end up that route and maybe see if I can snag a 3100 since the savings at $160 for the CPU is offset by the mb cost! Oh well. The RAM issue kills any chance I'm going Intel, so thanks for that, I totally missed that.

Might just bite the bullet on a 3600 and know he'll be able to play other games too. We do have Gamepass Ultimate, so...

The 3600 is a great cpu. I have no complaints and it has been almost a year. (~10 months)

For $200 we're in the "guess dad will build for himself and give the old one to the kid" territory.

If you end up buying it for you, holding out a bit for a 5600X might be good. That chip should have pretty substantial legs, and if you put it on a PCIe 4 motherboard, you'll be able to plug almost any video card into it, probably for many years to come. They're still scarce, but not impossible to find anymore. AMD itself just did a big drop a few days ago, and you could order them freely for many hours, although they did go in and out of stock. And ANTonline is bundling them with XBox Game Passes (extra $30), which might be appealing if you're already using that service.

The B550 boards do one slot of PCIe4 x16 (driven by the CPU), with the remaining slots being PCIe3. They start at around $80, and have a cluster at $100. Super-luxury B550s are $150ish. The X570 boards are all PCIe4, and you can get the cheapest ones at about $150. It looks like $175ish seems to be the mainstream price, with luxury boards going for astonishing amounts of money.

Overall, you're talking $300 for the CPU, $100ish or $175ish for the motherboard, and about $100 for 16 gigs of DDR4-3600 at CAS 16 speed.... $500 or $575ish total. You could add another $100 to go to 32 gigs if you wanted.

The 5600X is 20% faster per clock than the 3000 series, with roughly similar clocking, bursting a little faster (so maybe a 25% overall speed increase per core), offers six cores to the 3300X's four, and does PCIe4 on one slot. Whether that's worth the extra money is up to you.

OMG OMG OMG. AMD approved my RMA.

Thank you Legion for the suggestion

JohnKillo wrote:

OMG OMG OMG. AMD approved my RMA.

Thank you Legion for the suggestion

You're welcome. Great news!

Speaking of Ryzen CPUs and sticky coolers, someone has created a bracket meant to help keep Ryzen CPUs securely in their socket when removing the cooler. Kinda wish these had surfaced before I finished doing my new builds.

I might just grab one.

JohnKillo wrote:

I might just grab one.

The bracket is only meant for Gelid coolers. It may or may not work with others. From what I'm reading, anything that screws into the original backplate won't work with it (for one... could be incompatible with others too). It also could possibly reduce mounting pressure on the CPU, depending on how your cooler achieves it.

I've been reading over on the Ars forums that Microcenter stores mostly have 5600Xs and 5800Xs in constant stock, with a trickle of the faster chips. You have to live close enough to one to drive there, but if one's in range, that might be a good option if you're looking for a CPU.

GeForce Is Made for Gaming, CMP Is Made to Mine

We’re limiting the hash rate of GeForce RTX 3060 GPUs [by 50%] so they’re less desirable to miners and launching NVIDIA CMP for professional mining.

Too little to late.. certainly will help long term but short term won't do much.

RTX 3060 software drivers are designed to detect specific attributes of the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining algorithm, and limit the hash rate, or cryptocurrency mining efficiency, by around 50 percent.

Given that Ethereum is in the process of moving away from mining entirely, this will arrive just in time to no longer matter. Mining Ethereum as a way of effectively making money likely has an expiration date measured in months, not years. (ETH 1.0 basically has a "time bomb" that is intended to tank ETH 1.0 mining output in order to compel people to switch to the mining-less ETH 2.0, and that time bomb is currently projected around July this year)

Which is probably why NVIDIA is doing it now. Make a big show of putting gamers first at the time when selling to miners is about to dry up. There probably won't be very many of these "CMP" cards made.

And that doesn't include the fact that there are mining companies out there with software engineers that can apparently write their own drivers and bypass the hash limit.

I am working on a parts list for my AMD build. GPU is up in the air of course but I am seeing mixed opinions on the net regarding chip set. I am down to choosing between a B550 or X570 board. I see examples of both at similar price points. What do you all think about it for a solid mid-range build using the 5600X?