This was built to replace the 2013 completed build on my profile. This is both a work and play machine and dual boots Windows 10 and Manjaro Linux 18.04.1. Here are my comments on working with each build item, and then overall impressions.
- The Thermaltake Core V1 is getting a little old and isn't very small by mini ITX standards, but it still seems to be easiest mini ITX case to work with full-sized components in in the lower price class. Every panel is removable and the panels interchange with each other too. It's feasible to change out AM4 backplate-using coolers with the motherboard installed (if you remember to slide something in to support the backplate from underneath before you remove the existing cooler!). This is very difficult to do in most cases. I prefer a horizontal motherboard layout and wish more cases offered this.
- It's a nice case, but honestly feels a little cheap and some of the parts (specifically the hard drive mounts/holders) look and feel like pot metal to me. Be gentle.
- As I intend to move this system around, I didn't want any glass, and non-tempered glass cases are getting to be slim pickings these days. The Silverstone SG13 was another option I looked at, but was almost too small, has zero cable management options, and requires SF power supplies and/or a boutique low profile CPU cooler, which I didn't want to spend on.
- The Seasonic Focus Plus Gold series is not cheap and is overkill for my needs, but I'm willing to splurge here.
- I picked the best rated Mini ITX B450 board, which also happened to be the pricier one. Since I was almost sure it would ship with a UEFI not compatible with the Ryzen 3000 series (and it didn't), I also picked up a Ryzen 3 1200 for $60 to be able to upgrade the UEFI to - I will resell it or put it in a future family build. The Athlon 200GE would have been another slightly cheaper option to achieve this but the Ryzen 3 is quite a bit faster.
- The motherboard is fairly easy to work with, but I don't think the audio header placement is great.
- After seeing the included RGB with the board I'm almost willing to spend money to add more RGB to the system. Almost.
- 1TB of NVMe is a very good for $120. Addlink is not well-known to me, but it benchmarks to the claimed specs and beyond.
- I found 4TB OEM WD RE drives for just $110 on Amazon. I have used these in file servers in other settings and they are tanks. They are not the quietest drives, but the price was very good for archival storage.
- I'm far too casual and occasional of a gamer to justify an RTX purchase, and I'm not playing the AMD video driver game. I wanted something with 3/4 monitor support and 4K support that will be supported reasonably far into the future, and the GTX 1660 Ti fit the bill.
- With RAM affordable again, there's little reason not to max out a mini ITX board from the outset and it's hard to go wrong with 32GB of Micron E-die for a little over $150. It's stable with the one-click XMP/DOCP 3200MHz setting with the Ryzen 5 3600 (interestingly enough, the same XMP preset wasn't stable on the Ryzen 3 1200). Tons of memory settings in the ASUS UEFI and Micron E-die is apparently a good overclocker, but since I need to get work done, I'm not going to push it.
- The Arctic Freezer 12 is relatively easy to install, but I'm not sure how much more effective it is than the Wraith Stealth, as I only tried out the Wraith Stealth on the Ryzen 3 1200. It certainly looks better at least and isn't difficult to remove or reinstall, even with the graphics card in place.
- The CPU was just running too hot (getting all the way to 94C in Prime95) and I was kind of bummed. Reinstalling the cooler and being extra scrupulous with thermal paste application and tightening down didn't do anything. For this case, it just appears the stock intake and CPU fan alone is not enough and the Ryzen 3000 series needs more air movement around the heat sink - I knocked off a solid 5C off idle and 10C off load temps by adding a rear exhaust fan to complement the CPU cooler fan and the stock 200mm intake fan. The case is kind of old fashioned and only provides mounting points for two 80mm exhaust fans, but I didn't want to install dual 80mm fans and didn't have any on hand anyway, so I made a 120mm NZXT silent fan from my old build work in the space provided. With the B450-i Strix motherboard, a 120mm fan actually slots in almost perfectly above the IO section and below the top lip of the case. What build would be complete without zip tying something in place anyway?
For non-Windows users:
- Everything in this build worked out of the box in Manjaro Linux, including audio, wifi and bluetooth. If you are looking for a Linux-friendly highly integrated motherboard, this is a good option.
Software comment rant time:
- I hope there are further microcode/AGESA updates for the Ryzen 3000 series. The whole experience feels like a bucking bronco right now when you have voltages, clock speeds and temperatures flying all over the place seemingly at random. It works well and has been totally stable for me, but it is unsettling to see meteoric rises and falls of clock speeds and temperatures when I'm used to now pretty-old Intel processors that just plodded along.
- ASUS' windows software (AI Suite 3) is absolutely terrible. Seriously awful. I just wanted to be able to change fan speeds from within Windows, but no, just do not bother installing it - it will just mess up your Ryzen 3000 clocks (its idea of "overclocking" a 3000 series is locking your multiplier at something below what it will boost at automatically anyway - gee, thanks ASUS), the fan control software seems totally broken, and you don't get access to anything that doesn't work better from the UEFI anyway. And uninstalling it leaves a bunch of services behind you don't want running. I can't imagine shelling out for a top end ASUS board, installing that pile of crap, and wondering what the hell you just paid $500+ for.
- ASUS' fan control defaults worked fine for the Ryzen 3 1200 I started with, but are completely inappropriate for the Ryzen 3000 series. ASUS UEFI defaults want to ramp fan speeds starting at CPU temps 40C or even less (which a 3000 series Ryzen will bounce above and below many times a minute) so it's constantly spinning fans up and down at the slightest move of the mouse.
- If you switch to a Ryzen 3000 series processor from a 1000 series between bootups, Ryzen Master gets very upset with you as it apparently installs a different driver for older Ryzens at initial install and this required registry wrangling to fix. Uninstall Ryzen Master completely before switching between processor series.