AMD Ryzen Threadripper: Back to my Roots

Posted on October 26, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 40 Comments

Back in the late 90s, I built my first PC. The chip that I bought after cutting grass and doing various chores around the neighborhood was an AMD K6-2 450mhz processor.

That chip and subsequent PC (splurged for 128 MB of RAM and I think a 16 GB HDD) was the start of my PC journey and developed my love for writing. The first thing I ever ‘reviewed’ was Monster Truck Madness 2 on a Geocities page that I built which I suspect has now likely been deleted.

But it was AMD that was my first love in this space and when the company announced Ryzen and Threadripper, I know that it was only a matter of time before I left Intel behind to go back to my PC roots. While there isn’t anything wrong with Intel, AMD had fallen behind with their last generation chips which meant that it was Intel or nothing.

Fortunately, the tides are turning and AMD sent over a rig (it is a beast) to run through my workflow which has become quite demanding. Before we dive into that, here are the specs:

  • AMD Threadripper 1920x with 12 cores
  • NVIDIA GTX 1080Ti
  • 64GB of RAM
  • Gigabyte x399 AORUS Gaming 7 Motherboard
  • 512 GB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD
  • 4TB HDD
  • Enough LEDs to be visible from the moon

While the verdict is still out if red LEDs makes it go faster and if blue makes it run at lower temps, the entire rig looks excellent. The machine was built by iBuyPower and while not the cleanest job I have ever seen for wiring, everything booted as expected out of the box; it’s a solid build by the company.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to hammer on this machine much like I do with my other rigs to see how AMD’s new chips perform compared to my last generation Intel hardware.

I hit on these machines hard, regularly encoding 1080P/4K video, streaming content weekly on Mixr/YouTube, and letting XSplit eat up all my resources on a frequent basis while podcasting.

It’s during game streaming that my last rig would struggle as casting a game at high resolution, streaming using Mixr, and of course, running the game would cripple the machine unless I lowered some of the output settings. It was always a delicate¬†balance of resolution and thermal management and while AMD is known to run hot, this machine is water-cooled.

If you have anything reasonable you want me to throw at this hardware, certainly let me know.

As these are new chips with a high number of cores, I honestly expect that they may get faster over time. With AMD optimizing the chipsets and Windows becoming better at multi-core operations, testing this machine over the long haul should make for an interesting case study.



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Comments (40)

40 responses to “AMD Ryzen Threadripper: Back to my Roots”

  1. themightytwo

    Please send it to me when you are done Brad inspections.

  2. Jeff.Bane

    I'm so glad AMD is back. Intel is a sloth without a healthy AMD.

  3. Waethorn

    So some questions come up:

    1) What is the retail cost of this? (If AMD sent it, they should've specified the MSRP)

    2) Is this just a "gimme" for the review, or do you have to send it back?

  4. Nic

    How many limbs would it cost a person to purchase a rig such as this? Several I would assume?

  5. ErichK

    Have fun with it Brad! My first 1.0 GHz PC had an AMD Thunderbird CPU in it. I've bounced back and forth between AMD and Intel since then, but am on Intel right now with a Core i5 4690K.

  6. jwpear

    Nice looking machine! These new AMD offerings have definitely piqued my interest.

    I was an AMD fan in the 90's too. AMD was pretty awesome back then.  My first was an Am386 SX, then Am386 DX, and finally the Am486 DX2-66. I loved them! My last was an Athlon--I forget the exact model--which I had issues with. I got frustrated with what appeared to be the non-AMD chipset causing disk corruption. I made the switch to Intel. It just seemed like a better mix having the CPU and chipset coming from the same company. And AMD seemed to get lost for quite a while.

    I have stuck with Intel CPU's and motherboards ever since. Still running a five year old i7-3770 on one of the last Intel Bonetrail motherboards. Since Intel is no longer making boards, and AMD is competitive again, I will consider AMD on my next machine. Honestly, that could be several more years. My current build has served me well and it's still a decently fast processor for my needs (mostly development).

    By the way, I have saved all the desktop CPU's from the personal builds I have done over the past 26 years. Oldest is an 80286. Is that weird? Plan to build a nice display of them when I retire to commemorate the machines that I built and used to earn my living.

    • ErichK

      In reply to jwpear:

      I still have the motherboard and CPU from my Pentium-120 system we bought in 1995. Will probably keep it, it's a nice conversation piece for nerds.

  7. Stooks


    Once you bench it, then do the very same tasks (video encoding basically?) On a Ryzen 1800x, 32gig of RAM and a 1060GTX.

    IF...there is a speed loss....determine what it would be for the same task, 10 seconds more, 20? Then figure out the cost difference in hardware, at least $1000. Finally figure out how much you pay for those 20 seconds....$50 a second???

    For video encoding the GPU and any extra RAM over the task at hand are a complete waste. I bet for your average encoding task, 16gig's of RAM would be enough. Encoding is 97.5% CPU and 2.5% read/write speed of the drive.

  8. warren

    Modern big-rig PC building is a ton of fun. We're a little short on chipsets, but there's a ton of choices for CPU, memory, storage, cooling, lighting, cases, graphics cards, and software tweaking/overclocking.

  9. Eric Rasmussen

    Thanks to miners, Vega is basically impossible to find in retail. The 1080ti is still faster in a lot of games too, so that helps explain its presence here.

    Also, AMD used to run hot, but I've noticed my Ryzen 7 1700x runs cooler than an i7 8600k. The latest Intel chips run super hot for some reason.

  10. chaad_losan

    The Gaming Rig is so bright, I gotta wear shades! i gotta wear shades!

  11. jimchamplin

    I'm all in for Ryzen.

    I'm looking at replacing my late 2012 quad i7 Mac mini with a Ryzen 3 system.

  12. junjunralriosa

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  13. joeaxberg

    Nice looking rig. Interested to see what your opinions are. I just built an i7-7800X/X299 rig. Kid at Microcenter was pushing me to buy Ryzen but I decided to go Intel.

    Like you my first computer build was an AMD K6-2. I also built a rig for my kids based on a Cyrix processor. Who remembers those? I think it was a Cyrix 6x86 or something like that?

  14. Jules Wombat

    How about running some Deep Convolutional Neural networks. The current fashion of Machine Learning reliant upon running Tensor Flow scripts on the GPUs, and yet typically still takes many hours or days to get through 5000 epochs of a typical 6 layer Convolutional network. With a Nvidia card you could install CuDnn and execute Tensor Flow or Keras sample scripts to confirm performance.

    This is unfortunate, because it puts the power of Machine Learning development back into the institutions and companies who have the significant compute power to train their deep ML networks.

  15. Bob Shutts

    For us old-timers, it's really nice to talk about actual computers.

  16. araedy

    AMD send you a PC with an NVIDIA GPU, not a good advert for Radeon

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to araedy:

      Yeah this was a bit only thought here is that it came through a system builder and not direct...the builder was out of their Radeon bits and swapped it for the 1080ti.

    • Martin Pelletier

      In reply to araedy:

      The Vega are hard to find. Was lucky to get one water cooled.

    • Elindalyne

      In reply to araedy:

      It was pretty funny on the run up to the Ryzen release they were demoing everything with 1080's

      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to Elindalyne:

        Everyone knew the AMD GPUs weren't competitive in that environment, though, so it made sense. With Vega, while it runs hotter and chews through power, the performance is competitive (although IIRC they don't have anything as powerful as a 1080Ti) at least. It seems like AMD wants to focus on selling Ryzen over GPUs right now though, so bundling the NVidia card may make sense. Everyone is still going to talk about this as an AMD system.

  17. Jester

    Those MS Madness games were so much fun.

  18. RonH

    What are the specs of the Intel box you are comparing it to?

    IMO - too many LEDs - I like it dark when I am gaming...

    That case looks like it was very well designed. Looing forward to more info on this rig.

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to RonH:

      6700K, 980TI, 16GB of RAM.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to brad-sams:

        Seems like it should be an i9-7920X, 1080Ti and 64GB of RAM to be a fair comparison.

        • Steve Russell

          In reply to MikeGalos:

          I think he is being fair by making it clear that he's comparing it to his current (old) desktop. I actually find it to be nice idea. Someone with an i9, 1080Ti, and 64GB of RAM probably isn't interested in buying a Threadripper rig. However, this would be a great way for someone with a 6700k, 980Ti, and 16GB of RAM to see if it's worth the upgrade. Anyway, for direct technical comparisons between current chips in monster rigs, it's hard to beat or do anything differently than Anandtech.

          • MikeGalos

            In reply to sdrjax:

            If it were, say, JUST the processor I might agree but with all major components changing it's awfully easy to give credit to the processor when it's really the result of not being memory starved and it's very difficult to tell exactly how much gain comes from the higher end video card than the higher end processor. For that matter, even the processor makes it hard to compare since it's not just vendor but number of cores and some apps do better on threading than others and that mix changes the value.

            As it stands, I can predict the following result:

            "Replacing a mid-level couple of year old system with a new, high-end system gives improved performance".

  19. F4IL

    Damn it Sams, that is a killer box!

    I really like how you tucked away all the cables.

  20. StudBen

    Make sure you play some Destiny 2 on there

  21. polloloco51

    I also had a custom computer with the AMD K6 processor. The computer had a lock on the rear of the case, and always had to be shut down manually. It was eventually upgraded to XP, and now resides in the attic indefinitely. Then I had a computer with an AMD Athlon, with a ATI Radeon 9250, that played Half Life 2 nicely.

    I am seriously considering buying a new gaming computer, with either Ryzen or the new Coffee Lake Intel processors. I currently have a Intel I7-3770 w/ GTX 1060 and still plays anything I throw at it.

    • rh24

      In reply to polloloco51:

      I must be in the same generation as you all. But I originally passed on the K6 and went for a Cyrix 6x86MX for my first build. As Cyrix quickly began to die, I joined the AMD camp. Second build was an original AMD Athlon. I eventually "smoked" that chip (on the cartridge card it came embedded on) when I thought I could run it "briefly" without the heatsink on. A pop and a puff of smoke later, I learned a valuable lesson. Now that smoked chip on the cartridge card sits in memoriam on my bookshelf!

  22. MikeGalos

    Nah. Building it yourself on a budget would have been going "back to your roots".

    Reviewing a pre-built custom machine sent out by the processor vendor to show off their new chip line may be useful and certainly will be fun but I doubt you would have been able to afford this level of custom rig by mowing lawns.

    With the processor, video card and motherboard alone costing about $2,200 (and that's without RAM or storage or case or display or peripherals), all said and done, this computer may end up being close to taking us back to Machrone's Law (The computer you want is always about $5,000)

  23. Polycrastinator

    Is the fan for the CPU radiator an intake fan? That always seems like an odd choice to me, blowing hot air into the case. Overall 3 fans in general seems.. small, especially if it's not a blower design on the GPU. How's the noise level?

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      I've wondered this does seem a bit underwheliming for cooling.

      But yes, that's a dual 120mm fan setup blowing on a 240mm radiator for cooling.

      I can feel cool air being pulled in the top of the case (which is open all the way across) which makes me think this might be ok.

      • Polycrastinator

        In reply to brad-sams:

        Normally you'd design a system with positive air pressure: you want the fans to be pulling more air into the case than is exhausted by the exhaust fans. That way all the cracks and open spaces get air pushed out, and dust only accumulates at the intake fans (where hopefully you have filters). I believe you get marginally better cooling that way, too. I know you probably want to use it as configured for review, but I'd maybe add another intake fan later if you can feel air coming in through the top.

  24. WaltC

    Good move, Brad. Smart.

    AMD is the smart choice today, no question. Where AMD really shines in comparison to Intel's latest knee-jerk reaction to Ryzen/Threadripper is PCIe lanes...Intel doesn't make anything that touches Threadripper in that department--additionally, your Threadripper socket will likely last through many more generations of CPU than a current Intel socket (Intel often changes sockets like socks with new cpus--which means if you want the new cpu you'll be changing out motherboards, too, etc.) Not sure what you mean about "AMD is known to run hot," though. Intel air-cooling looks like the Tower of Babel to me...;)

    I'm sure that your machine will be ready for Ryzen 2/TR 2 early next year, too @ 7nm. The main thing about this AMD compared to the Athlon/A64 AMD is that Lisa Su and her teams have no intention of resting on their laurels--having already announced the second gen of Ryzen/TR and at least the 2 + gen beyond that.

    Good choice! I don't think I could be *paid* to drop back to Intel at this point. Ugh.