Ryzen in the UK; no parts to build with

Building a Ryzen system in the UK in March is very, very hard. There are almost no motherboards (apart from Asus), and the two boards that I've considered are very much "not in stock".

I want to build a new desktop/workstation type computer, mostly for work, and I'm currently see-sawing between Ryzen 1700X and Intel 6850k. The Ryzen 1700X has more cores/threads, but the 6850K is much older and, thus, all the bugs are (mostly) ironed out on the boards and chips. Oh, and the 6850k is about £150 more expensive in the UK, which probably doesn't make much difference.


The systems

The Ryzen system on partpicker (highlights):

  • Ryzen 1700X
  • Gigabyte Gaming K5 motherboard

vs the Intel 6800k system on partpicker:

  • Intel 6850k
  • ASRock X99 Extreme4 motherboard

They both have:

  • An RX480 graphics card (I have a Freesync 1440p ultrawide monitor)
  • 16GB of RAM
  • A 500GB m.2 drive
  • Case, PSU and copy of Windows

The differences:

  • The Ryzen multitasking performance is around 25% better than the 6850k.
  • The single core performance is around 12% worse than the 6850k.
  • The Ryzen system is £150-£250 cheaper (getting the CPU for £500 might be a challenge).
  • I can buy all the bits for the Intel system today; I probably have to wait 2 weeks to get all the bits for the Ryzen.
  • The Intel system is a known quantity; the Ryzen system is brand new and the quirks are still being worked out.

My proposed desktop usage

I currently use a laptop. It's a 2011 era 13" MacBook Pro with two SSDs (no DVD-RW, as it was replaced with an SSD), and 16GB of RAM. The CPU is an Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-2435M CPU @ 2.40GHz (straight from lscpu!) which has a 'score' of 3287. For comparison a 1800X is 15380 (no 1700X score yet) and a 6850k is 14510. Note that these are synthetic scores, but give an indication of how fast the chip would be. I expect the 1700X to be around 14000 as it's about 10% slower than an 1800X.

What my current laptop does really badly at is:

  • Running Google hangouts.
  • Running Bluejeans conferencing software.
  • Doing lots of LXC/LXD containers (I work with Juju/OpenStack).
  • Anything single-threaded that eats processing time (compression, saving PDFs from scanned images, etc.)

Obviously, I'm comparing an old laptop with a modern desktop, so the performance improvements will be there with whatever desktop I choose to build, within reason.

Planned Usage

The general plan is to replace the laptop for day-to-day usage (work + leisure), with the laptop being relegated for travel and in-front-of-the-tv usage. However, there will also be opportunities for new usage:

  • Games!

Yes, there's an opportunity to be able to play modern AAA titles on the thing, especially when Vega comes out. I fancy playing the latest Tomb Raider titles. Don't judge me.

However, I also develop; some of that requires compilation of big projects, and that will be a lot faster. And, then from a graphics perspective, I have a photo archiving project coming up that will be doing lots of de-duplication, scanning and processing to find faces, etc. that would benefit from a fast machine.

So, no, I'm not doing massively parallel processing or other maths/CPU intensive applications. The day-to-day stuff that will definitely get better is:

  • Using Hangouts/Bluejeans whilst also being able to do anything else. e.g. editing a Google doc, etc.
  • Running virtual machines locally and being able to do anything else.
  • Watching a YouTube video at the same time as scanning and it not skipping!
  • And various other tasks where more than 2 processes are competing for resources.

Also, I now have a 1440p ultrawide monitor which will require a decent graphics card. The HD-3000 in the laptop can just drive the monitor at 30Hz, but playing videos or just moving windows around causes tearing and other dynamic artifacts. Obviously, an RX480 or better will help with that, but not AAA games; hence Vega in the future.

The dilemma

The options:

  1. Do I build an X99 + 6850k system now.
  2. Do I wait 2-3 weeks and build an X370 + 1700X system.

The issues:

  1. Is it worth being an early adopter for a brand new chipset and processor from AMD for my primary work machine?
  2. Should I try to maximise the performance/£ ratio by going with the Ryzen?

That's where I am. I'll let you know how I get on.

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