Decision made: it's going to be a 6800k/X99 build

As I write this, the X370/Ryzen platform is still in its infancy. So much so, that there aren't many X370 boards available, and there are many, many teething problems. I've decided that I don't really want to be an 'early adopter' with, what will be, my main work machine. Here's how I came to the decision; hope it might help with your decision process.

The systems

To recap, the systems I was considering were.

The Ryzen system on partpicker (highlights):

  • Ryzen 1700X
  • an X370 mid-range motherboard; ASRock Taichi and Gigabyte Gaming K5 were in the running.

vs the Intel 6800K system on partpicker:

  • Intel 6800k
  • ASRock X99 Extreme4 or ASRock X99 Taichi.

This decision

I've decided to go with a 6800K/X99 solution. This isn't as fast (on paper) as the 1700X/X370 system, and costs a bit more, but is a 'safer' solution for me.

My pros and cons are:

Pros of 6800K - X99 build / Cons of the 1700X - X370

  • It's fully supported on Linux. This is important to me, as my day job requires me to work with Linux. The X370 needs a bleeding edge kernel (4.11).
  • The 6800K, and Intel processors in general, seem to overclock better than the Ryzen processor. Reports of the Ryzen seems to be that they are more efficient when idling, but quick heat up and use a lot of power when overclocking. Getting a 7-series Ryzen over 4GHz seems to be very difficult. In contrast, a 6800K at 4.3GHz is a 'normal' prospect (it's base is normally 3.6GHz) with decent water cooling.
  • Better single threaded performance, particularly with an overclock. This is useful because some of the tasks I do are only single threaded, and having them as fast as possible, is really useful.

Cons of the 6800K - X99 / Advantages of the Ryzen - X370

  • It's slower on multitasking, up to 25%. That's actually a lot slower.
  • The single threaded performance is close, and this one is making me waver considerable.
  • It's an old platform and will be replaced in about 7 months. However, not having a new platform is actually one of my criteria!
  • It's more expensive for less overall, absolute, performance.

Phew, is it any good then?

A 6800K based system is a fast, desktop, perhaps even workstation class machine. It's just that the Ryzen R7 series processors are very, very fast. The main criteria for me were stability and reliability and I think it's just too early for Ryzen for me and my particular criteria; i.e. a work machine that needs to be bullet-proof. I reckon the next iteration of Ryzen will be better and a contender for an upgrade in the next 2 years.

Speaking of which ... graphics cards

So the other dilemma that I have is around graphics cards. I have a brilliant 34" ultrawide 1440p monitor, which is incredible for productivity. I can have 3 terminals and a browser next to each other on the same window which means I don't need a second monitor and have a lesser need to switch desktops constantly.

However, it's a lot of monitor to drive. This laptop, an old 2012 MacBook Pro, can only just drive the monitor at 30Hz; it's very sluggish and frequently pegs the 2+2 CPUs to 100% when opening windows, etc. Thus, I don't want the new machine to be sluggish because I chose a huge monitor!

Normally, this would be a no-brainer; just buy an Nvidia GTX 1070 or better. There's two little problems though:

  1. The monitor is a FreeSync monitor. It's a small thing, and the FreeSync range is only a (hacked) 48-75, but it's an option with AMD cards.
  2. I'm actually rooting for AMD - I really did want to have a Ryzen system.

Plus, AMD are bring Vega out in the 2H of the year, and it's supposed to be in GTX 1080 territory. That's the card I do want. However, I need something in the meantime.

Now, the top-of-the-range, current, AMD graphics card is an RX480. Problem is, it's just not fast enough to drive an ultrawide 1440p monitor in most games. 1080p, yes. 1440p 16x9, yes, just about. 3440x1440, nope, it can't quite handle it. I actually need something from the previous generation. And that's an R9 Fury or Fury X. The later are largely too expensive, so an R9 Fury it is. And they are just about available on eBay, which is where I'm hoping to pick one up. Wish me luck!

2017-04-23 - Update

I actually bought an PowerColor RX 480 graphics card; it was cheaper than the R9 Fury, and I'm still waiting for Vega. Learn more in an upcoming post.

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