XDA’s First Full PC Build: An All-AMD Linux Desktop Featuring Ryzen and Polaris

XDA’s First Full PC Build: An All-AMD Linux Desktop Featuring Ryzen and Polaris

With GPU prices increasing exponentially over the past few months, it’s been hard to price out a PC. This particular build took us nearly a year to assemble; getting all the parts together was a challenge. (TK, our video producer, delivered the last piece of the puzzle after the Consumer Electronics Show in January.)

Our goal was to show what a decent budget can get you in an all-AMD build, and what kind of performance you can expect from it. Thanks to AMD Ryzen and Polaris, we were able to do just that.

Hardware

As per usual, we’ve listed all the hardware included in the build. We’ve also noted the manufacturers that provided components not purchased by XDA or an XDA staff member.

We’d like to give a shoutout to the companies that helped make this happen: AMD, Gigabyte, Rosewill, Team Group, and XFX. Part of the reason the build took so long was sourcing all the necessary parts, and we’re thankful for the support.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 1700X (provided by AMD)
Cooler: Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 240
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-AB350-Gaming 3 (provided by GIGABYTE via AMD)
PSU: Rosewill Quark Series 850 (provided by Rosewill) – this was originally intended to be a 750W PSU
Case: Rosewill Cullinan (provided by Rosewill)
Memory: Team Night Hawk RGB DDR4-3200 16GB (provided by Team Group)
SSD: Team T-Force Cardea m.2 480GB (provided by Team Group)
GPU: XFX GTS XXX Edition RX 580 8GB (provided by XFX)

To get an idea of how much has changed since the onset of the project, I priced out each of the components at their lowest points in the past year. (You can find a link to the researched prices at this PCPartPicker.) If you’d had the patience to buy each individually at the right time, the build would have been possible for around $1200, which we think is the sweet spot for a higher-end PC. The bigger m.2 drive could have been exchanged for a smaller one to save money, or the GPU swapped out for the 4GB variant of 580 or something cheaper.

Today, if you can find the all the parts to build this PC, it’d cost over $1700 USD. Mainly to blame are inflated GPU prices, the result of explosive growth in cryptocurrency mining. You can still find deals at MSRP, but they’re becoming rarer. And at this price range, with a bit of patience, you could easily hunt down a Vega or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU and fall within budget.

If you’d like to learn more about the components we used in this build, we suggest starting with our the Team T-Force Cardea and Night Hawk RGB review here. We weren’t able to give the GA-AB350-Gaming 3 a proper look due to issues that cropped up during the original Ryzen review, but we’re put it through its paces this time around, along with the new components that we received for this build.

Software

To avoid issues and maintain consistency across our most recent reviews, we stuck with Ubuntu 17.10 as our operating system of choice. We only did the basics to get the system booting — the RX 580 worked, albeit without HDMI audio, absent amdgpu-pro on the 4.13 kernel.

We also installed DaVinci Resolve 14 to test the video editing capabilities of Linux. Lastly, we installed Steam and several titles to test gaming performance. From there, TK followed our testing procedure and got to work.

Photos/Installation

Here are a few photos of the installation. If you’d like to see more, please take a look at the video from TK at the end of the article.

Benchmarks – Phoronix Test Suite

To see the full results from Phoronix, please refer to this OpenBenchmarking.org link. We’ve included the results from our recent HEDT processor review, as the tests were conducted within 30 days of each other and should offer the best comparison. We tested both the 1700X and the HEDT chip at stock speeds.

FFTW

FFTW is a single-threaded benchmark of Fast Fourier transform. The results don’t quite match what we saw with AVADirect, but the variation might be a result of different package versions among our Ubuntu 17.10 installations.

 

GZip Compression

GZip is a common compression scheme, and it’s a great test of day-to-day performance. There’s a difference from the AVADirect result, but for the better here.

 

John The Ripper

Our go-to cryptography benchmark, John The Ripper, showed results pretty much in line with what we expected.

 

C-Ray v1.1

The C-Ray results from the group are very close to the AVADirect 1700X results here, as well.

Benchmarks: Build Performance

Build Test: ImageMagick

This build test performance surprised me, and I’m a bit puzzled as to why it increased nearly 15%. I initially thought this was an outlier, but given the results of the subsequent tests, I’m not so sure.

Build Test: GCC

Our GCC build test results were a bit slower, but 30 seconds from 900 is a 3% variance that could easily be considered within the margin of error. Additional tests here may help get a better average.

Build Test: LineageOS cm-14.1 Pixel XL

Both of our build times were higher than I had honestly expected, but we’ve seen build times vary like this from time to time. I’ll be curious to see how this changes over time as we continue to test this build.

For gaming and productivity benchmarks, check out the review video. In short, the build easily handled 4K video in DaVinci Resolve and popular games on Steam. My own benchmarks with similar hardware will be included in my upcoming review of the Powercolor Red Devil Vega 56.

Impressions

Overall, the system performed as well as we predicted. To be sure, there’s room for fine-tuning, and we plan to send the build to one of our regular contributors to see what he’s able to do with it. The contributor recently put together a similar build for work purposes but with a very different graphics card, and I’m interested to get his thoughts on how our system performs in comparison to that system.

The Rosewill Cullinan, combined with the LEDs from the GIGABYTE motherboard and Team Group RAM, looks amazing. It’s a very red build (and quite fittingly so, considering it’s AMD’s brand color). It removes additional drives from the system, which means less cabling and a cleaner overall build. The Team Cardea fit the bill here because of its heatsink, though I have to admit I was a bit sad to have to send it away to TK. The end result was worth it, though.

By using a newer kernel version or installing amdgpu-pro, it should be possible to tap the RX 580’s true potential. It could easily work as a dual boot system much in the way I set up the Ryzen 7 1700 with the Sapphire RX 480, and handle just about any game at 1080p resolution and mostly max settings at reasonably high frame rates. Further tweaking of the memory and CPU voltage should get the system performing even better than we saw in the benchmarks.

Build Video

Here are the fruits of our labor. Our thanks to TK for building and testing the PC (plus filming and editing this video), and thanks again to the companies who helped make this build a reality!

After taking a look at this build, what are your thoughts? We’ve enjoyed making this happen and sharing it with our readers (keep your eyes peeled — you’re likely to see this build come up again down the road). Please let us know by sounding off on the forums, Facebook, Twitter or in the comments. 

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