Description

Explaining the name, I'm 62 and recently retired. I was an "early adopter" in personal computing, and bought my first system (an "IBM Portable PC" ... anyone remember those? It was a suitcase-sized unit that weighed about 30 lbs, with a 9-inch amber monochrome screen) in 1984. I learned the ins and outs of DOS and mastered a program called "dBase II," whose entire user interface was a "dot prompt" (. and blinking cursor). In a parallel universe I might have become a true geek, but my career track led elsewhere so I remained a periodic consumer of mainstream PCs with little if any peeking inside the case.

Within the past few years my young adult son built a couple of systems, which piqued my interest and led me to plan this as a post-retirement activity. I subscribed to Maximum PC a couple years ago, and PCPARTPICKER has been a huge resource. I built this rig a month ago and have been tweaking it -- upping performance, adding a few extra fans and tightening up my cable management -- steadily since then. Had a lot of fun with this project, and am happy with the results!

This systems is being used primarily for office applications, web-surfing and photo-editing. I realize it's overkill for that, but I enjoy having the extra speed and reserve capability. It is also more than adequate for the limited gaming I do now, and upgrading the GPU is always an option in the future.

Edit 3/21/20: fixed routing of that 24-pin cable and updated the cover pic... surprised nobody ever called me out on that :). PC running great and helping me stay busy during lockdown.

Part Reviews

CPU

For me, the 3700X was the "sweet spot" in the new Ryzen line-up. Not easily over-clockable, but the BIOS PBO options plus fast RAM give it an extra boost and temps are moderate with a decent air-cooler.

CPU Cooler

An excellent cooler, and the chromax black is a perfect match for the dark theme of my build. This cooler is very quiet, and built like it'll last forever.

To bring loaded CPU temps down into the 60's, I added a second Noctua fan to get a push-pull setup. This made a five degree difference -- 70 to 65C while running "stress CPU" on CPU-Z -- but the price of that second fan means the final cost was $100. Could have got an NH-U12A for that price, but the 12A does not come in black so I probably made the right choice.

Motherboard

Why would I spend this much on the motherboard? In large measure, I really fell for the aesthetics of it. To me it just oozes quality, and I love the fact that it doesn't have any RGB. The unboxing experience lived up to expectations: this is a solid, substantial piece. The built-in heat-sinks help the chip-set and SSD run cool and quiet. I've never seen the chipset fan turn on during use ... had to try the "all fans max" switch in BIOS to make sure the thing worked. Gen 4 PCIe and Wi-Fi 6 help future-proof the system, so I think this board will serve well as I incrementally upgrade the system for quite a few years.

Memory

Good RAM. Youtube's "Hardware Unboxed" has an excellent August 2019 tutorial on tweaking RAM timings using the 1usmus "DRAM Calculator for Ryzen." Following those step-by-step instructions yielded improved scores on all benchmarks with no downside. Highly recommended.

Storage

This is a price/performance winner compared to more popular brands. Don't be scared off by early 2018 reviews: the current version carries a 5-year warranty and 650 Terabytes Written endurance rating. I see no down-side.

Storage

Quiet and quick for a (semi)mechanical hard drive -- no complaints.

Video Card

A solid card for the money. Runs Wolfenstein 2 (my only game so far - lol) at 3440x1440 GeForce-optimized settings at 75 FPS. If I were building today, would have to consider the new 5600 XT for $40-$50 more....

Case

A good-looking, beautifully-assembled and highly-expandable case that was easy for my clumsy fingers to build in. I wanted the old-school CD/DVD drive, and surprisingly few cases offer that anymore.

I got the Gunmetal Grey model with front-panel USB-C option. The fans are black on this, not white as some earlier versions evidently were. Didn't want any RGB fan effects... the RAM lighting (set on steady, dim green) and one discreet LED strip look good to me. FWIW I use the Mystic Light "CPU Temp" lighting option so the light strip has some utility (under 40C = green, 40-60 = blue, over 60 = red).

Ventilation-wise, I am running with top open as shown in pics, and added two extra fans: intake in bottom-front, and exhaust out top-rear. The Fractal Design 140mm fans are nice and quiet, so even open-topped with five case fans and push-pull Noctua cooler the system is near-silent.

Power Supply

My only complaint is the odd "6+2" pin power connector for the graphic card... the way you need to loop around the "+2" part doesn't look great. Other than that, no issues. The price was good for a modular PSU.

Though 520 Watts is perfectly fine for the current build, if I were doing this again I'd go up to 650+ to leave more headroom for the future.

Optical Drive

Does its job, and price was right.

Case Fan

Good fans as discussed in case review. Only downside is the mounting screws are problematic as noted in many reviews. Make sure your Phillips-head screwdriver is a good fit, and bear down on it as you slowly turn the screws ... with a little muscle and patience they work fine.

Case Fan

This is the "pull" rear fan I added to the NH-12S. Easy installation. Don't forget to use the thicker rubber bumpers that come with the original cooler.

Log in to rate comments or to post a comment.

Comments

  • 1 month ago
  • 6 points

Awesome build! I'm going to build a 2070 Super and Ryzen 7 2700X build.

  • 1 month ago
  • 5 points

Looks awesome! Nice work. I built my first rig in 2016 and this inspires me to update mine. Or maybe build a whole new one.

  • 1 month ago
  • 5 points

Hey! It looks great for a first build! Keep it up man and most important have fun doing it. Good job and good luck keeping that baby going!

  • 1 month ago
  • 4 points

I still have a portable PC in the closet...

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

Lol -- that's great... I wish I'd kept mine!

  • 1 month ago
  • 3 points

Looks splendid! Great choice of parts. I remember those days an IBM 5150, DOS, floppy drives and major frustrations. I thought this will never catch on! Welcome to the future.

  • 1 month ago
  • 5 points

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging comments!

Yes, I remember tinkering with the P-PC... loaded it up with a massive 384 KB of RAM and added an enormous 10 MB hard drive! 10 MB was huge when you could hold Wordstar and dozens of documents on a single 360 KB floppy. The fully built system probably cost me about $10K in today's dollars. Yep, we have definitely made some progress!

  • 1 month ago
  • 3 points

Automatic +1 just for the DBase II mention!

It's good to see you younger guys getting into PC building.

  • 1 month ago
  • 3 points

I recommend using the Vertical GPU Mount build into the case, if there is enough space.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

I may consider that in future -- thanks!

  • 1 month ago
  • 3 points

Hey, very nice build! And I can say that especially because mine is very similar in some ways, even the HSF with an extra fan.

I saw your comment about the chipset fan on the motherboard not even spinning up, and thought I'd tell you what I found over the last month about that. Basically the default fan curve for the chipset fan is set to a minimum temp of 55C, so the fan won't turn on until the chipset temp reaches 55C. When I found this, I immediately changed the curve to turn the fan on at least at 45C. I then noticed that from then on, the fan RPM reading fluctuated wildly, all the way up to 100K RPM - and it can only spin at about 5K RPMs.

MSI recently released an updated BIOS (dated January 16, 2020) which I installed last night. I had to re-apply all of my fan curve settings, but I'm happy to say that the new BIOS seems to have fixed the fan curve and read problem, along with a few other issues.

That's it. Apologies for the novel, and congrats on the new build.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! Just looked at your build and must compliment you on that first. Great cable management even behind the motherboard ... you may notice that I did NOT include a pic of that view on mine! We also had the same rationale for the MSI Unify. From what I've read online, high-30s idle temps seem to come with the territory on this generation of Ryzens.

Your chipset fan insights are interesting... I'll probably try playing with that fan curve and see what happens in my case. Presumably 100,000 RPM was a bogus reading and not that little fan self-destructing! I'm reluctant to reflash the BIOS, because I'd then need to reapply all my adjusted RAM timings (I think?). That was a slow process the first time because I was ultra-careful to not screw it up.... but maybe the battery retains setting like that when the BIOS is updated though -- I'll do some research first. Thanks again.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

Thanks! Yeah I took a while routing cables, and it paid off for the most part. Still not fully satisfied, though. Anyway, the open side of the case is the most important and you did a great job on that too! Your system looks very good.

And yes, the 100K RPMs was totally bogus, but while that was happening, the fan kept slowing down and speeding up. Then it would settle down. Then it would go through the same thing again, over and over. Not sure that this will happen to you, but I thought I'd tell you just in case. It's hard to say if this would happen once it reached a high enough temp to kick it on at 55C, but I didn't care to find out—something that critical should just work.

So when I updated my BIOS, it turned off my XMP profile, but I was able to just turn it back on and reboot to get it back. If you decide to go through with an update, this is likely something you'd need to do as well. If you applied settings manually, you might want to save them in a profile and maybe take screenshots of the settings, just in case.

That said, you really won't need to update the BIOS if it's working fine for you as is. The general consensus on BIOS updates is "Don't fix what ain't broken." For me, it wasn't working well enough, but if I hadn't changed the fan curve for the chipset, I'd almost never have known. Except that the Dragon software also kept randomly boosting and slowing my fans, which was driving me nuts. Ever since I updated the BIOS (and Dragon), everything has worked perfectly with my custom settings.

If you do decide to go through with it, here's the process I had to step through, since the Dragon software was also not acting reliably. Some of this info I really had to dig for online and in the MB manual:

1) Download the updated BIOS at https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/support/MEG-X570-UNIFY#down-bios

2) Extract the new files from the ZIP file. The txt file doesn't matter at all.

3) Rename the new BIOS file E7C35AMS.A30 to MSI.ROM (this is required).

4) Copy MSI.ROM to a FAT32-formatted USB stick (the M-Flash utility won't see the stick, otherwise) and plug the stick into any active USB port.

5) Boot to the BIOS and click the M-FLASH button, then click Yes to reboot the system.

-- Note that once you get this far, your BIOS config will already have been set to default.

6) Select the new BIOS file, and initiate the BIOS update process. This took my system about 5-10 minutes or so.

7) After the flashing process is 100% completed, the system will reboot automatically.

8) Re-enter the BIOS and fix what it changed.

9) At that point you can alter your fan curves if you like, too. That's a whole other adventure.

That's it! Take care.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

I think I'll leave well enough alone on the BIOS for now, but many thanks for these detailed instructions. I'm sure I'll rely on them eventually!

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

You're very welcome! If the instructions eventually come in handy, then great. If they don't, well then you probably didn't need them anyway. ;) Take care!

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

Have you ran into any problems with the cooler? What do your temp usually run? I am considering building a 2700x system and that's one of the coolers I've been looking at. My current system (8700k) is water cooled, and im not fond of the block.

Great build!

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Thank you! I'm very happy with the Noctua cooler, although as noted I did add the second fan.

The most demanding temperature benching software I've found is AIDA64 (trial version is free), and running CPU and FPU stress tests together for several minutes the max CPU temp holds steady between 73 and 74C with cooler fans running between 1300 and 1400 RPM (1500 is rated max for those fans). I added a small screen-snip. Prior to adding the second fan, it was 77-78C, which is probably still perfectly safe. MSI CPU-Z's stress test holds steady at 65C, and the cooler fans are only running at 75% on that test.