Top Gaming PC Build – September 2021

2021 was not rich in new component releases. There are many disadvantages to this, but there are also advantages – for example, many parts for gaming computers, which were relevant at the beginning of the year, have not lost their freshness even now. Today’s material is devoted to assembling a top-end gaming PC, relevant for mid-2021. And, as usual, we, following the precepts of Sherlock Holmes, will begin to systematically move from the general to the particular, justifying our choice at every step. Thus, even if you cannot find certain components on sale, you can easily find the most optimal analogue.

Choosing a platform for a gaming computer: Intel or AMD?

The first thing a person encounters when assembling a gaming computer from scratch is the choice of processor and motherboard. And if 10 years ago everything was quite obvious (if you want maximum strength – you buy Intel, if you want “cheap and cheerful” – AMD), then at the beginning of 2021 AMD Ryzen unconditionally dominates the gaming PC market, while Intel Cores do not just lose in performance , but lag behind the competitor by a whole generation in terms of technology. We are talking about support for the PCI Express 4.0 standard, which today only Ryzen 3000 and 5000 series processors can boast.

The latest interface specifications include a number of measures to reduce latency, ensure data integrity through improved RF bus signal routing, and optimize power consumption. However, the main advantage of PCI Express 4.0 over the third-generation standard is the doubling of the data transfer rate: up to 1969 MB / s (almost 2 gigabytes per second!) Per lane against 984.6 MB / s earlier. The dramatic increase in bus bandwidth is helping to create blazingly fast SSDs today, and will further advance graphics technology and improve ultra-high-definition gaming performance in the future.

For this reason, when choosing a motherboard and processor, it is the presence of PCI-E 4.0 that turns out to be the key criterion. After all, a top-end PC is not just an opportunity to enjoy modern games in maximum quality now, but also an investment in the future, which will help to significantly save on upgrades. Recall that the first consumer devices with PCI Express 3.0 support appeared in 2012, and this standard did not lose its relevance until the end of 2020. Even if the life cycle of the fourth version of the interface is, for example, 5 years, then 2-3 generations of video cards and data storage devices will have time to change during this time, so that you can update your gaming system without any problems and with minimal costs. Having assembled a computer that only supports PCI-E 3.0 devices,

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Uncompromising Gaming Computer – 2021
Once you have decided on the platform, you can start purchasing components. The choice here, frankly, is not very large.

Let’s start with the processor. The best option is AMD Ryzen 9 5900X. Why not the 5950X? Let’s figure it out.

The difference between AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and 5950X is that the younger model has a couple of cores disabled in each CCD, otherwise they are identical. The base clock of the 5900X turns out to be 300 MHz higher, which will be an absolute plus when working with single-threaded applications. Despite the rather significant difference in 4 physical cores and 8 computational threads, in real tests the Ryzen 9 5950X turns out to be only slightly faster than its younger brother.

A gain in tenths of FPS is observed even in such processor-dependent projects as strategies, where the main load falls on the CPU.

In some games, the difference between AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and 5950X is not observed at all, which once again proves: 32 computational threads are still too much, even by the standards of AAA video games, which means that paying almost 50% from above for a meager advantage does not have much meaning.

However, if you have free finances and at the same time want to build a system that will not become obsolete for another 5 years, you can prefer the older model. Even if parity is maintained between these processors now, in the future the gap will only widen, and AMD Ryzen 9 5950X will remain relevant for much longer.

Motherboard: X570 Chipset

While the Ryzen 9 5900X and 5950X processors are compatible with B550 motherboards, this would not be the best choice for a top-end build. The reason lies in the peculiarities of the implementation of support for PCI-E 4.0. Recall what we talked about above: the fourth-generation interface has twice the bandwidth per signal line compared to its predecessor, which was achieved by doubling the frequency. In connection with this feature, motherboards based on the AMD X570 chipset received an optimized signal line layout that can guarantee the integrity of information during transmission over the high-frequency bus, which, alas, cannot be boasted by models on the B550 chipset, which use the old circuitry.
Another nuance to consider: the B550 chipset itself does not support PCI Express 4.0.

On such motherboards, in PCI-E 4.0 × 16 mode, only the full-sized slot closest to the processor works, as well as one M.2 connector for the system SSD (both receive PCI-E 4.0 lanes directly from the CPU). All other slots operate in PCI Express 3.0 mode, and the same standard is used for data exchange between the chipset and the processor. The X570 does not have such a problem: such motherboards have native support for PCI-E 4.0 and two full-fledged slots for NVMe SSD at once – a good start for a future upgrade.
As for the choice of a specific model, a lot depends on your personal needs, however, there are several important points that you should pay attention to before buying:

Component quality
With Precision Boost Overdrive, AMD Ryzen 9 5900X / 5950X processors can be easily overclocked to 4.5 GHz and 5.1 GHz in turbo mode. However, a good VRM is required for stable CPU overclocking. Reliable data on the voltage regulation module can be obtained on the profile portals dedicated to overclocking.

Chipset cooler location
The X570 chipset requires active cooling. In a number of motherboard models, this is not implemented in the most successful way: the fan is located too high and, due to the fact that it is blocked by the cooler of the video card, sucks the heated air from its radiator. Therefore, preference should be given to those motherboards in which the air intake is located quite low.

The presence of a heatsink for the NVMe SSD slot
For stable operation, SSDs supporting PCI-E 4.0 require additional cooling, which helps to avoid throttling of the controller during prolonged operation under load – this problem will be solved by the included heatsink. If you are going to buy an SSD with a built-in heatsink, then you can be sure that it will fit into the M.2 slot without any problems, because the availability of the necessary space is already included in the design of the motherboard.
As an example of a model that meets the listed requirements, we can cite the Asus ROG Strix X570-F Gaming with two full PCI-Express 4.0 x 16 slots, CrossFire X / Sli support, a pair of M.2 PCI Express 4.0 slots, each of which is equipped with its own heatsink , and a 12 + 4-phase CPU power subsystem, built with reliable alloy core chokes and high-quality solid capacitors.