Our Most POWERFUL ITX Build Yet! A Ryzen 9 3950X Beast!
I’m in the process of rearranging my personal workspace, and that includes getting a new tabletop, installing new shelving units, and so on. But most importantly, I wanted to upgrade my existing personal workstation PC that consists of an Intel Core i7-8700K and a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. Now, don’t get me wrong, the GPU is great. It’s the fastest that’s available on the market right now, but the CPU and the platform deserve an upgrade. Having said that, I wanted to challenge myself. Basically, I wanted to cram as much power as I can into a small form factor chassis without sacrificing on performance, thermals, and acoustics.
This idea was inspired by AMD’s recent launch of the Ryzen 9 3950X. This CPU exceeded our expectations in terms of its raw CPU performance. It even puts Intel’s highest-end Core i9-10980XE – which costs way more than this processor – to shame. With 16 cores and 32 threads, this is the fastest AM4 CPU that’s available to date provided you can actually find one, because this thing is out of stock everywhere. By the way, if you’re interested in our full performance review of the Ryzen 3950X you can check it out whenever here.
Complimenting the Ryzen 3950X is going to be the ASUS ROG STRIX X570-I Gaming ITX motherboard. That’s right, I’m going Mini-ITX this time, and this board offers everything I need for a perfect workstation PC in a compact form factor. First of all, I love the design of this motherboard. Everything from the matte black PCB to the conveniently placed power connectors should make cable management easier. The heatsink placement is well-thought-out as it covers both the VRMs and the chipset. Plus it’s actively cooled by two fans. There are two M.2 PCIe x4 Gen4 slots, one of which is placed directly above the chipset heatsink and another one behind the motherboard. It also has Wi-Fi 6 support, and the I/O is loaded with four USB 3.2 Gen1 ports and another four USB 3.2 Gen2 ports. This little motherboard also supports overclocked memory speeds up to DDR4-4800. Seriously, this motherboard screams. It’s crazy to see so many features packed into a compact motherboard.
Now speaking of memory, I went with Corsair’s Dominator Platinum 32GB kit clocked at DDR4-3600. This kit looks gorgeous and I love the matte black finish as it gives a really cool stealthy vibe. And on top of that, Corsair’s Capellix RGB LEDs look fantastic. Now to cool the 3950X, I went with NZXT’s Kraken X62 280mm AIO cooler. You don’t necessarily need a 280m solution to cool this processor, because when we ran our benchmarks it ran perfectly fine with an air cooler. However, since I am going ITX an AIO seems to be the better option, especially since the case seems to fit that cooler just fine.
For storage we are embracing the PCIe Gen4 capabilities of AMD’s X570 chipset, and so I decided to go with the Saber 1TB Rocket NVMe drive. The name Rocket certainly fits this drive as it’s insanely fast, claiming read speeds up to 5GB/s and write speeds up to 4.4GB/s. Yep, what a great time to be alive. Saber actually includes this drive with a heatsink and it is ridiculously large. It features an aluminum heatsink with copper feet coils and a top heatspreader. This thing is legit, but unfortunately I won’t be able to use it in my PC because it’s just too big to fit on the motherboard. Plus the motherboard does come with a heatsink on top of the chipset, so it should get the job done just fine. In fact, I think I might just end up using that heatsink as a display showcase on one of the shelving units that I plan on installing in my office. I’ve also added a 1TB 2.5″ SSD from Hynix. This will be my secondary drive for games and for my footage archiving.
The GPU of choice is none other than the ASUS ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti OC. I chose this card for a few reasons. One, it’s matte black and I love the aggressive look of the GPU. Secondly, it runs a lot cooler compared to the Founder’s Edition, and given that I’m cramming this inside an ITX case means thermals had to be under control and this card certainly delivers. It’s got a triple fan layout and ASUS has implemented axial-tech fans that shift more air into the heatsink while maintaining lower noise levels. It’s also a 2.7-slot card, which should fit the case that I’m using for this build. And it’s also got ASUS AURA support, which means I can sync the colors with the motherboard with just one piece of software.
Now to power the entire build, I chose Corsair’s SF750 small form factor power supply. This should be plenty enough to power the 3950X and the RTX 2080 Ti, as well as run efficiently since it’s 80Plus Platinum certified. And on top of that, it’s fully modular. Now one of my favorite features of this PSU is that Corsair includes premium individually sleep cables that should make cable management a breeze.
Now onto the choice of case, and this was definitely an interesting because cramming all of this power inside a small form factor chassis isn’t easy. I had to spend a lot of time looking for the ideal solution, and so I decided to go with the Sliger SM580. It’s roughly a 16 liter Mini-ITX chassis that’s entirely made out of galvanized steel and then powder-coated in black. I love the design of this thing. It’s minimalistic and it doesn’t scream gamer-y on the outside. Although the components going on the inside eye watery. I’m sacrificing a little bit on the front I/O coming from the Define R6, as it only has one USB 3.1 Type-A and one USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port. This case does support radiators up to 280mm at the top, so I shouldn’t have any issues mounting the Kraken X62. The side panels are windowed and they are attached to the case via pegs.
Now that you’re aware of all the components that’s going inside my ITX system, let’s put it together. Tthe system booted and it’s running just fine, but it took me a while to get there. You see I learned a few things from this whole building process. First, I learned patience because building an ITX rig requires a lot of patience. Second, I wish I planned it a little bit earlier before approaching the whole building process, because I ended up uninstalling a lot of the hardware and then reinstalling it back just to make sure that the cables routed appropriately. Things like the power supply cables, fan cables, all of those things required a lot of trial and error, but it ended up working out just fine. I used zip ties to secure the power supply cables to the chassis to make sure that they don’t make any contact with the fan frames, because I don’t want them being caught by the fan blades. I’m using two 140mm BeQuiet! Silent Wings fans as intake and then the two 140mm radiator fans as exhaust for the CPU. I’m pretty happy with the airflow configuration because it’s drawing cool air from the bottom and then exhausting the hot air at the top.
One of the things that surprised me the most was the clearance between the PCIe riser card and the fan attached to the radiator, because it’s so close but it all worked out just fine. The fan blades didn’t catch on anything, so I’m glad that it’s working out just fine. In fact, I’m really happy with the way this build looks. The RGB lighting looks great. I love the RGB Dominator Platinum memory and the NZXT cooler, but also the the motherboard lighting, the GPU lighting, it all just looks so uniform. Now I certainly want to improve a few things in the future, and one of them is a cable management because I feel like I could do a little bit of a better job inside. And secondly, I do want to replace those two NZXT fans with some Noctua fans because they are a bit louder than I thought they would be. Aside from that, it’s a pretty good looking system. I love it.
Benchmarks & Thermals
Onto performance and man this thing flies. I’m going to compare this system to my current workstation PC, which features an i7-8700K overclocked to 4.8GHz and a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. Let’s get started. When running some synthetic benchmarks I was completely in shock to see the performance improvement over my i7-8700K overclocked to 4.8GHz. As you can see, in Cinebench R20, R15 and even Blender, this thing just flies. Now I did take our standard 10 minute 4K project and render it in DaVinci Resolve Studio on both these machines, but interestingly enough I didn’t notice a difference between them because as we all know Davinci Resolve loves GPUs and it was the same GPU in both builds. Although we are planning on investigating that a little bit later on. I’m really looking for a video editing machine, as well as a little bit of gaming on the side, so both of these systems are great. Overall, I’m really happy to see that the new compact build run just as fast as my previous system in one of my most used apps.
Now I was really interested to test the thermals on my ITX rig, and so I took our standard Blender test and ran it on loop. Surprisingly, the 3950X only maxed out at around 65°C with the Kraken X62 AIO cooler, while my i7-8700K overclocked to 4.8GHz peaked at 73°C. The six-core Intel chip ran hotter than the sixteen-core Ryzen, which is just crazy.
Finally, I ran some gaming benchmarks on both these systems at 4K, as that is my desired resolution when it comes to gaming because I have a 4K monitor. Unsurprisingly, both of these systems ran similarly, which makes sense because they both rock the same ROG STRIX RTX 2080 Ti. Also, when you’re running at 4K it’s more taxing on the GPU than the CPU. Therefore, if you’re looking for a gaming system in an ITX form factor you don’t have to go for a 3950X, you’re actually better off with a lower core count processor and a faster GPU.
To conclude, that’s my new workstation PC and I hope you all enjoyed this one. If you have any cable management tips, definitely let me know because this is my first Mini-ITX rig and I would love to get feedback in terms of improvements for this PC.