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Compute/VM/Dev/VR Build: AMD 2990, 2970, or 2950? ROG Strix x399?

#1

I am based in the Western USA. This is my first post here and I am a taking a leap to build a Thread ripper high-end system. I’ve built several mid-range Intel systems but this will be a much larger project. Planning is in the early stages, but I have a few questions on key components watching the x399 Threadripper build series videos here and a search of the forum did not answer.

I will mostly be using the build for dev, rendering video, running VMs for dev, and data science/machine learning study work. Maybe VR one day and probably a game or two but not often.

My budget is moderate/high: I figure $6000 USD (the price of an iMac Pro) but not an unlimited “best of everything” kind.

I want to get an x399 mainboard and one of the top three Threadrippers (2990, 2970, or 2950) as stated above. I plan to populate the board with 128GB to handle multiple open VMs and large data.

I plan on water cooling (flex or hardline undecided) both to quiet the system and to, as Marie Kondo says, “Spark Joy”. I am an “Enthusiast” after all.

I have two EVGA Founders1080tis with EKWB blocks to use but maybe I should just get something better for machine learning and leave those on my desktop i7-7700 rig (Asus Formula IX) and finally water cool it. This would avoid adding SLI potential issues to other x399 potential challenges.

  1. CPU: Is the 2970x NUMA like the 2990x with the mesh connecting two dies and might suffer from the same Windows performance issues that the 2950x does not? I suspect Microsoft will not fix their kernel flaw with the NUMA 2990 and probably the 2970 any time soon so I’ll be dual booting Windows 10 and Linux. WSL has not impressed me enough to substitute for bare-metal Linux to date.

  2. RAM: If I use 8 sticks of RAM for 128GB, is buying 2963 speed really worth it or will 2400 work with little penalty? Saves significant cash. I think physical link correction on DDR4 is probably enough, no need for ECC but change my mind.

  3. Mainboard: I really like Asus EFI settings and they update frequently so I lean towards them. I’ve owned Asus boards for the last 8 years. Anyone have experience with the Asus ROG Strix X399-E (EKWB has a nice monoblock for it). The 2nd Gen Zenith Extreme Alpha is around double the price and, while loaded with “bling”, is probably cost-prohibitive for me: I’d rather get better CPU. GPU, and RAM and have the funds for water blocks, fittings, etc. I have a fair amount of barbed fittings, so hardline will be added cost. I have a monsoon reservoir and D5 already to use.

  4. GPU: SLI 1080tis EVGA Founders Editions. Is SLI more trouble than it is worth and I should spring for a single GPU with processor counts better suited to computing?

  5. PSU: I am thinking a 1,600W and Gold or Platinum (PSU’s I believe are most efficient at half load and the ‘Linus Build’ used a 1,000 W PSU.

  6. Overclocking: unlikely. I have the Maximus Formula IX to play with and the effects on stability are not worth the risk and trouble for a work machine.

  7. Case: not nailed down until I figure out the main components and radiator(s)/fans and reservoir. I doubt I’ll do a dual loop but, then again, if the budget allows…that will impact the case decision.

So there it is in this early stage of planning. Four main areas to nail down and the rest will probably fall into place. Please, any and all experience and information is welcome.
I’ll share update build logs as I progress to add to the community and more likely panic as I hit hurdles :persevere:

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#2

Update: Decided on an Asus Zenith Extreme Alpha, 128GB Corsair Vengeance 3000, and a Threadripper 2990wx. Chose the open frame Bykski Venemo case and it’s optional water distribution panel.
Windows and Linux dual boot installed. Finishing building Choclatey installers for setup and then will take it down and apart to start the custom water loop. I will take notes and images for most of it and post a build log.

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#3

Hi TrashPanda,

I have a question: Why did you choose the Asus Zenith Extreme Alpha over MSI MEG Creation board?

Cheers

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#4

Good question and certainly a personal choice.
A few reasons:

  1. When I bought the board, it was the first 2nd gen board for Threadripper (Zenith Extreme ALPHA, not Zenith Extreme which is the Asus 1st gen board they no longer sell). While I might be wrong, the MSI MEG x399 is still 1st gen I think.
  2. I have mostly used Asus mainboards for their great UEFI and I think it superior to Gigabyte and MSI.
  3. 10GB LAN: the Creation has 2 x1GB, the ZEA has 1GB+10GB.
  4. A DIMM slot for a card with 2 NVMes in addition to the third slot on the mainboard, providing really fast cached DRAM.
  5. Both boards are E-ATX, but only Asus gave dimensions online and my chosen case supported specific dimension and the Asus board just made it in. I didn’t want to order a mainboard and have to RMA it over size.
    So a few features and Asus UEFI swayed me. Plenty of people really like the Gigabyte and MSI just fine though.
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#5

Not sure, but I think you fell for the “DIMM.2” marketing. It is just a more convenient way to screw in M.2 drives before putting them in the machine.
It is just regular M.2 speeds up there.

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