Workstation build for experimental software

Hello all. I’m planning a developer workstation build to work on my own software to push the boundaries of personal computing. I run Guix System with non-libre kernel as my OS.

(UPDATED with final specs and some findings)

CPU: AMD Threadripper Pro 3975WX
I considered the 16 core variant (because cost), but I imagined being limited by core count for what I have in mind. The 64 core is prohibitively expensive. (This was the right choice.)

Motherboard: Asus WRX80E-SAGE
Gigabyte is dead to me as a brand. The Asus seems like a nicer board than the Supermicro, with dual 10 gig network ports for one. Post-build: This is a great board. So happy to see a consumer motherboard that isn’t plastered in useless gimmicks. Admittedly, it is very expensive. Can take literal minutes to boot, especially after toggling mains power, for some reason.

Memory: 32GB x8 Registered ECC MTA18ASF4G72PDZ-3G2E1
Populating all 8 channels is a must Threadripper Pro platform, otherwise you’re not taking advantage of the extra bandwidth. Putting “just” 16GB per channel to max out at 128GB felt short sighted for this build.

Storage: Intel P5800X Optane and 4x 1TB P31 raid0 array
Since this is platform to push my limits as an engineer, I wanted to be on the cutting edge of storage today, hence the Intel. I have a NAS connected over 10gb link for archival and the raid array is a larger work drive. The 4 drive array is sitting in the Asus Hypercard that came with the motherboard. Note that you have to change the bios settings for the PCIe slot to x4/x4/x4/x4 somewhere deep in the bios.

GPU: AMD W6600
Was going to use an old HD 6870 that I have, but it has failing and noisy fans. Saw this card at msrp and felt it was right for what I need. Naturally still overpaid in the current market for what the card can do. (Beware this card requires fairly recent kernel, mesa, xf86-video-amdgpu, etc) Note, BMC VGA might need to be disabled for older hardware to work.

PSU: 1300W Seasonic Plat

Cooling: Noctua nh-u14s + nf-a14 for push pull
Air cooling since I didn’t want to mess with water for such expensive hardware and wanted a reliable system in the long term. Idle CPU hovers around 40C, goes up to perhaps 70C under heaviest loads. This is 20C under the 90 max for this CPU which is fine by me.

$ sensors # Idle
Adapter: PCI adapter
Tctl:         +35.4°C
Tccd1:        +35.2°C
Tccd3:        +41.5°C
Tccd5:        +40.0°C
Tccd7:        +36.2°C

Case: Fractal Torrent in Gray
Pretty, amaze airflow, quiet with the right fan profiles (configured over BMC only on the Asus).
HOWEVER, the case is NOT built well contrary to the reviews. All the thumbscrews aren’t, you need a screwdriver. One of the USB ports on the front panel was dead, had to solder a wire back on. Its kind of dogshit with (not enough) hotglue and stuff in there the way its built. All the case trim is plastic, which surprised me coming from an old premium CoolerMaster case, which was all metal. It is very well designed, but just OK in terms of materials and construction. One of the 180mm fans makes a noise. In a gist, its a cheaply made pretty thing, I don’t care what anyone says.

To no fault of fractal, the case is a bit small for this board. I would consider Lian Li (for an all metal construction) or a Fractal Meshify XL for an easier fit.

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I put together the 16 core model on the Asus WRX80 Sage using this memory kit:


Booted up straight away, no problems at all. Ran memtest64+ for 24 hours, no errors. The ASUS m/b is quite amazing. Loaded w/ features, looks and feels like premium quality gear no doubt about it. I can also say it is the best m/b I have ever owned.

I used the Fractal Meshify 2 XL case as Wendell. No issue with cable management but I got custom cables from TitanRig. Side note, amazing cables with zero issues. I picked up a Seasonic TX 850 p/s.

Just installed the P5800x so not sure yet regarding performance but I am sure it will be amazing… again as per Wendell.

Using a Noctua 140mm fan for this socket. Can’t remember the name but its for Threadripper/Pro. Added a second fan. Performs great. This is the first system in decades that I didnt use watercooling on for various reasons. It is a workstation platform, watercooling is too much maintenance and worries for me at least. Set it and forget it equals Noctua cooling.

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Thank you for sharing the details of your build. We think alike it seems.

I ended up going with the Fractal Torrent because I really liked it aesthetically and the huuuge fans are right for this air cooled build. Me thought “surely it will be big enough”. And you know what… it fits, barely. I had to take out all the rubber grommets (trimmed one). I imagine this case would not be good for water cooling, the airflow/layout doesn’t make sense to me for where you would need to put the radiator, since all fans are intake. I would probably go with the 2 XL if I was to do it again.

Went air cooled for the same reason as you, however unlike you I’ve never done a water cooled build. It does sound like hassle though.

The P5800X is giving me correctable pcie errors in dmesg using the StarTek U.2 to PCIe adapter. How did you hook up yours?

Do check your kernel messages, system installed and works fine on the surface, but this is a nasty issue to keep around… and easy to miss. Wendel just did a video about this!

Haven’t tried it yet. I packaged the system up because I plan on buying a new house so until I move in, I won’t be using the system. It kills me not to use the system trust me LOL. All brand new and shiny gear sitting pretty for nothing hahaha. From online reviews, I heard the Ableconn works without issue. I didn’t use StarTek because I heard it had issues and I think is only PCI 3 anyways if I am not mistaken. Try the Ableconn and let me know if it works out well for you because I am curious myself.

Hey so quick PSA on that case. I remember Gamer’s Nexus posting a video a few months ago about a recall due to fire hazard. If you just purchased the case you’re probably okay but I’d still double check the revision number printed on the fan hub PCB. Version 1.1 is the revised board.

Appreciate the heads up. I ended up removing the fan hub board entirely from the case, since the motherboard itself has the necessary five chassis fan headers.

The Ableconn look identical to the StarTek though…

How big of a GPU, do you entertain swapping out to, down the line?
The 850W PSU would do plenty fine, in this [current] arrangement…

Indeed I ended up returning the 850W and upgrading to a 1300W Seasonic for this exact reason. I’m not sure what will happen with GPUs (in terms of power requirements) over the next 5 years, but figured I’d want some headroom. Especially since I’m planning to do the vfio pass-through ultimately

Updated the original message with final specs and more details, fwiw.

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Other bit of information that I plan to make a separate post about. Getting this Optane to work properly in this build has been a challenge.

It mostly works with the StarTek adapter BUT ONLY IN THE TOP PCIe slot. Go lower and you get a lot of (recoverable) pci errors in the kernel. Dilinker adapter was the worst, all kids of errors. Glotrends adapter (the only officially PCIe gen 4.0 adapter that I have) was middle road in number of errors.

In other words, I know of no way to install the P5800X into a threadripper pro workstation without seeing PCI errors. Under load I still get one or two with StarTech adapter in top slot.

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