Back in 2003, it was Hammer Time for the PC industry. My own home PCs missed the wave because I had just bought a 3.2 GHz Northwood Pentium 4, which was replaced in 2006 by a Core 2 E6600, a 64-bit dual-core Intel CPU running at 2.4 GHz. The Core 2 was not really better than Athlon 64s and Phenoms, but it wasn’t worse either. And when the next upgrade came in 2011, Intel’s Core i7 unfortunately did not have much real competition from AMD.
But that was when Intel still made desktop boards (I’ve been overall very happy with the DQ67OW board), and years before AMD processors were reborn with the Zen microarchitecture. Part of the reason why I stuck with Intel is that I’d had bad experience with boards and chipsets for AMD CPUs, but AMD eventually saw the light and realized that it’s not helpful to their cause to rely on the likes of VIA or nForce.
After a very useful discussion on a previous blog post, I decided to go for the ASRock X570 Pro4 board. That was about the only board I could find which combines the lack of silly bling and things I really don’t need (like onboard WiFi) with an Intel Ethernet controller, since I’m happy to spend extra money to avoid Realtek Ethernet chips.
So I got myself a Ryzen 7 3800X, thinking that if it proves too slow for my needs, I can replace it with a 12- or 16-core CPU in six months or a year without needing a different board. So far that actually seems unlikely because the CPU can chomp through build tasks at about 4.3 GHz under 100% load, and eight cores with SMT aren’t so bad (certainly far better than my trusty old Core i7 2600).
When I put the new system together, there was just one problem: The CPU fan. The stock Wraith cooler provided by AMD is not bad, and children love the LED lighting. But although the CPU temperatures were fully under control, the noise required to keep it that way was bothersome. Worst of all, while the stock AMD fan is not terribly loud on the absolute scale, changes in speed are very audible and I found them extremely annoying.
So I went looking around and eventually decided to go for the Dark Rock Pro 4 by be quiet!, the same company that made my new case and PSU. This model was not my first choice, except the smaller Dark Rock 4 cooler would, according to the very helpful board compatibility check on the manufacturer’s web site, conflict with the DIMM slots on the motherboard. Since I already had four DIMMs installed that would be a problem.
After putting the new cooler in place (which unfortunately required taking the entire motherboard out of the case again, but that’s life), I was exceedingly pleased with the results. The cooler is rated for 250W TDP and the CPU at 105W TDP, which means the CPU fans don’t have to work very hard at all and are therefore indeed very quiet, to the point where the hard drive appears to be the loudest part of the system. I also appreciated the fact that when the CPU fans ramp up, the change in fan speed is far less noticeable than with the AMD cooler.
Unrelated pleasant surprise: The ASRock X570 Pro4 has a fully functioning PS/2 port, and I’m typing this on an old Logitech PS/2 keyboard (because I don’t know where my Model M is right now).
So far about three weeks in, I’d say the new machine has been money well spent. Multi-threaded performance is 2x–3x better than my old system, single-threaded performance can keep up with anything out there, and new components (NVMe SSD, 10 Gbps SuperSpeed+ USB) don’t hurt either.