Building a new PC: small, fast, AMD

I am building a new home computer. A design brief to myself is simple:

  • Case should be small(ish). Not Intel NUC-style small, but good PC configuration in a Small Form Factor (SFF).
  • Configuration must be good and fast enough to be future proof without (major) upgrades for at least a few years.
  • Processor will be AMD Ryzen with Zen 2 architecture , undecided yet which model. Sorry Intel, the time to change has come.

What is a bit different than usual SFF builds is that I’m not into gaming or multimedia. This will be machine for my work, which require running many virtual machines in parallel, various business software, a range of software development tools, lots of data crunching and analysis. In this scenario, processor speed, memory and storage are more important than graphics card – though I do plan to get a decent graphics card.

I haven’t built my computer for quite some time, and after decided to build by next PC, I quickly realized that building a Small Form Factor can be a daunting task. Deciding on form factor (in my case ITX), CPU platform (AMD Ryzen), socket (AM4) and chipset (X570) is easy, but that is when the troubles (or fun?) just start.

Adequate cooler is needed, that can cool the CPU but still fit the case and do not interfere with other components. Is standard AMD cooler (Wraith Prism or Wraith Spire) going to be enough? How about liquid cooling? RAM does not only need to match requirements for speed and latency, but dimensions and heatsink are important, so it does not interfere with the cooler. All motherboards are not equal, there are differences in layout, VRMs, chipset cooling, etc. For graphics card it is not just which GPU and memory, but also how is it getting cooled and what are physical dimensions, can it fit the case? Power supply must be in SFX format to fit the case, adequate to power all components, modular to avoid too much spaghetti cables, quiet to minimize noise, and with good efficiency ratings for less heating.

This is gonna be fun.