If you don’t think you’ll need those perks, consider swapping this out for a B350 board to save a sizeable chunk o’ cash. I’ve had good experiences with Gigabyte’s GA-AB350 Gaming 3 ($110 on Newegg), and rival boards like the Asus Prime B350 Plus ($100 on Amazon) and MSI’s B350 Tomahawk ($110 on Newegg) sell for roughly the same price.
So why’d we go with the Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 in particular? Already having it on hand certainly didn’t hurt. But beyond that convenience, the Gaming 5’s an early star in the AM4 motherboard lineup. It’s attractive, loaded with all the features you could ask for (including M.2 and U.2 SSD support), and includes nifty extras like RGB Fusion and Smart Fan 5 technology baked right into the BIOS. Speaking of the BIOS, that’s another Gaming 5 strength. Many Ryzen motherboards lack polish and stability in these early days of the all-new AM4 platform, but Gigabyte’s motherboard has been solid as a rock in my extensive testing.
Memory: AMD sent Geil’s Evo X 16GB DDR4 kit ($125 on Newegg) along with the Ryzen 5 review kit, clocked at 3,200MHz. We decided to use it for a few different reasons.
Depending on the application you’re using, Ryzen performance can respond greatly to memory speed—but in these early days, memory support is finicky on many AM4 motherboards. The capacity is right on the money, too; you could get by with 8GB if you’re gaming and slinging Office docs alone, but 16GB is more welcome in productivity and editing machines. Oh, and I’m a sucker for RGB lighting, and Geil’s RAM rocks LEDs that can illuminate your case.
That said, Geil’s Evo X won’t be for everyone even if you dig RGB. Those lights require additional cables that feature red wiring rather than all-black sleeves, which can be an eyesore if you’re an aesthetics freak. The cables add some additional frustrations as well, which we’ll cover in the build guide. The Evo X sticks are downright massive, too, which could be an issue if you plan on using a CPU cooler with a large heat sink. They sure do look pretty though.
If low-profile RAM—in both stature and aesthetics—is more your taste, Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 kit will set you back the same $125 on Amazon.
Graphics: Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition ($380 on Amazon) delivers tremendous 1440p and 1080p gaming prowess at significantly less cost than the GTX 1080 or 1080 Ti, along with great graphics power for image and video editing. It’s what PCWorld’s video guru uses in his personal rig, and that’s good enough for me. Thematically, I’d have preferred to use an Radeon card, but a GTX 1070 competitor won’t show up (presumably) until AMD’s Radeon Vega appears.
Nvidia partners like EVGA, Zotac, and MSI offer customized GTX 1070s with higher clock speeds and beefier coolers, which many gamers prefer. Those graphics cards eject hot air back down into your system, however, whereas the Founders Edition uses a blower-style cooler that pushes the heat out the I/O ports on the rear of your system. That makes the Founders Edition cards more compelling if you’re using a tiny chassis.
Case: We’re using a tiny chassis. In fact, we’re using the same Corsair Carbide 400C ($100 on Amazon) featured in our Ryzen 7 1800X build. Stuffing so much power into a puny case is fun! I’d considered using a luxurious Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Tempered Glass ($190 on Amazon) that I have on hand, just to jazz things up a bit, but then I remembered that this build revolves around smart buying decisions to offer as much all-around performance as possible. (You’ll see where the extra money went in a bit.)
The Corsair 400C it is, and without regrets—it’s a damned good mainstream case.
Power supply: PC hardware doesn’t demand anywhere near as much electricity as it used to, but I’m still a firm believer in buying an efficient power supply from a respected brand. The EVGA Supernova 650 P2 ($110 on Amazon) fits the bill nicely. It’s 80 Plus Platinum certified, and you don’t need more than 650 watts in a modern system with a CPU and a single graphics card.
Storage: Here’s the hardware we splurged on with the savings in other areas. The 512GB Samsung 960 Pro ($330 on Amazon, but provided by AMD for this build) doesn’t come cheap. Nor should it; it’s hands-down the speediest SSD to ever cross PCWorld’s lab. It’s ludicrously fast.
While near-instantaneous boot times are nice on any system, the Samsung 960 Pro’s speed would be wasted if you mostly plan on gaming, slinging Office docs, and other everyday tasks. This beast burns through large file transfers, though, making it a worthwhile—if pricey—investment for creative professionals, streamers who edit video files, or anybody else doing plus-sized work on the regular.
If that doesn’t sound like you, consider picking up another drive instead. We still like Samsung’s 850 EVO for general use, and at $178 on Amazon for the 512GB model, it’s roughly half the price of the speedy 960 Pro. Other SSDs can be found for even less if you’re not picky.
The extras: Add it all up and you’re looking at a grand total of $1,520 for this Ryzen 5 1600X system. That doesn’t include the price of Windows 10, keyboard and mouse, or a monitor however—build guides like this generally assume you have those available to bring over from another system. If you don’t, however, expect to spend a bit more.
You can pick up a basic mouse and keyboard pretty cheaply if you want, or if you’re looking for nicer gear to match the overall quality level of this build, PCWorld’s guide to the best gaming mice and best gaming keyboard can help. Windows 10 Home costs $119, (the Pro version is $199), though you can often find product keys available for under $30 on Kinguin, which is sort of like eBay for software. And if you’re into hardcore audio editing, a dedicated top-end sound card like the Sound Blaster ZxR will set you back another $233 on Amazon, or less if you don’t need all the ZxR’s bells and whistles.
Enough chatter. Let’s get building!
Next page: Building the beast