The build is fun and rewarding, but sorting out those inevitable BIOS, CPU, memory kinks is unbearable

Photo of a desktop computer next to a large monitor on a desk, with a keyboard and mouse.

Nick Evanson, Hardware writer

Nicholas EvansonNicholas Evanson

Nicholas Evanson

This month I benchmarked: Endless benchmarking. Hours upon hours, run after run. In the name of one game to see directly running on a range of different PCs. And I would do it all over again in a flash, because I love benchmarking. Yes, I’m a little odd.

It’s been a busy old month at Chateau Evanson, mainly due to the excessive amount of time spent testing the performance of Dragon’s Dogma 2 and how its quality settings affect things. It all started on my old primary computer, with a Core i7 9700K, but halfway through, I completely upgraded the system to an Intel Z790 setup. New CPU, RAM, graphics card, coolers, SSDs, PSU. Just need to make the case, which will eventually change at some point because the cooler doesn’t fit properly.

The entire build went very smoothly and the computer booted up fine with the DDR5 set to its 6400 XMP profile, all the SSDs worked exactly as expected, and cable management was extremely stress free . Heck, it didn’t even take that long to install and configure Windows and the gamut of standard applications.

On the other hand, I started getting headaches with the amount of BIOS / UEFI fiddling required to find the right balance between performance, power consumption, temperature, and fan noise. Use the motherboard’s default settings and the CPU draws enough power to melt the polar caps; drop the limits down to Intel values ​​and you will get excellent performance for a while before it throttles back. I think I’ve got everything sorted now but it was a handy reminder that no matter how experienced you are at something, you can still find something new to kick you up a notch.

I honestly have no idea how many total computers I’ve built over the years but if I had to guess at the lowest possible number, it’s around five hundred. Some of these were professional workstation builds, many were simple office/school machines, and the rest were custom configurations for individuals. The cheapest was £500 or so, the most expensive 20 times that figure.

As for the AMD/Intel split, I’d say it’s probably a 3:2 ratio but the last AMD systems I built were about 8 years ago, with the FM2+ socket and the cheap-but-cheap Athlon X4 845 , which was amazing. for basic home PCs. Nothing about them stood out as a problem and they were as easy to set up and configure as anything.

No matter how experienced you are at doing something, you can still find something new to trip you up

So, although it had been a while since I had fully built an AMD system, I didn’t expect any problems with building two AM5-based computers this month, one as a birthday present for my partner, and the other as a benchmark platform. . For the first one, I went with the Ryzen 7 7700X, an MSI B650M Gaming Plus motherboard, 32GB of DDR5-5600, and a GeForce RTX 4070. Lots of beautiful white and silver colors, with a discrete smutter of RGB to make it all sparkle. .

I’d like to say it all went smoothly but it was just a simple launch. Some of the issues were my own fault, like getting a 280 mm AIO cooler because the website for the case (North Fractal Design in white) said it could fit two 140 mm fans in the top. Wait, yes. Radiator, no. Face together palm. But there were other problems due to the characteristics of the hardware itself.

First issue: It would take anywhere up to 10 minutes to get to the point where Windows would start loading. The traffic light warning lights on the motherboard told me it was a CPU problem. No, wait, it was the memory. No, it was the storage drive.

Photo of a desktop computer next to a large monitor on a desk, with a keyboard and mousePhoto of a desktop computer next to a large monitor on a desk, with a keyboard and mouse

Photo of a desktop computer next to a large monitor on a desk, with a keyboard and mouse

And all this was using the default settings in the UEFI – no overclocking, no tweaking, just the standard configuration. Eventually I got it all sorted out, through a combination of poking around in the motherboard settings, but then it came time to enable EXPO (AMD’s equivalent of XMP).

Didn’t like that at all. No. Any. A bit.

Tip my second mistake. Although I had checked the memory QVL (basically a list of RAM kits that the motherboard vendor has tested their products on) to make sure the RAM I bought was correct to use, what I hadn’t checked was to see if MSI had any releases. BIOS updates. I assume that since the 7700X launched back in 2022 and the motherboard model was much newer, everything would be fine.

Yes, it was time to flash BIOS. That solved the EXPO problem but the boot time wasn’t too long, or a weird issue where the computer wouldn’t boot if you shut down Windows before and only booted if the PSU was turned off and back at it again. At one point I really felt like I had completely lost the plot, but after completely resetting the BIOS and trying everything again twicefinally behave.

It looks great, runs well, and is a small split computer. But the bells of Hell, what a ride to get there.

It works perfectly now and your Windows boots in less than 20 seconds. It looks great, runs well, and is a small split computer. But the bells of Hell, what a ride to get there. But I was happy to admit that it was my own fault and despite spending time checking all the possible pitfalls of AM5, I simply felt that if I had prepared myself better, none of this would have happened .

And then it was time to build the other AM5 system, an open case test bench that would be used to run multiple different AMD CPUs and different graphics cards, for articles, reviews, and what not. This time the build went flawlessly, apart from the case opening but hey, it cost me £25 so I won’t complain. It even started with DDR5-6400 and EXPO for the first time and the initial test runs showed how amazing AMD hardware is. Fast, powerful, and sweet on power.

That was until it was time to swap out the graphics card for another one. Endless black screens, amazing secrets, missing drivers in Device Manager despite just installed. And no, it wasn’t a ‘me’ thing this time, as I was doing the same thing on an AM4 test bench, with a Ryzen 5 5600X, and that was rock solid. I can fling cards in and out of there all the time and it works.

Photo of an open case, PC testbench showing the motherboard, PSU, and CPU enginePhoto of an open case, PC testbench showing the motherboard, PSU, and CPU engine

Photo of an open case, PC testbench showing the motherboard, PSU, and CPU engine

Don’t think I’m just dunking on AMD and praising Intel for the sake of it. The latter graphics cards are an exercise in frustration management, and if the only Arc card I’ve been using recently is any indication of what they all are, then Intel has its work cut out for it. achieve the gold standard. GeForce and Radeon.

Not that either of those are without flaws. In the case of Nvidia’s offerings, if it is one of the current RTX 40-series cards that uses the 12VHPWR connector, you end up with a terrible mess of cables and adapters, unless you have a PSU that comes with a dedicated 12VHPWR cable. And as for Radeon cards, well the hardware is beautiful, extremely powerful and fast, but the software side of things is a bit annoying, and drivers are playing guessing games whether they are installed or not.

With Geforce cards, I can install one set of drivers, swap cards, and it works fine after one reboot. Can’t say it was like Radeons, and don’t get me started on how it was swapping AMD CPUs around.

Your next upgrade

Nvidia RTX 4070 and RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics cardNvidia RTX 4070 and RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics card

Nvidia RTX 4070 and RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics card

Best CPU for games: The top chips from Intel and AMD.
The best gaming motherboard: The right boards.
Best graphics card: Your perfect pixel crusher is waiting.
Best SSD for gaming: Get into the game ahead of the rest.

But at least I can slap a cheap cooler on a Ryzen 7000-series or 8000-series chip, and never have to worry about the chip running out of thermal limits, unlike my new 14700KF which took hours of testing to get right. AMD’s power efficiency is well known, as is Intel’s love of wattage, but I don’t care if the cutting-edge manufacturing and chip design inside Ryzen CPUs doesn’t help settle matters of simplicity and component compatibility.

Anyway, I digress. Today’s components and software are much better than they were a few decades ago, and PCs are generally pretty simple to build – until they aren’t. Then it’s like the 1990s all over again, messing with BIOS/UEFI settings and drivers.

But if you are is planning on building a new gaming PC in the coming months, but remember to read everything properly before you hand over your money and check for updates before you start enjoying the joy of PC building. Especially the radiator sizes that the PC case can take!

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