Time for a PC Upgrade!

The time to upgrade my PC has finally arrived. I figured I’d write a little bit about my decision making process and share what I’m getting!

Time to Upgrade This PC

When I bought this computer, pre-built from Cyber Power, there were a combination of deciding factors. The first one was physical space. As a married man living in a small flat in London, we don’t have a spare room to house an office or a computer. In fact, we were bursting out of the cupboard space we had – even before adding a baby to the mix. A Steam Machine was one of the only options I had.

My second decided factor was future upgrades. Most of the Steam Machines had swappable hard drives and even RAM, but very few of them gave you the option of switching CPU or GPU later. The CyberPower one fit all these requirements, so even though it was the prettiest of machines, it fit all of my requirements.

The i5 6400 that it came with was fairly low-spec, but it was okay a couple of years ago. It’s only recently that it’s started to struggle, mainly when trying to run new games and streaming software at the same time. The i5 6400 doesn’t have hyperthreading, which I think is one of the things letting it down now.

Intel vs AMD

The last time I built a PC for myself, AMD was the budget friendly choice, and they lacked the power that Intel CPUs had. From what I’ve read recently, that gap has closed and the Ryzen chips are far more bang-for-buck than the new Core i5 and i7s.

My current motherboard is a Z170, meaning that the highest upgrade I can get is either an i7 6700(k) or i7 7700(k). This is a hell of an upgrade for me, but it’s expensive and hard to come by. Even Amazon was charging £300 for just the chip.

That made me think about switching brands. I could get an AM4 motherboard and new CPU for less than the cost of the Intel chip, and still have plenty of room for future upgrades on that chipset. It basically became a no-brainer, so it was time to look for the Ryzen option.

Form Factor

Using this tiny case size limits me to just Mini-ITX boards. This means paying a little more and having less options. Thankfully, the one that seems to be most available is also close to being the cheapest. That’s not such a problem.

Heat management, on the other hand, is a problem. My current setup can run a little hot sometimes, even with my extra fans and sides off. I guess it’s just a normal part of the small form factor. So I figured that means the X chips are out, since they tend to run at 95W over the 65W of my current rig. Although I’ve heard good things about the AMD Wraith cooler, I’m using my current setup as a benchmark for heat as well.

There are a few AM4 chipset ITX boards, but really only a couple of them were in my price range. The MSI B450i Gaming Plus ac scored slightly better in most reviews (over the Aorus B450 Pro Wifi and ASRock B450 Wifi) so it won out.

Futureproofing by My Fans!

Last but not least was the choice of actual chip. My budget was looking at the Ryzen 5 2600, already a significant upgrade over my current build. That 29% upgrade taking me from the 269th ranked chip to just outside the top 100! That was great news, and I was already excited.

But then a couple of friends and fans blew my mind.

The 3600 was a chunk more expensive, but they offered to donate and cover the cost of upgrading to the newer chip! I couldn’t (and still can’t) thank them enough, because this is going to be a complete game changer. Check out the numbers:

My 4C/4T chip becomes 6C/12T.
My 2.7GHz (3.0GHz boost) becomes 3.6Ghz (4.2GHz boost).
My 269th ranked chip becomes 40th!

It’s going to be a huge upgrade and I’m indebted to them forever.

The orders are already placed, but it’s likely to be at least a couple of weeks before they’re delivered (thanks, COVID-19). Which gives me time to prepare myself for a bigger PC build than I’ve done in many years. I’m excited and I can’t wait to get started!