New PC Build

Back in 2012 I built a PC around the Intel i7 3930K 6-core/12HT processor which I have been using ever since. While it’s still a strong PC, especially with the upgrades (GPU, SSD) I made, I’m starting to feel that editing photos isn’t as snappy as it used to be. I am also curious in how well the new generation of CPUs lend themselves to VGA passthrough. In short, I’m considering building a new PC.

Hardware considerations

My previous PC build using an Intel 3930K on a X79 motherboard – though not inexpensive – has been a good investment.

Today there is a much wider choice of passthrough-capable CPUs. The  analogy to the i7-3930K would be something like the Core i9-7920X on a X299 motherboard. However, as long as Adobe doesn’t improve multi-core performance, faster single-core performance will be a better choice for photo editing. This is probably true for a gaming PC, too.

A popular CPU is the Intel i7-8700K. But the latest and greatest is the i9-9900K on a Z390 motherboard. The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is yet another possible choice, but less intriguing to me (the 2950X is a little too pricey).

This time I lean towards a CPU with an integrated iGPU that will be used for the host. A dedicated GPU will serve either the Windows VM, or a Linux gaming VM, as needed (see my post here).

Once again, I want to build a PC that will last for many years, and will be able to deal with ever growing demands.

August 2019 update: The arrival of the AMD Ryzen™ 9 3900X changed practically everything! AMD seems to beat the heck out of everything Intel has to offer in that category. It also comes with PCIe-4 lanes instead of the common PCIe-3 types, which should offer higher throughput and the need for fewer lanes on supported devices. Right now this is on the top of my list, but I will have to wait for some time until finances and free time allow me to proceed. Maybe by then another CPU will top this one?

Price Considerations

As mentioned above, the AMD 3900X is now the favorite. It supports 16x PCIe-4, plus 4x lanes for NVMe. In performance tests using Photoshop the Ryzen 3900X performed better or equally well as the Intel i9-9900K.

Prior to the AMD 3900X, the i9-9900K was the best choice for use with Adobe Lightroom, as shown in benchmarks. Second to that was the i9-9700K. Here the current prices:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – ~$499 at Amazon
  • Intel i9-9900K – ~$479 at Amazon
  • Intel i9-9700K – ~$359 at Amazon

As to the motherboard, I’m considering:

  • X570 board for the AMD 3900X – tbd
  • Gigabyte Z390 AORUS PRO or
  • Gigabyte Z390 AORUS ELITE for the Intel i9

Other Considerations

My current processor (i7 3930K) is actually based on the Xeon processor line, making it an excellent candidate for PCI passthrough. I have never experienced any of the problems users of lesser/consumer-type processors have experienced, such as poor IOMMU grouping.

A new PC build around either the Ryzen 3900X or the i9 9900K would actually be a downgrade to a more consumer-grade CPU. For example, my current CPU offers 40 PCIe lanes, the new processors only 16. I’ve read that the IOMMU grouping for Intel is not as good, too. As to the AMD Ryzen, I’ll need to see how that fares.

The expected performance gain on the CPU side would be around 67% (for Intel) – nothing too dramatic. I would do some more upgrades, mainly a much faster M.2 SSD, which will certainly boost the speed with large image files.

If I were to go with the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, I’d also have to buy a second GPU and figure that cost in. In addition, it will consumer more power. All these things need to be considered.

Do you have suggestions? Then please leave a comment below!

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