I’ve not built my own PC in a vary long time so I thought it would be prudent to do a little research. When I last built a machine manuals were sparse now they are down right non-existent it seems. The notes below cover the bits that I found to be not entirely obvious.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 3.8 GHz 12-Core Processor
- Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix X570-F Gaming ATX AM4 Motherboard
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
- Storage: Corsair MP600 Force Series Gen4 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
- Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER 8 GB GAMING OC Video Card
- Case: Cooler Master MasterBox NR600 (w/o ODD) ATX Mid Tower Case
- Power Supply: Corsair RM (2019) 750 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
- Cooling: 4 of Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700
- Lighting: 2 of SilverStone LS03
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit
Total cost in October 2019 around £1900.
The memory is a DDR4 3200 but that should be possible to overclock probably up to 3600 with better memory timings which will increase performance as the processor is reported to like better performing memory with 3600 being the sweet spot.
The case takes 120mm fans front (3) and rear (1) and can take two 120mm or 140mm fans at the top. The motherboard has two 4-pin PWM case / chassis fan headers each can supply 1A at 12V. You can connect multiple fans to a single header as long as the total power draw is not more than the header can provide. This is generally felt to be a maximum of three fans per header although there are some very low power fans available that would allow more.
In my setup one header is connected to a Gelid Solutions CA-PWM-03 1-to-4 PWM fan splitter and controls 3 fans at the front and the other header controls a single fan at the back. The top is left empty to just vent air. The fans are Noctua NF-P12 redux-1700 and draw 0.09A max giving a maximum draw on the front fan header of 0.27A which could be run off a regular unpowered splitter but as I have the powered splitter I’ll be using that.
The CPU is cooled with the AMD Wraith Prism stock cooler. This provides adequate cooling even for modest overclocks (e.g. overclocks with PBO, see below).
The cooler comes with RGB which needs to be connected to the motherboard separately. You can connect up the RGB with either the 4-pin RGB cable or a USB cable not both. The RGB connection sets the colour using the motherboards RGB software whereas the USB sets the colour using the software for the cooler (Latest Version: AMD Wraith Prism Heatsink 1.17.exe). The USB connection gives more control over the colour and lighting effects as the cooler is multi-zone and the RGB header can only do one colour. People seem to report that the outer coloured ring on the cooler only lights up if the USB connection is used.
The 4-pin fan connector should always be plugged in regardless of whether RGB is used. The cooler should be set to high fan speed, it is PWM controlled so can be spun down anyway.
Motherboard – A Detailed Look at the Asus ROG Strix X570-F Gaming
The following sections are about the various connectors on the motherboard. The diagram positions are as shown on page 1-2 of the manual that comes with the board. The sections are ordered the same as the layout on page 1-3 of the manual.
1. EATXPWR and EATX12V
Diagram Position 1, Page 1-18 – power for the motherboard, the 24-pin EATXPWR connector is absolutely required as is the 8-pin EATX12V. The 4-pin EATX12V is optional and only required if doing extreme overclocking.
The power supply comes with a range of 8-pin socket labelled “6+2 PCIe & 4+4 CPU” all can act as sockets for either the EPS12V cables or the PCIe cables. Note that the device end of the EPS12V and PCIe cables are different.
Note: EATX12V and EPS12V refer to the same thing.
2. Fan Headers
Diagram Position 2, Page 1-17 – covers the various fan headers on the motherboard. The manual actually does a fair job of describing these connectors. All the supplied fan headers are 4-pin and support PWM. There are two CPU headers CPU_FAN and CPU_OPT, with the supplied CPU cooler on the CPU_FAN header will be populated. All the fan headers can supply 1A meaning you can usually connect three fans safely.
The AIO_PUMP header is for powering the pump of an All In One water cooler. It’s set to always run at full speed and can supply 1A. Some people recommend plugging the AIO pump in the CPU_FAN header and setting it to fixed full speed so that you get notification of a pump failure – there are arguments for and against.
The W_PUMP+ header is for high performance water pumps and can supply up to 3A. It is set to always run at full speed by default but can be changed in the BIOS usually.
The M.2_FAN header is designed to be used for a fan to cool the M.2 drive which lives under a heat sink. The fan needs a 3D printed bracket to attach to. It’s unclear whether there is a separate temperature sensor for the M.2 drives. Presumably this header could be used to run case fans as well.
Fan control can easily be carried out using the Q-Fan settings in the BIOS or through Fan XPert which is part of the AI Suite.
3. SPI TPM Connector
Diagram Position 3, Page 1-20 – connects to a Trusted Platform Module that is used to hold cryptographic keys and other security related data. The module costs about £10.
4. AM4 CPU Socket
Diagram Position 4, Page 1-4 – pretty self explanatory, this is where the CPU goes.
5. AURA RGB Headers
Diagram Position 5, Page 1-10 – these 4 pin headers provide RGB control for the LED’s attached to them. They can run up to 3A of LEDs which is a massive 3 meters of 5050 LED tape. They are controlled by the Asus Aura software. These headers provide a simple wash of colour, all the LED’s in the strip will have the same colour and brightness. This is usually how an RGB fan is connected, the fan will have two cables, one runs to a fan header the other to an RGB header.
6. DDR4 DIMM Slots
Diagram Position 6, Page 1-4 – memory sockets. For a common dual stick setup plug memory into sockets A2 and B2.
7. Q LEDs
Diagram Position 7, Page 1-8 – various indicator LED’s, the manual does a good job of explaining them.
8. Addressable RGB Header
Diagram Position 8, Page 1-11 – these are the more interesting RGB headers as they allow for individual control over each LED in a strip. This header supports 3A. Fans that support individual addressing don’t seem to be as easily available but you can find plenty on the Asus Aura partners page – select cooling > case fans > addressable RGB for example.
Rather than fans I’m going to install just a couple of addressable RGB strips from SilverStone. With the RGB from the CPU fan I think this will be enough lighting in the case. I want a little lighting, I don’t want the room lit up like a Christmas tree decorated by a five year old that’s had too much sugar.
9. USB 3.2 Gen 2 Front Panel Connector
Diagram Position 9, Page 1-14 – this is the connector for the front panel USB 3.2 Gen 2 socket if your case has one. My case doesn’t have a gen 2 socket on the front and from what I’ve read / seen this is a new style of socket that isn’t supported by all cases yet.
It looks like it might be possible to upgrade the case to support a gen 2 socket if you can find an appropriate cable. For example here’s font panel cable that would fit the socket on the motherboard: USB 3.1 Type C Front Panel Header Cable. Whether you could fit that to the case is another matter and it doesn’t look like it’s a gen 2 cable. Here’s a cable with a back panel connected that claims to be gen 2: Akasa AK-CBUB37-50BK USB 3.1 Gen2. At £10.99 it might be worth a shot to see if if can be made to fit, worst case scenario you could add it to the back of the case.
10. M.2 Sockets
Diagram Position 10, Page 19 – sockets for M.2 drives. I’ve splashed out and gone for the Corsair MP600 which should provide ludicrous speed. There are several M.2 form factors and the motherboard supports 4 of them. The form factor of this drive is a 2280 so it should line up with the third mounting hole out from the socket. Note that the mounting post might need to be moved depending on where it was installed at the factory. The motherboard should come with M.2 mounting screws.
11. Clear RTC RAM Jumper
Diagram Position 11, Page 1-9 – clears the BIOS settings. Useful if you’ve, for example, set a BIOS password and can’t remember it.
12. AMD Series ATA 6 Gb/s Connections
Diagram Position 12, Page 1-13 – sockets for hard drives and SSDs, well covered by the manual.
13. Standby Power LED
Diagram Position 13, Page 1-8 – an LED that is lit whenever there is power to the system.
14. System Panel Connectors
Diagram Position 14, Page 1-16 – a selection of connectors that provide various functions. In my experience these connectors vary widely between manufacturers (it might be standardised now, it wasn’t when I last was building machines). What you connect depends on what your case provides. My case, like a lot of cases now, doesn’t have a speaker so that will be left empty. It does have a power led (PLED pins) a power button (PWRBTN pins) and a HDD activity light (HDLED pins). There is no dedicated reset button so it’ll be a case of holding the power button to force a restart. See this review for excellent photos of the case.
Note that it’s not at all clear which pin is positive for some of the connections. This video, while old, describes connecting these pins in great detail. The long and the short of it it that it doesn’t matter if you get the connector the wrong way around nothing will break but the LED won’t light up. The power button (and reset if you have it) connector can be put on either way around and will work fine.
15. USB 3.2 Gen 1 Front Panel Connector
Diagram Position 15, Page 1-14 – connection point for gen 1 USB front panel connectors. The case I’m using has two gen 1 sockets.
16. USB 2.0 Connectors
Diagram Position 16, Page 1-15 – connectors for USB 2.0 sockets. One of these will be used for the CPU cooler so that full RGB is available, the other will be left empty as there are plenty of USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 sockets on this motherboard. Note that a FireWire (1394) cable will fit into this socket but must not be used.
17. Thermal Sensor Connector
Diagram Position 17, Page 1-12 – this is the header for the thermal sensor that the motherboard comes shipped with. If you plug in the sensor you can connect to to some component and use the reading to control fan activity. I’m not really sure how useful this is for me as there’s only two fan headers and I’ll have those set to run case fans off the CPU temperature. The best I can think would be to use it to control the M.2 fan header (I’m not sure yet if that already has a dedicated temperature sensor).
18. NODE Connector
Diagram Position 18, Page 1-20 – as far as I can tell this interface is essentially useless as there’s nothing that plugs into it. It’s a bi-directional port that should do a few things like monitor fans or a PSU if they support it and I’ve seen a video of it being used to drive a small OLED display. It’s an Asus proprietary connector that doesn’t seem to have really caught on, see here for a bit more info. This is an interesting alternative that doesn’t use the node connector.
19. Front Panel Audio Connector
Diagram Position 19, Page 1-12 – pins for the front panel audio. Most cases have separate connectors for mic and headphones but the case I have has a combined connector. The connector is keyed so if can’t be plugged in the wrong way around.
20 and 21. PCIe Slots
Diagram Position 20, Page 1-6 – these are the PCIe expansion slots. The quick version is plug the video card into the top slot (PCIEx16_1) and leave the others empty.
The longer version is a bit more complicated. The PCIe bus is very flexible and you can largely plug anything in anywhere but some configurations will give better performance than others. For example you could plug an x1 device into an x16 socket but it would probably be a waste of bandwidth.
The number after the x essentially only tells you the width of the slot but it also hints at the number of data lanes running it it as well. An x16 slot can have up to 16 data lanes running to it but not all do. It’s not uncommon for only the first x16 slot to have all 16 data lanes physically wired up. On top of that the motherboard and or processor many not support feeding all the slots at full speed.
For the motherboard I have, looking at the x16 slots only it supports three modes of operation x16, x8/x8 and /x8/x8/x4. So if there is only a single video card plugged into the first slot it gets all 16 lanes. If two cards are plugged into slots 1 and 2 they get 8 lanes each. With three cards the top two would get 8 lanes and the bottom one 4 lanes. All of this would run at PCIe 4.0 speeds assuming the peripheral can support it.
Note that slot 3 is a little different on this motherboard as it share bandwidth with the last x1 slot. As the tiny and easy to miss note on the website says: PCIeX16_3 slot shares bandwidth with PCIeX1_2. This snippet of information isn’t in the manual.
A video card will typically require the full 16 data lanes in order to run at it’s maximum potential hence why it’s usually plugged into the first slot. I assume if it’s the only thing on the motherboard it could be plugged into slot 2 of this motherboard as well.
Note that the M.2 sockets also use PCIe lanes but the manual indicates they are always able to run at full speed regardless of the video card configuration.
22. PCH Fan Header
Diagram Position 22, Page 1-21 – this header connects to a fan that is used to cool the motherboard chipset. It should already be populated as the board comes with an fan for the chipset.
23. LED Connector
Diagram Position 23, Page 1-15 – the motherboard comes with a fancy integrated IO back plate and cover. The cover has built in LED lighting which is connected via this port. Presumably if you wanted to switch off the lighting you could disconnect this.
24. BIOS Flashback LED
Diagram Position 24, Page 1-9 – a blinking LED to let you know you’re about to flash the BIOS. This is covered by the integrated back plate so presumably it can be seen from the back.
25. BIOS Flashback Button
Diagram Position 25, Page 2-12 – in combination with a special USB port you can flash the BIOS without having to enter the existing BIOS. Useful if you’ve totally screwed up.