Ryzen Diary Part I: The Unpackening

I’ve been reviewing fewer products recently, so when AMD let me know they’d ship me a Ryzen system, I jumped at the chance. A few weeks passed, a couple of false starts and a box appeared on my doorstep from CyberPower PC. Built around a Ryzen 1800X and an Asrock X370 Killer SLI motherboard, the system also included 16GB of fast Corsair DDR4 memory, an Enermax power supply, a PowerColor R480X graphics card, and a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe SSD.

I don’t plan on writing an ordinary review, but an ongoing diary of actually using the Ryzen system. We haven’t had a new revamp of the x86 CPU in years, given Intel’s microscopically incremental improvements to its 14nm product line. So I thought it might be fun to write this as an ongoing little adventure in living with Ryzen.

In the Box

I unpacked the system and found that CyberPower had used a bog-standard CoolerMaster MasterBox 5 steel case. The case offers an acrylic side panel and mesh front panels, which ostensibly improve airflow. Fit and finish seems okay; the panels slide on and off easily. But the all-steel construction makes it somewhat ungainly.

CyberPower's Basic Box

I discovered the real issue with the case when I fired up the PC for the first time. Remember those PC days of yore, when you needed lots of cooling fans and no one really cared about noise because we didn’t really have things like “quiet” PCs? That pretty much describes this PC. The system generated a lot of fan noise, like an HVAC system running in the next room — not pretty.

In the not-too-distant past, I might have blamed the AMD processor and GPU, which ran pretty hot and required substantial cooling once upon a time. I knew better this time, though, since the Ryzen 1800X has a nominal 95W TDP and the Radeon RX480 also runs much cooler. It didn’t take long to discover the culprits.

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Terrible Fans

The system included three Raidmax RGB case fans. The bright red LEDs seemed garish enough, but the fans also generated a lot of air flow and a lot of noise. CyberPower also used an old-school AMD CPU cooler, which contributed its share of noise. So my immediate plan was to replace both the CPU cooler and case fans to quiet the system down a bit. Given the nature of this case, I could only do so much, but I was pretty convinced that I could make noise levels more manageable.

But before I dived into replacing fans and coolers, fate intervened. The system decided it would simply refuse to boot. The Samsung SSD had disappeared from the BIOS and seemed invisible to the system. Time to do some troubleshooting, which I’ll talk about in the next installment.

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