Powerful Gaming and Deep Learning PC Build
I have been using my old Dell XPS 8500 PC since 2012 when I was a student. The PC was still good enough for most of the ordinary tasks because it has an i7-3770 CPU. However, after having seen the 2K HDR screen (14.0” HDR WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS multi-touch with Dolby Vision, 500 nits) on my Thinkpad X1 Yoga 3rd for long, I feel I can never go back to the Dell U2412M monitor, which was a very good monitor in 2012, connected to the Dell XPS 8500. Meanwhile, I started to have an increasing demand in deep learning, and the old NVIDIA GT640 graphic card could not use any CUDA or do any high-quality modern gaming. Therefore, I decided to build a brand new PC for gaming and deep learning. This blog post documented a lot of thoughts I made in the PC component selection phase, problem and caveat I found during assembly and some known issues that have not yet been perfectly fixed. I wish this blog post is going to be helpful for someone who is going to build a similar PC to mine, or suffering from some similar problems and issues. I also believe this blog post is going to be helpful for the future PC builds because it has some most fundamental concepts of PC building.
|Intel - Core i9-9900K
|Corsair - H150i PRO RGB
|Asus - ROG Z390 MAXIMUS XI HERO (WIFI)
|Corsair - Vengeance RGB 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 (CMR32GX4M2C3200C16)
|Western Digital - Black 4 TB 3.5” 7200RPM
|NVIDIA - GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
|Phanteks - ENTHOO EVOLV X GLASS (Black)
|SeaSonic - PRIME Ultra Titanium 1000 W SSR-1000TR
|Asus - ROG SWIFT PG27UQ
|Filco - Majestouch-2 Brown/Blue Switch
|SteelSeries - Sensei 310
|Bose - Companion 2 Series III
|CyberPower - CP1500PFCLCD
The component list and short summary could also be found on my gallery at PCPartPicker.
The PC will be used for gaming. Performance on any single thread is critical. So AMD is not considered and the highest Intel consumer end CPU Core i9-9900K was selected. It has a default turbo clock of 4.7 GHz, and 5.0 GHz if you overclock.
Intel Core i9-9900K is a beast. So it needs a good cooler. There are extremely powerful fan coolers for i9-9900K. But they may just look weird in a transparent PC case and generates too much noise. So liquid cooler is ideal for i9-9900K. H150i PRO RGB is the most powerful liquid CPU cooler from Corsair.
Motherboard is one of the few key components in PC. There are many good Z370/Z390 motherboards from different vendors including ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI for Intel Core i9-9900K. I am looking for a motherboard with a price of around $300. So many extremely high end Z390 motherboards, such as Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI EXTREME and Gigabyte Z390 AORUS XTREME, will not be considered. The candidates for me are Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI HERO, Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER, and ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate.
The VRM thermal test for many Z390 motherboards in this price range has provided a lot of guidance. This test shows that Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI HERO is the worst despite its high price. Some additional resources show that Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI HERO only uses a 4-phase VRM which seems to be a very low configuration in such a high-end motherboard. If you don’t know VRM, check out a VRM introduction here. Basically, the more phase in VRM, the more stable your system power and current is from the motherboard especially during extreme scenarios.
Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER, however, uses 12-phase VRM, which is the highest among all the Z390 motherboards. Despite Gigabyte motherboards were known to have a bad BIOS interface, Gigabyte claims that they guarantee to overclock your i9-9900K all cores above 5 GHz. Check out here. Therefore Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER was selected. Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER does not have DP ports. But I do not care because we plug the monitor to the DP port on graphic cards.
Updates in 2021. Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER has been disappointing and error-prone. I am using Asus ROG MAXIMUS XI HERO now.
I have seen many tests on the effect of memory speed on gaming. Usually, the speed above 3200 MHz will not bring any more FPS increase. Therefore the memory speed was targeted at 3200 MHz. Corsair Vengeance RGB 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 was selected simply because it uses Samsung B-die which is the best for overclocking.
There are some B-die RAM finders online such as this B-die Finder. They usually don’t have all the B-die memory on the list. The best place to find B-die memory is this German community. It is extremely good and comprehensive, but many people online do not know this list.
One might be surprised to see that I did not use SSD. Because I want to install a dual operating system, Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.04 LST, and I want the disk to be large, and I don’t want the boot of dual OS to be problematic given the hard drive(s) I have. Multiple hard drives will sometimes cause problems in dual boot. I considered using 1 TB SSD as a boot drive. 500 GB will be allocated to Windows 10 and 500 GB will be allocated to Ubuntu. Then mounting a second hard drive to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS will require some extra work. Not even mention this hard drive will have to be shared by both Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. So probably the easiest way to configure is to use a large HDD.
I also considered using Intel Optane memory to accelerate the hard drive reading and writing. However, Intel Optane is not officially supported in Linux, although there are a few cases which successfully uses Intel Optane memory in Ubuntu. I don’t care about the speed-up brought by the SSD or Intel Optane memory anyway.
I want to have 4K gaming with a high refresh rate. It will also preferable if there are eye care features. There are 4K gaming monitors with high refresh rates. However, most of them are TN panel instead of IPS. TN panel is bad because the color will look different from different angles. The only 4K IPS monitor with a high refresh rate is ASUS ROG PG27UQ. It comes with a refresh rate of 120 Hz (144 Hz if overclock), G-Sync, HDR and eye care features.
To support 4K 120 Hz gaming, the only graphic cards that can do this are NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti or NVIDIA RTX TITAN. These two graphic cards are also extremely good for deep learning. I eventually chose NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti because RTX TITAN is a little bit too expensive. I purchased Founders Edition because it looks better in glass PC cases and I will not overclock GPU.
Initially, I wanted to have a Corsair case. However, I checked all Corsair cases and I did not like any of them. Somehow I came across Phanteks EVOLV X. It matches anything I was thinking. It even supports dual systems by the way. One can install an ATX system and an ITX system, i.e., two computers, in one case. It will be very good for video live streaming. ATX system is used for gaming, and ITX system is used for video live streaming.
The whole system requires roughly 400 Walt power. In practice, it may take up to 500 Walt. To allow more flexibility in the future, I chose SeaSonic PRIME Ultra Titanium 1000 W SSR-1000TR. It is the best-rated PSU on Amazon. It is also Titanium PSU.
Actually, the first PSU I purchased for this PC is Corsair AX1200i. AX is the best PSU series from Corsair. When I purchased the PSU, Corsair AX1200i was having a large discount on Newegg. Unfortunately, I ignored that some people were reflecting some of the Corsair AX1200i PSUs had problems. The Corsair AX1200i I purchased indeed caused problems to my PC, which I will talk about later.
I only buy Filco keyboards. I got one Majestouch-2 brown switch for gaming. This time I purchased another Majestouch-2 blue switch for programming.
I only buy SteelSeries mice. I have purchased more than 5 different SteelSeries mice. The quality and customer services are extremely satisfying. This time I chose Sensei 310, which seems to be the upgrade version of Sensei Raw. I always like the symmetric design.
I only buy Bose speakers and headphones. Since the color of the PC I am assembling is black, Bose Companion 2 Series III will be a good match.
UPS is the uninterruptible power supply that could provide stable power even if the wall power was shut off. I purchased CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD (900W) because my PC was not stable and I needed a UPS to eliminate the possibility of unstable wall power. Later I found the problem is Corsair AX1200i PSU. This UPS might not be useful anymore.
Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER motherboard initially did not support RTX 2080 Ti very well. When the card was present, no display output. When the card was removed, there is display output from the HDMI port on the motherboard.
NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti was announced around October 2018 but Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER was announced around May 2018. The BIOS is too old. Upgrading BIOS to the latest version fixed the problem.
The PC after being built suffered random shutdown (no blue screen at all) especially during high-load gaming. I have been trouble shooting for one month, covering BIOS, software, driver, fan speed, system settings, surge protector, wall power, PSU settings (single-rail, multi-rail, OCP), etc. The problem was not fixed until I changed the PSU from Corsair AX1200i to SeaSonic SSR-1000TR. Corsair AX1200i is known to have problems and not very compatible with RTX 2080 Ti. There are solutions to get around but did not work for me probably because either the PSU I got is a bad one or the solution did not work for my 4K 120 Hz gaming. The Corsair AX1500i and AX1600i seem to have better reputations but AX1200i sucks. I will probably not buy any Corsair PSU in the future.
Phanteks Evolv X case is the most beautiful mid-tower case I have ever seen. The only problem is that when pressing the boot button on the top of the case, sometimes the PC does not boot. I sometimes may have to try several times using the “right angle or strength” to boot, which looks like a magic.
Dual OS works fine but not perfect. Windows 10 shutdown will sometimes be not complete resulting in the PC being in “zombie” mode. Reboot Windows 10 to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and shutdown from Ubuntu makes sure that the shutdown is complete.
Reboot Windows 10 and boot into Ubuntu 18.04 LTS results in no sound. I have found a temporal solution to this problem. Since I have so much experience in dual OS and Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS dual OS usually worked well, I think it is most likely due to that the problem from Ubuntu kernel and the motherboard BIOS. Upgrading to the latest BIOS f8 did not solve the problem.
I am extremely satisfied with the 4K 120 Hz Gaming on ASUS ROG PG27UQ. World of Warcraft with best-looking settings has 60 - 120 FPS in different scenarios. Dota 2 and CS:GO with best-looking settings has 120 Hz. I don’t play Battlefield V a lot because I think the game tutorial really sucks although the ray-tracing effect is super cool. The FPS with best-looking settings, ray-tracing on, DLSS off, is usually more than 60. The CPU temperature when playing most of the games will not exceed 50 degrees due to the powerful Corsair H150i PRO RGB water cooler. NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti is usually very hot, around 80 to 82 degrees. But it should be safe as long as it is below 85 degrees.
I am also extremely satisfied with the performance of deep learning model training and inference.
Building a PC is so tedious. I learned a lot during assembly and troubleshooting, but I also sacrificed a lot of time. I am still not sure if it worth the time I spent. Probably in the future, I will purchase an OEM PC to avoid so much trouble, although it will be much more expensive.
Powerful Gaming and Deep Learning PC Build