Intel vs AMD for my server

This is a continuation of my previous post "Building a Server from scratch"

My XPS 12 9q33This Too Shall Pass

Lets recap. In my previous post I narrowed down the processor (i3-9100), chipset (B360) and the motherboard (Asus B360M-A) I would use if I'm going with an Intel system. This would cost me about $235. In this post I'll be looking at a comparable AMD system. The main areas I'll be covering in this post are,
Generally when comparing processors, the main parameters to look at are;
  • Clock speed
  • Number of cores
  • Number of threads
  • Locked / Unlocked ( in other words is it overclockable )
In this instance since, my requirement is to run a server on this hardware and the number of cores becomes the major deciding factor. Cause having more cores will improve my virtualization options.

AMD Athlon and Ryzen 3 are comfortably within my price range and some Ryzen 5 processors also fall within my budget.

Athlon  processors has 2 cores and 4 threads. The price is very competitive. Compared to the 4 cores and 4 threads of my selected Intel processor they don't look very attractive to me even at their price point.

Ryzen 3 processors has 4 cores and can run 4 threads. There are 2 options. Ryzen 3 2200g and Ryzen 3 3200g.

Ryzen 5 processors has a 6 core and 4 core varieties that can run 12 and 8 threads respectively. All these are better options for my use case rather than the i3-9100. When considering the price, 2 of these processors which has 4 cores and 8 threads with integrated graphics is within the price range. They are the Ryzen 5 2400g and Ryzen 5 3400g.

When looking at the Ryzen 5 models without discrete graphics I need to consider the possible cost of a low end graphics card. The Ryzen 5 2600, and the Ryzen5 2600X seem like possible candidates in this sector.

Let's have a closer look at these 6 processors.

Ryzen 3 2200g Ryzen 3 3200g Ryzen 5 2400g Ryzen 5 3400g Ryzen 5 2600 Ryzen 5 2600x
# cores 4 4 4 4 6 6
# threads 4 4 8 8 12 12
Clock speed
Base 3.5GHz 3.6GHz 3.6GHz 3.7GHz 3.4GHz 3.6GHz
Boost 3.7GHz 4GHz 3.9GHz 4.2GHz 3.9GHz 4.2GHz
L1 384KB 384KB 384KB 384KB 576KB 576KB
L2 2MB 2MB 2MB 2MB 3MB 3MB
L3 4MB 4MB 4MB 4MB 16MB 16MB
Integrated Graphics yes yes yes yes no no

We have a clear winner here. The Ryzen 5 2600x.

Lets compare the Ryzen 5 2600x and the i3-9100

Ryzen 5 2600x Core i3-9100
# of cores 6 4
# of threads 12 4
Clock speed
Base 3.6GHz 3.6GHz
Boost / Turbo 4.2GHz 4.2GHz
Integrated graphics no yes
Memory DDR4-2933MHz DDR4-2400MHz

So, I'm gonna go with the Ryzen5 2600X and get a refurbished basic graphics card. Next, lets look at the chipset I should go with for the Ryzen5 2600X. The processor needs an AM4 chipset. Looking at the AM4 chipsets, there are 3 main categories of chipsets.

Essential (A320), Mainstream (B350, B450) and Enthusiast (X370, X470, X570). Lets have a closer look at these.

A320 B350 B450 X370 X470 X570
Overclocking enabled no yes yes yes yes yes
Memory overclocking yes yes yes yes yes yes
High speed platform lanes 24 28 28 38 38 40

I can get the full potential of my processor using a B350, B450 motherboard. ASUS Prime B450M seems like a good option to me.  These 2 would cost me around $204. Which is about $30 less than the Intel option but with this configuration I still need a graphics card. The lowest refurbished ones were around $40 to $60 dollars, which seems reasonable.

Next step is to choose Memory. There are a lot of discussions out there indicating Ryzen processors are much more sensitive to memory speeds. This is because of AMD's Infinity Fabrics dependency on the memory clock rate. What you need to remember is overclocking memory does affect the stability of the memory. When choosing memory there are 2 parameters to look for. The speed and the latency. DDR4 is stable at 2400MHz and the higher the speed the more costly they are. I'm not planning to overclock my memory but I would like to get a module, that at least specifies it can work at the chosen processors memory speed. Also I would go with the lowest latency I can get my hands on without breaking the bank.

So I'm looking for memory of specification DDR4-2933 (PC4-23466) with a good latency. The latency is specified as column access strobe latency (CAS) which is the delay between the read command and the data availability. There are modules that specify CAS from 14 onward. I found 14c modules to be way too expensive. I chose 2 DIMMs of 8gb each with a latency of 16c for around $75.

Lets look at power supply options now. There are a few parameters to look for when choosing the power supply
  • Main parameters
    • Maximum power (400W, 500W etc...)
    • Energy efficiency (80+, 80+ gold etc...)
  • Secondary parameters
    • Modulararity
    • 12v rails
    • SATA power connectors, SLI ready, Main connector pins
    • Form factor ( ATX, mATX etc...)
First off, I need to calculate the maximum wattage for my system. I don't want to get a power supply that can't produce the power output required by my components for obvious reasons. I also don't want to get a power supply with more wattage either, cos more wattage rated PSUs are more expensive. There are many online calculators that allows you to input your devices and get the required wattage for your system. I used a couple of them and it seems I can safely say my power usage is going to be below 350W. So I'm gonna add a margin of error and go with a PSU of 400W. 

Then comes the energy efficiency rating. There is a voluntary PSU rating certification program called 80 Plus. The basic concept is how efficiently the power supply converts the AC energy to DC. Why is this important? When converting AC to DC current the lost efficiency is generally dissipated as heat. So the more efficient your power supply is the less heat it generates. Also that means you pay less on your electricity bill. Another point I would assume is, in order to create a more efficient PSU the manufacturers would have to use better rated components. The parameters I looked at in the 80 Plus program are,

Load % 20% 50% 100%
80 Plus 80% 80% 80%
80 Plus Bronze 82% 85% 82%
80 Plus Silver 85% 88% 85%
80 Plus Gold 87% 90% 87%
80 Plus Platinum 90% 92% 89%
80 Plus Titanium 92% 94% 90%

There are power supplies that are modular which means you can remove the unwanted power cables. There are various levels of modular like full, semi etc. This is purely an aesthetic aspect which will help in your builds cable management. Then I have to make sure the PSU can be fixed into the casing I choose, have enough SATA power cables to support the devices I'm going to add etc etc...

Considering all the above and the price, I chose a 450W Bronze power supply.

Then comes the hard drive selection. Or should I say storage mediums. The speed of the storage medium would significantly affect application load speeds and OS load speeds. The board I chose supports M.2 SSDs. Which is the fastest option at the moment. When choosing a M.2 SSD it's very important to look closer at the motherboard specification. Whether it supports M.2 SATA or PCIE etc etc. In my motherboard specification it says I can use type 2242/2260/2280/22110 with PCIE 3.0 support. For the time being I'm not going to go with a M.2 purely due to my allocated budget for this project. I have an existing SATA SSD which I'm going to use to install my server OS. Over time I would watch my server performance and may consider upgrading.

Now all that's remaining is to choose a casing that supports my motherboard (mATX) and start building the server. Stay tuned...


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