You can build a very capable AMD Ryzen workstation for around $1,000 that will perform as well as OEM workstations with price tags over $1,500. Exciting news for systems builders indeed.
Ask any IT pro and they’ll tell you the only computers worth building are workstations for content creation and engineering design work. Savings on in-house workstation builds outweigh the warranty benefit from buying OEM.
Let’s see how far we can push the performance-to-cost ratio with AMD Ryzen 7 1800X / 1700X, with its eight cores and 16-threads and budget-friendly AMD price tag.
Note: Pricing screen shots accurate on day of publication; click images for current pricing.
How Ryzen stacks up against Intel’s Skylake and Xeon eight-core, 16-thread CPUs
Beyond price, cores and clock, Ryzen workstation CPUs have other allures. A spacious 4 MB of L2 cache and 256 KB of L1 doubles that of Haswell-E Intel chips (i7-5820, i7-5960, etc). For single-thread performance, driven by processor clock speed, AMD has the edge there as well.
Ryzen chips incorporate Bristol Ridge architecture used in AMD A12-9800 and A10-9700 APUs which has a built-in Radeon R7 GPU in the processor chip—but, alas, Ryzen does not have onboard graphics, so a discrete graphics card is necessary for a workstation build.
You will find several Intel Core i7 quad-core CPUs clocking in the high threes for slightly under the Ryzen asking price. For systems that need to handle multi-threaded production applications part-time, with the rest for the time on the computer for gaming (most games are single-threaded) these Intel Kaby Lake, Skylake, and a venerable old 4790K Haswell are better comparisons.
What can a system with an 8-core processor do better than a quad-core CPU?
Applications that use more than one processor core—multi-threaded applications—typically are associated with encoding video and audio files. HandBrake, Final Cut Pro, Autodesk, Adobe Premiere Pro, 3D Max, Visual Studio and other production software use multiple CPU threads when running extras and plug-in features in parallel with the main application.
A quad-core, eight thread processor suits normal AV production just fine in most circumstances. An eight-core CPU is geared more towards server-related functions when a lot of parallel functions are taking place. Things like:
- Using MySQL to mine a database
- Running multiple Virtual Machines
- Heavy editing and rendering
- Multitasking across several programs
AMD Ryzen Workstation Builds
Ryzen uses the AM4 motherboard socket that legacy Athalon and A-series APUs use. AM4-socket motherboards will be the AMD standard for at least the next few years.
Just like current generation Intel motherboards, AM4 motherboards require 288-pin DDR4 memory.
Ryzen workstation builders have a slot for M.2 or NVMe solid state storage for the Ryzen workstation build. Going with a 256 GB drive to load the OS and the main creative suite.
The GPU is important driver for many scientific computing applications and often carries more load than the CPU. Generally a CUDA-enabled GPU is desired for database and heavy design work.
A terabyte SATA III hard drive is standard and sufficient if used in conjunction with a shared storage server or NAS.
The wattage ceiling might vary for a workstation build, but 600W should suit most single-GPU desktop systems—if you plan to overclock the CPU, double check the draw on the cooling system you pick for the build.
For extra savings, look for PSU and case combos. Here are a couple with 585W power supplies likely capable of getting the job done for your workstation build.
Using the low-end of the products featured, a budget AMD Ryzen workstation build shapes up like this:
- AMD Ryzen 1700X CPU: $300
- CUDA workstation GPU: $280
- 16 GB RAM: $175
- 256 GB SSD: $110
- 1 TB HDD: $52
- Case + 585-600W PSU: $60
- Windows 10 Pro $120
TOTAL (no tax) = $1,097
Finished OEM workstations on NeweggBusiness around this price point:
Find more power in a AMD Ryzen workstation build than buying a similarly-priced OEM tower server!