Fractal Design R6 Gaming/Workstation With AMD Ryzen ThreadripperJune 6, 2020
We built some custom-configured, single-socket Fractal Design R6 workstations with an AMD Ryzen Threadripper for one of our clients. Unfortunately, we can’t say who or what these are for, but we’ll share our build of this system, which features a custom chassis from Fractal Design, AMD Rizen Threadripper processors, EVGA GeForce 2080TI GPUs, and a few other goodies.
What is this system good for? Extremely fast processing for crunching large amounts of data. Contrary to the other workstations we’ve reviewed from Dell, HPE, and Lenovo, this would be a great system for gaming. That particular aspect may require a little testing, if you know what I mean. (wink, wink) Who is this system built for? Well if I told you that, we’d have to kill you. But what we will tell you is these systems will be optimized for extreme performance. Those AMD Rizen Threadrippers will be delivering a truly impressive 64 cores of processing power. Outfitted with low-latency 1TB NVMe M.2 storage sticks from Crucial, this system will also be kicking ass on sequential read performance. If you’re a gamer or just need some super-fast processing, then follow along!
Starting with the chassis, we have a Fractal Design Define R6 USB-C, which features industrial sound dampening on the side, top, and front panels. The top front of the system has a small control panel with a large round power on button and 4x USB 3.0 ports on one side, with a single USB 3.1 Type-C port and headphone connections on the other. Inside the chassis a modular Storage Plate enables the interior of the case to be configured for maximum storage or in an Open Layout for superior liquid or air cooling.
The back of the Fractal Design R6 shows 7x horizontal PCIe slots and two vertical slots. The Open Layout is geared towards system display as it can also be purchased with a tempered glass side panel. This is a great chassis with a very modular design enabling repositioning of components for viewing or for general use. Both side panels are removable for easy access.
Inside that chassis we will be installing an ASUS Prime TRX40-Pro motherboard. (NOTE: This motherboard is referred to as “Enthusiast Grade, not enterprise grade.) It features a grey, black and white color scheme with a smattering of silver brushed bits. It’s designed for an AMD Risen ThreadRipper processor to activate up to three full-length, PCIe 4.0 x16 slots plus a smaller x4 slot at the bottom. And Yes, PCIe 4.0 compatible with AMD’s Threadripper 3000-series CPUs.
Eight memory slots provide up to 256GB of DDR4 memory using 32GB memory modules, which we will get to in a moment. There are plenty of power connectors around the board to support the modular layout of the chassis including connections to support an all-in-one, or AIO pump for the CPU, and another for a water pump, so you can run some orange Kool-Aid through transparent tubes along with some LED lighting effects. That is assuming you have the transparent side panel, which we don’t.
The rear panel has plenty of connections for optional external devices including 6x USB 3.1 Type-A ports at the top, with a BIOS refresh button squeezed in between. Then there is one USB 3.1 Type-C port, along with 3x USB 3.1 Type-A ports. A 1GbE port on the back of the system provides an integrated network connection, although you could still go with a PCIe card for a faster network controller. Then there are six ports for audio, including a S/PDIf (Sony Phillips Digital interface) interconnect, which is where you connect your audio equipment for a little digital audio manipulation. This motherboard has several custom features including the ability to turn off PCIe lanes, which is not that new but just the physical switch on each slot is somewhat unique. The BIOS button on the rear also enables you to switch between two BIOS settings or upgrade the BIOS using a few different techniques, which we won’t get into.
AMD Ryzen Processor
We have a single AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, which supports 64 cores and 128 threads! It operates at 2900MHz under normal load, but can be overclocked to 4300MHz, but only for a single core. (NOTE: AMD’s product warranty does not cover damages caused by overclocking, even when overclocking is enabled via AMD hardware and/or software.)
This is part of AMDs Zen 2 line of microprocessors and also features a 288MB shared cache when you combine the L1, L2 and L3 cache. If the gigantic heatsink with equally large fan gives you the impression that this CPU puts out a lot of heat, you wouldn’t be wrong. It has a Thermal Design point of 280 Watts, which if you have been collecting data on TDP for Intel processors then you would know that top of the line first and second gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors support a TDP of 205W and AMD EPYC gen2 pretty much top out at a max of 280W too, but again 64 cores on that one.
Threadrippers also support up to 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes, which is almost double that supported by the Intel Xeon Scalable processors at only 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes, but less than the 128 lanes supported by the AMD EPYCs. PCIe 4.0 also delivers twice the bandwidth compared to PCIe 3.0 so you will be getting every last drop of performance out of your GPUs. That is IF it’s PCIe 4.0 compatible.
There are a few other threadrippers in the family, but only the 3990X has 64 cores, and 128 threads of simultaneous multi-processing power. It has been called the one CPU to “Rule Them All” in 2020. The Ryzen processors support quad-channel DDR4 with available ECC compared to the AMD EPYCs 8x memory channels and Xeon Scalable 6x memory channels, but this CPU will also support speeds of up to 3200MHz.
This brings us to the Corsair Vengeance memory modules, which will operate at 3200MHz. Again, compared to our usual Xeons and EPYCs that’s another 233MHz to work with. The system has four memory module slots to either side of the processor for 8x memory module slots total and supports two modules in each memory channel.
The board states a maximum capacity of up to 256GB with all sockets loaded with 32GB memory modules. That said, the processor is capable of more, and will support up to 256GB in each channel for a maximum of 1TB. But we aren’t going to get close to either of those values because we are installing only 4x 32GB Corsair Vengeance memory modules for a total of 128GB.
We are using a 1000W 80Plus Gold EVGA ECO mode power supply to power all of the components. That would be including an EVGA GeForce RTX 2080TI Black Edition GPU, which occupies one of those X16 PCIe slots. You can install a second card as well. The EVGA RTX 2080Ti is a great card at a fairly inexpensive price point. At least in the larger scheme of things.
Of course, with all the heat buildup from just the single processor at a TDP of 280W, we had to use a premium grade CPU cooler with a gigantic fan that is designed specifically for the Threadripper CPUs.
We also used a few of those fan mount locations in the chassis, adding two fans to the front, pulling fresh air into the chassis and one in back sucking air out of the chassis. The power supply also came with an integrated fan visible from the bottom of the chassis.
Management of the system is through whatever OS you plan to load, either Windows or Linux. BIOS will also provide more fine-tuning for your system. It will support two different versions of BIOS settings that can be switched using that little BIOS button on the back of the system. There is no remote access or backdoor to this system like what you would get with an HP or Dell workstation, but you are able to assemble this system at significant savings compared to the big boys. Of course, you can install a separate PCIe card on the system that will provide remote access.
As we said earlier, the drives can be mounted in four different locations, but in general you can load 6x full sized 3.5-inch drives and two more 2.5-inch drives and there are a variety of different ways to install the drives for display or density. We only have a single 1TB SATA SSD installed at the moment, but the board will support both SAS and NVMe drives using a discrete storage controller. (NOTE: It Supprts colorful RGB fans to match your mood.)
Our Fractal Design R6 came with three fans, but the system will support up to 9, purchased separately. A dedicated x4 slots on the motherboard supports a single M.2 PCIe NVMe drive which was initially going to be our boot drive for this system. Instead they preferred a legacy boot option, which was not going to work with the M.2 module. Instead, we are using just the single 1TB SSD at the moment which is installed in the lower storage bay.
Of course, we had to run a few benchmarks before we got rid of these platforms, but we had limited time, unfortunately. We ran Cinibench R20 with some very impressive results. A while back, we did some testing on the HP Z8 G4 we use to render these videos, I mean it is supposed to be the world’s most powerful workstation. That said, it’s definitely not anywhere near capacity on what it can support, and if you are curious as to that, then check out this video here.
However, we did have a similar configuration from when we upgraded the processors from Gen 1 Intel Xeon Scalable processors to Gen2 Intel Xeon Scalable processors. We only used one processor in that test and installed 128GB of memory, with a single GPU, just like on our Franken-workstation. Here’s our Z8 Configuration so you can compare it to the creature. It will at least give some kind of comparison between somewhat similar configurations but let’s face facts, our Gold 6222 Scalable processor only had 20 cores and 40 threads so I really expect to see its proverbial doors blown off.
First, we will run Cinebench version 2.0 side by side for comparison. Cinebench 2.0, is a real-world, cross-platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s hardware capabilities. It tests the latest improvements in CPU design and rendering technology.
Next, we tested the video card, again not really a fair test as we had to dig these test values up from our video several months ago. Anyways, we ran the 3DMARK application Time Spy animation for that test and here it is in comparison to the Geforce RTX 2080ti without Deep Learning Super Sampling turned on. Still quite a difference. That is if you prefer frames NOT dropping on your gaming experience.
One thing we should mention, the P6000 Nvidia card in our Z8 G4 does not have Deep Learning Super Sampling or DLSS for AI assisted frame smoothing. So, now we will run the 2080TI RTX with DLSS compared to the frame rendering from the Z8 G4 with no DLSS. I think you can see the obvious improvement in rendering.
“With product names like Threadripper, Vengence, GeForce, and Balistix we might want to name this workstation something like Explosion KaBoom!“
Outfitted with the AMD Rizen Threadripper 64-core processor this system can easily handle 8K video editing in real time, and some crazy gaming. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to test that aspect as the systems were assembled in a two-day time frame and sent out soon after completion. Oh, the fun we could have had… You know, I mean from a purely academic standpoint…
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