I feel like the Intel i3/5/7 series processors were around for so long its hard to remember a time before. I’ve always liked supporting the underdog and seeing a good comeback story. AMD really knocked it out of the park with the Ryzen launch. I grabbed a 2700X processor (8C / 16T) at launch in 2018. I remember thinking at the time “I just can’t buy yet another 4 core processor.” I had a first gen i7, a 4th? 5th? gen i5, and I was staring down the barrel at a 10th gen i9.
Meanwhile their competitor AMD was giving out higher core counts like Skittles! The 2700X was double the cores from what I had. And to double again would take 16 cores to make me move. Sure enough the 5950X launched for a small fortune and I’ve been watching it for several years until it became what I’d consider affordable – $500. So I snagged one.
Why the heck do I need 16 cores? Well, I probably don’t. But I’m an enthusiast and I’m celebrating a job promotion so give me a break! I do development, and some tasks like ~30+ docker containers, unit testing, linting, webpack compiling, and of course gaming will probably see an uplift in performance. At least that is how I sleep at night.
First challenge in researching? Motherboard chipset compatibility. I had an X470 chipset, and AMD has always been MUCH better at backwards compatibility with chipsets than Intel. Sure enough, two generations later all I needed was a BIOS flash and I was good to go with my current motherboard and RAM. Intel meanwhile might as well solder the CPU to the chipset because it only works with that year’s processor.
Next up? The 5950X is a beast of a machine, but it doesn’t ship with a heatsink. While I understand that this isn’t written in stone anywhere, I’d say it is… unusual. Typically you get a box cooler. Again if you are used to Intel this is basically some crumpled up soda can with a fan that has the cubic air flow of an asthmatic 90 year old. I was debating an AIO water cooling solution, but I found a blog post listing the best CPU coolers and high end air coolers are surprisingly competitive. I do have some anxiety about liquid being suspended above expensive hardware. I snagged some Noctua case fans about 6 months back and loved them. They were so quiet I was paranoid they weren’t getting power. I had to crawl under my desk with a flashlight to confirm they were indeed spinning. That was all the salesmanship I needed for a Noctua D15 cooler. This thing is a beast. Look at the size of the CPU and the size of the cooler.
Other things I had to verify – does this monster of a cooler fit inside my case? Yes… barely. Its comical how close it comes to the sides of the case but it works! One less thing I have to purchase to get running on 16 cores.
First I removed the old CPU and stock cooler. Which… hat tip to you AMD – for being a stock cooler this thing is well built. A little noisy but compared to Noctua everything is noisy.
Next I took off the stock case fan brackets and put in the Noctua mount. I had to go with a configuration that was parallel to my RAM otherwise part of the heat pipes made contact with the closest RAM module. It was smart engineering that you can rotate this in either configuration so that saved the day.
Next I very very very carefully removed the 5950X from its case. The Noctua D15 kit included some thermal compound and at this point I absolutely trust they know what they are doing. I did make an X pattern after doing some research (over the recommended dot in the middle) for better coverage.
Next I set this monster heat pipe and fins in the parallel to RAM configuration and tightened in the screws as much as I dared.
Finally I clipped on the Noctua case fans, both pointing to the rear of the case venting hot air from the radiators. I originally wanted to put one behind the fins closest to the RAM but I would have needed to lift the fan up over the RAM module. This is an option that Noctua supports however that would have pushed it out past the case lid so I opted not to. Instead I have both fans pointed in the same direction towards the back of the case, pulling air across the two fins. The farthest from the RAM is just pulling, but the other fan is in the middle so it both pulling from the RAM side fin, and pushing to the other fin stack. Still monitoring temps but the fans haven’t even cycled up to their highest settings under moderate work.
Next – put it all back together! And a quick prayer to the BIOS POST gods. Success! Well, except I obstructed one of the fan blades with a wire that I had to move. Then success!
Feeling extra confident I even tried the thing I’ve been hoping I could do for a while… running my 3600Mhz RAM at a full 3600Mhz. I’ve read that this isn’t possible on every processor. Sure enough, I POSTED, and running DOCP and factory settings let me hit 3600Mhz. Its been about an hour so I’m hopeful we are stable. The 2700X only hit 2933Mhz… a sore point after having paid a premium for fast RAM during a period of high RAM costs.
So here are some more pictures. And of course the glorious visual of my cores. It was a fun project, a solid upgrade, and pretty painless (fingers crossed!)