It has been a while since you could build an all AMD system and call it high end, but is it worth going all the way and buying top dollar components like RX 6900 XT to really have good experience? Or maybe something a bit more reasonable is enough? Well, we will find that out and as an added bonus we are making it inside a Mini ITX case from Cooler Master.
Before we get into it, I want to acknowledge that getting the latest CPU and graphics cards at a reasonable price currently is very difficult but this is bound to change as stocks pick up. When exactly this will happen only time will tell.
Right, first up is the case. This is Cooler Master NR200P – it is the more expensive version of the case which includes an optional tempered glass panel and vertical GPU mount with accessories. Because of this and many other little, yet clever features this case is probably my favourite to date to build in and it provides plenty of flexibility as well as actually very drastic performance differences depending on how you mount things. We will go over that in a moment.
For CPU we have chosen 5600X which is a phenomenal gaming CPU with a great headroom for overclocking. It is especially good in a small form factor PC as it is only rated at 65W TDP. In our example we have actually overclocked it using PBO and it was running above maximum boost speed at all times, even while under heavy load.
For the motherboard we have gone with Aorus B550i PRO AX, it has a great set of features including support for 5000 series CPU, 2 m.2 drives with one of them at the back which is especially useful if you want to upgrade in the future. In this case you can do it without taking anything apart.
We would like to say thanks to Dreamcore for lending us the motherboard for this build. In case you guys didn’t know – Dramcore builds some amazing custom PCs here in Singapore. Their Fuel lineup actually uses this same case so if you are looking for something small and powerful head over to their website to check it out.
Next we have the GPU, and here we tested two identical looking yet different AMD cards – the RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT. Both fast, both expensive but also pretty small – all things considered. Space in ITX builds is always a limiting factor. Something to note, while these cards may not be the best on the market right now, they are very competitive in non ray tracing titles. For ray tracing gaming we would recommend looking at the NVIDIA offerings.
Moving to memory – we are using two sticks of DDR4 RAM from KLEVV with 3600MHz speed which is perfectly matched with the Ryzen CPU. These are pretty small making it easy to work around them in tight areas.
Storage wise even though there are a few slots for NVME drives, we went with a more old school 2.5inch SSD. I really like the mounting system on this case – you attach four little pins to the drive, put the plugs at the front of the case and just slot the drive in with easy cable routing into the case.
Next we have a 240mm liquid AIO from Cooler Master, this is the ML240L v2 RGB version. In this particular case the RGB is only really visible if the graphics card is mounted vertically and you use the tempered glass panel but, hey, it is in there. The size of this cooler is actually plenty for the CPU and it would even be enough for a Ryzen 9 should someone want a beefier system.
Finally for power supply we opted for a 650Watt fully modular SFX unit also from Cooler Master.
As to the build itself, I have a few tips and observations for anyone building in this case: the tool-less design is great! Each panel simply comes off. Cooler Master also gives you an option to screw the panels down if the case is crammed full. I also really like the velcro straps all around the power supply – these were absolutely instrumental to ensure cables are neat and allow more space for the components.
If you intend to use the latest PCIE Gen 4 graphics card and mount it vertically – there is one issue – the extension cable is only PCIE Gen 3. In most motherboards you will have to first plug in the GPU directly into the motherboard and within BIOS change the PCIE port to Gen 3, overwise you are likely to experience a blank screen. We really recommend doing this before you spend all this time putting the system together just to take it apart. The positive thing here – even fastest graphics cards do not see any performance sacrifice by going back to Gen 3 just yet.
On our first go we opted to mount the GPU vertically. For this I would suggest installing the riser cable and GPU power cable then tighten all the cables down. Next, install the liquid AIO, route the water tubes out of the way and only then install the graphics card. Do note, if you are using stock power supply cables and have a large graphics card then you are very likely going to sacrifice one of the included fans above the power supply. Going with custom cabling may solve this issue.
If you opt to mount the GPU in a more standard location, then start with cabling, followed by cooler and finally finish off with the GPU itself. This way you are most likely going to keep both top fans and squeeze everything in. Make sure to tidy up the cables as they will have a very limited amount of space in between all the devices.
If on the other hand you are the kind of person who is going to air cool the CPU or want to do a full custom water loop (I would love to do that in the future myself) then I really recommend checking out all the clearance dimensions that are on the Cooler Master website.
With the build complete – how does it actually perform? For these tests we ran both graphics cards in a more standard horizontal layout, spoiler alert – there is a better way. We will share some insights shortly.
Let’s start with Shadow of The Tomb Raider at 1080p – here at highest detail level we get pretty close to 200 average FPS and just over 150FPS on 1 percentiles.
Bumping up the resolution to 1440p we have RX 6800 XT with a very solid 135 average FPS and 121FPS on 1 percentiles. RX 6900 XT performs 8% faster on both average and 1 percentiles.
Maxing out to 4k we see RX 6800 XT with 74 average FPS and 70 on 1 percentiles. Here RX 6900 XT scales even better and has 10% lead across average and 1 percentile results.
Next game is Horizon Zero Dawn and it is certainly not an easy game to run. In 1080p and 1440p resolutions these cards perform about the same with 115 average FPS and 85FPS on 1 percentiles. Going all the way up to 4k we start seeing the difference between the two. RX 6800 XT delivers 72 average FPS and 65 FPS on 1 percentiles where RX 6900 XT performs about 6% better.
Last game in this series is Total War Three Kingdoms. In 1080p we have RX 6800 XT delivering 174 average FPS and 126FPS on 1 percentiles with RX 6900 XT being about 7% faster on average FPS and 3% faster on 1 percentiles.
In 1440p the difference between the two cards increases to 9% on average FPS and 6% on 1 percentiles and finally going up to 4k the difference is about 10% on both average FPS and 1 percentiles.
Let’s quickly summarize these results. It’s more than clear that both of these cards paired with Ryzen 5 5600X are delivering great results throughout the resolutions and as expected RX 6900 XT is the faster card, in some cases even by about 10%. But honestly I don’t think upgrading up to it makes sense unless you have loads of money to burn.
The most common monitor refresh rates are 60 and 144 hertz, based on this – choose the performance that matches your monitor and stick with it. The games we tested here are some of the most graphically demanding so for anything more action based you would be more than fine with the RX 6800 XT and you can put the spare money into getting a better monitor or nice peripherals.
Earlier in the video I promised we will compare the performance of mounting the GPU in different positions. For this test we ran Unigine Heaven benchmark for about 20minutes to warm up the system while tracking both CPU and GPU temperatures. The variables here are: both types of mounting the graphics card as well as two different side panels, mesh and tempered glass.
When we look specifically at the CPU temperatures, these are performing best while using a GPU vertical mount and oddly enough it favours the glass panel. This is probably because of the least amount of restriction for the airflow. It goes straight from the bottom and all the way up. If the GPU is mounted horizontally it immediately creates obstruction. The temperature difference from worst to best is about 5-6 degrees at the start and 10 degrees towards the end of the test.
When checking out GPU temperatures – the horizontal mounting is performing better, this is because the graphics card is exposed to more cool, fresh air and the temperature difference in the beginning is about 10 degrees while towards the end it is about 5 degrees.
Temperatures alone are not a good indicator, we also measured the sound from 30 centimeters away and found that vertical mount with tempered glass delivered the best results at a maximum 42.5 dBa, followed by vertical mount with mesh at 45.5 dBA, then standard mesh and glass at about 46 dBa each. Not bad for an ITX build.
Overall I am really impressed with this system and especially with this case. You certainly get a good amount of options and it is also reasonably easy to build in. For me priority used to be looks, but with this case you can make the cake and eat it too. Vertical mount with tempered glass option is considerably quieter, it also has a good balance between cooling the CPU and the GPU while looking pretty good.
Based on our results here – which set-up would you choose and why? Let us know in the comments below.
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