Hardware questions

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middlewave
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:19 am
Full name: Sotiris Logothetis

Hardware questions

Post by middlewave » Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:56 pm

Hello everyone,
I have been tasked with building a decently powerful rig for a friend, within a reasonable budget, focused entirely on chess engine performance (let's say, Stockfish and Lc0). No overclocking, no concern about anything else (such as gaming).

While I do have the general outline of the computer in mind, I have a few questions about specific hardware details that I couldn't find a good answer to elsewhere. I have searched a lot through this forum and taken note of similar discussions, but would love to clarify some things further. Some of these questions might seem too obvious to the crowd of this forum, so please bear with me!

To give a short overview of the computer envisioned, it will be based on a high-end AMD processor (perhaps the Ryzen 3950X), have at least 32Gb of RAM (maybe 64), a good Nvidia RTX card. The exact components depend on their respective costs, but that's more or less what the budget comfortably allows. I have taken other costs into account as well, and there is some flexibility to go over budget if it's really worth it. But I'm not really asking for specific component suggestions (though of course they are welcome!), but rather to understand myself what is important and what isn't.

I'll list my questions below, numbered (for ease of reference). Any help would be greatly appreciated!

1. RAM speed and timings.

I understand that for a Ryzen 3XXX I should look for a 3600 kit; does this apply to the new 5XXX Ryzens? Or should I look for a 4000 kit?
Also, just how important are RAM timings for chess engines? I know they matter a lot for gaming, but I have seen others recommend kits with slower timings (to save money) somewhere and wondered how much it matters - and why.

2. SSD setup

I'm planning a setup with 2-3 NVMe drives (plus an HDD or more, for storage) and was wondering how important SSD performance is, and for which purposes. The drives will be quite fast anyway (as they will be NVMe), but do I need a really fast drive for some specific purpose?
Also, what would be a good setup/drive combination to use? A separate drive for tablebases?

3. Ryzen vs Threadripper

I am somewhat confused as to the benefits of using a TR vs a Ryzen of the same generation, assuming an equal number of cores and similar frequencies. Is there an architectural difference that matters significantly for Stockfish? If yes, how much? The Ryzens have much lower TDPs and costs...

4. RTX 2XXX vs 3XXX

Are there any preliminary conclusions as to the benefits of the new RTX 3XXX cards? Are the improvements significant for Lc0, compared to similarly priced 2XXX cards? I have read some reviews and spec sheets, but as I understand, the simple comparison of cores (CUDA, Tensor) is not a good indicator.

5. Motherboard

Is there anything specific that I should look for when selecting a motherboard? I'll opt for a good high-end motherboard anyway, just wondering if there is some special requirement.

Please remember: I am not asking in order to extract the last possible drop of performance from the system - yet! I am just trying to understand the direction I should move towards. May well return with more specific questions, if you don't mind, but for now that would be enough!

Thanks in advance!

smatovic
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Full name: Srdja Matovic
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Re: Hardware questions

Post by smatovic » Sat Oct 31, 2020 6:21 pm

middlewave wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:56 pm
3. Ryzen vs Threadripper

I am somewhat confused as to the benefits of using a TR vs a Ryzen of the same generation, assuming an equal number of cores and similar frequencies. Is there an architectural difference that matters significantly for Stockfish? If yes, how much? The Ryzens have much lower TDPs and costs...
Ryzen has 2 memory channels, TR has 4 memory channels, Ryzen has 24 PCIe lanes, TR has 64 PCIe lanes.

One NVMe usually eats up 4x PCIe lanes, one GPU uses commonly 16x PCIe lanes, but only 8x could also suit Lc0, cos there is not much memory transfer back n forth. Some Mobos eat some PCIe lanes up for IO, so 24 lanes of Ryzen might be a bit tightly calculated.
middlewave wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:56 pm
4. RTX 2XXX vs 3XXX

Are there any preliminary conclusions as to the benefits of the new RTX 3XXX cards? Are the improvements significant for Lc0, compared to similarly priced 2XXX cards? I have read some reviews and spec sheets, but as I understand, the simple comparison of cores (CUDA, Tensor) is not a good indicator.
RTX 30xx series seem currently not as such a big jump, maybe driver updates will improve some things maybe not:

http://talkchess.com/forum3/viewtopic.p ... 40#p867496

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yurikvelo
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Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2014 12:53 pm

Re: Hardware questions

Post by yurikvelo » Sat Oct 31, 2020 7:29 pm

I am somewhat confused as to the benefits of using a TR vs a Ryzen of the same generation
1a) twice memory channels = twice more DIMM units to install
1b) twice single DIMM capacity = twice more possible memory. With Ryzen 9 3950X you can build rig with 4*32=128 Gb RAM, With TR 3960x you can build rig with 8*64=512 Gb RAM
If you don't need more than 128 Gb RAM you can stay with Ryzen
Amount of Hash you need, depends on how long analysis (multi-hours, multi-days or multi-weaks) you are going to perform for single FEN position


2) lowest core count for Threadripper is higher than highest core count of Ryzen (within same generation).
With 3xxx (Zen 2) highest core count for Ryzen 9 is 16C/32T, and lowest core count for Threadripper is 24C/48T and highest is 64C/128T
Core count do not intersect.

3) number of PCI-E lanes. Ryzen 9 will limit how many GPU and how many NVME SSD you can install. If you are not going for multi-GPU you will be fine with Ryzen 9. Threadripper 3xxx also support NVME RAID (supported by CPU), it is possibly faster than software RAID, you can combine your bunch of SSDs into single disk with no speed penalty. Chess do not benefit from RAID, EGTB can be distributed on different drives, no benefit from single logical drive and no need for RAID-1 (mirroring)

With your budget you might opt for Syzygy 7 Man on regular HDD (2 x 10 Tb or 4x6 TB). Even if consider search slow-down due to slow conventional HDD, it will give much better analysis (even taking into account speed slow-down)

middlewave
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:19 am
Full name: Sotiris Logothetis

Re: Hardware questions

Post by middlewave » Sun Nov 01, 2020 8:54 am

Thank you so much for the very informative explanation!

I forgot to mention the intended use case of the system; it will be used by a professional OTB player, no correspondence chess, mainly for opening and middlegame analysis, usually manually guided. I don't expect any really long analysis sessions ('multi-days'), at the maximum it could be left to analyse a position overnight.
So, if I understood your comment properly, not too much RAM will be necessary and I can stick with Ryzen.

As for the PCI-E lanes, I guess I'll stick with a single high-end GPU (brings down power needs as well, right?) and a couple of SSDs, so the 24 lanes would more or less work out, I suppose.

Excellent idea about the Syzygy 7-man! I hadn't even considered these databases, as they are not too essential for practical opening analysis for an OTB player, but of course nice to have; I will take up your suggestion as is!

Thanks again!

middlewave
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:19 am
Full name: Sotiris Logothetis

Re: Hardware questions

Post by middlewave » Sun Nov 01, 2020 8:56 am

Thanks for the response!

Yeah, I've been following that thread about the new RTX cards and your comments there.
Since I am in no hurry and don't plan to build until maybe the holidays or right after (when availability of certain components will hopefully be greater), I guess I'll wait for driver updates and new benchmarks to get an idea.

corres
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Location: hungary

Re: Hardware questions

Post by corres » Sun Nov 01, 2020 1:11 pm

middlewave wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:56 pm
3. Ryzen vs Threadripper
I am somewhat confused as to the benefits of using a TR vs a Ryzen of the same generation, assuming an equal number of cores and similar frequencies. Is there an architectural difference that matters significantly for Stockfish? If yes, how much? The Ryzens have much lower TDPs and costs...
For Chess engines it is enough the average 32/64 GB RAM with 3000-3200 MHz clock frequency.
Ryzen 9 3950x and Threadripper with 16 cores need near the same power (~ 200 Watts) at clock frequency of 4.0 GHz.
Ryzen 9 3950x about 10-15 % faster than Threadripper 16 cores from the Gen1 and Gen2 because Ryzen 9 has bigger 3.level cash memory (64 MB vs.16 MB).
You need a modern, durable motherboard with at least two VGA slots and a full tower case

Peperoni
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2020 4:27 pm
Full name: Richard Porti

Re: Hardware questions

Post by Peperoni » Sun Nov 15, 2020 4:53 pm

Would a TR be better than these rack servers for example ? (HP ProLiant or others)
https://www.bargainhardware.co.uk/hp-dl ... e-to-order

You probably can have a 4* Intel Xeon E5-4669 V3 for the same price.

mwyoung
Posts: 2727
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 8:00 pm

Re: Hardware questions

Post by mwyoung » Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:25 pm

middlewave wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:56 pm
Hello everyone,
I have been tasked with building a decently powerful rig for a friend, within a reasonable budget, focused entirely on chess engine performance (let's say, Stockfish and Lc0). No overclocking, no concern about anything else (such as gaming).

While I do have the general outline of the computer in mind, I have a few questions about specific hardware details that I couldn't find a good answer to elsewhere. I have searched a lot through this forum and taken note of similar discussions, but would love to clarify some things further. Some of these questions might seem too obvious to the crowd of this forum, so please bear with me!

To give a short overview of the computer envisioned, it will be based on a high-end AMD processor (perhaps the Ryzen 3950X), have at least 32Gb of RAM (maybe 64), a good Nvidia RTX card. The exact components depend on their respective costs, but that's more or less what the budget comfortably allows. I have taken other costs into account as well, and there is some flexibility to go over budget if it's really worth it. But I'm not really asking for specific component suggestions (though of course they are welcome!), but rather to understand myself what is important and what isn't.

I'll list my questions below, numbered (for ease of reference). Any help would be greatly appreciated!

1. RAM speed and timings.

I understand that for a Ryzen 3XXX I should look for a 3600 kit; does this apply to the new 5XXX Ryzens? Or should I look for a 4000 kit?
Also, just how important are RAM timings for chess engines? I know they matter a lot for gaming, but I have seen others recommend kits with slower timings (to save money) somewhere and wondered how much it matters - and why.

2. SSD setup

I'm planning a setup with 2-3 NVMe drives (plus an HDD or more, for storage) and was wondering how important SSD performance is, and for which purposes. The drives will be quite fast anyway (as they will be NVMe), but do I need a really fast drive for some specific purpose?
Also, what would be a good setup/drive combination to use? A separate drive for tablebases?

3. Ryzen vs Threadripper

I am somewhat confused as to the benefits of using a TR vs a Ryzen of the same generation, assuming an equal number of cores and similar frequencies. Is there an architectural difference that matters significantly for Stockfish? If yes, how much? The Ryzens have much lower TDPs and costs...

4. RTX 2XXX vs 3XXX

Are there any preliminary conclusions as to the benefits of the new RTX 3XXX cards? Are the improvements significant for Lc0, compared to similarly priced 2XXX cards? I have read some reviews and spec sheets, but as I understand, the simple comparison of cores (CUDA, Tensor) is not a good indicator.

5. Motherboard

Is there anything specific that I should look for when selecting a motherboard? I'll opt for a good high-end motherboard anyway, just wondering if there is some special requirement.

Please remember: I am not asking in order to extract the last possible drop of performance from the system - yet! I am just trying to understand the direction I should move towards. May well return with more specific questions, if you don't mind, but for now that would be enough!

Thanks in advance!
This is simple to answer.

1. 3200 to 3600
2. NVMe pci gen 4 if you mother board supports this option.
3. The next gen Threadripper is not out yet, but if you are looking for only 16 cores. 5950x. But good luck getting one today.
4. RTX 3090 if you can find and afford. But the 3080 is great also. Here is the issue, right now no RTX 3000 gpu are for sale. Unless you want to spend 2x to 3x MSRP. Even RTX 2000 gpus are limited and way over priced.
5.Only use Asus, or MSI. I prefer Asus, they have the best best support, and bios updates.
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