8 Aug
2012

The i5 build notes

Category:Hardware, Howto's

The i5 build is now complete and in production. The final specs are as follows:

  • Asus P8Z68-V GEN3 – 129€
  • Intel Core i5 2500 – 196€
  • Kingston Hyper-X (blue) 8GB – 55€
  • Sapphire Radeon 6850 1GB – 161€

For a grand total of.. 541 bucks. Prices were from the day I ordered, that is monday 30th of July.

Things I maybe would have changed, but decided not to: Get some higher perfoming memory, get a Core i5 2500k (unlocked, but then, i don’t really do overclocking), and get a Z77 motherboard. Though! The Z68 from Asus has all the features that Z77 promises. Support for Ivy Bridge (the new 3rd generation Core processors), support for PCI Express 3.0, and support for USB 3.0. Of course, I haven’t tested any of these yet. An Ivy Bridge processor would have been cool, but they are still slightly overpriced in my opinion. The new 22nm process would perhaps allow for even lower operating temperatures, though Muropaketti had an article describing the crappy heat-conductive paste used between the actual CPU core and the heatspreader, which leads to higher temps. In the article, they replaced the paste with higher quality stuff, and reseated the HS, and got much lower temperatures. Of course, this voids the warranty…

I could also have paid more for a graphics card, such as the 6870 or even something from the 69xx series, which would have come with higher clocks and more stream processors. But this seems to work just fine for what I’m currently playing. And remember, there is no such thing as futureproof, no matter what the guy behind the counter says.

All components were bought from Verkkokauppa.com, because they were the only ones that had the parts right now. Not a fan of waiting personally.

Some noteworthy things.  Using the stock cooler on the CPU i get down to 25 degrees idle (the CPU does clock down when idle, so that explains it). During heavy load-testing, using the Intel Burn Test, i can get it up to 79 degrees while using all four cores @ 3.7 GHz (the ‘Turbo’ mode). Nothing to worry about, since full load on all cores is not something you see in production use. Also, the processor can take the temperature quite well, and did not crash even when running multiple iterations of the burn test. According to various internet resources, the CPU can go up to around 100C before clocking down and eventually forcing a shutdown.

The memories are specced to CL9 1600 MHz. The CPU will only do 1066 or 1333 MHz, but using something called XMP (i’ve yet to go through what actually changes when you go this route), you can get the memories to run at 1600 MHz. There are varying resources of this on the internet, but based on the output from CPU-Z and the BIOS, the memory should really be running at that speed.

The motherboard gets high marks. The BIOS is something way too fancy for an “old” bastard like me. You can use a mouse. A mouse. You can also update the BIOS from within the BIOS using Asus EZ flash, which has access to say, a USB drive that you plug in that contains the BIOS image file, or even your normal hard drives. So you can just download the file on your desktop, and then boot to BIOS and point to the file on your drive. Handy. There also seems to be more settings in there than I really have use for. I updated to the latest BIOS, version 3402, which is what I am using now.

Windows had to be re-installed and re-activated of course, when switching from the previous AMD to the current Intel platform, but there were no issues with that, except for one human error, which i’ll get to later.

I still get a 5.9 score from Windows Experience, but this is due to the hard drives being the bottle neck (and lowest score). All other scores are above seven, but the 7200 rpm SATA drives are what is keeping everything on the down-low. So they are next to be replaced. I’m getting, probably, a 128GB SSD drive next month. This will be split into two partitions, for Windows 7 and for Linux. It should set me back around 130 bucks. I’ve been looking at the Intel 330 series drives, as well as the OCZ Vertex 4, both of which have performed well in tests. E recently got a 330, so I’m waiting on her experience on that one. Also, I read quite an extensive review on Anandtech about both drives.

There was only one thing that was messed up during the install, and that was my fault entirely. Currently, this machine has two 500GB drives. One has the operating systems, and the other has various stuff on it, including a truecrypt partition. When re-installing windows the drives were reversed, so that the OS drive was drive 1 and the ‘misc’ drive was drive 0. Being me, and being windows, i selected the OS drive and the partition for it to use. Only, I hadn’t counted on Windows overwriting the MBR of the ‘misc’ drive with it’s own crap. Normally, this would not be an issue. But since truecrypt has some stuff on there to identify the partition as a truecrypt volume, it messed up the TC volume. Rather, the data was still there at some point, I think, but TC wouldn’t recognize it because the MBR was fucked. TC has a feature where you can use a backup header, which is stored inside the actual volume, but this didn’t for some reason work.

Now, here comes the saving grace: Backups. I have backups of everything, so I decided, being in the middle of Assembly 2012 (the subject of an entirely different post), that I wouldn’t waste time trying to rescue the volume. Instead, I ended up reinstalling windows one..last…time..This time switching the drives over correctly. Then i completely wiped the ‘misc’ drive and wrote over some random data using dban, so I could start over from a clean slate. Learnings from this episode? Maybe i’ll use containers instead of entire drives or partitions. And if I *do* decide to use partitions, i’ll make it an entire drive, and remember to disconnect it when doing reinstalls.

Some words on performance. While I haven’t really run any extensive benchmarks, the ones I did run show that the system is performing as intended. Futuremark’s 3DMark 2011 shows my system is at the top of the bell curve for similar systems, scoring something like 3500 points. My favorite FPS, Battlefield Bad Company 2, showed a great increase in FPS (not so surprisingly….), and I can now pretty much max out the settings and still get an average of 60 fps. There is one instance where FPS goes down, that is, when I am inside a tank, when the tank fires and produces smoke from the muzzle, fps goes down to like 30. Oddly enough, standing outside the tank, viewing the same smoke does not have the same effect. Oh well, I can live with that. Most of the time, when not in action, I get 80-90 fps which is much more than I need or even can use (having a 60Hz screen). The old setup would go down to 15 fps in action, and max out at about 40, using lower settings. I’m now running with 1920×1080 resolution, High for all the graphics settings. 2xmsaa, and 16xanisotropic, no vsync to blank, no hbao, and no bloom.

I have some pictures, but i’ll post them later.

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