Wednesday, 31 December 2014

PC Build - It's done!

It took a while, partly due to me going away before Christmas, partly due to me having to return the graphics card, partly due to me getting a cold and feeling crap and partly because I'm lazy. But the new gaming rig is built and is up and running!

It's that beastly looking thing to the left there....

There's not a great deal to say about it really, I had the issue with the damaged Radeon R9 295 X2, but changed that without any problems.

Building it was a bit of a challenge, I've not built a PC for many, many years and while things haven't changed a huge amount, they've changed just enough that I had to do some research.

I assembled the main components outside of the case
The main thing was my graphics card being water cooled. I had to install a radiator and fan for that. It was one of the things I screwed up too! I built the system outside the case, installed the CPU, added the RAM and attached the heatsink/fan. That was a real hassle, and another thing I messed up.

Take a look at this picture, can you spot the mistake?

If you are observant, you'll notice that the cooler is upside down! This means it's pulling air in from the left and blowing it out to the right. This is wrong, the air is pulled in from the front of the case and exhausted out the back.

It was frustrating as I didn't notice this until after I had put the motherboard in the case and had it all cabled up! So, as a result, I had to disassemble the entire PC and essentially start again. Not to be defeated, I did that, not that I really had any choice in the matter. Then I unpacked the graphics card as that was the last thing to install and discovered the damage to the radiator. See my other post about that here: Damaged MSI Radeon R9-295 X2

It was at this point that I went away for a week so the build went on hold until I got home. When I got back the replacment card had arrived so I was able to complete the build. But I was hit by another snag, with the large CPU heatsink/fan, I wasn't able to install the radiator of the watercooling unit into the case, it wouldn't fit! So I had to once again, remove the motherboard to install the radiator first, and then reattach everything. Here's a picture of the radiator installed, space is tight with that massive Cooler Master V8.

It's a tight fit for that radiator!
The above picture also illustrates the air flow I've gone for. Out of sight at the bottom on the front of the case are two 140mm AF intake fans pulling air in. Then at the top of the case there is a 120mm SP fan above the radiator on the right pulling air through the fins and out the top of the case. Next to that is another 140mm AF fan blowing air in, down onto the heatsink. The heatsink fans blow from right to left and exhaust though the rear of the case where the final 120mm AF fan pushes hot air out. The overall air flow hopefully looks something like this:

The theory behind this is that I have cool air coming in from the front bottom and travelling up through the case to the top rear. The exception to this is the radiator for the R9 295 X2 which vents out the top of the case, but as this is an enclosed system I'm hoping that it won't have any effect on the rest of the case's airflow. With three fans blowing air in and only two out I should have positive air pressure in the case which apparently helps to reduce dust in the case. This will be helped by the fact that all the fan locations have dust filters too thanks to the Cooler Master Cosmos case.

With the system fully built and running, here are a few pictures, you can click them to enlarge:

So there it is, my gaming rig for the next few years! It's quite a monster, I'm very happy with the performance. The one thing I might change though is the CPU cooler, it's really big, takes up a lot of space and when it's running at full speed is fairly noisy. I might swap it out for an all in one water cooling sytem such at the Corsair H100i, but that's something I'll do in the summer if I think I need to. For now the system works well. Here's a couple of screenshots showing the performance:

Tomb Raider, average of 143.6 FPS
Above is Tomb Raider, I had all the settings maxed out and I was running in my Eyefinity triple screen setup. That's at a resolution of 6034x1200!

iRacing, hitting 580FPS with all settings at max
Another game, this time iRacing, I've got my three screens going here as well and everything is turned up to the highest settings. It's a slightly older game with less demanding requirments, but even so, hitting 580FPS is just crazy!

Putting it through some benchmark tests yielded the following results from Unigine Valley:

Valley Benchmark @ 1920 x 1080
Valley Benchmark @ 6034 x 1170 (Eyefinity)

On a single display at 1920x1080 it is topping out at 185.5FPS and averaging 123FPS. In my huge triple screen setup it struggles a bit more but still holds an average almost 70FPS and hits an impressive 141.3FPS at its fastest point.

I also ran it through the more demanding Heaven benchmark too, the results are still just as impressive, though it did fall just below 60FPS in the Eyefinity test. All I can say is I'll have to buy another one and run it in a QuadFire setup!

Heaven Benchmark @ 1920 x 1080
Valley Benchmark @ 6034 x 1170 (Eyefinity)
There's not really anything else I can say about it, I'm happy to answer questions if you have any. Just leave them in the comments below. To finish with here's a picture of my triple screens running the Heaven benchmark, just because I can :-)

Oh, also it's the 31st December, so HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Damaged MSI Radeon R9 295 X2

This is a post for the support department at Overclockers showing the damage to the MSI Radeon R9 295 X2 8192MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card I purchased. The box is in perfect condition so it looks like this happened at the manufacturing stage.

Clearly with a liquid cooled solution I would be foolish to install this in a PC case as the radiator could very easily leak if I powered it up.

Here are the photos:

Can see the fins are bent in several locations.

Close up of the most damaged area, but also notice the fins to the left also show signs of damage.

Here someone has (badly) tried to cover up the damage to the radiator casing with black paint or a permanent marker.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Time for a new PC

My PC died yesterday, I was happily playing a game of iRacing trying to get my D license before the end of the season this week. When I quit out I had some weird messages about my backup software being unable to connect to my D:\ drive (which is my data drive, my C:\ is an SSD that runs the OS).

When I opened Explorer the D:\ was indeed missing... "odd" I thought, "that's never happened before". I'd only just used the D:\ drive to save a couple of pictures before I started playing iRacing, so I knew it had connected on boot up.

I thought I'd try a quick reboot to see if something weird had occurred in the drivers. When the PC booted into Windows I instantly got a BSOD with a KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED error message. Oh.....

My only option was another reboot, but this resulted in another BSOD and another KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED error. Mild panic began to set in, I know my backups will be okay, I have three separate copies stored elsewhere as well as the data on the disc itself. But fixing PCs is no fun!

Eventually Windows figured out there was a problem and offered to fix it... unsurprisingly it failed. So then I had the option of rolling back to an earlier restore point, so I did. I had one from just a week ago.

Sadly that didn't work either, and neither did any of the previous restore points going back six months. The next option is to try a "refresh" which keeps your files but re-installs Windows... but I was scuppered because you need the Windows install disc.

There are ways around all this, I could probably have re-installed Windows if I'd persevered long enough. but I'd been seeing the early signs of hardware failure for a while and I'd sort of ignored them. Random crashes, display glitches etc... When the PC died it made me remember a lot of things and they all made me come to the conclusion that I needed to update my system.

When I bought my current system I didn't have my three screens, I also did almost all my gaming on my XBox 360. But since I got an Eyefinity setup and the "next-gen" of consoles have been released that's all changed. I don't have an XBox One or a PS4 and every game I've played in the last 6-12 months has been on the PC.

I decided I needed a computer that could handle anything I wanted to throw at it, so I went about choosing components for a new build. Something I've not done for 10 years or more... The last two PCs I purchased were off the shelf offerings from Dell.

I figured I could get a lot more for my money by doing it myself, so without further ado please let me present you with the components I've purchased for my gaming rig 2015:

- Case: Cooler Master Cosmos SE Mid Tower Case
- Power Supply: SuperFlower Leadex Platinum 1000W Fully Modular "80 Plus Platinum" Power Supply - Black
- CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K 4.00GHz (Devil's Canyon) Socket LGA1150 Processor - Retail
- Cooler: Cooler Master V8 GTS High Performance CPU Cooler
- Memory: Kingston HyperX 16GB (2x8GB) PC3-19200C11 2400MHz Dual Channel Kit - Black/Red (HX24C11BRK2/16-OC)
- Graphics: MSI Radeon R9 295 X2 8192MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
- Primary Storage: Samsung 1TB SSD 840 EVO SATA 6Gb/s
- Data Storage: Seagate Barracuda 4TB 5900RPM SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache

The price tag associated with all this is rather scary coming in at, wait for it......  £1987.85!!!!!


So that's Christmas for everyone else cancelled then! It will all be delivered tomorrow by DPD, so I just have to remember how to build a PC now!