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Thread: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Good Job Mike....

    Congrats on getting the build done finally. Its funny that everytime I read your build post something always goes wrong... You seem to have the worst luck with hardware. lolz

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    Mgutierrez33 (17-11-2014)

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Quote Originally Posted by Solara2xb View Post
    Good Job Mike....

    Congrats on getting the build done finally. Its funny that everytime I read your build post something always goes wrong... You seem to have the worst luck with hardware. lolz
    Well you aren't wrong. That just seems to be the way things go with me, at least the first time around. After that I'm usually okay moving forward, but often times I wind up feeling an awful lot like Malcom Reynolds, "Why can't everything just stick to the gorram plan!?" With any luck it will actually be the fittings themselves that are leaking and not the 45 degree adapters, though knowing my luck it's both -_-.

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    This is the first time I've had the opportunity to visit this log, and I'm glad I did. Beautiful work, bro, just beautiful.

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Thanks for the kind words! I'll be posting some benchmark results for this machine soon, I managed to get the leak fixed on that GPU fitting... turns out that after applying pipe thread tape, I needed to re-tighten, loosen, then RE-re-tighten the fitting... frustrating to say the least, but at least it's fixed x-).

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Hey guys, just wanted to update you all on what's been going on with the radio silence. I have been inundated with countless personal issues recently, so it's slowed down my progress with... well... everything pretty much. I have a selection of benchmarks ready for the HTPC, and I will be posting those and discussing the merits of building such a system and if it is, in fact, worth the effort to do. I am also in the process of moving, which will officially happen this weekend coming up. Once I'm all settled in there I'll be in a good spot to finally give you guys the performance evaluation of this system (as well as another review I took the photos for this past weekend).

  8. #38
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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    THE CONCLUSION

    Alright folks, here's the long overdue conclusion to my build log! I went ahead and ran some basic benchmarks on the system to see what exactly I could squeeze out of it before it hit any hardware-imposed limits or instability issues.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-cpuz-4.5-ghz.png
    I was able to tack on another 100 MHz from the overclock I already achieved on the CPU, bringing the total up to 4.5 GHz at roughly 1.45V. This may not seem like anything particularly impressive, but consider: previously I would hit damn near the thermal limit of this chip with the AIO cooler I had installed. With this configuration, not only do I have TONS more thermal headroom, but the system runs so much quieter now. As you can see in the CoreTemp window, the registered max temp was 45 C. In AMD terms, this translates to having 25 degrees more headroom before the CPU begins to exhibit throttling. Bear in mind that AMD now registers temperatures as thermal threshold rather than actual temperature... an odd decision to be sure, but in terms of tuning your system it gives you a more telling tale of how hot you SHOULD be running. Admittedly I do still wish there was a more accurate temperature probe they could use, but I got used to it.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-1155-mhz-validation-screen.png
    The R7 250 was an interesting tale: originally I was able to hit the BIOS-imposed 1100 MHz core clock and 1200 MHz memory clock with relative ease, but the temperatures of the stock cooler gave me cause for concern. Under water cooling conditions however, not only did the entire system become MUCH quieter than it was before, but the max temperature of the GPU only ever hit roughly 47 C... which got me wanting to bypass the BIOS-enforced overclocking limits and really see what else I could get out of this chip. 1150 MHz was the maximum bootable overclock I was able to achieve with this chip, with 1140 being the max testable clock speed I could get. Sadly if ONE test fails, then all tests fail, and 3DMark was having NONE of these unofficial clock speeds. Even 1 MHz over the original limit resulted in wildly out of control artifacting, stuttering, and incomplete testing for every 3DMark test I threw at it... whereas Cinebench and Unigine Valley performed admirably and netted beautiful results. I am uncertain if this is a byproduct of a lack of available power to the cores or simply the demanding nature of 3DMark, or possibly even a combination of those and other outside factors, but the second I dropped things back to their original limits everything returned to normal performance. Sad day was sad, but the results were interesting to note none the less... so 1100 MHz on the R7 250 and 960 MHz on the iGPU it is!

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-stock-3dmark.png
    Here are the stock results for 3DMark on this system. Not too shabby at all really, all things considered. But what happened when we overclocked?

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-1100mhz-3dmark.png
    Those are some pretty healthy gains for only a 50 MHz core boost on the discrete card. Granted the iGPU was kicked up 240 MHz, which no doubt contributed a fair amount, but these are still very promising results for a system configuration which is just now coming into its own... all the while staying cool, calm and collected, more than can be said of even the newest gaming consoles which have cooling solutions on them that can get as noisy as OEM heat sinks... and we all know how much those suck (the cooling solutions, not the consoles).

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-cinebench-cpu.png
    Our Cinebench scores are once again nothing super exciting, but still respectable enough for most users out there... one thing to consider with this system however is the radically low power consumption. Idle measured wattage peaked at 95 Watts, with maximum loads capping out at 245 Watts and typical gaming loads peaking at around 218 Watts. Suffice it to say that makes our 630 Watt PSU seem like EXTREME overkill... but it barely makes any noise at all, and in the future if we wanted to add in a more powerful discrete card and let the iGPU rest then there is still plenty of power and cooling on hand to do so.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-unigine-valley-final-tune.png
    The Unigine Valley test I ran was also quite healthy in terms of performance. At times it was kind of choppy however, a symptom no doubt of the limited amount of VRAM available to the R7 250. THis seems to be the dominant shortcoming of the APU architecture as it operates with modern games: while the iGPU is fully capable of accessing all of your existing system memory at its rated speeds, the R7 250 is hampered not only by a measly 1 GB of VRAM, but is also gimped by a lack of AMD's newest color compression technologies that are present on the R9 285, meaning that it can't even take full advantage of the existing memory bus or available VRAM. Once discrete GPU's are able to leverage system memory like the APU can, I am certain that these scores will improve and system performance will be more buttery smooth overall.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-xper2-screen.png
    Despite my own personal experiences with other Asus product lines, this motherboard has proven to be nothing short of marvelous. Especially in using the Fan Xpert 2 software to control fan and pump speeds. One interesting thing to note here: since the style of control is different between case fan headers and CPU fan headers, I was not able to PWM control the pump off of a case fan header. Thankfully the MCP50X pump has a cable long enough for me to discretely snake it across the motherboard to the header, but in the near future I will need a braided cable extension to allow me to run the cable behind the motherboard. If there was one thing I could change about this motherboard, that would be it. Otherwise I was able to get all system fans running at only 800 RPM, with the pump running at 2000 RPM... all while keeping temperatures as low as I have gotten them. The only noise this system actually produces is from the pump itself, and unless there is absolutely no noise in the room at all and you REALLY pay attention to it you hear nothing. At most you get a dull hum from near the front of the case, but even my anxiety-diagnosed self doesn't find it irritating in the least... and I am a HUGE stickler for silent machines.

    Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment-metro-aaa-low-1080-dx11-nophysx.png
    I WAS going to run a more comprehensive battery of actual gaming benchmarks, but when I got the results back from this one I had to kind of rub my eyes and blink several times to believe what I was reading. I also went back and ran the test for a total of nine consecutive runs with the same results every single time, and this system isn't even running the Catalyst Omega drivers yet. An average of 57 frames per second in a game like Metro 2033 on a system like this, even considering that the textures are set to low and we are only using AAA with PhysX turned off, is nothing to sneer at. If THIS game gets more than playable results, then I am fairly certain that most titles will perform admirably on this system with a judicious adjustment of visual settings. Besides, living room monitors are either 1080P or 4K displays, and this ain't playing games at 4K, so as long you have a good quality display then you should be solid.
    Last edited by Mgutierrez33; 14-12-2014 at 11:55.

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    Great and extensive info Mike, thanks. Not bad scores, not bad at all. Congrats.

    Always look beyond the limits...

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    Default Re: Silence Falls: A Thought Experiment

    SUMMING UP MY THOUGHTS

    Well this was certainly a wild ride for me. I apologize for this taking so long to complete, but life just kept getting in the way of things. I certainly learned a LOT in building this system, both on the water cooling front and with regard to further understanding AMD's APU ecosystem in general. As I'm sure all of you expected, total system performance isn't anything that's going to make a GTX 980 shake in its booties, but does that make this a system not worth building? Well that all greatly depends on your definition of "worth building" I suspect. As a home theater system, even running all of this hardware with simple AIO or stock cooling solutions you will net more than admirable performance, something that wasn't really possible with older generations of this platform. Despite the recent debacle with Ubisoft titles being released about as optimized as Bizarro World, modern gaming titles seem perfectly capable at running on a system like this with great visuals and frame rates without leaving the individual feeling like they're missing out on much and without taxing their power bill much at all. Water cooling the system takes it to the next level with tons of thermal headroom on hand and a beautiful, eye-catching system that makes a living room feel that bit more special.

    Final Analysis: The Core System
    After having gotten to play with this system for some time now, I can safely say that the concept is tragically still under-cooked... but not by much. Thankfully AMD seems to be making concerted efforts to make the APU ecosystem a more appealing and better performing one all the time, and the next iteration promises to make all the necessary improvements that will make this a truly noteworthy platform to use. Unfortunately, for now it seems that this is still limited to enthusiast use, requiring overclocking to really get the most out of this system, and that's really a shame. Intel platforms offer similar or better levels of performance on the CPU side without the need for overclocking, and nVidia graphics solutions are similarly capable of doing the same... to a point. There's just something about the way in which this ecosystem pairs a discrete card with the iGPU that feels more connected and seamless with this system, and seeing where the potential bottlenecks are in this system and seeing how they can be improved, even from a humble enthusiast's perspective, is very promising indeed. If you are an enthusiast in the slightest bit, and you want a low cost, low power tuner system to enjoy in your living room or on-the-go in a LAN box, then I frankly would look no further than A88X with Dual Graphics.

    Final Analysis: Swiftech's hardware
    Admittedly this was my very first rodeo with expandable water cooling. Me having an automotive background made this feel very much like home, so the jump wasn't too big but no less intimidating. The thought of crafting a system like this knowing that the slightest leak can cause large nightmares and potentially costly repairs did not sit well with my anxiety AT ALL... but it turned out my fears were largely unfounded. Swiftech's hardware is definitely top notch, with almost everything being a breeze to install and use... almost everything. If I had one thing to gripe about, it would be their compression fittings: I had such a hard time getting the sleeves for the fittings to slide over the Swiftech TruFlex tubing that my hands would be sore for a day or so afterward. I was forced to use hand tools to get everything attached, and even then that didn't do much to ease the application of the sleeves other than make my hands not hurt as much. I am uncertain if this had something to do with the overly robust tubing or the change they made with their fittings (they switched to a different black, now more of a gunmetal finish as opposed to the painted black which tended to flake off too easily before), or maybe even a combination of the two, but that bit was thoroughly un-enjoyable. Even after speaking to a few of PureOC's team members to see what their experiences with water cooling were like, they had never experienced anything like what I described and have been able to hand-tighten all of their fittings in the past almost regardless of the manufacturer. The one redeeming aspect of the fittings is, as evidenced by the finished build pictures, they show EXTREMELY well and were ultimately worth the pain and work to get them to fit properly. Also, though not the fault of Swiftech in the least, adjusting and applying fittings to the universal GPU block was somewhat tedious and time consuming as well. I know exactly why that was the case though: not only does this suffer from the plight of ALL universal GPU blocks in that they are recessed quite far back from the edge of the card, but I also kept the XFX shroud partially attached to the card for display purposes which certainly did nothing to add to the practicality of the build.

    Probably my favorite components in the build were the Apogee XL block and the Maelstrom/MCP50X res/pump combo. The Apogee XL block was extremely easy to apply and offered top notch cooling performance when combined with the Swiftech rads I used in the system, and the Maelstrom reservoir really tied the whole look of the system together very nicely. The pump itself is nothing short of a wonder, and offers tons of system pressure and flow rate to power some pretty decently-sized loops while retaining decent operating noise.

    Final Analysis: Cougar's PWM fans
    I will now be using Cougar fans VERY heavily throughout all of my system builds moving forward. Given the talk surrounding other higher end fans like those from Noctua, Be Quiet!, Scythe, and others, these fans performed in what I would consider the same performance bracket at a much more reasonable price than many of those other brands offer. The one thing I would change is the option of factory-made rubber vibration dampers of different colors that come with each fan to allow the user to tailor them to match the look of their system without needing to resort to more extreme measures like what I had to do in this build... and that technically only works because I was EXTREMELY careful with how I tightened the fans down, and I do not recommend doing what I did for most system builders. That being said, IF you can move past the orange vibration dampers, or if you're fine with simply removing them, these are among the best fans money can buy as far as I'm concerned.

    Final Analysis: The Complete System
    So we finally come to my final thoughts on the system as a whole. Did I squeeze out much more performance that I already had? No, not really. Was this inexpensive to make? The water cooling parts cost almost as much as the entire system combined, so no, not really. Was this practical at all? If you have to ask that question then perhaps water cooling or modding of any kind isn't for you, because water cooling is probably the most impractical thing you could ever do to your own computer, and those who have done so would be among the first to agree with me. Practicality isn't the point here: the point was to make a silent system that looked beautiful and performed admirably without needing to worry about extremely high operating temperatures and that brought a tactfully applied touch of class to your living space. This was where form met function and gave us something to be proud of... something that could be called uniquely ours, and that others could marvel at and appreciate even if they didn't fully understand what was happening inside the system. Sometimes it's not about understanding what it is you're looking at so much as it's about asking yourself if it looks good or not, and this system undeniably looks good... really good in my opinion, and I hope you all feel the same way.

    I want to once again thank SWIFTECH from the bottom of my heart for sponsoring this build and allowing me to produce a stunning showpiece of a machine that also taught us a bit more about the performance potential of an APU system, and show that even a simple system such as that doesn't have to be limited by the mass availability of water cooling hardware for predominantly high end hardware... that if you have a little bit of imagination and time (and money, of course), you can make any system beautiful, silent, and above all a blast to use. I really enjoyed this build, and I look forward to being able to bring you guys more like it in the future!

    Mike
    The Manic Geek

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