Thursday, July 29, 2021

Building an AMD 5950X System

 For my husband's workshop, I was finally able to build them a new PC with my old 1080ti now that I have my precious 3080ti.  They use mostly CAD which is CPU driven and a great application of the Ryzen 5950X. I thought they might want to wait for the next gen Threadrippers but as they are limping by with an aging Alienware Aurora, the 16 cores of the 5950X is a huge upgrade for them. (And as building an AMD system was in my bucket list, I was so happy to build one.)

Originally we had a plan to buy a prebuild with a RTX 3090 and then swap GPUs- a really sweet gesture from my husband to make a bereft wife happy. Thankfully EVGA Elite Program saved us from having to suffer the vagaries of the system integrators. 

For the mobo, I went with a x570 Gigabyte Aorus Pro, one level better than the Aorus Elite for better VRM components. It's not Gigabyte's upper tier or god tier but still places respectably on the A-tier of LinusTech's list.  

Although PCs supposedly have the most future upgradeability, the motherboard and CPU tend to be the biggest limiting factor.  This CPU/mobo combo will never know the joys of  DDR5. Since there are no DDR5 compatible CPU/Mobos out in the market right now, one has to accept the sobering reality of being locked out of one of the biggest RAM upgrades to come.   

(I myself am waiting for a DDR5 compatible mobo before I upgrade my i9-9900K even if there is no "practical" reason I need to upgrade my CPU. I'm definitely locked out of newer features like resizable bars even with my 3080ti which doesn't quite matter yet. None of the games I'm running are burning out the GPU just yet.)

Despite the recommendation from AMD to use water cooling, the world's best air cooler(Noctua DH-15) still does a fantastic job keeping the 5950X under 76C at full load. The Noctua is a robust workhorse beloved my many a happy air coolers including myself.  The 5950X for all it's 16 cores only has a TDP of 105 watts, not much more than my 8 core i9-9900K at 95 watts.  Intel has really fallen behind.
Retirement home for my 1080ti

They were lucky that Noctua now provides a less conspicuous all black model instead of the hideous flesh and bark colored fans nobody likes.  

As the case hadn't arrived yet, I loaded up the motherboard so I could still do all the open air tests. At first, I had forgotten all about the power button. I had to use a screwdriver to jump spark it.  Yes that is an otherwise useless laptop cooler being used as a mobo bench.

One thing I didn't like about AMD cpus is that they stingily provide only one average temperature, unlike Intel who provides a temp per core. They've got them in there,  just not available for the end user.  Now I can't be obsessive about my thermal pasting job and make sure cores are about same temps.  If there's anything I learned about top end PC builds, power delivery and cooling where you should spend the bucks.

I got them a massive full tower that could double as a rabbit hutch. Actually the Phantek Enthoo 719 is pretty deluxe and would be the case of my dreams.  The reason I got them something so big is more due to cooling flexibility. This has to run inside an extremely dusty metal shop where tiny metal shavings are common. We would have to put special filter paper over all holes. The larger case allowed us to get away with one intake and one exhaust fan.

The case was designed to fit a baker's dozen worth of HDD drives or an entire extra ITX board.

Keep metal dust out!

Now the new PC is away working in full commission, I don't get a chance to futz with it in the same way I do my workstation. I just put in standard XMP at 3600MHz and sent it away without trying any other OC options.

I am itching to build another system. For the hobbyist, building a custom system is so much fun. It's been called adult Legos but the enjoyment comes from not only building but of course the operation and endless configuration, overclocking, custom fan curves, under volting. I recently put in a continuous monitoring system so I can analyze the historical data, a story for another time. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Upgrading to a 3080ti, finally

I've been patiently waiting 2 years to upgrade after refusing the lackluster 2080ti upgrade.  After 10 months of grumbling, entering Newegg shuffles and exhausting vendor sites, I finally held my very own EVGA 3080ti FTW Ultra in my tingling paws. In the rarest of GPU purchase phenomena these days, I actually had a 23% discount to buy MSRP. I won 20% coupon spinning the prize wheel for becoming an EVGA Elite member.  At the time, I thought it was some one week promo for peripherals for an RGB mouse or PSU, not a $300 discount on almost the GPU of my dreams.  I paid around $1200 for the MSRP of $1399 excluding 9.25% CA tax. 

All year, I've been debating the wisdom of paying so much for a GPU. Compared to the 3080 MSRP for $800, this factory overclocked 3080ti $1399 is a terrible deal yielding barely 10% in gaming performance for 75+%  cost. But that 3080 $800 MSRP is tots imaginary and I was entirely grateful for overpay a moderate amount to a legitimate vendor.  I said to myself, "What a steal!" as this model had been reselling for ~$2500 on ebay and Amazon.  Also EVGA has something no other AIB partner has - a golden 10 year extended warranty for $60 so I'm going to use this card way past where it dies a natural death.

How did I even get one? 2 weeks ago the morning of the 3080ti launch, I woke up at 5:45am and pushed F5 hundreds of times for 2 hours on the overloaded EVGA site.   And despite the grumpy grumps on reddit who said we would have to wait in the queue until winter, here it is.

All morning I giggled like a school girl giddy with excitement that the thing I desired most all year actually was in my paws.   The LED is set to display 3 zone thermals for GPU, memory and power with blue being the safe idle temp under 50C. If you recognize the flesh colored sandwich, you will know I value functionality over vanity. Noctua forever!

What is the biggest buzzkill for a new GPU owner? The honeymoon didn't last but first let's cover the good.

The raw compute power is more than adequate for my gaming. 4K Witcher with Ultra everything settings looks amazing. I guess I could have played those settings on the 1080ti at 30-45fps. I was trotting around in the Blood and Wine DLC and the floriferous scenery and excessive grass really does me right. Of course I turned on Hair Physics to see that grey ponytail bounce.

The Bad, Thermals...

 I knew prior to purchase the 30 series ran hotter than any GPUs prior with the GDDR6 particularly prone to overheating.  But actually seeing parts of the card go above 90C even if it's within spec made me uncomfortable.  At first I was trying various other configuration means with under volting and more aggressive fan curves.  Even more worrying was heat dissipation for all surrounding components.  The RAM, SSD, HDDs surrounding the card definitely ran 5-10C hotter.

Some on reddit had replaced the air cooler with an AIO cooler and had recommended me the same. One fellow said he saw 10C improvement if that. But the solution was far simpler and easier.

I opened up the front of my case and vacuumed up the dust bunnies and temps were magically under control with the GPU under 72C but the memory max higher at 82C and hotspot being 77C when running 3DMark tests. My games normally don't run that hot and I could clamp down power to 80%, run even yet cooler and see no game performance difference since my 4K monitor could do no more than 60Hz. 

The Disappointing

My  main impetus to upgrade was to be able to upgrade my OG Vive to a nextgen headset.   The 3080ti definitely alleviated some performance problems for Fallout VR. But heavily modded Bethesda games can be CPU bound that you cannot pay your way out of with a beefy GPU. I was still suffering the same low rates in heavy NPC areas(Goodneighbor, Riften), at least I was doing it in higher resolution. 200% SS definitely is clearer and better looking than 150%. 

I put Alyx on ultra(from high) and didn't notice a significant visual improvement. Valve has done an extraordinary job making Alyx look amazing even with the 1080ti. Same with RDR2 that they have managed this game to look good at almost any setting. 4K ultra didn't necessarily look that amazing to my previous settings. But when I first played RDR2 on a PS4, I was constantly amazed at how good it looked even back then at fake 4K.

Trying out RTX

Cyberpunk 2077 - RTX looked incredibly realistic but it doesn't make me want to play this game anymore. I don't think I would have enjoyed this game any more or less with RTX.  It takes more than shiny reflections to make me love a game.

I only have 3 games in my library that support RTX (Control, Metro Exodus, CP2077) and the added benefit of RTX doesn't make me want to play them any more or less. 

End Thoughts

After pining away for a new GPU since last September, I am on the fence. I am some days giddy with joy being able to play ultra 4K. Other days I think to myself this is just a GPU. Why was I so hot and bothered for so long...