Saturday, May 26, 2018

The New PC


Original Cost                                                $4659
New Case FT-05B                                          $419
32inch Display                                             $1304
NH-D15S                                                       $141
Corsair HX1000i                                           $326
7980XE CPU                                               $2775
Thermal paste& BDR                                    $145
Samsung 2TB SSD                                        $890
PCIE Wifi Card                                               $79
NH-D9L                                                          $89 (for GPU, not yet fitted)
Slimline DVD Writer                                      $99
Windows 10                                                  $199

Total                                                          $10926

Recovered costs:
Sale of Mac Pro & Displays                      $2355
Case, PSU and DVD                                   $100
Core i9-7900X                                            $650

Total                                                          $3105

LESS RESALES                                       $7821

Comparison note: The iMac Pro 18 Core model with 64 GB Ram, a 2 TB SSD and Vega 56 w/ 8 GB of VRAM costs $9000 currently. I did buy some unnecessary items - the DVD and GPU cooler - that would have cut the cost even more ($200 less) , but then I'm not that poor that I need to save the money.
The non-comparable is the screen; The iMac Pro has a 5120 x 2880 screen but it's only a 27 incher. This visually is no better than the two I just sold imho: dot pitch doesn't mean anything to me at the res of modern screens, but screen size definitely does.
If you ignore the $2355 from selling the Mac Pro the prices are closer but then there is the screen thing – and nothing can equal the freedom to upgrade and the freedom to choose my own parts, or even make my own case or case mods.


The Screen
I got a BenQ PD 3200U, which features 3840 x 2160 res, full 10 bit colour and at least two inputs along with a built in KVM. This all works okay buuuut. . . . . First, I got both computers connected to it and then used the “hotkey puck” controller to program it so that by touching the lit buttons on the bottom right of the screen I could switch between the two computers. That’s the good bit - well, actually you need to tap the buttons twice to get it to switch. You can get the puck to switch between displays but it takes a few clicks. I hoped to get it down to one if I can just figure it out but in the end I was not going to keep the Mac Pro so it doesn't matter. Just remember that the switching process also doesn't automatically wake the computer you want to switch to - and if it isn't getting a signal it will switch back to the active one. Get the idea?

I watched an interesting Youtube Vid by DIY Perks where he built a silent PC by mounting everything vertically so that the airflow naturally provided cooling, and getting rid of the fans altogether. He also built a custom case for this project and in a follow-up vid, mounted a CPU cooler on a GPU also in pursuit of a quiet PC.
I won’t be going quite as far as having NO fans as I suspect that would be impossible if you want to have high power chips, but I can certainly take some of his ideas and try to make something much quieter than the current models on sale.
First, the PC I bought has a Corsair Carbide 100 case, AIO water cooler and a fan-forced GTX 1080 Ti GPU.
I will first replace the case with a Silverstone FT05B which has vertical mobo mounting and airflow – in the bottom of the case are two huge 180mm fans that I can get spinning slowly enough to be barely heard, yet they might even give enough airflow to cool everything. Well, that’s the ideal.
It also comes standard with magnetically held dust filters. (Why the hell doesn't Apple ever have dust filters on it's computers? Almost everyone else does.)
Next, I am getting rid of the liquid cooler. I don’t like them as they are unnecessarily complicated and any leakage will be very, very bad. The CPU will instead be cooled by the biggest, best cooler I can find - The Noctua NH- D15S will fit in the case. Also, I will be able to use it to test if it will fit on the GPU card as-is, or if I will need extra hardware to mount the card so that the cooler will fit in the case. Coolermaster make a mounting kit that can do this and all I need to do is chop it a bit to get the offset I need – well ,that’s the theory.
I have thought long about how to get a second GPU card in but it just doesn’t look possible with the FT05 and a whole new case seems a waste at this point: It would be better to get a more powerful GPU card first – two video cards mean a new power supply anyway. The big test is pushing the GPU and seeing if it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. I haven't quite reached that point yet. There is also rumours of a new Nvidia card coming out so maybe I will just wait until that appears and either run two which will mean no fan mods on them.

Update May 13 2018
Transplanting the board into the FT-05 case was easy as was replacing the PSU – the only problems I had installing new parts were with the slot loading vertical mount DVD drive. This doesn't seem to like DVDs much, it being tricky to get it to load them – it loves to split them out though. I think I will have to take it out at some stage. I also had to make a special bracket for the third SSD mounting and that worked out quite well. Now the only spinning discs are externals that I use for backup. All the other fittings were smooth and easy apart from a slight cramp when fitting the clips that hold the fan onto the radiator on one end as it is close to the wall of the case.

Today I installed the i9-7980XE and I used Thermal Grizzly metal thermal paste to keep it as cool as possible. Previously I fitted the HX1000i PSU, the idea being that it would be as quiet as possible since the fan on it doesn't even start moving until you are over about 40% load.
After fitting the 7980XE I ran a few tests to see how hot it got – Blender and DAZ renders and it all looks very good: I think the max for any core was 68c and most didn't get near that.
At idle it is at 38c which is pretty darn good.

The temp testing I did used Corsair Link 4 to tell me what the temps were because that is the only one that works for me. I also go an external DVD/Bluray drive (plus free version of Cyberlink Director, a video editor) so I loaded up the Gigabyte disc that comes with the Mobo and it said all of the goodies are installed - but they just don't show any info apart from hardware recognition so it's Corsair Link. Note also that you can't adjust the fan curves or anything from running, you need to get into the BIOS to do that. I have no idea why this problem occurs but so far I have not even tried to fiddle with the settings. Maybe later. The BIOS is easy enough to get to, there is even a one click Overclocking setting or if you are crazy enough an advanced OC area but I won't be going there, at least for now.

Having watched some YouTube vids I got the impression that the 7980XE would suck up power and generate a lot of heat, but the results so far don't seem to support that – of course, compared to the old Mac Pro which really worked its fans hard under load (and you could hear them too) the new machine is very quiet and even when running full CPU load there is surprisingly little heat coming out the top. I suspect all that hoopla about heat and needing a liquid cooler is just to sell more liquid coolers. Mind you, I have the biggest (and best?) cooler that will fit the case too.

All of the “old” parts from this project were sold on eBay except for the liquid cooler. It seems nobody wanted to buy it, even when cheap. In contrast, the 7900X CPU sold in minutes – mind you, I was selling it at half price.
I know, you may well ask “Why didn't you just buy the parts you needed and build straight from that, wouldn't that have saved you money? “ Well, yes, quite possibly, but this is my first ever build and I was a lot more confident about transferring parts of a working unit as opposed to assembling parts from scratch. Call me cautious but I do remember a time when just getting the right PC parts to work together was an arcane art. I did not want to get stuck with a dead computer because of a noob error. For example, how do you install the BIOS software? When exactly on the assembly process? Do you even need to? There are many unknowns for me here. Maybe next time I build a new PC (five years time perhaps?) I will try it.

May 22 update
I tested the 7980XE and found that it sey off the heat alarm at over 70c – so I put the alarm up to 80c and all was well – according to CorsairLink4, the main CPU cores reach up to 84c under full load. Is that okay? I have looked online and can find nothing that tells me what is a “safe” temp for the 7980XE and on one site they said they had overclocked theirs and had it running stable at 100c !
I still think water cooling is BS: what you really gain is thermal mass, that is, the amount of water in the cooling loop can absorb a lot of heat until it reaches peak unlike an air cooler – but if you are running your system at full power for a long time (more than , say, two minutes) there is no gain at all compared to an air cooler – also, it is more complex and can make a big mess if it leaks.
My solution, the NH-D15S is plenty good enough, it seems 85c is no big deal to the system buuuuuuut. . . . . . I still want it as cool as possible so I bought a second fan to mount on the radiator.
I also put Conductonaut Thermal Grizzly metal compound on it when I fitted the 7980XE.
This is also fairly close to the original liquid cooler as it had two fans on it too, but mine are bigger and should be quieter too. I have tried to change the fan profile in the BIOS but somehow I could not do so. I must be missing something there. 

Last note:  there was one handy Mac system app that I miss: it remembered where you opened a file from and sent you back there when you went to save it again.  Why doesn't windows have that? It wastes so much time digging around looking for the same friggin' folder I was just in two minutes ago.  It seems so bleeding obvious, I seem to recall that one upon a time, the OS did that by default.

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