The Octavius Maximus build: One month on

It’s been a month since I last built my new PC RIG with a new AMD CPU, the AMD Ryzen 2700x. Along the way, I also had to get a new motherboard for the CPU, an ATX sized motherboard, which led to me having to change the CPU case to fit the new motherboard. I got the Fractal Design Meshify C case with dark tint tempered glass and the whole set up looks sweet. Impulsively, I bought another pair of G.Skill Trident Z RGB ram sticks to fill up all 4 ram slots and the whole set up is now complete.

One month on and this thing flies. Like seriously. I never thought that I could actually feel the difference in speed and responsiveness of just using the PC for day-to-day tasks compared to my previous build (Intel i5-6600) but I could actually feel the difference. This rig works like a beast. It’s like comparing a Mercedes to a monster struck. The difference is almost night and day. For the first time, I could play Assassin’s Creed Origins at 1440p 60FPS ultra settings where ever I am in the game world. Previously, I had trouble hitting 60fps in densely populated areas of the game, like city centres. The game is a CPU resource hog. Now, with the new Ryzen CPU 8 core, 16 threads, it simply crunches everything the game has to offer. I am not seeing on average just 50% CPU utilization on all cores while playing the game, as compared to 100% on just 4 cores available from my previous rig. The CPU was definitely the bottleneck in this game and I was right after upgrading the CPU.

Right now, I am extremely happy with my new build. I am now just waiting for the launch of the new Nvidia GPUs in a couple of months’ time. I am excited as to the performance increase the new GPU can push through compared to current generation GPU.

On other news, my MacBook Pro is officially one year old! How do I know? I realised I was paying the last monthly instalments for the notebook a couple of days ago. Now, this notebook is fully paid and one year on, its still performance just as great as I bought a year ago. Even the battery life is still pretty amazing. No flaws at all. Though I have to admit, I haven’t been using the notebook as intensively as I expected. I am only using it to do my school assignments and even then, they don’t come often and sometimes when I am at home, I ended up using my main PC to write my assignments. But I guess the good thing is that it looks and feels new and I can be assured that I will be using this device for a long time. After completing my studies this year, I don’t expect to use the MacBook Pro as often anymore. But that could change if the nature of my work changes.

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The Octavius Maximus Build!

When the new Ryzen’s Zen+ Ryzen CPU was officially launched last week, I pulled the trigger to get their latest 2700x, 8C/16T CPU with an accompanying motherboard. I couldn’t wait for the ITX motherboards to be released, so it was my first time getting a full ATX motherboard. Previously I mentioned that I never liked having huge gaps underneath the graphics card with all the spare and unsed PCI-E slots below it. It’s just an unnecessary waste of space. But after building the new rig, I am slowly getting used to the idea of having large empty spaces below the GPU.

With the ATX motherboard, I had to get a new case too, as the NZXT Manta wouldn’t be able to fit an ATX motherboard inside. So I got the Fractal Design Meshify C Dark Tinted Tempered Glass edition PC case. The tinted tempered glass, is surprisingly helpful in masking out the empty space below the graphics card because it darkens the entire area out, making it look like there’s no dead space in between. So you only see the GPU RGB LED and anything above it. This darkens out any hideous cabling found at the bottom of the motherboard but the downside is that the LED RGB luminence is somewhat diminished due to the nature of the tinted tempered glass. Everything inside looks darker now. But still, it give a surprisingly cleaner look that I initially expected when I built this rig.

The CPU and motherboard combo came at around S$800. I got the Asus ROG Strix X470-F motherboard, which was supposedly the second best motherboard after the Crosshair VII. It is significantly cheaper too due to less extreme overclocking tools and features usually reserved for the Crosshair series. I did encounter a problem with the motherboard when I first bought it. It simply refused to POST to BIOS. My motherboard was essentially dead on arrival. That set me back a couple of days after building the rig and finding out that the motherboard was defective. I had to wait till the coming weekday to have it exchanged for a new one. Luckily, exchanging it was one-to-one and it was quick and painless.

With that out of the way, I spent time doing some cable management before installing the newly exchanged motherboard. My weakest part of building a PC is the cable management. I find it extremely tough and annoying just to spent considering amount of time ensuring that the cables at the  back of the PC is neat and tidy. At the end of the day, it was still pretty messy, I gave up. At the bare minimum, so long as I could close the back of the PC with the steel case, without any impediments, I am happy with the results.

I resued most of the components like the RAM, storage, PSU, GPU and case fans from the previous build for this new one. The only new components were the CPU, motherboard, a couple of LED RGB case fans, and the case.

I named this build, the Octavius Maximus build. Octavius, similar to the number 8, which represents the 8 core, 16 thread CPU and the Maximus, which represent the flagship and most powerful consumer based GPU currently out there on the market, the GTX 1080ti.

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So here is my new PC specs:

Octavius Maximus PC Specifications

AMD Ryzen 2700x 8C/16T CPU 3.7GHz base clock, 4.30GHz boost clock

Asus ROG Strix X470-F ATX motherboard

G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3000MHz 32GB ram (3200MHz overclocked)

Sandisk Ultra II 480Gb SSD x2

WD 2TB HDD

AMD Prism Wraith stock cooler

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080ti 11Gb FTW3

Corsair RM650x PSU

Fractal Design Meshify C tempered glass edition.

Thermaltake Riing Floe 120mm RGB case fans x3

Dark Rage v.2 is complete

My PC upgarde is complete. Featuring an all new LED RGB RAM sticks and an EVGA 1080ti. This is Dark Rage v.2. My previous graphics card, the EVGA 1070 will be sold to a friend of mine, who is building his own gaming pc this weekend. I have offered to assist in building his rig after we get the parts at Sim Lim.

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Isn’t she a beauty?

I have decided not to do further upgrades, like the CPU and motherboard. Despite the recent official announcements by Intel on their upcoming launch of Coffeelake CPUs, I feel that the upgrade (at this moment in time) of motherboard and CPU would be a waste of money. This is because I predict that the performance increase in real world usage (primarily in gaming) would be so minimal, that it would not justify getting a brand new processor, AND a whole new motherboard. It is quite unfortunate that despite the fact that Intel is launching Coffeelake using the same LGA socket, prevous z170 and z270 motherboards are not supported. Thus, I would need to buy a whole new motherboard just to use these CPU. If it was possible, I might have considered just upgrading my CPU, while using my current motherboard.

I guess I just have to wait what AMD has to offer down the line, now that Intel has shown its hand.

Dark Rage upgrade in progress

Dark Rage, my current gaming rig is well underway. Recently I bought a new pair of RAMs from G.skill, the G.skill Trident LED RGB 16GB RAM. I bought the 3000mhz version from Newegg, and within days, it arrived at my doorstep. Installing it was easy but tricky at times because I didn’t have enough room in the case to align the new ones in. I had to go blind and hoped that the RAMs aligned perfectly. I simply remove the old RAMs (incidentally also from G.skill but the Ripjaws series, in red) and then snap the new ones in.

Then it was time to switch the PC on. Good lord the LED RGB strips lining the entire length of the RAMs was bright, colourful and glorious! One thing that stood out was how bright these individual LED diodes can emit! I could literally switch off the NZXT Hue+ LED strips lined along the edge of my case and the light from the RAM is enough to softly illuminate the PC’s internals. Overall, it was gorgeous! Why didn’t I make the plunge earlier?

The decision to upgrade my PC’s RAMs was a purely for aesthetic reasons. My old RAMs were working fine, but I decided to upgrade them to add more bling to my build. The RAMs were not cheap. RAM prices have spiked in recent months. In fact, the old RAM costs 140 bucks at the moment I bought it last year. These new ones came in at about 240 bucks. We are talking about a 100 dollar price premium over last year’s price. However there are exceptions. For one, its LED RGB, so naturally, these RAMs that I bought would definitely cost more. Secondly, the new ones are running at 3000mhz rather than 2400mhz from the old ones. So the price difference between these two pair of RAMs are not purely attributed to the global supply shortage of RAMs chips, but also having premium features not found on the old one.

Not that it matters much buying a 3000hmz RAMs, since my current motherboard can only support at RAM speeds of up to 2133hmz. I bought the faster RAMs because I initially wanted to upgrade my CPU and motherboard as well to a Ryzen system. But at the very last minute, I decided to wait out on my purchase and wait for Ryzen Zen 2 CPU architecture to launch (sometime in the second half of 2018). I have a lot of thought of whether it would be worth upgrading my CPU now but decided against it. My current i5 6500 CPU still have the muscle to perform admirably when it comes primarily in gaming. And since my rig is a gaming rig first and foremost, I don’t really need an 8 core/ 16 thread CPU just yet. I’ll let the Ryzen series chips mature a little bit more before making the plunge.

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So RAM upgrades have been completed, CPU and motherboard upgrades are put on hold. I’m only left with my graphics card.

A friend of mine decided to buy my EVGA GTX 1070 FTW card for $450. I was not warm to the idea at first since I had to plans to upgrade them. But after much consideration, I was like; why the hell not? I am in the process of upgrading my rig. And since I have decided not to upgrade my CPU and motherboard (since real-life performance improvement would not immediately be felt) I thought that upgrading the GPU might be a better choice. The performance upgrades would be substantial, and at this point of time, there have been no plans for Nvidia to release a new line of GPU anytime soon. A GTX 1080ti would be a sweet upgrade. A sweet but overkill upgrade, since I only game at 1440p. My current 1070 can do the job just fine at 60fps ultra settings. Maybe not just everything at ultra, especially in current and potential future games. So to get ahead of the curve, 1080ti would be a great investment. Now I don’t have to worry about not being able to play any games at ultra settings 60fps. I know a 1080ti would devour everything I throw at it.

 

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My EVGA GTX 1080ti FTW3 is on the way. Due to arrive on Monday, I am very excited for the moment to arrive where I will be installing the new graphics card in my rig.

After this final installation, my gaming rig upgrade will be complete and it will be Dark Rage V2.

Some clarity to my PC upgrade path

For some weeks now I have come with multiple iterations on my new gaming PC rig. Each iteration is an idea as to how my upgrade path will follow. Some of which became more expensive, some of which became cheaper. Each iteration follows a different idea of what it means for me to upgrade. What do I want to get out of it following an upgrade after having my gaming PC for a year now?

Every time a new iteration was created, I gain a little more clarity as to the sole purpose of the upgrade. In the end, I decided upon an upgrade path that salvages most of the PC parts, mainly the storage (SSD and HDD), PSU, and my beloved NZXT Manta case. It dawns upon me several factors that made me decide to choose such an upgrade path.

  1. A total overhaul is just too expensive.

I have calculated the cost it would take me to do a complete overhaul in addition to a substantial graphics card upgrade from 1070 to a 1080ti. It is very expensive. An endeavour that I would like to embark, but just goes beyond what I am able to spend on. Rationally, my current rig works perfectly. It has just passed its one year mark of usage. It is still in pristine condition and all of the parts are still working fine. Having to sell the entire rig and then build a new one from scratch is expensive, even after factoring what I can potentially earn from selling my previous rig.

2. I still find the NZXT Manta a hugely unique case in terms of design.

The NZXT Manta was space age when it was first released. And I still find it so, despite the fact that it still sports an acrylic window. Now, every case maker has gone the tempered glass route. While it is highly tempting to own a sleek, tempered glass build, the overall looks and design of the Manta, still holds dear in my heart. I simply cannot part from an ITX build, especially when using the NZXT Manta case. It is simply unlike any other.

3. Upgrade to mATX or ATX motherboard in the hopes of upgrading to an SLI build is just wishful thinking.

It is tempting to dream of a time of building an SLI build in the future. I have factored that idea in several iterations of my PC upgrade path process and still, it is deemed an extremely expensive investment. Costs aside, I have come to a conclusion and is backed by official sources from GPU makers themselves that SLI support is in decline. Several gaming enthusiasts have also highlighted the fact that owning and using an SLI build may be more trouble than it’s worth. When games no longer support SLI, your return on investments are severely curtailed. At the end of the day, spending potentially 1000 bucks or more just to have another graphics card installed for aesthetics purposes is meaningless. Therefore, I still feel that an ITX set up is perfect for my use case scenario.There is simply no need to spend unnecessarily on a second graphics card.

I have gained a little more clarity in my upgrade path now. Even the cost of it has gone down significantly. For example, I have calculated that a complete overhaul of the system (getting a brand new gaming PC) would cost me $2571, excluding graphics card (the reason why I exclude graphics card is that the GTX 1070 is still hugely relevant in gaming and there is technically no need to upgrade). However, If I were to simply upgrade my current gaming PC, the Dark Rage build to a Dark Rage ver.2.0, it would cost me $1242. I would be saving around $1300 just from upgrade Dark Rage alone. The only thing that I would need to upgrade is a new CPU, (I am going for AMD Ryzen 7 1700, more on that in another post in the future) motherboard, AIO cooler RGB RAM, and a couple of RGB fans. That’s it. With the new upgrade, especially the AIO and RGB fans and RGB, my upgrade rig will look even better. Dark Rage ver.2.0 would closely resemble the ideal build I have always dreamed off for my Manta. That way, I can enjoy my Manta case for a couple more years until something better than a Manta comes along the way. Who knows, maybe NZXT may release Manta 2.0 with a curved tempered glass build. That would be wicked! So why AMD? Well, for a couple of reason, but I will explain them in another post someday.

 

PC upgrade woes

Ever since AMD released their latest line of ‘Zen” CPUs, the CPU landscape has never looked so exciting in a long time. With competition from the red camp, Intel is now upping its game in pushing forward the release schedule of their latest ‘Coffeelake” CPU, the 8th Generation of new CPU from Intel that is rumoured to launch in the 5th of October. Consumer now have a myriad of CPU choices from both the blue and red team. And both of them are offering, or will be offering excellent CPUs at every segment of the PC market. Anything from the most budget conscious consumer, to the PC enthusiasts, or someone who wants the best of the best to maximise their productivity.

That has led to some upgrade woes for me. With so many choices, I am faced with so many issues in choosing the ideal parts for my next build and making sure that they all play nicely without any hardware, software or even physical conflicts with one another, especially when you are actually building a new rig from scratch. With so many offerings, all clamouring for your attention, it is very difficult to separate the signal from the noise.

One good way to do that, is to question yourself critcally; what would be the ultimate use of your upcoming PC rig? What will it ultimately be used for, for most of the time that it is switched on?

Suprisingly, I haven’t been able to answer that question myself, despite the fact that no matter how I use my new gaming rig, there will always be a build that is suited for it.

I play games on my PC. That is the primary use when building a gaming rig. Sounds straightforward. Get a decent performance CPU (no need to get the highest end model with the highest core count or clockspeed) and invest more of your money to getting a good GPU that will get decent framerates at maximum setting over a 1440p resolution screen. That is my set up at the end of the day.

However that is another use of my PC, one that does not involve gaming, but rather, involves donating idle computing time to useful causes through Boinc. Boinc is a platform that allows users to pick a project from a list, (scientific or otherwise) and donate your computer’s processing power (either from the CPU or GPU, or both at the same time), to help people in cruching mathematically complex data for useful causes. It could be as noble as climate change model modelling, chemistry and protein-protein interaction modelling, or to a more benign project like searching for signal out in space for intelligent life (SETI) to a downright hobbyist type like finding the largest prime number.

And so I find donating my spare processing power for the benefit of mankind to be a noble cause. Afterall, it’s easy to set up. Just download Boinc, and choose a project that you think is interesting to you and you are well on your way to potentially contributing meaningfully to society, all while sitting on your desk behind your monitor.

Therefore, having a more powerful PC would greatly help in the cause. That is where the conflict arises. I don’t need a powerful PC to enjoy my games, and yet, I want to build a rather powerful one, because I find using Boinc and crunching scientific data for good a cause to be fun.

So which is it, to spend more on a more powerful rig, or simply save money and get a decent specced gaming rig?

My idea of a power rig involves multicore CPUs with adequate cooling (preferably water cooled) and at least 2 powerful graphics card. But adding just another graphics card costs a lot of money and will definintely increase your overall budget on a PC considerably. Do I want to walk down that path.

And thus, this is my source of my dilemma. I simply cannot decide. Of course, there are other smaller problems when it comes to upgrading your PC. Do you salvage parts from your previous PC, or do you sell off the entire rig? What parts can I salvage? Do I want to start from scratch and create something different? Or do I want to stick to largely the same build but just some beefier parts? Each has it’s own pros and cons.

Personally, I want to upgrade. I really do. It’s just a matter or which path to choose and then sticking to that path and commit myself in choosing the correct parts that would bring me the greatest benefit without breaking the bank. And once I am on that path, I must not regret that decision. It is hard to know where I will go. I have never dont a PC upgrade before. I don’t know what are some of the considerations when making an upgrade. For example, is it more feasible to sell the entire rig and start from scratch, or is it better to sell off certain parts and salvaging others to add to my new rig? How do I go about doing it efficiently and effectively?

I still love my rig. It still performs extremely well. Given a choice to upgrade one component, I would most definitely go with the graphics card. I do fancy a shiny new GTX 1080ti. It’s overkill for gaming over 1440p, but at least with a 1080ti, number crunching would be faster by a slight margin, and when it comes to GPUs, one can always bring it forward to whatever future gaming rigs you are going to build.