New PC Build And Overclocking
Disassemble & Clean
As you all know, Catreina purchased components for the new pc build during the week of Thanksgiving in the US. She received the components and proceeded to rebuild the 6 year-old gaming PC with the new parts through December 2nd and 3rd. The case was really dusty and all the fans needed massive cleaning, but that was not the bulk of the time required. The radiator fins on the CPU heat-sink, a Noctua NH-D14 installed in a bottom-to-top airflow orientation, were totally filled with dust and deformed due to their weight pulling on each tube separately instead of all at once.
The cleaning process was performed in three steps: Disassemble CPU heat-sink, remove components, and wash applicable components. The first step, removing the CPU heat-sink, involved taking the fans off the Noctua’s radiator fins, then disconnecting the heat-sink from the CPU housing. After this was completed, Catreina began the process of removing remaining components: six hard drives, DVD-Rom drive, RAM, video card, and power supply. Once these were removed a full cleaning, and washing, of all components was performed. The washing was for the outside of components with a clean dry cloth, except for the hard drives (slightly wetted cloth) and the heat-sink (threw that in the dishwasher for a full cleaning cycle). The inside of the case was then vacuumed clean of all the residual dust that was present. From start to finish, this process took approximately 6 hours, with cleaning taking 70-75% of the total time required.
Catreina received an XFX Radeon R9 390 GPU, a MSI Z97X-SLI Motherboard, an Intel i7-4790k CPU, an XFX TS850 PSU, a HyperX Cloud II Headset, 2 2x4GB G.Skill Ripjaws 1600 MHz, as well as a Toshiba 2TB HDD and Corsair TX850W (both not shown). Without the means to buy a fully new PC build, concessions on the monitor (she is still using one instead of two), the mouse, the case and case fans were made. However, the case is still a beast and keeps the components cool, given the ambient temperature is lower than 80°F.
With the new component parts unboxed, the old components removed, the case fans cleaned and reinstalled, and the case empty of all dust, Catreina began the upgrade. The motherboard required the CPU to be installed, and the Noctua harness to be installed prior to securing the motherboard to the case. One slight issue with the GA-Z97X-SLI motherboard and the CoolerMaster HAF-932 case – the motherboard is slightly off-size, and as a result, there is a small overhang where no securing screws can be placed of about 1/2″. This is only a concern when inserting the 12v power or the first two sticks of RAM, as the motherboard can and will flex with the pressure.
Installing the rest of the components, however, was a breeze. The power supply was next up, and installation in the HAF-932 was smooth and clean, as expected. While the Corsair CMPSU-850TX had wiring that was well-suited for airflow, the XFX Core Edition PRO850W only uses similar airflow cable encapsulation for the 12v power cable. The rest of the cabling is easily positioned to prevent airflow restriction, though this missing feature is likely a result of the difference in style of PSU: the Corsair is a gaming enthusiast version, while the XFX is simply a core version. The video card was a breeze as well, though the new PSU required use of a two 6-pin to 8-pin adapter, as the provided 6+2 pin connectors were a bit cumbersome to deal with.
After the power supply, hard drives needed to be installed. The original build had two ‘system’ drives in a mirror (2 x 320 GB WD Caviar Green) and four ‘data’ drives in two Raid 0 stripes (640 GB WD Caviar Black) for games and video editing. This allowed for 2.3 TB of data storage, and 300 GB of system storage. The new build planned to use one of the 640 GB drives alone as the new system drive, and the newly purchased Toshiba 2 TB drive as a combined games and video editing drive. A USB bootable test-drive Ubuntu system was used to migrate data from the selected 640 GB drive onto the new 2 TB drive, after which Windows was installed to complete data migration.
One big problem with the migration was found when Catreina realized that a 2 TB drive was not large enough to hold all of the current data and still allow for more use. Because of this, she decided to use one of the old striped raid sets, two 640 GB drives, in the new build as a separate data drive. This became complicated in its own right when the two drives were detected as different sizes, preventing a raid array from being created. It is because of this that Catreina now has five drives plus the DVD drive (plus an Alcohol 120% virtual drive). The main system drive is still the 640 GB drive that was originally a part of the games drive, the new games drive is the 2 TB Toshiba, and the original games drive raid array has been split into two new drives. One of these drives is now an “administration” drive: space dedicated to website and networking shares; the second drive is now the video editing drive, which gives Catreina a much lower overhead for making videos before having to delete any. The fifth drive in the new build is the old windows drive, being used only for making sure installs have the same settings they did prior to the upgrade. This drive will be removed in the future, and may be replaced with the final 640 GB drive as a secondary video editing drive.
The new build came with a factory overclock for the R9 390. The GPU is factory overclocked Hawaii chipset, which leaves little room for overclocking by default. With this in mind, Catreina opted to overclock the memory from 1500 MHz to 1650 MHz and the core from the factory overclock of 1015 MHz to 1100 MHz (just < 10% increase). After this was completed, Catreina then took to overclocking the CPU and system memory. Catreina began the dedicated CPU overclock with memory overclocking a required additional option. The G.Skill Ripjaws 1600 MHz are excellent for overclocking to 1866 MHz, but Catreina could not find any information concerning an overclock to 2000 MHz or 2133 MHz on the memory. The CPU overclock had some interesting results as well.
At first, Catreina attempted to set a CPU overclock of 4.8 GHz. The system seemed stable enough at this setup, with the BIOS set to automatically set voltages as appropriate; the BIOS even has a built-in i7-4890K setting for overclocking to 4.6 or 4.8 GHz! When testing however, the temperature at idle for the CPU jumped from a cool 30°C at 4.4 GHz (dedicated OC) to a comfortable but slightly concerning 48°C at 4.8 GHz. Upon further testing, Catreina realized that an overclock to 4.7 GHz, FSB at 100 MHz and CPU multiplier at 47, she could have the CPU running at a very respectable 30°C when idle (it has to be noted that MSI Afterburner shows this temperature ~34°C). The image to the right shows the Gigabyte App Center’s Hardware Monitoring at idle, with bus speeds and multipliers shown.
Processor Under Load
When testing overclock CPUs under load the temperature, thermal paste application, and the effectiveness of the heat-sink are all factors. At idle, the i7-4790k was running a cool 30°C, but what would it show under load? Would the Noctua be effective enough for a decent overclock, and if not, how hard would Catreina have to drop the processor speed to compensate?
After testing, it was obvious that the processor and heat-sink would be more than adequate for the overclock. Even if Catreina set the overclock to 4.8 GHz and dealt with the idle temperature of 48°C, under load it would still be distant of the danger zone of 90°C, and may hit 85°C while under full load. However, due to the difference in temperatures at idle, the 4.7 GHz overclock and full load temperature of just under 80°C, Catreina is confident that this setup is acceptable and will remain stable under the harshest gaming environments.
With the new pc build came a new video card, and a mighty upgrade it is. The XFX Radeon R9 390 comes factory default with a 1015 MHz Core clock and a 1500 MHz memory clock. The Hawaii chipset, according to everything Catreina has read, does not have a lot of headroom for Core overclocking. With that in mind, she overclocked the Core (1015 MHz to 1116 MHz) and Memory (1500 to 1650 MHz) by 10%, with no additional power provided for the overclock. As seen in the screenshot of MSI Afterburner, the GPU idles at just over 35°C, which is acceptable given the overclock.
GPU Under Load
While Furmark is not a definitive test for GPU load, it is a good starting point to fine-tune your GPU overclock for temperature baselines. With the XFX Radeon R9 390 8 GB, Catreina used Furmark to verify that the overclock was not dangerous. Over the course of the past two days, she has run Furmark for approximately 2 hours in three separate tests. The screenshot to the right is the result of the third such instance, and shows that the video card is quite capable of managing the current overclock specifications. The temperatures especially are telling, given that the video card ran with an idle temperature of ~35°C, and only hit ~70°C during the Furmark tests, with a peak of just under 75°C for a second.
With the results from the Furmark / Kombustor in hand, Catreina investigated and found that AMD and nVidia have been underclocking their drivers to stop Furmark from working at more than ~50% clock speed. This is the cause for the core clock display at 759 MHz. With this new information, Catreina performed a 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 run with a score of 11,167. After this, Catreina performed a UniGine Heaven and Valley benchmarks, with the results seen to the right.