Monday, March 17, 2008

Followup to CPU temperature and PSU fan

On March 11, 2008 I mentioned that my power supply is mounted such that its fan draws air above the CPU heat sink and exhausts it to cool the CPU. The computer case also has the option of mounting the power supply such that it draws air from the top of the case so the power supply can breathe cooler air from outside the case. I wondered what would be the difference between the two configurations for my CPU temperature. It turned out to be a huge difference.

The original configuration where the PSU help cool the CPU, I call configuration 1. The second configuration where the PSU only cools itself, is configuration 2.

Config 1
@Idle: 36C
@Load: 50C

Config 2
@Idle: 60C

During testing in configuration 2, I let the computer idle and waited for the temperature to settle. It kept going up and once it hit 60, the BIOS alarm starts to go off because that's the current setting. I thought this is too high to be acceptable and didn't proceed to test the temperature at loading condition.

From this comparison, it is obvious that the CPU heat sink needs a good amount of air flow to cool efficiently. Since it doesn't have its own fan, it relies on other fans in the system to move air through its fins. There are two small exhaust fans at one side of the heat sink, but I think the vertical air movement is much more important than horizontal ones in cooling the heat sink.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Graphics Benchmark

I ran 3DMark06 on my old computer and my new computer.

The old computer has a score of 211 for 3D performance with shader model 2.0 and CPU score of 686. The overall score is 448.

The new computer has a score of 397 for 3D performance with shader model 2.0 and CPU score of 2101. The overall score is 1227.

The motherboard vendor claims that they could get a score of 1500, maybe that's with a more powerful CPU? The performance of the onboard graphics is related to the amount and speed of onboard RAM, so if I can overclock the RAM and the GPU core then maybe I can do better.

What if I add another Radeon HD 3870? Looking at other benchmark results with the same CPU and with the HD 3870, scores range from 8258 to 12355, with 3D performance of at least 10x improvement from my results. That's a pretty drastic difference! The 3D rendering used in the benchmark would go from my 3 frames per second to 30 frames per second. Looks like if I want to enjoy any recent games I would need to get that extra graphics acceleration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Building New Computer - Photos

I finally got around to downloading pictures from my digital camera. Now I can document the process of building my new computer. Eariler on February 29 I already mentioned the parts I ordered, now I will show the photos I took along the way to putting them together.

Here is the case; Thermaltake Lanbox Lite. It has clear windows on the left and right side panels. The whole box is steel construction with platic front panel. It is kind of heavy compare to my old Lian-Li PC-60 which is all aluminum. After using aluminum for many years I think steel case offer better acoustics in terms of noise damping.

The side panels have plenty of vents for fresh air to go into the case.

To open the case, unscrew all the thumb screws in the back and remove the top panel first by sliding it towards the back. The back panel slides out along with the motherboard tray. The drive bay cage can be removed from the top by undoing two thumb screws, but the power supply bracket requires a screw driver to undo the 6 small screws. The side panels don't come off but it is possible to remove the clear windows without any tool. The windows come protected with a plastic sheets on both sides and can be pulled off easily.

The front panel air intake is a perforated sheet metal fixed to the plastic panel. I think it will be difficult to clean when dust builds up. I think the only reason you need to remove the front panel is to take the drive bay cover off.

The power supply packaging has a lot of information. This is Enermax Infiniti 720W. I think it's pretty overkill for my system but I like its other features.

The motherboard; Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H. It came with a free game Stranglehold when ordering from ClubIT. The box is smaller than usual because it is microATX instead of the ATX I used to get.

The motherboard came with the usual accessories: I/O shield back plate, FDD, PATA, SATA cables, driver CD, and manual.

This photo shows the motherboard installed onto the motherboard tray. Next to it is the power supply attached to the power supply bracket.

The AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition in a nice package. This CPU is designed for people like me, so it doesn't come with a heatsink and fan. People like me will most likely replace the stock heatsink and fan right out of the box anyway.

This is a closeup of the CPU once it is removed from its outside box.

Here the CPU is placed into its socket and locked in. Notice that the stock heatsink bracket has been replaced by the special brakets supplied by Thermalright.

Here I have applied Arctic Silver thermal paste to the CPU.

The CPU heatsink; Thermalright SI-128, unpackaged. The heatsink is huge. Although I have read reviews saying this thing is huge, I was still surprised by its size when I actually held it in my hands.

The heatsink came with some thermal paste but I bought Arctic Silver separately so I didn't use this one.

The heatsink is attached to the CPU. There is very little room left above the heat sink before touching the power supply. The power supply bottom surface starts at the top of those exhaust fans.

Next is the RAM; Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 1GB x 2 for a total of 2GB RAM. These come with standard heat spreader.

I was surprised that these actually fit even if I plug them into the slot close to the heatsink. Originally I thought the heatsink would render the first slot useless, but I was wrong.

This photo shows that you can use the first two slots with these memory modules but the space between the RAM and the heat sink is very tiny.

I decided to put the RAM in slots 3 and 4 to allow more room to breathe.

The optical drive is a DVD-+RW with Lightscribe from ASUS. Pretty standard drive. Lightscribe is a feature that allows writing disc labels directly using the DVD drive. I have not tried it so I am not sure how well it works.

The harddrive is Western Digital Raptor X 150GB. It has a clear window to show its operation. Basically you can tell when it is spinning and when the read-write head is moving and making a lot of noise. Its seeking noise is definitely louder than my older Maxtor DiamondMax drives but at idle it is quieter than my case fans.

Here is another photo for the back of the Raptor X.

The drives fit nicely into the drive bay cage.

Here I show that there is still a lot of space left behind the harddrive so I think I can put a harddrive fan in this space to help cool the drive, if necessary. It turns out that the drive temperature is about 40C so I think even without a cooler it will be fine for many years.

After connecting the drives and front panel I/O to the motherboard, and hooked up all power supply lines, I took another picture before putting the top cover back on. Notice that I mounted the power supply with the fan facing down. I didn't take advantage of the vent holes above the power supply. This way, the CPU heatsink should get extra cooling from the power supply exhaust fan. If I have time I could try to mount the power supply the other way to see if there is any difference in CPU temperature.

This is the assembled new computer from the side. The side panel shows the Raptor X harddrive nicely.

It boots! This motherboard comes with BIOS version F1 and I was able to update it to the new version F3E using Gigabyte's @BIOS utility.

The integrated graphics and sound are sufficient for now. I tried playing Call of Duty 4 demo and the game is playable at medium-to-low settings. I am going to run 3DMark06 to see how it compares to my old computer and also to see how much better it should get if I add another graphics card.

Internet Speed

We are using the free internet provided by the apartment complex and we've had many complaints about its reliability and speed. I use Visual Wave's software to test for the speed and it tells me my download is 500 kbps and upload is 38 kbps. Using, the best I can see is 534 kbps download and 63 kbps upload. I remember doing similar tests before when we still have Road Runner cable internet service and the download was 10 times and upload was 5 times the current speed.

Compare that to what I get in my office; 17604 kbps download and 6311 kbps upload, that's at least 30 times faster than what I have at home.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New computer overclock

Yesterday I put together my new computer and installed Windows XP. Today I took a screen shot of its speed settings at stock speeds. The picture says it all. One thing that confused me for a while was my DDR2-800 was running at 371MHz instead of the 400MHz I was expecting. It turns out that if the CPU is running with a multiplier of 13x then the divider for memory is 7 and not 6.5 because it was designed to be integer divider. The CPU and system temperatures are looking good. The room is at 25C and the system temperature is at 37C with CPU at 31C. The new harddrive tells me its temperature is at 38C which is like the system temperature.

I got a black screen when I try to run Speed Fan while these hardware monitors were still running. Maybe too many things try to poll the system temperature and fan speed and caused a crash.

I overclocked it to 2.8GHz and so far it still runs and the temperature is only 1C higher. Interestingly CPU core0 is 10C higher in temperature than core1. This is true still when I load the CPU and they go up to 58C and 48C. I found some people saying the CPU core temperature reporting is wrong in this generation of CPUs. I guess the motherboard CPU temperature sensor is more trustworthy and it shows 53C when I load the CPU with Prime95. There is a third temperature sensor on the motherboard and it starts at 80C at idle and 108C at load. That is really odd. I think it is for the integrated GPU temperature but I am pretty sure it's not that hot.