26 May 2009

interesting case

The xClio 1000:

All the fans change from red to green to blue and mix em up. Massive case, only £180...

25 May 2009


So, I'm getting into the groove with this benchmarking thing. I have an optimised set up for 2D and 3D benchmarks, and over the week have benched the following:


Core i7 920 D0

GPUs: (w/ Core i7 920 D0 @ 4.1Ghz)

X550 256mb
X800 XL
X1900 XT
2x4670 in CF
2x4850 in CF
GTX 280

And thus the following results were garnered:

2D Stock:

2D Overclocked:

2D Combined:

3D Overall:

3D OC vs. OC, Stock vs. Stock:

In all graphs, the higher score is better :)

Calculation of 2D scores:
a) Take the highest time for test X out of my hardware
b) Divide each CPU time by highest time = score
c) Add all scores together for all tests

Calculation of 3D scores:
a) Take the best score for test X out of my hardware
b) Divide each test score by highest score, make a %
c) Add all % for all tests, max 500 points.

Interesting observations:

- The Core i7 blasts an overclocked Core 2 Duo E6400 out of the water.
- One 4670 isn't that good at gaming, however 2x4670 at stock beats a 4850 at stock.
- The GTX 280 is better at older benchmarks. However, 2x4850 at stock beats the GTX280 overclocked for a cheaper price.

24 May 2009

benchmark update

Just a small update, given I haven't written anything. HELLFIRE is still set up as a test rig; I'm currently chugging through all my previous graphics cards. Most are setting personal bests :) Also got some modified graphics to post.

And it looks like:

2x 4670 in CF > 1x 4850
2x 4850 in CF > 1x GTX280

Also, how come I get some monster memory overclocks?? =P More details soon.

21 May 2009

corsair products

Now to talk about Corsair - a well known manufacturer of PSUs, RAM, TEC Coolers and other stuff.

First of all, my initial impression of Corsair was tainted when I was searching for some decent DDR2 RAM back in January - a fair few of Corsair products had negative reviews purely based on 1066 Mhz RAM not performing as it should. People mentioned that it was just 800Mhz rebranded at slower timings and higher voltage.

Now, with the SCAN event in Bolton last Saturday, the couple of BenchTec guys were saying Corsair this, Corsair that. Also, a guy from Corsair was at the event.

The big rave from BenchTec was two fold - PSUs, and DDR3 RAM. The PSU being heralded was the HX 1000W:

It's a modular piece of kit, that is regarded as one of the best PSUs money can buy. 1000W at 50 degrees C, 80A on a single rail, 6 6+2-pin PCI-E connectors, 5-year warranty, the lot. So it looks nice, and performs well. There is one downside - the price. £190 per unit is a large pill to swallow when you're on a budget. In essence, that could be a whole system right there, if not most of one.

So if I was to get one, I'd go for the next one down - the TX 850W model.

Still 80%+ efficient, 4 6+2-pin PCI-E connectors, 5 year warranty, 850W @ 50 deg.C. However, it isn't modular - BUT only £115. At least in my opinion, that's more like it.

Now onto the subject of RAM. I did a little research for this, and basically I can sum it up in a phrase - Corsair make the ultimate RAM for benchmarking. Their flagship product is the DDR3 Dominator GT:

Rated at 2000Mhz and 7-8-7-18 1T timings, these blow everything else out of the water. Take my current G.Skill - 1333Mhz and 8-8-8-24 timings; that is a HUGE difference. The guy from Corsair said that for every 100 kits they aim to make of this GT stuff, only one kit actually passes (the rest get rated at lower speed). So it's crafted, hand tested, and looks good. Now comes the downside - again, price. A 3GB kit seems to be almost non-existent in the UK, but retails for $300 USD. The 6GB kit is around $540/£300. Again, a tough pill to swallow.

For good performance with a tighter budget, there are the 1866Mhz 9-9-9-24 Corsair Dominator kits for £125.

A friend pointed out that an increase of 1-1-1 in timings requires approx 150Mhz on the clock to get similar performance (I haven't done the math, but it seems fair). So if we raise the bar on each kit to 10-10-10, what would the speed be?

(£300) 6GB Corsair Dom GT: 2000 7-8-7 -> 2400 10-10-10
(£206) 6GB Corsair Dom: 1866 9-9-9 -> 2016 10-10-10
(£42) 6GB G.Skill 1333 8-8-8 -> 1633 10-10-10

That's a serious price to pay for quality RAM...

18 May 2009

the last post

Is an entry to a competition run by Thecus :) Post their press release on your blog, and 5 lucky people win one. Cheap advertising to Thecus, potentially free loot for 5 lucky people. =P

Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device

Thecus® Unveils the N0204 miniNAS Device
"The tiny RAID-enabled portable network storage device with big ideas"

Thecus N0204 NAS03/30/2009 – Big things are happening in the world of NAS devices. Today, Thecus® is proud to introduce the N0204 miniNAS device – the world’s smallest fully-featured NAS device.

Measuring a tiny 132 x 88 x 63 mm exterior, one could easily mistake the N0204 as a regular external hard drive. But look closer and you will see a very capable two-bay NAS device that fits right in the palm of your hand. The N0204 houses two 2.5” SATA hard disks, providing up to 1TB of storage. You can manage this storage with your choice of RAID 0, 1, and JBOD, making the N0204 the most robust pocketable storage device in existence. And because its drive bays are hot-swappable and feature auto-rebuild, you can change a hard disk without powering down the unit. The N0204 even comes with Thecus®’ Nsync for remote replication as well as the Thecus® Backup Utility for total data security. With huge storage, RAID functionality, and advanced data safeguards packed into a tiny device, the N0204 miniNAS is in a class all its own.

Tiny but mighty, the N0204 comes with many of the features and functionality possessed by its much larger cousins. For starters, the N0204 can function as a complete media hub with its built-in iTunes server, photo web server, and media server. With the built-in media server, you can enjoy your videos, pictures, and music with the N0204 by using any DLNA compliant media players. Plug in a USB web cam, and the N0204 turns into the world’s tiniest home surveillance server, allowing you to preview, capture and schedule image snapshots up to 640 x 480. Add to that support for both Windows and MAC OS operating systems and a whole new user friendly Windows Utility to easily set up and link the N0204 with your PC, and you’ve got some serious storage that you can whip out of your pocket and plug into virtually any network.

The N0204 miniNAS is a marvel of engineering. With advanced energy-saving capabilities, the N0204 only uses between 25~30% of the power compared to traditional two-bay NAS devices. You can even schedule power on/off for better power management. The N0204 also features whisper-quiet cooling, which means low temperatures and even lower noise during daily operation. A convenient USB 2.0 port in the front and the one-touch copy allow you to copy the contents of a USB storage device to the N0204 with a single button press. You can also copy data from the N0204 to any USB disk for data exchange. The N0204 supports USB printers, external hard disks, USB web cam, and even works with USB WLAN adaptors, allowing you to give this tiny NAS device wireless capability.

A complete NAS device in a form factor smaller than a paperback book, the N0204 miniNAS proves that great things do indeed come in tiny packages.

"When we tell people what the N0204 miniNAS can do, the most common reaction is disbelief followed by awe,” notes Thecus General Manager Florence Shih. "We've essentially created a fully-functional NAS device in a package that you can take anywhere. With the N0204, you can enjoy the power and convenience of NAS storage anywhere life takes you."

For more information on the N0204, check out:

day out at SCAN with BenchTec UK

On Saturday, BenchTec UK, Hexus and SCAN teamed up in the SCAN shop in Bolton to do a day of overclocking. I traveled 4 hours each way - it was fantastic. Free stuff and getting info on OCing was great.

Also, I should not be allowed the camera. I always get goofy grins on camera:

Though it was a thoroughly good day. A shame that the room was too warm to get some awesome results, but everyone there had fun :)

Link to the other photos:


I have some videos too I'll put up soon :)

the i7 build

Got to work on HELLFIRE thursday night.

Setup: EX58-UD3R, i7 920 D0, 3x1GB GSkill DDR3-1333, Akasa Nero

The Akasa Nero comes with a piddly 12cm Akasa fan:

So I strapped my 200CFM Delta fan on it:

Went to 3.7Ghz/185BLCK without any issues - just upping BCLK. RAM was set on auto SPD timings, but ran at 1480Mhz.

For 190BCLK I put the RAM down a ratio, also lowered the voltages on the core.

Had to up some voltages for 195BCLK, but w32 under 7 seconds:

All the time I was thinking temperatures. Using Real Temp 3.0, they were hitting 74-ish.

Going to 200BCLK, and the motherboard kept rebooting, no matter what settings I put it to. Until I put a few setting on Auto on the motherboard, then it booted first time. Went back to the mobo with those settings, put them in, and it failed to boot. WTF?

For 205BCLK, upped Vcore to 1.2875V:

Managed to get the timings for RAM down to 7-6-7-15 at 1230Mhz, but not done any benchmarks with it.

Using the EasyTune, put it up to 210BClk, got a cpuz:

But running any wPrime caused it to hang. Choosing 210 in the BIOS and it failed to start. I don't really want it getting hotter; I mean 75ºC is a bit toasty for me. Might clock back to 3.7 for day to day work.

Kept track of wPrime scores and settings:

EDIT: Since I wrote this, I went on the BenchTec/SCAN performance day in Bolton - got some good tips and I'll be redoing the overclock.

13 May 2009

i7 enabled, the birth of HELLFIRE

Yes, I've monitoring prices fervently, as well as my bank balance, to see what I could upgrade to.

This week, the CM Storm Scout reduced in price again, to £81.99. This, coupled with a £99.99 1.5TB hard-drive, would have been ideal as an upgrade path.

Though today brought about something different. Something epic.

Since the last update, I read a review over at Tom's Hardware regarding the CoolIt ALC. Overall, they concluded that a big air cooler was far better than the small ALC water cooler, and less of a fiddle to sort out. Then I saw this review, comparing all the major socket-1366 air coolers available at the minute. Two coolers stood out - a Thermaltake eXtreme for the enthusiast, and the Akasa Nero for the mainstream. At £60+ for the former, and £30 for the latter, the review showed that there was barely 5ºC between the two at full load (I should mention that the Noctua enthusiast cooler came 2nd in its category). At the end of the day, if a £30 Akasa performs similar to a £75 CoolIt, I'll take the Akasa and pocket the difference.

Also since the last update, my beloved XFX board I was after went up in price to £200. That was a bit of a bummer. So the task was to find a cheaper motherboard with a 3xPCI-E interface. Luckily, Overclockers had the Asus P6T motherboard, also 3xPCI-E, on sale at £165. I was thinking that is a result! Normally the cheapest board is the Gigabyte EX58-UD3R - a 2xPCI-E board with a unique 3+1 RAM setup (standard for LGA-1366 is 3+3) - at £170. Then, whilst searching on Overclockers, I came across their B-Grade section. B-Grade usually means 'ships with limited warranty, or scruffy box, or no cables, or no manuals, or all of the above'. But lo-and-behold, was the Gigabyte EX58-UD3R for £115. This was a bargain not to be missed.

jabski at BenchTec UK gave a review of the EX58-UD3R using a Noctua CPU cooler with a Core i7 920 D0; showing how he achieved 221BCLKx21 = 4.6Ghz. In reality, a 4Ghz stable system for day-to-day showed more likely - that's still a 50% overclock.

Also at Overclockers, they've added some G.Skill RAM in their lineup. Some 3x1GB DDR3-1333 joy came at the low price of £29. The 3x2GB set was £43, but I conjectured that I may want some DDR3-1866Mhz at a later date (£95), so save some money for then. Plus I use XP, so 2.5GB would be wasted.

If you hadn't guessed by now, this means I went ahead and bought a Core i7 setup :)

CPU: Core i7 920 (2.66Ghz), D0 Stepping (£241.99)
Mobo: Gigabyte EX58-UD3R (£114.99)
RAM: 3x1GB G.Skill DDR3-1333 (£28.99)
CPU Cooler: Akasa Nero (£30.99)

Plus shipping, this came to £423; about £122 less than my previous estimates of minimum requirements. Bargain. As long as the motherboard works first time :) Actually, I ordered this stuff, and it was dispatched 30 minutes later. How cool is that?

The question also arises on what to call my new beast. At first I thought of 'Scyther' - an edgy name which conjures up pictures of ninja, or Pokémon, depending on how your brain works. My brother thought of Sarge, given that at some point I'll want the CM Storm Scout case which is black and a bit militaristic. However in retrospect, Scyther does make me think of the green pokemon; and Sarge just as a word has never felt right with me. I thought of 'The Colonel', or 'Apache', however images of fried chicken and red indians followed suit. Given that the Scout uses red fans, and I want a militaristic and edgy name, I settled on HELLFIRE. The name itself is quite epic when you write it in all caps, and is the name of at least one type of missile. Like HAL, I'll abbrev. to HF for short (which yes, does look like 'Have Fun' - which I will do building it).

Several downsides to ordering this stuff in this order - I'm now one case short to put HAL, as HF will go in the Verre V770 til I get the CM Scout. I'm also a PSU short, so HAL wont be running. For BOINC, I'll probably put the 2x4850 in Dutchie in HF, and the GTX280 into Dutchie.

Though it does make it easier when I look at the next upgrades I want (in no particular order):

3x2GB OCZ DDR3-1866Mhz RAM (£95)
CM Storm Scout (£82)
CM Elite 335 (£30)
1.5TB HDD for HK (£100)
22"-24" montor (£120-200)
64GB SSD (£150)
2x4830 for BOINC/HAL (£150)

So, welcome to HELLFIRE :)

7 May 2009


For some reason, I can't stop looking at potential upgrade paths, or hardware to benchmark.

I've 3 processors I've identified as easy benchmarking points. However two are £60, one is £160. One I could use to replace my 5050e, however I'd need to sell my 5050e then to recoup some money.

The CM Storm Scout case is now only £90, but still not officially released yet.

I'm holding off on the CoolIt ALC until I get an i7.

An i7 starting cost is 220+175+45+75+30 = £545 for all the important components.

I can't upgrade my HAL mobo to a Foxconn BlackOps, which costs £155, because I'd have to buy some Dual kit DDR3 RAM, another £80. Don't know what I'd do with the MSI mobo or DDR2-1066 RAM.

I could upgrade the mobo in Dutchie to a K9A2 for £110 which would give me quad PCI-e slots for crunching, and a 4850 is only £90 delivered now. However the BOINC work situation at MilkyWay is still flaky. I could sell or keep the ALiveXFire-eSata2 though.

24" monitor is around £200, with 20,000:1 contrast ratio and HDMI connectivity.

A 1.5TB HDD now is only £100. However the 64GB Samsung SSD is £150.

I'm thinking of giving myself a budget of £200-£250 for the rest of the quarter.

What would you get?

6 May 2009

benchmarks in graphical form

Having played around with Excel (because I don't have Origin), I now have some graphs to show you the results of my various benchmarking.

First of all, the 2D Benchmarks:

The graph for this can be found over at http://borandi.googlepages.com/benchmarking:

BLUE = Singlethreaded Apps: PiFast, 1m SuperPi, 32m SuperPi
RED = Multithreaded Apps: wPrime 32m, wPrime 1024m
* = Not all benchmarks complete

I've decided to leave PCMark05 out of this, as it depends too much on the processor and hard drive used.

The slowest time is set as the max time, and all the scores are scaled to it. So if chip A takes 120 seconds, and chip B takes 30 seconds, chip B is rated 30/120 = 0.25

So for these benchmarks, LOWER IS BETTER.

The 3D Benchmarks:

The graph for this can be found over at http://borandi.googlepages.com/benchmarking2:

* = not all benchmarks completed yet

In these benchmarks, every score is normalised to the best score. So if GPU A gets 12000 points on a benchmark, and GPU B gets 6000 points, GPU B gets 12000/6000 = 0.5 points.

In these benchmarks, HIGHER IS BETTER.

i7 or not i7

I'm wondering what to do now. Put simply I have the following upgrade paths:

Common to both options:

GFX: 2xXFX 4830
PSU: 600W
HDD: *WD Raptor
Case: CM Storm Scout/CM Elite 335

Option 1: Core i7

CPU: Core i7 (2.66Ghz) D0 Stepping
Mobo: XFX MB (3 PCI-E x16)
RAM: 3GB DDR3 1600Mhz
CPU Cooler: CoolIt ALC

Option 2: Core2Quad

CPU: Quad core, very rare on HWBot (so I'm not saying yet)
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L
RAM: *4GB DDR2 1066Mhz
CPU Cooler: Asus Extreme

* indicates already own

Basically, when I upgrade, I have to decide what to do with HAL. If I'm to use it as a crunching machine, I need a couple of 4830s or something in there, hence the XFX graphics cards. Ideally I want to stick it into a CoolerMaster Elite 335 Case, like Dutchie, with a 600W PSU. I decided on 4830s over 4850s because the 4830s are £76 each, the 4850s are £93 - £17 difference per card.

The CoolIt is really a main option for the Core i7 build, and would ultimately require a CM Storm Scout case. Until that point, the Verre V770 that HAL is in at the minute is simple enough if I went ahead with the Core2Quad. At some point I'm going to have to figure out what to do with that V770 case.

Costs are as follows:

Common: £347
Option 1: £495
Option 2: £284

Though given what's said, if I went Option 2, I could wait a while for the CM Scout, removing £105. On both I could wait for the GFX cards, and thus also the power supply for HAL, which is £246. So to initially build and start would require:

Option 1 start: £630 (CPU, Mobo, RAM, Cases, CPU Cooler)
Option 1 final: £212 (GFX, PSU)
Option 1 total: £842

Option 2 start: £314 (CPU, Mobo, CPU Cooler, 335 Case)
Option 2 final: £317 (Scout Case, GFX, PSU)
Option 2 total: £631

Thus Option 2 requires a lower starting amount.

However, we are talking Core2Quad vs. Core i7 here, what about the performance difference? Well, the Core i7 does beat the C2Q out of the water in every benchmark by about 25%, but the option 1 package is 33% more than option 2.

What I have here is do I pick a decent build from current tech, or take the leap into the back end of new tech? This will decide my direction ultimately for the build after, as I'll always be using the best of the current, but never with the benefits of the new (with regard to CPUs anyway).

Then there's another chip I want to test as well for HWBot, but that's a lot cheaper AM2 :) !

4 May 2009

benchmark update

Apart from drinking the past few days, I'm finally getting around to putting the PSUs in the right PCs. Finished playing around with Dutchie, I just have to put it all it it's case now. I'm also playing around with the PCs at stock speeds, and getting some benchmarks for comparison.

Also managed to get admin access on my works Q6600, so was able to do a full suite of benchmarks for it:

CPU: Q6600 (2.4Ghz) @ 3.019Ghz
RAM: 2GB of something
Mobo: Foxconn something

CPU-Z: 3019.2Mhz
PiFast: 31.13s @ 3006Mhz
SuperPi 1m: 17.81s @ 3006Mhz
SuperPi 32m: 17m 39.920s @ 3006Mhz
wPrime 32m: 14.83s @ 3019Mhz
wPrime 1024m: 7m 45.63s @ 3019Mhz

Obviously none of them are placed - the Q6600 is a popular ship and I'm dealing with some crappy company that built this work machine. Pah.

1 May 2009

benchmark update

Now I have some Dutchie results :) Now the X2-5050e chip is 2.6Ghz on stock, however the motherboard I bought for it is useless for overclocking the CPU. It's awesome for tweaking the RAM timings, just naff for the CPU. For a start, I'm limited to 1.25 volts on Vcore. Also, with the RAM, I couldn't select DDR2-1066; only DDR2-800. As a result, I was only able to push the FSB from 200x13 (2600NMhz) to 225x13 (2925Mhz) a 12.5% overclock. Anything much above that and it'd refuse to boot properly. I'm not entirely sure why. It was having trouble at 225, until I boosted the RAM voltage from 1.8 to 2.05. This RAM is rated to 2.1V, but it didn't have the option. So is Dutchie RAM limited??

Nevertheless, I did some benchmarks. These are all at various speeds, as stability was a distinct issue.

CPU: X2-5050e (2.6Ghz) @ ~2.925Ghz
RAM: 2GB DDR2-1066Mhz (@ 833Mhz) 5-4-4-12 1T
HDD: WD Raptor
Mobo: AsRock ALiveXFire-eSata2
GFX: 2x4850 in CF

CPU-Z: 2947.2Mhz
PiFast: 45.08s @ 2936Mhz
SuperPi 1m: 31.03s @ 2937Mhz
SuperPi 32m: 28m 29.610s @ 2859Mhz
wPrime 32m: 29.24s @ 2962Mhz
wPrime 1024m: 15m 35.620s @ 2946Mhz
PCMark 05: 6180 @ 2859Mhz

I want to do wPrime 1024m and CPU-Z again, given I did run the wPrime 32m at 2962Mhz. I'll graph it all up and add some on later :) However, given the rarety of this processor on HWBot, 6 gold cups and 1 silver cup :)