Friday, June 28, 2013

Windows 8.1 Preview installation experience on my DELL Latitude 10 Essentials tablet (part 2: Success!!!)

The first attempt to update to Windows 8.1 Preview on the tablet went badly. But I didn't give up. As soon as I went home, I tried it again. For some reason, I had so much trouble getting it to start downloading this time. I didn't have any problem the last time.

I was mainly getting two errors. 

1) The Windows Store wouldn't load at all. It would wait at the splash screen, but with a never ending busy activity animation. I waited a long time but it didn't want to go any further. This happened like 75% of the times. 

2) If somehow I managed to get into the Windows Store, the download wouldn't start when I clicked it to download and install. It would show the activity animation to show that it is trying. But the it would give an error eventually. I could retry but it failed every time. 

After many attempts, I managed to get the download started. I think both the above phenomena happened because the server load was too high. I guess Microsoft didn't foresee that this many people will download the preview. I apparently wasn't the only one getting those errors. Others were getting the same error and it was all over the Internet. Plus, the download was so slow this time.

Anyways, now that I got the download started, when it was about to install it, it gave me the same error as before. I had to remove Dell Data Access Security. I didn't know it was there after the Refresh. Otherwise I would have removed it first. It seems that Dell is using a custom source for the Refresh and DDAS is also automatically installed when Refreshed. Sucks! I removed it but this time I didn't reboot. That did the trick. I could simply continue with the update!!! Phew!

It took a long time for the whole thing, must be because updating Windows generally slower and the slowness of the hardware making it even worse. Doesn't matter, the update was successful. Now all I hope is that I won't have to go back to vanilla Windows 8 because of a problem in 8.1. That would suck. 


It was late night so I didn't have much hands-on-experience with 8.1. I used it a bit in the morning and I felt that it was snappier than before but there were some UI clutches. I love how when you click a URL in Mail app, IE launches snapped to the side (50%) instead of taking over Mail app. The MetroTube app didn't work well with the update. It is completely broken. Have to use YouTube website from IE to watch YouTube until it is fixed.

I will write a separate blog post about my experiences on the tablet with Windows 8.1 Preview. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Building a Corsair powered PC (Why isn't Corsair making Corsair branded PCs?)

Remember when Corsair was a company that was just selling RAM for PCs? In the last 3-4 years, they have really upped their game and now they are selling almost all the computer peripherals you would need to build your entire PC. The only things that they are not making yet are the CPU (not a chance), motherboard, HDD, video card (these three probably would not be made by them) and display (might happen someday!). They make everything else. It won't be too far from the day that they will make Corsair branded PCs, like Dell and HP.

But let's beat them to it, shall we? We'll make a very high-end PC with all the Corsair components, less the CPU, motherboard, HDD, video card and display. Sure, those 5 components comprise of pretty much 75% of the cost of the entire PC. But it's not Corsair's fault. 

Here's the Corsair item list.

Case: Carbide Air 540
This case comes with a unique design and is fully optimized for cooling your toasty components.

CPU cooler: H110 close loop liquid cooler
This is the only closed loop water cooler that doesn't compromise noise for cooling performance.

SSD: Neutron GTX 240GB or 480GB
The only SSD that comes with the enterprise grade LAMD 'Amber' LM87800 controller aimed at the regular consumer.

RAM: Vengeance Pro DDR3-2400 CL10 16GB
The new Vengeance Pro RAM gives high performance without sacrificing looks. Comes with many colors to match your own color scheme.

PSU: AX760i digital 80Plus Platinum PSU
The least expensive all digital power supply unit from Corsair. We are going with the least expensive one because we don't need a lot of power. If you intend to use multiple GPUs in your rig, go for 860i or even 1200i. For a single GPU, even a 760i it more than enough.

Keyboard: Vengeance K95 mechanical gaming keyboard
Corsair's highest-end mechanical keyboard. Shame that it doesn't come with an LCD like the G19.

Mouse: Vengeance M95 laser gaming mouse
Corsair's highest-end laser mouse that comes with lots of buttons.

Headset: Vengeance 2000 Dolby 7.1 surround wireless headset
Wireless headsets is the way to go when you are buying one for gaming. With 7.1 "virtual" surround, you can easily pinpoint where you enemy is coming from.

Corsair made two speakers for gamers. The SP2200, which was a failure, and the SP2500 which was not. SP2500 is up there amongst the best 2.1 PC speakers out there.

Case fans: fill every hole with a AF120/140 quiet edition fan
Corsair AF series fans are also amongst the best case fans out there.

The rest of the components are for you to decide really. But since these are all high-end components from Corsair, you should match them with high-end components as well. I'll recommend some for you. (I'm keeping the number of different brands to a minimum, hence I chose Asus because they make displays as well. Nothing against Gigabyte, MSI and the rest.)

Haswell Build
CPU: Intel Core i7 4770K
Motherboard: Asus Maximus VI Hero
GPU: Asus GTX780 Direct CUII
Display: Asus PB278Q 1440P display
HDD: Seagate ST3000DM001 (x2)

SandyBridge-E Build
CPU: Intel Core i7 3930K
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV Formula
GPU: Asus GTX780 Direct CUII
Display: Asus PB278Q 1440P display
HDD: Seagate ST3000DM001 (x2)

I don't understand why Corsair doesn't make Corsair branded PCs yet. Maybe they don't see too many margins in that business?

Windows 8.1 Preview installation experience on my DELL Latitude 10 Essentials tablet (part 1: things going horribly wrong)

First thing I did after waking up today was checking if the Windows 8.1 Preview update was available to download. It sure was and I proceeded to install it on my tablet. The PC was doing a 24hr Prime95 stress test (increased it from 12 to 24) and I couldn't install it in the PC just yet. 

So I searched for the 8.1 update and it took me to this Microsoft website. From there I had to download a small setup program which was required to modify the Windows Store app so that the update shows up on it. When I ran that setup file, it installed few thing and restarted Windows. Before showing the welcome screen, it did some changes to Windows like what it does after Windows Update installs some updates. 

When I came back to the desktop, I was asked to go to the Windows Store to download the 8.1 Preview update. It was there and I continued with the update. It downloaded a rather large update file measuring 2GB, slowly over the Wi-Fi network and started to install it. 

The first thing it did was to check whether the system was compatible. (WTF! They check for compatibility after I've wasted about an hour downloading the update? Which idiot came up with that design?) It found one compatibility issue. It was the Dell Data Access Protection software. Bloatware, it must be. The setup couldn't continue before I uninstalled it and dealt with it. The setup minimized to the system tray until I finished removing that software. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zagg Smart Buds broken almost after 3 years

I bought ZAGG Smart Buds for my iPhone 3GS back in August, 2010 and yesterday they broke. There is a loose connection in the left ear-bud. The loose connection is at the 3.5mm jack. When I wiggle the cable, the audio comes and goes. They worked well until now. I don't think they are the best sounding ear buds, but they were easy to keep wearing as they don't fall off thanks to the design. That is one of their marketing points. The other being that the wires are covered with material found in Invisible Shield (means that the cable doesn't get damaged.)
 
But somehow the wire going to the left ear got damaged. The outer coating isn't damaged. Of course I can still listen to the podcasts with audio coming out of just the right ear-bud. I'm not listening to audio anyways. Momentarily, you tend to forget that only the right ear-bud is working. I wonder if my left ear will go deaf if I listen to audio like this. Maybe I should get a new set of ear-buds.
 
But for the time being, I have to dig up my Sennheiser CX500s. No idea where I have kept them -  hopefully they are in the laptop carry bag. Should I get a new set of ear-buds? If I can do with the CX500's, I'll wait for the next iPhone and see if it comes with a decent design. Apple has been copying stuff from others and who are we to say they that they won't copy ZAGG's design?
 
Edit:
Oh dear! The CX500 ear-buds are not working anymore! I don’t know what is wrong with them. They are simply not working. Nothing is coming out of the ear-buds. Looks like I might have to order a new pair of ear-buds soon.

Prime95 failed after 6 hours of blend test! 1.4V Vcore (fixed)/LLC3

In the previous post I was talking about how my CPU overclock has become unstable and that I was trying everything to make it stable again. After many runs of stress tests using Prime95, I settled for 1.4V Vcore in UEFI and started stress testing. No thanks to the huge VDroop this motherboard has, I had to set such a high Vcore. But in reality, the CPU was only getting 1.336V. This is with LLC level 3. 

So I let Prime95 run overnight and went to sleep. Unfortunately after about 6hrs of stress testing, it had crashed with a BSOD with code 0x124. It requires more volts it seems. I wonder how I could get by with just 1.320~1.328V the last time. It definitely must have been the lack of AVX.

So I raised the Vcore to 1.405V in UEFI and came to work, letting Prime95 run while I was at work. It's been about 4hrs 15min and still it has not crashed. Seems like I will probably be able to make it completely stable in this go or at least the next. But what I don't get is, even at LLC level 3, there is a massive VDroop. Either everyone else is lying or they have very  high tolerance. They don't seem to imply the VDroop is that high with LLC2 and LLC3. I'm not sure if this has always been the case with this board. Without using the fixed Vcore mode, you really cannot see the VDroop. And I've been using the Offset mode all this time. 

I just hope that this will be it. 12hrs of Prime stability is good enough for me. This CPU must be a bad clocker. I mean, I bought this CPU second hand but unopened. Someone must have bought a batch of these CPUs and since the ones he tested weren't good clockers, he has returned the whole batch. I guess that's the only way I could have gotten an unopened but used CPU. 


NVidia finally releases a fix for the broken 320.18 WHQL drivers

NVidia released the GeForce 320.18 WHQL drivers with the release of GTX780. But in the past people in the forums started talking that these drivers were crap and breaking the GPUs. They were getting lockups, BSODs, micro-stuttering, rendering artifacts and all sorts of stability issues. I also noticed some micro-stuttering, but luckily not anything else.

Seems like NVidia concurred and they have finally released a new driver that fixes these issues. It’s the 320.49 beta. Yes, it is a beta driver after all. They didn’t release this driver just to fix the issues of 320.18 driver, but because they just released their new midrange king, the GTX760. Luckily, it is slightly slower than a GTX670, but way cheaper. Only $250. (Read a review here)NVidia is really messing with the prices. Their enthusiast cards are way too expensive and their midrange to high-end cards are way cheap. It’s not my loss. I am not looking to upgrade my graphics card anyways. I only play one game and that’s Crysis 3 and I can just do fine with my existing card.

OK, I digress. You can download the 320.49 beta driver from GeForce Experience software. That’s what I always do. I download it and then launch the installer as custom install and then uncheck everything other than the driver (you cannot check or uncheck it) and PhysX driver. Everything else is just bloat. I don’t usually do a clean install, because for some reason it messes with the Creative X-Fi drivers.

2013-06-25_22-48-10

Or if you are still too lazy to download GeForce Experience, you can download the new drivers from the following links

Monday, June 24, 2013

My 4.5GHz overclock on 2600K has become unstable!

It's been a while since I tested for stability of my CPU's 4.5GHz overclock. I ran the blend test of Prime95 of more than 6hrs back then and I felt that was sufficient. However, PC has been giving random lockups in the past couple of months and I didn't want to accept that the reason for this instability was because my overclock wasn't stable enough. For some reason, it was so hard to find the settings that made my PC stable, and I didn’t want to go through all that again. It could be because I wanted to both overclock and save power at the same time. That's not something that's easy to achieve, obviously. Or it could be because the motherboard is not the best when it comes to overclocking. Or it can even be that this CPU is a bad clocker. Or I could have been doing something wrong in the first place.

Anyways, the reason for the recent instability could be due to many reasons. The first one could be because the last time I checked for stability, I didn't use a version of Prime95 that supported AVX instructions. Then, I did a couple of UEFI updates and maybe I needed to change “some values” to make the CPU stable under the firmware that I'm using currently. Or it could well be a problem with the power supply or motherboard or memory.
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Windows 8 got deactivated (error code: 0xC004F074 and then 0xC004C4AA)

I got a Windows 8 activation problem yesterday. All of a sudden, the Windows Action Center was telling me that Windows is not activated and I should do it soon. When I checked the system properties, it was telling me that the activation will be expired on 19th of July. I was like “what the hell”! That’s in a month. And I have a legit copy of Windows 8.

I tried few things, but I got the same error message every time. When I checked Microsoft help page, it seemed that the serial number I was using is not valid for the edition of Windows I had installed. I have a key for Windows 8 Pro edition as well as Media Center edition. I was supposed to have installed  the Media Center edition because I used that key, but apparently I had forgotten to update the Pro edition to Media Center edition. I did, and upon restart, Windows was completely deactivated!  When I tried to activate, it didn't let me. This time I got a different error code (0xC004C4AA).

Untitled

Choosing a proper graphics card for your gaming PC

The most critical part of a gaming PC is the graphics card. Graphics card prices range up to $1000 but that does not mean you have to save $1000 to get a good gaming experience. As with everything, at the lower scale of the spectrum, you are getting very bad performance (only slightly better than integrated solutions from Intel and AMD) and at the higher scale of the spectrum, you are getting diminishing returns. Midrange is where the sweet spot lies for most people. I said "for most people" because it is not always the truth. Sometimes you have to bend the rules and go for the absolute highest end cards.
 

AMD vs. NVidia - which one is better?

This is a sensitive matter. You cannot go wrong with either brand. Here's a comparison between the two, and I suggest that you match up your requirements with those and see which one suits you best.

Advantages of going with AMD

  • Gives better performance for the money you spend. (Might not be true in some parts of the world.
  • You get an amazing free games bundle with the card.
  • Has less performance drop when Anti-Aliasing is enabled/increased the level as well as resolution is increased.
  • All next generation consoles are using AMD GPUs, and the games will probably be more optimized for AMD's GCN architecture. This is just an assumption.
  • Usually overclocks a bit better than NVidia cards.
  • Has much better general purpose compute performance.
 
Advantages of going with NVidia
  • SLI works much, much better than Crossfire (at least as of now)
  • Ability to overclock the Pixel Refresh Rate of your display (how far your can overclock, depends on your display. I've managed to increase it from 60Hz to 69Hz on my Iiyama 27" display.)
  • Has a little bit better power efficiency.
  • People believe that NVidia drivers are usually more stable. But both companies put out buggy drivers every now and then.
  • GeForce Experience service, which automatically sets the graphics settings in each game for the best gameplay experience. On top of that, you are getting a cool feature called Shadow Play in a few days.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Want to overclock your CPU? Here are some tips to make it stable.

Remember those days when overclocking the CPU was considered dangerous and only a few people would even attempt it, and those people were treated like gods? Not anymore. Anyone can overclock their CPU if the CPU is overclockable and necessary hardware is available. Getting a modest overclock is easy, but if you are trying to squeeze all that extra juice from your CPU, you might need more than just luck.

Overclocking is not dangerous if properly done. Know your limits and obey by those limits. For example, don't insert a lot of volts to the CPU because it will damage the CPU. Keep it within the manufacturer recommended/commonly accepted volts for your particular CPU. Also be wary of the temps of the CPU as well as other components like VRM heat sinks of the motherboard.

Here are some tips.

1) Prepare a separate environment for overclocking if possible. If you have a spare drive lying around, install a free copy of Windows in it and don't install anything else - not even Windows updates or driver updates. Why this is important is because when your OS crashes while stress testing because your overclock is not stable, it can corrupt the files and settings and that alone can give a BSOD when you stress test with different settings the net time. You might think the CPU is unstable, but in reality it could be a corrupted driver or corrupted software that is running in the background.

2) Stress test for a couple of hours at stock settings. This will rule out any issues that might be present in the original hardware. No point trying to overclocking broken hardware. You'll only waste your "precious" time. Running Prime95's blend test should do the trick.

3) Don't overclock your RAM at the same time. Overclock only one component at a time, otherwise you won't know the culprit of the instability if you discover any. Overclocking RAM doesn't give any tangible benefits anyways. You will get better performance by overclocking the CPU. So, if you have high speed RAM (i.e. faster than 1600MHz), I would suggest that you drop the speed to 1600MHz CL9 timings. That would rule out the memory being the culprit of a crash. This is not needed, but just to be sure

4) Make a target. The target should not be in terms of clock speed, but in terms of max CPU temperature or max Vcore, whichever is reached first. For example, max Vcore = 1.4V and max CPU Temp = 85C. First, try Vcore = 1.4V at stock clock speed and run a stress test while monitoring CPU temperature. If you are below 85C, then you can simply try increasing the CPU clock speed. If you hit 85C, then stop stress testing and lower the CPU Vcore until your max temps are below 85C.

However, please note that when you increase the clock speed, the temps would increase a bit more even without increasing the Vcore. So try to stop about 5C below your suggested max CPU temps (i.e. 80C) to give some room for the temps to increase due to clock increase. Now that you have found your max voltage, it is time to increase the clock speed.

5) Be patient. Don't try to rush out thing. If you know that the CPU model you have usually overclocks to, say, 4GHz undoubtedly (all the current generation CPUs do), that would be a good place to start. You don't have to start from the stock speeds. That's not necessary. However, only increase clock speeds one step at a time.

For example, when it comes to Intel, the only way to effectively increase the clock speed is by raising the multiplier. Increase the multiplier one step at a time. That means, if you were starting from 4GHz, which means the multiplier was at 40x, increase to 41x, then 42x and likewise. At each step, stress test for like 30 minutes of Prime95's blend test. That should be enough for the intermediate stress tests. Once you find the maximum overclock, stress test for 24hrs (at least 12hrs) to make sure that is completely stable. If the stress test fails while doing the extensive stress tests, you'll have to drop the multiplier by one level. Then it is 24hrs of stress testing again. (Overclocking takes times. Don't rush it.)

6) Now that you (hopefully) found out your max CPU clock, you can revert to the original RAM settings or even try to overclock it. Remember that when you overclock your RAM, you might have to increase the VTT (memory controller voltage) to make it stable.

7) If you want to overclock further and you were limited by temperature, it is time to invest in a better cooler.

8) If you are having some particular issues, such as crashes at idle, take a look at this thread.

Those were some common guidelines and all that they do is make your life easier, even though at first it might seem like time wasters (preparing a separate environment just for overclocking, for example).

There are more extensive instructions on the forums such as Overclock.net, Techpowerup.com and XtremeSystems.org so read the guides posted there, ask questions and participate. You will learn a lot by doing that.

Bought a couple of Silverstone F122 magnetic fan filters

When I bought the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler few days ago, I ordered a couple of Silverstone F122 magnetic fan filters to cover the two open vents I had in my case. The exhaust at the rear of the case (towards to top) and the intake on the side panel behind the motherboard to cool the hard drives.

I noticed that a lot of dust was trapped on those fan holes. Definitely they were going into the case. I was hoping to make a fan filter from one of wife's torn stockings but it didn't come out the way I liked. So I finally gave in and bought these. They cost me about ¥450 a piece. So, not cheap at all. But it's OK. These don't need replacing ever. 

They came with screws as well, but they simply stick to my case; both places in fact. It doesn't move or anything. Just firmly sits there. 


The following is just a demonstration. Since I don't actually have a fan on the side panel, I have mounted the filter from the inside of the case so it doesn't show to the outside.


When I took one off to take a photo for this post. I noticed that it already had some dust on it. Hence, they seem to be working just as promised. This is definitely not a regrettable purchase. Funny how seldom that happens. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Yay! My iPhone 4S is snappy again.

When I bought my iPhone 4S almost 20 months ago, I straight away felt how fast it was compared to my old iPhone 3GS. But after a while it became slow. In fact, it got so slow that there have been times that I felt like throwing it out the window or dropping it on the floor and crushing it with my feet. I know, it would only make things worse, thus I controlled myself every time the thought occurred to me.

Things got worse with iOS 6 update. It would work well as soon as I restored or updated the OS, but eventually get slow.

When Evasi0n released the Jailbreak for iOS 6.1, I went ahead with the Jailbreak. I didn't feel that the phone got any slower, but the battery went down the hill. After a few months, I gave up the Jailbreak. But disappointingly, I didn't get better performance nor battery life. I only lost the Jailbreak tweaks that I really loved. At this point, I was using iOS 6.1.3, the latest as of this day.

Then WWDC2013 happened. iOS 7 was introduced and I managed to install the developer preview on my phone without paying for a developer account. (Click here to find out how to do it.) But it ran so horribly slow on my phone. Restarting fixed it for a certain degree, but it was slow - much slower than the slowness I talked about at the top of this post. People with iPhone 5's were not feeling the slowness. Sure, the iPhone 5 is twice as fast as mine, but if people didn't feel the slowness, that's either because it is not slow, or because people are numb. I wanted to believe it was the former. So what I did was, I cleared out all the junk from the phone.
・I had all 1000 pics from Photo streams and disconnected it from the phone.
・I removed all the photos there were in the camera roll.
That's all really. I had already removed the unnecessary apps and I only had the apps that I frequently used.

But it didn't get any faster. Not only that, it was crashing few of the apps that I really needed. One of them was the Pocasts app. Commuting without the Podcast app would be a nightmare. So I wanted to go back to iOS 6.

But I made a mistake this time. I could not restore the backup via iTunes, because the last backup was done from iOS 7 and it was incompatible with iOS 6's backup format. Yes, I believe the older backups were still there in the PC and I could have chosen one of them instead. I only remembered that the next day. But I do not regret what happened. I had to start over from the scratch, BUT for some reason, the phone is very snappy now. I think it was the junk that was in the backup that was causing the lag. I had all the SMS history and call history and the settings of apps that I don't use anymore all copied back to the phone. That junk must have been the cause of the slowness. I have been using the phone for 3 days and there isn't the slightest hint of it running slow. Sure, it is not iPhone 5, but I don't feel that it is laggy anymore. I'm pretty sure that it is not my mind playing tricks.

So what I am going to do from here onwards is, I'm going to keep my the call history clean, SMS history clean (only keep the ones that I want to keep, and delete the rest), sync only 50 emails, clean up the camera roll every day when I get back home and not connect to photo streams. Basically, I'm gonna keep the phone as clean as I can. I'm sure it will become an obsession eventually, but at least I will have a fast phone.

Is it worth upgrading to Haswell from IvyBridge or Sandybridge?

The official Haswell reviews came out at the beginning of this month (June, 2013) and they proved that the information that was leaked few weeks ago is completely accurate. Haswell is only having a single digit (percent) performance advantage over IvyBridge and they get very hot when overclocked. It seems you need a lot of luck and cooling power to even hit 4.4GHz. However, what you have to do to overclock the Haswell CPU should be quite simple.

Those new z87 motherboards are so delicious though. You get 6 SATA-III ports, 6 USB3.0 ports, PCI-E 3.0, integrated Wireless 802.11ac (certain models), much better integrated audio (certain models) and nice looks overall. Some people would even upgrade to Haswell for this alone. 

Check this HARDOCP article to see how Sandybridge, IvyBridge and Haswell all stand against each other when overclocked to 4.5GHz. This article also mentions all the pitfalls of overclocking Haswell. It's a good read. You should read it if you are planning to get a Haswell CPU and want to overclock it.

BTW, if you are planning to get a non-K CPU hoping that it would allow you to overclock at least a few hundred MHz, you would be disappointed. Only K-editions are overclockable. Others will be stuck to their stock Turbo Boost algorithm. You can try increasing the BCLK, but it won't get your much farther. 

On top of that, you don't get VT-d and TSX instructions support on the K-editions. They are only available on non-K editions. Intel is messing with the Overclocking community it seems. It clearly shows that they don't want use to overclock, because it handicaps their sales because people might not upgrade if their current CPU overclocks pretty well and is faster than the new CPUs. (This seems to be the case with a lot of SB and IB users against Haswell)

I evaluated a bit where the economics stand. I would obviously sell my existing CPU and motherboard if I upgrade to Haswell. According to the current second hand prices, I would only get like ¥22,000 for both of them. I might even add my Creative X-Fi Titanium audio card to that so I might get like ¥24,000 (because integrated audio on these boards is so good). But the Core i7 4770K alone costs little more than ¥35,000 and then add another ¥20,000 for a good motherboard. (It's the massive price you have to pay for getting stuff at launch here in Japan. Prices will drop few thousands in the coming months.) That's about ¥30,000 extra for almost no performance increase (well 15% best case increase isn't a lot). I must be insane to go ahead with the upgrade. 

Thus, my upgrade plans are officially done. I'm keeping my trusty Sandybridge. But being the geek I am, I won't stop there and give up. There are newer CPUs coming in few months, from both Intel and AMD. Hopefully I will be able to upgrade to one of them.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler - installation experience

In the previous post I mentioned that I bought this super cooler and now it is time to install it. A lot of things happened while installing the cooler, so someone who is looking to buy this cooler might find this information I’m going to write in this post. It’s a long post, so read it all slowly, if you are interested in the topic. Important notes come up at different places, whenever necessary.

First things first. I had to remove the old CNPS9900MAX-B cooler first to get going. Since I reseated the cooler a few days back, I could quickly take it off. Then I cleaned the thermal paste residue from the CPU.

Then it was time to install the new cooler. Here’s what was inside the box.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bought the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler

I couldn't take it anymore. So I went and ordered the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler on Thursday before going to sleep. Before that I did some serious assessment as to whether I should go with this cooler or the Noctua NH-D14. Since the NH-D14 is a bit more expensive and the non-Extreme model is almost identical to the Noctua in terms of performance. But the new Extreme edition, thanks to its high CFM fans, can cool it much further. Some reviews say the difference is about 5-8C. Having that option is good I guess. Of course it will depend on the airflow inside the case.

But still I had to check 3 things before I bought the cooler.
  1. This is a tall cooler, because of the sheer side of the fans and the heat pipes that protrude from the top. But on the official Thermalright Silver Arrow club page on OCN, I found several people who had cooler installed in the Raven RV03 without any issue. (Although the height of the cooler is 165mm and the max height of the cooler supported by the case is 163mm. I guess the protruded nature of the window helps?)
  2. Will it fit with the Corsair Vengeance Memory modules? It was mentioned in a review that the heat sink itself didn't protrude over the memory slots. It was the fan that caused the problems. So what that reviewer proposed was that instead of having the fan in the front, move it to the back. Instead of push-push orientation, you have to install it as pull-pull. It should not hurt the cooling performance especially since there are two intake fans directly at the bottom of the case. But it was still doubtful whether I could fit the memory module closest to the heat sink fine. The Vengeance sticks are not only tall, but the sinks add additional width to the naked sticks. Anyhow, the worst case would be me having to remove the heat sink on the memory module closest to the CPU. I was ready for that possibility. But I hoped that I wouldn't have to do that.
  3. Then I had to see if the VRM sinks on the motherboard would cause problems. I didn't expect this would cause problems but I had to make sure anyways. It seemed that there were people having the cooler installed on the same motherboard as mine, the ASRock Z68 Extreme4.
So, it seemed everything was fine, thus I ordered the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme from Amazon. Price on Amazon was the cheapest. The price was almost same as the non-Extreme. It cost me ¥8,563. Hefty price for a cooler, right? Well, I think I should have bought this cooler in the first place; not the Antec Kuhler 620 AIO water cooler or Zalman CNPS9900MAX which this replaces. Those were the waste of money.
 
Silver Arrow EX
The cooler arrived yesterday thanks to Amazon Prime's one day shipping. But since I knew it was going to take a while to install the cooler, and it was too late, I postponed it to the next day.
 
P.S.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t get RAM with tall heat spreaders when you go shopping for RAM the next time.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Finally found an online store in Japan which sells all the highend aircoolers

If you had been following my blog for a while, you should know that I am very unhappy about my current CPU cooler, the CNPS9900MAX. 

Here's why. This cooler doesn't cool my Intel Core i7 2600K which is overclocked to 4.5GHz (1.32V) adequately at full fan speed. It reaches over 80C when I stress test using Prime95. On top of that poor performance, the noise is intolerable at full speed of the fan. I am running it at a low RPM of 1000, I stead of the maximum of 1700RPM. This means the CPU runs even hotter. Of course I don't run stress tests all the time, and there is no reason to run it at all because in fixed to this overclock. But when I play games and transcode videos (eg: gameplay footages to upload to YouTube), the temps of the CPU reach 80C after a while. That is not good. 80C is fine for stress testing but it should not hit 70C while doing even the demanding day to day tasks. The only advantage of having this cooler is that it fits my case without any issues, especially with the monstrous and needless tall heat sinks of the Corsair Vengeance memory. 

So, I've been looking around for the good coolers that's available in Japan and I found that the only thing that is listed on kakaku.com which fitted my criteria was Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E (and the Extreme version of it at a slightly higher price.) The difference was only the CFM of the fans and hence the noise. The extreme version is significantly louder than the original version. But it cools much better at that ridiculously high fan speed. I checked around if it at least fitted the case and people are saying it does, even though the max height of the cooler supported by the Raven RV03 case is 163mm and this cooler is 165mm tall. And, if I move the front fan to the back as a pull fan, I can fit it without removing the heat sinks on my memory. Win. 

I couldn't find the Noctua NH-D14 which is almost identical to the Silver Arrow but works better with high heat and the current king of the air coolers, the Phanteks PH-TC14PE on kakaku.com. Shame! The Phanteks doesn't fit y case because it reaches 170mm high, but the Noctua does. Noctua has better build quality, plus, it is easier to install than the Silver Arrow. The other option was to get a self contained water cooler like the H80i or H100i. But they only cool well with high fan speeds, and I won't be able to tolerate that a bit. I will definitely have to run the fans on those at lowest and that would undoubtedly cripple the performance. 

So I had come to the conclusion that the only option I had was the Silver Arrow until I just did a google search for the Phanteks. I came across a Japanese store called OLIO.SPEC. And guess what? They have the NH-D14 and many other cool gadgets including the highly praised Noctua fans. 

Here are the prices.
NH-D14: ¥9,980
Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme: ¥8,990
Phanteks PH-TC14PE: ¥12,900

Sure, the prices aren't cheap, but at least they are available if you want. So that's good. I'm sure there are more stores that don't get indexed up on kakaku.com. I should use google more than kakaku in the future. BTW, you can get a Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme for ¥8,563. 

Intel Rapid Storage Technology 12.5 is faster than 11.7

Remember I recently upgraded the firmware on my Samsung 840 series 250GB SSD? Even though the release notes said that I would see some performance improvements with the DXT08B0Q firmware, I didn’t see any. Then I upgraded the Intel Rapid Storage Technology drivers to see if it yielded in any improvements.

I originally had version 11.7.0.1013 installed. This was what I had when I flashed the firmware. There was a newer version out when I checked it a few days ago. Version 12.5.0.1066 (download from here). I don’t know what happened to version 12 though. Maybe I didn’t check for a new driver in a while. I only got to know that there was a newer driver from OCN forums.

I first uninstalled the old driver and installed the new one, just to be sure. Updating drivers doesn’t go really well most of the times. Ironically, I always update the NVidia drivers, never uninstall the old one and install the new one. I do that because I haven’t had issues doing so in the past. Sorry, I digress.

BTW, I downloaded the floppy driver, not the Windows drivers. The floppy driver comes with… just the RST driver. But the Windows driver comes with their monitoring and management software as well. Since I don’t use Smart Response Technology or RAID in my PC, there is no need to install them. No need to add more junk to the PC. I want to keep it as clean as possible.

Here are the benchmarks, before and after the update. Both were done after I updated the firmware to DXT08B0Q. For the entire specs of the test rig, click here.

Before (11.7.0.1013)

as-ssd-bench Samsung SSD 840  2013-06-01 8-54-44 AM

After (12.5.0.1066)

as-ssd-bench Samsung SSD 840  2013-06-01 8-58-47 AM

So you see, there is nice speed bump after the driver update. I don’t think that is a noticeable difference. Heck, you cannot feel the difference between two SSDs to the naked eye, without running benchmarks anyways. I just got this SSD because it was the cheapest 250GB one available back in January. not because it is the fastest.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Samsung 840 series 250GB Firmware Update: DXT08B0Q Benchmarks

Samsung released a new firmware for the Samsung 840 series (Pro and non-Pro both) few days ago. I didn’t upgrade that instant, because I saw on OCN forums that few people were having issues with the new firmware. I don’t want to end up with a dead drive. I don’t have a spare SSD lying around. Wish I kept that old SSD with me just in case something went wrong with the new one. But I didn’t and there is no point regretting about it. Have to move on.

But today I gave in, and went ahead with the update. What made me confident that something bad might not happen is because Samsung hadn’t pulled the firmware. That means there is nothing wrong with it to begin with. The people who got bad outcomes must have done something stupid. Just to be safe, I killed all the apps running in the foreground as well as background before starting the firmware update process.

I had DXT07B0Q firmware before update. You have to use Samsung SSD Magician software to do the firmware update. Even without me checking for an update manually, it automatically detected that there was a newer firmware available and highlighted in the UI of the software. Nothing amazing. That’s the way everything should work these days anyways. Just wanted to say that it is working as if should.

2013-06-01_08-50-34

Everything went smooth. It didn’t take long, and once done, the software told me that it needs to shutdown the PC to finish the update. What I didn’t know was that it would not automatically reboot. It was a clean shutdown, not a reboot. Some people might be confused by how it happened. With the previous drive, all that was required was a reboot. Anyways, now I know how it works in the future.

So did I see any gains with the new firmware? No! None at all. I recorded some benchmark scores on AS-SSD before and after the firmware update. Before running the test, I optimized the drive using the Magician software. Here are the results.

Note: Both tests were run with Intel Rapid Storage Technology ver. 11.7.0.1013 drivers.

Before update ( ver. DXT07B0Q )

as-ssd-bench Samsung SSD 840  2013-06-01 8-48-37 AM

After update ( ver. DXT08B0Q )

as-ssd-bench Samsung SSD 840  2013-06-01 8-54-44 AM

As you can see, the scores are identical. The difference would be attributed to measurement error. Well, at least the performance didn’t go down. That’s a relief.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finally something to rival the clutter free cable management ofRavenRV03 - Corsair Obsidian Air 540D

Corsair just announced the Obsidian Air 540D case at COMPUTEX 2013 show. What's special about this case is that it is optimized for airflow from front to back without any restrictions and you can computer hide the cable clutter behind the motherboard tray. Only Silverstone's Raven RV03 offered such benefits before this. 

The PSU and the drive cages are computers hidden behind the motherboard tray. That means, there is a lot of space behind the motherboard tray. In fact, the case is fat. It is wider than your usually case. 

The Raven RV03 came with a lot f restrictions because of its design. You cannot install a tall tower air cooler, nor a dual 120mm radiator, nor a single or dual 140mm radiator. But that is not a problem with the Corsair Obsidian Air 540D. This case is not long, because the hard drive cages are no there in front of the case. So basically, all you have on the front of the left hand side is fans. Those fans directly feed cool air to the video card, the CPU and the other components. There aren't any restrictions. You don't have to run your fans at full speed either. So it is a much quieter case. The front panel and the drive cages, along with the PSU at the back are all on the right hand side of the case. That compartment is completely shielded off from the motherboard tray. Well, there are of course cable management holes. 



Pics courtesy of Techpowerup. Head here for more pics and information.

But there is one issue. The case in not long, which means that of you have a large PSU with a gazillion of cables coming out of it, it would look cramped up. Not sure if the drives would have enough room for breathing. With a small (<1000w) PSU, it won't be a problem though. Plus, a modular PSU definitely would help. I am so mad that I didn't get a modular PSU when I bought mine. I was so blinded by the low price I paid for the PSU. Stupid me!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Reseated the CNPS9900Max-B heat sink, but no good

So, I finally managed to find time to take apart the PC and reseat the CPU heat sink. Removing this heat sink was very difficult. I had to take out the motherboard from the case, but after that it wasn't that hard. The cooler is pretty large so there isn't enough space inside the case to work with. There is a special Allen key that is required to remove the heat sink. I even had to remove the RAM modules because they were restricting the movement of the Allen key. BTW, if I lose it, I'm screwed. It is pretty hard to remove the cooler with regular tools. But I guess it is not impossible.
 
I used Arctic Cooling MX-4 for thermal paste. I had a tube of it lying around. That's what I was using before this. It is easy to apply. I used a card to spread the paste sparingly on the IHS of the CPU.
 
Installing the cooler back was not so hard since the motherboard was outside the case. But the whole process took a lot of time. A whole Saturday afternoon. I also cleaned up the dust in the case and arranged to the cables a bit. The back side of the motherboard tray is a cable mess. Thanks to the design of the case, it is well hidden. Just wish I had a PSU with modular cables. It would be much cleaner then. And the fan controller is not helping either. It has 12 wires coming out of it and the wires are not colored black. Yuk! These Japanese people don't know anything about aesthetics. (The fan controller is made by Scythe and that is a Japanese company.)
 
The heat sink didn’t need much cleaning though. There weren't much dust on it. Looks like the fan filters of the case are doing a pretty darn good job.
 
But unfortunately, everything that I did was in vain. I didn't see any improvement in cooling performance after the reseat. It was just like before. I wonder if I should have put a pebble of paste on the IHS and let the pressure of the cooler do the spreading. Or perhaps the stock thermal paste was better than MX-4. Or perhaps this cooler doesn't work well when placed in "pushing air up" orientation. In other chassis' , the cooler would be installed in an orientation where air would be blowing from front to back - horizontally. In my case, it has to be blowing air vertically. Plus, it could be why the fan vibrates when the RPM is between 1200 - 1600. The fan itself is so flimsy. Not rigid enough.
 
These are the temps when I transcode videos using Handbrake. (Look at the max temps. Realtemp was reset before every test.)
 
CNPS9900MAX temps 2600K while transcoding videos using Handbrake

Apple finally increases prices in Japan due to crappy exchange rates

The inevitable finally happened. Apple has finally increased the prices of Apple products, no thanks to the 25% drop in value of Japanese Yen. Previously the iPad Mini 16GB was ¥28,800 and the iPad 16GB was ¥42,800. Those are the only prices that I remember because rest of it doesn't matter anyway. 

What do you think the current prices are?    ¥32,800 for the iPad Mini 16GB and ¥49,800 for the iPad 16GB. Great! I didn't want their crap then, definitely not now. I'm sure the prices of MacBooks and iMacs have gone up as well. 

When I browsed from my home PC, the prices showed up in US$ even though I was correctly browsing the Japanese Appel Store. I double checked to see if I was browsing the US store by mistake. I was not. But when I checked it from a PC running the Japanese OS, I got the prices in Japanese Yen. I'm not sure if those prices got updates during that half a day period or if it indeed was because the PC was running a Japanese OS or locale was set to Japanese or the browser was Japanese. Doesn't matter, because I have no interest in Apple products. (Except the iPhone that is)

I only hope for one thing. iPhone prices not to go up. While I don't really like the iPhone that much, I don't have any other option. If Windows Phone was here, I would have bought one. (Not a low-end model though.) Sucks to be in Japan. 

P.S.
If you want to grab an Apple product for cheaper than the prices imposed by Apple Store, hurry up and grab yours from kakaku.com (iPad Mini: ¥29,900, iPad: ¥46,800) before the prices don't go up. There is no time to lose. 

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