Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why do these small flash drives exist?

Recently I bought two new 16GB USB flash drives. They were bought for a special purpose: to use as install media for Windows.

So, why would I need two drives?

Simple. There is Windows 8.1 and there is Windows 10 Technical Preview. Yes, I did install Windows 10 TP on my main PC, but I'll discuss about that in another post.

Which drives did I buy?

Since these were not going to be used often, speed was secondary. Price was more important. Which 8GB drives were definitely cheaper, the 16GB ones weren't overly expensive.

I did not research much because it wasn't a big deal. I ended up ordering a couple of SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 16GB drives. Since SanDisk is a reputed brand, I didn't think I would run Into much trouble.

As usual, I ordered them from Amazon although  Amazon wasn't directly selling. It was some other 3rd party but it did not bother me as everything is taken care by Amazon. Unfortunately, these flash drives weren't available at the time of ordering, thus I had to wait a few more days to actually get the hands on them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My GTX 970 card is here

Card

After almost 2.5 years, I have a new graphics card in my rig. So much have happened during those 2.5 years, but the disappointing thing is that i wouldn't be even seeing a two-fold increase in raw FPS. Hence SLI would have been the better option of my current card wasn't a 2.5 slot card and the PSU, which is a 650W one, had more headroom.

Anyways, this was the 2nd best choice since the cheaper R9 290/290x cards were generating too much heat and noise. Even if I managed to install get away with a

The card that I chose was the MSI GTX 970 Gaming and I bought it from Amazon, paying almost $80 more than the U.S. price. That's the way it has to be. This includes a 8% tax as well. I actually managed to sell my old card on Rakuten Auctions for around $150, which isn't amazing but isn't too bad either. If I sold it to a shop for cash, I wouldn't even get $100. So it was a win-win deal for me.

I couldn't install the card until late that day. This is because the three of us went to paid a visit to the Ikuta Rose Garden in the afternoon and on the way we did some shopping as well. After returning home, I had to help my wife cook dinner as well. While I finished doing my part and my wife put the baby to sleep, I got into business.

Installing the card at first was not problematic. It slid into the PCI-E slot without any trouble. I sneaked in the thermal probe, which plugs into the T_SENSOR port on the motherboard, between two fins of the heat sink and this is the temperature reading that controls the speed of the front (or side) intake fan. The 6-pin power cables were rotated 180°, so when I turned them around, they protruded out more than before because they were not used to bending in that direction. When I tried closing the case, these cables pushed against the front intake fan, however because of the integrated fan grill, the cables weren't coming in contact with the blades of the fan. It was very thoughtful of Silverstone really. I also checked whether the other two fan slots were blocked but it appeared they were clear and it would be possible to install two more fans when I buy the second card. Phew!

I will write about my experiences with the card in the follow up posts. Due to family life, my playtime is very limited nowadays, thus will take a while to learn about all the issues surrounding the new purchase.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Upgraded from GTX 670 to GTX 970

MSI 970 Gaming

Previously I assessed my chances of ending up with an SLI setup and the chances came up as extremely positive. SLI requires that I get cards with blower style coolers. However, when I looked around for reviews and asked others' opinion, I found out that very few people would recommend them. I've mentioned it before as well, but the reason behind this view is that there aren't any GTX 970 cards out at the moment that come equipped with the NVTTM reference cooler because it isn't economical to produce them. This cooler is amazing but the ones that AIB partners are putting in their GTX 970s are pretty much the same as the ones that came with GTX 670 cards, which were terrible.

Those coolers are terrible in two areas. Firstly, they run very loud at higher fan speeds because the fan is small and have to work hard to push the air through the heat sinks towards to back of the card and out of it. Secondly, they don't cool really well because it is a single small fan and the cooler has small intake vents.

I can live with higher temps but I cannot tolerate noise. Noisy computers are ones that are not well thought out and properly built. I don't want to end up with such a PC. I can wear headphones while I play games and be numb to the high fan noise but I cannot say same about my wife and kid. I only get a chance to play games when the kid is sleeping so the last thing I need is the noise of the video card waking him up. 

So I decided to get a card a decent cooler that ran quiet. That meant getting  a card with an open-air type cooler. I will have issues when I go for SLI, but I hope that adding more exhaust fans will rectify the thermal issues. I can add two fans on the side panel and Silverstone recommends adding them too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Assessing the chances of ending up with SLI

image

One of the reasons why I downsized only to the MicroATX form factor is because I wanted to keep room for expansion. But too much option is no better as well, because I'm having a hard time picking a graphics card to upgrade from GTX 670 to.

Establishing whether or not I would go for SLI would make all the difference. If I go with SLI, I need to get the Palit GTX 970 with blower style cooler. Else I can settle for the quieter and better built MSI Gaming 4G which has an open air style cooler.

Why would I need SLI? Would the power of a single GTX 970 be inadequate at 1440p?

I currently game at 1440p with my GTX  670. I don't play a lot of games - it's true - and so far I haven't seen any major issues. Of course I cannot run all of the games at ultra quality settings - both because of the GPU not having enough horse-power as well as lack of frame buffer.

The issue is that I'm very sensitive to frame-rate. Since the Korean PLS panel that I own can ru at 96Hz refresh rate, I would ideally want to run all games at 96Hz or more. That's not attainable with a single GTX 970 in most of the titles at 1440p. Two cards might be able to do it, however even then some games would not be tamed so easily.

But you are not making sense!

Wait...what? Oh...you - whoever that is in my head - have a point.

Like I said in a previous post, I would not be going for SLI right from the beginning due to financial complexities. But if that is the case, I would have to do with just one card for a foreseeable future. That means, the argument about sensitivity to FPS is just an excuse to tip the balance towards getting SLI. If sensitivity to FPS was a significant issue, I would have to forget about the financials and go for SLI right from the beginning. Get it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers - no good?

Palit

I am just about to dump my hard earned money into a new graphics card so naturally I want to get the most out of it. Performance-per-dollar and performance-per-wattage wise there is no better card currently available than the GTX 970 which is substantially faster than the GTX 670 that I currently own. So, I am quite fixed on the GTX 970, but there is a complication.

Since I have a small case with a positive air pressure design philosophy, I have to get a card that exhausts the hot air out of the case, instead of one that dumps hot air straight back in to the case. That means, I need to get a card that comes equipped with a blower style cooler. It might not be that critical for a single GPU configuration, because these cards do not put out a lot of heat, however SLI is a bit of a problem. Even though there is no chance of SLI at the moment, I want to keep that option available.

Not only that, with my motherboard, there is no free slots between them if I install two cards, therefore the top card will run extremely hot as it suffocates for fresh air. This would not be an issue with cards with blower style coolers as the cool air is sucked in from the front of the card, not top of the card (or the bottom when installed in the case), and there is an intake fan that directly feeds cool air from that direction.

OK, so a card or two with a blower style cooler it is.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple either.  As of this moment, there are no GTX 970s available with a reference cooler design. NVidia and AMD usually use blower style coolers as reference, but for the 970, NVidia has let Add-In-Board (AIB) Partners come up with their own solution. There were images of a GTX 970 carrying the same cooler as the reference GTX 980, the NVTTM cooler, but that was never released to the public. But they might come out in the future.

So, the GTX 970 is no go?

Not necessarily. Having no reference design does not mean that there aren't any GTX 970 cards with blower style coolers. Palit, PNY, Gainward, Galaxy, MSI and EVGA have released such cards. However, people who have analysed the cooler design claim that most of these coolers are identical to what the reference GTX 670 which was utter crap. For the noise figures of the PNY design, refer to this review. The PNY, Palit and Gainward seem to have the same design. Some say that the cooler on the EVGA card is much worse, but again, we do not have any solid figures. There is no information available on the MSI's cooler design as the cards aren't available in countries that really matter.

Bottom line?

I will have to reassess the chances of me going with SLI. If SLI is in the horizon, I'll settle for the Palit; else will get either the Galaxy EXOC or MSI Gaming 4G.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finalizing the CPU overclock

IntelDC

Apparently, CPUs also seem to have a burn-in time as well - or at least Haswell does. Despite being capable of running at a respectable 4.6GHz, my Intel Core i7 4790K CPU managed to crash the system with a BSOD on last Friday while transcoding a video. It was a BSOD 124 which suggests the Vcore needed to be raised a notch, however as it was already reaching the limits of the Noctua NH-U12S cooler’s cooling capacity, I defaulted. There were instances where the CPU core temps would touch 90C while using Handbrake at those settings. That is terrible.

Hence, I decided to drop the multiplier one notch and settle with a clock speed of 4.5GHz. 4.5GHz could absolutely be considered subpar when it comes to Devil's Canyon which many believed would reach 5GHz effortlessly. At least in my case, temperature issues are unavoidable due to the size of the chassis.

Lowering the multiplier allowed me to reduce the Vcore from 1.26V (which was inadequate to begin with) to 1.21V. Even though the reduction seems miniscule, it resulted in a massive 10C drop in temps while running Handbrake! That’s Haswell for you.

image

While I care less about extending the lifespan of the CPU as I am a frequent upgrader, the ability to run the fans lower resulted in a vastly comprehensible reduction in fan noise. Despite the reviewers saying that the NH-U12S is dead silent, I could easily hear it at full fan speed, perhaps because the case was much closer to ear. However, the biggest improvement came from the speed drop of the main intake fan, the 180mm Silverstone Air Penetrator fan which is installed on top of the case.

The onboard fan controller on my Asus Maximus VII Gene board, which I use to power up the fans and control them, has one issue. It would make the fans rotate at their maximum speed once the CPU temperature (not the core temperature which is about 10C more) exceeds 75C, which I believe is in place as a safeguard. There is no way to bypass this limitation unless you use low-noise adapters. At full speed, the 180mm air penetrator is noticeably loud though, it is intolerable as a high-pitched noise. I am in the opinion that noise is indicative of quality of a PC build.

So there it is. 4.5GHz; an underwhelming overclock especially when the CPU would automatically boost to 4.2GHz is thermals are not restrictive.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Error 0x80070013–0x20005 while trying to install Windows 10 Technical Preview on the Asus T100 Tablet

I downloaded the 32bit ISO and ran the setup from within Windows after mounting the ISO on Explorer. But I got an error and it reverted to the old installation (refer to the last image in the album). I am unsure what went wrong; I could not find any references to this error code.

I am not sure if this is accurate, but while searching the internet for similar instances I came across a post by someone stating the minimum system requirements for Windows 10 TP.

1 GHz processor with SSE2 support, NX and PXE
1 GB (32-bit) and 2 GB (64-bit) RAM
16 GB (32-bit) and 20 GB (64-bit) disk space for a clean installation
80 GB (32-bit) and 130 GB (64-bit) disk space for the upgrade
GPU-compatible with DirectX 9

I definitely do not have 80GB space in here. This tablet has a measly 32GB eMMC storage device. Guess I have to do a clean install then. The recovery functionality needs to be sorted out first.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Be watchful if you have a GeForce card–it might not be entering low power mode

Today I received a chat message from a friend, linking me to a forum post where a MSI GTX 970 card owner was complaining about the high idle temps of his new graphics card. It is a known fact that MSI decided not to spin the fan on Twin Frozr V cooler until the GPU temps exceeded 65C, just like the cooler on Asus Strix cards.

As soon as I read the post, I knew what the problem was. It was a driver issue. I have observed the exact same thing before, where the GPU and memory clocks would not drop below the base values at idle. The last time I resolved this issue by cleaning up the drivers using Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU for short) and reinstalling the newest drivers. Well, they were exactly the same version as I had installed – so there was not bug with the driver, if you installing it fresh.

I was worried that my Palit GTX 670 would be acting the same way, thus I opened up GPU-Z and went into the sensors tab hoping to check what clocks the GPU was running at. I am afraid to say that the clocks were running at base clocks – or the overclocked base clocks.

Here is what was shown on GPU-Z

TechPowerUp_GPU-Z_0.7.8_2014-10-06_21-49-19

I am thankful to the guy who brought this issue to my attention because I would have paid a huge power bill being unaware of this issue. By the way, this happened once, and I ended up paying about JPY 2,000 more for electricity.

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