07 November 2020

[ computer   ]

In the midst of a bit of a crazy year, I decided to make my life just a tad bit more difficult, and I upgraded my PC. It was a long time coming, last time I bought new PC components which weren’t harddrives was around 8 years ago, and whilst the trusty old machine could handle most of the things I threw at it, it did feel like it was time to start afresh.

Old Specs

The old machine was respectable in its hey day, around 2013 when I had rebuilt it, and basically the components were chosen for their bang-for-buck qualities at the time.

  • CPU: i5-3570k - A good quadcore ivy bridge processor, only flaw was no hyperthreading so only 4 threads.
  • Motherboard: GA-H77N-wifi - Whilst it was an ITX board and thus small, this motherboard suffered from no voltage offset, which limited overclocking.
  • GPU: MSI 670 GTX - Brand new at the time but the 600 series was not a big step up in performance over previous cards
  • PSU: Coolermaster 500W Semi-Modular - The semi modular was a mistake and those bulky cables have been a pain since the beginning.
  • RAM: Crucial Ballistix 2x8GB 1600Mhz RGB - ok! lights where a bit annoying.
  • HDD: At the end I had too many drives, 512GB SSD, 125GB SSD, 300GB 2.5 inch HDD, 2TB 3.5 inch HDD. All just added over time an as the others failed.

So all in all capable medium performance machine. Nonetheless, it was very noisy, almost like a jet taking off, and the drive situation was silly. On top of that I always liked small form factor PCs and the case, a BitPhoenix Prodigy, whilst small, is still very large for a ITX build. Time to go.

New Specs

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5900x - Not only does the new AMD generation have a great step up in Instructions per Clock from last gen, I just went from 4 threads, to 24 threads. It should be around 10x faster overall, mad!
  • Motherboard: MSI B550i - ITX board with ok ports and ok performance, but at a fantastic price!
  • GPU: Nvidia 3070 RTX founders edition - fantastic performance, good ray tracing performance, not too expensive, two slot card. Big step up from the expensive 2000 RTX generation before it. Beautiful to boot.
  • PSU: Corsair SF600 Platinum rated - Small form factor, highly reviewed, great efficiency
  • RAM: 2x16GB Crucial Ballistix 3200Mhz CL14 - Classic Ram, highly overclockable with its Micron Rev. E dies.
  • HDD: Sabrent Rocket 2TB - a downgrade in size, but a stupid stupid increase in speed, and since its NVME and m2 format, directly on the motherboard.
  • AIO: Crucial H100i XT PRO - 240mm AIO watercooling

Luck had it that two major step up in both GPU and CPU performance came around this generation. CPU side, AMD made great strides in single core performance, taking Intel’s crown, adding to their silly amount of cores for a very capable yet still affordable platform in the Ryzen Zen 2 series. Nvidia on the other hand finally recovered from the very poor performance/price ratio of the 2000 RTX series cards with the 3000’s. They brought much better ray-tracing and rasterizing performance back to normal prices.

SSD technology had also improved over the years with now NVME drives being tiny, extremely fast and embedded directly in the motherboard for optimum packaging. Overall this meant bode fantastically for a very small, yet pretty powerful setup. So I set up various price alerts for the components and now eagerly awaited the release of CPU and GPU.

From a small case to an absolutely tiny one

For the case, I decided to maybe go all out a bit and ordered the FormD T1, its tiny, and beautiful, and can fit all the components I ordered. Sadly I still don’t have it due to reasons mentioned later but to put it into perspective its about 9L in size, whilst my older case was around 35L.

It might be hard to tell, but it just about wraps around the GPU, it is stupidly small. It might be hard to tell, but it just about wraps around the GPU, it is stupidly small.

Supply? What Supply?

Overtime and great patience I collected some fantastic deals on all the parts, but still had to wait for the GPU and CPU to be released. In summary this was a disaster, clearly Covid had hit the supply chains harder than expected and the companies did not want to admit it.

  • GPU: Release day came and within less than a minute, they were sold out. Another minor release and again sold out. Another and Another. It got to the point where I wrote a rudimentary web-scraper to monitor the websites and check for the releases periodically, but it was just way too slow in reacting, and many times a drop happened whilst the PC was off or I didn’t have it open so it was pointless.
  • CPU: Much the same.
  • Case: Aluminium prices shot up, the manufacturer argued with the factory, long story short, they changed factory and now I was getting a plain black case in February instead of the beautiful Gunmetal black I ordered for Christmas.

And thus began the struggle. The PC was half built but missing all the major components. I ended up having sign up to dedicated alert websites and then order the GPU from Germany (the 3070 FE was actually my second choice, I was aiming for the 3080 FE) and the CPU from Switzerland, and have friends ship it over. At the same time I bought a tiny little SG13 (which is about 13L case) so I could have both the old and new PC at least running at the same time. It was all a mess and a lot of effort and logistics but it kinda worked. Out of pure frustration of it all I even bought a new monitor, because the old TN panel had washedout colours and I was just so fed up of the effort of all this to be looking at greys (replaced now with a Dell S2721DGFA 165Hz IPS panel, a big step up!)

It finally (mostly) arrived!

Finally everything but the case arrived, and I slapped it together to test on the table, happy with the performance then performed the painful task of swapping the insides of the old PC into the SG13 (the AIO would not fit) and the new PC into the old Case. It was a lot of hours lost in all this but, finally here I am typing this out on my brand new 24 threaded 32Gb monster of a PC which in a few months time will reside in something smaller than a shoebox!

Now the long setup

This is but the beginning, I am quite particular about my PC setups and it is a non-trivial task to set it up just the way I wanted, installing all the right software, hotkey shortcuts, organising the files and cloud/NAS syncs, setting up the linux partition and WSL service, etc etc etc. Thus I will likely lose some time in the coming weekends but it was a nice little gift to take my mind off of what was otherwise a bit of a miserable year for the whole world.

I don't think i'll be lacking cores for a while... I don’t think i’ll be lacking cores for a while…

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