2017 Battlestation

About 6 months ago I started a project to miniaturize my gaming PC. At that time, the goals were to reduce the footprint, improve the noise level, improve the overall performance level and thermals. As outlined in my previous write-up, we exceeded these goals with PHOEBE v3 rig.

This is the next chapter of that story.

The Swedish Foundation

Alongside the PC, I have also improved my home office setup for 2017. Gone is the space-consuming generic L-shape desk and in with IKEA setup.

Here is the base of this 2017 Battlestation:

  • IKEA KARLBY 73″ Walnut – Great countertop that’s actually designed for Kitchen use. This is sturdier than the popular LINNMON tabletop as the KARLBY has particleboard core but encased in wood. IKEA also sells 100% wooden countertop called HAMMARP but they are slightly thinner than KARLBY. Plus HAMMARP is not available in Walnut.
  • IKEA ALEX drawers in White (2x) – Standard drawer. Lots of storage space to house my controllers, games, cables, and even the entire Oculus Rift VR set up!

For audio, an AMP/DAC has been added to the set up with Schiit Fulla 2 which is an excellent entry level product by Schiit Audio. I was thinking to go with Schiit Magni/Modi combo but decided that it’s too rich for my blood for marginal improvement as I’m not really an audiophile. The Fulla 2 is powering the gaming PC and PS4 audio for both headphones and Micca PB42X speakers.

The Centerpiece: PHOEBE v3.2 – Aesthetics & Power

005

When it comes time to re-imagine the build for its next revision, I have identified a few areas to improve: GPU, Cables, Cooler, and Window/Tempered Glass mod. This will encompass both improving the aesthetics with window/tempered glass mod but at the same time giving it more power with the GPU upgrade.

I was initially considering a CPU/platform upgrade but quickly scrapped that idea after a lackluster Kaby Lake performance and AM4 Ryzen gaming performance (as well as the lack of AM4 ITX motherboard altogether). I will re-assess once Intel released their Coffee Lake and X299 Basin Falls platform in the summer/fall. By then, there should be some AM4 ITX motherboard to choose as well.

That said, here are the parts I procured for this revision:

  • Used EVGA GTX 1080 Founders Edition – From r/HardwareSwap.
  • Shorty’s cables and Extension cables from Ensourced.net. Took 2 weeks to ship so plan your build timing accordingly but Joey did an outstanding job. Cables are perfectly crafted and looks wonderful.
    This is what I ordered:
    – 24 Pin Motherboard Shorty
    – 8 Pin CPU|EPS Shorty
    – 8 Pin PCI-e Shorty
    – 24 Pin Motherboard Extension, Length: 20cm. Curve Orientation: Clip Inside. Wire Wrap Color: Black. Pattern: Black, Charcoal Gray, White.
    – 8 Pin CPU|EPS Extension, Length: 30cm. Curve Orientation: Clip Inside. Wire Wrap Color: Black. Pattern: Black, Charcoal Gray, White.
    – 8 Pin PCI-e Extension, Length: 20cm. Curve Orientation: Clip Outside. Wire Wrap Color: Black. Pattern: Black, Charcoal Gray, White.
    – Single 4 Pin Molex Cable, Length: 20cm. Wire Wrap Color: Black. Pattern: Black, Charcoal Gray, White.
  • Noctua U9S Cooler.
  • Tempered Glass from OneDayGlass.com.
    This is what I ordered:
    Type: Tempered Glass
    Shape: Square/Rectangle
    Thickness: 1/8″
    Tint: Light Gray
    Edgework: Flat Polish all Edges
    Width: 12 7/8″
    Height: 9 1/2″
    Huge thanks to /u/pslate over at r/SFFPC subreddit for the inspiration and glass measurement. Check out his build.
  • 3D Printed Mounting bracket from Shapeways.com
    Huge thanks to Optimum Tech for providing the .stl file. Head out to his channel and check out this video to get the file if you’re interested.

Overclocking

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CPU Overclock remains unchanged from previous build:

  • XMP Profile
  • BCLK = 100
  • FCLK = 1Ghz
  • CPU Core Ratio (Multiplier) = 45
  • DRAM Frequency = DDR4-3200Mhz
  • CPU Load-line calibration = Level 5
  • CPU Core Voltage = Adaptive Mode / 1.280
  • DRAM Voltage = 1.35
  • CPU VCCIO Voltage = 1.10000
  • CPU System Agent Voltage = 1.10000

GPU Max Overclock is as follows for benchmarking:

  • Core: +200 Mhz (in-game clock around 1950-2050 Mhz)
  • Memory: +500 Mhz (effective clock 11Ghz)

With GPU Boost 3.0, NVIDIA has incorporated finer grain overclocking where we can specify clock for each voltage level. This actually allows you to find a “sweet spot” to run your card at the lowest voltage level to improve thermal.

I have set the following V/F Curve for my day to day use:

VF_Curve

After a few hours of testing, I found that I can run a fairly consistent 1975 Mhz at 0.9v. I found this to be the sweet spot as I only lose about 3% in performance vs max overclock but for a much better thermal operation.

Benchmarks Setup

As a reminder, I am going to compare two separate systems with the benchmarks. The goal here is to observe improvements obtained from each revision of the gaming PC.

PHOEBE v3.0 is overclocked as follows:

  • CPU: 6700K – 4.5Ghz @ 1.28v
  • GPU: GTX 1070 Strix
    • Core: +197 Mhz (In-game clock 2000Mhz)
    • Memory: +396Mhz Memory Clock (Actual clock 8.8Ghz)
    • 120% Power Limit

PHOEBE v3.2 is overclocked as follows:

  • CPU: 6700K – 4.5Ghz @ 1.28v
  • GPU: GTX 1080 Founders Edition
    • Core: +200 Mhz (in-game clock around 1950-2050 Mhz)
    • Memory: +500 Mhz (effective clock 11Ghz)
    • 120% Power Limit

Benchmarks settings:

  • Unigine Heaven: 2560×1440/DX11/Ultra/Tessellation Extreme/3D Disable/Multi Monitor Disable/AA Off/Full Screen
  • Unigine Valley: 2560×1440/DX11/Ultra/3D Disable/Monitor Single/AA Off/Full Screen
  • Unigine Superposition: 1080p Extreme Preset
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: 2560×1440/Vsync Off/FXAA/Very high Preset/AO = On/PureHair = Off.
  • Hitman (2016): 2560×1440/Exclusive FS/Vsync Off/HDR Off/LOD Ultra/SMAA/High Texture/AF 16x/SSAO On/Shadow Maps Ultra/Shadow Resolution High
  • The Division: 2560×1440/Enable Reduced Latency/Ultra settings/Vsync Off/Frame Rate Limit Off
  • Ghost Recon Wildlands: 2560×1440/Vsync Off/Framerate Limit Off/Ultra & Very High Preset

CPU Systems and Rendering Benchmarks

Slide01

Cinebench R15 is a popular benchmark showing both CPU multi core and single core performance. In this benchmark, the scores are identical as expected.

Slide02

Geekbench scores are within margin of error for both single core and multi core tests. Again, this is expected as we did not change the CPU parameters.

Slide03

Dolphin Povray tests emulator performance and we do see a small margin of error improvement by 1-2 seconds here. Again, this is expected.

Slide04

LuxMark 3.1 is a new benchmark I added to our 2017 benchmark suite. Scenes chosen are Luxball and Hotel. We measure CPU OpenCL and Native C++ performance as well as GPU OpenCL here. Since this is new, there is only one data point for this benchmark but as I upgrade in the future, there will be comparison data here.

GPU Benchmarks

Slide05

CompuBench 1.5 offers a suite of different compute workloads. This is a new benchmark I added to the suite just like LuxMark.

Slide06

TessMark is yet another new benchmark to our suite. This synthetic bench measures Tessellation performance. We are testing both Set 3 and 4 at 1440p resolution with 64x Tessellation.

Slide07

Firestrike is showing a 17% improvement in Overall score. This is mostly due to the 24% improvement in Graphics score moving from GTX 1070 to GTX 1080. Physics score which measures CPU performance is up by 1%.

Slide08

Similar story with Firestrike Extreme. Overall score is up by 22%. Graphics score is up 23%. Physics score is up 1.3%.

Slide09

Firestrike Ultra is showing the same performance improvement around 18% for Overall score, 23% improvement in Graphics score and 1.3% improvement in Physics score.

Slide10

TimeSpy is measuring DX12 performance with Async Compute enabled. We are seeing 18% uplift in Overall score and 23% improvement in Graphics score not unlike the other Futuremark benchmarks above. CPU score, however, curiously declined by 2%.

Slide11

Unigine Heaven is a synthetic game benchmark measuring DX11 performance. We are seeing 104.7 fps on average and 35.4 fps minimum.

Slide12

Unigine Valley is another synthetic game benchmark is our suite. We are seeing 138.3 fps on average with 49.7 fps minimum.

Slide13

Unigine Superposition is a newly released benchmarks by the same guys that make Heaven and Valley. We are benchmarking in 1080p Extreme which is very demanding. In Direct X, we see 32.11 fps average with 26.4 fps minimum.

Slide14

Unigine Superposition also measures OpenGL performance and we are seeing a lower performance here at 27.27 fps average and 23.4 fps minimum.

Slide15

For our game benchmarks, we have a suite of 4 games. Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman, and The Division are tested with DX11 and DX12 API. Ghost Recon Wildlands is tested with Ultra and Very High preset settings. Overall with our system, at 1440p, we see most games are tracking comfortably over 60 fps except Ghost Recon Wildlands on Ultra that is getting 53.54 fps on average.

Thermals

Slide16

Our CPU Temperature is the most impacted with this revision. The decision to use tempered glass means we are taking away the side intake and relying 100% on the CPU cooler. We see that while idle temperature remains the same at 31 degrees, in both Gaming and Stress load, the CPU temperature increased by about 10 degrees. This is just the trade-off and outside of doing a custom watercooling, there is not much I can do.

Slide17

On the GPU side, we moved from an open-air cooler 1070 to a blower style 1080 Founders Edition. We are seeing a lower idle temperature but that’s due to the 1070 fans not running at idle. During gaming load, we are seeing the 1080 Founders Edition hitting 82 degrees which is a 7 degrees increase from the open-air cooler. A point of improvement here is to use Arctic Accelero for GPU in the future.

Conclusion

I went into this project with the goal to improve aesthetics and add more power to the build. After seeing all the benchmarks, I believe it’s a success. Thermals are not optimal but it’s a trade-off I am willing to make. There is no performance difference between the CPU running at 48 degrees during gaming vs 59 degrees. As far as GPU, there is one path to better cooling here by switching over to Arctic Accelero. Of course, I could also go full watercooling with this build but that’s a goal for the future.

Gallery

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4 thoughts on “2017 Battlestation

  1. Thank you for doing this. I am building in the Ncase M1 and I have been looking for some people who are doing quality builds in it and Tempered glass sounds like an amazing addition that I will definitely have to look into!

    One question though. Did you get your sleeved cables custom lengthed or were you satisfied with the stock lengths?

    Like

    • Thank you! As far as the cable, it is a Custom handmade cable by Ensourced.net. If you check out the cable section, I listed the length. Beware, I am using Shorty Cables + Extension cables. The shorty added about 5cm so if you do not wish yo use this combination and just get straight up cables, make sure you add 5-10cm to the length of extension cables I got. For example, I bought 24 pin motherboard shorty + 24 pin motherboard extension with the length of 20cm. If you just want to get the custom 24 pin motherboard cable, make sure you get about 25-30cm length.

      Like

  2. So I have an Ncase and a GTX 1080 but have noticed the side panel doesn’t quite fit (due to the graphics card being larger than the GTX 980 for which the case was built). Does the glass panel sit a little off in order to avoid this issue?

    Like

    • Hey Jake,

      I do not have that problem with my GTX 1080 FE. The only card I know that has that problem is the MSI Gaming X due to the added Z-axis height on the card. The Glass panel is flush just like the original side panel

      Like

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