New workstation

Finally done setting up my new computer. I bought it over two months ago, but it took me a long time to get it running as intended. I got shipped a damaged case, then later had the mainboard break after only two weeks of using it. I have also been struggling with a noise issue on the watercooling unit, which is finally resolved now.

The specs are on PcPartPicker for those interested.

As for Linux support on this new hardware, my experience has been flawless, save for one component.

Corsair H100i GTX on Linux

The Corsair water coolers only partially support Linux. Partial support meaning, the unit will run fine out of the box, but you will not be able to use the Corsair Link software to adjust fan speed, pump speed and LED color. There is an open source replacement for Corsair Link under development, but it does not appear to support the GTX models yet.

I long debated whether to get an RMA for my unit. The pump was very loud in the beginning and also made an unhealthy-sounding grinding noise at higher RPMs. The grinding problem fixed itself after a few weeks of usage. It was, however, still slightly too loud for my taste.

Finally, I noticed that I could run Corsair Link on Windows, set the desired preferences, then reboot back into Linux, with the preferences still persisting. This way, I set the pump to Quiet mode and now I’m happy with the noise level. The pump is almost inaudible over the fans now.

I was able to do this in a virtual machine even, using Windows 8 in VirtualBox. To make the VM recognize the Corsair Link internal USB device, you’ll need to add your (host) user to the vboxusers group, install the VirtualBox Extension Pack (not to confuse with the Virtual Box Guest Additions! I’m not sure though if this step is actually necessary), then enable the USB device in the virtual machine’s preferences.

Overclocking results

Nothing too impressive for an i7-4790k. I couldn’t get it stable at 4.7 GHZ without going over 1.4 volts, which is a little more than I’m comfortable with – especially considering the cooler is still running on Quiet settings. Reading through results from other people, I seem to have gotten a below average chip. Most i7-4790k’s still cap at 4.7 GHZ, though.

Frequency Core voltage
4.4 GHZ (stock Turbo) 1.150v
4.5 GHZ 1.200v
4.6 GHZ 1.350v

I’m going to stick with the 4.6 GHZ for day-to-day usage. I probably could have achieved the same with high-end air cooling. Which kind of puts the money spent on the H100i to waste. Well, at least it looks cool.

I am well aware that 1.35 volts will affect the lifespan of the chip, but that’s fine with me. If it breaks, I’ll simply have an excuse to upgrade again. Which makes sense anyway, given that Skylake chips have been released now.

Conclusion

Very happy with the results of this upgrade. I am seeing ~2.6 times the framerate in OpenMW compared to my old rig, and an ever larger improvement in compile times. I can make -j8 the whole project in about 2 minutes and 40 seconds. While there are still “faster” CPUs with more cores, you would sacrifice single-core performance, which is very important for the linker and single threaded applications in general (so almost every application). So for me, the 4790k is the best CPU that money can buy right now (Ignoring the i7-6700k, which was unfortunately released after I purchased my system).

The graphics card might be overkill for what I’m doing right now, but at least it runs very quiet and has great power efficiency. I don’t play a lot of games these days, but I picked up Metro 2033: Redux the other day just to stress the card a bit, then promptly got lost in the game. It’s a great game, definitely the most immersive game I’ve played to date, and I would say the GPU purchase was worth it alone just to max out that game.

The GTX 970 STRIX edition also features a passive cooling mode when the GPU is not under heavy load. With OpenMW running at a framelimit of 120 fps, the GPU isn’t even stressed enough to start spinning its fans. Pretty impressive!

Did I mention that the PC looks awesome? I guess looks are not a deciding factor, but a nice bonus. My desk is generally quite empty these days, so I don’t mind having a little something to look at. I might get rid of the LED lighting later if I find it too distracting, but so far I’m liking it!

pc

For my next build (maybe in 3 years or so) I plan on building a custom watercooling loop, just for the heck of it (and so I can overclock the sh*t out of my CPU while still being near silent). But this one will do for now.

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