If you are in the market for anything gaming PC or gaming laptop
related, chances are, you have come across the industry-wide trend of
RGB illuminated hardware and peripherals. Everything is RGB, from the
graphics card to the RAM, to your headset (because you can see the
lights when you wear it 🙄), and many, many more. I am not against RGB
lighting per se, but if you follow the industry as a PC hardware
enthusiast, it is evident that in some aspects, this has gone too far.
Quick side note: after a rant about RGB software, I will show
examples of using OpenRGB on Windows and Linux. If you are interested
in only that, skip the rant and scroll to the bottom.
The first two cases I had bought were before I became aware of all
the mass-market and niche options that existed at that time. Not only
have I learned about the DAN Case, NCase M1, and Streacom DA2, but
companies have released more cases during the past year. I’m
talking about the NZXT H1, the Cooler Master NR200, or, recently,
Phanteks’ second attempt at the Evolv Shift. Even Lian Li’s TU150
landed during that time, my current case. There are even so many more
cases, like the Louqe Ghost S1, the FormD T1,
Sliger SM560, and many more.
In a few aspects, the Lian Li TU150 is comparable to the NZXT H200.
One: for an ITX enclosure, it is on the bigger side. And two: it has
a similarly closed-off front. Other than that, they are pretty
different, though. In some areas, that is a good thing, and it is a
bad thing in others.
In the timeframe of just over a year, this is the fourth (!) computer
case that I have tried. Usually, it is the CPU or GPU that gets
replaced more often 😅 It is also my current case, which means I
can provide good pictures to visualize my thought process better.
In the third part of my road to the perfect mini ITX computer case,
things will get a bit weird. As you may have gathered from the title,
I will not talk about a mini ITX enclosure in this blog post. Quite
the opposite, in fact: the Fractal Design Meshify C is a full-sized
mid-tower ATX case.
You may now wonder why I suddenly had a change of heart and ditched a
big.SMALL™ case for a not-so-small big computer tower. Well, I was
surrendering to big graphics cards. Or, put the other way around, I
was annoyed that I had to search endlessly to find a fast and quiet,
and affordable two-slot graphics card model, only to fail ultimately.
But, let me not get ahead of myself and start from the beginning, the
same way I did for the previous two blog posts.
The second of the bunch is one of the stylish cases from NZXT, the
H200. While it is technically a mini ITX chassis, it is a large case
for that market segment. Just like the Fractal Design Core 500, it is
compatible with a wide range of hardware, making it the perfect
enclosure for price-conscious buyers. On top of that, it also is
Unfortunately, I do not have an image of a complete desk setup with
this case. Here is one with a good look at the internal layout and
The computer that I bought roughly a year ago has seen quite a few
revisions already. But I am not talking about the core hardware –
although I switched the GPU at one point. I mean the case. I wanted
to go with something small from the start, so the basis is a mini ITX
mainboard. However, I have not been incredibly happy with any of the
cases so far. In this first installment in a series of several blog
posts, one for each computer case, I will share my experiences in
building a small, attractive, and performant and yet price efficient
computer. I will cover design, hardware compatibility, pricing, and
availability. Unlike the YouTube tech creators, not everybody has a
seemingly unlimited budget or receives hardware from the
manufacturers for review or showcases. It may look easy in all those
YouTube videos, but it might not be for everyone.
Although I am mainly talking about gaming hardware, the same thoughts
also apply to compact office PCs or workstations. Depending on the
use case, i.e., which PC component requires the most focus, one or
the other might become less or more relevant.
So, first off is the Fractal Design Core 500.
I guess everybody has a story about how the current situation affects
them. Since I share a few of my thoughts on the Internet and this one
also has to do with technology, usually the main topic of my musings,
I think this is something worth addressing.
I do not know if it makes any difference, but I will say it anyway
for the sake of context. I live in Germany and of all the countries
in the world we are in fairly good shape so far. We have had lockdown
procedures for a while, but nothing so restricting that forbade
leaving the house for anything other than going to work, the doctor
or buy groceries. We could go for walks or outdoor sports if we were
not meeting with other people. It was social distancing, but not
hiding at home.
I work as a software developer at an IT company and my employer, like
many others, relaxed the usual home office regulations month after
month and basically the whole company started to work from their
homes, me included. There are a few that do not like it and rather go
to the office – which is safe, I presume, as there is basically no
one there. I, on the other hand, prefer working from home and this is
where the story of this blog post starts.
Update, 2, July 2021
I have found another tool that I now prefer. Read this blog post to learn more, or read this blog for yet even more information 😉.
In my quest to move to Linux as a daily driver it was important for
me that I could continue to use Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage.
Unsurprisingly, Windows 10 comes bundled with a OneDrive sync client.
There is no official Linux support though, so I had to resort to a
3rd party tool. Luckily, there is a very powerful utility called
rclone that does almost exactly what I want and I’ll explain how
I have it set up to suit my needs.
Spoiler: it’s not as convenient as Microsoft’s sync client, but it
has other things going for it.
It has been roughly a month since I switched from using Windows 10 as my main operating system to Linux. The reasons for that have all been detailed in The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment blog post. Now I will share a few of the experiences I have made during the first month (it’s been that long already) and what I think about how well it is going.
Let me address the elefant in the room first, the distribution. I think that is likely the first question you, the reader, would ask. The short answer is Pop!_OS by System76.
For the longest time I have been a Windows user. My first computer
came with Windows 98 SE (ignoring the Amiga before it) and I’ve used
Windows as the main operating system for almost all that time since
then. There was a brief excursion into the Apple world for about a
year or two, but apart from that: Microsoft’s creation. It’s not that
I have not tried using Linux, it’s just that for many years my needs
could not be easily satisfied by a Linux based operating system. For
one, I have always enjoyed PC gaming and I still do. I’ve tried going
with a console, but that was one of the worst decisions I had made in
2019. There also was a long period where I had used my computer as a
TV, a time where Youtube and all the other streaming services hadn’t
existed. And although I had managed to get the TV tuners to somehow
work, it was not comparable to the experience on Windows. For my use
case, over all those years, Microsoft’s OS simply was the Vulkan
choice. But now in 2020, this isn’t the case anymore. Things have
changed, including the maturity of Linux as well as my own needs and
my views. Therefore, it’s about time that I revisit this topic.
At the end of last year, I was researching GPUs like a madman, trying to find the best option for price and performance and maybe also have some headroom for a future CPU upgrade. My starting point was a Ryzen 5 2600, 16 GB of 3000 MHz CL15 RAM and an AMD RX 570 with 8 GB of VRAM. A very good performance per buck machine in the summer of 2019 for 1080p gaming. It was purpose-built to be cheap with an upgrade path in the near future. However, my inner hardware enthusiast didn’t want to be content. It also didn’t help that the two games I was playing at that time performed rather poorly (which was the games fault, but you take every excuse you can get to buy new stuff).
Putting that aside, I have data of three graphics cards to compare, tested in four games at three different in-game settings – plus a custom one for two games that I used for playing. In addition to that, I have a bit of CPU overclocking as a result of troubleshooting and a RAM upgrade from a 3000 MHz CL15 kit to a 3600 MHz CL17 kit – which is running at 3400 MHz. More wasn’t possible with this motherboard and CPU. This post isn’t about the CPU overclocking though. I did that to see if the 5700 XT was limited by the R5 2600 and would perform better with a faster CPU. Well no surprise there, but as it turned out, the numbers I found were not caused by the CPU. More on that later.
Quick note before I go into any details: I did not find a solution for this problem, unfortunately. I’ll be explaining what happened and show frame time graphs as proof.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get into it. I’m certainly not the only one with this issue. If you employ the search engine of your liking you will find many threads covering that topic (like here and here and here and here and so on). Some managed to get it working, some did not. I’m obviously in the latter category.
What happens? From what I found in my research it seems like the RX 5700 XT GPU aggressively tries to save energy if it is not fully utilized. If you run MSI’s Afterburner or any other monitoring software, then you’ll see the GPU load and frequency being all over the place. In general, this is a good thing – if it does not affect perceived performance. And this is where it fell apart for me.
As an avid listener of Windows Weekly I often hear discussions between Paul Thurrott, Mary Joe Foley and Leo Laporte about Microsoft’s Fluent Design. Microsoft continues to evolve the visual language of Windows and thus it’s a regular topic on one of my favorite podcasts. I’ve been noticing it here and there myself, mainly in system dialogs, but I’ve never really paid any attention because none of the applications I use on a regular basis make use of it – and currently I’m rather happy about that fact. Just recently though, I was struck by one effect in particular and that was the spark that got this blog post going. To be honest, in most cases where I notice these Fluent Design elements I think of them as rendering bugs. Like sometimes in games, when the graphics driver is not yet optimized, or a badly programmed game engine draws odd pictures sometimes, flaws in an otherwise normal picture. I have a few examples to show to you.
Somehow, I managed to lose the Intel mounting bracket and standoffs for my Corsair H100i v2 liquid cooler. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I sold them together with the Intel motherboard when I switched to AMD Ryzen. Yes, you read that correctly.
Sold. With. Motherboard.
I can’t find that stuff anywhere in all the packaging that I always keep around until I throw away or sell the hardware. So that’s the only logical conclusion says Mr. Spock.Read More »
As mentioned in the Overclocking the Core i5 post a while back, my graphics card was limiting higher performance outputs, especially since it had to render games in 2560×1440. I hinted at an additional post dedicated to overclocking the GPU and this is it in some ways. I did overclock the GPU, but shortly after I also replaced it with a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1080. Nevertheless, for comparison, I will include the overclocked results based on the custom graphics settings from the last post and also compare it to the 1080 using default game presets. This way you can easily compare with your own rig. I had hoped I could also include Ryzen tests, but unfortunately Corsair’s AM4 mounting kit for the watercooler is still travelling around the world. So, there’ll be another performance related article (hopefully) soon. That one will compare the overclocked i5 with the GTX 1080 to a Ryzen 1700X with the 1080. Not only in games, but also in encoding.Read More »