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.
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.
Recently I set out to figure out how much clock speed I can squeeze out of my Zen+ based Ryzen 5 2600. To make life easier I figured I use Ryzen Master so I can change the settings while I’m in Windows so I don’t have to reboot every time I increase the clock speed. This has worked nicely until the point where I figured the viable maximum was. The next step was to dial those numbers "into hardware", meaning setting the options in the BIOS so that Ryzen Master is not required any more. And this is where my issues started to appear.
First, here’s a screenshot of the message Ryzen Master was giving me. After that I’ll explain what had happened.
In order to set the CPU multiplier you have to change from automatic to manual mode in Ryzen Master. I wanted to reset all options to their defaults after setting the overclock in the BIOS, but I always kept getting the message that Ryzen Master wants to restart Windows because the setting was changed to "Manual" – which it wasn’t, but more on that later. So I did as it asked multiple times with the same outcome every time. Effectively, I was doing a boot
So, how did I get there?
Find a stable overclock in Windows using Ryzen Master.
Reboot to BIOS and set the overclock closer to the hardware.
Reboot to Windows and reset everything in Ryzen Master.
Manual "Boot Loop" a few times.
Notice CPU always at 4GHz, no more Cool’n’Quiet operation mode.
Undo overclock in BIOS.
Still see overclock in Windows.
Uninstalling Ryzen Master.
Still see overclock in Windows.
Ryzen Master still not resetting.
Manual "Boot Loop" a few more times.
Getting pissed and searching the Internet – apparantly I was not alone.
More reboots and tests with BIOS settings.
It was the frickin’ BIOS! Ryzen Master was not to blame.
I have an ASRock B450 Gaming mITX mainboard with the latest non-Matisse (Ryzen 3000) BIOS. It is not recommended to upgrade unless a Ryzen 3000 is installed. There’s a weird bug in the BIOS that still applies the overclock even if the setting is set to "Auto by AMD CBS" (or something like that). There were two things that helped:
Load BIOS defaults.
Enable manual control and set the correct CPU base frequency at 3400MHz.
When applying the overclock with 4000MHz it effectly ran at 4GHz every time, even in idle. When setting 3400MHz it properly clocked down and also boosted as a R5 2600 should. The same setting only with a different clock value produced a different behavior. And unless the BIOS defaults are loaded the "Auto" mode doesn’t do what you expect – if you’ve set an overclock previously.
Curiously enough, booting Fedora Linux from an USB stick did properly scale the CPU frequency based on the load, even with the overclock applied. Apparently only Windows or AMD’s drivers didn’t manage to do that. Booting a Linux helped me to rule out Ryzen Master as the root of the always applied overclock although the BIOS setting was set to the default Auto mode.
Don’t overclock on this mainboard.
The OC options for the CPU are laughable at best. No way to set the multiplier per core.
Next time buy a higher-end mainboard for overclocking (ITX is expensive though…).
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 »
Until a couple of months ago my main focus on buying input devices for computers was based on performance and price. I mean, in general that is how one goes about spending money, right? Check the spec sheet and see if it’s worth it. That’s how I always buy my things. I make up my mind that I need something and then I visit my preferred retailer websites and compare the prices. At my home desktop I am a bit more demanding than at work where I simply used (past tense) what came with the computer, but ergonomics never played a role. Boy has that changed. Read More »
My gaming PC is about two years old now (read this and this for more information) and although I didn’t really have any serious, permanent performance issues in games, I felt that it was about time to change something.
Here’s a short review and benchmark comparison of NVIDIA’s latest GTX 970 vs. the AMD Radeon HD 7870 (quite a mouthful) that I had installed before. The latter also had to show what it can do compared to an older NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti. Read More »
Recently I wanted to install a Gigabyte Radeon HD7870 in an older PC with an ASRock P67 Pro3 Mainboard. The surprise was big when the monitor didn’t show an image and the computer didn’t boot. Instead, the mainboard’s debug panel showed the error code 97. According to the manual this means “Console Output devices connect”. Not connectED but more likely in the process of initializing the graphics card and failing while doing that.
There’s an easy fix for that. Installing the latest BIOS version (3.30, installed at the time was 2.02) resolved the issue and the computer booted without problems.
In my second year as a trainee (nine long years ago) I bought myself a Samsung R50 notebook to replace my aging desktop PC and also take it with me to school (and play games on it – at home of course). At the time this computer was very efficient from a mobile perspective and also well suited to play serious games. Of course, at some point several years later its age became apparent and this year on April 8 the installed operating system, Windows XP, finally became officially obsolete. Since then the computer was sitting at my mother’s house, waiting for… well… a resurrection!Read More »
When building the PC for gaming on the TV one thing I had in mind was leveraging the already existing 5.1 sound system. After the move from the TV screen back to a desktop monitor I thought my headphones would suffice for the time spent playing games. At first that assumption turned out to be true, however, not only did I use the headphones for gaming but also when watching TV shows. In the evening, after work, I wanted to enjoy the audio but had no interest in disturbing my neighbors. After a while this led to the headphones becoming quite uncomfortable for all those hours wearing them, especially during the weekend gaming session when having them on the head for several hours.
So, what does a tech-nerd do about that? Buy himself a dedicated sound system for the PC, he does!
At the beginning of this year I set out to build myself a HTPC to satisfy my newly emerged want for games and also serve as media playback machine, i.e. Blu Ray, DVD and everything I have on iTunes. Accompanying the PC (yes, it was a PC not a Mac) was a Samsung 40″ TV. Following are my – then anounced and long-in-the-waiting – experiences using this combo for gaming and watching movies – and even reading comics.
Not long ago I became quite frustrated with the gaming capabilities of my iMac. It’s not that I didn’t know about the expected performance of the hardware since I bought the cheapest version by design. At that time I did not use the PC I had for what it was built for, which finally led to me selling it. However, recently I felt the urge to play some games other than Diablo 3. For one the iMac just couldn’t deliver the performance to enjoy the visuals of modern games as they were designed to be. Secondly what really frustrated me and this is also the main reason why I never really played anything other than Diablo 3 on the iMac, was the poor cooling management of that machine. I have to crank up the coolers manually (using iStat Menus 3) in order to prevent overheating. Otherwise it’ll just get very hot and reboot eventually. As one can imagine this technique only works reliably on OS X. Read More »