Benchmarking the new computer

What good is upgrading without real numbers to compare the systems? Well, actually, it’s just as good. After all, it is still the same upgrade with or without benchmarks. But I did some anyway. I even overclocked the CPU and GPU and did some benchmarking with those updates as well. This resulted in a surprisingly small increase in performance.

OLD PC NEW PC Δ%: New PC OC Δ% over non-OC:
i7-2600 i7-4790K
8GB RAM 16GB RAM
GTX 550ti GTX 960
PC Mark 8 Home 3392 4450 31%
PC Mark 8 Work 2998 3817 27%
PC Mark 8 Creative 2633 4585 74%
3D Mark Ice Storm 71504 170795 139% 176984 4%
3D Mark Cloud Gate 11786 24219 105% 24943 3%
3D Mark Sky Diver 6359 21602 240% 21872 1%
3D Mark Firestrike 1834 6899 276% 6991 1%
3D Mark Firstrike Extreme 514 3511 583% 3544 1%

So, as you can see, the old computer was not terrible, but the new computer smokes it. Something interesting came out of the PC Mark tests. PC Mark tests things like audio compression, video scaling, spreadsheets, gaming, web browsing, etc… The new computer did slightly worse times on the web browsing (I blame no windows 8 drivers for my wireless network adapter) and, here is the big surprise, it was a ton slower on the gaming tests. Even though, as you can see by the graphics benchmarks, that gaming performance should be its staple measure. The gaming tests on PC Mark use Direct X 9. The tests for 3D Mark use Direct X 11 (IIRC). So is the new card really that bad at outdated tech or is something else messing with its chi?

BTW, every other test in the PC Mark tests was crazy fast. To the point that total test time dropped from 64 minutes to 44 minutes on the longest one. By crazy, I am talking things like the “video to go part 2” test dropped from 68 seconds to just 14. That’s an 80% drop.

So I think the overall numbers, even though they increased by a good margin, I think are severely being skewed by the poor gaming test performance.

After doing all the benchmarks, I decided to play with overclocking. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with some software that will automatically overclock you CPU and run it through some stability tests until it breaks it then it turns you back a few notches for your final setting. It tested my 4.0GHz system all the way up to 5.1 GHz before it failed. And the software settled on 4.6GHz for my final setting.

The Asus STRIX GTX 960 OC2 is made for overclocking and came pre-overclocked a little. I kicked it all the way up to 1420MHz and it ran fine. So I retested GPU benchmarks. And as you can see, the improvements were essentially statistical anomalies. In other words, the numbers vary that much each time you test anyway.

At this point, I did some load testing on the CPU and found that at 4.6GHz, it was getting up to 91°C which is a little higher than I wanted to see. With the CPU running at 4.0GHz, it never got over 75°C. So I turned it down to 4.4GHz and load tested again. At 4.4GHz, it never got over 75°C, just like the stock setting. So I left it at 4.4GHz. Looks like I found the limitation of that CPU cooler. And due to the insignificant performance gains the GPU overclocking showed, I turned it back down to the factory overclock setting.

Now, the website I used to help decide on CPU and video card choice is maintained by Passmark. They have their own benchmarking software for the full PC. And after running those tests, Iam thinking they may be more reliable than the PCMark tests.

Here are my Passmark scores:

OLD PC NEW PC Δ%:
Overall 2372.6 5251.2 121%
CPU Mark 8681 11735 35%
G3D Mark (video card) 2072 6681 222%
Memory Mark 2200 2716 23%
Disk Mark 633 4675 639%

According to the Passmark site, my CPU should score 11245. I am overclocked a bit, so I beat it. And their site says a standard GTX 960 video card is rated at 5987 where mine got 6681. I attribute that to the Asus card being overclocked. As for the hard drive score, have I said lately how much I love SSD’s? And mine score better than a bunch of Crucial and Kingston that seem to be gamer favorites.

Also one of the baseline reference systems Passmark compares my results to is a i7-5820K with a gigabyte X99 MB, 8GB RAM, same size Crucial SSD, and the vastly superior GTX 980 video card. And that system is rated at 4995 compared to my 5251. So yeah, I feel pretty good about this new build.

My new computer build

So my old computer was pretty decent. It lasted me nearly 4 years before I felt it needed any kind of upgrade. So I bought a video card for it. I picked the new Asus Strix Nvidia GTX 960 OC2. The reason I went with this card was because the case didn’t have a lot of room for a long card, and the new GTX 900 series from Nvidia seems to be super efficient, using very small amounts of energy for how fast it is. Well, this old computer was an i7-2600 HP desktop. It had a GTX 550ti video card, 8GB RAM, and 460 watt power supply. It turns out HP only supports the BIOS on their computers for about a year. The newest BIOS update I could get from them was from 2012.

So now, what do I do with this fancy pretty new video card? I could return it, maybe pay a restocking fee, or try to sell it at a small loss. Or I could build a whole new computer. Been a REALLY long time since I had last built a computer. And I just sold my Kart, so I have a little cash laying around begging me to spend it. Let’s do it!

Yes, for a whole new build I normally would have gone the GTX 970 or an AMD. But I already had this one and it is still a great upgrade. And low power is good. So now I get to pick components. I found this great website in my searches called http://pcpartpicker.com This site takes the price from a bunch of sources, gives you the best options meeting your criteria and lets you store the build and even has a section to show off your build and see what other people did with similar components.

OK, so let’s get to the components I chose and why I chose them:

All the toys

All the toys

Video card: Covered this already…

CPU: i7-4790K

Why I chose it: Rock solid (like pretty much all Intel chips), Overclockable, Ranked in the top 50 fastest CPU’s at https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php and only a couple others come close to the performance to price index. Also, it seems to be a favorite (along with the i7-5820K) amongst overclocking gamers. While I don’t plan to overclock, typically chips good for overclocking seem to be more stable and have more support from users. And I was trying to keep the build (minus the video card I already had) to under $900.

My thoughts on it so far: Yup, seems to be solid and reliable and not get hot.

CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS10X Optima

Why I chose it: Looks cool (I love heat pipes). Reviewers seemed impressed with its cooling capacity. The Cooler Master that looks similar that I originally wanted was  unavailable from either of the 2 places I was purchasing from and I didn’t want to throw a third vendor in the mix. I would have tried liquid cooling as it looks the coolest and works the best, however, it was over my proposed budget.

My thoughts so far: Holy piss, this thing is huge! It is 6” tall… In one orientation it interferes with my RAM boards. In the other, the fan barely touches the RAM. The install was a bit of a bitch as you have to do it before you put the motherboard in the case. And then it makes access to one or two of the MB mounts difficult for my fat hands. Given that, when I was running a benchmark test for hours on this thing, the top of this cooler was colder than room temperature. WOW, so much cooling.

Look at the size of that cooler.

Look at the size of that cooler.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-G1 Sniper Z97

Why I chose it: Gigabyte reputation. Overclocking utilities and abilities. Color and heat sinks looked cool. High quality sound built in, not the usual AC97 or whatever they usually have. And it says Sniper in the name, I love guns, I love snipers, it was made for me.

My thoughts so far: Everything booted up and worked first time, that says a lot based on my past experiences. Looks good, fits well. Seems to be living up to the small amount of hype I gave it. I have not tried overclocking yet. And I like that the board itself it black.

MB with RAM

MB with RAM

MB Packaging.

MB Packaging.

RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws X series (4x4GB)

Why I chose it: I went with 4x4GB rather than 2x8GB because Newegg was out of the 2×8 in red. I wanted to stick with the red and black theme I had going. I went with PC1600 because of the price and it was all I needed. Maybe not the best for when I want to overclock, but I really don’t intend to do it until I get desperate for more speed.

My thoughts so far: The cooling fins stick up a little high for use with the cooler I chose. Other than that, it is RAM, it has had no issues.

16GB RAM

16GB RAM

SSD: Mushkin ECO2 240GB

Why I chose it: It was a good price, and it was the fastest (87,000 IOPS) I could find in the price range.

My thoughts so far: Amazing speed, so small, living the dream.

HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1 TB, 7200 RPM

Why I chose it: It was under $50 for a 7200 RPM HDD. It has the SATA 6.0 GB/s interface. And I have heard Seagate Barracudas are good.

My thoughts so far: Yup, it’s a hard disk. Seems to be fine.

Case: Cooler Master HAF 912

Why I chose it: Everywhere I looked it was one of the highest rated cases by users/customers. It seemed to be designed for a ton of airflow. It was relatively cheap. I like the way it looked. Not too old, not too new. Also, it was a “mid tower” that held a full ATX board and came with a couple fans.

My thoughts so far: Mid tower my ass. This thing is huge. And fortunately for me, I needed huge due to that CPU cooler. It only has USB 2.0 on the case. That sucks. Makes it feel old. Also, the interior is all “90’s grey” as a friend of mine put it. Again, that sucks. I like that the power supply is mounted low. I like all the internal drive bays. But really, this case is dated. If I ever upgrade, this may be the first thing to change.

Power Supply: EVGA Supernova NEX750B

Why I chose it: It was on sale and had a rebate on top of that. After rebate it was under $50 for an EVGA (a brand I like) 750 watt  power supply. Also, it is modular meaning you plug in the wires you need as you need them.

My thoughts so far: I really like it. Seems funny to give a shit about a power supply, but this one surprised me with how nice it is. All the wires are in a nice looking black mesh loom. They all have nice velcro straps. The finish on it is a quality looking flat black hammered powder coating. It even came in nice packaging.

Power supply chords

Power supply chords

40 in 1 card reader, DVD burner: Who gives a shit? Got them, they work. Rosewill card reader kind of sucks. Had to stick a micro SD adapter in like 12 times before it actually detected I put something in there, but a real SD card worked first time. Asus DVD burner has been fine so far.

All together. You may now mock my wiring skills.

All together. You may now mock my wiring skills.

Now, not part of the build, however worth mentioning due to its sheer awesomeness, and the fact it came within a couple weeks of the build, is the mouse.

EVGA Torq X10 Carbon and Corbonic mouse pad

EVGA Torq X10 Carbon and Carbonic mouse pad

It is the EVGA Torq X10 Carbon. My wife actually got this for me for my birthday because she knows I am a total nut swinger for carbon and titanium. So almost anything with real carbon or titanium in it is a sure bet for a gift for me. It has the Avago 9800 laser, which appears to be the best laser Avago makes for mice. It has an aluminum chassis with a carbon fiber shell.

Aluminum chassis, carbon shell.

Aluminum chassis, carbon shell.

It has 9 programmable buttons, LED’s that can be 1 of 7 different colors, adjustable shape, adjustable weight, silver coated wire, 20 million click life switches, and super smooth Teflon feet. It even came in a great package. The scroll wheel is nice and wide. The buttons take a little more effort than most I have used. And it is a wired mouse. I hate wires, but I have had issues in the past even with expensive wireless ones. So for this and the keyboard I have had to put my hatred of wires behind me. Overall, this mouse is amazing. I love it. Also, the XTrac Carbonic oversized mouse pad is great.

I will follow this up with a performance comparison. Mostly for my own records and satisfaction.

MazdaSpeed3 A/C not working

So one day the air conditioner stops working on the autocross car. I start the car and have the wife turn on the A/C to see if I can see the clutch kick in. I can’t really see anything. The pulley is close to the side of the chassis, so maybe the lighting is just bad. Then the wife thinks she sees something.

This does not belong there...

This does not belong there…

This was sitting on the front undertray of the car. Hey, I think she discovered our problem :)

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #9

Results are in from another autocross. I ended up 6th overall. I was 3rd in class. But to show you how close our class is, 4 of the 5 cars in our class were in the top 7 overall. That is from a total driver count of 76. This is overall PAX results.

After my fourth run of the morning session I was second overall and first in class. Then that fast little Cobalt beat me on the fifth run, and I was unable to improve on my fifth run. That pushed me down to second in class and third overall.

Then came the afternoon runs. I dropped about a half second off my time. Unfortunately, a few others dropped significantly more and pushed me down the list. We only got three runs in the afternoon and I decided to let the wife take all three of her runs prior to me taking all three of mine. My first afternoon run, where I dropped a half second, felt pretty good as far as grip goes. Both runs after that felt very greasy. I tried cooling off the tires between runs, but that didn’t help. So I am assuming it is all that stupid topseal or whatever they call it that is on that racing surface at this site. I think I just missed out on prime time for good times.

Overall, I had fun and while not stoked on the results, I can’t complain too much about being 6th out of 76 in the wife’s school bus. And after my 1st run in the 49’s I knew there was a 47 in it. And I got there. So that is somewhat gratifying. Especially when others in my class seemed to think I was being optimistic when I said we could get there. Unfortunately, 2 of them got there more forcefully than me.

Now. How could I have done better?

  • I should have stiffened up the rear anti-roll bar. It is still set to soft and I was fighting understeer all day.
  • I could maybe have played with rear shock settings but I honestly don’t think they would have made enough difference.
  • I am still trying to figure out tire pressures. Right now I am happiest with 39 front, 37 rear. However, that combination was terrible at the last race site. So I think I have yet to figure out ideal. Time to pull out the shoe polish I guess…
  • I am still trying to get used to the way the differential works on this car. Sometimes it helps pull me in under throttle, sometimes it pushes me out. I think this will just require more seat time to nail down.
  • Mental. I was not focused at all at this event. I had a bad headache all day, and I let that occupy my thoughts far more than I should have.
  • Traction control. I forgot to turn it off for the first few runs. And at least 1 run was a complete waste because of it.

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #8

Cat-Back exhaust for the MazdaSpeed3

Cat-Back exhaust for the MazdaSpeed3

Today Cara put on her exhaust. She wanted more responsibility on this task and I let her have it. The original exhaust had a split all around the pipe right before the second silencer. We worked together to try and pull it apart at that joint, but even after pulling it out like 2 1/2 inches it still wasn’t apart. And I am pretty sure that even if it had, we were not going to weasel the silencer up and over the rear sub-frame. So I pulled out the saws-all and let her go to town. She was pretty apprehensive. But took it like a champ and cut that bitch apart. At this point, the exhaust came off pretty easily. We also installed those Cobb exhaust hangers I mentioned in an earlier post. They are a bitch to get on. But she made it happen. The job ended up being a lot more work than she anticipated. All I did was help pry on things a little and jack up the car and collect tools. Cara pretty much did the rest on her own. So now when the bumper melts, it’s her fault :)

Another pretty flange and hanger

Another pretty flange and hanger

More pretty welds

More pretty welds

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers for the Subaru

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers

Fortune Auto 500 coilovers

This Saturday, we autocrossed the Mazda. Then Sunday we installed the Fortune Auto 500 series coilovers on my Subaru STi. This also allowed me to put my Wedsport SA-15R wheels on.

Front strut with spare lower sleeve for rear.

Front strut with spare lower sleeve for rear.

The Fortune Auto coilovers come with a shorter sleeve for the rear. I am not sure what you would need these for as they give you the same shortest setting. But with less support. So yeah, not sure what those are for, but I did not use them.

Optional radial bearing mount

Optional radial bearing mount

I got my set with the optional radial bearing mounts to help the spring not bind up and get noisy while turning. Too bad the color doesn’t match, but they seem to be pretty smooth.

Now the reasons I went with Fortune Auto:

  • Digressive valving
  • Internals made by BC, but assembled, dynoed, and supported in the states
  • Upgradeable to double adjustable if I decide I want to.

Those are the main reasons. But I had some other personal quirky reasons for choosing them over some of the others. I went with 8K front and 8K rear spring rates. Which is balanced much higher in the rear than stock. We will see how I end up liking that on the street. But so far it is really nice. Firm, yet responsive. Never feels loose at all. But I have not pushed it too hard yet.

Adjuster on the rear

Adjuster on the rear

Install took less than 3 hours. Everything went pretty smoothly other than forgetting to remove the rear top hat nuts prior to installing the shock then realizing I had to redo that one. That’s right, even perfect people forget. :)

I also still had my friend’s corner balance scales so I was able to corner balance the car a bit. That added around another 45 minutes to the job. Upon first check I was very left biased on the front. I ended up just adding a bit of pre-load to the right front to even things out.

Heavy Pig

Heavy Pig

And yes, I could have evened out that left bias and I could have put more effort into making it better when I am sitting in it as once you add me to the mix the cross balance goes to about 50.4%. But for a street car. It is plenty good. But wow, what a pig! 310 lbs heavier than the Speed3 with basically the same power at the crank.

Rear shot after a wash and coils and wheels

Rear shot after a wash and coils and wheels

And here she is in all her glory. YUM! Wheels are WedsSport SA-15R 18×9.5 +38 which weigh just under 20 lbs each. Tires are Bridgestone RE-11 265/40-18. I had to roll the rear fender to get them to clear. Even with the coilovers. The front did not need a roll or spacers or anything.

Yum from the other end.

Yum from the other end.

I do wish the wheels were bit more bronze like in the pictures on WedsSport’s website. But either way, they look pretty good. And the new stance makes me really want to drive my car again.

Autocross MazdaSpeed3 Project #7

After washing all the war wounds from the wheels

After washing all the war wounds from the wheels

So yesterday’s autocross went pretty well. My main rival in the class was not there. However, a kid that beat him at our first event with the Mazdaspeed3 was there and I beat him at this event. Granted, it was only by 0.020. But a win nonetheless. I ended up 2nd in STX. 0.250 behind the winner. And I also ended up top 10 PAX. I did no suspension adjusting. I should have stiffened the rear bar. But I wanted to figure out these new tires first. The poor wheels had quite a bit of cone damage. So we had to wash it tonight. I hit 5 cones. And Cara hit 12 on record and I think another 3 off record. I think Cara needs more time to get used to the handling and new found power. She ended up just shy of 6 seconds behind me. But this torquey little monster was a bit of a handful on this course. Especially for someone with just 2 autocrosses under their belt.

So as I mentioned in my previous update. I felt the BC’s would be plenty good enough to get me to where I was fighting with the leaders. And with no tuning and brand new tires and a bunch of new power and whatever else trying to make things difficult, I got there. Now once we get things all sorted, I think the car will be amazing fun. BTW, more power mods will be coming soon. Also, if this were not the car delivering kids to school, I would have gone stiffer on the rear springs. But for now, it works.