pcGameware introduces new 2015 Test Rigs

November 26th, 2014 No comments

Over the last few weeks we’ve not only been working on our reviews and building a water cooled Cosmos II Gaming Rig, we have also been working on building the Reviewers (James, Mike & Terry) new Test Rigs for 2015. The specifications of these Rigs can be seen below.

 

pcG Test Rigs 2015 - closed pcG Test Rigs 2015 - open

 

Case: We have opted to stick with the Cooler Master HAF XB case, as not only is it NOT a Test Bench, it’s also damn easy to work on. We have also upgraded all of the fans so each case has the same RPM fans front and back. In addition to this we have colour coded the cases so we know who’s is who (see image above). 😉

Power Supply: We are also continuing to use the Corsair AX 760i as our PSU of choice as it’s been so reliable in the last year or so. In addition to this in the next few weeks we will add a Power Supply category to our Reviews as we will be taking a look PSUs in the near future.

Motherboard: The new motherboard for 2015 is the Platinum award winning ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer, this Z97 based board looks great, offers a great feature set, solid stability and all at a great price.

Processor: Of course as this is a Z97 based motherboard it makes sense to pair it up with one of the new Haswell Refresh CPUs (Devils Canyon), we have opted for the quad core Intel Core i5-4690K as it offers (for Gamers) great performance and enough horsepower for modern Gaming.

CPU Cooler: We will continue to use the awesome little Raijintek Themis as our CPU Cooler of choice just to prove that you don’t need to spend the earth on a CPU Cooler when Gaming with these latest Intel processors. All of our test rigs will run overclocked at 4.0GHz at all times.

Memory (RAM): The HyperX Beast proved has proved itself over the last year, but it has been sidelined to make way for what is our new RAM of choice, HyperX’s Savage. We will be using 8GB x2 4GB modules (at this time, you dont need more for Gaming!) running at 2400MHz.

Storage (SSD): We have also moved away from our mSATA drives and opted for a single 120GB HyperX Fury SSD, as this helps with compatibility when testing motherboards. But, we are still huge fans of both the mSATA format and the newer (faster) M.2 format.

Graphics Card: Finally we come to our GPU of choice or is that GPUs!? In 2015 we will be testing with XFX 290X cards, as these allow us to show (potentially) best/worse case scenarios, as these cards are not only fast, but they’re hot and power hungry too! This will help us in both thermal testing and PSU testing…

 

pcG-Test-Rigs-and-Testers

 

The full details of our test rig can be seen here

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 8)

November 26th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 7)

 

In the last Blog we talked about draining the system in an attempt to get to the bottom of our Dark Liquid issue. The guys over at Mayhems very kingly sent us over a box of tricks to help us out, the main product of interest was their Blitz Cleaning System. This impressive box chemicals etc is to help you clean and flush your system in an attempt to remove any contaminants that may be affecting it.

The process saw us first dismantle the loop so that we could remove the two main radiators. Then each radiator was flushed with a Phosphoric Acid (that’s right acid, be careful – gloves and protective eye-wear supplied!) solution for 6-12 hours. With this done each radiator was flushed with de-ionised water, twice. The next step was to re-fit the radiators and re-seal the water cooling loop. The second stage of the cleaning process could now begin; this saw us flushing the system non stop for 24hrs with a Mayhems cleaning solution. The system was then flushed with distilled water twice, (again!). Once this was done the system could be re-filled with coolant. This is what happened when we did…

 

 

As you can see no dark liquid, woohoo! 😉

The system is now up ‘n running and things are looking good, in the next and final Blog post we will take a look at how those water cooled AMD 290’s perform in Crossfire and also take a look at RAID 0 with our two SanDisk Extreme Pro SSDs.

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 7)

November 20th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 6)

 

As you will recall we had a couple of cooling issues with the build in the form of a minor leak (fixed!) and a bizarre discolouration of the Mayhems Aurora 2 (Red) coolant…

 

 

After a few days (over a week!) downtime and after receiving a large box of magic tricks from the ever helpful guys at Mayhems, we jumped straight back on the case (haha!). First up was to drain the entire loop, not an easy task…

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 6)

November 16th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 5)

 

So we started to fill the loop with our Mayhems Aurora 2 (Red) coolant, using a small squeeze bottle to easily add the amount we wanted to the top of the reservoir and to avoid spills. The first bottle load was in and pcG James was filling the next, when pcG Terry pipes up (haha get it, pipes up!) and says we have a leak! 🙁

And indeed we did, there was a very small, slow leak on the inlet of the pump, not good (glad we used the paper towels!). Luckily the coolant was already draining into the lower radiator and tubes, and now there was next to no coolant left in the reservoir and the leak had stopped. After checking the fitting and confirming it was tight, it was time to remove the fitting from the pump and take a look…

Cosmos II Build - Houston we have a problem Cosmos II Build - fitting recess (for O Ring) Cosmos II Build - pump recess (for O Ring)

The problem was quickly made clear (well actually pcG Terry made it clear); as the was a recess on the pump (for an O Ring) and there was a recess on the fitting (for an O Ring), we would need x2 O rings to close the gap, well we only had one…

Needless to say that once the additional O Ring was added we were able to continue to fill the loop, and no more leaks! PROBLEM SOLVED! 😉

 

AND THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

 

 

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 5)

November 15th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 4)

 

So the build continues, the next job was the somewhat ardours task of wiring, the Cosmos II has a lot of wires (too many to be honest), but we still pretty much used them all, the only ones we didn’t use were the LED illumination wires. Luckily as these can be just unplugged from the main control unit, that’s what we did. We wanted to make sure the Cosmos II control panel (for fan control) was fully functional so we (well pcG Mike & Terry with help from my son) wired up four main zones (Front, Rear, Top Radiator & Bottom Radiator), all controlled via the main fan controller.

 

Cosmos II Build - cable management Cosmos II Build - T.O.E. Cosmos II Build - James' son helps out the boys

 

With this done, it was time to find a position for our SanDisk RAID Array, this was to utilise a pair of SandDisk Extreme Pro SSDs. After some debate and the want to not use any drive cages, the x2 SSDs were simply fitted to the base of the motherboard area with Velcro tabs.

 

Cosmos II Build - SanDisk RAID SSDs

 

Now it was time for some cable management, a lot of cable management. Time for pcG James to sit back and take some photos… 😉

 

Cosmos II Build - top fans and cabling Cosmos II Build - looking tidy (ish)

 

The next task and final task before we filled the loop was to check all fans were working (this was easily done by firing up the Cosmos II’s fan controller by way of an external power supply (a simple Molex connection)), in addition to this we also installed x2 BitFenix Alchemy Lighting strips, one at the top and one at the bottom. Again this was controlled by the Cosmos II’s control panel. That’s right we had to re-fit a couple of those LED illumination wires that we had unplugged earlier… 😉

 

Cosmos II Build - motherboard area Cosmos II Build - Front fan illumination Cosmos II - lower rad illumination

 

We were now ready for the Mayhems Aroura 2 (Red) coolant (NOTE: shake vigorously before use). With all of the fittings checked, it was time to start adding the liquid, always a bit of a scary time this. The paper towels are there to not only offer a bit of protection to the components, but they also act as a visual aid as leaks are easier to spot. Also it’s worth noting that you do not fire up the PC to do this, again we used a external power supply to just cycle the pump…

 

Cosmos II Build - ready for coolant

 

Tune in for Part 6, when we reveal what happened next, I’ll tell you now it wasn’t what we were expecting… 🙁

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 4)

November 10th, 2014 No comments

 

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 3)

 

MSI R9 290 GAMING +  EK-FC R9-290X (Original CSQ) - 1 MSI R9 290 GAMING +  EK-FC R9-290X (Original CSQ) - 2

 

For those who have been reading (you have been reading, right!?) you’ll remember that we ran into issues with revisions of MSI’s R9 290 GAMING Graphics Card, well we have now managed to source another Revision 1.0 card.

With two MSI R290 GAMING card’s equipped with their EK-FC-R9-290X-Original-CSQ waterblocks we could crack on with the build…

 

Cosmos II Gaming Build - tubing complete Cosmos II Gaming Build - GPU Cooling setup

 

With the GPUs now in place we could finalize the tubing, we used XSPC 10/16mm tubing and lots of Monsoon fittings also 10/16mmm, there’s also a lot of 90 degree fittings too!

We ran into a bit of an issue with the two GPU’s and their respective PCIE lanes, as we had made the assumption (of course one should never assume!) that there would be a one slot gap between the two dual slot cards. BUT, due to the rather strange layout of the MSI X99 GAMING 7 motherboard there’s a choice of either no gap or a two slot gap (damn it!). We (as you can see) opted for the two slot gap and arranged our fittings accordingly. Of course this being and AMD CrossFire setup, we only need the PCIE lanes to support x4 mode, although our lanes support x16 and x8 respectively. Our chosen CPU (Intel i7-5820K 3.30GHz (Haswell-E)) supports a total of 28 PCIE lanes, if you want more you’ll need to opt for either the Intel i7-5930K or i7-5960K (Haswell-E) that offers 40 PCIE lanes…

 

In the next Log we will take a look at wiring the beast up, this was a job that I left (lucky me!) to pcG Mike and pcG Terry…

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 3)

October 27th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 2)

 

X2 MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G

For the watercooled X99 Cosmos II build, we chose to use the MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G in CrossFire (x2). Why you ask? Whilst currently priced at £215.99 on OverclockersUK, this GPU offers the best performance for your money by quite some distance. Of course as we’re all aware, the Hawaii GPU core used in these cards does get a little toasty to the point of throttling back at 94C. So because of these factors, the R9 290 is the perfect candidate for this watercooled behemoth! After all, without the shackles of thermal throttling, how well will these cards perform?

 

Cosmos II Build - a room full of water blocks

 

Clearly we’ll need waterblocks for both of our GPUs. For this we chose EK-FC R9-290X (Original CSQ) because EKWB are one of the most widely recognised names in watercooling and they look good (yep we’re that shallow 😉 ).

 

MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - backplate removed MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - coolers removed MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - bracket removed

 

Before fixing the GPU waterblocks, we first had to remove the Twin Frozr IV air coolers from our MSI cards. A fairly simple process which first involved removing three screws from the I/O panel, the backplate screws were removed and a fine knife was used to release the sticky foam spacers. Then to remove the heatsink it is just a case of unscrewing the four screws surrounding the GPU core, before gently levering off the heatsink (to be fair they almost fall apart at this point anyway!). Then the retention plate simply pulls off, we clean up the GPU cores with a little TIM cleaner and tidy the cards up.

One of the biggest surprises in removing a GPU cooler, is how much weight suddenly disappears (almost to the point of wondering what you’ve spent all your pennies on 🙁 ).

 

Cosmos II Build - Semi-Naked MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G GPUs (SPOT THE DIFFERENCE!) MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - EK waterblock fitted

 

Now to actually fit the water blocks. Or so we’d thought… As it turns out, despite both GPUs being MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G, we have two different versions. On the right (see above left photo), we have our slightly older Version 1.0, on the left Version 2.2. If you look at the highlighted areas, you’ll see that not only are the heatsinks slightly different, but the power connectors are upside down (this makes it easier to remove power cables from the newer version). Not an issue for a full cover waterblock at all, except on Version 2.2 the capacitor layout is wildly different to the point they could be two totally different graphics cards.

So the obvious remedy was to source the equivalent EKWB Original CSG full cover water block for the newer card, except EKWB don’t actually make one… Leaving us chasing around, trying to source a Version 1 card for most of the weekend.

On the plus side, the EK-FC R9-290X (Original CSQ) fitted the Version 1 GPU like a glove! Very easily too. A simple case of cutting the supplied thermal pads down to size, sticking them to the VRAM and other designated areas, applying the EK-TIM Ectotherm thermal grease to the GPU core in a star-like fashion, then placing on the waterblock and fixing it with the screws provided.

 

MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - testing some tube routes MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G - lower radiator tubing

 

As far as the loop goes, this is as far as we’ve been able to go until the new GPU arrives. Looks pretty good wouldn’t you agree? 😉

Tune in next time for the second GPU install and the our first leak test.

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 2)

October 26th, 2014 No comments

PREVIOUS: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 1)

 

Cosmos II Build - EK-D5 Vario X-Res 140 (inc pump) The build continues with the installation of the the reservoir and pump, this integrated unit from EK is the EK Water Blocks EK-D5 Vario X-Res 140 (inc pump).

Mounting this in our Cosmos II was more difficult than you’d expect, as the bracket supplied with the EK unit wants to be mounted to a vertical surface (logically the motherboard tray area). The problem with this is that this area is full of holes and grommets!

The solution (well done pcG Mike) was to get a plate and sandwich the motherboard tray between the front bracket and a small rear custom plate, see images below for more detail. The clamp just pulls the pump bracket against the cable management grommets (via thumb screws at the back), so we might even get some passive noise dampening for free! 😮

 

Cosmos II Build - EK-D5 Vario X-Res 140 (inc pump) fitted Cosmos II Build - genius pump mount and 240 rad Cosmos II Build - genius pump mounting mechanism!

 

The end result is that we had a lot of the cooling subsystem in place, x2 Radiators (with fans) and a pump and reservoir combo, see below.

 

Cosmos II Build - pump, res and rads

 

The next job was to think about the water blocks, we actually tackled the GPU blocks first, but as that turned into a disaster zone I will cover the CPU block (EK Water Blocks EK-Supremacy EVO (Original CSQ)) instead. First had to fit the MSI X99 GAMING 7 motherboard…

 

Cosmos II Build - a room full of water blocks Cosmos II build - motherboard and CPU

 

After fitting the motherboard we could fit the EK CPU waterblock, this is made easier by the fact that there’s no back-plate fitment for X99, due to the fact that the CPU and Socket are MASSIVE! The EK Supremacy (Nickel CSQ) was simply fitted with it’s standoffs and the retaining thumb screws, nice! Don’t forget the TIM material though…;)

 

Comos II build - CPU waterblock (EK Supremacy Nickel) EK Supremacy Nickel (above) EK Supremacy Nickel (side)

 

Tune in next time for GPU and waterblock woes, word of warning if you have a MSI 290 and youre thinking of water cooling you may want to wait until you have read our next update… 😉

NEXT: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 3)

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Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 1)

October 25th, 2014 2 comments

OK, so by now you may know that we’re putting together a Gaming build, a big Gaming build inside the monstrous Cooler Master Cosmos II case.

 

Cosmos II Build - Boxed Group Hug

 

Check out the details below for the full specification of the build.

 

Case Cooler Master Cosmos II
Power Supply Cooler Master V1200
Motherboard MSI X99 GAMING 7
CPU Intel i7-5820K 3.30GHz (Haswell-E)
CPU Water Block EK Water Blocks EK-Supremacy EVO (Original CSQ)
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 2400MHz 16GB 4×4
Storage Boot: Kingston M.2 120GB SSD
Games: SanDisk Extreme Pro 480GB x2 (RAID 0)
Graphics Card(s) MSI R9 290 GAMING 4G x2 (CrossFire)
GPU Water Block(s) EK Water Blocks EK-FC R9-290X (Original CSQ)
Pump/Reservoir EK Water Blocks EK-D5 Vario X-Res 140 (inc pump)
Cooling System Top Radiator: EK Water Blocks EK-CoolStream PE 360 triple
– with x3 BitFenix Spectre Pro fans (red)
Bottom Radiator: EK Water Blocks CoolStream RAD XTX 240 dual
– with x2 Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm fans (white)
Tubing XPC 10/16mm
Fittings Monsoon 10/16mm
Coolant Mayhems Aroura 2 (red)

 

The first job was to empty the Cosmos II of all of the parts that we didn’t want:

 

Cosmos II Build - Cosmos II Left Panel Off Cosmos II Build - Cosmos II Spares Cosmos II Build - side panels off and lower fan arm removed

 

Once we had removed all of the unwanted parts (as you can see there was a few!) it was time to look at radiator positioning. We have the following radiators for this build a 360mm (38mm thick) for the top and a 240mm (64mm thick) for the bottom.

During initial trial installs, we noticed that the 360mm radiator would not (rather oddly) fit in the top of the case, this was discovered to be down to two rather annoying little tabs (see below right) near the front of the case. These tabs faced down preventing the rad from fitting flush with the top of the case. A bit of brute force seeing pcG Mike with a dented finger saw this problem soon rectified! 😉

 

Cosmos II Build - EKWB radiators Cosmos II Build - roof tabs

 

To get the the radiator and the fans easily into the top of the Cosmos II, we decided it best to remove the Cosmos II’s brain and spinal column first! 😮

 

Cosmos II Build - beheading Cosmos II Build - Fatal1ty! head and spinal column pulled out Cosmos II Build - clean roof space and holey socks

 

Then it was discovered that the holes in the top of the case didn’t seem to align with the holes in the radiator (great). So out came a needle nosed file (round of course) to elongate four of the holes…

 

Cosmos II Build - 360 radiator mounts misaligned

 

With radiator fitting problems sorted both the 360mm (top) and the 240mm (bottom) could be installed. The bottom one was installed with the help of the two radiator brackets provided with the Cosmos II.

 

Cosmos II Build - roof fans fitted and holey sock Cosmos II Build - EKWB 240 and BitFenix Spectre Pro 120mm fans installed

 

If you would like to donate to the help pcG Mike get some new socks please click here. 😉

NEXT: Cosmos II Gaming Build (part 2)

 

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INCOMING! Making an impact on a PC near you in 2014

January 15th, 2014 No comments

by pcG Mike

 

INCOMING!

 

After we’ve all deflated from our Christmas feasts and slept off our New Year’s hangovers, we have 2014. Or as I like to call it ‘The Year of the PC!’. That’s right folks, we have a roller coaster ride of a year ahead of us and I must say, probably the most exciting 12 months that I’ve seen in a while. I’d like to say that below is a comprehensive list of PC hardware and gaming highlights, but there’s so many coming up that I simply can’t list them all. So instead here’s a list of what we here at pcG are looking forward to in 2014 (obviously I’m hoping you’ll all be sharing our enthusiasm too ;)). Some of the items on the current item’s in the 2014 list don’t have any links attached, this isn’t simply laziness (this time), but despite us knowing of their existence and near future releases, there aren’t any official or legitimate information available at this time.

So let’s kick off with hardware…

 

  • HARDWARE
  •  

    Nvidia G-Sync
    AMD Mantle
    Intel Broadwell
    Intel Haswell-E
    DDR4
    Avexir Blitz
    Hazro HZ27WiE 27″, HZ29WiA 29″ Ultrawide and HZ30WiG 30″ monitors
    AOC Super PLS q2770Pqu 27″ monitor
    LG 2560×1440 ultra wide
    Nvidia Maxwell
    USB 3.1
    SATA Express
    Tesoro Lobera Plunger and Tesoro Lobera Supreme Full Color Illumination Mechanical keyboards
    Oculus Rift (can it become mainstream?)
    Steam Box
    Captherm Multiphase (MP-1120)CPU cooling.
    UltraHD Lenovo ThinkVision Pro2840m, Ultimate Professional 4K 28″ Display (Affordable 4k gaming?)
    ASUS ROG ‘Swift’ PG278Q 27″ Gaming Monitor

     

  • GAMES
  •  

    Elder Scrolls Online
    Titanfall
    The Division
    Watchdogs
    Star Citizen
    Galactic Civilisations 3
    Elite Dangerous
    The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt
    Metal Gear Rising – Revengeance
    Dying Light
    Daylight
    Battlefield 4 – add on packs (and fully working!)
    DayZ Standalone (Full Release!)
    Survarium
    Dark Souls 2
    Legends of Persia ?
    Shadow Run – Dragonfall
    Odd World – New’n’Tasty
    The Witness
    Among the Sleep
    Enemy Front
    Tangiers
    The Crew
    Dream Fall Chapters – The Longest Journey
    Valiant Hearts – The Great War
    Lords of the Fallen
    Bound by Flame
    Dragon Age – Inquisition
    Madmax
    Wolfenstein – The New Order
    EVE – Valkyrie
    Castlevania – Lord of Shadows 2
    The Evil Within
    Human Element
    Thief
    Diablo 3 – Reaper of Souls
    Star Wars – Attack Squadrons
    Tales from Borderlands
    Warhammer 40k – Eternal Crusade
    Nether
    Zombeer
    Scrivelation
    Wasteland 2
    Grand Theft Auto V
    Cyberpunk 2077 (Ok, it’s unlikely to be a 2014 release, but I want it now!!)

     

    So if you’re in any doubt, 2014 is going to be a huge (and very busy) year for us PC gamers! 🙂

    As your perusing through the list you may very well find something missing that I should have perhaps added (I had to draw breath at some point!). Please feel free to draw our attention to anything that you feel we should know about via the comments section, in fact I welcome it!

    Here’s to a very Happy New Gaming year!

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