Roy was right, GTR PSU’s are terrible.

My GTR Power Com PS530 Plus ‘Chinesium‘ PSU blew up.

Roy called it!

Well, Roy called it. It’s a shame I don’t have footage as I didn’t really expect anything to happen, but I let the system run for a few days nothing much to report, I had mostly left it to idle, until the kids came in, and it became a YouTube, music machine. Again nothing much to report, I loaded some program to report CPU temperatures, and it was hovering under 30c. Not to bad.

With the kids gone, I thought I’d run FurMark to see how the GPU cooler is scaling as I suspect I should disassemble the video card, clean it up some, add new paste at least. So basically at 600×400 it was scaling about 1c ever second, just going vertical until it was in the 80c range. I’m not sure of the exact temp, but it was at least 80c and then the PSU shorted, shot electricity out the back, and let out some magical blue smoke. I yanked the power cable, and pulled the PSU, which was still hot to the touch.

Yikes!

Now granted the TDP of the E5-2620 v2 is 80 watts, and what I suspect is the killer, the graphics card, an ASUS Radeon R9 290x can consume up to 300 watts. I don’t know how much 4 sticks of RAM, and a M.2 drive will hit, but considering the PSU says 550 on the box, 530 on the sticker, I suspect going anywhere near 450 is really pushing it to the limits.

I pulled the card, and cleaned it up, and put in an ANTEC 650 PSU, and was amazed that the system powered up just fine. I even reran FurMark until it hit 75c, and killed it, and let it drop back to it’s idle temperature of 35c.

So yeah, the GRT PSU killed itself under load. I though that disclaimer in FurMark was a bit crazy, but no really it really can kill hardware! And I got lucky the only thing that died was the PSU, the machine is still happily running.

Building with the finest Chinesium

budget build with the power on

Im going to detail it later, so all of this will change, but I was back in my favorite “junk” mall and a few places are selling new kit!

So I thought I’d do one of the Xeon boards up with what I thought looked good, but new. However they don’t offer remanufactured GPUs so the Radion 200 something is a used card I picked up for $350 Hong Kong dollars.

1920×1080 @ 88FPS! Very auspicious!

While I’m not the biggest fan or all that knowledgeable about ATI/AMD GPU’s this Radeon R9 200 (something) seems to perform okay. At the least it ran FurMark for a minute without catching fire.

Going with this idea, that means the PSU, case, motherboard and all in one liquid cooler are brand new.

I think the overall cost should be below 200$ USD but I need to go through my receipts and check. Although it is a cheap build for sure. More than enough punch for excel, and enough graphical punch for some gaming.

While not the cheapest case, the aigo Mini case was the least terrible looking one I could find. And at $160 HKD, that puts it in at around $20 USD. Nice

For cooling I found the Alseye H120 cooler for a cool $280 HKD or about $35 USD.

While I’ve used multiple AIO’s before this one really didn’t feel all that different from the rest. And it was the cheapest one I could find.

Contents were pretty much what I’d expect. The cooler block, radiator, and some adapters and whatnot to connect it to the CPU. What is nice about this one is that it includes mounting hardware and explicit ability to mount to the socket 2011. I’m pretty sure that this AIO is technically cheaper than the fan kit I have on my dual processor board.

I picked the 550 watt ‘POWER COM’ GTR power supply, since they bothered with a box. There was a 650 that just came plastic wrapped for cheaper, although I think I should have gone that route.

PSU Wired in with an adapter to drive the video card, and although only half of the secondary CPU connector has a plug in it, the board still powers up to POST.

While the machine does power up, I really have to wonder about the overall power budget. But this is a cheap machine so…. I’m more so happy it powered on.

And amazingly the machine not only powers up, but after a few minutes inside the BIOS the CPU is running at a cool 21c. Nice!

So from what I can recall:

  • Motherboard / CPU / RAM 450RMB
  • Case $160 HKD
  • PSU $150 HKD
  • GPU $350 HKD
  • AIO $290 HKD

So this puts me at a mere 187 USD. I could have gone cheaper with a discount air cooler, and a very simple 2D graphics card. But I was thinking of going with the ‘best of the worst’ type thing, so that means going with the water cooling, and the best looking graphics card I could find on the cheap. As you may have noticed storage is missing as I had expected some M.2 drives to have arrived by now. But for sub $200 prices this little box packs quite a good little punch.

Atermiter x79 Mini-ATX Xeon bundle

I needed to get some new PC’s for some temp workers, and I didn’t want to spend all that much. At the same time they need to work with fine Chinese programs like WeChat and TaoBao, which means they have to load up on all this spyware that bogs down damned near everything.

The old Celeron J3455 just wasn’t handling the load, and then I saw this cheap bundle, the Atermiter x79 Mini-ATX motherboard E5-2620 v2 Combo:

The kit includes the board, processor, and 16GB of matched DDR3 ECC RAM. And I was able to get the kits for 450 RMB ($65 USD) as I was ordering more than one. I don’t know if this kind of negotiations are available to anyone outside of China. Although I don’t know if doing this would be some kind of service to resell? It’s crazy enough that I already employ someone to help buy stuff, maybe I should turn it into a business.

Anyway, scoring the Celeron J3455 vs the Xeon E5-2620v2 shows that the Xeon is 2x as fast per core, and with 6 cores / 12 hyper-threaded vs 4 cores on the Xeon. So this should be great.

Atermiter Mainboard, Born for Gaming

The board showed up the next day, granted it’s because it’s from the province adjacent to Hong Kong, Guangdong so it didn’t have that far to go.

Box contents

Contents were pretty bare, the memory nice foam packed, a SATA cable, and a heat sink adapter to sit on top of the LGA 2011 socket to let you use other more common heat sinks. I went ahead and used a LGA1151 3 wire fan kit I had lying around.

Mini-ATX Xeon 2011

The board is TINY. It really is Mini-ATX. I don’t have any spare M.2 storage on hand, so that’ll have to be for another day, instead I just have a disk & SSD from the old Celeron, which booted up just fine in this board. Naturally bring your own CR-2032 as they are so scared of shipping lithium ion batteries for some reason. Xeon’s don’t have iGPU’s so you will need a graphics card. And I just used a super cheap NVIDIA Quadro FX 580. Not an awesome card, but you can see what you are doing, so it’s more than enough for back office work.

E5-2620 v2, 6 cores, 12 threads, 16GB of RAM for $65 USD!

So yeah. Another China Xeon special. I know it’s not that exciting, I should fire up the other one and see if I can get XP x64 on there. I have a GTX 970, it’d be a killer HL2 machine!

Linus Tech Tips looks at the Jingsha

Luckily for them, they had far better luck than I did. I’m using the same processor, the E5-2667 v2, which I had paid 1080RMB each (155 USD) for, although I did get the board for 650RMB (93 USD). So I have a better buyer, but I had no luck with the board.

The processors and RAM work fine in the older Huananzhi, so at least I know those work.

And since rebuilding the machine, I’ve had 10 days of uptime now in this configuration, so it defiantly works in the non Jingsha board.

And yeah for the heck of it, here it is running Cinebench R15 with a score of 2521, and using all cores, all threads. But as a limitation of Xeons of the time is no real turbo, as when it’s running it’ll go to 3.6Ghz, but it’ll happily idle once completed in the 1.x range.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the office

Not a peripheral was stirring, not even a mouse;
The new motherboard was strewn on the floor in dismay,
In hopes that this crap Jingsha board would finally work;

The processors were nestled all snug in their sockets,
While visions of posting danced in their heads;
But motherboard back in her antistatic bag, and I in my cap,
Had just settled on giving this thing a long winter’s dirt nap…

Contents of the box

On the surface this board seemed like quit the bargain. The Jingsha x79 dual socket board features 8 memory slots unlike the 4 in the Huananzhi board allowing me to go from 64GB of RAM to 128GB! In addition the board also has a native M.2 storage slot! All for the low low price of around $100 USD!

Neat!

While I did find that upgrading my power supply to the bigger 850 watts which certainly didn’t hurt stability, I thought that it’d be more than enough power for this new board.

And I kind of liked the idea of having a management engine that might out for ‘lights out’ when I’m traveling.

But no, it was nothing but grief. Most of the time I was stuck with error 99 which apparently has something to do with not enough power on the PCI bus? Granted I was rocking my RTX-2070, but it was running fine in the Huananzhi! Putting in the lowest & dumbest video card I had got it to boot windows up, quickly followed up with a crash.

IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL

Now for the best part, I pull the disks, as I’ve had this install going from my old Mac Pro, so maybe the HAL is stale or something else is going on like that old bootcamp error. So I make an install USB stick, with NO customizations, using the Microsoft tool. AKA stock.

And I get the same crash.

IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

What the Fuck. I don’t even know. Considering it’s crashing on install media it’s clearly the boards fault. The processors worked fine in the old board, and putting them back along with the memory and it’s working fine again. Something is wrong with the board.

So back into the bag, back into the box, and onto the shelf. Can’t say I’m such a happy elf.

Anyway it’s getting late. I’m off home, but a quick stop to the grocery store to try to remember how to make eggnog or something to at least make me forget this wasted sideline.

T’is the season for upgrades!

I’ve had this 2006 MacPro for quite a while. I’ve taken it home as didn’t have a ‘good’ home machine as I have my better stuff in the office. Anyways the machine is far obsolete with 10.7 being the last official release supported, and although you can treat it like a hackintosh and go much further, Apple is making their binaries tuned heavy enough that all the spectre/meltdown patches broke the old Xeons.

So I installed Windows 10, and found I can go all the way to 1809 without any issues. I put in a GT 1030 with DDR5 RAM and it can even game to extent, although the 13 year old 2Ghz processors were certainly holding it down. Upgrade processors have always been available when I had this machine but they were expensive, and I wasn’t sure if they’d work. Well I picked up a pair of Xeon x5365 for $88 RMB each and pulled the plug.

A score of 167!

Supported features of the old Xeon 5130’s:

  • MMX instructions
  • SSE / Streaming SIMD Extensions
  • SSE2 / Streaming SIMD Extensions 2
  • SSE3 / Streaming SIMD Extensions 3
  • SSSE3 / Supplemental Streaming SIMD Extensions 3
  • EM64T / Extended Memory 64 technology / Intel 64  ? 
  • NX / XD / Execute disable bit  ? 
  • VT-x / Virtualization technology  ? 

I thought the thing to do was a quick benchmark of before and after. I was getting a whopping 167! That means if Cinebench scales to 100% efficiency I get a core score of 41. While my ‘newer’ machine’s E5-2620 v2 was scoring 52, and the current E5-2667 v2 is scoring 77.

It took two hours, but I finally got these 2 Xeon x5365’s installed giving me a score of 560, or a score of 70 per core. Nice!

Much progress

And here is the CPU features of the Xeon 5365:

  • MMX instructions
  • SSE / Streaming SIMD Extensions
  • SSE2 / Streaming SIMD Extensions 2
  • SSE3 / Streaming SIMD Extensions 3
  • SSSE3 / Supplemental Streaming SIMD Extensions 3
  • EM64T / Extended Memory 64 technology / Intel 64  ? 
  • NX / XD / Execute disable bit  ? 
  • VT-x / Virtualization technology  ? 

If you are expecting to run new and exciting software that requires SSE4/SSE4.1/SSE4.2 and the infamous POPCNT and LZCNT instructions you will be disappointed. Sorry Apex Legends fans. This also means that VMware Player is capped to version 12.

Also, while there is a POPCNT Emulator, it will trigger anti-cheat software, and you will get perma banned. Pitty.

Another thing worth noting is that it’s worth looking at the TDP of the various sSPEC of Xeons. I was lucky and I was able to source the SLAED variation which has half the idle TDP of the SLAC3 variant.

So yeah, this is basically as far as this thing can go CPU wise. Although I have 16GB of RAM, apparently it can go to 32GB, which means buying all new memory modules. I guess I can do a better video card. I’m hoping that I can run more stuff at once, I was hitting a point with all 4 cores were maxed to 100% way too much.

I was going to show off the new CPU’s but apparently the pictures didn’t come out and I wanted to get this upgrade over with, as I had mentioned it did take 2 hours. The plastic retainer in the memory cage, and that stupid cover for the processors was the hardest PITA to remove. I probably spent at least 30 minutes pulling that damned thing off. I never removed the CPU shield before and 13 years, 3 nations, 2 continents worth of dust was unreal. Maybe it’s just as well the pictures didn’t come out, as it was pretty disgusting in there. It’s also no wonder the old CPU’s were running hot.

I wonder if this machine counts as being vintage now? Apple’s sliding scale of support is a weird thing.

Got some new processors!

Xeon E5-2667v2

Moved up from the old pair of E5-2620 v2’s to a pair of E5-2667 v2’s. What a big difference from a base clock of 2.1Ghz to 3.3Ghz. And yes, more cores!

2475 Cinebench score

And I can build DOSBox in 3 seconds using Visual C++ 6.0 Ultimate. I guess eventually I’ll get a modern machine, but for now this is pretty damned good. Which reminds me the newer processors for my 2006 Mac Pro should be arriving soon enough.

I couldn’t quite justify the more than double price for the E5-2697 v2 processor, although it has 50% more cores, but with a max clock of 3.5Ghz.

Oh well it’s as good as any update to the Huananzhi X79.

Huananzhi X79

So I picked up this board on AliExpress for about $200 USD. Natrually the x79 chipset is NOT a dual CPU chipset, so yeah it’s one of those ‘not exactly 100% legit’ Chinese motherboards.

One thing about Chinese companies that many don’t sell directly to consumers, instead they sell on Tao Bao, Alibaba, or to foreigners, AliExpress. The company’s site is http://www.huananzhi.com, as they had written on the box. Yes you need the www. portion of the name, as again many things are… well dated on the Chinese internet.

The product page is currently http://www.huananzhi.com/html/1/149/150/256.html, if anyone cares. It lists the technical specs as:

  • Support for Xeon E5 series processors
  • High-speed DDR3 four-channel memory slot: support 1333/1600/1866MHz, maximum capacity 128G memory slot
  • Desktop general purpose memory
  • X79 dual motherboard supports 5.1 channel ALC887 chip
  • 8-layer PCB backplane, 7+7 phase power supply
  • High-speed USB3.0, SATA3.0 interface transmission speed is increased
  • PCI-E expansion slot*4
  • RJ45 Gigabit LAN interface
  • North Korean heat sink with HUANAN logo

Yes, I don’t get the whole Korean heat sink thing either. Anyways I thought it’d be fun to try so I ordered the thing. It took 3 days to get to my office in China, and an additional week to get from China to Hong Kong. I hear these things can take upwards of a month to arrive in North America.

Also worth noting is that they will not ship with a CMOS battery, so you need to supply your own CR-2032 battery, otherwise the board will not operate correctly.

The contents of the box are VERY minimal, but they did include 2 SATA cables, some CPU thermal paste, a very bare and … well not very good manual, a CD which I haven’t even tried to read, along with an IO shield.

Oh and for visitors of the future, here is a poorly scanned copy of that manual. It really is 2 pages. For what it’s worth it makes as much sense in English as it does in Chinese.

I decided to pair this with a pair of E5-2620 v2‘s that I got for $40 USD shipped, as I didn’t want to initially spend a lot of money in case all of this just exploded or something. These were the ‘widest’ and cheapest processors I could find, I wanted a v2 E5 as they are faster then the first generation.

Also worth noting is that the board is only capable of driving v1 & v2 E5’s. And they need to be the E5-2 type, which support operating in pairs, unlike the E5-1 set. I have no idea if the E5-4’s aka 4-way part would work in a pair. Although it may be an interesting experiment to try.

The board apparently doesn’t support overclocking or anything that fancy.

Although it reports itself as an x79 based motherboard, it is in reality an Intel C602, based chipset. I don’t know if they are harvesting them off of recycled servers, or if they have located a giant cache of repair parts that have been pushed beyond 5 year warranties, so they are prime candidates for being re-purposed as end user motherboards. Nice things about these boards vs standard server boards is the inclusion of a Realtek HD Audio chip, VIA USB 3.0 controller, and even the nice spacing out of the slots so you could really use all the slots.

Since this is a dual processor board you really want a PSU with dual 8 pin power connectors, however as mentioned in the poorly translated manual, you can take a PCI-E 6 pin adapter, and place it into the 8 pin socket, just position it backwards so that the 12v+ pins are facing inwards.

It may look strange (well more so as I’m using an extension cable that is sadly more focused on aesthetics than function, but heh it was cheap), but rest assured it works!

Another thing to keep in mind is that since this board uses a server chipset, not a consumer one, just as it is using server processors, you will need server grade memory. In this case it’s REG ECC DDR3 based memory. I went with 1833Mhz parts, which are the fastest DDR3 parts they made. Although the processors I chose have a maximum frequency support of 1600Mhz, but the memory works fine when underclocked.

Another gotcha is the CPU fans. These need to fit the Intel Xeon 2011, but have support for the 2011 motherbards. Which unlike the consumer versions don’t have a separate plate to bolt to the underside, rather they screw in all from the top. I had purchased a pair of cheap heatsinks that were about the right size, but didn’t include any of the mounting hardware for a 2011 board. I picked up these GELID Phantom Black CPU’s for about $80 for the pair.

They are quite big, and include a pair of fans for each processor which will make the end build look a little crazy.

I didn’t want to spend a lot, and went with the cheapest PSU I could find to output more than 450 watts. Although it did turn on and run with the lower PSU the machine did shut off overnight for no apparent reason. I’ve been okay with the larger and cheap Antec NX 650 PSU.

Although, this is the older style ‘bundle o cables’ type of PSU which I’m not such a fan of.

If I had charged up a cordless screwdriver this would have taken a few minutes, but screwing in the heatsinks was a chore, and they really do dominate the boards real estate.

Almost completed build

I thought I had a case, but it turns out that it was for normal ATX sized boards, and this is an E-ATX board so it simply will not fit.

view from above

Another nice server like feature is that the board has an LED readout for early post codes, as booting this board will take some time. I think with 32GB of RAM it’s almost a minute.

I took the SSD & Hard disk out of my MacPro 2010 and put them into the new machine, and it booted up right away. Once connected to the internet Windows 10 picked up the new hardware and downloaded and installed the board drivers as needed. Interestingly enough Windows 10 also wanted a new activation code as the CPU/Motherboard was changed, although it didn’t complain about it.

When it comes to jobs that can run in parallel this is an incredible build. Obviously single core performance at 2Ghz is. well. terrible. I know going to a 4Ghz max E5-2667 v2 won’t be exactly magic either, but there is something nice about having 32 threads. Running stuff like parallel compiles, compression and video encoding is a dream on these massively parallel machines.

Games, are ‘okay’. I get 60fps with Fallout 76 on this current 2Ghz build on medium settings with the 1050 video card.

I do plan on getting faster CPU’s after the Chinese New Year, as right now basically everything is shut down (it sucks being the only person in the office building, literally), and shipments wont’ resume for at least another week.