Noctua NF-P12

I got a pair of Noctua NF-P12 back in August and I finally got the time to install them into the Ncase. The reason I get the two fans was that the Corsair SP120 cooling the 980Ti is a little on the noisy side when gaming so I was thinking how can I reduce the noise. I always hear how good Noctua fans are so this is probably the good time to get them.

I made the mistake buying the P12 instead of the F12 thinking that like Corsair, P stands for Pressure. It’s not, it is just Premium for Noctua and F means Focus which is the one I really need. The P12 also runs at just 1300RPM instead of 1500RPM on the F12. Anyway, they are considered slow compared to Corsair’s running at 2300RPM. Noctua 2000RPM fans are their Industrial line and they cost almost double.

Replacing the two fans inside my Ncase isn’t hard. With the spare SP120, I decided to use one as exhaust on the side panel, and the other one as a second fan on the NF-C14 CPU cooler. The later is a PITA to install without removing the cooler from the CPU. I used the original clip on its original 140mm fans. Since Corsair fans got this thick rubber screw hole, I have to use cable ties to hold the clip.

After putting everything back on, and flashing the 980Ti BIOS with new fan speeds, I went and run Furmark to see how the Noctua fans perform. One word: poor. At max RPM, which is around 1210RPM, the temp shoots right up to 81C without OC. It simply thermal throttle with OC even if I set the temperature limit to the maximun 91C. Things looks better in real world gaming test. I fired up The Division and with my CPU OC to 4.4GHz and 980Ti OC, the fans seems to be keeping the GPU temp around 80C.

Noise wise, at max RPM, they definitely sounds a lot more quiet than the Corsair pairs as they need to spin at around 1800RPM to get identical cooling performance. Since the SP120 is far more quiet than the stock reference 980Ti fan, the NF-P12 is almost like silent even at full speed. I wonder how does the Industrial F-12 at 2000RPM. For now it doesn’t thermal throttle, I’ll stick with the P12.

At the moment, I’m having five 120mm fans inside my little Ncase seems a bit absurd.

Noctua NF-P12

Quick take on Arctic Accelero III

Before the next gen of GPU are out, I decided to give overclocking the 980 Ti a try. I’ve read a lot of review that the non-reference 980 Ti can achieve 1500MHz core clock, which is pretty high from default 1000MHz. The reason I don’t want to put a non-reference 980 Ti in my PC is because the small size of the Ncase M1 which is not designed for non-reference GPU with TDP above 175W. The hot air will be dumped into the case and reused by the GPU, so the fan will actually work harder to cool the GPU.

I really wanted to do a custom loop water cooling, but there are a few reasons I am not doing it right now. First will be my Ivy Bridge i5 3570k CPU which isn’t such a great overclocker. It will probably be more beneficial to watercool a i7 Devil Canyon or Skylake. I’m thinking my next CPU upgrade would probably be the i7 Extreme version with more than 4 cores. Second reason is that I don’t think I have got that much time for the project right now.

I stumbled into this product called Arctic Accelero, which is an aftermarket cooler. Many people bought Version III of the product to improve the AMD R9 290X with stock heat sink that a lot people had purchased before other company comes out with their own non-reference cooling. The original AMD cooler is pretty crappy, inferior to Nvidia’s reference cooler, so the Accelero III is a great replacement, allowing the GPU to run full speed, and even overclocking.

Arctic also has version IV of the cooler, and improved design with backplates and not using glue for cooling the VRM and RAM. However the backplate is very bulky and will not fit into the Ncase M1, so it is better for me to save a few bucks and opt for Version III.

It is not easy to find the product in Malaysia, most of the store doesn’t carry it because the price of the cooler cost as much as a low end GPU (which can run DOTA2), and those who want better cooling for their GPU will just buy a non-ref GPU, or get a water block for custom loop water cooling. I manage to found a guy in Lowyat Forum, and even he has to get his stock from Singapore.

Installation

Installing the Accelero III is very tricky, but before that I have to remove the reference cooler on Nvidia 980 Ti. That is pretty simple, just take out the 20-ish screws and pulling the board out from the card. It is very tricky in the sense that there is literally no guide on the net that teach you how to do it from A-Z. It is up to me which heat-sink I wanted to place on the VRAM chip and which on the VRM. How much thermal glue to stick the heat sink. Whether I should use the plastic stickers to prevent short-circuit. How tight I should screw the heatsink base plate onto the GPU chip. I’m just glad I didn’t break my card on my first try.

It is definitely harder to do than installing the CPU cooler, or even assembling a complete desktop rig.Instead of using the 3 fans bracket that comes with the Accelero III, I’ve removed them and intended to use my case fan to cool the GPU. The case fans are no other than Corsair 120SP. To allow the GPU to control the fans, I’ve ordered a mini 4-pin to 2x 4-pin cable from another fellow in Lowyat Forum. The Ncase M1 seems to be built with this cooling configuration in mind as everything fits in place with no extra inch of space.

I was so nervous on the first time booting up the computer, luckily for me it booted up normally. The difference is that it is so much quieter compared to with reference cooler even at idle. I have to physically look at the fans are running just to be sure they’re indeed being powered by the GPU. Even when playing games, there is no doubt the 2 120mm fans are so much more quieter than reference and the heat-sink is very efficient in cooling the GPU. Unlike the reference cooler, it will be very hard for me to be throttled due to temperature.

Overclocking the 980Ti

I did not buy better cooling just to reduce the noise while gaming, I wanted to see what my 980 Ti is capable of on air. Yeap, overclocking 980 Ti on air in the Ncase M1. On default, the Zotac Reference 980 Ti only allows me to increase the Power Target up to 106%. To unlock up to 120%, I have to use Maxwell Bios Tweaker to edit my current BIOS and flash it using NVFlash (certificate check bypass).

I was able to set the Power Target 120% and Memory Clock +200. I don’t want to get adventurous with the memory clock since it only give negligible performance improvement. Looking at other’s review, some people only manage to get max Core Clock of +200, so I guess I’ll just start off with +250

Core clock +250 – Crash
Core clock +230 – Crash
Core clock +210 – Stable @ Temp:80C Fan:1500 RPM.

With +210 on Core Clock, I manage to get 3D Mark’s Fire Strike score of: 14,154 (Graphic:19,353 CPU:8,125 Combined:7,444) up from around 12k on reference cooler (Graphic was 16k). When playing The Division, core clock hover around 1390MHz, pushing frame rates in the upper 60 region.

With that extra heat being dumped into the case, now it really felt much warmer. My i5 3570K CPU’s temperature also increase to the 80C region while gaming at 4.4GHz. I guess I’ve pretty much max out the air cooling capability of the Ncase M1 with this setup. I’ll probably get 2 more 120mm fans, one for the Noctua C14 as 2 fans setup, and one for side panel as exhaust. That is only to lower the temperature inside the case, not so much of reducing the GPU & CPU’s temperature.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the Arctic Accelero III is a great product if you’re using the Ncase M1 and wanted extra air cooling for your reference GPU, or you wanted your rig to be quiet while gaming. It probably won’t give much of an improvement if your GPU already has great non-reference cooler, but with 2 slow spinning 120mm fan, it still might be quieter than fast spinning 100mm fans. Installing it is a bit complicated and not for those who have never assemble a complete rig before. At RM319, it is not cheap, but I could most certainly reuse the cooler on future GPU that I buy.

Quick take on Arctic Accelero III

Ncase M1 V4

Ever since I started building my current rig, I’ve heard about this case. The main reason I didn’t buy one back then was because of the price. It cost around 6 times more than the Cooler Master Elite 120 or 130 case. I wasn’t that committed in the ITX format and wasn’t sure of the form factor, so I decided to play midrange.

At first I bought the CM Elite 120 simply because the 130 hasn’t been released yet. It was a very capable ITX form factor case, supporting full size ATX power supply and full length powerful graphic card. It does lack the space for full fledge CPU heatsink or AIO water cooler. The CM GeminII M4 low profile CPU heatsink that I’ve got for the case was pretty lackluster and I barely could overclock my Intel i5 3570k past 4GHz without hitting 80ºC.

Later on I’ve try upgrading the fan to Corsair SP120, and reversing the fan acting it as pull instead of push. I’ve also replaced all the case fan to the SP120, trying to draw as much air as possible from the front. I manage to reduce the temperature a bit and gain additional 200MHz overclock. However, at 4.2GHz, it is till in the 80ºC range.

January this year I’ve decided to take the plunge to try All-In-One water cooling. In order to fit that, I replaced the case with Elite 130 and opted the cheap CM Seidon 120V. I was waiting for the CM Nepton 120, but it wasn’t widely available at the time of purchase and it is very much more expensive than the Seidon.

The CM Seidon 120V successfully lowered the temperature by a large margin, I am able to game at 4.4GHz and CPU temperature never exceed 80ºC. With the change of PSU to  Silverstone SX600-G (SFX format instead of ATX), the only thing that I couldn’t fit into a Ncase M1 would be the Asus 280X, which is a bit too wide for the case.

In July, with the production of the version 4 of Ncase M1, I decided to order one online from the official site. I shouldn’t have opted for the express delivery since I wasn’t in a hurry to assemble the PC. The case arrived a few days after the delivery started, without any GST or custom tax. After that I went and get the Nvidia Geforce 980Ti in August. With the final component in my hand, I can start to assemble everything.

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The installation isn’t that hard, but it isn’t straight forward either since it doesn’t comes with a user manual. I really need to figure out what those screws are for, and how to attach the 3.5” HDD and 2.5” SSD to the case. You probably need a lot of guide if it’s the first time building a PC with this case.

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The Ncase M1 can be configured in a number of ways. Initially what I had in mine was to put both 120mm fans on side panel as intake, with one attached to the Seidon 120V radiator. The 3.5” HDD will be placed on the bottom of the case below the GPU. Since I got 2 fans pushing air in, I installed the PSU with the air intake from outside (the other side panel).

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I tucked the extra cable in between the PSU and GPU, as well as the empty ODD space. I didn’t opt for the ODD hole because I don’t intent to use one. I’ve placed the SSD inside the case, so there’s some extra space there. I didn’t reattach the CPU cooler, so lazy to do that. Thankfully I can route the tube around with the previous orientation.

I fired up the PC, played a few round of BF4 and found out that I wasn’t impressed with the temperature of my GPU and HDD. The latter was hovering at 60ºC, a lot higher than what I’m comfortable with. It was due to the HDD and GPU are one or two millimetres apart. So the 2nd reconfiguration started.

The HDD is then put on the included bracket and on the side panel in place of one of the 120mm fan that wasn’t attached to the radiator. I fear there’s not much airflow near the HDD, so I’ve reversed the PSU with it acting as exhaust. I’ve placed two 120mm fan on the bottom of the GPU, I heard it is counter productive to put it there, but extra fan give me some extra peace of mind. The re-configuration reduced the GPU temperature and kept the HDD temperature at a normal temperature.

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However things doesn’t look good for the PSU with the fan ramping up while playing game. That noisy 80mm fan now need to work extra hard with using hot air to cool the PSU components. Problem were solved by rotating back the PSU, and I can’t feel if the case got hotter without the PSU acting as extra exhaust.

Now something about the outlook of the case. It is one sleek case, and with the silver coloured panels, it resemble something that Apple produce. iMac wannabe, I know. It is also really small, not  Mac Mini small, but incredibly small considering what kind of performance it is capable of. It’s small enough that I’m considering lugging it for work. We’ll see how that work out.

There’s only two USB 3.0 ports on the front panel, but since the case isn’t that big, it’s no biggie to reach for the ports at the back. There’s a power button which also act as a HDD activity indicator. One thing missing will be the reset button, so I need to long press the power button if I want to force shut-down the PC in case it freeze, which is frequently with my dirty upgraded Windows 10.

I’m currently torn between going full underwater or back to full air cooled. Ideally it’ll be best to go full water cooled with custom loop, but I’m not intrigue by the cost and maintenance work that involve by it. More over with liquid in it, I can’t bring it into the cabin of an international flight. Then again, how often do I need to bring it into the cabin. Going back air cooled CPU and stock reference cooler for GPU would limit their full overclocking potential.

Anyhow, I will be using this case for a long time with its acceptable limitation and limitless configuration in a very small footprint.

Ncase M1 V4

Zotac Nvidia 980Ti Reference Review

I can’t believe I just spend so much money on this. Deep in me, I have always wanted to get that very best GPU and play games at the best visuals. However, my logical brain has always been stopping me from getting crazy and just settle on that mid-range GPU. Then while doing that, I’ve changed GPU after 12 to 18 months because that new game just need more horsepower.

I’ve decided enough is enough, time to get the best and stay with it for 36 or 48 months instead. That came down to just 2 options in the market, Nvidia 980Ti and AMD Fury X. The Titan X is arguably faster than 980Ti, but 2% faster asking for 35% price premium, I’ll skip. An OC 980Ti will beat stock Titan X.

I’ve waited for the AMD Fury X to be released before making my final decision, for both GPU and monitor because currently AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s Gsync don’t mix. Two months after the release of 980Ti, the Fury X is finally out, and 980Ti seems too beat it at most of the games at sub 4K resolution. With the headroom to OC (unlike Fury X), the 980Ti is the winner for this session.

I’ve decided to get the reference cooler due to the design of my small casing. The reference Nvidia cooler will exhaust hot air out of the case, unlike non-reference cooler. The later has more fan and larger heatsink, but the heat is exhausted around the card and into the case. So if there’s no good airflow, hot air will be recycled, causing inefficient cooling. On a well ventilated case, the GPU core temperature can be reduced as much as 20ºC.

By the time I am looking for the card, most of the seller around Klang Valley do not have stock for most ref. cooler model, as the non-ref. are being released, they will sell better since they are cooler and run quieter. Initially I wanted the MSI brand 980Ti, but I only manage to find Zotac brand at my budget. Some stores still have stock for Asus 980Ti Ref. but they are way over priced for the same thing, which I understand all Ref. are built the same, only to be rebadged.

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Installing the card and its drivers are pretty straight forward. The last time I used a Nvidia GPU was the integrated Geforce 840M in my Dell Vostro 4000, that was a pretty bad experience. The last time I actually bought a Nvidia graphic card, the Geforce 2 Ti, was back in 2001. That Nvidia control panels hasn’t change much over the years, only more settings could be tweak now. The 980 Ti also fixed the 144Hz problem that my 280X was unable to output.

As for the performance of the card, with the second fastest GPU on the market, it doesn’t disappoint. On 3D Mark’s Fire Strike test, it scored 12k, while my old 280X scored 7k. The 980 Ti did score double of that by 280X in the graphic test.

While playing BF4 on Ultra settings without AA, the frame rates stays around 130fps and rarely dips below 100fps. I would say it performs twice as fast as my 280X in that regard. In fact it’s so good that I’ve started using 120% Resolution Scaling in the game instead of MSAA to do away some jaggies, and  they’re barely any hit in performance.

I tried a few other games, but not really benchmarking them. Crysis 3, being a really demanding game is just barely getting 60fps with everything max out with FXAA, same goes to Assassin Creed Unity. Those are probably bad ports from console and can do lots of tweaking on PC, but this also shows that this really fast GPU might not be that fast.

Gsync makes FPS games like BF4 a joy to play. It completely eliminated screen tearing which was petty annoying when I’m using the 280X. Why no one thought of this 5 years ago, good thing I’ve only purchased ONE LCD display, albeit a costly one, in the past before this one with Gsync. I have yet to try out ULBM function because I am very satisfied with what I see with Gsync.

Similar to the 280X, the 980 Ti is rated 275W so it is a pretty hot card on full load. Since my version doesn’t comes with a fantastic cooler, only a reference cooler, the core temperature quickly shoot up to 80ºC while gaming. With an aggressive fan profile, I am able to bring it down to 75ºC but with the fan running really loud. So loud that girlfriend in the same room thought it has started to rain outside. No kidding.

I did not try overclocking the card since I probably can’t do much and not worth it with the reference cooler. I definitely need water cooling to properly cool it for overclocking in my space limited case. I see at people getting 20% more performance out of it with maximum overclocking over air, and it is more voltage limited but I haven’t really get into it yet.

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The 980Ti (right) look puny compared to the large 280X heatsink.

Now the last question – Is it worth that absurd amount of money? Absolutely No – IF you are gaming on a typical 60Hz 1080p monitor, a RM1.5k Geforce 970 or 290X is more than enough. However, I need something powerful to drive my 1440p at 144Hz and 980 Ti seem like the minimum. If you have a 4k display, you may need two of these to run games at their highest settings, currently 980 SLI (without Ti) seems to do great with 4K.

Zotac Nvidia 980Ti Reference Review