ODG Featured Build: Ominus 2015

 
by  •  Feb 17, 2015

It’s been a while

To be fair, a lot has gone on with the ODG Staff over the last several months; some of us have either returned to or started school in order to carry our lives forward. Some have continued on with their Military careers or in other areas of service to our Nation, and those duties have pulled them away. For a few of us, career change and life flux has just made it damn near impossible to find the time to write more than two words.

As we march ahead in 2015, I felt it would be best to start off with a featured build. We’ve done a few, notably ODGActual’s HQ rig, and the rig provided to a Veteran by AMD, who was looking to get a fresh start. So, we figured we would do another one, and invite you to send in your specs so they could be featured as well. Between field expedient engineering and grunt ingenuity, I bet we will see some real interesting builds…

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Why AMD, Why Not Intel or NVidia?

Because, now moving on.

In all seriousness, we have attempted to provide equal time to Intel and NVidia in the past, it is just they can’t be bothered to answer an email. After seven years, I could really give two craps less; AMD has always answered our questions, provided us with the information we need, and even donated hardware. So until someone at Intel or Nvidia has the urge to hit “Reply” to a request for information, they can take a flying leap for all I care.

Before I enrage all of the Intel and Nvidia fans out there, let me say that I do feel each company has strengths and weaknesses over the other. For my purposes, AMD is just fine, but when it comes down to it, there is little difference between this and cheering for your favorite sports team.

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Special Thanks

Antec was generous enough to provide several parts to this build, without which it still may have taken place, but at a diminished scale. Of particular note was the case, an Antec Nineteen Hundred Red, but the EDG750 PSU and Kuhler (I really don’t feel like typing the code for those neat little dots) H2O 1250 allowed the build to take off in a direction that was not conceived previously.

We’ve taken a look at some Antec products previously, and they continue to put out quality work. For those of you interested in a review of the individual components, that will be forthcoming as well.

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Queue the Music: Ominus

My build draws inspiration from all those 1970s Sci Fi thrillers featuring killer AIs destroying humanity, and from the Dune Series Prequels. Naming your build is not something everyone does, but in this instance, I think the name fits perfectly. There’s still a bit of customization to do, tweaking and further overclocking to push things a little further, but now is a good starting point as any other.

A castle fit for a King

All of this real estate is contained in the Antec Nineteen Hundred Chassis. The Nineteen Hundred is friggin HUGE, and has about enough space for you to lease out to tenants, if you so choose and is so big that it comes with theme music.. In keeping with the build theme, Antec provided us with the Red edition of the Nineteen Hundred, and I am pretty impressed.

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The Antec Eleven Hundred houses all the components nicely, and leaves plenty of room for you to lease out to occupants. During the building, I considered modifying it to include a hot tub, additional garage, and a smokehouse, but time was running short.

We will take an in depth look at the Nineteen Hundred later, briefly however I will say that it has a lot of modding potential, and except for a few flaws (that is what the modding potential is for) is an ideal case for those looking for air flow, cooling options, cable management and space for components. Featuring space for two PSUs, 12 Hard Drive Bays and two mounting points for 240 mm radiators, you can hit the ground running and modify as you move forward.

Like I said, it has some flaws, but it is the largest case I have ever used in a build and is more than adequate for the task.

Motherboard

If you are going to go all out, then you might as well spring for the best. ASUS’s Crosshair Formula Z is well regarded as the best motherboard for the AM3+ 990FX Chipsets. With plenty of overclocking potential and the ability to support 3 Way Crossfire configurations, it was really no contest.

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The downside is the physical layout, however. The board features two PCIe x1 slots and one PCI3 x4 slot, but they are all covered when you use three GPUs. I would have liked to have had just a little more room, but that will be overcome with an extender used on the lowest PCIe x4 slot.

CPU or Small Oven?

After several years, I passed my well used FX 8350 to my son. It was not “The Best” but the overclocking potential of that processor made it a worthy addition to any rig. This time around I decided to go with AMD’s powerhouse FX 9590 CPU, paired with the Antec 1250 Kuhler.

You can look around wherever you like, many people will say that the extra cost of the 9590 is simply not worth it, and claim that it is an overclocked 8350. That may be true, and I have seen folks reach the same speeds with an 8350 as a 9590. For my part, I got an immediate boost right out of the gate. I wanted something hardy to work with that I could push just a little further. I don’t need a 20% boost over stock speeds, I just want something that works a bit faster as I start and then nudge it up as I become comfortable with it.

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Cooling is handled by the  Kuhler 1250 All In One Waterblock. The 1250 seems to be a bit loud when the CPU is under load, but fits nicely in the Nineteen Hundred case. The 1250 does have some nice features, such as LED emblem which changes colors according the the temperature of the CPU, or to user preference. This feature is enabled when using the optional USB connection to monitor CPU temps.

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One note when installing the 1250 on your CPU, whether you are using the Intel or AMD brackets, you need to make sure the logo is upright (duh) and that there are as few twists in the tubes as possible. Making certain the watercooler is positioned properly will allow it to perform with greater efficiency. I learned this personally when I had to go back into the case and modify the position, after which I experienced temps that were significantly lower.

I’m fairly satisfied with the 1250 combo on the 9590, but I do plan on a bit of modification to get better results.

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How Much RAM Is Enough?

We all recycle parts, and here was no difference. Previously I was running 32 Gigs of Corsair DDR3 1600 overclocked to 1866 speeds. Just before starting this build, I re-purposed 8 Gigs of AMD Radeon R9 2400 and combined it with 16 Gigs of AMD Radeon  R9 2133. I ran the kit at 2133 Mhz until the new build, where the UEFI BIOS settings in the ASUS motherboard allowed me to bring everything up to 2400 Mhz. You might not notice too much of a difference between 1600 and 1866 Mhz, but you sure as hell notice it between 1600 and 2400 Mhz.

Even though I am not missing it, and certainly do not need it, I miss the extra 8 Gigs of RAM, and will likely upgrade it again just to max out the potential.

Two Power Supplies!?

Antec’s EDGE Series 750 Watts PSU provides the primary juice, with a secondary unbranded PSU working in tandem via an Add2PSU connector. With Add2PSU, you can daisy chain two or more PSUs, provided you have the space for it.

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Antec’s EDG750 is a beautiful choice for the main PSU, powering the motherboard, CPU, and fans, while the secondary PSU powers the graphics and storage drives. Yes, this does consume more power, but given the amount of stress we put our rigs through, this will pay off in longevity.

The EDG750 is 80 Plus Gold Certified, guaranteeing maximum efficiency, while generating less heat (both PSU’s are Gold Certified, so that makes up a little bit for the extra power). Additionally, the EDG750 is fully modular, and comes with both red and black silicone bands which help reduce vibration in the chassis. A small switch activates the white LED glow, and adds a nice splash of detail inside the case itself.

I chose the red silicone bands for the EDG750, and managed to fit the black bands on the secondary PSU. With good case lighting, the red bands almost seem to glow, and that looks extremely nice. I nearly took the Antec PSU out of my old case and used it instead of the unbranded one, but I liked how both the Antec and the unbranded PSU were fully modular.

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How Much Graphics? Now We’re Being Silly.

Listen, I am a graphics nerd, and I love detail. I’ve experimented with two configurations, and finally settled on three R9 280X graphics cards in triple Crossfire. One GPU is from MSI and was provided by AMD previously, the other two are from VisionTek. You have to use Catalyst Control Center to get all the settings the same, and the VisionTek cards seem to run at stock speeds. Just a little boost from Catalyst made them run just as fast and as quiet as the MSI cards.

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SDD and HDD Storage

I switched over to Solid State Disks about two years ago. Like any storage technology, the price drops as capacities rise. Currently my OS is on a PNY 240 GB SSD. Games and a few important programs on a pair of Samsung 840 120 GB SSDs, with a VisionTek PCIe 480 GB SSD shoehorned in a spot via a PCIe extender cable. A Toshiba 1 TB drive stores all of my media, User files, and non speed essential programs. Backups and system images will be stored via a Home Server solution I am working on (when I find the time, finally).

One very satisfying note was not having to reload Windows when I did a hardware swap from my last MSI board to the ASUS. Though I attribute it more to having an identical AM3+ compatible socket, 990FX Chipset, and the same GPU drivers as my last build, that little bit of satisfaction of experiencing plug and play with my OS this time around was quite nice.

If you are wondering why I chose Windows 8.1 Professional, well there are some optimizations in the OS over Windows 7 that made the frustrations I first felt when it was released relatively minor. You can generally expect a faster USB 3 speed and increased SSD R/W speeds. I also suffered from random BSODs under Windows 7, that finally went away after an upgrade. Hard to say what the source was, but I am happy to be free of them now.

On the last build I recycled the Blu Ray Player and DVD RW drive from a previous OEM machine. On this one I chose to forgo Blu Ray since I haven’t yet found a single use for it on a gaming or business PC. So, I chose the ASUS 24x DVD RW SATA DRW-24B1ST OEM drive. It’s plug and play from what I can tell, and hasn’t given me any difficulty yet.

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Case Lighting

This is the first time I have ever gone beyond some LED fans for case lighting, and I like the results. I settled for a pair of generic 12VDC Cold Cathode lights in an L configuration. Fancy mounting was not necessary, but I will probably secure them if I decide to upgrade or add lighting later. For now, I like the red glow of the lights and how they highlight the components inside.

Cons

Any new build, or rebuild, brings with it a unique set of issues. Working with a new processor I have yet to find that magical combination that allows me to hit stable overclocks of 5 Ghz or better. The GPUs themselves can be a bit troublesome as the reference cooler for the 290X sounds like a train when under load, and I am not sure that it dissipates heat adequately, so benchmarking them has been extremely difficult.

The biggest con is not wanting to stop. There is so much potential for this build and the case that I want to do more with it, but where does it end? Admittedly, what I have now is overkill and I don’t NEED this much (but I sure as hell want it).

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Cost as a Concern

The largest factor in any build, whether it is an in place upgrade or a complete redesign, is cost. Buying a preconfigured system will most definitely save you some time, but you can expect that it will cost you anywhere from 75% – 150% more than if you build it yourself. Still, that is a chunk of change, and for many of us not possible.

My advice to you is to do as I did with my last build. Start with a base that gives you plenty of room to grow, and plan on being with it for 3-5 years. Maybe you will swap out your storage drives or even your CPU and Motherboard, but the case, some of the peripherals, and some other components will last you for a while beyond your first upgrade. There is where you want to spend a little more money than usual, on good quality items that will last you. Penny pinching your keyboard and mouse is fine, if you want to replace it every year. My last one lasted over three years of constant finger mashing abuse.

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What Are You Going to do With All of That?

You are certainly right in saying that I will not possibly need all of this power for day to day use, or even serious hardcore gaming. But some people like cars, and spend a lot of money on getting it just right. For others, it’s a firearms collection, or sports memorabilia. This is no different, I have have a hobby that I enjoy and I intend on pursuing it to the fullest.

I do work on the side with some programming, lightweight mainly, and some media files. In my job working product testing and development, I sometimes bring things home to play around with, and having a working platform able to stand up to the tasks I throw at it makes all this less of a headache.

You don’t need a 1969 Camaro that is totally customized to get to work but you sure as hell do not want a Smart Car on the Interstate, either.

 

Final Challenge: Show us your own

This is my first topped out build, with plans to mod and upgrade as time goes by. Could I do better? Probably, and you can too. Show us your build, share a few tips and let’s have some fun.

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