Distilling another batch of Absinthe

Build Log:

It has been about a year since I last wrote about my wife’s computer, Absinthe. In that time the system has been running smoothly without any complaints. To recap, here are the current specifications of the system:

Processor: AMD FX-8350
Mainboard: ASUS Sabertooth 990FX R2.0
Memory: 16GB AMD Radeon Performance DDR3-1866
Graphics: XFX R9 290X 4GB “Double D”
Sound: Creative Labs SoundBlaster Z
Power supply: Corsair RM1000
Chassis: Corsair 750D
Storage: 2 x 1TB WD Black in RAID 1 (MediaSonic ProRaid HUR3-SU3S3 connected via eSATA)

And the system is water cooled:

Pump: AlphaCool VPP655 with AlphaCool HF D5 Plexi pump top
Reservoir: Bitspower Z-Tube 100mm with Z-CAP I and Z-CAP II (acrylic)
Radiators: AlphaCool XT45 360mm (top) and 240mm (front), AlphaCool ST30 240mm (bottom)
Fans: Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm and 140mm
Tubing: Type L annealed copper tubing
CPU Block: Koolance CPU-380A
Graphics card block: Aquacomputer kryographics Hawaii (acrylic glass edition) with passive backplate
Coolant: Koolance LIQ-702 clear

Wait, no complaints with an AMD FX processor? How is that possible?!?

The system is coming due for an annual cleaning and flush. This time around I’m going with a different coolant: Mayhem’s X1 clear. The system will basically need to be torn down to practically nothing for cleaning as well. Getting into every nook and crevice of the 750D, flushing all the radiators and blocks, clean all the fans and everything, and largely get everything back up and running again, clean as a whistle.

I will also need to inspect the copper tubing and replace any that is discolored or showing signs of oxidation. Having copper doesn’t get you away from that.

Along with that, the system is going to also be moved out from behind her monitors, where accessing it can be a chore, to a short table under her desk where it’ll be a lot easier to see and access for periodic dust removal with the vacuum, especially on the bottom radiator. Again, the new coolant will be Mayhem’s X1. Desert Sapphire required only 1L of coolant, and I ordered three bottles of concentrate for it. I’m likely going to be exceeding 1L for Absinthe. We’ll see.

The water cooling configuration is likely not going to change this time around. We’ve talked previously about moving the system back into her old blue chassis and externally water-cooling it, but we’ve opted against it this time just to get things back up and running faster.

But that’s not all that’s happening…


Processor: Intel i7-5820k
Mainboard: Asus X99-PRO
Memory: EVGA SuperSC DDR4-3200 2x8GB
Storage: Samsung 850 EVO M.2 500GB

And yet to be ordered is the new CPU block, which will likely be the EK Supremacy EVO, or I might opt for something else such as the Watercool HeatKiller Pro IV, or stick with Koolance and go with the CPU-380I. We’ll see. The new hardware will first be set up in a test setup to tempt my wife (yes, I love to live dangerously) and make sure everything is going to work as expected.

Absinthe currently has Windows 8.1 (Pro if I remember correctly), and that license will be moved to the new platform and upgraded to Windows 10. The external RAID 1 will be used for periodically backing up the system. Given she’ll have an SSD this time around and we have Google Fiber, installing her games onto the new system is going to be child’s play. She was practically drooling over Desert Sapphire, so this’ll be a good upgrade for her with plenty of room to expand later on.

Why Haswell-E and X-99 over the Skylake and Z-170? In short, scalability.

As I’ve said here numerous times, my wife multitasks like nothing. She’d been doing that since first having dual monitors on an Athlon X2. That is why I went with the AMD FX-8350 when I initially built her system a little over two years ago. On the Intel side, getting that same scalability requires going with an i7 regardless of which generation you select, and it was a price premium I wasn’t willing (or really able) to pay at the time. An i5 has only 4 cores, which doesn’t provide the same scalability for multitasking as an i7 or FX 8-core.

When she had only two monitors, she probably could’ve gotten away with an i5. But now that she has three, an i7 would basically be required. About the only other upgrade that would’ve improved multitasking performance is an SSD. And single-thread performance is a non-issue when the operating system is trying to balance processes across a small number of cores. That is where the AMD FX 6-core and 8-core processors beat the Intel i5, though whether an Intel i7 matches an AMD FX 8-core is debatable given HyperThreading is not the same as physical cores.

So when it came to the next upgrade leap, Haswell-E was a no-brainer, as was the SSD, and I’ll likely do the same or my system, Beta Orionis, depending on what AMD’s next generation has to offer. The i7-5820k has six (6) physical cores plus HyperThreading expanding it out to twelve (12) parallel threads, a 50% improvement in parallel multitasking over the FX-8350.

And when you combine better scalability of the Haswell-E with the better per-thread performance, scaling both horizontally and vertically, overall you’ve got a very significant gain. But that is basically the overall philosophy of this move, coming to a newer generation processor that will also have more cores and threads for better multitasking.