Sunday, November 15, 2015

Skylake i5 Power Consumption Tests

Put together a new machine today, and ran a quick power consumption test to see what to expect from the total draw.

System specs: i5-6500, Asrock H170M-ITX/ac, 2x4GB DDR4, 1x240GB SSD, Corsair CX-430, Coolermaster Elite 110. Power measurements were made from the wall (240V AC) with a PowerMate Lite.

Machine StateConsumption (W)VAPFC
Off0.75 W33.50.02
Idle17 W420.4
Prime 95
(Large FFTs, 4 threads)
71 W860.825

In Prime95 the power fluctuated a little, the above entry is a typical value. Peak recorded draw was 73.5W. Maximum temperature hit was 58°C. HwMon recorded individual cores at 3.6GHz, but under Prime95 load they all stuck around 3.3GHz.

You could happily run this machine on a 90-100W power supply. The smallest commonly available PSUs retail tend to bottom out at 350W, which is massive overkill in a system without a dedicated GPU.

(Also, the PFC of the CX-430 — ouch!)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

HTC M8S Versus Samsung Galaxy S3

TL;DR: Fixes some of the issues I had with the S3; not without its flaws.

After moving from the Samsung Galaxy S2 to the S3 a few years ago, I was disappointed that in a lot of ways the "upgrade" was most definitely a downgrade. Primary issues were lack of FM Radio (didn't even think to check!) and MTP support was so flaky on Linux I could barely copy files onto the phone — Samsung made it that you could no longer treat the S3 as a plain old USB device, MTP being the only option.

The HTC M8S "infinite selfie" selfie

So this time round I've jumped to HTC, and while I really wanted to like it, there are definitely pros and cons.

M8S advantages:

  • Copying files to the phone from a Linux machine just works.
  • Side-by-side the speaker in the M5S is much clearer. The S3 is distorted in comparion — this is a two-year-old phone though, so this is likely from wear and tear.
  • FM Radio. I had this in the Galaxy S2 and liked the option. We pay a premium for data in Australia, so streaming radio over the internet isn't as practical as it might be in other places. So the radio option was really handy for casual listening, missed it in the S3, glad it's in the M5S.
  • The setup wizard seemed pretty user friendly, offering to transfer content from the old phone and to set up various accounts. Since I like to start fresh and don't really do "social" whatevers, I didn't use any of it, but hey, the thought was nice HTC.

Negatives of the M8S:

  • No physical access to the battery. Not sure what you're meant to do if there are any problems with the stock battery.
  • The default camera settings seem...awkward. Difficult to get decent focus and "nice" looking shots — never really found a phone that was good for photos/video though, could just be user error.
  • The USB tethering option on the S3 would switch itself off once unplugged. On the M8S it stays on so if you plug it into another computer it'll activate the tethering again. Not what you want if you (as I do) go from the machine I want to tether to a desktop that has an ethernet connection.
  • Switching between vibrate, silent and audible sound profiles is hidden away in the Settings menu system. The S3 had that as an option on the main shutdown/reset screen.
  • Auto correct when typing seems pretty aggressive. So far I haven't worked out how to keep the suggestions (which can be useful) but hold off on the actual correction.
  • Background data is turned on by default — again, in our expensive data environment this is bound to annoy people when their quotas are sucked dry by stuff they're not even using. Turning it off is hidden away in the data settings, and then there's a constant notification to say "background data restricted" — haven't found how to get rid of the notification. I know it's off, I turned it off. The damn phone doesn't need to constantly remind me.
  • In general the phone is notification happy: notifications all the time, with seemingly no control over acknowledging them. The notification system feels pretty all-or-nothing in that regard.
  • The power button is on top rather than on the side. Muscle memory needs time to adapt :|

The M8S fixes a number of the sore points I had with the S3, but brings its own annoyances. So's good (in the sense that all modern phones are marvels of technology) but not great I guess.

Monday, November 2, 2015

How to Choose a Replacement Socket 1155 Motherboard

In another what I assume is a soon-to-be-deleted superuser question, due to the affectations of the moderator squad there, a user asked:

"I have a socket 1155 motherboard (P67 chipset with i5-2400) that died. What do I need to consider for a replacement?"

Here's my answer (extended a little here to try and cover all bases), in case it helps anyone else going through the same process:

The i5-2400 will work with pretty much any socket 1155 motherboard, so you can look at the boards that were released with SandyBridge CPUs — for example, H61, H67, Z68 — as well as those that were released for IvyBridge CPUs, such as B75, H77, Z77.

Most board manufacturers have a CPU compatibility list for each board, so if you find a particular board, you should be able to confirm by searching for the make/model.

Given that they're not made any more, finding a "good" replacement might be tricky. As long as the motherboard has all the ports and sockets you need, it should do the job. In the general case, some of the factors that should be considered:

  • What sized case do you have? Physical size is imperative: An ATX motherboard won't fit in a micro-ATX sized case, for example. A board that is otherwise suitable must fit the case, otherwise it is pointless to consider it.
  • Number of and/or combination of PCI and PCIe slots required. All current motherboards have at least one PCIe x16 slot for a graphics card, and keep in mind that most graphics card take up at least two slots.
  • Number of RAM slots required. Some low-end boards only have 2 RAM slots — if you have more sticks than that it might mean you either have to reduce your amount of RAM, or buy a new kit with larger size per stick.
  • Number of SATA ports. Most drives (hard drives, DVDs, and SSDs) around in the socket 1155 timeframe used SATA as the connector type. Make sure the motherboard has enough SATA ports for all your drives.
  • Number of USB ports required. In addition the ports on the motherboard, consider what USB ports your case has. Any USB 3 ports will most likely require a USB 3 header on the motherboard, which are physically different sizes to USB 2 headers.
  • Number and type of onboard graphics ports. If not using a dedicated GPU, consider what types of onboard graphics connectors you need.
  • Number of fan headers. Required for case fans
  • Chipset matching to avoid confusing your operating system. You may want to attempt to match the existing board — by chipset and/or manufacturer — in order to reduce the risk of your operating system from "rejecting" the change.
  • Overclocking support. If overclocking with a 'K' CPU, choose a 'Z' chipset

Most DDR3 RAM will work with any board, but you can also try and confirm RAM compatibility either with the motherboard or RAM manufacturer's compatibility lists.

The i5-2400 which has limited overclocking potential is a little easier to source a replacement that for an overclockable 'K' CPU. In the latter case, the Z68 or Z77 boards are the best choice as they support overclocking.

2nd hand is most likely a cost-effective option if you can find one. Some socket 1155 boards are still available at online stores, so you could check Newegg, Amazon, and similar places. Alternatively, you could call a few local computers stores to see if by chance they've got old stock.

As an example of the process: here's a listing for the Gigabyte B75M-D3H at Amazon. The CPU support list shows that the i5-2400 is supported. It has 4 RAM slots, and after the GPU is in will have a PCI and PCIe slot free. It is only micro-ATX sized, so should fit all but the smallest cases.

When replacing, if you change the make and model of the board, you may have difficulty booting your OS with the updated board. This depends what OS you're using, and how different the replacement board is as far as drivers go. Windows traditionally hates hardware being replaced, and may refuse to boot; if you were using, say, Linux it would most likely just work. So keep that in mind that some recovery — or worst-case, a reinstall — of the OS might be required. Finding an exact model motherboard should avoid this issue; finding a similar chipset should reduce the risk of boot issues (but licensing issues may still need to be dealt with).

During the replacement process, after removing the heatsink, clean existing thermal paste from the CPU and heatsink using isopropyl alcohol. Reapply fresh paste before putting the cooler back on the CPU when it's installed in the new motherboard.

(As an aside, confirming that a motherboard fault is the problem — and not something else like a dead power supply — is a worthwhile activity to go through first).