Buying a better graphics card for the same price.

How did we get here?

Recently, I found a deal on an older Xeon combo, and thought it would be good to do a theme build. The build works great, I used a GTX 1660, available for about a hundred bucks used. It’s a solid graphics card and a solid price. New, however, is a different story.

This card is available for around 200USD new, and widely available, but it’s not the only one available for that. In fact, several cards are in that range. Better ones, in fact. One of those is the Arc A750 from Intel. I opted for the 1660 because it’s better than the AMD offer of an RX580 2048sp version. Granted, the 580 is a new card, but it’s more of a refurb, than a brand new option. We’ll touch on that soon.

To test these I used my editing rig with a 12th Gen i7, the newest CPU I have. Matched up with 32 GB of DDR4 memory and a list of games, I ran some benchmarks. The 1660 is about four years old, the A750 about a year, but again, prices are the same for the new cards and both are available with driver support. The refurb 580s may be new, but driver support ended a few months ago. For that matter, the 1660 is no longer in production, but still available.

Well, what were the results?

Not surprisingly, the A750 performed better. The difference, however, surprised me. I ran two DX 11 titles and a handful of DX12 games and the difference was noticeable. DX11 titles were reasonably close, but in some cases DX12 titles had twice the framerate. The improvement in DX11 titles shows just how much Intel continues to improve the driver support for their new GPUs.

This ARC series of graphics card keeps getting better and the price makes it a great value. AMD cards like the RX580, RX5700, and even RX6600 all have continued to drop at a reasonable rate, but not so with the Green Team. The GTX 1660, an RTX 2060 without Ray Tracing, just isn’t worth the money trying to buy it new.

I bought the Arc A750 for more than it sells now, but AMD’s RX6600 has similar performance to the ARC card, and both are better than the 1660 at the same price. NVidia’s comparable card brand new runs almost a hundred USD more (The RTX 3060). The green team still does lead in Ray Tracing and the NVenc encoder is outstanding, but the ARC does have the AV1 encoder and that has been a huge leap forward.

So, why use the older graphics card?

That part is simple. It’s still a solid card. The price used is great, and it’s perfect for the build it’s in. Matched up with the Xeon, from Intel’s forth gen chips, the balance of CPU to GPU is almost a perfect match. Everything in that build seems to compliment everything else, and it ends up being a great gaming PC for 1080p resolution.

For that matter, the A750 ends up being a great compliment to the i7 12700 in the editing rig. I didn’t think that would be the case when I put it in there. The driver effort from Intel has been that good.

The YT video on the comparison is here, while the video on the build itself is here. There wasn’t a blog post on the Xeon/1660 pairing, but there is a blog about matching older and newer hardware in a ‘broken’ PC here.

Was it a great idea to test old processers? No

How did we get here?

In this case, it was simple. I saw a few videos with people tinkering with old FX series processors, and though, sure. Two different people on two different continents were testing cheap 83xx processors and I thought, hey, I have an old motherboard for that.

I should have left it at that. Buying a similar chip here in the States turns out to be four times the price, and I don’t even know if the board works. I can also buy two intel MB/CPU combos that definitely work for the same money. Still, I wanted to try, so I found a cheaper CPU to order and test. Keep in mind, its been several years since I have even tried to test this MB and I stopped using it in 2015 because I thought I bricked it.

I ordered the CPU, it came quicker than I expected, thank you eBay seller, and I was excited to test. I gathered everything I would need, looked at the CPU and it had bent pins. Great. AM type processors have pins on the CPU instead of the motherboard and sometimes they bend. I didn’t panic. It was very slight and I could use a razor. Problem solved.

My next issue was the cooler. AM3+ and AM4 are different sized brackets, and have different mounting holes. Luckily I have a few different coolers and chose a tower cooler that is far more than that processor should need. I grabbed known good working parts from another system, and installed them. It was time to start it up.


Everything started, but nothing posted. No HDMI cable in the Graphics card. That was the last good feeling I had about this set up. I connected the HDMI, started it again, and waited, nothing. No post, no beeping, no nothing. Okay, I can’t say nothing. The CPU fan was running, the GPU leds were on (no spinning fans), and leds on the motherboard lit up. There is nothing fancy about the leds on the mobo, it’s just to show they have power.

I tried one stick of ram in each slot. No post on any combination. An hour or so of troubleshooting produced the same result. This was not working.

I faced a bit of a conundrum. I have a ‘tested good’ CPU, and a questionable motherboard. Do I count my twenty bucks as a loss, or do I look for a different mobo? How important is this video? How deep do I go in the rabbit hole? Used motherboards for this series are running from 40USD to 100USD. What? Are you serious? They’re 8-10 years old.

There is no reason I can think of that this platform should be so expensive eight years later. It wasn’t a high performer and it was inexpensive to start with, yet it’s holding it’s value and people are buying them. AMD was my preferred platform for a long time based on price to performance, but it didn’t age well. Pricing is very different here than the rest of the world evidently.

So what’s next for this set up?

First, I’m not upset spending 20 bucks testing an older board. I am not 100% sure it’s the problem, but the odds are high. The CPU tested good from a reputable seller, so I am okay with that. The issue is whether to sink more money into a used board just for the sake of a video. I don’t dare get something ‘high’ end just to check the CPU, but if it is good, what’s my next step? Yep, to buy a better board and a better CPU. This can’t end well. And it can’t end cheap. I have a lot of thinking to do.

There’s no video on this, yet, because the story isn’t over, but it may be time to hit the used market and find the next rung in this impossibly high later to nowhere. Wish me luck.

Here’s a link to my other videos, and a link back to the blogs.

How old does a budget PC have to be?

How did we get here?

The term budget PC can actually be a bit misleading. It’s very possible to have an extremely high budget, where financial constraints don’t matter, but most of us think of budget as spending less money. Budgets are typically associated with financial management, and living within your means. Corporations and Governments also have to adhere to budgets, though the latter doesn’t seem to think they have to. (Different subject, altogether).

If you are a PC enthusiast at all, you are typically trying to get the best performance for the lowest price. This may come in the form of buying a part used, or in some cases, refurbished. It may also come in the form of buying a less expensive part, seeking to upgrade later. This works well for newer parts, but it becomes more difficult with older ones. But what if your PC has a mix of both?

Can a new graphics card do well with an older processor. Is it even practical? In some cases, yes. Pairing a newer RX 6400 graphics card with a sixth generation Intel i5 in a PC sold as ‘broken or parts only’ is an example. I planned to put a mid tier graphics card in it, but the case was small, and I needed a low profile option. Older low profile cards just don’t do the trick, but I took the risk and was able to fix it. With a graphics card and a few other things, we had a two hundred dollars gaming PC. I used both newer and older parts.

Well, there’s your answer. New and Old.

Well, yes and no. Obviously mixing the age of components isn’t our only option. Using a different case, allows for a better graphics card and for a bit more, we can have a better PC. Our challenge there is to have the money we spend, show in the performance. Does going from spending two hundred to three, give us at least fifty percent better gaming? Chances are that it won’t.

Now, in most cases, one of the easiest upgrades will be to use a solid state drive instead of the hard disk drive, so yes we are mixing old and new. The memory modules can be new, but built on the older technology, reliable, but for this argument, old. There is also an influx of remanufactured older technology emerge in graphics cards and motherboards. That’s a harder one to call, but I have to group that with the memory, old.

What about our budget PC?

It actually gets more complicated. Some newer platform parts are available for the same prices as newer remanufactured ones. Both Intel and AMD have options for CPUs and motherboards for a hundred USD or less, each. That makes the core of the platform not too much more expensive than older systems, with better performance. So, maybe the way to go is new parts.

The honest truth is, older parts don’t give much of an upgrade path, but finding an old workstation or a PC that is ‘broken or parts only’, could be a great find, if you are careful. In my case, I saw a few things in the photos that helped me diagnose the issue before I bought it, and a twenty dollar SSD made my starting price 60 USD. If the case were bigger, the whole gaming PC could have been less than 175 USD, and done quite well. The only problem I have now is what to do with it.

I am finding the more I buy to tinker with, the less shelf room I have. I don’t seem to sell them as quickly as I buy, test and shelve them. Maybe that’s a different blog. We are getting to a point where PCs from even a few years ago, though, might outlive their operating systems, presenting a different problem. These systems are still solid and can perform well. I guess to answer this question, we may have to wait to see how long the software itself is supported.

The video that prompted all of this is here, but here are others and I will have to make a playlist.

There is also more written on the 40 dollar PC here.

Why are some gaming benchmarks better than others?

How did we get here?

In PC gaming, and often in general, if you upgrade something or build new, you want to see how it performs. The goal being to make sure what you have done is an improvement, or if it works at all. One way it to use a comparison tool or set of tools to test the components. In software, we use benchmarks.

This is anything from an application to test how long it takes to complete a task, say rendering, to stressing the CPU or GPU, to see when they reach a power limit or throttle back performance. Different tests give different results for testing different things. There are a slew of these type of tests for PC, many of them are free, some require a license or purchase. Being paid or free isn’t the focus here. The actual focus is Gaming Performance.

Most gaming performance benchmarks are purchased. You have to buy for the game to test it. You can use the trial version to do some play testing, but this has varying results. For that matter, the best way to actually test a game is actually play it, but many come with built in benchmark tools of one type or another. And, yes, some are better than others.

What about gaming benchmarks? – The catch up

In-game benchmarks usually test a scenario or group of scenes, with what should be typical gameplay, or an example of it, to see how the graphics and processing stress the system. Many are aware of this, but for those that aren’t, it’s a chance to test your game using different settings to find the best overall experience. Some games are graphically intensive, so rendering scenes and objects take priority. Some games have several things happening at one time, or an open world, and need processing power. Esports titles often fall into this category.

Coincidentally, many Esports titles don’t have built in benchmarks. It all comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice to get extra performance. The game doesn’t have to look as good, as long as you can score first, or find a target quickly. Esports titles are usually very fast paced and the details on the screen don’t have to be in 4K. These games prioritize speed over immersion.

But you said some are better than others.

I did, and here’s why. If a tool is too difficult to use, is it effective?

Think about this. Do you drive a manual transmission vehicle or automatic? Many will say, automatic because it’s easier to drive. Many people don’t even know how to drive a stick. Some of you just said in you head “I don’t”, some said “yes, I do!” , and the rest said “I wonder if I remember how”. Do you remember at least three telephone numbers? See where I’m going?

There are games that have excellent tools for testing. They can be found on a settings screen, usually in the graphics settings, and are very intuitive. You can change the resolution, and texture quality from the same area or adjacent areas, and the test will run. Others are not as good, but still rather easy to figure out and do make sense for what they are. Some, however, are buried in different menus, require resetting the game, and take a long time to run. It doesn’t matter how good the tool is, if it’s too difficult to use, it’s not effective.

In many cases, using gaming benchmarks helps find the best set up for your situation, and may require multiple runs. Other cases are for people testing different equipment and again, multiple runs. Benchmark tools that don’t let you adjust settings, are buried deep in a menu somewhere, and take five minutes to run, just aren’t effective tools. Yes, I’m talking about you Red Dead Redemption, and Assassins Creed Valhalla.

Utter Frustration

If you are ever watching one of my videos and wonder why I don’t test certain games, it’s most certainly for this reason. Both of these games have stunning benchmarks, but both are very difficult to run for different reasons. The good just doesn’t outweigh the bad, here. In the last video I made mention of some of the drawbacks with RDR2, but I ended up cutting the part about Assassins Creed. It was another three minutes when the video was already twenty minutes long.

RDR2 takes a while to run and will not let you choose settings outside the normal parameters of your equipment. Yes, I said normal settings. I can’t choose a higher quality setting that tries to borrow resources such as system memory, the tool turns other settings down. That’s great if I am playing the game casually, but not if I’m trying to test. The length of time and the different settings in the first part of the benchmark makes it seem like I chose the wrong tool for the job.

AC Valhalla is different because it’s hidden, and you have to start the game over each time. I should clarify. You have to start the game over each time you change the graphics settings, for example, high to medium, medium to low, etc.. This is a pain on it’s own, but to have to do this for five different settings on each resolution is tedious and overshadows how good the benchmark actually is. It gives great information and the scene is gorgeous, but it takes far longer to run than should be necessary. There needs to be a better way.

Benchmarks worth mentioning.

Other games, including a game by the publisher of The Witcher Series, CD Projekt Red, with CyberPunk 2077, have reworked their benchmark to not only make it easier, but to give more accurate results for each run, which should be applauded. This benchmark used to be a hot mess. Still, other games don’t have tools at all, which is fine, I just don’t have all day to do playthroughs, being a solo act. So, I have to find the best balance I can. It’s an ongoing process to find the best way to give an accurate comparison, and because there are no perfect tools for the job, I will have to keep choosing the best available. I guess that’s what makes all of this fun.

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Can a Forty Dollar Bust become a great gaming PC

How did we get here?

In recent weeks I purchased a forty dollar, non-working PC from eBay, then cleaned it up and fixed it. That was actually the easy part. The more difficult part is to see if that can’t become a budget gaming pc. It is a sixth generation i5 6500 with four cores and four threads, which is solid, but the case doesn’t leave room for a graphics card. It also has a low wattage power supply, so the graphics solution has to be efficient.

A low power, low profile card is the best choice, but that leaves us only a few options. Low profile cards are expensive even if they are older and not great. Cards with no external power also retain their value, and getting one with good performance is a challenge. We do get left with a few choices, but some are better than others for our use case.

Nvidia makes a great option with the RTX A2000. It’s not actually a mainstream gaming card, but it’s power efficient and low profile. The pairing of that and the i5 6500 is a bit unbalanced, but definitely a gaming PC. The problem? It cost 150% more than the budget for this project. At three hundred to three hundred fifty dollars, it’s just not a good choice.

Likewise, with the older GTX 1050 low profile. Believe it or not, this card, though older, still goes sometimes for around two hundred fifty dollars. Yes, you read that right, 250. It’s not because it’s an outstanding product, (though it is solid), it’s because it is a product that remains in demand. To go cheaper in this generation of graphics cards, you have to settle for a GT1030.

Isn’t there anything cheaper?

As mentioned a moment ago, you can go with a GT1030, but that also has problems, and a twist. The 1030 comes with half of the memory of the 1050 models AND there are two different models, one with DDR4 instead of DDR5 memory. This combination actually makes it worse than integrated graphics on more modern CPUs. Yes, worse.

AMD does have a pair of options in a similar price range (less than $80). The RX550 and RX560 can be found very reasonably, but they suffer from the same problem the GT1030 does. They lack memory and they just aren’t high performers, at all. They are usually a bit easier to find, though, with the RX550 still available brand new.

There isn’t going to be a forty dollar graphics card to match with the deal found on the PC. One of the main reasons is that it is much easier to diagnose a PC with a set of pictures and tell what doesn’t work than its components. At best, you may be able to find something described as ‘running hot’ and take a chance on replacing thermal paste. With a PC, if they post pictures, there are things to look for that give an indication of the problem may be.

What about my forty dollar investment?

It’s in great shape. It may be a slim line PC, but there is at least one option to keep the total investment under two bills. The AMD RX6400 low profile has entered the chat.

Originally sold for around two hundred fifty dollars, the same price as the Arc A750, this card has come down and can be found used for about one thirty. It sells for a bit more brand new, but we are on a budget, here. A budget that sees us spend twenty bucks for a 256 GB SSD and twelve dollars for another stick of memory. That gives us a total of two hundred, two dollars. The price is slightly more using a site for a discount windows key, but sacrificing the additional 8GB of memory keeps the price at 200.

How does it perform, though? Actually, quite well, for what it is. Or, more accurately, what it was, broken. Benchmarks will be in the YouTube video coming up, but 60 fames per second can be hit in many triple A titles at 1080p. One issue is that the PCI bus speed is 3.0 instead of 4.0 . That’s important because the card uses the same number of lanes as an NVMe drive. Most cards use sixteen lanes instead of the four that the RX6400 has. It is an impact to performance, but it still outperforms other options. That means on a newer platform, performance is better. Still, we are on a budget.

So, can you build a gaming PC for two hundred dollars? Yes. Will it be enough to rival spending only one hundred more? That will be the next subject. Next we look at a two hundred dollar build versus a three hundred dollar. Come back soon to find out.

The video for this is live here.

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Make The Most Of 40 Bucks: Waste Or Treasure?

How did we get here?

How do you spend 40 bucks? Gas, a meal out? The water bill? If you are lucky enough, you may be able to find a broken PC on eBay. Or, a non-working PC that isn’t broken. Technically, the listing was non-working, for parts, final sale, so I took a chance.

This started when I was looking for an ultra cheap alternative to building a PC and ended up with a server and a 300 budget PC, both. I decided to build the cheapest full system I could, and ended up scoring free accessories. A keyboard and monitor came from a corporate IT department, so I set my sights on the PC.

My goal was to find a non working prebuilt with an identifiable issue. After a bit of digging, I found one. For sale on eBay, a 5040MT Dell Optiplex, non-working, for parts. The pics showed a missing HDD or SSD, and a decent i5 with memory, so for 46 dollars, including the tax, I bought it. It even came with free shipping. Deal.

40 bucks Non-working, no returns

I was sure I knew what the problem was and it would be an easy fix. SSD’s are cheap, with a 500Gb going for around twenty eight dollars. A have a mouse and free accessories, so if the SSD worked, it would mean I now had a working computer, although a filthy one, for about 80. After a clean up, it will handle most tasks well, but I want more.

I have to admit, this PC, though non-working, came well packed like a new unit. Both happy and surprised, I have set to work cleaning it up and will test the ‘base’ model when that’s done. The video for the PC itself is here, but that’s not where it ends. This needs to be an ultra budget gamer; this is just the start.

The next part will be finding a video card that fits in the slim case and more memory. A few non traditional upgrades, and this thing will have a whole new life playing games. It may also see a renewed life as an office PC, but a month ago it was trash. Not a bad turn for the old Optiplex.

So, What’s next?

I will finish a good cleaning, and testing, then put the extra memory and SSD in with a fresh install of windows. I have two choices of video cards that fit, so I will try them both. Then I will test it against the $300 budget build that I didn’t get a chance to write about, so I will cover that in the next blog. It promises to be fun.

After that, I’m not sure. New homes are an option, or I can sell it to a small business on a budget. I almost always have at least one office computer around just for that reason. Come to think of it, I almost always have at least one spare older laptop. There’s a video in there somewhere. Later, but not too much later.

With care and a good eye, you can find a great deal that most people will miss. Getting the free accessories from the IT department was as easy as asking. The accessories came from the e-waste stack, and have a new home and even the monitor is a great find at 24 inches with a built in webcam. All because I asked for an older keyboard. You just never know. Now, I have to get back to cleaning this thing. It was a good 40 bucks.

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All in One or Tower Cooler. Which is better?

How did we get here?

Some of my first personal computers didn’t even need a cooler. Later, they required a modest heatsink or fan combination, which was more than enough for the heat being produced. Processers weren’t that powerful, graphics were being handled on the motherboard, and ironically, sound was usually handled by a dedicated card. It was a much simpler time.

Several decades later, the processing power in a home PC is more than what took up an entire floor in a major university. That’s not an exaggeration. Your home PC might have been a ‘Supercomputer’ thirty plus years ago. Power draw and heat are also much more than decades past. It’s far less comparatively, but there is a lot of heat generated by modern CPUs. With heat, you need cooling.

There are two main ways to cool modern CPUs. One way using a closed fluid loop and radiator combination. Similar to a car, a pump circulates the fluid and the heat is dissipated through a radiator. Tower coolers use a tall vertical grid to transfer heat up and away from the CPU, while fans move air across the stack. There are many CPU’s you can cool with a smaller fin stack and fan blowing down on the processor, but most high performance chips produce entirely too much heat for that.

Which cooler is better?

The answer is more complicated than just saying ‘go buy this’. The fluid loop system may be the most effective at cooling, but difficult to set up. While it works very well, it is sometimes difficult to put together and maintain, and can prove expensive to buy parts. Failures in the system can cause bigger issues. It can be very expensive if done wrong, and cost money to replace components.

The All in One cooler makes installation easier and often is very affordable. It’s also usually very reliable. Choosing the right sized cooler is not usually difficult, but there are a few things to remember, and a few examples of poor design to be aware of. It’s almost certainly a good idea to stay away from a single fan 120mm design, and the pump should never be at the top of the loop. Most often the pump is in the section making contact with the processor. If air gets trapped in the pump assembly it can burn up the unit, causing other failures.

Tower coolers are usually much easier to maintain and cheaper, but you may not get the same performance. For most CPUs, though, it’s a great solution and doesn’t present the issue of positioning that a loop does. They both come with RGB options, and even digital readouts like temp, etc. Both are solid options, so what’s the question?

So, what gives?

Other than making sure of the positioning of the AIO radiator, either should do the job, right? Yes, but there is a subtle difference no one has mentioned. Where does the hot air go?

Typically, the warm air in a system with an AIO will be forced up through the top. Whether the radiator is at the top, or in the front, there are usually fans pushing air out through the top of the case. After all, heat rises. You can certainly configure the fans to push air somewhere else, but why screw with nature.

Tower coolers push air directly out of the back. Think about it, the tower cooler fans push warm air away from the CPU to the back of the case, right into the exhaust fan. Fans in the top may help, but for the most part most warm air exits from the rear. Why does that matter? Unless you have your PC in an enclosed space, there is more room above your PC than behind it. Much of the time PCs are set up where a wall or even the monitor, etc. is directly behind it. I never considered this until playing Starfield on both of my PCs. It’s a game that really stresses the system.

The both are slightly lower than my desk, and positioned where I can see inside the machine. The backs point toward the desks. I was warm and uncomfortable while playing on the Intel system, but not the AMD rig, and confused why. Confused until I realized the tower cooler was blowing all of the warm air from the CPU right at me. Hmm, I never considered that. The Intel PC doesn’t work as hard, but blows all of that air across my desk. It’s something I didn’t consider.

How do I dix the cooler?

How do I fix it? Do I change to an AIO for that rig? Do I rearrange the desk and PC? Neither is impossible, but either is inconvenvient. I’m definitely not going to stop playing games. It’s easiest to rearrange everything on the desk, so that’s the plan. Not fun, but effective. It’s also cheaper than buying another AIO. There will be a follow up.

It’s not a problem, it’s just inconvenient, but no one talks about it. I can’t be the only one that has run into this issue, though. It’s always a learning process but I hadn’t considered this at all. Now I have to make a video.

Link to the YouTube channel

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Can Arc GPU’s play the new Starfield? Sort of.

How did we get here

The A750, being a new architecture, is bound to have issues, but you would think some things shouldn’t happen. Intel released the Arc GPUs about a year ago and declared that they were concentrating on the most up-to-date processes first. This meant games running DX12 and the new AV1 encoder among other things. They admitted older APIs and processes would take time to ‘fill in’ and to many of us, that was okay.

I saw it as an opportunity to do some testing and make content, so the discovery process worked well for me. Newer titles run well, and as recently discovered, the AV1 encoder is amazing. Older titles running Direct X 11 or 9 had some issues, but that was expected. No one felt they needed to call Intel out on that because they told us what to expect. They reported, and we confirmed. Everything checked out fine.

Intel has released several driver updates over the year to improve running those older titles. Improvements have been seen in older games, especially the more popular ones, and even the upscale Xess is solid. Some games like Borderlands3 still suffer in DX11, though, and straight-up crash in DX12. Others, that have the option of DX11 or Vulkan, are abysmal. World War Z, for example, is horrible in DX11 and cannot access the option to run in Vulkan. Still, for the price, the Arc GPUs are a great buy.

There’s always a but,

There is this time, as well.

Starfield is a game that Bethesda has been working on for several years, and was known about when the ARC GPUs launched. Being a new title, it should be in the new GPU’s wheelhouse. No. The pre-release wouldn’t launch at all. For that matter, as of a week after launch, it wouldn’t start on some systems, including mine.

Try as I might, I can’t think of a good excuse for this. Furthermore, I can’t pin down who should be more at fault. Intel knew about the game and should have been ready for this release, but Bethesda has made comments that even newer hardware won’t be enough to run the game. I get not being able to run it well, but to even start the game?

This was supposed to be one of the most anticipated games to come from Bethesda in a decade and you tell us things like the ARC GPUs don’t even meet minimum specs. The card is a year old and compares to cards that are above your minimum specs. That doesn’t wash. Intel isn’t in the clear here either, though, this game wasn’t a secret, and it wasn’t some sort of indy project. This was a major project and should have been anticipated.

Does it work on Arc or not?

Luckily, Intel continues to work on drivers and we can play this game on our Arc GPUs. It’s not perfect, by any means. There are issues like changing the resolution and keeping a full screen. Or weird blue shading that happens when I change settings but I can play around with it. I shouldn’t have to, but it’s not the end of the world. It does take away from the immersion, though.

The graphics on the game are beautiful and the storyline begins to take shape a few hours into playing. Without some persistence, though, owners of Intel GPUs might not ever reach that point. I could understand if many simply walked away from it, especially for the price point. At this point, it’s an average experience, and if you are used to playing other games in that genre, like No Man’s Sky or Star Citizen, you may end up passing on it all together. I will tell you, though, that I was happy to get it working on the A750, I just don’t know how much of it I’ll be playing.

Link to the video is here

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The HP Bad Omen – it was supposed to be easy

How did we get here?

The HP Omen needed a new SSD. A new NVMe drive in one of the two M.2 slots should do the trick. The reason was simple, Dustin was selling his computer and wanted to make sure his personal info wasn’t shared. Old drive out, and new drive in. Easy. Not so much. I had prepared for the swap, and it should have been cut and dry, but the Omen PC had other plans.

I installed Windows 10 on a new drive in a PC with very similar parts, but when we turned the new PC on, it boot looped. Okay, get into the BIOS and look for a bootable drive. That was a different problem. On HP computers the spam keys are escape and F10 instead of the Delete key (and occasionally F2), but this didn’t work. I couldn’t get into the BIOS.

We removed the drive to check it, and of course, it worked in the other setup. The original drive also worked in the Omen. Another try with the new drive produced more boot loops, but there was progress. We could get in the BIOS, now. The Crucial P3 Plus was being recognized as a boot drive, but not acting like it. We configured the boot order to see the media creation USB and tried again. The thought being to reinstall windows on the Omen.

Re-installing the OS

I had already taken the precaution of making sure that the SSD was compatible with the OMEN, and I had a back up plan if it didn’t. The media creation tool on the USB was the latest release to keep form a ton of updates when we finished, but we hadn’t gotten to that point.

Windows 10 allowed us to use a local account, and could be set up without needing the new owner’s personal information. The fewer things to worry about the better. The new owner could then update all of the account information, himself. We still had to get the PC to boot in the first place, though.

I was able to start running the media creation tool, but found yet another problem. Windows didn’t see the new drive. In fact, after some trial and error and experimenting, we realized it didn’t see any drive, not even the original. This was just getting weird.

Time to go to the internet. There are several videos for HP Omens and boot issues, but they all say the same thing, change the boot order in the BIOS. Um, we already did that. Maybe this wouldn’t help. I finally found one video from a channel called Lapfix that found the solution. (here). One, out of dozens.

The actual fix

It seems there is an Intel RAID driver required for the new PC to recognize the drive. What? Seriously? An obscure raid driver? It was also necessary to extract it from an exe file. (Obviously you cant use an exe file if you can’t get into Windows.) File was extracted, installed on a different USB, and back to the install. We found the option for using a driver and it actually worked. Finally, things were moving forward again.

Windows was installed along with a handful of updates; there are always updates. The Omen desktop app and the newest NVidia video driver installed easily and we were in business. I was still cautious, though, not taking anything for granted.

A couple of test boots and resets later and this thing was ready to pack up and present to it’s new owner. We installed a second NVMe for games (yes, we had also tried it as a boot), and things were in good shape. I have worked on hundreds of computers and never run into this. Heck, I’ve made stuff work that was never supposed to work together and hadn’t seen this.

Having a small tech channel, gives me an opportunity to see and learn a lot, but this may be one of the stranger things. There should be no reason a single boot drive would need a raid driver. It doesn’t make sense, but it definitely adds to the difficulty of taking care of your PC. It makes it look like these companies purposely keep us from upgrading.

Final thoughts

Prebuilts have parts typically optimized to work with each other, but parts go bad, or sometimes need to be changed. To need a driver like this seems shady at best. It’s entirely possible there is an important reason for it, but I would expect to see it more often, if so. I certainly don’t understand the need on a boot drive.

It’s no secret that companies prevent consumers from repairing their own equipment. Major corporations are guilty and don’t deny it, but this wasn’t a copy protect or proprietary parts. It’s just a driver that seems to be out of place if it’s necessary. To me, it seems shady, but at least now I am aware of it for the next time.

We set things up on Windows 10, but its ready for Windows 11, so by now it should be updated. It’s a shame this was so tricky, because it’s actually a good system. The BIOS isn’t special, but no HP BIOS is special. For that matter, not many integrator’s BIOSes offer many options, but it’s functional. This PC should last the new owner quite a while.

For my part, I will start looking for tricks or extra drivers, especially on prebuilts. I don’t have anything against a prebuilt, but I will stick to building my own. That way, I know the issues are my fault. Sometimes, it’s due to things I shouldn’t do anyway, but that’s a different blog.

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The video can be found here

Rendering videos with the new editing rig

How did we get here?

Having completed most of the work on CoolBlue, the new editing rig, it came time to start testing. Theoretically it should be better, but that still needed proving. This would primarily be a test of the CPU, because the version of DaVinci Resolve I’m using doesn’t have support using the NVENC encoder used by NVidia. I’ve been using it like this for a couple of years, but there is a wrinkle later.

I devised the rather unscientific procedure of three test runs each on identical projects. I was able to do this because the files are now kept on the server, and available to every computer on my network. It would be three passes with each the AMD Ryzen 7 5800x and the Intel i7 12700KF. I would render a twelve minute video, alternating between the two systems allowing a cooldown between each run.

Both systems are similar with anything handling the media being nearly identical. Both systems are using an intel NVMe drive, with other assets stored on WD Black 7200 RPM. Each saves to a drive on the home network to the server, I recently built. The GPUs aren’t a factor (yet), and the DDR4 memory is 32 GB at 3600 MHz. The only difference is the platform.

The testing

The first run was almost what I expected, except the AMD was twenty seconds faster. I started to question my idea of swapping rigs at this point, but there was more to test. The 5800X clocked in at 4 minutes and 34 seconds, and the Intel rendered took twenty seconds longer. The second run saw them reversed, with the 12700 turning in the faster time. The average of both runs were almost identical, I could go with either system at this point.

That changed with the third run. The AMD rig turned in a time similar to the other runs, but the Intel system rendered the video in three minutes, nineteen seconds. It shaved a full minute off anything the AMD offered. Both of these systems are the previous generation with the same generation of memory, and the same storage solution. It would be a no brainer to use the new build, but there was more.

I mentioned that the version of Resolve I am using doesn’t take advantage of the RTX3060Ti that is in the current editing rig, but it does allow for the AV1 encoder on the Arc A750. The same A750 that is in the new build. Might this be the test I need that convinces me to switch?

AV1 in the new editing rig

One advantage of the Arc graphics cards is the addition of the new AV1 encoding process. An encoder that is also now included on the new 7000 series AMD Graphics cards. After a small misstep, I was able to configure Resolve properly, and I ran the render test, which blistered the previous efforts.

The new run took one minute and fifty two seconds. My fastest run was now cut almost in half! Half! I was convinced. I used to start rendering, then leave the room to go get something to drink or a bio break. Now, I will barely have time to find which image will be my thumbnail for the video. This will save hours over a year’s time. It will pay huge dividends as I move forward.

For good measure and piece of mind, I rendered the support video for this story using the same method and the eleven minute, seven second video, finished in two minutes even. It’s a huge improvement and it makes me excited using this editing rig going forward. It does raise a question of whether I should completely swap PCs or have two systems for two different functions, though, but that’s a question for later.

The video for the testing and results is here.

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