SSD excitement quickly turned sour. Not the right one.

How did we get here?

Imagine my surprise when I opened an older laptop and found an SSD. In fact it was an SSD in an M.2 slot. Now imagine how I felt when I realized it was a SATA drive. Yes, the same protocol that is on standard 2.5 inch drives, drove this one. Still, how bad could it be? I decided to test it and find out.

The first thing I had to do was actually find where I could test it. Almost all of my m.2 slots were taken on various rigs. I tried the PCI adapter, but you can see where that is going by my telling you it was a PCI adapter. You see, SATA means the serial instructions from the CPU. The PCI bus is Parallel. As I mentioned in the video, linked here, Serial means the data will transfer a single bit at a time, like loading a plane. Parallel will load several items at once, think roller coaster at the theme park that has a separate queue for each car. The Roller Coaster loads much faster, and will every time.

Still, all was not lost, Danny DD to the rescue. With an empty M.2 slot, I tucked it in, checked the BIOS, off we were. Sort of. Read and write speeds weren’t great. I ran Crystal Disk Mark and got about what I expected. 2.5 inch SSD type speeds. That doesn’t mean it’s horrible, or even unusable. You just have to have the right use for it. It’s still faster than an HDD, and a budget build is perfect for it.

Good SSD or Bad

That has to do with your frame of reference. The reason I mention these at all is that they are still common. They are available in various sizes and usually at or below the much faster NVMe drives that fit in the same slot. NVMe drives, also work with a PCI adapter if you don’t have a free slot on your motherboard. It’s not a bad choice, but there are much better ones. It’s best to read the description to make sure you get the right one.

SO, what’s next for the SATA m.2 drive. I’ll have to find an inexpensive motherboard and make an extreme budget build. It’s still faster than a spinning hard disk and perfect for a boot drive. It will fit perfectly in a low cost gaming PC. Paired with a larger 2.5 inch SSD, it will have a lot of life left. Now I need to go shopping.

Back to Blog page

The GPU is the Bottleneck? Again? Really?

How did we get here?

Recently, I tested the newly acquired E3 1270v3 Xeon in the Dell Optiplex as a possible replacement. I found it wasn’t an upgrade because of the GPU. Fair enough. I knew the RX6400 wasn’t a great card, but it’s what fit and it worked.

I then chose to get some parts and put the Xeon in a different case on a Dell motherboard. Perfect. So far, so good. The original plan was to compare the new benchmark numbers to the old to show how much more room we had to grow. As it turns out, it was quite a bit, and with a better Graphics card, it now turned in figures like newer hardware.

Well, that didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I expected the set up testing 1440P and 1080P on high, medium and low quality to show the Xeon struggling. It didn’t. In fact it was for the most part within margin of error of the newer CPUs. That wasn’t going to make for an informative video at all.

The Testing

So, I ditched the idea of the comparison with the older i5 and concentrated on testing against the 10105F and 11400F. Not brand new, but recent enough to compare. The 10105F is a four core, eight thread i3 from tenth Generation intel, and the 11400 is a six core, eight thread from 11th Gen. Both of these should be more than a match, so I tested with the mid range RX480 GPU, which was out around the same time as this Xeon. Obviously, the newer CPU’s have an advantage, right? Well, no.

As I mentioned the Xeon stayed within margin or error using the mid range GPU, so what could I do? I dropped the resolution. Instead of 1440P and 1080P, I dropped the settings down to test 1080P Low, 900P Low and 720P Low. Resolutions that the 11th gen chip has no business thinking about, because it would normally run with a better GPU.

Very much to my surprise, the 11400F actually lost to BOTH four core chips in some games. What? Seriously? That can’t be right.

But it was. on multiple games in repeatable tests. It traded blows with the 10th gen CPU in some games, but in others it actually performed the worst. Now, understandably, the six core CPU has no business thinking about running games at 720P and it shows, but that doesn’t solve my original problem. How do I get a fair test between the three processors?

Need a different GPU

Quite simply, I need to be able to test all three of these at a higher resolution, so I’m going to have to get use a better graphics card. The RX 6600XT is the easiest one for me to access and test with, so it will be next. To that point, seeing how close the two four core chips are, I will probably just compare the Xeon with the 11400F. I have records of a fair difference in the 10th gen and 11th gen using the 6600XT, so if I have to, I’ll include all three, but that should give us a better idea of how good this Xeon actually is.

I’m curious, just how well the older E3 1270 holds up to a far more recent product. This should be fun. The video will be linked here.

back to the Blog page

The Xeon results are outstanding.

For Starters

I originally put the intel four core, eight thread Xeon in the Dell Optiplex to see if it out performed the original CPU. It didn’t. More accurately, it performed near the same because the limit became the graphics card. The GPU, in turn, was limited by the size of the case, so what could I do?

The only good answer was to put it in a different case. That skews the experiment, though, because that puts it on a different platform that might help it run better. I wouldn’t know what made the difference. But, an Optiplex motherboard would assured that things would be relatively equal, and for 18 bucks, it was a no brainer. So, off to eBay I went.

Then came a different issue. It’s not the same connections. Adapter cables cost me another twenty seven, but they came next day. Sweet. Everything showed up, I installed all of the parts, and turned it on. To a great shock and surprise, it worked the first time. That isn’t a normal occurrence, so yes, I enjoyed it. Now, on to the testing.

I decided to match it not only against the older CPU in the Optiplex, but to test it against newer CPUs, six generations younger and again, was surprised. It held it’s own against a tenth gen i3 and 11th gen i5! It is even keeping up with a processor that has more cores and threads, the 11400F. Again, as it turns out, it’s only limited by the graphics card. We’re on a roll.

So, what’s next for the Xeon?

It performed great against the two newer processors with a mid range GPU, so the next step is a better GPU. The mid range is a very capable RX480, that has shown it’s worth even in 2023, but now we need more. I have an RX6600XT to use, or an RTX 3060Ti, and either should prove worthy. The AMD card is easier to get to and test with, so that will be next, but first I have to record this video. Technically, there are two more benchmarks, but there won’t be an issue, and I will set the stage for the next video with the results. This turned out far better than I expected.

Which brings me to my next thought. Do I post the result charts here, or not? Obviously, I won’t post all of the charts, but maybe a couple. I probably could do an average, but I don’t have combined numbers yet, so I don’t know what extra effort that is. Leave me some thoughts, and I’ll mull it over. In the mean time, I’ll post a few pics and we’ll wait for the video. It should be ready mid-week, then I can move on the next part.

I think I like this Xeon.

Converting a Dell Optiplex…. Interesting.

How did we get here?

I knew there may be more to this than meets the eye when I started, but it’s down the rabbit hole I go. First, I got the Xeon CPU to test. Perfect, so far. Then, after realizing it needed more ‘space’, I ordered an Optiplex 9020 motherboard because it was cheap. The board works beautifully, but there are some challenges.

The first is the power supply connections. I do have an adapter, but the PSU in question doesn’t seem too happy with it. Next is the front panel and power switch connections. Oh brother, more adapters. Lovely. I can do it without adapters, but there is a lot of jerry rigging involved. I went safe, and for only a few bucks here and there, we are still well below the price of a mainstream motherboard.

At what cost

The biggest challenge is staying below what a mainstream board would have cost, but I don’t want to set the house on fire trying to do it. It wasn’t on my list of goals for the week. It’s not on it for next week either, if you were wondering. I do have some parts, but the trick here will be to come in as close to $250 as possible and still have a solid gaming PC. Buying a mainstream motherboard would have killed that, but 20 bucks is solid.

Counting what I have on the shelf, we’re talking around 250 so far. If we ignore that, it’s much cheaper, but defeats the point. Using all of the parts versus buying an Optiplex in a bigger case might eventually still be a good comparison. The results of this experiment will tell me if I should try it. Maybe a standard sized PC and a can of spray paint would be just as effective. I may as well start looking for one to order.

So, what’s next for the Optiplex?

The next part is waiting for the adapters to come tomorrow, and making sure the PSU will work with what I already have. That in itself will be one video. After that, we start testing and see what it best compares to. I know I will compare numbers to the i5 4670 in the slimline, but I also want to compare numbers to a modern four core CPU to see what’s missing after six generations.

The ‘finished’ product will end up on the channel, here, but of course this will be where I discuss what went right and what went wrong, so if you’re reading this, please check back. Until then, I wait. I have begun to assemble the parts that are here, and I probably could do some testing, but then I wouldn’t have needed the parts, and I wouldn’t get to cover the adapters in the video. Six of one, half dozen of the other. It is bound to all work out some way.

Stay tuned, it should be fun.

Return to the Blog page

Was it actually an upgrade? Xeon in an Optiplex.

How did we get here?

So, the most recent upgrade to the Dell Optiplex was the addition of an Intel Xeon E3-1270v3. A four core, eight thread CPU built on the Haswell platform similar to the i5 4670 that came with the rig. There had already been a few upgrades, each bringing this modest office PC closer to being an actual budget Gaming rig. The video is found here.

The idea was simple enough, a more powerful CPU without spending a lot of money had the chance to turn it into a bit of a powerhouse. It didn’t work out that way. By all accounts, doubling the amount of cores on the CPU should have made many jobs much easier. Instead we reached a different issue, the Graphics Card.

I tested both CPUs on games and benchmarks at 1080p. It’s the most common resolution in games and should have relieved the GPU of stress. It didn’t. It didn’t actually create any advantage at all. Most tests showed similar results for each processor, leaving no clear winner. But why?

What went wrong?

The biggest limitation is the size of the case. Only certain GPUs will fit in the small form factor, and even the best available isn’t adequate. I say the best available, but I should clarify, the best available at that budget. There are better GPUs, but at a much higher cost, and the difference may not be worth it. The fact is, you can build a cheaper, better performing, new PC for what it would cost.

Heat seemed to be another issue. The set up didn’t overheat, but it did get warm and that wasn’t a help. Incidently, any PC built from new parts will most certainly have better airflow. Temps on the CPU averaged about ten degrees more and the GPU was the same. Heat in small areas is always a problem and this set up is no exception. More, slightly faster threads, work harder and the heat has nowhere to go.

So, is the Xeon a failure?

Failure? Absolutely not. The small form factor has reached a point of dimishing returns, and although the Xeon didn’t improve things, it’s not a loss. The i5 4670 works great in the system, and I’ve ordered a different motherboard for the better processor. I can pair it with a much better GPU in a case with more airflow and give it a chance to “let it’s hair down”. If there is no improvement at that point, maybe we can call it a learned experience, but most cetainly not a failure.

The replacement motherboard is on it’s way. I already have a case, (which was also a bit of a challenge), and memory, etc., so it won’t be hard to set up, Then, we’ll just see how it the CPU does in a better situation. It will be interesting to see the improvement, assuming there is one. Obviously, there will be a video, and a blog, so stay tuned. It promises to be interesting.

Back to the blog page

Let’s try a different tack. It’s time to make an important change.

Originally, this website would be to share pictures of builds, recent products and to redirect everyone to my blog on Buy Me A Coffee. With the loss of the Amazon Affiliate partnership, that changed things. It wouldn’t be very effective to only show a few pics and just be a hub where you could find my other socials, so I’m going to make a bit of an adjustment. Actually, I’m going to make a major adjustment. It most likely won’t be the last, but its a start. I guess either different tack, or tact would apply here.

This will now be the home of my tech related blog. The non-tech stuff will stay on BMAC. The goal will be to post weekly and provide some additional thoughs and insight. It will be a chance to give a more in depth analysis that I can share in a ten to fifteen minute video. It also gives me a chance to go more in depth on several subjects. This blog won’t have the chance of being monetized, but that’s not a concern yet.

It will also be helpful to explain my methods and why certain things don’t get covered. If I’m using higher settings or more tests, or the opposite, I can explain why. It may also be a way to explore more subjects for videos. At the very least, I’ll use it to fill out what gets missed from the YT videos. It’s not perfect, but it helps, and it gives me room to grow.

So, expect to see more entries here and on Buy Me a Coffee. I’ll be able to provide extra insight here and better explain things that may be lacking from the video content. It may also give me a chance to link directly to the video so the support material matches. It will probably take some trial and error to get things running smoothly, but with any luck that will happen quickly. So, here we go.