Okay, I'm back. I poked around in BIOS, found some nifty settings, and then shut down. Build isn't quite complete, but eh, it's close enough for pictures. The meat is all there. So here goes:
Box unpacked. The beginning of something amazing. Parts are in my sig. Links for the PSU and cooler are here
. I've actually had the PSU and case for over a year at this point and am only now actually putting them to use in a build, lol.
First up is the motherboard. Box came with fun stuff like a driver CD, SATA cable, blah blah blah who cares? I didn't even check the manual until I tried to find which USB header had the lower-value ports. Why? I dunno. It seems weird to leave ports 4 and 5 unused but plug something into ports 6 and 7. BIOS is your typical ASRock AMD BIOS. It's just like the Extreme4 990FX BIOS, except this time the background is animated for no reason. In terms of the UI itself it's very similar to my Intel board as well, but with different graphics.
Oh, right, PGA CPUs. Been a while since I've seen one of these!
LGA is much better though. Did you know that AMD's server sockets, G34 and C32, use an LGA system rather than PGA? Only their socketed consumer chips still use PGA sockets. Intel had the right idea to ditch them after Socket 478, really.
Pretty basic APU. Full Kaveri die, 4GHz CPU and 800MHz GPU +/-. However, this one is Godavari, or Kaveri refresh, not the OG Kaveri from 2014. I believe they fixed the throttle bug where it would downclock to 3GHz whenever the GPU was touched, and the IHS is soldered here. That's good for overclockers who need the system to stay cool, but also for me. Silicon loses efficiency the hotter it gets, meaning it pulls more power from the PSU. I'm limited to a sustained 80W, so saving every single watt is fairly important. If the solder can keep it a few degrees cooler, then that might mean an SSD or a fan worth of power saved.
Now, in order to cool the beast, we'll need a fan. The stock heatsink that comes with 95W Godavari is pretty good. It's the same thing that comes with high-end 125W FX - copper base, heatpipes, the works. Problem: it will not fit in the M350 alongside a drive or fans. It is simply too tall. Actually, it might not even fit at all. I never bothered checking the clearance. Enter the Evercool EC-HPS-810CP. This thing is tiny, and more importantly, very short. It's about as tall as the rear I/O and a standard DDR3 circuit board. Noise? Uh... It's a bit loud. However, I plan on downclocking the CPU a bit and overclocking the GPU. My logic is that, since I lived with a 2.4GHz dual-core, later 2.1GHz tri-core, K10 laptop, I don't need a particularly fast CPU. It was the godawful integrated 4250 that killed it. 40 shader cores. An A8-3850, the flagship Llano APU, would have been ten times faster
So I have high hopes for Kaveri, lol.
Normally, I don't care about system memory at all past the capacity. I simply buy enough to populate the channels and reach/exceed my desired amount and call it a day. There are two exceptions. First is when the memory is far too slow for 2015. This means stuff like DDR3-1333 or, God forbid, 1066. My dual-channel DDR3-1600 is fine on my desktop though. 25.6GB/s theoretical speeds are acceptable for my uses.
The other scenario where I care is for APUs. So what better choice than the fastest stuff this little guy supports? Dual-channel DDR3-2400 should net 38.4GB/s bandwidth in theory. Realistically it will be a lot less though. Turns out this RAM is single ranked, meaning the IMC won't alternate refreshing the memory. An entire channel is useless for a short time when that operation occurs. Dual-ranked RAM would allow half the chips on a module to refresh while the other half can still perform memory operations. I'm not sure how big an impact that is, but it's there.
I'll run Memtest and see how it does. I expect ~30GB/s when the GPU is mostly untouched. When gaming though, the poor thing will be pretty starved bandwidth-wise, but that's just an inherent issue with integrated graphics. Intel solved it with their Crystalwell eDRAM cache, and AMD will solve it in the future with HBM.
This was a super easy build. There were like five cables to mess with. That said, it isn't quite complete and there are still some things to do. My tools are just 100 miles away.
I'll be home next week so I can probably do something about that.
This was when I was poking at the BIOS to see what happens. Pro-tip, with this case, I highly recommend both drive/fan brackets. It costs like $5 extra and seems to provide some stability internally.
There is a problem with those brackets though. You need a slim CPU cooler (check!) but also short RAM (uh-oh!) in order to install anything. My needs are pretty simple - 10mm of clearance over the memory - but man, G.Skill made some stupid, overly fancy heatspreaders. So what do we do?
Yup. That's right!
Fortunately, DDR3 runs fairly cool, even the higher-voltage (1.675V) and higher clocked (1200MHz) versions. This is especially true when compared to overclocked DDR2, running at under 600MHz but requiring 2.3V to reach it. With a fan or two blowing over the modules, they should stay reasonably chill. Additionally, the heatspreaders add some bulk. With them gone, there's now a "channel" down the middle for some airflow.
Pretty easy mod, but be careful. I ended up bending the PCBs. It shouldn't be permanent though, and they're sitting nicely in the slots, but it's not a goal to set for yourself. The backs of the PCBs are completely bare, which I found interesting. Not a single SMD component to be found, let alone memory chips. But it was stuck pretty tight. As always, Lego brick separators
do a good job without scratching anything. They're made of ABS plastic rather than something like the steel used in flathead screwdrivers.
PS4 controller and SSD for scale. It's pretty small.
So what's left? The priority is a power brick that doesn't suck. Fun fact about buck converters (DC-DC converters that take high voltage and "buck" it to a lower voltage) like the PicoPSU I'm using. They have a minimum voltage drop. Here it looks to be about 1V. The power brick is spitting out 12.3V, which is out of ATX specs. So what does the PSU do? Drops it down further. But the problem comes when you're only getting 11.3V on the 12V rail! That's normally a sign of a terrible quality PSU, but not here; the 3.3V rail is 3.296V and the 5V rail 5.064V when I check. So by getting a higher voltage power brick, I should see the 12V rail much closer to its target. I'm feeling 19V @ 6.3A, matching the peak power output of the PSU.
Also, I need some fans. The chipset has a tiny heatsink that heats up rapidly, the VRMs have absolutely nothing to help out heat transfer, and the RAM is now naked. There's two mounting spaces on each drive bracket, and there's one in the front of the case opposite the power button, so I could use 5 in theory, minus the space reserved for an SSD. Sadly, using a single 2.5" drive in either bracket blocks any fans from being installed.
That's the guts of a Samsung 840 EVO. The bottom one is the 120GB version. I can confirm that my vanilla 840 is also this same size, perhaps even using an identical PCB! So by cutting the drive case itself in half, it should be possible to have 4 of the 5 fans in use, only sacrificing one for an SSD instead of two.