‘White Joker’ A Budget Intel 6 Core Workstation (Article)

White Joker Budget Workstation Build

INTRODUCTION

Here at Ridgeway Tech we decided to build a budget conscious work station, that can also play video games. With the abundance of cheap x58 1366, six core Xeons on the market at the moment, we found our chip, an Intel X5650 that can be had for around £60-£70. Having found our chip, the hunt was on for an X58 motherboard. We found a good deal on a Gigabyte GAX58USB3, so we ordered the rest of the parts, including some DDR3 RAM, an SSD for the boot drive and a nice Noctua cooler to keep the processor cool. Then we just needed a half decent case that didn’t break the bank. Loving the NZXT S340 and it being a bit of a looker and a bargain at around £50-£60, that was the case for us.

For-Intel-font-b-Xeon-b-font-font-b-X5650-b-font-SLBV3-Processor-2-66GHz

The affordable Xeon CPU was the catalyst for this build. With the cost of newer high core count intel chips being so expensive, we wanted to see what this thing could do for our workstation needs.


PARTS LIST

⦁ X5650 CPU
⦁ Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 motherboard
⦁ EVGA GTX580
⦁ Noctua NH-U12P SE2 CPU cooler
⦁ NZXT S340 case with 2 included exhaust fans
⦁ Cooler Master GX 750W Power Supply
⦁ White cable extensions
⦁ 140mm Corsair AF140 to the front as an intake
⦁ 12gb DDR3 Corsair memory

 


THE BUILD

We prepared our motherboard by installing the X5650 into the 1366 zif socket, added our RAM and mounted the CPU cooler. The Noctua cooler was a joy to install, with well machined parts and a lovely build quality. I would definitely use this again in future builds. With the motherboard prepared we turned our attention to the case. We first installed our power supply, a CoolerMaster GX750, into the cases lower chamber, which slid into the back by removing the S340’s rear PSU mounting bracket. Next we went to work on installing the motherboard, making sure to put our standoffs in the right places for an ATX form factor board. We inserted the rear IO shield plate and lowered the motherboard into the chassis, which was a tight fit and we found that removing the ssd bracket from the top of the psu shroud really helped. Even tighter was the EPS cable which we had to install into the board and feed through the cable routing hole in the top left corner, as we installed the board. The space between the cpu cooler and the case was just too tight for my big fat man hands. In retrospect, it would of made life easier if we had installed the cooler after we had installed the motherboard. Once in place and all secured down with screws, we mounted the SSD into the bracket that we re-attached to the top of the psu shroud and attached all remaining cables, including the 24pin atx cable, power and data cable to the SSD and the front panel connectors. We had already installed the 8 pin EPS cable as mentioned earlier. Next we removed two rear pci back covers needed to install our GTX580 graphics card, which we carefully slotted into the upper most 16x PCIe slot and ran 1×6 pin and 1x 8 pin to the GPU. With all the parts installed and connected, all that was left was a bit of cable management with zip ties to keep things tidy, and the power-on smoke test.

IMG_0597

           Needless to say we got it running eventually after finding the right configuration of CPU and BIOS and it looks very clean and tidy. We took it outside to get some pics away from the studio lights.

IMG_0546 (2)

We are naming the build ‘White Joker’ for obvious reasons, and we were going for a kind of clean room, industrial look.


SOFTWARE INSTALLATION

Next up was the installation of Windows 10 and the beginning of a couple of minor headaches. First problem was finding the right BIOS to work with our chip, as the latest F5 BIOS didn’t want to play ball. After switching CPU’s to an i7 950, just to get it to boot, we installed the F2 revision of the motherboard BIOS as this is a known working version according to ‘elotrolado.net’ (please find link at the end of the article) and it seemed to work and we installed our windows OS. Second hiccup was one of the sticks of RAM we had chosen, turned out to be faulty. This was easily fixed by swapping out for different dimms. We upgraded to the F3 BIOS revision for better compatibility with Windows 10. We set our boot device to our Windows 10 install usb stick, ran through the installer, and installation was done. Windows had no problem finding drivers for most of the system, after we installed the Gigabit network driver that we downloaded from the Gigabyte website. We ran our usual battery of stability tests using prime95 for the CPU, and furmark for the GPU, and all went well. Next we were ready for some overclocking.


OVERCLOCKING

Overclocking the X5650 had a few quirks! If we turned the QPI Clock Ratio or the Uncore Clock Ratio settings to anything other than auto, the system crashed and wouldn’t boot back into the BIOS, each time we had to reset the cmos, easily done with the use of the on-board clear cmos jumper, located at the bottom right corner of the board.
Base clock went amazingly well going from stock 133MHz to 170MHz without touching any other settings. We were running at 3.5GHz but the auto voltage we were seeing on the Vcore in CPU-Z was spiking to around 1.37v so we knew we had to change the voltage to a more reasonable 1.30v. We began playing with the base clock more, eventually landing on 190MHz leaving the CPU at a very impressive 4.2GHz. The only settings needing adjustments were RAM to 1.6v using a strap of 8 and the Vcore voltage set to 1.33v. The system is very stable and passed all benchmarks with flying colours. The Noctua cooler keeping temps under 75°C at full load, using prime95 as our stress test. We were very happy with this stable overclock.

cpu-z single

cpu-z multi

Massive gains were had when overclocked, as you can see from the above cpu-z scores and the impressive cinebench score below.

cinebench render test

GPU overclocking was as simple as downloading and installing MSI afterburner, our favourite overclocking utility. We managed to raise the clock from 772MHz to 800MHz with ease and ran our benchmarks again. Although being able to run benchmarks like 3D Mark and Unigine’s Heaven at 820MHz, we were still getting the occasional Nvidia driver freakout, so pulled back to 800MHz for stability.

We ran all the usual synthetic benchmarks below. No custom settings just using the standard pre-sets.

3D MARK FIRESTRIKE

sky diver

3D MARK 11

vantage

We ran both the basic and the extreme pre-sets with Heaven below.

HEAVEN BENCHMARK

GAME BENCHMARKS

We ran a bunch of games using Fraps to record our frame times. To keep all our tests consistent we chose a point in a game that can be played almost exactly the same each time, and ran through it five or six times, for 2 minutes each run. We added the results together and divided by the number of runs we had done to get our final scores. All game tests were ran at 1080p across the board.

Trine 2 – Everything set to max.

TRINE 2 BENCHMARKS

GTA5 – ran with no AA and everything else set to normal for this test. (population density was turned to half)

GTA5 NORMAL SETTINGS BENCHMARKS

Again no AA but we changed all the normal pre-sets to max pre-sets. (population density was turned to half)

GTA5 MAX SETTINGS BENCHMARK

With Rocket League we played in offline season mode we play through 3 different arenas running to 2 min fraps test in each round to get our results. All settings were cranked to the max for this one.

ROCKET LEAGUE BENCHMARKS

CSGO – was much the same as Rocket League, we played against bots in offline mode on the Dust2 map, again with all settings cranked up as far as possible.

CSGO Benchmarks


SCREENSHOTS  (overclocked results)

overview of overclocks

CPU-Z graph

Kicking ass in the CPU-Z leaderboards. A £60 chip!

Cinebench OC

Fire Strike OC - Run 2

Sky Diver OC - Run 2

3d mark 11 OC - Run 2

Heaven (basic) OC - Run 2

Heaven (extreme) OC - Run 2


POSSIBLE UPGRADES TO WHITE JOKER

Not much needed but depending on your needs here are a couple of suggestions below.
⦁ Faster graphics card if gaming is your thing.
⦁ Adding a large storage drive, depending on your needs.
⦁ Add some LED lights


CONCLUSION

This system was a lot of fun to build, I love the look and theme. As a workstation it certainly packs a punch, those 6 cores and 12 threads will make mincemeat of any CPU intensive task such as rendering video etc… Overclock it and it really takes it to the next level and with games starting to make better use of higher core counts, with new API’s, like Vulcan and Directx 12 this system is good to go. We only put a modest GTX580, a beast in its day, but you can easily drop in a more current GPU or even two, as there is space and power for sli or crossfire. At this point I think all computers should be using a solid state drive as a boot device, and that’s exactly why we put one in. A large mechanical hard-drive for mass storage can easily be added. Overall if you are a seasoned system builder then there is plenty of fun to be had here. If on the other hand you are thinking of making a build like this as your first computer, then perhaps go with a less finicky platform, like Intel’s 1155 or AMD’s FX platforms for example, as a starting point. (videos and articles on both coming soon) They can still be had at affordable prices that don’t break the bank and that’s what we are all about at Ridgeway Tech. We will also be seeing what two of these six core Xeons can do on a duel CPU board coming soon.

Below I have listed some of the pros and con of the experience of building the White Joker.

PRO’s
⦁ Plenty of low cost six core Xeons on the market coming from old server farms that have upgraded.
⦁ To be able to take advantage of triple channel memory for more memory bandwith.
⦁ Lots of pci-e lanes for multi GPU configs, either crossfire or SLI.
⦁ Its blazing fast for the money.
⦁ Overclocking is fantastic on this platform and a lot of fun.

CON’s
⦁ Hunting down good condition used parts can take some effort.
⦁ Expensive motherboard.
⦁ Making sure you have compatibility between all your components, as not all x58 motherboards will work with the Xeons.
⦁ Lack of newer features like sata 3, M.2 or even a UEFI BIOS
⦁ We had to convert our front USB3 ports to USB2 using an adapter.


LINKS

Build video link                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_Rvb-FcRGk

BIOS settings video                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EpbjndhW2M

3D Mark11 result                      http://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/11464000

Vantage result                          http://www.3dmark.com/3dmv/5492929

Third party x5650 testing that we referenced in the article.

http://www.elotrolado.net/hilo_testing-xeon-x5660-x5670-x5675-x5680-socket-1366-6-12-hilos-low-cost_2026123

For a list X5650 of compatible motherboards click link below.

http://www.pc-specs.com/cpu/Intel/Xeon/Xeon_Processor_X5650_/2111/Compatible_Motherboards

 

Written by Craig Davison and Jodie Way


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