‘Dark Knight’ A Budget AMD 8 Core Workstation (Article)

DARK KNIGHT BUILD

Introduction

Following the success of our 6 core Xeon budget workstation build, we wanted to see what AMD could bring to the table in a similar price range.
Knowing the ‘Joker’ only battles the ‘Dark Knight’ we used a black NZXT S340 case, this time putting in AMD’s 8 core FX 8350 sitting in a Asus M5A99X motherboard. Cooling for the cpu is provided by the ever popular Cooler Master Hyper 212, and we used another GTX580 GPU to keep things even on the graphics front. We threw in some Corsair Vengance RAM 8gigs in a 2 x 4gb config, all powered by an EVGA 600w 80+ power supply with all black cable extensions, to make our AMD powered opponent.

img_0554


Parts List

⦁ AMD FX 8350 CPU
⦁ Asus M5A99X Motherboard
⦁ 2x4gb Corsair Vengeance Memory
⦁ EVGA GTX 580
⦁ Hyper 212 CPU Cooler
⦁ NZXT S340 (black) with 2 included fans
⦁ Cooler Master 140mm front fan
⦁ EVGA 600w 80+ Power Supply
⦁ Black cable extensions
⦁ Integral SSD

 


The Build

It was a smooth build, we fitted our CPU, RAM and cooler out of the case like we usually do, then inserted motherboard standoffs and rear io shield plate. I lowered the board into position and attached with the standoff screws. This time around I had no problems fitting the EPS cable as there is more room between the cooler and the back of the case, so my big fat man hands fitted with ease. The 24pin cable was attached, front panel connectors were attached including a thick unwieldy USB 3 connector. Our SSD is again attached on display in the bottom of the case on top of the PSU cover in its provided caddy. There is a cable management space directly behind it where we connected the SSD power and data cables and the front audio connector. I inserted the GTX580 after pre-removing the two rear PCI blanking plates. I put it in the top most PCI-E x16 slot and it is held in by the retention clip on the slot and a pair of thumb screws near the rear of the card. I plugged in an 8 and 6 pin PCI-E power cable to the card, again using black single braided extensions to keep with the look. A 140mm fan was added to the front as an intake and the two NZXT 120mm fans are configured as exhausts in the top and rear of the case. Just a bit of cable management using zip ties to hide all the excess cabling around the back of the motherboard tray, and in the basement area and we were good to go.

img_0296

img_0658

 


Software and Overclocking

We got windows 10 installed with no hitches although the OS refused to recognise the onboard NIC so we had to add our own gigabit riser card, which uses a similar Realtek 8111F, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller. With all drivers installed we downloaded our benchmark software and games so we could begin our testing. We ran all our tests at stock settings to get our baseline before overclocking. We used MSI Afterburner, as it’s still my preferred software, to overclock our GPU, stress testing with Furmark. When overclocking the CPU it was into the BIOS and here we had a choice of either overclocking by way of multiplayer or by raising the base clock. On this occasion we went with the latter. We disabled the turbo clock and found a stable base clock which was around 220 MHz, making it a little over 4.4ghz with 1.3v on the vcore and LLC on normal. We had the power target at only 100% as our real enemy was heat, although with better cooling I don’t see any reason why we could not push this chip much much higher, but at 60 on the core and 70 on the socket, which is what AMD recommend are the heat limits for this platform, I wanted to stay within specs for 24/7 usage. Although we were limited in ‘Dark Knight’ by the CPU’s temps when overclocked as the FX8350 gets hot fast when pushing past 1.3v we may re visit this with better cooling in the future. A more in depth video showing BIOS settings will follow soon on our youtube channel.

cpu-z-oc

Not too much to be said with the results for our CPU tests, as we only saw a modest 5-10% gain, although it has to be said that there were no signs of a CPU bottleneck, at least with the GPU we are using when it comes to gaming. We overclocked the GPU to 800MHz, and these are our results.

Game Benchmarks

Trine 2 – Everything set to max.

trine-2

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

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

gta5-normal

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

gta5-max

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

Synthetic Benchmarks

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

3d-mark-fire-strike

3d-mark-sky-diver

3d-mark-11

3d-mark-vantage

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

heaven

CPU Benchmarks

cpu-z-single-thread

cpu-z-multi-thread

cinebench

Screenshots (overclock results)

 cinebench-oc

dark-knight-oc-fire-strike

sky-diver-oc

3d-mark-11-oc

vantage-oc

heaven-basic-oc

heaven-extreme-oc


Possible Upgrades to Dark Knight

Not much needed but depending on your use case here are a couple of suggestions below.

  • Faster graphics card if gaming is your thing.
  • Add a large mechanical drive for mass storage.
  • LED lights for a bit of bling.
  • An AIO water cooler to get a higher CPU overclock.

Conclusion

Having the ability to utilise newer motherboards with newer features is a big plus when it comes to this AMD FX socket. It may of been around for what feels like forever, but board partners have continued to support the platform by releasing newer boards with more up to date features, and if that is something you are in need of then this can be a great cheap as chips way of getting there, as the FX8350 can be found for as little as £80 or so. With some beefy cooling you can get a pretty hardcore 8 core rig for peanuts. It is worth pointing out that 8 AMD cores is not the same as 8 Intel cores because of architecture, on board dye resource sharing and a whole lot of other reasons that we are not going to get into here, but if you guys want to know more, maybe we will write a separate article about it, as it is a really in depth subject. We had a good experience building it and also using it. A nice modern UEFI interface to mess with board settings giving us all the options we could ask for. It’s a good looking system and can hold its own against the Joker. ( See the ‘White Joker’ Vs the ‘Dark Knight’ battle in an upcoming article)

Below I have listed some of the pro’s and con’s of the experience of building the Dark Knight.

PRO’s

  • Flexible overclocking with unlocked processors and base clock adjustment friendly motherboard.
  • Full featured modern UEFI motherboard with USB 3 and sata 3.
  • Lots of cores for not a lot of money.
  • Room to add more graphics cards.

CON’s

  • HEAT! need good cooling for high overclocks.
  • Had to add a PCI-E Network card.

 

Written by Craig Davison & Jodie Way

 

 


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