Most novice programmers seldom see the necessity of drawing a flowchart - Rodney Zaks - Programming the Z80
Product Intel QX9770 CPU
Find at Your local Intel distributor, in a month or so
Mainboard Asus Maximus Extreme
RAM SuperTalent ProjectX DDR3-1600
Cooler Asetek Vapochill LS
WE WERE just about to move on to the second phase of our QX9650 Yorkfield review, when Intel's QX9770 appeared on the doorstep - along with Asetek's Vapochill LS Cryofreezer, with the potential to send a -47 Celsius chill down any CPU's spines.
There have been complaints about this CPU's immense power and heat consumption compared to its immediate predecessor. We found this strange, when the clock difference is only six per cent, and the FSB difference is another 25 per cent. So, we decided to couple the new CPU with Asetek's chiller, to see how far we go.
Installing the Monster
Now, the physical part of the operation is not for the faint hearted. Firstly, Vapochill LS is made to link to a properly mounted mobo in a casing, and not an outside test rig. So, we had to rush out and buy a matching LianLi casing - an ugly but very functional black box - and spend a few hours of sheer hell: drilling and cutting the aluminum base, breathing in the toxic metal particles and then fixing the casing and the freezer together into a seemingly monolithic block as you can see on the photo. Asetek could definitely consider an easier mounting system in the future.
And no, don't try to lift that freezer by yourself, unless you work full -time in WWE or TNA. But, it's worth it for the performance boost it can give, as long as you can tolerate its slight fridge-like noise.
The board being prepared for the freeze
All done up with ChillControl PCB at the bottom
The mainboard setup was easier, and no less different from the usual - since supercooling the CPU can drastically cool the surrounding mainboard area, causing massive condensation and near-instant mobo death, Asetek uses heating elements to actually warm up both the mobo underside and the CPU freezeblock outer rim as a - not fully - preventive measure.
Mounting all that stuff, plus the CPU freezeblock clamshell, does take about half an hour of careful work, a bit longer than a typical watercooling setup.
Asetek's ChillControl board manages the 'delayed power on' process where, after you press the power button, the freezer goes down to around -30 C before it turns on the system - once up, its control panel shows you the status. Also, this being a fridge, after all, we wouldn't suggest repeated and frequent hard power on-offs.
In other terms, it was the same super-duper config used in our recent QX9650 review: Asus Maximus Extreme X38-based mobo with updated BIOS 701, plus 2 x 1 GB of SuperTalent ProjectX DDR3-1600 CL7-6-6 RAM and Sparkle GeForce 8800GT GPU.
After pressing the power and waiting a few minutes, the sytem went on and we got into the BIOS: somehow the default QX9770 setup was 1.33 volts, compared to the 1.22 volts for Xeon X5482 at identical CPU and FSB clocks - compare it to the 1.21 volts for the QX9650 on that same board, and something isn't right. Now we knew the reason for all those reviewers' complaints about the QX9770 heat and power consumption increase - all one needs to do is set the voltage down to a reasonable level.
Seeing that the similar X5482s, two of them at that, worked perfectly fine with the lower voltage, we manually applied the closest similar Vcore value, 1.22 volts, and it worked fine, booting the OS, running the tests and such.
Talking about the OS, for this first round, we ran WinXP SP2 32-bit with 3DMark06, PCMark05, Sandra XI and Lavalys Everest 4.2.
As for overclocking, now that the Vapochill was on, we wanted to see how far we'd go within the limit of 'green' settings on the Maximus Extreme. At the Vcore of 1.4375 volts, FSB and North Bridge of around 1.43 volts, and memory at 1.92 volts, we managed to get stable 4.5GHz, FSB1800 operation. A nice 72 GFLOPs - double precision, of course - workstation!
Keep in mind that with Vapochill cooling, the measured actual CPU temperature - after adding those heating elements and such - stayed at 26 degrees Celsius, no matter whether set at 3.2 or 4.5GHz clock, whether idle or full load: that's the beauty of a supercool freezer able to take 200+ W of TDP.
Now, since this is Singapore, with 30 degrees Celsius night temperature and 90 percent humidity - we had to avoid at least some condensation in such extreme environment. One way is to get one high-speed fan to blow air at the capacitor areas around the CPU that seemed to get a bit wet after a while. While getting such fans, a large Rowenta room fan did the job - see it showing shyly on the picture. Jokes aside, you have to ensure that any condensation is taken care of as soon as it appears.
The first runs were a sign of the things to come: 3DMark06 CPU score - a whopping 7461. PCMark05 for the CPU - 14495, and for the memory - 9780. Everything completed without any crash.Oh my...
Here are the benchmark shots for the rest.
As you can see - new records! In fact, some match the dual-socket 3.2 GHz X5482 Harpertown Xeon which we're also benchmarking these days - more about that soon.
Besides the obnoxious CPU points, watch the Sandra and Everest memory scores too: we broke 10 GB/s and 12 GB/s respectively on an Intel box, matching the top overclocked AMD desktop boxen in their last holdout - the memory bandwidth. Everything else was already won by Intel.
Notice the decreased chipset and memory total latency too, in both Sandra and Everest. This also shows how well the X38 is optimised for the DDR3 memory, leaving only Nvidia with a DDR2 optimised Yorkfield compatible chipset - when it finally arrives.
Now, this stable, everyday 4.5GHz configuration, obtained after 10 minutes of simple BIOS tuning, can be pushed quite a bit higher. The 4.5GHz 1.4+ volt QX9770 CPU doesn't reach anywhere near 200W yet in real thermals, and we reckon 5GHz is quite doable with some fine tuning. The QX9770 has some incredible potential here.
With ever hotter CPUs, GPUs, chipsets and suchlike, phase change cryocooling technology, like the one in Asetek's Vapochill, does have a bright future in my mind: simplify the installation process, and add a few more anti-condensation safeguards, and - why not - add a small compartment for some ice cream, maybe...
The Good The Uber CPU with Uber Cooler in Ultimate Combo -
Envy of the geekdom and THE platform for dual AMD CrossFire HD3870 x2 GPUs
The Bad Heavy, little casing choices to match the fridge, AMD may get an inferiority complex
The Ugly Extremely Expensive Edition CPU combined with a cooler installation process one remembers for life
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