Saturday, June 20, 2015

Building a New Computer for Music Production (My DAW PC Specs, June 2015 Edition)

I built my first DAW PC in early 2010, and while it served admirably since that time, I was getting frustrated with having to bounce or freeze tracks on any somewhat complicated project in order to conserve CPU resources. After a solid five years on my old i7-950-based system, it was time to move on...


It turns out I had so much to say about this new build that it's simply too much for a single blog post, so I broke it into two parts. In this first post, I list all the different parts I used in my new computer, and then I go into detail about the hardware and BIOS configuration steps I performed. In the next post, I talk about which drivers I had to install, where to find the correct versions, optimization tips, and finally I'll provide some benchmarking numbers to show how this new PC compares to my 2010 build.

THE REQUIREMENTS

My high-level goal when building this system was to have a fast, stable, and quiet PC that would enable me to run more simultaneous plugins and/or play more simultaneous notes of polyphony without any pops, dropouts, or other glitches in my audio than I could get with my old PC.

I had some more specific requirements, too:
  • Must support the latest generation of Intel desktop processors.
  • Must have a mix of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, because not all USB 2.0 devices work very well on USB 3 buses.
  • Must have enough expansion slots that I can add a FireWire card (for my RME FireFace UFX), a PCIe graphics card, and a PCIe-based SSD drive.
  • Must support a minimum of 5 internal SATA devices (two optical drives and three hard drives or SSDs).
  • Must have enough DIMM slots that I can add memory as needed over time.
  • Must have at least one fast Ethernet port, and none of that garbage "Killer Networking" crap.
  • Whatever video card I get must have at least one HDMI port and one DVI port to support my existing monitors.

THE SHOPPING LIST

I was really pleased with most of the components I had put into my original DAW PC, so my first thought was to seek out the latest and greatest components by the same manufacturers who made the parts I had used in that first computer. But there were problems...
  • The one Gigabyte board that had all the features and ports I needed (the GA-X99-UD5) had almost universally bad user reviews relating to stability issues and malfunctioning features. Even positive reviews cited some problems that many users would probably consider showstopping bugs. Sadly, Gigabyte was out.
  • The Plextor optical drive I'd set my heart on, the PX-880SA was no longer available, and I had a hard time locating the replacement model, the PX-890SA, in stock at a place with good shipping times/prices. Optical drives are virtually a commodity these days, though, so not a huge loss.
  • Kingston wasn't on the list of approved RAM manufacturers for the ASUS motherboard I ended up choosing, so I picked one of the brands that they recommended instead.
After a few days of research, this is the list of parts I ended up ordering:
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-5930K. This is the second-most powerful of Intel's current generation of desktop processors (the Haswell-E family). It has only 6 cores (compared to the flagship Core i7-5960X), but a faster clock speed. This processor also costs nearly half as much as the 5960X, while delivering only around 20% less performance. It's a better value. I chose the 5930K over the entry-level Haswell-E processor, the Core i7-5820K, because of the 5930K's faster clock speed. The 5930K also has more PCI Express lanes (40), which means more expandability potential. In my case I could have skated by with the 28 lanes that the 5820K provides (I use x16 for graphics, x1 for FireWire, and x4 for my PCIe SSD drive, for 21 lanes total), but 28 lanes on the 5820K rules out the possibility of a dual-graphics card solution with most high-end cards.
  • Cooling: Corsair H60 High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler. The Haswell-E family of CPUs don't include factory heatsinks like the old Bloomfield processor in my previous computer did. You can get an Intel-manufactured heatsink for these processors (the Intel Thermal Solution Air BXTS13A), but after-market manufacturers like Corsair deliver quieter solutions, which are attractive to anyone working in music.
  • Motherboard: ASUS X99-A/USB 3.1 ATX. The Haswell-E processors require motherboards that support the LGA2011-v3 socket and the X99 chipset. This board met these and all of my other requirements, and although it was so new there weren't many reviews for it when I was shopping, its sibling board, the non-USB 3.1 X99-A was very well-reviewed. The only difference between the two (I believe) is that my model has an additional USB 3.1 host controller not present on the regular X99-A.
  • Case: Antec P280. This case seemed to be the closest in form and function to the P183 case that I'd used for my first DAW system. This one turned out to be a little wider than I'd expected (it was a very tight fit under my desk!) but had plenty of room for a ton of drives and big expansion cards, in a very sturdy, quiet case. I also really like the "tool-less" 5.25" drive bays for optical drives and the removable drive trays that support both 3.5" hard disks and 2.5" SSDs. Antec makes a windowed version as well, but I prefer opaque cases.
  • SSD storage: I have never owned an SSD drive before, and I wanted to finally bite the bullet this time around. I went with the 400GB version of the Intel Solid-State Drive 750 Series (model SSDPEDMW40) for my boot drive. This is a super-fast PCIe device that only works on motherboards that include NVMe support. I also picked up the 480GB version of the Intel 535 Series (model SSDSC2BW480H6), which are standard SATA drives. I'm using this one for applications and plugins, and the PCIe drive for the operating system and documents.
  • Hard disk storage: I also got a 2TB WD Black drive for samples and downloads and finally a 3TB WD Black drive for backups.
  • Power Supply: Corsair AX860i Digital ATX Power Supply. I loved the Corsair power supply I'd used in my previous system, both because it was quiet and because of the wonderful modular cable system. I actually originally bought the less expensive Corsair HX850i for my new PC, but was unable to properly fit the 24-pin power cable it came with into the ASUS motherboard's power connector. Corsair shipped me a replacement cable, but in my impatience I went out and picked up the AX860i, which uses different cables from the other models- and this one worked. I don't know if the replacement cable Corsair sent me for my HX850i would have solved my problem. I have to be honest in saying I'm not sure I fully understand the difference between Corsair's AX and HX lines. I think the AX models are supposed to be quieter and more flexible for overclocking, but that's really tough to determine from the specifications. You might also notice that they have "AXi" and "HXi" lines versus their own "AX" and "HX" lines. The "i" models have digital connectors that plug into a USB header on your motherboard so you can use their special Corsair Link software to monitor your system. Nice, but probably not essential.
  • RAM: I got a 16GB kit that included two 8GB sticks of Crucial CT8G4DFD8213 DDR4 2133 MT/s RAM. This particular model was on the ASUS QVL (qualified vendors list) for my motherboard. There's a 32GB (4-DIMM) kit of the same model. Since I'm using 2 sticks of RAM, I'm getting dual-channel memory support. If I added another two matched sticks, I could get quad-channel support, but the jury's still out on whether that makes any difference for music production.
  • Optical: There's not a lot of difference between optical drives these days, they mostly have similar specs and they're almost all dirt cheap. I initially just ordered a LITE-ON iHAS124 optical drive, but I ended up also picking up an LG Electronics Internal Super Multi Drive (GH24NSC0B) at a local shop to speed up some install operations.
  • Video: EVGA GeForce GTX 960 4GB FTW ACX 2.0+. I do play a game now and then, so I wanted a graphics card that could at least handle moderate gaming without making too much noise. As of this writing, the GTX-960 is right in the middle of the NVIDIA product line in terms of both price and performance. You might think the GTX-960 was an odd choice for a DAW PC considering that it has two giant fans on it, but get this: The fans don't even come on unless the video card reaches 66 degrees Celsius (151 degrees Fahrenheit). If you're not actually doing any 3D graphics or pushing your system very hard, the fans might never spin at all. NOTE: If you're looking to save a bit of money in your DAW PC build, graphics is definitely one area where you can skimp. Just about any PCI Express graphics card with the right monitor connections will do just fine for music production purposes. (The ASUS X99-A boards do not include on-board video; you must add your own.)
  • FireWire: Rosewill PCIe FireWire 1394a Card 2+1 Ports (RC-504). My old Gigabyte board had on-board FireWire with a Texas Instruments chipset, but it's hard to find modern boards with 1394 ports. I wanted to keep being able to use my RME FireFace UFX interface as a FireWire device, so I picked up this inexpensive card with a VIA chipset. I know, I know, people always say "Get TI," but it works just fine with my interface. I have also recently heard that there might be incompatibilities with TI-based FireWire cards and some modern boards, so you might want to look into this more if this is an area of concern for you.
  • Wi-Fi: EnGenius Technologies 4-Port Wireless N300 Media Bridge (ERB300H). I do not like most desktop solutions for Wi-Fi. Internal solutions usually have poor range to begin with, which only gets worse if you keep your computer under a desk or in a closet. Also, the external antennas for some desktop Wi-Fi cards often have very short wires, making placing them difficult. Wi-Fi transmissions can also cause interference with audio gear (particularly reference monitors), so that can be a hassle as well. Rather than install Wi-Fi in a desktop, I prefer to run a cable from the computer's Ethernet port out to an external wireless bridge, like the ERB300H. I'm running Ethernet from three different computers in my studio to an ERB300H that's wall-mounted several feet away, where it causes no interference with my monitors. All my computers now get super-fast network connections without any of the Wi-Fi-related reception or performance troubles that many desktop users deal with.
The total retail cost for all these parts (on June 23, 2015) is around $2,600 USD. The six most expensive components, in order from highest to lowest are: CPU, NVMe SSD, motherboard, graphics card, power supply, and SATA SSD. Each of these components was over $200 USD (well over, in the case of the CPU and the NVMe drive).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

It took several days to get everything assembled and running properly. Part of the long setup time was because of the problems I had with the motherboard power cable on the original power supply I ordered, but a lot of it was figuring out which ports to use, which BIOS settings were required, and which drivers to install. I'm presenting all of my findings below. This is by no means a replacement for the various quick start guides and manuals that come with the various components (trust me, you will need that stuff), but in the rest of this post I'll cover a lot of things that aren't in the manuals.

But first, here's what it looks like inside with everything wired up:



HARDWARE INSTALLATION: CASE

Placing the motherboard and other components in the case was pretty straightforward, but here are some notes and observations:
  • The only documentation that ships in the Antec P280 box is a 1-page product overview. You can find the full PDF manual here.
  • Antec was not overly generous in the selection of screws and zip ties they provided, but they did include just enough for me to install my gear. The case ships with 10 brass colored motherboard standoffs (little posts that support your motherboard). Six of the standoffs were already installed in the case, but I had to screw in three more in order to have a place for each of the nine screws required to install the ASUS motherboard.
  • Some of the individual screws are a little hard to tell apart! I recommend separating them by appearance to the best of your abilities. There are four screws for mounting your power supply (they have wide, flat heads with a ridge on the edge), and ten screws for installing the motherboard. Don't confuse the motherboard screws for the six (optional) drive bay screws or the eight 2.5" tray-mount screws; the thread patterns aren't exactly the same, but they're close enough that you can get mixed up.
  • The case comes with two top exhaust fans and one rear fan. They are nice, quiet fans, so I kept the top two, however I replaced the rear fan, using that slot for the fan that came with my cooling solution. The case fans are powered with a single standard 4-pin Molex plug. It appears that they always spin so long as the computer is running; there may be a way to control this in the Corsair Link software or BIOS settings. But they're incredibly quiet, so I haven't bothered.
  • The manual doesn't mention that in order to install optical drives into the 5.25" bays, you have to remove a metal panel that sits between each bay and the plastic cover on the front of the case. It is not particularly fun removing this panel (basically, I just rocked it back and forth until the metal gave way), but you need to do this in order to pop off the front covers. Once the panels and covers are off, though, installing the drives is a breeze.
  • The case includes two little slots between the 3.5" rack and the 5.25" bays just for 2.5" drives. Even though it's very convenient to be able to slip a little SSD into those 2.5" slots, they aren't recessed back far enough to make the SATA power connections very easy if you're installing other drives in the 3.5" rack. Instead I opted to mount all my 2.5" and 3.5" drives in the trays below. The Corsair AX860i and HX850i power supplies both came with two cables for delivering SATA power. I used one cable to power my two 5.25" optical drives and the other to power the rest of the drives. I ran the second cable through one of the rubber-ringed cable routing holes for easier access to the back of the 2.5" and 3.5" drives. This required removal of the right side of the case, which thankfully was just as easy as removing the left.
  • It was a little bit of a challenge popping the ASUS board's I/O panel into place at the rear of the case, but it ended up working out. The board itself holds the panel in place once it's tightened down.
HARDWARE INSTALLATION: MOTHERBOARD AND POWER SUPPLY
  • Don't overlook the fact that the ASUS motherboard has two power connectors: an 8-pin connector at the top edge, and a 24-pin one on the upper-right. The Corsair power supplies come with the correct cables to connect to both. (For the 24-pin connector, the Corsair cables have a 2-part connector that you must fasten together in able to connect to the X99-A boards.)
  • The first time I installed Windows on this system, I encountered very severe latency issues when trying to do audio, and I have reason to believe that it was at least partly due to my SATA configuration. The X99-A boards have three banks of SATA connectors: A, B, and C (this is how the User Guide labels them- I don't think they're marked this was on the board). At first I was using the A bank for my two optical drives and the B bank for two of my other drives, and the top ports of the C bank for the rest. After doing some web searches on similar problems with ASUS boards, I learned that there might be some issues with the B-bank of ports. On the motherboard they are labeled as "SATA Express." The final time I installed Windows on the system, I changed the connections so that my 2.5" and 3.5" drives were all connected on the bottom-most ports in the C bank (ports 7-10). There is a note in the User Guide that these ports do not support Intel Rapid Storage Technology or RAID configuration. I wasn't interested in either, so this wasn't a problem for me. I haven't had any issues with this new configuration, however I don't have any hard evidence that the SATA ports alone were the cause of the initial instability. (Note: At BIOS defaults, all of the board's SATA ports are set to run in AHCI mode, which is what I wanted.)
  • When I was working with the Corsair HX850i power supply, several of the modular cables were difficult to pop into place on the unit itself. You might find it easier to connect the cables you need to the back of the unit first before mounting it inside the case. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I had significant problems with the the HX850i's 24-pin power connector. Not only was it difficult to seat in the back of the unit, but I simply could not get it to make a firm connection to the motherboard's connector. It wouldn't lock into place, and eventually came loose, cutting power to the computer, several times. Corsair did ship me a new cable, but I had already moved on to the AX860i by then.
  • Both Corsair power supplies I worked with had special Corsair Link connectors. Whereas the HX850i included a USB cable that connected directly to a USB header on the motherboard, the AX860i included a small device called the Corsair Link USB Dongle that connects to the power supply with a special cable, but also connects to a USB header on the motherboard.
HARDWARE INSTALLATION: COOLER
  • The Corsair H60 cooler ships with a thin layer of thermal paste on the underside of the pump, which will fuse to your CPU once everything's connected and powered up. So you don't need to buy your own thermal paste unless you ever detach the pump and need to re-connect it later.
  • The Quick Start guide that came with the H60 was a little bit too minimal, and I'm not sure if there's an actual full-length user guide for it. I'll just note that if you're using a Haswell-E processor with the LGA2011-v3 socket, you don't need to worry about installing a back plate to your motherboard; that's only for older processors. For LGA2011 processors, all you need to connect the pump to your CPU are the standoff screws (make sure to use the LGA2011 ones, they are shorter on one side than the other), the mounting bracket that fits over the pump, and the thumb screws.
  • The single most confusing and worst documented part of the entire build was installing the cooler- specifically, figuring out where to connect the cooler to the motherboard. The Corsair H60 cooler has two major components: There's the "fan" section, which is really a fan attached to a small radiator that actually looks like a miniature car radiator, and then there's the "pump" section that attaches to the top of your CPU. Both the fan and the pump have their own power connectors, and they have different requirements. The pump needs constant and consistent current in order to function properly. It's not meant to ramp up and down in power like an actual CPU fan might. The fan, however, even though it's not directly attached to your CPU, can and should be controlled to adjust speed as needed. The good news is that the X99-A motherboards have a bunch of different fan connectors to suit every possible cooling need. The bad news is that there is pretty much no information in the manual or ASUS's site about what's different between the connectors or when you should use which connectors. But basically, here's what I was able to determine: The best place to connect the H60's fan seems to be the ASUS board's CPU_FAN connector at the upper edge of the board. The best place to connect the H60's pump is to one of the chassis fan connectors (CHA_FAN1 or CHA_FAN2, near the left bank of DIMM slots). You can control how the fan connectors operate in the BIOS, but for now I'm just using the BIOS defaults.
HARDWARE INSTALLATION: PCI EXPRESS CARDS
  • The ASUS X99-A boards have four 16-lane PCI Express slots. Since a PCIe graphics card is mandatory with these motherboards (due to their lack of on-board video), this means that PCIe slot 1 (the one closest to the CPU) is going to be occupied with your graphics card.
  • The physical installation instructions for Intel's PCIe NVMe Solid-State Drives says that the closer to the CPU you install the SSD card, the better the performance, however they also say that the slot furthest away from the CPU might be the best to use "if you are having detection issues." I didn't want to have to do any PCIe troubleshooting, so I just placed my SSD card in slot 6, the 16-lane slot nearest the bottom edge of the board.
  • Even though my graphics card only occupied one PCI Express slot on the motherboard, it is a double-width card, and it ended up covering the 4-lane PCIe slot #2. This meant that my only option for installing the FireWire card (which can only use slots 2 or 5, because they're the ones with PCIe 1.0 compatibility) was slot 5.
  • That leaves me two 16-lane slots (3 and 4) unoccupied and accessible and since I have one of the 40-lane CPUs, I have 21 lanes available (which means I could add a 16-lane card and a 4-lane card, or two cards that were 8 lanes or less).
BIOS: UPGRADING X99-A BIOS

The first time I configured this system, I was running the BIOS version the board shipped with, which was version 0401 from March 2015. After Windows was installed and I was troubleshooting the various audio performance problems I was experiencing, I started looking into how to upgrade the BIOS to the latest version. Wow- what a headache that turned out to be! The User Guide lists FOUR different ways to update the BIOS, however not a single one of the methods is described completely accurately. The one I ended up using was the "ASUS EZ Flash 2" method.

The way this method works is, you need to copy the BIOS image that you download from the ASUS help desk page to a USB thumb drive, plug it in, and then go to the ASUS EZ Flash Utility in the Advanced mode of BIOS. The thing they don't tell you is that the Flash Utility will only let you upload BIOS images that are named a specific way (and the files you download from ASUS.com are NOT named the correct way). If you try to select your downloaded BIOS file and it isn't named properly, you'll get an error that makes it sound like you downloaded a corrupt image, when in fact it's just a simple filename problem.

People familiar with ASUS might already know that ASUS sometimes provides a "BIOS Renamer" utility that takes a selected file and gives it the appropriate name for your motherboard- but as of this writing, ASUS has not published a renamer for the USB 3.1 version of the X99-A boards, and the regular X99-A version of the program does not work for the USB 3.1 boards.

The correct filename to use for the X99-A USB 3.1 board doesn't appear to be published anywhere on the Internet- well, until now: The correct filename to use for this board is X99AU31.CAP. If you have the regular (non-USB 3.1) X99-A, the filename is X99A.CAP. I only figured this out when I was taking a look at the contents of the disc that came with the motherboard. It has a number of CAP files (BIOS images) for the different X99 series boards in its root directory.

*begin rant* Here's my biggest complaint about ASUS: Even though this motherboard appears to be really good and solid, and the paper manual it shipped with contained a lot of crucial information, they provide almost no other useful details anywhere on their site or in the downloads for these motherboards. I haven't seen a single readme for any of the downloads on the site. It was really infuriating when I was trying to figure this stuff out. *end rant*

Note that when you upgrade the BIOS, this appears to wipe out any customizations you may have made to the settings. This was immediately apparent to me, because whenever I installed a different BIOS, I'd have to reconfigure it to boot from my NVMe SSD drive.

BIOS: BOOTING FROM THE INTEL PCIe NVMe SSD DRIVE

If you're using one of Intel's 750 Series PCIe/NVMe SSDs as a boot drive, you will definitely want to bookmark this page, where the most recent drivers and documentation for the drives. Download the "Boot Guide for NVMe PCIe SSD" PDF from this page. While there isn't currently information specifically about the X99-A or X99-A USB 3.1, the "ASUS X99-Deluxe" section is close enough. You should read it very carefully and do what it says, although the BIOS Configuration section of the document does not mention one very important thing!

After updating the CSM settings in BIOS to instruct PCI-E/PCI expansion devices to use the UEFI driver first, you need to tell BIOS which device it should boot from- the problem is, the Intel PCIe SSD drive will not show up in any of the "Boot Option" menus until you do this: Scroll down the BOOT page past the CSM stuff to where it says Hard Drive BBS Priorities and click that. In the Boot\Boot screen that appears, select your SSD device for Boot Option #1. When you return back to the main Boot page you'll see that your SSD is now selected as the default boot device.

After you save your changes and restart, you can continue with the Windows-specific sections of the document. One of the reasons I bought an additional optical drive is so that during Windows setup, I could have my Windows 7 disc in the top drive, and the SSD driver disc in the bottom drive. You will absolutely need this disc in order to be able to install Windows on your SSD drive. Make sure to pick the Custom install option in Windows setup in order to locate the Load Driver button mentioned in the Intel documentation.

Note that the driver on the disc included with the SSD drive is pretty old- although it works just fine for Windows installation. After Windows is installed you can upgrade to the latest one from the Intel page I mentioned earler.
That's it for Part 1. Proceed to Part 2 if you dare!

25 comments:

HookTink Furrble said...

An update from my previous ramble. The PC I assembled similar to yours. Gonna hit the high notes only.
ASUS X99-A/USB3.1
i7 5820K
32GB G.Skill 2400
AMD XFX R9280A
Fractal Define R5
3 additional Matching Fractal fans
Corsair H100i GTX
ASUS DVD Multi
Rosewill card reader internal
Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB
Antec 650 W Platinum
W7 Pro.
Other misc. items.
I assembled this as a final build except for additional storage and can wait a bit for various SSD options to expose themselves. I tie wrapped all the wires and cables. It actually looks like someone knew what they were doing. Accidents happen.
I had drivers ready on a 3.0 flash drive.
1402 BIOS came installed. Haven't flashed yet.
Everything worked perfectly and not a single redo yet of anything. Perfect start up. Same for OS and lots of software I installed. Haven't installed ASUS software stuffs as sorta why?
Did a manual processor OC to 4.0 and for a slight XMP profile over clock of the memory confirmed by CPUID.
Adjusted fans for everything including the graphics card. This thing could singlehandedly heat the International Space Station as a space heater.
The front audio 3.5 mm jack drives my Sennheiser HD600 phones like they were 12 Ohms or something and sound wonderful. Foobar2000 and WASAPI and adjustments from my other computers.
Actually I'm thrilled at how this guy has turned out and runs. I haven't had any computer stuff work so perfectly first try before and it may never happen again.
I am a 63 + disabled Vet and hafta play with toys. Also a long history of tech and music and better yet, Cats. I'm sure you read Dr. Mark Waldrep's daily letter.
Anyway, I did get a few tips from your write up. Thank you for that.
Sincerely,
Walt Prill

P.S. Complete pics along the way if you want.

HookTink Furrble said...

The cats again. Addendum to our last post. Storage? I did a will call at Newegg, City Of Industry location yesterday for the Intel 750 400 GB SSD. I made a better judgment call mistake of spending $10 more for the retail version vs O.E.M. Ya get the 5 in. disc. Useless. A way outdated driver and a disclaimer. Ah well, my 2 Korat cats, The Furrbles, are using it for a Frisbee. The card went in without a hitch in the second PCI-e slot as it bumped up on the USB 3.0 header cable badly in the 6th slot. I think as long as the installation slot is running at full speed it is irrelevant which slot. Following Intel's install guide for the X99A.Deluxe it took less than 10 minutes and was loading W7 off of a W7 iso disc. Loaded the .dlls for the latest Intel driver to a flash drive. It couldn't have been smoother. My first PCI-e SSD install. Your pointing to the Intel guide saved me some search time. Thanks for the tip on the guide. I'm gonna use a pair of 1TB SSDs in RAID 0 for bulk storage. I've used 2 WD Blacks the same way in my big desktop for 4 years, and other machines without a hitch or failure. The Samsung 250 EVO was for getting it up and running and I'll do something with it or it can join the pile of SSDs I have laying around. Maybe an imaging disc. You wanted to know about overclocking. As before, I set up a moderate O/C. in the BIOS, Easy tune, gaming and media prompts for cooler etc. It is absolutely stable with a 40x multiplier and XMP profile. I didn't disable the O/C for the install of the 750 SSD. I did flash the BIOS though cuz of instability. Cpuid shows 4079 Processor speed set up for all 6 cores and the memory at 2444. This O.C. will not harm the life of the I7 or the ram and the power usage and heat issues are well within reason. I don't put together $3 to 4000 time bombs. If a moderate O/C will harm the 5820 it sure defeats the whole purpose of the K designation. The ASUS Software suite. Errrr. I tried it and pulled it with Revo Uninstaller Pro and all traces. The ASUS suite added about 20 secs. to my start up time, splitting that time for post and boot and kept opening up installer prompts in the taskbar, 8 of em wanting permissions every restart even after deleting the installers in the advanced computer search and didn't work right anyway. Just marketing nonsense, read bloatware. Start up time to fully functioning desktop is irrelevant. Super fast to desktop times might look impressive but how about fully ready to use desktop times? I'll take an apparent slower time as opposed to a useless fast looking non ready for prime time yet desktop any time. Ya just can't cheat physics and besides what is really important? I have never been able to feed myself with bragging rights. Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra works great for vids with my 32 in. 1440p monitor and as above audio through the JBL 5.1 system and electronics with WASAPI and all the various audio settings in the chain through the HDMI. That is what I'm doing and am well satisfied with the results.
Thank you,
sincerely,
The Furrbles and me,
Walt Prill

Ultimate Outsider said...

Glad things are running well for you! I also moved my Intel PCIe SSD to another slot last week because I didn't like how close it was to the USB header either. The first time I installed Windows on this box (when it was giving me problems), I had installed the whole ASUS suite too. The second time I installed Win 7 I ONLY installed the drivers necessary to fix the unknown devices in Device Manager and the ASUS CPU-Z app, and everything's good now. I don't think I'm missing out on anything.

HookTink Furrble said...

Hello, ummmmm, have you benched your 750? Mine reads 1754Mbs. =/- 1Mbs. using 4 different bench mark utilities. Blue light to sign on is like clockwork 43.9 secs. These specs. don't change regardless of the changes I make to the rest of the system Intel won't respond as I snipped the bench marks and info. and sent it to them. This is a long way from the advertised speeds. Places like Tom's hardware, Newegg Andatech all use different beta bench markers that can't be found anywhere on the net. Those sites are marketing companies. I went through this before a while back, with an Intel 180 GB 520. I figured out that the controller was permanently throttling the drive. Intel did confirm that. It went back. I've used Samsungs since without a blink, a lot of em. Then this NVMe situation came up. Gotta try. Ug. I'm curious to know if you have bench marked your guy and the results. Hope you are doing well. Heard any good recordings lately?
Thank you,
sincerely,
The Furrbles and me Walt Prill

Ultimate Outsider said...

Check out the "Storage Benchmarks" section of Part 2 of my article to see my results. My 750 is crazy fast.

One thing though, since you mention startup times: Windows boot time is not very impressive, and the reason, according to Intel, is that Windows doesn't enumerate PCIe devices immediately, resulting in longer than normal Windows startup times with NVMe drives. I don't know if anyone's working to fix this. Once Windows is loaded, though, the drive is incredibly fast.

I am going to update my blog probably next week with some different observations, and this is one of them.

HookTink Furrble said...

Awwwww, yeah, you are kinda confirming my thoughts. Mine is running faster than that. 1752 1050. Seq. These drives are being throttled. This is a long way from "up to 2200. or what that guy JJ from ASUS claims 2700 +.

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Hello Walt, We are following up on service ticket 8001218028. Please let us k...
Jul 22 (2 days ago)

HookTink Furrble <2furrbles@gmail.com>
Jul 22 (2 days ago)
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to SUPPORT.REPLIES
Dear Intel,
I need to communicate with someone who knows what they are talking about, not to Costa Rica where they don't even know what an SSD is.
Intel 750 PCI-e card 400 GB. Latest MVNe driver.
ASUS X99A/3.1 board. Latest BIOS with NVMe functionality.
I7 5820K processor.
32 GB DDR4 memory.
The card installed without a hiccup. W7 Pro X64 as well.
This is a new machine and is stable.
I've got a pile of Sata SSDs.
A bunch of different benchmarks as shown and all the results are nearly identical.
Why is this drive being throttled, or is it? Yeah, it is.
Also a blue light to sign on page, not to desktop time, of 44 sec., split almost equally between post and start.
Inline image 1Inline image 2Inline image 3
The time involved here is a real problem.
Could someone offer an explanation etc. please?!
I went through this with a data dropping Intel 520 series SSD 3 or so years ago with no resolve.
Thank you,
sincerely,
Walt Prill

And this.

HookTink Furrble <2furrbles@gmail.com>
4:55 PM (2 hours ago)
Reply
to support.replies
Why doesn't any one respond to my request and infoi? O.K., I'll return this thing and write it off to the same place the last time I used an Intel 520 180 GB drive. No one at Intel had an answer. but I eventually figured out the issue being the controller was throttling the 520s read/write speeds. Intel confirmed my views. The fix was to secure erase the drive. Oh boy, just what I want to do every week. I returned it and have been using Samsungs since without as much as a blink. This 750 came up and I thought well, let's see. Thank you for your consideration,
sincerely,
Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Also, this is a storage drive. That is not how it is being promoted. Go into Device Manager. Where is the 750 listed? Well, under Storage Controllers. This thing might be a great drive but their marketing is highly deceptive. The "Gotcha Moment"..........Wait for it "UpTo"!
Thank you so much for sharing
Sincerely,
The Furrbles and me, Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

My brain dead mind. When I first installed the 750 it was recognized under drives D/M. I did one bench that showed around 2200Mbs. I wanted to improve that. Now that it has shifted to Storage drive.... The 2200 test was done on the Samsung 850EVO. Intel is throttling this thing for their self protection trying to cover the warranty length. The 840/850 Samsung Pros I have and had and seen, don't do this. The to sign on time was 31 secs. Those are OS/application/storage drives. I guess I'm pissed at myself.
Ha, ha, ha!
The Furrbles and me.

HookTink Furrble said...

The Furrbles found a potential resolution to the read/write thing. Samsung has the Magician software like the Intel Toolbox. I had both running but it caused conflict issues. Both are for OS optimization of their respective drives. Guess ya can't have 2 separate drives apparently doing the same thing. I removed the Magician software, and formatted the 850 as a raw drive. It works great as a back up spot and both back ups and recoveries are quite fast. This a good thing as I want an all SSD machine. Ext. hdds are O.K. for file storage and copies. Now, how to get the Samsung Magician driver without the Magician installed. Now how to obtain the Samsung driver and take out Intel's Storage Controller. This will fix the speed throttling. Intel will not respond to me because of the above issues. MMmmmmm. Enough
Great name for your site by the way.
Thank you,
sincerely,
The Furrbles and me Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Hah! Got it right now. The Furrbles here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 750. I'v run every test possible and it passes perfectly. So what's up? The 759 is a great storage drive. It is not worth a darn as as a systems drive. In a P.C. it is just a novelty. Intel has been pushed out of the client SSD market so thoroughly by Samsung, like 70 + % worldwide, Intel has focused on other things. The 750 was a chance to grab a little bit of the market. This move will hurt them. So, what to do? Welp, I'm going back to a Samsung 850 Pro for a systems drive. I will keep the 750 as a novel storage drive. The Samsung 941/951 drive is a laptop drive. It is super fast. It also has serious heat issues. It will throttle after a minute + of serious load to about 10 % until TRIM is run after it cools. That is why there isn't any retail 941/951 series and there won't be. Samsung will offer something else soon. Meanwhile Phase II of my project starts tomorrow as parts arriving via Amazon Prime, some north of $1,500 worth. I vill detail that after everything is installed. Part of the order is 2 Samsung 850 EVO 1TB Drives. Those are going to be a 2 TB RAID 0 for primary storage. So, drives will be as follows 850 Pro for a Systems drive. Intel 750 for storage. 2 850 EVOs as primary storage. The Samsung 850 EVO 250GB as it is being used now for a Systems Recovery and Restore drive and works very well. I wanted an all SSD machine so that is what I have. I have external hdds for data and recovery. They are fine for that. I'm running 2TBs of music and video off of one for the moment. External drives, all of em, are not good for permanent running of the machine like flash drives etc. Hdds are too hot, too heavy too noisy, too power hungry, vibrate a lot and are slow. So no internal hdds here. This machine's name is Tinkerbells Toy. Tinkerbell is my IT kitty. She is "pretty" darn sharp. Capt'n Hook, her sibling , is the operator and is great. the accts. are set up as such. This machine is a great P.C. and will have $4,000 in it when done. "Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure"
Errol Flynn
Thank you,
sincerely,
The Furrbles and me.

HookTink Furrble said...

I admit that I've been scammed by marketing on an Intel SSD again. This is my fault first time, shame on you, second time, shame on me and there will never be a third time. Samsung, 100 % in house. I removed the Storage driver and installed the drive driver and it was switched to drive status as recognized in D/M. Ran bench marks. Nothing has changed. Computer Tec report listed all the SSDs speeds and times. The 750 was the slowest to boot by 10 sec. more than the slowest drive bare. with a small handful of programs loaded and it booted 25 sec. slower. That is where mine is now. 54 sec. to sign on. All other bench marks the Intel performed equal or worse except large raw file transfer. That is something that won't happen in a P.C. or work station hardly ever. Just what are you going to feed it with, a hdd? Another internal SSD? When ya load the Intel driver it locks down the firmware in the drive. Like Freddie Mercury sang in the Queen song Headlong, "and there ain't nuthin, nuthin, nuthin you can do about it". Like Ft. Knox, Intel has that thing locked. Maybe a secure erase and etc. but it will revert again. Let's see, it is expensive, it uses a lot of power and makes a lot of heat and doesn't do 1 single thing better than a sata SSD and most things equal to or worse than same. I woke up kinda a couple of nights ago and through the haze of what must have been an answer to my emails. "Psssst, hey buddy that thing is a storage drive. Have a nice day". It is outta here now. Meatloaf, "I want my money back!"
Yep, I'm looped, but right.
Take care,
sincerely,
The Furrbles and me,
Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Hello Ultimate again. The Furrbles are back at it. I finally received a call from a gentleman who knows his stuff, named Warren, at Intel. Here Are the answers to my two main questions. 1. The speeds that my, and your 750 are well with in the specifications when being used as a boot drive loaded with an OS. The up to speeds can only be obtained when the 750 is being used as a storage drive. That is fine with me knowing that there isn't a problem with the drives. 2. The boot speeds are slow because of the firmware and the driver. He said that they are working on that now. We can look for an update some time. This is also acceptable to me. This is good. I kept the drive. Now for the rest of Phase II. I installed 2 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSDs in a RAID 0. I am using the 250 GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD as a recovery drive. The RAID 0 tests out at 1110MBs and writes at 1020 MBs. on Crystal Disk Mark and is a good match for the 750. That is almost double of the single EVO. This is how it performs. A System Image back up completes in about 6 secs. A 2 GB video file, "Guardians Of The Galaxy", transfers between the 750 and the RAID 0, either way, in 1 second or less as I couldn't time it exactly or read the speeds it happens so fast. I had to do it multiple times just to watch it do so. I didn't expect this kind of real world performance. I should try larger files. I installed a Hauppage TV tuner card in the 3rd PCIe x 16 slot for good air flow. I've only watched TV for about 10 min. in the last year but there might be that one Nova or other special program I might want to see sometime. There is no TV set here as I consider same a useless piece of equipment. A total of 21 lanes in the processor are being used. The lucky 7 that are left can go to the Casino or something as I won't ever use them. The processor is running at a 40 x multiplier on all 6 cores and the memory is using the XMP profile. The machine is perfectly stable and the processor runs at 39 or 40 degs, C continuously all day long. There is good air flow with 2 140 mm fans for front intake and another same is next to the power supply facing up. A fourth is above the various MB ports as an exhaust. Two 120 MM fans in a push exhaust configuration on the radiator out the top. 2, of course, on the graphics card and a 120 mm fan on the power supply facing down and out at the back bottom. 9 fans total set up as a positive pressure airflow case and is working well. The 3 Samsungs are running at ambient temp. I am monitoring all of the fans cept the power supply and have made adjustments accordingly and have finalized that. I bought a Corsair Vengeance K70 blue back lighting mechanical switch keyboard and it is jewelery and works great. Also a Logitech MX Master wireless mouse, also great. I carried over the Eikon fingerprint reader and the Logitech H800 wireless headset for VOIP, Google Voice, and it still works great as I can move around with it. Some 100 programs installed on the 750 and it all works to and above my expectations and am content. No glitches at all cept for my questions about the 750. I loaded the RAID 0 with 1.5 TBs of media and it is just fine. I have various External hdds for other storage and media back up. An external LiteOn Blu-ray drive, 6 yrs old, rarely gets used. Also a Logitech c920 web cam, also brought forward. Oh yeah, the internal wiring. There are no loose or visible wires inside except for where they connect to their plugs and are all wire managed behind the motherboard and IT quality bundled and tied off. The Fractal Design R5 case is a builder's dream and has the Titanium front door. It is silent and vibration free as expected. Above is the most of the other equipment. This has worked out quite well and the Kitties and me are pleased. Oh, the hours involved, but you know about that as it is all worth it. Heh, heh.
Sincerely,
The Furrbles and me,
Walt Prill

Ultimate Outsider said...

Thanks for the updates. Glad to hear Intel is working on the boot time issue with the 750s!

HookTink Furrble said...

The Furrbles yet again, (looking up and whistling). A very small bulb just flickered dimly and this was what was shown. You asked somewhere in your blog about over clocking. While I mentioned what settings we used I didn't explain how I got there, sooooo. Enter BIOS page. Lower left, set XMP profile. Mid right, set clock thing to the red high performance and gaming block. Enter the EZ Tuning thing. Select cooler type, water cooling and follow the prompts. Save settings and exit. Cross check your settings in CPUID for the multiplier and the memory speed. I didn't fiddle with the switches on the motherboard. I don't like ASUS's software. There other ways to over clock but this is quite easy to do. You may already know this so disregard in that case. Also, check out Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility. We like that for temps. and various tests and may at a later time use that if I want to start pushing the over clocks. Have a good day.
Sincerely,
The Furrbles and me,
Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

More for you to ponder from The Furrbles. "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?........."
The RAID 0 I set up with the 2 1 TB Samsung 850 EVO SSDs were set up as a software RAID. I switched the array to a hardware RAID because the Intel RST driver doesn't work in software mode. T.R.I.M. support for an SSD RAID will only work through the RST driver. I had to switch the SATA cables to the Intel controller ports on the motherboard and then set up the RAID in the BIOS. The RAID storage is now independent of the OS and will remain intact regardless of what happens to the OS. A small issue but with large consequences. You are welcome th use any info I've sent however you wish.
Sincerely,
The Furrbles and me,
Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Hey Ultimate, here is a WOW moment for me that you might find interesting! Fiddling with the Intel 750 SSD, I just ran CrystalDiscMark 4.1.0 x64 and these are the results.
Seq. read 2265 Seq. write 1003 MB/s
4k q 803.7 629.3 "
Seq 1777 1022 "
4k 38.39 341 "
I have Intel's Driver Update Utility automated to run.
I have been running the Intel Toolbox TRIM daily. All of the Intel stuff like the SSD Data Center Tool and RST Driver and Management Engine Components and the MVNe Miniport... installed.
This is as running as my C drive with W7 and 98 programs installed, not as a storage drive.
I don't know how to post a snip here. I also don't know why the speeds have jumped up like this either, (?).
The cold boot time to sign on screen remains at 48 to 51 secs and I haven't been able to improve on that.
I also have the TRIM CMD verified in W7 as 0. We here don't know what happened unless Tinkerbell, my IT Kitty and Capt'n Hook the operator have been at it again while I'm sleeping and they won't verify anything. She is my "little gurl" and he is the "big boy" after all and are way smarter than me.
Sincerely,
The Furrbles
and me, Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Hello Ultimate. How goes the war? The Furrbles here again. I made a fascinating discovery today. In my pursuit of why the Intel 750 SSD runs slower as a boot drive, as opposed to a storage drive, is because Intel IS throttling the drive in this way. I exported the data for the 750 from the Toolbox and this is what I found. The drive is only using three lanes of PCI-e, not 4 but is emulating as 4 lanes. Do the math. 75 % of 2200 is 1750. I am getting a consistent 1752 read speed on my drive. Read my earlier remarks. Ah ha! Intel is protecting the nand cuz a system drive will use a lot more writes than a storage drive. I discovered the drive will run at 2200 by varying the over clock which changes the power sent through the system. I couldn't get the system to run right though cuz I really tricked the drive and it reverted. There will probably not be a driver update so don't turn purple waiting for one to fix the speed thing. Ah well, enjoy what ya have and wait for the next wave of drives for more speed. P.S. W10 does run better than W7 and has a lot of neat stuffs I like it and will keep 10. Take care.
The Furrbles and me, Walt Prill

HookTink Furrble said...

Hooray! ! ! I eat my words, willingly. Intel updated the firmware for the 750 and it cut 20 seconds off the blue light to desktop time for Tbs Toy. We are thrilled! Thank you Intel!
Sincerely,
The 2 Furrbles and me, Walt Prill

Ultimate Outsider said...

Oh man, that's great news! I'll have to check it out this weekend!

HookTink Furrble said...

Blue light to signed in and at the desktop, with a fingerprint reader, (W10 Pro), is 40 secs. now💻. Yeah buddy🙆.
Sincerely,
The 2 Furrbles😼😺 and me, Walt Prill🙇.

HookTink Furrble said...

Furrbles again. The 750 now shows up in device manager under drives and storage controllers.. The update is the Toolbox. 3.2.2. Our drive reads at 2380 in crystal Disk Mark:). Take care.
The Furrbles.

Ultimate Outsider said...

@HookTink - Just updated the firmware today; wow, what a huge improvement in boot time! Love it!

HookTink Furrble said...

"Dancin, dancin in the streets . . . ". Glad it worked out, huh? The new,(?), super hot runnin Samsung 950 Pro, with shit, unsorted out software and no support for W 10 can't hold a candle to the 750 regardless of how Toms Hardware promotes it. Read some of the other reviews. They, Toms, are heavily in bed with Samsung. A notebook/laptop drive ain't a Intel PCI-e server/workstation/desktop drive. I am in love with Intel once again, just like the way it should be.
Take care,
sincerely,
The 2 Furrbles and me, W.P:).

HookTink Furrble said...

Well, it looks like Toms Hardware has gotten their minds right as of this mornin. Heh, heh.

"We have a change in our best picks today, with the Intel SSD 750 1.2TB taking the top spot for performance PCIe — an honor that has just as much to do with capacity as it does performance. The Samsung 950 Pro 256GB slips into the value PCIe SSD pick with impressive performance at a sub-$200 price point."

Ya gotta keep them promotion sites in line, a lot!

Walt Prill").

HookTink Furrble said...

Hello. Furrbles here. Just a minor update and nothing earth shattering. I finally got around to full over clocking of the processor. You already know where this machine was before at 4 Ghz. Next, short version. Set the multiplier in the BIOS to per core under the tuning thing. Ramped up and down changing the multiplier to various settings and using the Intel Tuning thing stress test I ended up at a 4.4 Ghz on all cores. Went as high as 4.6 but I was uncomfortable there. It has been completely stable at 4.4. The voltage increase came along to 2.91V with the bumping up of the core multipliers. That was all that was necessary to get to 4.4 or +. The temps. at idle remain at where they were at stock settings and are only a little higher when all cores are running at 100 %. Think it is safe there with no stability problems.
This guy is fast now with XMP on the memory and a Asus Strix OC version of the R9 380 4 Gb version. Am completely content with the instantaneous abilities of this machine. There isn't anything I can do to make it faster. Oh well, the goal has been reached and am content.
Take care,
The Furrbles and me.