Operation Update: A huge thanks to PCPP for the feature! Super friendly community and fantastic site. Very humbled to be considered feature worthy! Let me know if you have any questions about the build or components.
What is Operation Blackbriar? Operation Blackbriar started as an NEAT surveillance program. It is now the umbrella program for all our black-ops. Full envelope intrusion, rendition, experimental interrogation - it is all run out of this office. We are the sharp end of the stick now. Lethal action? If we have to, sure. That's what makes us special. No more red tape. - Noah Vosen
1) Replace aging i7-970 6 core / 3.2 GHz, with at least 8 core CPU
2) Replace aging GTX 590
3) Implement custom water cooling loop, balance of overclocking and quiet
1) Ryzen 1800X running at 4.0GHz overclock, stable up to approx. 4.05GHz (waiting more stable BIOS for DDR4 overclocking)
2) GTX 1080 Ti running at 2.075GHz / 6GHz
|Heaven Dx11 4.0 (@ 3440x1440 Ultra)||2098||FPS 83.3|
|3DMark Timespy v1.0||10041||Better than 96% of all results|
|3DMark Sky Diver v1.0||36872||Better than 97% of all results|
|PCMark Home Conventional 3.0||4776||Better than 99% of all results|
3) Watercooling thermal results (CPU / GPU Temperatures Above Ambient, Celsius)
a. Load results using FurMark Stress Test @ 2560x1440 for 1 hour
b. Temperatures +/- 2'C
c. Pump speed tested at 30%/50%/70%/100%, only ~2'C difference
|State||Fan Speed %||CPU||GPU|
|Load, Side Off||30%||+43'C||+36'C|
|Load, Side Off||100%||+27'C||+20'C|
2 March: Ryzen 1800X announced
11 March: GTX 1080 Ti pre-order available
24 March: Parts arrive, motherboard unstable, replacement motherboard ordered
31 March: Replacement motherboard arrives, appears stable
2 April: Windows fails to boot, 2 of the 4 DDR4 sticks identified as faulty, replacement kit ordered
28 April: Replacement DDR4 arrives, tested as working
1 May: System build complete, operation successful
Operation After Action Report:
See component reviews for individual mission performance.
Appendix 1: Significant early adopter challenges experienced with CPU, motherboard, RAM. While these will most likely be resolved with time, it certainly added material effort and delays to the build process which negatively impact customer satisfaction.
Appendix 2: Hard line water cooling setup had a number of challenges including: 1) top mount 240mm radiator had to be offset to the rear to allow the front mount outlets to be placed at the top, this resulted in only 4 of the 8 top mount screws being able to be used. 2) EKWB PWM radiator / pump combo still uses molex power, should really update these to use SATA power.
Appendix 3: Finding a coolant that would look good both when the system was off, and on, was hit and miss. First up was the PrimoChill Steel Blue, but it ended up being practically black inside the system (maybe designed for a white theme?). Then the Koolance Fluorescent Blue and this worked beautifully, giving a nice solid blue in both settings.
Appendix 4: Side mission to secure an RGB hub to replace the 2x RGB Y-splitter cables failed. Purchased Silverstone LSB01 arrived with custom connectors that apparently only work with Silverstone RGB strips. No alternative suppliers have yet been found. Mission scrubbed.
Appendix 5: Samsung 960 Evo originally failed to detect in Bios and Windows installer. Solution identified as re-seating the NVMe drive, installing Windows, which then resulted in drive being detected in BIOS.
Appendix 6: As I can't review the Ergotech Freedom HD monitor arm directly (shows as a custom part), I wanted to call out here how excellent it is. It can handle up to 30 lbs (X34 is only 16), and saves a huge amount of desk space. The only 'cons' for it is the clamping mechanism should really have two threaded screws (left and right), rather than one central screw. As the way it is if the arm is off to the side, the whole assembly tilts quite a bit, potentially damaging the desk.
Appendix 7: While all chassis devices now sync via ASUS Aura Sync, the software appears unstable at times, with a hard power off losing settings, and randomly the Trident RGB losing sync. Will continue to monitor and assume later versions of Aura will resolve.
Appendix 8: Ongoing challenges in acquiring a replacement Displayport cable for the Acer X34. Original cable works fine, but is only 5 ft in length. 3 separate longer cables have been tried with mixed results, but ultimately all show a ‘no signal’ error. Will wait for certified Displayport 1.3+ cables to be available and try again.
Appendix 9: Custom modifications were required on the PSU shroud to oclude the cables inside. A thin piece of black craftwood was shaped and is held in by friction. Additionally the chassis border on the bottom and left sides is very narrow and results in a lot of light strip bleed, so thin pieces of black cardboard were inserted to provide a more pleasing visual effect.
Was looking for a CPU that could perform well today and be future proofed for the next few years. Kabylake 4 core was a bit underwhelming, and the X99 intel chips were overpriced. Ryzen offered great performance / cores per dollar, at the expense of some early adopter issues.
1) 8 cores for much less than the equivalent Intel CPU!
1) Overclocking on the 1800X should be far better than the 1700X and 1700 but isn't. Also overclocking maxes out with the CPU running at ~55'C, well within any thermal limit.
2) The 20'C offset on CPU temperatures is annoying when designing a quiet system (PWM uses the CPU temperature as a control point, and the PWM % maxes out at CPU of 80'C, which is only 60'C for Ryzen).
3) Overall early adopter teething issues / AMD rushing the product out
Being a long time ASUS ROG enthusiast, the Crosshair 6 was the natural fit for the Ryzen CPU. The early adopter issues have been quite frustrating to deal with, and that's coming from someone who's built PCs for 20 years and often gotten in early on new releases!
1) ASUS / ROG brand, utilities and quality
2) RGB Auro sync / board looks great
1) AMD rushing the Ryzen out, Asus had 2 weeks to get the boards ready! Stability issues, should be sorted within a few months.
2) Availability early on, makes RMAs very painful
3) Overclocking / AMD / DDR4, all very immature and unknown how it will pan out
4) Would love to have been able to wait for the ROG Code / Formula / Extreme, where are they? :)
Looking for some good high speed RAM for the Ryzen, and these looked the part. Can't get them to overclock above 2400 so far, but hopefully AMD / ASUS sort the issues out before long. Not a fan of buying FlareX / AMD spec'd RAM, lower speed for the same price.
1) Looks great
2) Price is reasonable for what it is
1) Overclocking with AMD is very immature, and unknown how it will pan out
2) Synching with Aura is a bit flakey, hopefully will stabilise
The super fast Samsung NVMe drives are very nice. Was looking at the Pro series, but reviews were that the performance was not detectable in day to day use, so the Evo got the approval. 1TB means I don't need any other drives in the system, so cuts down on cable clutter as well.
1) Huge size, super fast
2) Price is reasonable for what it is
1) Had to re-seat the drive before Windows / BIOS would detect it
Being a water cooled build, I wasn't worried about getting a 3rd party overclocked card with better fans, so the Founder's Editions were the way to go. Being an ASUS motherboard, I got the ASUS FE to go with it. I plan to sell the card when the 11 series GTX (or 20 series) comes out. Overclocks quite well +175 / +500, and runs cool on water even under full load for hours (+30'C above ambient).
1) Super fast, huge memory
2) With EKWB water cooling it runs at +30'C over ambient under full load, overclocked!
1) Nvidia making a mess of the market with all the releases of different models! (e.g. Titan X Pascal > Titan Xp Pascal)
2) Coil whine is annoying, hopefully it goes away after a while
Probably the hardest choice for this build (besides the CPU), was looking for a clean mid range case with lots of glass and good support for water cooling. Other contenders were the Phanteks Evolve, Inwin 909, Thermaltake View 31. While the Evolve was a bit larger, the air flow was not great. Similarly the Inwin looked great, but I would have needed to mod it a fair bit. The Corsair was a great middle ground and looks amazing built.
1) Tempered glass everywhere, looks amazing
2) Nice medium size allows for 2x radiators (360mm and 240mm)
3) Great airflow, probably the best of the tempered glass cases so far
1) Supplied RGB fans are not Aura Sync (or MSI, etc.) compatible, which means you are paying for them but have to swap them out anyway, should be an option for 'no fans'. Similarly the supplied RGB hub only works with Corsair SPL120, not even other Corsair RGB fans, seems poorly conceived.
2) Quite a few air gaps around the case (see OC3D review), which means you need to run the case on positive air flow so that all incoming air goes through the dust filters
3) PSU shround should have had top grommets for motherboard cables as well as a supplied interior shield to hide the cables
4) The 4x thumb screws for each glass panel are a bit 2016, should upgrade to a slot / release mechanism such as some cases are now doing (NZXT?)
5) Front I/O needs USB 3.1 type C, and preferrably pass through video for VR
6) Would suggest getting rid of the front I/O RGB controller and going software only
7) Front lower Corsair logo and side PSU corsair logo are illuminated white, with no option to change. Should come with RGB LEDs at least to swap out, if not true RGB. Also side Corsair logo requires molex power, very annoying.
Was looking for RGB fans that worked with Aura Sync, and these seemed to be the only ones on the market.
1) Works great, very quiet (could be quieter given that I'm running them at 30%)
2) Works with Asus Aura Sync
1) Initially had them plugged into the NZXT Grid+ v2, but the Grid is designed for higher voltage PWM fans, and thus the MasterFans kept dropping in and out, was hard to troubleshoot
2) Would be good if the RGB had its own separate power, as the MasterFans piggy back off the PWM power
As a replacement for a Dell U3011, I was looking at either the Acer X34 or ASUS PG348Q. Reviews were that they were basically identical, so when the X34 came on sale for $200 off, it was an easy purchase. I would have liked to get HDR, but that seems to be a year away yet. The 27" HDR monitors have just appeared and indications are they'll be $2000, yikes.
1) Nice size (could be larger)
2) Great resolution + refresh (100Hz) + GSync
3) Ambient lighting is nice
1) Supplied Displayport cable is too short (5 ft) and can't find any longer ones that work with the monitor! Have tried 3 so far and all give a 'no signal' error, annoying!
1) Sounds great, looks great
1) Batteries don't seem to last that long (about 10 hours?), with RGB on
2) Gets bad intereference from my nearby wireless printer (when it's printing)