Overclocking AMD Ryzen Hardware to Boost Performance in Gaming and eSports

What seems like not so long ago, back in January of 2005, I was experimenting with overclocking my Quicksilver PowerMac G4 in order to achieve better performance with DigiDesign's Pro Tools digital audio recording/editing software, and ID Software's Quake 3 Arena. Long story short, things did not initially go very well, and I quickly realized how difficult overclocking can be. You can read that old blog post below if you are feeling nostalgic. WARNING, my son would describe my writing in that old post as a bit "cringey." Having read that post myself after 14 years have passed, I might have to agree. :)

http://web.archive.org/web/20110929104627/http://homepage.mac.com/chamady/DP133Review/

Fast forward to today, and I am once again smitten with the notion of eeking out every bit of performance from gaming/eSports systems. eSports is exploding across the world, and even K12 schools, colleges, and universities are now participating in this new spectator event. It's no secret that a superior gaming PC can potentially give an eSports competitor an advantage over someone else gaming on a computer with less capability. What can be done to increase the performance of a modern gaming PC short of buying better hardware? Overclocking. If you want to jump right into overclocking without reading about my experiences, feel free to head over to overclockers.com and check out this excellent article on the subject:

https://www.overclockers.com/amd-ryzen-overclocking-guide/amp/

The machine that I experimented with is a CyberPowerPC Gamer Master ET8832. Currently, you can see the full specs on the CyberPowerPC site here: https://www.cyberpowerpc.com/system/READY-TO-SHIP-GAMER-MASTER-ET8832

The most important specs that we will be working with are:

Processor- AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 8 core/16 thread
RAM- 16 GB XPG DDR4 at 2666 MHz
Video Card- MSI Ventus GeForce® RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6
Fans- Three case fans, one processor fan, and two fans on the RTX 2070.

There are a number of pieces of software that can assist with this process. They are:

Cinebench
CPU-Z
GPU-Z
Ryzen Master

Let's first start with the processor. In stark contrast to Intel's past attempts to stop overclocking (see: https://gadgets.ndtv.com/laptops/news/intel-officially-kills-overclocking-of-locked-cpus-with-microcode-update-800575 ), AMD makes overclocking EXTREMELY easy. Simply download the Ryzen Master software from https://www.amd.com/en/technologies/ryzen-master and create some overclocking profiles. Here is a good video detailing how to do just that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyj6qa-jtfk

You will want to gradually increase the core clock speed of your processor until you begin to experience issues such as applications, or the entire computer, crashing. Once that happens, you might see if gradually increasing the processor's core voltage can stabilize your overclock. Using Ryzen Master, I was ultimately able to set the Ryzen 7 2700X's core clock speed to 4.1 GHz rather than the default 3.7 GHz after settling on a voltage increase to 1.4v. Raising a Ryzen 7 2700X's core voltage any higher than 1.4v can be risky and could potentially reduce the life of your processor. Using these settings, the Cinebench CPU test scored its highest and the system was very stable for gaming and general purpose computing. In the image below, you can see how the Cinebench CPU score gradually improved during eight unique overlock configurations and subsequent Cinebench tests. Note: Cinebench reports the CPU at its default speed, regardless of the actual overclocked frequency.

In order to determine stability, once changes were made to the processor core clock and/or core voltage, I ran the computer through both the CPU and OpenGL Cinebench tests. I then gamed on the system playing Fortnite and Apex Legends for at least 30 minutes without a crash.

It should be noted, however, that once a stable overclock profile was determined for the processor, and the overclock was rock solid during: gaming, Cinebench testing, basic computing tasks such as web browsing or watching online videos, doing any extremely hardcore task such as transcoding video using Handbrake maxed out all of the CPU cores at 4.1 GHz simultaneously and continuously. This in turn resulted in extremely high CPU temperatures and ultimately caused a system crash. I believe that I would have to replace the stock CPU cooler with something more specifically designed for overclocking if I wanted to transcode video in Handbrake with a CPU overclock. 

Next, I worked on boosting memory (RAM) speeds. Let's say that you want to upgrade your 16 GB of 2666 MHz DDR4 memory with additional RAM, but you can't seem to locate any 2666 MHz RAM to purchase. It is oftentimes possible to purchase faster memory such as 3000 MHz DDR4, install it, and it will step-down in speed, running at a slower clock rate. 

That is exactly what I had to do in this experiment. The original 16 GB of RAM was running at 2666 MHz. I installed 16 GB of 3000 MHz RAM into the CyberPower PC to take it to 32 GB and the faster RAM ran flawlessly at 2666 MHz. Next, I overclocked the default RAM settings using the BIOS so that ALL of the memory would run at 3000 MHz. Here is a video that discusses how to overclock RAM (among other things) on a Gigabyte motherboard:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8z_wTStcf8

and another here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoXbHRR7j98

The memory in the CyberPowerPC is now all running at 3000 MHz via an X.M.P configuration, which is one of the simplest ways to enable a memory overclock. You can see the bios setting here:

Finally, we can overclock the PC's MSI Ventus RTX 2070 graphics card to get even more frames per second out of it when gaming. In order to do this, I downloaded and installed MSI Afterburner from:

https://www.msi.com/page/afterburner

I changed a few things with MSI Afterburner. I bumped the RTX 2070's core clock from 1410 MHz to 1585 MHz, which moved the boost clock from 1620 MHz to 1795 MHz, and I altered the memory speed from 1750 MHz to 1800 MHz.

Here is a video that shows how to do that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUEMS-B1Siw

GPU-Z shows us all of the numbers for the video card. Compare the Default Clock settings to the current GPU Clock settings:

Once that was done, I confirmed in Cinebench that we were now getting better OpenGL scores and I saw higher framerates when playing Fortnite.

Now we come to the most important discussion. Heat. Once all of the overclocking was done, it should be noted that both the computer processor and the video card were consistently running operating temperatures around 78C, and sometimes peaking into the low 80C range when gaming. If you would like your computer components to have a nice, long, lifespan, this is too hot. I began to investigate the airflow within the CyberPower PC case. 

It turns out, all of the case fans in the Gamer Master case were configured to vent hot air OUT from inside of the case, but there were no fans configured to pull cool air INTO the case. What I did to resolve this issue was install an additional 120 mm case fan into the top of the case blowing cool air directly down onto the AMD Ryzen's heatsink/fan assembly, and I reversed the rear top case fan so that it would blow cool air onto the CPU from the rear of the case as well. I also installed an 80 mm case fan at the bottom-rear of the case blowing cool air directly beneath the RTX 2070's cooling fans. This resulted in maybe a 1 or 2 degree change in temps, but nothing substantial.

I now had three fans blowing cool air into the case and two fans venting out of the case, but there continued to be a tremendous amount of heat building up within the computer's enclosure. I looked at the venting on the side panel behind the case's exhaust fans and was surprised to find only thin vents cut out as small slots in the sheet metal. I put my hand up to these slots and was shocked to feel very little air movement whatsoever.

I decided to experiment by removing the side panel of the computer case, completely unobstructing the air flow of the exhaust fans. The temperature of the video card and processor suddenly dropped by over 10C! It appears that while I was successfully bringing cool air into the case, the vents in the side panel, obviously not designed for overclocking, were inhibiting the removal of the warm air. Once the air flow was maximized by removing the side panel and allowing the exhaust fans to freely vent the hot air out, gaming now occurs with both the processor and the video card displaying temperatures in the low to mid 60C range, and very rarely, occasionally reaching 70C. What an incredible result from such a simple solution!

All that it took to accomplish this dramatic reduction in temperature was a redesign of the airflow system within the computer case. Once that was accomplished, the computer performed nothing short of amazing. After the temperature issue was resolved, the PC was used extensively and at length for gaming, simultaneously recording the gameplay in OBS software, and I watched Youtube, Twitch, and Mixer on the computer for hours on end without a single crash.

This entire project has been such an exciting learning experience for me, I can't begin to describe how it has "recharged my batteries" and renewed my love of technology. I am looking forward to seeing eSports continue to grow and eventually be available to all students interested in this new opportunity for college scholarships and careers. Those of you currently "training" for eSports might want to consider investigating overclocking as an inexpensive way to become a little bit more competitive. There are, however, potential negative consequences involved and you could end up with a damaged or non-functioning computer. Experiment at your own risk!

Finally, the only cost involved here was about $20.00 to purchase additional case fans.

CH

 

DIY Solar Pool Heater- My Summer Maker Project

I've been tossing this idea around for about 20 years, ever since we moved into our current house, a house that included an above-ground pool. I'm not really that fond of swimming pools, unless of course the water is exceptionally warm. The first time I put my foot into that pool and felt how cold the water was, I started thinking about ways that I could warm up the water.

Very soon after getting it set up for swimming, when adding water to that above-ground pool, I noticed how hot the water was that had been sitting inside the garden hose which was laying out in the sun. I mulled over an idea of how I could use the sun and water to heat up a swimming pool. The initial issue with this solution was a lack of recirculation. If I continued to add hot water from the garden hose, eventually the pool would be overfilled. At that point I would have to remove some water from the pool (wasteful) in order to continue adding hot water.

Fast forward twenty years. I woke up Saturday morning and had to remove a submersible pump from an old stone well. As I was pulling the pump up, I suddenly realized that if I put a submersible pump in the pool, ran a couple of hundred feet of garden hose out into the yard and ultimately back into the pool, and was able to automatically turn the pump on and off once the water in the hose had been heated up by the sun, I would finally have my solar heated pool solution. But how could I automate the pump turning on?

This turned out to be the easiest and most cost effective part of my entire plan. You can now buy programmable power outlets/timers. These outlets allow you to program power on and power off events. Here is a timer similar to the one that I picked up from Menards:

https://www.menards.com/main/electrical/doorbells-alarms-security-systems/security-timers/smart-electrician-1-outlet-2-conductor-indoor-programmable-timer/59738sedid/p-1513154677071-c-6471.htm?tid=-1479783732230952814&ipos=7

Here's a link to a pump like the one I used:

https://www.menards.com/main/plumbing/pumps-well-tanks/sump-pumps/barracuda-reg-1-4-hp-thermoplastic-submersible-utility-pump/91250/p-1444428713624-c-1489153238832.htm?tid=-4915799737238744701&ipos=1

The entire schematic looks something like this:

Programmable Timer->Pump in Pool->Hose to Yard->Hose to Pool

I set the timer to turn on at the hour and half hour, all day from 10 AM to 7 PM. The timer allows the pump to run for 3 minutes and then automatically turns off. This provides enough time for the hot water to evacuate from the hose, while refilling the hose with cool water off the bottom of the pool. 27 minutes later, the pump turns back on and again pumps hot water heated to 110F by the sun back into the pool.

Last evening we soaked and lounged in our pool with a water temperature in the mid-high 80s. Water temperature courtesy of the sun. :)

CH

WARNING: Remove timer from power and pump from pool before swimming! Electrical hazard.

 

Apple Watch Messages Reply Glitch/Bug/Mirroring Issue

I've had an Apple Watch now for nearly two years. Overall, I absolutely love it. One little glitch with Messages on the watch has been bugging me though, and I believe that I have finally figured out the issue (after a suggestion from my wife that I actually look at the Messages' settings, which incidentally, are on the Apple Watch app located on the iPhone).

Let me first start by saying that I'm not sure if this was a bug, a glitch, or a configuration error on my part. All I know is that frequently I would receive a message on my watch, and then immediately hit the "voice to text" button to create a reply. The reply would immediately default to being sent via my Twitter SMS feed rather than the active incoming Messages thread. Normally, I would catch it prior to sending crazy messages to Twitter. Today, I did not. NOTE: If you don't have Twitter sending updates to your phone via SMS, you probably haven't noticed this issue.   

Here is what I think is going on. By default, Apple Watch Messages are set to mirror Messages on your iPhone. Whatever messages are at the top of Messages on your iPhone move to the top of Messages on the Apple Watch. After a number of Twitter updates posting to Messages on my iPhone and Apple Watch via the Messages app, if I would receive a text message from someone, the following would occur:

If I didn't manually make sure that I was posting a reply on the correct thread and instead just hit the voice to text button, I think the Twitter thread at the top of the iPhone Messages app was causing the Apple Watch to (mirror) switch to that thread in the middle of my dictation. If I clicked send at that point, the message would go to Twitter instead of the Messages thread I was trying to respond to. I realize that Messages on the iPhone should have switched to the incoming chat thread and stop this behavior, but I think this could potentially be a bug. 

Turning off Mirroring, switching to Custom, in the Messages section of the Apple Watch app on my iPhone seems to have corrected this issue. If there is another explanation that I am missing, please add it to the comments and I will update this blog.

CH

Internet Safety Resources

Over the past few weeks we have been taking an ever increasing look at web resources that we can share regarding Internet safety. Here are some of the best ones and a brief description of the contents of each link:

“Finstas,” are "alias" accounts created and used by teens to hide more provocative behavior from parents, educators, and potential future employers. See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/instagram-finsta-rinsta-ramona-pringle-1.4279550

"Vault apps" are apps that appear to be one thing, but actually have a hidden, secret function: https://www.bark.us/blog/find-hidden-apps/

http://www.netsmartz.org is a good resource for internet safety training, especially for younger students.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/privacy-and-internet-safety and http://www.connectsafely.org are both fantastic resources for students and parents regarding Internet safety.

This website, found on commonsensemedia.org, has done a great job putting together a list of the top 17 apps that students might be involved in: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/16-apps-and-websites-kids-are-heading-to-after-facebook

CH

Twitter/Personal Learning Network Presentation 

If you are an Anthony Wayne employee and are interested in seeing the slides from today's session on creating a personal learning network (PLN), please click here:

Twitter Slides

A huge THANK YOU to my wife Carrie, and her co-worker Mary-Jon for allowing me to modify their existing presentation.

Chris