Upgrading in Mid-2022: Rig Update Blog Part 3
Episode Three: Revenge of the Kent
In part one of my personal rig update I discussed my choice of an Intel Core i9-12900KS processor, while part two became an in-depth look at the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master motherboard, which I had elected to use in the update.
Now in part three it’s time to take a look at the other major (and minor) components that I decided to change. When it became apparent that, at minimum, the motherboard and CPU were going to need to be replaced, I had to decide how far down the rabbit hole of component upgrades I wanted to go.
The only things that I knew for certain would not be changing were my case, GPU, power supply (this generation, anyhow – Ed.), plus most of the liquid cooling blocks and fittings. I also had no intent of getting rid of the power supply cables as I did the cable sleeves myself, and have a bit of a sentimental attachment to them. Everything else was fair game.
RAM: To DDR5 or not to DDR5
Once I made the decision to go with Alder Lake and Z690, the next choice would be if I wanted to stick with DDR4, or take the step into DDR5. This was one of my more difficult decisions I faced during the process. If the failure that caused my need to upgrade had occurred two or three months earlier I would not have elected to go DDR5.
At that time the prices were still far too high, and the available kits still seemed very immature. I would have found the best Z690 DDR4 motherboard I could get, and kept using my existing RAM kit. But DDR5 prices have been steadily dropping to a (somewhat) more reasonable range, and the available speeds and timings have improved dramatically. At the time of my purchase the G.Skill 2x16GB 6400 CL32 kit was the fastest DDR5 available, but was actually selling for less than many slower kits from other manufacturers.
I was lucky enough to find the silver Trident Z5 RGB kit on sale for $30 less than the black version of the same kit.
Speaking about RAM choice, this can be one of those touchy subjects with people having some strong feelings. I’ve found people fiercely loyal to certain brands, while others have had many problems with the same brand. I probably lean a bit towards G.Skill as I’ve owned many of their kits over the years, have only had to contact support once, and their support was responsive and my issue was resolved with a quickly processed RMA.
With that said, I’ve also used Crucial (RIP Ballistix), Corsair, Kingston (RIP Hyper X and welcome back Fury) and probably another half dozen RAM brands as well. Out of all those, I have only had one other kit that needed to be replaced. Honestly, if your RAM comes with a lifetime warranty, and is from a brand that has reputable customer service, I think you can feel pretty safe that most modern RAM is going to do exactly what it says.
With regards to RAM doing exactly what it says, I was actually a bit concerned about the G.Skill 6400 kit I ordered. It wasn’t on the QVL list for my motherboard, and since the release of DDR5, I’ve hear many stories of XMP 3 issues. G.Skill does offer a 2x16GB 6000 CL30 kit that is on the QVL list, but in a strange twist of Newegg’s daily deals and coupon codes, when I ordered my 6400 Kit, it was actually less expensive than the 6000 kit.
I knew that if XMP wasn’t working, I could manually get the kit to the speed and timings of the 6000 kit, but I’m happy to report that wasn’t an issue. The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master recognized the XMP settings from my kit, set the timings and has not (to this point) had a single RAM related instability issue.
Storage: May the Gen4s be with You
The next thing I needed to look at was storage. My old system used a 500GB Samsung 970 EVO for the operating system, a 1TB Sabrent Rocket Q as my games library, then three 1TB Samsung 860 EVO SATA drives for backups and other document storage. As I was moving to 12th gen, I felt it was probably time to upgrade my NVMe drives to PCIe gen 4.
After some research on the performance of many of the more popular gen 4 M.2 drives, I was on the verge of pulling the trigger on two Adata XPG S70 Blade 2TB M.2 drives. That was until I saw that the 4TB model was on sale for a price that made it ridiculously close to the price of the two separate drives.
Now my single Gen 4 drive, connected directly to the CPU lanes, only has 500GB less storage than my previous entire system. I’ve decided to keep the three Samsung SATAs and set them as a parity storage space which I only use for my system backup.
CPU Cooling: Staying away from TJ Max
At this point I was set for the main components of my system update. However, much like the auto mechanic, there were a couple of other changes I wanted to make “while I was in there.” First, I ordered an LGA1700 Socket version of the EK Quantum Velocity 2 CPU block. I had recently built a custom loop in a Lian Li 011 Dynamic Mini and used the AM4 version of this same block. It is really a fantastic looking block and it did a great job in managing the heat from the Ryzen 9 5950x in that system, so I felt it would be up to the challenge presented by the 12900KS as well.
I was also very impressed by the new Exact Mount system EK is using on these blocks. While it may take a little more effort to mount than other’s I’ve used. It is a great way to insure even pressure across the entire IHS.
In my final step to insure equal pressure across the entire IHS of the 12900KS, I elected to go with a Thermalright anti-bend plate. If you’ve not seen it mentioned, there is some controversy with the LGA1700 mounting system, as some very technically skilled influencers have found that it does not provide equal pressure across the rectangular heat spreader of the Alder Lake CPUs.
In addition, some people have even reported that their processors have bent within the mount. Several companies have introduced a mounting bracket that replaces the stock clamp and equalizes the mounting pressure on the IHS, but I believe that Der8auer and Thermal Grizzly created the original.
Unfortunately at the time, the Thermal Grizzly version was not yet available in the US, so I picked up the LGA1700-BCF (Bend Correction Frame) from Thermalright. The installation procedure of these kits is very specific, and can be a bit tedious.
While the peace of mind in using one of these frames is worth it, when installed correctly, if they are over-tightened the risks can be not recognizing all RAM channels, not posting, or even motherboard damage.
Wrapping Up (for now)
With all the parts selected and in hand, all that remained was testing the CPU, Ram, and Motherboard outside the case, doing the final integration with my existing components, and performance testing. All the performance numbers, along with the steps I took to de-bloat and optimize Windows 11 will come in the next and final part of this upgrade blog.
Until then, I will leave you with this: