Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HD 4870 volt mod kits available!

Yep, i've got some things sorted and they're ready to go. There's only a limited quantity for now but depending on the response, i'll try and get a larger range in. Email me if you have a different video card and i might be able to work something out (i should have the bits for GTX280s too).

The kit consists of:
8 x Black Ramsinks (i can provide two lower profile heatsinks if waterblock clearance is an issue).
1 x 50/100ohm Trimpot
2 x 5k Trimpots
3 x 3-pin headers
3 x Jumpers
1 x Molex Connector
Strip of Seksui thermal tape
Hookup wire.

All you need is a multimeter, soldering iron, hot glue or alternate method to attach trimpots, appropriate video card cooling and of course, patience!

Price is $30 delivered anywhere in Australia.

Email me to order. I accept direct deposit (preferred) and paypal.

I accept no responsibility for incorrect use of this kit and any damage you might cause to your video card. All trimpots are fully tested before shipping. My blog is to be used as a guide only. Volt modding voids all manufacturers warranty.

Basic condensation prevention.

Recently there have been many new people getting into sub zero cooling who still aren't quite sure how they should go about insulating a motherboard. I managed to take a few photos when preparing my new DFI board a few weeks ago and decided to whip up this quick little guide to aid anyone new to phase change (or even DICE). This is the method i use for my main rig which has been running for months without problems.

Equipment needed:
- Closed cell foam (ie neoprene). I use 6mm stuff.
- Aerotape. Basically thick, foamy insulating tape (great stuff!)
- Seal string. I hate this stuff, but it's handy.
- Conformal coating/pcb lacquer. To seal the motherboard from the devil (condensation).
- Nail Polish.
- Di-electric grease.
- Wooden skewer.
- Tracing/baking paper.
- Stanley knife.
- A motherboard + cpu is handy too!

Do not attempt to go further if you aren't happy with the fact that you're voiding your warranty. If you mod it and it dies, suck it up and buy a new one.

First step is to TEST THE MOTHERBOARD USING AIR/WATER TO ENSURE IT ISN'T ALREADY BUGGERED! This only applies of course if it's a new motherboard :).

Next, take apart the rig and transport the motherboard outside (fish aren't necessary but do make a nice background).

Now relocate away from the fish and arm yourself with a can of pcb lacquer! Make sure you're outside because last i checked, this isn't good for your lungs (or carpet). Do a couple of light coats, letting it dry inbetween. You only really need to spray behind the cpu socket area, but it's just as easy to spray the entire board. This will seal off the PCB so if any condensation does form, it can't really do anything.

Now we have the backside protected, it's time to attack the socket. To do this, we're going to whip out the nail polish. The idea is to 'paint' around the socket to protect the pcb and components much the same and the pcb lacquer on the backside. Don't be shy with this stuff, the more the merrier! Just make sure you don't get any in the cpu socket or else you've got one gnarly looking paperweight (i like to put the socket protector that comes with the mobo back in the prevent any accidents).

Grab your foam, measure the cpu socket area and mark it out. I normally use foam in a square using the edge as one side, ram slots as the second, northbridge as the third and then the mosfets as the last edge. This should be plenty unless you're going LN2 (which won't be 24/7 anyway).

Now we get out our pencil and tracing paper (baking paper works great too). Push the paper down over the cpu socket and surrounding components and trace with the pencil where everything is. Now we cut out the stencil and then transfer it to our square of foam. I don't have any pictures of this step because the DFI board i was using had nothing around the cpu socket! Excellent board to work with!

Here's a picture with the cpu socket cut out already. Pretty sloppy, but i don't really care all that much to be honest. Notice there's only two cut-outs required. One for the CPU fan and one for a capacitor.

If you haven't worked out yet, the stanley knife is bloody useful cutting this stuff (or any knife really, good luck with scissors!). For the capacitor hole, i just pierced it with a wooden skewer (the ones you might penetrate meat with to make a kebab) and then stuck a pen through the hole to make it a little bigger. This should give it just enough slack to get over the cap and form a tight seal.

Now we check that it all fits... Huzah!

Now throw the cpu in there and drop the socket lever down. It's also a good idea to put some di-electric grease under the cpu before installing. Use seal string on any suspect areas that you think might not be air-tight.

Now build up around the cpu with the Aerotape. You could also use another thin layer of neoprene, but aerotape is the shit.

Find you backing plate and cut a suitible sized square of foam for the back of the motherboard (usually the same size as the plate). Now use the wooden skewer again to penetrate through the insulation that is covering the 4 motherboard mounting holes (push through from the back... obvious to some, but you never know). Now push the 4 bolts through and check the back plate is pushed evenly against the motherboard.

Now mount that sucker! Tighten the bolts in the classic 'cross pattern'.

After mounting, loosen the bolts and check that a) your mount was even and b) there was no foam/aerotape getting between the cpu and the evap. If it's all good, re-mount and fire it up!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Overclocking the HD4870 in CF

Due to some cpu/motherboard problems i haven't had too much time to test these suckers properly. Unfortunately after forking out for a shiny new E8600, i've hit a wall at 4.75ghz where it is 100% prime stable at 1.4v but it won't even load windows at 4.8ghz regardless of voltage. I'm currently pointing the finger at my new DFI X48-T3RS for that little problem, but from what i've read these boards have no problem going over 475fsb. Not real happy so the results are limited to the old testing i did on my Gigabyte X48-DS4.

Test pad:
E8400 @ 4ghz (or maybe 3ghz?)
Gigabyte X48-DS4
Corsair Dominators @ 1066mhz 5-5-5-12
2 x HD4870 volt modded and watercooled
74gb Raptor
Corsair HX-1000
Everyday, bogged down Vista Ultimate 64bit install

Now it's time to play. Here's a shot of the cards in action. I know, it's a beautiful site and probably needs a NSFW warning :lol:.

The first 4870 i tested maxed out at 950mhz at ~1.4v on water. I had never tested the second 4870 so i wasn't sure what to expect when overclocking them in crossfire so i was hoping to match these clocks.

Testing was done using 3Dmark Vantage. I know there's plenty of people out there who don't like Vantage but FFS, i paid $$$ for this so i'm going to milk it until it dies!

I bumped the volts straight up to 1.4v and tested at 900mhz... pass! Huzah! That's respectful enough, but i wanted more. I then raised the clock speed up to 930mhz... again, pass! Still no artifacts or any signs of instability. Things were starting to look good for 950mhz, so i did just that. Set the clocks to 950mhz and ran Vantage. *crash* Oh well, she didn't quite make it. I managed to pass at 941mhz artifact free which is still a pretty extreme clock. Unforunately, much like when in single configuration, anything over 1.4v didn't help. I'd love to get some DICE on to these things but i can't forsee any money coming my way that i can justify to use on two copper pots.

Here's a screenie

Disregard the poor score, it's not exactly a tweaked os installation atm.

I've also since flashed these cards to the Diamond XOC bios which allows overclocking in CCC up to 990/1200. This should be plenty of headroom for all you extreme overclockers. Stock speeds are 800/1100 but i've edited them to 820/1000 for 24/7 use. I might post a quick guide later to flashing your bios, but there's plenty of resources out there for this.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yes, they're coming!

Just waiting to find some time to insulate my new motherboard... Then we will see what the 4870 can really do!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Volt modding the HD4870.

Ok, here we go. Time to mod the 4870.

The tools we need:
- Digital Multimeter. Do not perform any kind of volt mods without one of these.
- A low wattage soldering iron. A 15watt dick smith/jaycar cheapie will do the job. Make sure it has a nice sharp tip, otherwise it can get difficult in tight places.
- Some kind of wire cutters/strippers to make life a little easier.
- Small wire. Solid core is better for this stuff imho. I usually cut IDE cables into strips and use them. Perfect size for volt modding.
- A hot glue gun/double sided tape or alternative solution to mount components to pcb.
- Electrical tape (optional)
- 1 x 50ohm trimpot. Used for adjusting gpu voltage. 100ohm is also suitable.
- 2 x 5k multiturn trimpots. Used for adjusting DDR voltage.
- 3 x 3pin fan headers - used for turning the mods on/off.
- 3 x jumpers from an old motherboard/hard drive. used with the 3pin header for on/off control.
- 1 x Molex connector for checking voltages

Now you've got the tools, lets get on with the job.

Here's an overview of the card showing the areas we will be working in and the required voltage reading points. For the MVDDC and MVDDQ read points, you can use any of the points in the highlighted area.

Continuing on with the same techniques as used on the 4850, we will sandwich a trimmer between the pcb and a 3pin fan header. Cut off the pin on the left hand side of the trimmer. Bend the middle leg of the trimmer up towards the middle leg of the fan header and solder them together. Now turn the trimpot all the way to the left (raise resistance, lower volts) and check that the resistance between the two remaining legs on the trimpot is 50ohm (maximum). Now solder a wire to the remaining leg of the trimpot. This leg will be soldered to the pcb.

Sorry about the cruddy picture, but i forgot to take a shot of the card with the sticker removed. Here's a shot with the wire already soldered on. It's not the best photo but there isn't much going on around it so you shouldn't have too much trouble working out where it goes. The pad that you solder to is quite small here, some people like to add a drop of hotglue to add extra strength to the connection. I trust my soldering.

Now lay the sticker gently back over the mod. I guess since we haven't removed it, our warranty should be all good... riiiight? Ok, bad joke. Just like the 4850, i put some electrical tape over the wire to prevent it getting caught on anything while handling.

Here's where you have two options. a) Give each mod it's own ground or b) use the same ground point for all mods. I will continue the guide using a mix of both... for extra confusion :).

I use the PCI-E connector as the ground. It's close and very easy to solder to. Before continuing, double check that the resistance is still set at 50ohms! We wouldn't want to boot up and have a dead card would we?

Memory time!
Hopefully this one should be a little easier since i had a nice photo of this area. The green points are where to solder the remaining leg of the trimpot to. I have highlighted two ground points in yellow. You can either use serperate grounds here or share one between the two. On this card, i shared the top one.

Memory VDDC installed.

Now with the VDDQ installed. Notice how i have soldered the ground wire for this mod to the ground on the MVDDC? This is no advantage/disadvantage to doing this. It just reduces pcb soldering and potential problems. Again, double check that all the trimpots have their resistance set at full!

Here is a close-up of the soldering.

Now get that molex out and start wiring up the reading points! Try not to short connections when soldering to the (somewhat cramped) MVDDC and MVDDQ read points. The VGPU read point will be like a holiday :).
This picture also shows how to use method 'b' as explained earlier. Here you can see that all the ground points have been connected together and go to the one ground (the PCI-E connector). I like this method because it makes things a little bit easier and neater.

And we're all done!
Here's a few pictures of the completed mods :)

Now just add your ramsinks and waterblock of choice and overclock away!

One last note, don't forget to sink the voltage regulators. I haven't done so yet because i had trouble getting anything to stick with thermal tape and i've run out of arctic ahesive. This is a must because they get hot and you certainly don't want one of them to fry. I need to fix this asap so i'll have a go a modding something on the weekend. Should have a guide up soon after!

Recommended VGPU voltages:
Stock - 1.28v
Air - 1.35v max
Water - 1.4v (i saw no increase in mhz after 1.4v. I'd love to know if you get results above this)
DI/LN2 - Who knows, just keep going up :D

Enjoy safe (but extreme) voltage.

Friday, July 25, 2008

HD4850 + Thermalright V2 (now with extra volts!)

I decided to quickly do some testing with extra volts before i retire this card.

I bumped the gpu up to 1.33v and went for gold. I managed stable clocks (3dmark, crysis, cod4) at 850mhz on the core. This was only 40mhz lower than with watercooling at the same voltage. Temps only just hit the sixties (full load) even with such high clocks and overvolted. This really says something about the quality of the heatsink.

Anyway, here's the usual screenie to justify my rambling above.

I'd recommend this little bugger for anyone who wants to do some overclocking on the cheap.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mini Review: Thermalright V2 VGA Cooler (on a HD4850!)

After butchering the heat sink on my poor old HD4850 with an angle grinder (long story...), i needed a new, cheap and effective way of cooling this card. After browsing through the usual online stores, i stumbles across the Thermalright V2 copper heat sink at PCCG for $27. Considering most (ie more recent) coolers were around the $60 mark, i thought it looked like a great little buy. I didn't need maximum performance, just something to replace the already lacking stock cooler.

Here's a shot of the typical Thermalright packaging. Plain old cardboard. Just the way i like it, no rice, just performance!

Here's the bundle of goodies hidden away inside. We have the heat sink, instructions, ram sinks (hah, if you can call them that!), thermal paste, mounting hardware and of course, the trademark crappy Thermalright sticker!

Here's a closer look at the heat sink. Pretty standard all copper design with 4 heatpipes. Nothing new here, it just looks like a low profile version of the old XP-90C.

A shot of the base. A little bit grubby, doesn't bother me all that much. All the people that require A++ mirror finishes from the factory will not be impressed though.

Ahh the 'ram sinks'...... Just look at the size of this thing. IT'S ONLY JUST BIGGER THAN A BLOODY FAN CONNECTOR. I think it might hinder performance if anything, but it was free... so it goes on!

Here's a shot with the ram sinks installed. You might notice there's two which are almost flat. This is because the heatpipes won't fit over the standard sized sinks. Again, it probably just heats the ram more. You might want to consider some kind of mosfet cooling at this point. You can see my heatsink which i used earlier with my watercooling.

The heatsink is mounted with 4 thumb screws on the back. Installation was very quick and easy. No crushed cores today *remembers mounting volcano 7's on 9700 cards*

Here's a shot of it installed. One positive of this heat sink is it's fairly low profile. There's plenty of room if you're running a crossfire/sli setup.

Now with a 80mm fan installed. This little Spire fan has been going strong for years!

Now to performance... I wasn't sure what to expect here as I'm very unfamiliar with any gpu heat sinks made in the last few years. I bought this on clearance so i wasn't going to rule out average/poor performance with such a new and toasty card.

The results? Great! Idle temps were down to 31 degrees where the stock hsf would hover around in the 60s. Under full load, temps only reached an amazing 44 degrees! This was an amazing 36 degrees lower under load than the stock heatsink! For $27 i was absolutely over the moon with the performance, not to mention almost dead silent operation.

So... the overclocking! I managed to reach 700mhz on the core with this cooler. That's a 33mhz improvement over the stock cooling. After overclocking max temps only reached 47 degrees under load. Again, i was very impressed with this result. I feel that the overclock was purely voltage limited after seeing how well it flew with extra volts under water. I'm not going to over volt it under air atm because this card is soon to be retired and hopefully going to a new loving home where the owner will overclock the s*** out of it!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Overclocking the HD4870 and GTX280

Ok, it's time post up some of my initial overclocking results done under stock air cooling. Both were done in a nice and toasty room with the heater on. Naturally this isn't very overclocker friendly but it sure beats hypothermia.

Test Rig:
E8400 @ 4000mhz (445x9)
Gigabyte X48-DS4
Corsair Dominator 2x2gb @ 1066mhz 5-5-5-12
Palit GTX280
Connect3D HD4870
WD 74gb Raptor
Corsair HX-1000
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

First up is the 4870. With the previous excitement over the 4850, i just couldn't help myself and cracked open the box faster than you can do something fast... (err?).

The stock cooler on the 4870 is a dual slot hsf which exhausts heat outside of the case. It performs decently enough and is not audible over my SS phase unit... but that's not very hard! Actually it's extremely quite during general use and even while gaming. Fortunately it does not have that annoying whirrr sound that so many crappy little vga fans have. Under the plastic over is a lovely little copper based heatsink with two heatpipes. Here's a picture of the naked heatsink mounted on my HD4850.

Excellent, now that boring crap is out of the way, it's time to overclockzor (yes i just said overclockzor). Here's a tasty picture to wet your appetite.

I was able to acheive some decent clocks using air cooling. I used Crysis and 3DMark Vantage to test stability and i managed to get a clock speed of 850mhz on the core. I managed a suicide run at 870mhz but i got slight artifiacting in some spots. Here's a screenie of Vantage at 850/900.

I didn't overclock the memory at this stage because we all know how silly the idea of air cooling is...

Ok, enough of the red stuff. Time for the GTX280 goodness.

I managed to pick this baby up at $540 which i thought was a decent price. I originally tried to stay away from the GT200 series of cards, but with the massive price drops i couldn't resist.

There was one thing that came to mind after unpacking the GTX280... HOLY FUCK SHE'S A BIG ONE. Yep, she's a big one. I had to hire a crane just to load up to the test bench. But you don't buy this card if you worry about those things. This card was designed to double your electricity bill, help you bulk up, compensate for a small willy and i guess speed too. Enough taking the piss, here's a picture of it next to my PSU box (yes, i know the HX1000 is shit hot but please, look at the video card).

And now a shot of her crunching away. This thing is big, mean and intimidating. Do not leave your PC unattended if you have children, i hear they double as grizzly bears.

As you can see, the GTX280 uses 1x6pin PCI-E and 1x8pin PCI-E. It seems like something silly to point out but there are plenty of angry new GTX280 owners out there who can't use their cards yet because most companies are too tightarse to include a molex to 8pin coverter. So remember kids, make sure your PSU has at least 1x6pin and 1x8pin connectors or pre-purchase a molex to 8 pin coverter!

Now we have that out of the way and i've run out of lame nvidia bashing jokes, it's time to start overclocking. The program i used to overclock this card was the EVGA Precision overclocking tool. Yes i'm aware i'm using a Palit card, not EVGA, but this tool is great! I've never liked the very popular Rivatuner because frankly, it's just full of crap i just don't care about. I want to overclock, maybe check temps sometimes... that's it! Evga Precision is super straight forward - OC core/OC Shader/OC Memory and temp display. The GUI is very easy on the eyes too. Infact, i like it so much i'm even going to share a picture!

Ok, hopefully you've cleaned up and cleared your desk of any tissues so we can continue.

Unfortunately being limited to stock air cooling and having a card with an already monster-like heat output, we were never going to have much overclocking headroom. I managed to get a meazly 80mhz overclock from the gpu. Even then, i noticed some slight (very slight) artifacting sometimes during Vantage. This doesn't fill me with much confidence for the card after seeing the HD4870 easily hit 100mhz on the core. However all hope is not lost, after some decent cooling (i hope the mcw60 fits over the massive gpu) and volt mods, anything is possible. Here's a screenshot of a Vantage run at 680/1100 (stock mem). I managed to break 10k here which was pretty amazing for such a modest overclock on the video card and cpu.

Another thing to note is the smoothness that the GTX280 seems to have. The extra power just manages to break the struggle that the HD4870 experienced in Vantage and Crysis. Maybe it was all in my head (trying to justify $540), but i could definitely feel that extra oomph there.

Overall i was impressed and disappointed with the way these cards performed on air. The GTX280 is Nvidias current flagship cards and although it's a monster in its own right, i expected more overclocking headroom to be there. The HD4870 made me feel like there's just needs to be a little more there, but for $300, it's a bloody steal. Thankfully ATi have brought back some seriously ass kicking cards (R300 again anyone?) and have forced nvidia to dramatically restructure their pricing. I remember not too long ago buying the X800XTPE for nearly $900 which was more than i paid for both the GTX280 and HD4870. In conclusion.. BUY BOTH (so you can overclock and kill one of them - it's fun).

Here's a little teaser of what's to come next time...

Yep, and it isn't even modded yet...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Unleashing the 4850 Part 3 - Cooling and overclocking

Finally i will finish off my little HD4850 adventure. I was quick to wrap this up because i picked up some new hardware today and just couldn't wait to play.

Here's the naked card. We will need to add a heatsink to the mosfets on the right which is very important because these suckers get hot.

Here's the heatsink in question. I found it in the deep dark depths of my cupboard o' crap. I think it was an old P3 heatsink (half of one anyway).

Here's a shot of the bottom. The small step makes it a perfect fit for the card!

I installed it using thermal tape but due to its weight, i used a cable tie to ensure it doesn't fall off.

I had every intention of adding ramsinks, but unfortunately i didn't have any on hand that were suitable. The best ramsinks (imho) are made by chopping up any old gpu/cpu/nb/sb heatsinks and sticking them on with artic adhesive or thermal tape. Spending $30 for a pack of 8 pre made ramsinks is crazy. I know i can think of hundreds of better things to spend that on. Do not overvolt the ram without ram sinks. The ram gets very hot to touch even at stock settings, i do recommend overvolting with ramsinks and decent airflow.

I'll be using a Swiftech MCW60 waterblock to cool the gpu on this beast. Many prefer the option of the full cover waterblocks but nothing can match the simplicity and upgradability of the MCW60. I could argue all day why the full cover blocks are a waste of money... but i wont. Lets just get into some overclocking!

Unfotunately nearly all the pictures i took did not turn out. Photography isn't my strongest asset and most shots were taken over by the flash reflection. Here's one shot of the card in my rig with the waterblock installed. One thing to note is how simple reading the voltages becomes with the use of the molex connector. The test probe slots right in and there's no danger of shorting any components. As you can see, the VGPU mod is turned on (bottom) and the VDDR is in the off position.

The test setup:
E8400 @ 4ghz - Frozen SS
Gigabyte x48-DS4
Corsair 2x2gb PC2-8400 Dominators
Connect3D HD4850 - MCW60
74gb WD Raptor
Thermaltake 750watt Toughpower
Fluke Multimeter :)

I used 3DMark Vantage to test for max stable clocks without artifacts. Note that i only overclocked the memory to an even 1000mhz (stock 993mhz). This was due to not having any ramsinks installed and i didn't want to take the risk of damage.

Stock cooling and voltage (1.2v load) i only managed a pathetic 670mhz on the core. Any higher than this and i would get slight graphic corruption and experience crashing. Temps were well above 90 degrees load.

With a voltage bump (1.3v load) i was able to achieve a very respectable 890mhz on the core. I was very happy with this result for safe 24/7 gaming. Temperatures only hit around 43 degrees load which says excellent things about the MCW60.

I finally bumped the voltage again up to 1.4v (still, fairly safe under water) and managed an amazing run of Vantage at 975mhz on the core. This was not stable for 24/7 use however, but with a little extra voltage i'm sure i could have broken 1 ghz on the gpu.

Overall i'm extremely impressed with the 4850s performance and it's excellent response to voltage. Priced at only $200, these cards deliver exceptional results and are unmatchable in their price bracket. I would highly recommend voltmods for this card if you're after maximum performance and are keen to take the plunge into extreme overclocking territory.