Friday, April 12, 2013

i7 3930K (LGA2011) build: Asus P9X79

I spent a good few weeks researching and reading up on my latest monster video editing box.  Though it was expensive, I decided to go for the i7 3930K chip, a pricey $539 on sale from NewEgg.  Listed below are the parts that I assembled for the box.  The mainboard and the chipset were my primary concerns, but the other parts were chosen because they conformed to my build specs and they were on sale or discounted in one way or another during one of NewEgg's Build sales.

The cost of the items weren't bad, but they certainly added up:

1 x ($-75.00) DISCOUNT FOR AUTOADD #76165


Shipping and Handling:$7.99
Total Amount:$1835.15

Here's a pic of them fresh out of the shipping box:
Because I don't build too often, it took about a day to assemble the main board and the components in the above picture.  It took another 1/2 day to port my four drive RAID 1+0 set from my old video editing workstation to this one.  Of course, I had to create a new RAID set on the new box.  I will no longer be using the trusty 3Ware 9650SE RAID card, as the new mobo has both Intel and Marvell RAID chipsets on board.  The Marvell only supports two drives, so I used the Intel to connect up my four 1.5TB Western Digital Green drives.

As all my content (photos/docs/videos/music/virtual machines/etc) is on this redundant RAID set, I made sure to backup the ext4 filesystem that sits on top it with fsarchiver.  Secondly, I bought a 3TB drive as a utility drive to try out my fsarchive restores.  This is a good system, as it confirms my backup is valid:
1) unmount content filesystem (the filesystem that's on top of RAID)
2) backup content using fsarchiver to a system drive with enough space to hold the 1.4TB of content
3) as my livelihood depends on my content, test the fsarchiver restore process by restoring the archive to a third drive, a 3TB Seagate partitioned with GPT and formatted using ext4
4) when the restore is validated as good, copy the files from the restore over to my new RAID 1+0 set. 

I love the Corsair 400R case.  With the nice cable tunnels, I was able to keep the mainboard area pretty free of cables, though it doesn't look like it from the below pic.  You can see the pipes to the Corsair H100i in the center of the photo.

I ran most of the cables through the tunnels.  You can see how many cables were hidden using these tunnels:

I'm not a great cabler and I just wanted most of the cables out of the way.  Given that there are five 3.5" drives, one 2.5" SSD and a DVD player in the box, I think I did alright.

The real test was firing the box up for the first time.  I was rather shocked when it did come up, mainly for the worry that the memory wouldn't be compatible.  But it was.  Also, I had invested a great deal of time before the build in reading the 176-page manual and watching a bunch of build videos listed at the bottom of this post.  So the base build with a single SSD hard drive powered up successfully.  Hooray!

The next hurdle was installing a basic operating system, Fedora 18 64-bit on my single SSD in the machine.  Again, surprisingly, this worked without a hitch.  I had spent a good deal of time reading the FedoraProject's list of UEFI bugs and I was suspect of problems, but was very happy that I didn't encounter any.

The final hurdle was migrating my four drives from my old workstation to run a RAID 1+0 configuration on the new box using the ASUS's Intel RAID chipset.  Once I moved the drives over, I  configured the BIOS in the Asus P9X79 to run RAID.  I then created the RAID set and rebooted the box.  I then saw three main screens on bootup:
1) The Marvell RAID BIOS bootup screen:

2) The Intel RAID BIOS bootup screen:

3) The American Megatrends BIOS screen:

The American Megatrends BIOS and ASUS's UEFI BIOS screens are completely configurable and nicely laid out.  I won't be using many of the options, but it is just a pleasure to have a system that is so well stocked, but boots up quickly.  I'd say it takes about 30 seconds to get from cold start to my initial Fedora 18 grub2 prompt.

I haven't overclocked the mobo yet, but according to what I've been reading and the fact that I have good chip cooling via the H100i, I should be able to push the i7 from 3.2 to at least 4.6Ghz.

Wattage Used for Typical Tasks
Here is a chart of the tasks running in Fedora 18 x86-64 and the wattage used

Gnome System Monitor graphic
On the top row, the CPU History chart, you can see that my H264 video encode took about 40% of the CPU.  You can see all twelve CPUs being used.  On the bottom row, the Network History, you can see my upload to Vimeo.  The upload of my 530MB file took about 150s at a peak upload rate of 40Mbps.  That 40Mbps upload is courtesy of FIOS.

Next up: installing Windows 7 Professional so that I can do some baseline performance measurements.


UPDATE 2013/11/23
I've been so busy at work for the last six months that I haven't had time to use the new box.  Turns out that I made a mistake in copying over my files to my new drive..I hadn't preserved the time/date stamp of all my files, normally accomplished with a "cp -Rp .."!  This means that I then can no longer tell when I edited any of my scripts, took a picture, etc, etc.  Bollucks!  So I had to grab the timestamps from my original drive and apply them via "touch".  The procedure looked something like this:

sudo find  -printf "%t %h/%f\n" > ~/temp.txt
awk '{print "touch -d \""$1,$2,$3,$4,$5"\"",$6}' temp.txt >

temp.txt looked like this:
Thu Nov 22 12:37:26.0000000000 2012 ./sodo
Sat Jan 22 10:29:32.0000000000 2011 ./sodo/.netbeans
Sat Jan 22 10:29:32.0000000000 2011 ./sodo/.netbeans/.superId
Sat Jan 22 11:58:29.0000000000 2011 ./sodo/.netbeans/6.7 looked like this:
#!/bin/bash -xv
/usr/bin/touch -d "Thu Nov 22 12:37:26.0000000000 2012" ./sodo
/usr/bin/touch -d "Sat Jan 22 10:29:32.0000000000 2011" ./sodo/.netbeans
/usr/bin/touch -d "Sat Jan 22 10:29:32.0000000000 2011" ./sodo/.netbeans/.superId
/usr/bin/touch -d "Sat Jan 22 11:58:29.0000000000 2011" ./sodo/.netbeans/6.

Then I plopped a #!/bin/bash at the top of the shell script, chmod a+x, and off I went.  But the script worked, thankfully!  Unfortunately, I wasted about two hours dealing with this today.  Super drag!

A second problem I see is when I use "mv" to move files to my new RAID set, the mv command gives me:
mv: setting attribute ‘security.selinux’ for ‘security.selinux’: Operation not permitted

Haven't figured out why tho.  Argh.
*** end update ***

ASUS P9X79 Home Page:
Manuals/Qualified Vendor Lists/Firmware Updates:

JJ of ASUS Republic of Gamers (asusrog) was immeasurably helpful in the builds.  In fact, I probably wouldn't have bought the board if I hadn't seen these videos.  Here are the core videos that helped me:
X79 Overview, Part I:
X79 Overview, Part II:
P9X79 Deluxe Hands-On Review:
Build, Part I:
Build, Part II:

Overclocking on Sandy Bridge
Auto Overclocking:
Part I:
Part II:
Advanced Overclocking:

Non-JJ vid on overclocking:

RAM Cache/SSD Cache
How to Setup a RAM Cache on a P7X79:
SSD Caching:
SSD Caching (short version):

Cable Management

Feel free to drop me a line or ask me a question.