Build: FormD T1 + RTX 3080 FE
It's been almost 6 years since I built my last desktop PC. For the past 3 years, I've been using laptops exclusively as I wanted something portable and powerful. While it's been a fun ride optimizing all my of my laptops, I got tired of the high cost to performance when compared to a traditional desktop.
I decided that it was time to make the switch back to desktop PCs, especially with all the great hardware from AMD and Nvidia that will be available before the end of the year. While I wanted to switch over to desktops, I also didn't want to give up the convenience of a portable machine.
My goal is to have the following:
Be portable enough to easily bring with me anywhere
Be very quiet in close quarters
Be capable of gaming at 4K 60FPS
After doing some research, I found the perfect SFF case and began the process of finding all the best parts to suit my needs.
Frame – FormD T1
- At a sub-9.5L of space, this was one of the smallest cases that could fit up to 3-slot GPUs and is also portable enough for mobile use. The case also has great airflow and can support a 240mm custom water loop.
Motherboard – Gigabyte Aorus B550i
- I went for B550i instead of X570 because of the improved VRMs (70A vs 90A). Plus, I didn't want the fan on the M.2 heatsink.
CPU – Ryzen 9 5900x (R5 3600 currently being used)
- I'll be getting the Ryzen 5900x once it's available. I plan to hold onto it until Zen 4+, Zen 5, or maybe Intel will impress me with a fast and efficient processor. For now, I'll be using a Zen 2 R5 3600 that I purchased from a friend to get the system running. It's also insurance in case I can’t get a Zen 3 CPU on launch day. I’ll immediately replace the CPU with a 5900x once it’s in my hands.
GPU – RTX 3080 Founders Edition and AMD Big Navi
- The best GPU available for 4K gaming. I’ll also be getting AMD’s Big Navi equivalent to test against the RTX 3080. Whichever fails to meet my requirements will be sold.
RAM – 32GB G.Skill Ripjaws V 3200MHz C14
- Samsung B-die capable of at LEAST 3600MHz at C16 latency. I'll be experimenting with overclocking to improve CPU performance once the 5900x comes out.
Storage – 1TB Samsung 960 EVO + 2TB Intel 660P
- Already have both from a previous machine. The 960 EVO is for OS and other programs/files with the 660P specifically for games.
PSU - Corsair SF750 Platinum
- The current highest wattage SFX PSU with a platinum rating. I also like to get double the wattage my system would output to stay as close to 50% PSU load for maximum efficiency.
CPU Heatsink – Scythe Big Shuriken 3 + Noctua NF A12x15
- The L12S was actually my first choice but requires low profile RAM modules. I could remove the heatsinks from the Ripjaws V but didn’t want to deal with potential heat issues once I overclock them. The Big Shuriken 3 doesn’t have RAM height restrictions and has equivalent performance (cooling and noise) once a Noctua NF A12x15 fan is used instead of the stock Kaze slim fan. I also believe it will be able to handle a 5900x once it's been tweaked with CTR (Clock Tuner for Ryzen) or by using PBO/PPT/Eco Mode.
Case Fans – 2x Noctua S12A FLX
- The highest airflow fan Noctua has in the 120mm fan size. I also had these lying around from a previous build. They're very quiet through the RPM range and have a pleasant hum at full speed. I may get the Chromax versions in the near future.
The frame came flat packed and requires the user to build the entire thing. Each piece is CNC’d and anodized black which adds to the quality of the product. The frame build was fairly easy and took about 20 minutes while watching Optimum Tech’s build video. I built the frame in the 2-slot mode to maximize CPU cooler height.
Installing the Big Shuriken 3 to the motherboard was very easy and very Noctua-like. As you can see, RAM clearance is not an issue and the heatsink overhangs the VRM area for some additional air cooling. The Noctua fan uses a super short 4-pin cable that can’t reach the CPU fan connector but the Gigabyte B550i comes with a super short 4-pin cable for System Fan 2 which I ended up using. Both NVME drives have also been installed.
Adding in the motherboard and PSU were very straight forward. The PSU is mounted in “normal” orientation (exhaust facing bottom panel) and in 3-slot mode to allow for the RTX 3080’s pull-fan some room to exhaust out. The motherboard requires the riser cable to be installed into the PCI-E slot prior to installation into the case. Because of the backplate on the motherboard, the riser cable sits a bit higher than intended and that causes a VERY slight budge at the bottom of the case when the panel is installed.
Next, I had to pre-install the PSU cables and the case fans. The P-Slate cables are custom built to the size of the case (depending on the orientation of the PSU) and fit perfectly, no real cable management required. I used the included rubber screws to install the fan to the bracket. This allows me to easily move the fans around for more “precise” cooling. To power the fans, a 4-pin fan splitter was used to connect both S12A fans to the other system fan plug. The 3-pin PSU extension cable was routed underneath the fan bracket screw locations, down the front panel, and into the PSU mounting bracket before reaching the PSU. Excess cable is tucked between the front panel and the PSU. After plugging in the CPU, motherboard, fan, and PSU cables, I started working on installing the GPU.
I routed the power button cable behind the riser cable and lightly screwed in the riser bracket to the mounting bracket. I also slightly loosened the mounting bracket screw outside the case. Doing both makes it easier to install and align the GPU. Once the GPU has been mounted, I first installed the locking bracket, tightened the support bracket, then tightened the riser cable bracket. I routed the 12-pin power cable between the RTX 3080 and the PSU.
Next up was screwing on the bottom panel, installing the side panels, and finally the top panel.
My only concern is that the riser cable is literally sandwiched between the motherboard backplate and the RTX 3080 and the rear M.2 is pressed against the riser cable with no room for airflow. This could lead to higher than normal temps.
Overall, the build was fairly easy, especially because the P-Slate cables allowed for easy cable management. Everything is tucked neatly away for optimal airflow across the entire case.
To optimize the performance of the machine, I used/did the following:
I first ran the diagnostic to find the optimal values for undervolting and overclocking, then ran the tests to create both profiles. Below are my results shown in CTR.
Next, I used MSI Afterburner to create a custom voltage curve to reduce temps and power while retaining as much performance as possible. This took a lot of trial and error until I landed on these settings. While it's at 1770MHz, it'll sometimes boost up to 1800MHz which is my limit at 800mV. I don't put it directly to 1800MHz because it'll occasionally jump up to 1830MHz which will crash the game.
Repasted the RTX 3080 Founders Edition
I also repasted the GPU with Kryonaut. This led to a 3c drop in temps at the same 50% fixed fan speed. This allowed me to reduce fan speed a bit as I have more thermal headroom available.
Lastly, I used "Fan Control" to create a custom fan curve for each component in the system.
4K Gaming Performance
Below are some games I tested to see the performance difference between stock settings and my optimizations. Over half of the games I chose have ray tracing and/or DLSS capability while the rest are just good games to benchmark. One thing to note is that I ONLY chose games with a built-in benchmark to get results that could be easily compared with by other users (as long as they use the same quality settings and resolution).
I applied the "Undervolt" profile from Clock Tuner for Ryzen for all optimized results.
I used the highest quality presets available for all games (with the exception of Final Fantasy 15).
The benchmarks/runs are done 3 times with my scores reflecting the average.
Temp and power numbers are the peak values AFTER conducting all benchmarks.
System and component noise was measured with a BAFX3370 Sound Level Meter. The distances are between my head and the machine during a gaming load. 1 and 2 feet were used as the system will be that close to me when I game on a portable monitor. 8 feet is the distance between the machine and my couch.
Nvidia driver used - 456.71
Within the Nvidia Control Panel, "Quality" was changed to "High Quality"
Windows 10 Pro - Build 19401
Hardware-Accelerated GPU Scheduling = ON
Windows power profile = High Performance
And now, on to the results!
3 of the 7 games hit my 60FPS mark, especially when DLSS was enabled. With my optimized settings, Assassins Creed and Borderlands barely missed the mark, Metro was still playable, and Crysis just barely made the cut.
The 5% reduction in performance with my optimized settings are negligible and can't be felt during gameplay.
Now let's see what temps and power usage look like...
What a big difference! CPU and GPU temps are lower with my optimized settings and the wattage used by them is down a combined 22%! CTR and a custom voltage curve really improved the efficiency of the system.
Now, you're probably wondering why GPU temps didn't get a larger drop in temps and that's because of the custom fan curve I made. Since the GPU received a 3c drop in temps after a repaste, I reduced fan speeds to drop noise levels.
The noise generated by the system at load is a night and day difference when comparing stock and optimized values. The biggest difference is when the system is 1 foot away from me. Since I use open-back headphones, this will greatly reduce the fan noise generated while gaming. While I'm on the couch, the system sounds like it isn't even on (which the wife appreciates).
*As an FYI, noise DOUBLES/HALVES every 3dB (per NIOSH and OSHA regulations). So, a reduction of 6dB between stock and optimized is a HUGE difference.
With my optimized settings, I received a 5% performance penalty in some games while reducing peak wattage and noise by 22% and 15% respectively.
Completely worth it!
I'm extremely happy with this system. I honestly never imagined that a small setup could be super-quiet, super-efficient, and super-fast! (LOL)
Everything about this build is awesome! I love how everything fits perfectly, how it looks "low-profile", and performs amazingly well!
The thing that blows my mind is that THIS ISN'T EVEN IT'S FINAL FORM yet.
I'm sure that performance will further increase once I drop in the Ryzen 9 5900x. I do have a minor concern that my Big Shuriken 3 may have a hard time cooling the 5900x, but I'm confident CTR can tame it once the software adds support for it. If anything, I can always run PPT, PBO, or Eco mode.
I'll also purchase the top end Radeon GPU and compare it to the RTX 3080 once it releases. Whichever has the best combination of performance per watt and good software will stay in my machine while the other card will be sold.
Keep a lookout for another blog coming out once the 5900x and Radeon GPU are in my hands!
I hope this helps and have fun!
-The Everyday Enthusiast
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