PBAR17
1 Nickel

Aurora R4, Overhaul - of sorts

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TLDR : 

I have the 3960X in my R4. Can I install a RETAIL 4960X or does it have to be the approved Dell 07VY9 Ivybridge E i7-4960X? 

I've seen the retail version of the 4960X on eBay going for as low as £285 - used.

Would buying from Dell replacement parts mean it would push the price to over £1,500.00 even though it's from multiple generations ago, or does Dell actually sell the part for an 'affordable' / reasonable price?

 

If you want to answer any more of my questions - please read ahead 

Just to give some background on why I'm asking these questions and also apologies for writing so much.

Questions below are preceded by bold text...

I've owned my Aurora R4 for years now - purchased in 2011.

I use it mostly (entirely) for my work. When I first bought it, it was used for games and a bit of work on the side.

In 2012 I took the plunge and became self-employed as a freelance graphic designer. Slowly but surely this became more of a work computer than a gaming computer. Now, since around 2014 / 2015, it is solely used for work purposes.

For the majority of the R4s life, aside from the stock liquid coolers coolant gunging up making it sound like a fighter jet was about to take off ... then disovering I needed to replace it with a corsair H80i, it has been absolutely fine. I've been running Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver ((& Muse (until a year or so ago)) with very few 'blips'.

Recently, tail end of 2018 to now in early 2019, I've been producing much, much more video content for clients (using After Effects alongside Premier Pro) and it is now beginning to show signs that probably it's time to upgrade some components.  

When I first bought this, it was with the intent that I'd upgrade it before I considered a completely new machine. I believe that with a little here and a bit there I can get it running so that it's much quicker than it currently is and hopefully for less than what a brand new computer would cost. 

Here's what I'm working with:

Case
R4 ALX Chassis

PSU
875W Multi-GPU Approved Power Supply

Mother Board
Alienware 07JNH0-A02 / X79

CPU
2011 LGA i7-3960X 3.30Ghz (OC'd to 4.20Ghz stable) 6c 12t

BIOS
A11

Memory
DDR3 16GB DRAM 800Mhz (Quad Channel)

GPU
Dual NVIDIA GTX 690 2GB (running SLI)

HDD
Seagate SATA III 1TB 7200rpm Hard Drive

OS
64bit - Windows 10 Pro - Build 1809

From what I've seen online the R4 can be pretty picky in terms of what can and can't go into it. So I want to be sure that anything I buy for it is actually compatible with it - if possible. 

In terms of things which I believe need to be upgraded, they are as follows...

Upgrade notes / my history of upgrading / replacing computer parts 
I found swapping the stock liquid cooler really hard back in 2014 - but I did manage to do it.
(I did almost puncture the radiator in the process - thankfully I did not puncture the radiator)
I've swapped ram before - but in an iMac from 2007
I've never replaced a hard-drive
I've replaced a graphics card and a sound card ... ... ... in 1997

1. HDD upgrade to an SSD 
Does anyone have any recommendations for an SSD that plays well with the Aurora R4? Completely aware that the drives mounted in tool-less trays inside the chassis.

If I were to buy a Samsung 850 Pro would that be easy to install (along with a 2.5inch - 3.5inch enclosure) and then demote my current HDD to extra storage... or is there anything better / faster I could get? Would an 860 pro be out of the question?

2. Memory upgrade
Although I have 16GB the four sticks are running at 800MHz. Is this a case of slow but safe / stable memory?

I've read in another post that the 32GB upgrade parts … Dell 66GKY 8GB x4 Memory Sticks, 1600Mhz, 512X64, 8, 240 are approved for my machine - so in all likelihood, at some point these can be bought as I've found them at Amazon for around £100 a stick. Dell sells them for about £140 a stick - either way this would be a pretty big investment.

Would I actually see a genuine performance boost by doubling both my 4x4GB memory and my current 800MHz clock speed?

I'm pretty certain I need more RAM... although the 16GB I have is arguably a lot, even if 800Mhz appears to be slow to me, it copes (just) with the applications I use - but it does get to around 85% 90% (when I watch the memory percentage in Task Manager) if for example it's exporting videos, so this is why I'm thinking I possibly do need more and faster. 

3. Graphics Card upgrade
I've seen some people have successfully installed GTX 1080 cards on their R4 computers - I would like to do the same if I can... but I've also heard that GTX production is slowly being phased out due to RTX (which at some point is going to start making the cards 'rare'. Would an RTX 2070 for example be possible? Would my CPU not bottle neck the graphics card? I'm not entirely keen on investing in a P4000 though - I believe something like that would be under-utilised by the work I do... they're more for proper workstations / 3D rendering aren't they? They're also wayyyy out of my price range.

Which leads me on to the whole point about making this post in the first place but then deciding to just ask every question I can think of.

4. CPU upgrade
I have the 3960X in my R4. Can I install a RETAIL 4960X or does it have to be the approved Dell 07VY9 Ivybridge E i7-4960X? 

I've seen the retail version of the 4960X on eBay going for as little as £285 - used... this I can absolutely afford. Would buying from Dell replacement parts mean it could be over £1000 (because mark up) even though it's from multiple generations ago, or would Dell actually sell the part for an 'affordable' price? 

I've read here that you can apparently get a retail version of the chip and it will work just fine... should I trust this? I don't see any reason not to, but if anyone from this community has actually upgraded a 3960X to a 4960X it would be great to hear for additional reassurance.

The real CPU question - would I actually see any real diference between the 3690X vs the 4960X?

Even after asking all this if right now I did manage to get the processor for say £300-ish, the memory for £400-ish, graphics card for £500-ish, SSD for £100. For a full overhaul of these components it would end up around £1200 to £1400 ... that's a big investment. Am I correct in thinking the SSD would be the best "bang for your buck" upgrade that I can make? ... Or would it be the graphics card or memory?

Based on my computer has no huge problem running the software I use daily (Mail client, Web broswers and multiple tabs, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier Pro and Media Encoder can all be running and once in blue moon will it crash) but it can get real slugish - I sometimes think a new graphics card would solve a lot of speed issues because when I'm processing work the CPU, GPU and the memory really do go for it (when I check on them) - so a much more powerful graphics card with much more memory would surely make a big difference... BUT then at the same time I'm completely aware that a lot of this 'speed' problem I'm talking about is definitely not helped by my slow read/write HDD by today's standards would be knocked out of the park by a way faster SSD (so therefore my work, the operating system, the applications etc. etc. will all be sped up en-mass... right?)

So... I'm just a bit stuck and I think I've been thinking about this far too much.

Thanks in advance if anyone can help me out.

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6 Replies
Tesla1856
6 Thallium

Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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I suggest you install a 512gb SATA-3/600 SSD (yes, a Samsung Pro is good) for Windows and all Apps as bootable C:  Try not to break anything.

Don't mess with the CPU, RAM or video-cards. 

Start saving for an Aurora or a Precision Workstation . Try to find one with a large power-supply and Liquid-Cooler for its (nice) Intel CPU.


Registered Microsoft Partner and Apple Developer
- I can appreciate a good game-engine.
- I answer questions here, but I'm not a Dell employee.
- Consider giving posts you like a "thumbs-up"
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- Click "Accept as Solution" button on any post that answers your question best.
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Cass-Ole
4 Ruthenium

Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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That was quite a TL;DR ... no way I could back n forth about your project ideas but I can chime in once w/ a nudge

My friend @Tesla is like the good Angel on your shoulder, while I'm like a demon

Your SSD upgrade should've occurred a few years ago, you'll do well w/ the Sammy 8 or 9 series. We like Macrium Reflect free-edition for OS imaging / cloning, where my advice to you is to image your OS onto the SSD then image it again onto a smaller cheaper spinner drive, or however u prefer your backups of course, but there are reasons to occupy all 4 HDD bay drives in the case floor, especially if you're doing the W7-to-W10 upgrade & have working copies & clones of each OS over multiple drives etc, where a 5th drive can be tucked up into an empty DVD tray & hooked to SATA cable if needed

Your 800MHz memory is probably actually running @1600 (google double data rate / DDR /aka DDR3 memory); my CPU-ID software reports mine running at 1466 (true), but it's dbl-data-rate so it's really 2933MHZ, understand? I think the minimum it can run is 1066 or 1333 (software reported 533 or 666.5) depending on type; from there we overclock it to say 1600 (reported as 800) or 1866 (reported 933) etc

I say, buy the 4960x retail version, it will work, u do not need a Dell CPU; from there, sell your 3960 to recoup

FYI: R4 has XEON support, here is a list, quote:

Additional CPU’s that I have personally tested with this board that work are the following: Sandy Bridge-EP

Xeon E5-1607, Xeon E5-1620, Xeon E5-1650, Xeon E5-2643, Xeon E5-2640, Xeon E5-2667, Xeon E5-2650, Xeon E5-2660, Xeon E5-2665, Xeon E5-2670

Recently tested (Oct 2017) and known to work are: Xeon E5-2637, Xeon E5-4610, Xeon E5-4620

Note: tested Xeon E5-1607 V2 it will not POST***

Note: No support for Engineering Sample (ES) Processors, the bios has no ES microcodes"

Your 16Gigs mem prolly ok

Those 690s are getting old, AMD dropped driver support because they aren't GCN cards, maybe time to sell them while they still have value & invest into a solo-beast-card like 2070 2080 1080Ti. I held onto my X-Fire 5970s & now they're basically worthless, lol, I should've sold years ago for 980 / 980Ti / 1080

My friend Luke dropped some cash into new hardware & kept the case:

Aurora R4 ALX 8700k RTX 2080ti

Join that forum & chime into his thread if u need tips on a project like below

(I'd have installed the 01YGW R4 38mm cooler instead, though the 80i should or does cool better)

And I just helped revamp his Area-51 w/new Asus Z390 RTX Corsair PSU etc

The SSD/CPU/GPU upgrades you're thinking about may get some longevity from your R4 & then later u can sell those parts & invest into new like Luke did, or sell the whole thing & get something else. My R4 will get a mthrbrd/cpu upgrade when my 4820k stops feeling snappy, I'm holding onto my case, for good. I will consider 4960x 1st, but the price has to come down just a tad more on one

edit: my 4820 is a retail chip, & when R4 switched from Sandy to Ivy, some 1st wave Sandy buyers (with Bios update & with cash) had to have updated to retail 4960 chip, but I can't link u to where; I do know of at least one owner I helped out that did try retail 4960 w/success but that was in 2015? No one has ever come into this forum to report a retail chip wouldn't pass P.O.S.T when using correct Bios version unless they bent their pins 1st (or bought a dud D.O.A. chip from a scammer) ... ... ... same will be said for u, if u ease it into the socket of course. Buy some good thermal paste (Phobya Nano grease / Gelid GC extreme / Grizzly Kryonaut / Arctic Silver @minimum etc)  

EDIT:

Your CPU-Z reports 800 = 1600MHz DDR3 dbl-data-rate as we'd expect

The R4 Spec PDF Manual & Google Dell.com Aurora R4 maximum memory (= basic word search) --> Supports up to (4x8Gb) 32Gb 1600MHz | (4x4Gb) 16Gb or (4x2Gb) 8Gb 2133Mhz --> I think a 24Gb config 1600MHz should also work (2x8 + 2x4); some 1866MHz configs work also

Read-Only Forum Search: AURORA R4 MAXIMUM MEMORY

If 16gigs doesn't feel like enough, try a 24Gb or 32Gb config @1600 (speeds over 1600, like 1866 2133 get iffy whether the mem-kit will boot up or not on these boards for any of various reasons, where 32Gb 1600 will be better than 16Gb 2133 / 1866 etc)

 

PBAR17
1 Nickel

Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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Thanks @Tesla1856

I'll get the SSD upgrade... I've been mulling over this for a few weeks now (due to it being the cheapest upgrade of the lot) so will just go ahead and do that.

I'll try my best not to break anything  although I can give no guarantee over that lol. it would be just typical that I somehow manage to drop the SSD directly after opening the box. Fingers crossed though, I'm sure it'll all be fine.

At some point down the line I'll get a new system - but for the time being I'm going to persevere with the R4 and eek out as much as possible from it... in a couple of years, if I'm still using this, it'll have been going for ten years which is great... even taking into consideration the inflated price I originally paid for it - can't complain.

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PBAR17
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Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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Hi @Cass-Ole. I like both what the angel and the demon are saying to me! I'm so easily influenced Smiley LOL

Thanks for taking the time out to share so much valuable info. 

Really good to know there are in-fact multiple options for processors. Also very reassuring that the RTX 2080Ti can work too. So essentially I can go for a 20-series, or even a 10-series without having any real concerns that it wouldn't work - pending of course it fits... as you mentioned some can be very bulky.

Here's what CPU-ID says about my memory...

cpu-id.png

Once the SSD upgrade is sorted I'll weigh my options up. I'd like to keep my R4 going for the foreseeable future - but if it turns out I start lusting over incredibly expensive hardware I might just start saving for an entirely new build.

That doesn't mean to say that during the "save" for a new build I could buy an RTX2080ti and pop it in the R4 until saving for the rest of the parts is complete.

Overall my intention is whether I simply upgrade the SSD or go all out and get memory, GPU, CPU as well, that the R4 will be used until its dying breath so to speak.

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Tesla1856
6 Thallium

Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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@PBAR17 wrote:

Thanks @Tesla1856

1. I'll get the SSD upgrade... I've been mulling over this for a few weeks now (due to it being the cheapest upgrade of the lot) so will just go ahead and do that.

2. I'll try my best not to break anything  although I can give no guarantee over that lol. it would be just typical that I somehow manage to drop the SSD directly after opening the box. Fingers crossed though, I'm sure it'll all be fine.

3. At some point down the line I'll get a new system - but for the time being I'm going to persevere with the R4 and eek out as much as possible from it... in a couple of years, if I'm still using this, it'll have been going for ten years which is great... even taking into consideration the inflated price I originally paid for it - can't complain.


1. Good

2. You have "real work" to do. The Aurora-R4 you own ... its CPU and Memory are fine for that work-load. It's 100% stable. If you start messing at that level, it might become only 95% stable/solid/reliable. Motherboard or something else could die tomorrow (especially if you start messing with it ... even if know what you are doing and are careful).

The only way I would buy a $300-$400 video card for it ... is if you planned to sell it later (or move it to a new custom build).

3. IMO, now is that time. Put all this upgrade money toward a new one ... they really aren't that much. And, you get a warranty.

I don't think 10 years is really realistic for a video-production workstation. My posts in this thread were based on the idea that you have real work to do. The computer is just a tool, and frankly, it's "expendable" (as in "expendable crew-member" from Star Trek). 

 


Registered Microsoft Partner and Apple Developer
- I can appreciate a good game-engine.
- I answer questions here, but I'm not a Dell employee.
- Consider giving posts you like a "thumbs-up"
- Posting models-numbers and software versions speeds trouble-shooting.
- Click "Accept as Solution" button on any post that answers your question best.
PBAR17
1 Nickel

Re: Aurora R4 Overhaul - of sorts

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@Tesla1856and @Cass-Ole I doth my cap to you both.

@Tesla1856thanks for the 1, 2, 3 breakdown. Realistically, this is what I shall do. 

If it came to replacing the CPU, me joking about breaking things aside, I do believe that I could do it - however, even saying that I would still get a professional computer person to do something like that for me. Because if ever there was a genuine chance for me to successfully destroy my computer with the slip of a hand, or applying too much pressure, accidentally thumbing the pins, etc. etc. it is this exact upgrade process. It's an accident waiting to happen with my name written all over it. I may sometimes be a bit careless, but I'm no fool.

Ultimately I have a big sentimental attachment to my R4 and when I imagine new parts, it's always inside my current computer.

If I'm honest with myself and I saved Xthousand(s) of pounds, it makes no sense really to overhaul at great effort and labour the R4 when I could just invest in something completely brand new / current, as opposed to eeking out an additional 2-ish of years of hopefully improved performance from the R4. I totally get that it can be done - like how Cass' friend has done but that takes serious know how and commitment - the know how side of things I am unfortunately lacking in.

Really I think if I left this computer entirely alone (as it is completely stable, like you said) it would be good for arguably another year at best. It's already struggling now or at least feels that way.

What I'm after in the here and now is simply a speed boost. I'm thinking the new SSD will probably blow my mind as I've never used an SSD powered OS on a computer believe it or not.

I do believe a graphics card would give a processing boost to my current build as my most used applications all use GPU acceleration (Photoshop / Illustrator / Acrobat Pro / Premier Pro / After Effects) but if I'm buying a powerful graphics card - I might as well really consider the point of having such a powerful card and pair it with equally current / powerful CPU's / Memory / Motherboard.

By the time I've saved up some serious money, it will be by next year. By which point there should be better RTX support and this years cards should see a nice little price bump down to make way for the 21-series or whatever Nvidia decides to call them.

Ultimately for what I am doing work wise (and as I'm now producing more video / animated content) I should probably be on a Xeon or even Threadripper workstation. But I can currently more than happily get by with high end consumer parts or prosumer parts whatever the kids call them these days.

In terms of how long this has been a video production machine (I don't think 10 years is realistic either) - I've been doing this sort of work commercially now since October 2018 (prior to that noodling around for a couple of years beforehand learning the software) - up until then (2012 - 2017/18) it had been solely graphic design (illustrator, in-design, acrobat), image editing/manipulation (photoshop), web work (dreamweaver).

Now that I'm consistently using Premier Pro and After Effects on lots of projects for the last few months I've noticed a definite "struggle" with this computer at times - especially when the work load is high. 

For now though... SSD.