Trouble landing a GPU? Go fish for a CPU instead.

My main gaming rig, the “Elder-Wand,” has been struggling to maintain 120 FPS at 4K in several triple A titles as of late. I’ve been holding off on upgrades while waiting for the GPU mess to sort itself out. After more than a year of waiting, I’ve decided to change tactics.

Running the benchmark utilities built into games like Tomb Raider, Gears of War, and Borderlands revealed interesting  data. The Kaby Lake CPU and 270Z chipset were  bigger bottlenecks than my 2080 Ti. Time to overhaul the old girl. After consideration and research, I decided to go with an Alder Lake i-7 and a few accessories.

While choosing the motherboard, I opted for keeping my DDR4 memory and existing nVME storage. Instead of upgrading those components, I would upgrade the cooling system to better support overclocking the graphics card. I felt like it was the best strategy to obtain the most performance I could out of the system. I chose a Lian Li Galahad 360 AIO CPU cooler and their UNI Fan SL case fans.

One major reason for choosing the Lian Li equipment was the need to find an in-stock CPU cooler that fits the new Alder Lake 1700 socket. The other is their innovative modular linking solution. UNI fans lock together and form a single controllable stack both in terms of the blade/motor control and lighting. Each stack of fans takes a single set of connectors (PMW/RGB) on the motherboard. The effect is striking and looks fantastic sitting next to the home theatre set up. My favorite pre-programmed pattern is the dripping rainbow. It reminds me of the Lava lamp from my childhood bedroom.

The installation of the new equipment was pretty straightforward. I was caught off-gard by how much pressure you have to apply to the CPU retainer’s handle on the new socket to lock it in place. I made it through the always nerve-wracking first boot with no issues. Windows 10 detected the new hardware on its own.

The motherboard I replaced was an MSI. I had stuck with the brand when I picked the PRO Z690-A WIFI DDR4. I had hopes of having an easier time with the software. It paid off! The MSI Center detected the new model, and Live Update took care of the rest. The Lian Li cooling system said it was compatible with MSI’s control software, and it is. Once I installed LConnect, MSI Center offerrered to control the cooling and lighting. I agreed.

So now the moment of truth had come. I had spent around $1000.00 and an entire day off on this little upgrade experiment. Was it worth it? The first thing I ran was Destiny 2. I went into the settings and pushed everything to the max. Before the upgrade, I averaged 😯 FPS; now, I was running at 100. I ended the game and used my GPU’s control app to boost the power, cooling, and clock cycles up by about 30%.

The AIO block removes most of the CPU exhaust heat from the case’s interior. The inside of the case is much cooler and hovers at 35°. The extra capacity allows me to overclock as long as I watch my telemetry. It took a while to get everything tuned, but eventually, I got the FPS average up to the 120 goal. Fantastic results if you ask me.

About Kevin Trent

IT professional with almost 30 years of experience in Infrastructure, Architecting, Administration, Development, and Communications.

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