Devil’s Canyon

The Brains

Devil's CanyonThe last computer I built for myself was in April, 2008. Quad-core processors were just released and I ponied up big bucks for the Yorkfield based Q9450. It was Intel’s Core 2 Quad 2.66 Ghz desktop processor with 12MB of L2 cache on a 45nm process. That processor has served me well over the years. Its led me through a lot of gaming, video encoding, and virtualization over the years, but now it will serve me as my dedicated plex server. It’s time to upgrade. Over the past six years, the only performance upgrades I did to that machine was moving  from an nVidia 9600GT to a 560 Ti, and adding an SSD as my Windows drive. Pretty good amortization if you ask me.

Six years ago I bought the (almost) best Intel desktop processor and I’m doing it again. I splurged on a new Devil’s Canyon i7-4790K. I’m not much of an overclocker, so the 4.0Ghz base clock speed and turbo boost to 4.4Ghz was quite tempting. It nearly doubles the raw clock speed from the Q9450. Combined with three generations of microarchitecture upgrades will make for quite a large performance upgrade. I’m betting on this chip lasting me the next half-decade. And who knows, maybe I’ll start overclocking when the half-decade is up and I want to amortize my purchase out further.

The Rock

I paired my new CPU with a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD3H. The Q9450 was sitting on a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L. One of the best things about the DS3L are the solid state capacitors. After moving to solid state capacitors, I’ll never go back. No more popped capacitors from cheap manufacturers. Reliability is important to me. The P35 board from Gigabyte has been rock solid for me, so when I was picking out a board for the new CPU I wanted to stick with Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable series. So far I’m liking the board. The feature set is diverse with the M.2 and SATA Express options, and the layout is clean and usable. Plus, the capacitors on the Z97-UD3H are painted black. It’s a very slick look. Since I built this machine today we’ll have to see how stable the system is, but I’m not worried about it.

Always Trouble

Windows took a while to install. I ran into some issues with it recognizing my SSD. At first, it saw the drive, but I couldn’t delete the existing partitions. The motherboard manual said to add storage drivers during a Windows 8 install. I tried that, but then Windows setup wouldn’t see my drive at all. After fiddling with the new UEFI options in the BIOS and doing a BIOS upgrade (from F4 to F7), Windows saw the drive and I was able to delete the existing partitions and install to a blank drive. Gigabyte’s Q-Flash utility made it very simple to update the bios. I used a laptop to copy the BIOS image to a flash drive and from inside the Q-Flash utility I could browse to the flash drive and perform the update. I’ve been out of the loop for a while using the same machine for six years, but that’s the way it should be. Kudos, Gigabyte.


Cinebench 10              Q9450 i7-4790K
Rendering (Single CPU):   3189  8561  (2.68x)
Rendering (Multiple CPU): 11562 32857 (2.84x)
Multiprocessor Speedup:   3.63  3.84

Handbrake 9.9 v6227 x64 (same quality settings)
(fps measurements are approximate)
Q9450    x264 (4 cores):    40fps
i7-4790K x264 (8 threads): 175fps
i7-4790K x264 (QuickSync): 400fps