Part 3: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Overclocking, Test System Configuration, And Benchmarks


The goal here was not to set any air-cooled overclocking records with our hardware samples, but rather seek out stable everyday clock speeds we could count on throughout the duration of the series, including the upcoming warm summer months. We therefore did not push voltages as high as you’ll see in other articles. Load temperatures or diminishing returns from extra voltage were among reasons for dialing back a bit from the maximum stable overclock.

Preliminary testing at our lowest resolution, pairing the most powerful graphics card with a 3.8 GHz overclocked Core i7-920, determined HTT (Hyper-Threading Technology) provided no benefit in the series' current 3D game suite. Disabling HTT, however, reduced load temperatures by a good 12 degrees Celsius, allowing us to then push the processor to 4.0 GHz and still maintain lower temperatures.

BFG’s factory overclocks were used for both the GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 285. For other graphics cards, the GPU itself was dialed down about 20 MHz from its limit, while graphics memory was reduced by 20-30 MHz. The lone exception is the Radeon HD 5970, which didn’t get far without additional voltage. Once we added more juice, the card could no longer run Furmark without the VRM temperatures skyrocketing upward to the throttling limit. Considering this design consideration prevented torture testing, we chose to play it safe and run all Radeon HD 5970 numbers at the card’s stock speeds.

Be sure to check the test configuration table below for specifics on the overclocks achieved.

Test Hardware
Intel Core i7-920 (Bloomfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 1366, 4.8 GT/s QPI, 8MB L3 cache
Overclocked to 4.0 GHz (21*190), 1.237V idle, HTT Disabled

Intel Core i5-750 (Lynnfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 1156, 8MB L3 cache
Overclocked to 3.98 GHz (21*189), 1.328V idle

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550
(Yorkfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 775, FSB-1333, 12MB L2 cache
Overclocked to 3.697 GHz (8.5*435), 1.328V idle, FSB-1740

Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (Wolfdale) 3.0GHz, LGA 775, FSB-1333, 6MB L2 cache
Overclocked to 4.4GHz (9*489), 1.384V idle, FSB-1956

Intel Pentium E6300 (Wolfdale) 2.8 GHz, LGA 775, FSB-1066, 2MB L2 cache
Overclocked to 3.876 GHz (9.5*408), 1.400V idle, FSB-1632
Asus Rampage II Extreme (LGA 1366) X58/ICH10, BIOS 1504 (07/23/09)
Asus P7P55D-E Pro (LGA 1156) P55 Express, BIOS 0806 (03/25/10)
Asus Rampage Formula (LGA 775), X48/ICH9R, BIOS 0902 (4-28-09)
Corsair 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3-1600, 8-8-8-24 @ DDR3-1524 (Core i7-920), DDR3-1516 (Core i5-750), 1.6V
Corsair 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2-1066, 5-5-5-15 @ DDR2-1045 (Q9550), DDR2-980 (E8400), DDR2-1088 (E6300)
ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB
Stock @ 725 MHz GPU, 1,000 MHz GDDR5

ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB
OC @ 910 MHz GPU, 1,270 MHz GDDR5

ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB
OC @ 830 MHz GPU, 1,320 MHz GDDR5

ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB

OC @ 980 MHz Core, 1,100 MHz GDDR5

Nvidia Geforce GTX 295  1792MB

OC @ 648 MHz Core, 1,404 MHz Shaders, 1,150 MHz GDDR3

Nvidia Geforce GTX 285  1GB

OC @ 712 MHz Core, 1,620 MHz Shaders, 1,332 MHz GDDR3

Nvidia Geforce GTX 260 896MB

OC @ 655 MHz GPU, 1,404 MHz Shaders, 1,125 MHz GDDR3
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS, 640GB, ,7200 RPM, 32MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Corsair CMPSU-850HX 850W
CPU Coolers
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Graphics Drivers
AMD Catalyst 9.12
Nvidia GeForce 195.62
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool, Very High Quality, No AA
Far Cry 2
Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark, Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky
Average of 4 segments 'a-tested object', DirectX 10/10.1, Ultra High Quality, EFD Lighting, no MSAA
Grand Theft Auto IV
Patch, in-game benchmark, High Quality Settings, High Textures, Medium View Distance
Fallout 3
Patch 1.7, Custom THG Benchmark "Capital Wasteland" (60 sec.), Ultra High Quality, 4x MSAA, 15x AF
Need For Speed Shift
Patch 1.02, Custom THG Benchmark "Dakota GP" (60 sec.), Highest Quality, 4x AA/ 16xAF
World In Conflict
Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo, Very High Quality, 4x AA / 16x AF
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  • mi1ez
    No links from P5 to P6?
  • evolvedpc
    It would be really good for those of us who have already read the previous articles in this series to have a "cut to the chase" summary, that tells us which parts are different. There is so much copy-paste that it's hard to find the new stuff.
  • ksampanna
    It seems this was edited a few months back, but posted now.
  • chispas
    Looks like the moral of the story a 5870.
  • wild9
    Socket [bAM3: Asus M4N82 Deluxe

    The Asus M4N82 Deluxe will be put to use when it comes time to test dual GeForce cards in SLI paired up to our Socket AM3 processors.

    Socket AM2+, I think.

    Amazing what you can get for your money in terms of CPU power, from both camps.
  • mi1ez