System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $2000 PC


A lot of experimentation went into overclocking this CPU. We first determined that it would reach 4.5 GHz without overheating, but at a voltage level that we definitely would never recommend for long-term use. We then thought about what voltage we might use for long-term overclocking of a 45 nm Core-i7 processor, and decided that 1.400 V should be a safe limit.

Next, we discovered somewhere around five different ways to reach the limit of our CPU at 1.40 Vcore, all resulting in an overclock of 4.34 to 4.35 GHz. The problem we had with picking the “best” choices was with our memory.

We couldn’t get our memory to run over DDR3-1400 at CAS 9, and we couldn’t get it to run at anything less than CAS 8 with the data rate at DDR3-1182. Dropping the memory clock a bit more allowed us to run DDR3-1134 CAS 7, which is a hair quicker than DDR3-1182 CAS 8.

The end result was a super-high 4.35 GHz CPU clock with a super-low DRAM data rate and mediocre 7-6-7-18 timings.

Even with automatic fan controls, the system would drop from a muffled howl to a somewhat noisy hum under light loads, thanks to a motherboard fan control profile that isn’t optimized for high-speed fans. Gigabyte’s EasyTune6 addresses this, so we were forced to install it, even though we don’t like running extra programs in the background.

The GPUs of today’s graphics cards were far more overclock-tolerant than the similar cards of our June build, yet the memory was stuck close to stock speed. We used MSI Afterburner to set the clocks, just in case we might need to use its excellent fan curve controls.

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  • zanmatoer
    "The number of pixels in a 2560x1600 display is slightly higher than those of three 1280x1024 displays, so the new $2500 PC could be a good choice for Nvidia Surround gaming."

    I'm fairly certain that's supposed to be " the new $2000 PC could be..."

    Looking forward to Day 4!
  • mi1ez
    AVG’s anomalous performance is almost legendary at this site. We’d like to credit the new system’s faster drives for the win, but the benchmark difference is too small to represent the drives’ enormous performance disparity.

    And yet it's still in the SBM?
  • tobensg
    Has anyone got £1500 to build a Performance PC at the moment?! IMO these marathon builds are a waste of time.
  • damian86
    Normally those marathon pcs do not get my atraction, spending 2000 dollars in a machine with only 6gb of ram? there are better prices out there,you can make this machine more powerfull. not a long time ago THW had an article showing info about swapfile explaining that 8 gb or RAM makes a very stable just saying...
  • damian86
    I would have installed 2x6870 radeons instead of these power hungry 470's...they re cheaper as well