System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,600 Alternative PC

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

The $1,600 PC’s second GPU does a great job of spinning down as part of AMD's ZeroCore technology suite. We attribute most of the power differences in non-gaming scenarios to the motherboard and our slightly higher CPU voltage.

When it's subjected to load, the second graphics card adds more than 200 W.

Manual fan adjustments keep the overclocked system’s GPU cooler, though the $1,600 PC’s second GPU pushes the temperature of its first GPU up by 9° Celsius.

Non-overclocked CPU temperature differences are far larger, though that’s the fault of a 90°-max fan slope. A low 18° ambient temp produces the big 70° delta.

Our newest build isn't only designed for gaming; it's a solid general-purpose PC that happens to be an excellent gamer, too. Graphics are simply the easiest place for us to get a return on our investment. Today's $1,600 setup is over 40% more powerful in games, both at stock and overclocked settings. CPU and DRAM bottlenecks at lower resolutions mean that our high-end performance chart (on the next page) will be far more important.

The only place we’ve seen the $1,600 PC pay (in performance) for its power increase is during games, and then only at 5760x1080. When we put all benchmarks on a chart of averages, its efficiency looks fairly poor.

The good news for our pricier build is that overclocking yields larger increases in performance than in power. Average efficiency actually goes up for this particular overclocked configuration.

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  • mi1ez
    ASRock defaults DDR3-2133 memory to 1.5665 V. Add in the 1% over-voltage we’ve been seeing nearly every board vendor sneak in over the past several product cycles, and we come up to around 1.68 V.

    1.5665 + 1% = 1.582165
  • Steveymoo
    Nice, this is a well balanced build! That's a good bit of troubleshooting you did there as well - I always wondered whether the super heavy CPU coolers would cause any problems, especially when you move the case around. I always worry that the large heatsink could sheer off when I have to transport my computer to a new flat.

    Better be careful y'all!
  • spentshells

    get a normal cooler Cm212 or even a CM tx4 and spend that other 50 bucks on some better cards. 7950's should be a minimum for a build of 1600
  • Anonymous
    Could've gone for a 7970 and a 3770k instead. I think most people would prefer to stay away from crossfire in a new build unless they're going for more performance than the best single GPU card. Maybe a board with more USB 3.0 internal headers would've been nice, i'm not a fan of having to plug devices in the back unless they are there to stay(exception being USB audio devices)
  • LePhuronn
    And the moral of this story is don't bother with archaic lumps of metal to cool your CPU. H100 people, simply no other choice.