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


Dare I overclock the system that I spent days repeatedly breaking at stock settings? I had to think long and hard about it, but of course I wasn't going to leave this thing at its default performance level.

My goal this time was to repeat the previous $1,000 build’s clock rates, and I credit the good airflow of Fractal Design’s case for getting PowerColor's graphics cards to the same 1,200 MHz core clock and GDDR5-6400. The CPU wasn’t as friendly, unfortunately.

I eventually got the processor to 4.40 GHz, and I didn’t encounter the voltage regulator limits of our previous Gigabyte-based endeavor, but I still had to go past my target 1.280 V to achieve stability.

The 1.305 V core setting returns 1.30 volts, while the “Extreme” Load-Line Calibration setting is needed to maintain that voltage level. Voltage actually climbs slightly to 1.308 V when the system remains loaded for long periods of time, but we have a powerful CPU cooler to deal with its extra heat.

The memory still needed 1.60 V to reach DDR3-2133 at its default CAS 9-9-9-24 timings. We used “XMP” mode for the system’s stock configuration, with Profile 2 providing DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24 at 1.50 V.

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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.