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.