System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

Benchmark Results: 3DMark And PCMark

We gave up our previous build’s SLI configuration to make room in the budget for a Core i7-3930K processor, leaving us with enough money to upgrade our single graphics card to AMD’s high-flying Radeon HD 7970. With so much of our budget devoted to the CPU, we have to expect a drop in 3DMark performance.

The new system’s loss in 3DMark is actually a little larger than we expected, but we’re hoping that CPU performance wins in other benchmarks will prove that the new build is more balanced.

PCMark, for example, demonstrates a modest improvement in both PC and Productivity scores, at least in favor of the overclocked configuration. But what’s wrong with the non-overclocked $2600 PC’s hard drive performance?

The new build’s 240 GB Chronos Deluxe fails to outpace its Crucial m4 predecessor in PCMark’s synthesis of real-world workloads, in spite of its reportedly-better SandForce SF-2281 controller. And that observations continues to be true even at our most highly-optimized hardware settings. And something still appears wrong with the new build’s standard-speed tests, but what is it?

After a little research, we found that the Intel RST Enterprise storage drivers packaged by motherboard vendors with its INF chipset drivers are to blame for the lost performance. While enterprise-class drivers are likely optimized for data protection rather than maximum performance, users who want to extract the highest possible performance from the X79 Express can trick Windows into using Z68 drivers (Intel’s installer will recognize the different hardware and halt).

But Intel's RST drivers aren’t even required for the X79’s basic drive operation. A big performance boost in our overclocked configuration’s SATA performance comes from reverting to Windows 7’s generic AHCI 1.0 Serial ATA Controller driver.

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  • Steveymoo
    Thomas: Y U NO USE 2 GPU?

    But srsly, I don't get this set up... Why not scrap the expensive (and kinda pointless for gaming) 3930k, and spend the extra cash on a dual GPU set up?
  • LePhuronn
    SteveymooWhy not scrap the expensive (and kinda pointless for gaming) 3930k, and spend the extra cash on a dual GPU set up?

    Because, as clearly stated in the introduction, this isn't a gaming rig - only 30% of the system's overall score is gaming.