System Builder Marathon: The $4,500 Super PC

Hardware Settings And Overclocking

Hardware installation was almost as easy as a typical system, but we do have a few notes.

1.) The motherboard’s bottom slot is partly blocked by the water pump and lower radiator hose. The half-length, half-height Asus Xonar DX fit perfectly, though we’d have preferred to use a PCI card in the upper slot.

2.) The Cooler Master CMPSU-1000HX power supply has ferrite rings on the flat, removable PCI Express power cables that prevented them from being run between cards. We had to use the soldered-on "round" cables for the top card.

3.) The photo above shows the "wrong" optical drive installed. Our BD-RE drive arrived late, so we began overclock stability tests using a substitute part.

4.) Purging air from the liquid cooling system should be done with the CPU water block removed, as detailed in our earlier liquid-cooling case comparison.

5.) The side fan of our Zalman LQ1000 case didn’t provide enough air pressure to effectively cool our memory at its rated speed. We had to use lower voltage and speed, with increased timings as detailed below.

$4,500 Ultimate-Performance System Test Configuration
Component Base Settings Overclock Setting
CPU Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650
3.00 GHz, FSB-1333, 12 MB Cache
4.14 GHz (9x 460 MHz), FSB-1840
1.4125 V Core, 1.40 V FSB Termination
CPU Cooler Zalman LQ1000 Integrated Zalman LQ1000 Integrated
Motherboard Asus P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP
Intel X48, BIOS 0605 (09/02/2008)
Intel X48 Boot Strap : 400 MHz
Northbridge Voltage : 1.49 V
RAM 8.0 GB OCZ PC3-12800 Platinum Edition
4x 2048 MB, DDR3-1600, CL 7-7-7-24 at 1.90 V
Underclocked to DDR3-1333 8-8-8-24 at 1.76 V
DDR3-1533, CL 8-8-8-24
1.76 V
Graphics 2x MSI R4870X2 OC Edition (Crossfire)
2x ATI 4870 GPU (Per Card), 780 MHz
2x 1024 MB GDDR5-3600 (Per Card)
787 MHz GPU, GDDR5-3840 (960 MHz)
Hard Drives 4x Samsung HD103UJ (RAID 0)
1.0 TB, 72000 RPM, 32 MB Cache
Sound Asus Xonar DX PCI Express
7.1 Channels, DDL, DS3D GX 2.0
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking Integrated Gigabit Networking
Power Corsair HX1000W Modular
ATX 2.2, EPS 2.91, 2x 40A 12 V Rails
6x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
Software and Drivers
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit, SP1 Unchanged
Graphics Driver ATI Catalyst 8.8 64-bit Edition Unchanged
Onboard Device Drivers Asus P5E3 Premium DVD Rev.360.01 Unchanged

With stability tests out of the way, it was time to finally install the "correct" optical drive and move forward to benchmarks.

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  • Anonymous
    I probably would have run with a couple of SSD drives in raid 1 and a couple of 1TB drives seperate. SSD for programmes and TB drives for storage, unless you're video editing then you don't need the extra performance of a Raid config for storage, surely?
  • waxdart
    That much money and crysis still runs like a dog?
    If I was paying that much I'd want the frame rate to be in the 100s+
  • rtfm
    you paid $800 on a case?!?
  • bobwya
    Yeh this might have lead to more interesting results:
    but I guess you guys need the NewEgg sponsorship money... At least the holes will be alignment... Would be nice to see some more interesting stuff though!! :lol:

    I do think it's a bit poor using/recommending a case which is so badly built that the motherboard can't line up with rear slots. Since you know about the problem why keep bashing yourself over the head with the issue. Looks like that case has too much intake capacity and not enough exhaust capacity to match...

    I think it's time to start thinking about putting in an 64Gb SLC SSD as a boot drive:
    Who cares about masses of storage when you can just plug in extra storage at a later date. For $4500 the main concern is performance, performance, performance!!
    Also for the home builder off-line eSATA backup is more reliable than RAID drives. No UPS and powerfailure = potentially hosed drives.

  • Anonymous
    # Day 2: The $1,500 Mainstream PC
    # Day 3: The $500 Gaming PC

    Hardly seems sensible: $500 mainstream and $1,500 for gaming makes more sense in my eyes... Also, why are you using $ prices on GBP or EUR would seem more appropriate.

    Nonetheless I'm looking forward to seeing the other builds and how they fare in comparison. I figure the $1,500 system will have the best price-performance ratio :)
  • fruees
    I think that this content is available worldwide, it just says on your browser.

    Waxdart I agree - wtf this £2500 pc is supposed to be high end even though it gets maimed by a year-old game at high settings! If they knew they were going to test on Crysis why didn't they make an Sli config???

    A far more interesting review would have been based on "can we make a build that outperforms on all games for $4..." or "trying to get a proportional price/performance ratio compared to good $2000 rig"

    This just seems like Newegg have given them a bunch of store credit to play around with.

    Not all criticism though - well written as always, and some useful guidance for someone wanting to build a high-end rig!
  • Anonymous
    "The answer is really quite simple: going “all the way” wouldn’t give us much of a performance advantage and setting a ceiling on the price allows us to chose parts that still have some value."

    it seems you went all the way with the £400 case
  • Anonymous
    Surely it would be better to get 2 Quad Core Processors and a cheaper case.

    Then maybe go further and have more graphics cards.
  • Anonymous
    why not an i7 processor??? that would beat the crap out of any game...

    and yea 800 dollar case WTF?