Gaming Rigs and Overclocking

Every time I have a discussion with, read an article by, or watch a video from a tech-savvy computer guru, they ALWAYS say the bottleneck of a gaming computer never comes from the CPU. Using today's technology, one can use an i3 or AM2 processor and still make a high-performance gaming machine if the money is invested in better GPU, PSU, and SSD set ups.

So if this is the case, why do 99.9% of all of the gamers overclock the piss out of their CPU? Seriously; nearly every rig in nearly every sig has a processor that's been taken up over 3.8 GHz. Will my computer perform poorly if I leave my Core i7-870 at 2.93 GHz, but overclock just the GPU?

I guess I want to know why the actions don't reflect the speech.

Thanks in advance!
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  1. I built an i7 870 recently, and left it at stock settings while playing Starcraft 2. Then, I overclocked to 3.7ghz, and did not notice any difference at all.

    So, it depends on what games you play. Your stock 870 is high enough not to bottleneck most games. The articles do not lie: You'll get more bang for buck investing in better GPU vs CPU. Oh, and SSD does make a lot of difference (at least in loading).

    Why do gamers overclock their CPU even if the game doesn't effectively utilize it? Placebo, bragging rights, or maybe for an extra 0.01 fps. Then again, it cost nothing, so why not?
  2. Overclocking is not just for bragging rights, it is fun to see how far you can push the CPU.
    Depending on your setup the increase can be very noticeable and they really shine in benchmarks. Things like resolution, Number of video cards, and the game being played can affect the performance of an overclock. As for using a i3 or AM2 for a high performance gaming PC, they will always fall short, they still perform good in games but the more they optimize games and programs for quad cores they may eventually become obsolete.
  3. Okay, well benchmarking is irrelevant to most normal people, as that's just numbers for the sake of bragging rights. That's not real-world application. Will the difference be noticeable in most games? The i7-870 is already listed as one of the top 2-3 gaming CPU's on the market, it's quad-core (so no game is even close to being programmed ahead of it), and it has hyperthreading for other applications.

    As for peripherals, I have a 120gb G.Skill Phoenix Pro SSD, EVGA GTX470, and a 24" LCD (1920x1080). Is there anything about that setup that should worry me when I play games? Metro2033 and Crysis are ballz to me (as they are terrible games, useful only for benchmarking...which I don't care about), so I'm not worried about the performance there. Any mainstream, quality games that will push my rig to the point of being obsolete if I don't overclock? Does overclocking not also shorten the life-span of the processor?
  4. Your Rig will play any game out without overclocking for a while, and there is always an option to run SLI in the future. The 400 series cards scale extremely well in SLI.

    "Does overclocking not also shorten the life-span of the processor"

    If you are going to do a mild overclock. No, the i7 870 should do 3.6-3.7ghz on stock voltages just make sure you turn off Turbo and C states.
    The video card can be overclocked to, a mild overclock without voltage increases can create some pretty good gains in games, especially if both CPU and Video card are both overclocked.
    With mild overclocks without voltage increases the temps should remain about the same, as if it were running at stock frequency and hardware will still last for years without trouble.
  5. I overclocked because it's something I've never done, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I also see the benefit when I encode video, such as shrinking a movie for my iPhone or adding subtitles so I can stream over to my PS3. Gaming wise, I don't know that there's going to be a huge benefit. Most of the time the CPU usage isn't close to 100% although a few games are pretty CPU dependant.

    So no, with a good CPU overclocking isn't really a big deal. If you're taxing the GPU hard then the CPU will really only give you at most a few more FPS, although it can help bring up the minimum framerate more.

    Like D1rtyJu1c3's quote says "Use it and abuse it or it isn't any fun!" lol
  6. Lol! :lol:

    Exactly it is just plain fun and you dont have to get crazy with it to have fun even conservative overclocks can be fun and have decent performance gains. If you have never done it read about it and try it. Like I said if you are conservative, overclocking is very safe and while you may not see huge gains in games, there is some.
    You will have a significant performance advantage over an overclocked i3 and AM2 with an i7 870 at stock frequency. So yes the CPU will make a difference while overclocking may only bring minor increases in some games, in other areas it can bring huge gains. [:bohleyk:1]
  7. Well thanks for the input, guys. I may give a mild overclock a shot. Maybe 3.7 or 3.8.
  8. Have fun and enjoy the Rig. [:bohleyk:1]
  9. Thanks. I finally found some spare time the other night to put all of these parts together. I snapped it all in place, pushed the power button, and it fired right up the first time. Windows 7 installed in a few minutes. Seriously breezed. I didn't do any BIOS tweaks on the SSD, and no overclocking. Everything is ultra-snappy, and average start-up time is right around 12 seconds to desktop.

    I downloaded MSI Afterburner in case I feel like dinking with my 470. Other than that, what's a good tutorial for overclocking an i7-870 with my mobo? Since I've never spent much time in the BIOS for the purposes of tweaking and OC'ing, I'll need something step-by-step, with only necessary tweaks included. No assuming I know how to do anything, because I don't want to screw it up.

    To paint a better picture, imagine a guy who asks for addresses instead of landmarks when getting directions. Don't tell me to go three hills and a dozen stop lights past the old Johnson Filling Station. Tell me left, left, right, two blocks, 1853 Pine Street. :lol:
  10. Well, it's hard to give exact details of what to do. It definitely takes some trial and error...

    That said, you can find some good guides. Here's one:

    The gist of it tho would be that you increase the base clock, which in turn will increase the CPU, QPI, and RAM speed. You don't need to worry much about the QPI unless you take the base clock up to 190+ (which is high). You definitely need to worry about RAM speed. You can easily google the suggested timings for your RAM (run it's full number). If it's 1600mhz CL9 let's say, then you can't run it at 1670mhz CL9. At most, maybe 1620mhz CL9 or something... it's finiky. The good news is you have more options, like 1400mhz CL8, or 1800mhz CL9. I know this probably doesn't make a lot of sense right now... CL means "cas latency"... represented as 8-8-8-24 or 9-9-9-27, or 7-7-7-21 etc... you'll find these generally are the first 3 numbers in the "timings" section of your RAM. You can usually leave the other timings to auto.

    Umm... CPU, RAM, and QPI speeds are all based of a multiplier of the base clock...

    As CPU speed goes up, it can require more voltage. Take the voltages off auto. Vcore and VTT (also sometimes known as IMC) are the two which affect CPU stability. After raising the CPU speed you can save and try to boot to windows then run a test program like Intel Burn Test. If it gets errors, reboot into BIOS and add more voltage... maybe 0.02V Vcore. If it doesn't work, raise again. If still not working, you might need to raise the VTT/IMC by a similar amount.

    Just to try something simple, you probably have 1600mhz RAM. Stock base clock is 133 so to get the RAM at it's rated speed, that needs to be 160. The RAM is multiplied by 10, 8, or 6... so 160x10=1600mhz. This will also boost the CPU speed nicely. I found at 160 base clock I could leave everything on auto with no problems but that might not be the case for you.

    I hope I haven't confused you. That guide has a lot of good info and there's more out there. Just remember to test when you make changes.
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