System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $1,500 Enthusiast PC

Assembly And Overclocking

The best assemblies are the ones where I don't have a lot to talk about, which means that things have gone smoothly. This is one of those builds. The Cooler Master CM 690 case provides a lot of space and decent cable management, so there isn't much to talk about on that front. Even the large Radeon HD 5850 cards have a lot of breathing room. Indeed, all of the hardware and software installations went off without a hitch.

Overclocking

Overclocking this beast was simultaneously disappointing and impressive.

Let's start with the disappointing stuff: we had a heck of a time getting any stability past 3.7 GHz, even though the Rosewill Fort 120 cooler was doing an awesome job keeping the CPU temperatures down. While the system didn't have a problem booting over 4 GHz, running a Prime95 stress test would crash it fairly quickly. With load temps under 75 degrees Celsius, we were surprised that upping the voltage didn't help. If anything, it seemed to crash faster. Further testing confirmed that it was actually the extra voltage that caused the crashes.

After discovering the extra-voltage limitation, we got to the impressive part: with some more tweaking at stock voltage, this Core i7-920 CPU remained stable all the way up to 3.9 GHz. With the voltage this low, even a Prime95 load test resulted in CPU temperatures below 70 degrees Celsius (an extremely low result for an overclocked Core i7). Our target with a reasonable voltage increase was a stable 24/7 overclock in the 4.1 GHz neighborhood, so 3.9 GHz isn't a terrible trade-off, considering the low power usage and temperatures. A 1,233 MHz overclock at stock voltage speaks to the success of the Core i7-920 D0 stepping.

As far as the graphics cards are concerned, PowerColor's Radeon HD 5850 cards overclock to the maximum Overdrive limits in the Catalyst Control Center (CCC) without any extra effort. These cards could probably go further than the 775 MHz core and 1,125 MHz memory limitations built into their BIOS, but since we're running these in a CrossFire configuration and want to keep things as stable as possible.

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    Top Comments
  • The labels on all the charts appear to be wrong. They're mentioning a "Current $1300 System" but I thought the current system was $1500?
    10
  • Other Comments
  • Now this is an excellent PC for overall usage...
    6
  • Love to have this PC. Great components, really wish Fermi at least drops prices.
    2
  • I find it funny Cleeve that you mention the effects of ATIs monopoly on the high end GPU market but nothing on the CPU front. How much better off would we all be if AMD had a competing product for the Core i5/7s.

    Out of curiosity, how big is the storage capacity needed for your benchmark suit? I know you were over budget, but how close could you have come to one of the lower capacity SSDs and their performance advantages?
    0
  • The labels on all the charts appear to be wrong. They're mentioning a "Current $1300 System" but I thought the current system was $1500?
    10
  • To be honest, this just somehow seems disappointing to me.
    But then I think of how much I spent on my rig, and got less, I'm even more disappointed.

    It's crazy that prices keep raising on everything though. 6 months ago I was $9/GB for DDR2, in Canadian dollars. $12.50/GB for DDR3. It's absolutely ridiculous.
    2
  • It looks like i5->i7 is not worth it for gamers. The increases when FPS
    0
  • OtusIt looks like i5->i7 is not worth it for gamers. The increases when FPS


    I've got news for you: i3->i7 is not worth it for gamers. Tom's Hardware has an interesting article in the works.
    2
  • @Crashman
    Sounds good, this something to do with the i3 HTed vs traditional quad thing?
    0
  • p1n3apqlexpr3ss@CrashmanSounds good, this something to do with the i3 HTed vs traditional quad thing?


    I think it's a Windows 7 thread shifting and dual-threaded games thing, since both the i3 and i7 have HT.
    0
  • SethVNThe labels on all the charts appear to be wrong. They're mentioning a "Current $1300 System" but I thought the current system was $1500?


    The whole comparison is BS. $200 is a lot of money where I come from and the stock cooling on the i5 750 is garbage. The low-end Conroes had much better cooling and they were only 65W TDP. I say stick your no-name heatsink on last quarters machine, call it a $1400 box, redo the overclocking and then publish the results as that way they will be at least somewhat relevant.
    0
  • Great build!

    One thing I would change is the case...this doesn't look mean/rough enough for such a gaming rig, and there's no option of adding lights to interior to beef it up cuz the side cover isn't transparent :(
    -8
  • You broke the budget. Sorry, but FAIL.
    -6
  • Seems like a fairly decent article to me. The increase in gaming performance is just staggering o.O

    On a side note, whoever that gets this rig is very lucky, the i7 in this one is probably one of the more overclockables ones, it seems. Too bad I'm just north of the 49th :(
    0
  • Stardude82I say stick your no-name heatsink on last quarters machine, call it a $1400 box, redo the overclocking and then publish the results as that way they will be at least somewhat relevant.
    It's not just "any" no-name sink, it's one that provided surprisingly good performance in its review:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/corsair-h50-fort120,2370-5.html
    0
  • The RAM for the current build was incorrectly listed as:

    2 x A-Data 2GB DDR3-1333 Kit
    2 x 2GB (4GB Total), 533 MHz (1,066 MHz DDR), CAS 7-7-7-59

    Feel free to delete this comment once it's fixed.
    0
  • I commend you for the case choice. I have that case myself, installed 2 more fans and never regretted it!
    4
  • CrashmanIt's not just "any" no-name sink, it's one that provided surprisingly good performance in its review:http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 370-5.html


    Nearly any no-name heatsink would be better than the current stock cooling. I wasn't dissing the sink, the defensiveness makes me think there was some shilling for New Egg going on since Rosewill is just the name New Egg slaps on to "unbranded" imports.
    0
  • AsRock motherboard, had one once, NEVER again! The problems are not worth the amount of money you might save...
    -3
  • Good matchup. For the money though I think I'd still go with the I-750.
    0
  • Swap the cooler with a Hyper 212 Plus and the PSU with a Seasonic 750w 80-plus certified Gold and I'd buy it.
    -4