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Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $500 Gaming PC
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Our Phenom II’s VID (Voltage ID) was 1.35 V. And, as we’ve come to expect, ASRock's M3A77DE overvolted a bit beyond that, reaching 1.40 V under load. Stock temperatures during Prime95 testing were already 52 degrees Celsius (core) and 54 degrees Celsius (socket). In order to allow a  little breathing room for warm summer months, the goal was to maximize our overclock with very little temperature increase. To do this, the CPU needed to be undervolted.

A 0.05 V reduction in CPU voltage (to 1.300 V in the BIOS) was good for 3.4 GHz, resulting in the same load temperatures as the stock processor. Bumping up to 1.325 V increased our CPU temperature 2-3 degrees alone, leaving no room to explore higher speeds.

As we've seen in the past, there wasn't much to gain from overclocking our budget-oriented memory. Memtest 86+ flagged frequent errors at 1633 MT/s, despite bumping DIMM Voltage to 1.65 V and further loosening timings. At 1296 MT/s, the machine wouldn’t boot at CAS 7, so final timings were 8-8-8-24 1T at 1.59 V. Increasing memory bandwidth would require either swapping in more expensive RAM or leveraging the flexibility of a multiplier-unlocked Black Edition processor.

Overclocking Sapphire's Radeon HD 6850 can be summed up in just one word: disappointing.

I fully expected the card’s 850 MHz BIOS limit to prematurely cap our GPU core frequency when using AMD Overdrive. Instead, I ran into major shader artifacts appearing well below that limit. The maximum stable overclock was a paltry 820 MHz for the core, while the memory was good for 1130 MHz (4520 MT/s).

These figures were then lowered to 800 MHz and 1100 MHz to assure stability through the duration of testing. This is a rather insignificant overclock that pales in comparison to the Sparkle GeForce GTX 460 used back in December.

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  • 3 Hide
    tacoslave , March 25, 2011 4:18 AM
    i think orange looks spiffy
  • -5 Hide
    abswindows7 , March 25, 2011 4:20 AM
    worst case in the world.
  • 1 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , March 25, 2011 4:51 AM
    "I’ll certainly entertain the possibility of Intel’s newly-available Core i3-2100 for the next SBM."

    Have fun overclocking that rig!

    I'd choose my O/C'd i3-530 @ 3.75 GHz (stock, air-cooled) over any of the new Sandy Bridge offerings any day.
    The 2100 just cannot compete with that- it's marginally better than a first-gen i3, and it cannot be pushed harder.

    *Hopes Bulldozer will be ready by that time*
  • 4 Hide
    wolfram23 , March 25, 2011 4:55 AM
    Pretty darn good for $500!
  • 2 Hide
    Judguh , March 25, 2011 4:59 AM
    Good Build!
  • 4 Hide
    hmp_goose , March 25, 2011 4:59 AM
    Need the optical drive?
  • 3 Hide
    haplo602 , March 25, 2011 5:06 AM
    now finaly a low SBM build I like.

    ++ on the PSU (finaly not a 500W+ waste)
    + on the case (looks decent)
  • 2 Hide
    lunyone , March 25, 2011 5:49 AM
    Pretty good build for the $. I would've gone with the Athlon x4 or x3 to keep things under budget, but that is just me. There are plenty of GPU options in the ~$170 price range. I think you might've got one of "those" GPU's that you read about. This is why "expecting" OC'ing abilities with whatever part you buy, shouldn't be taken for granted. Buy what you can afford and if you get a good OC on your parts, feel blessed:) 
  • 1 Hide
    lunyone , March 25, 2011 5:51 AM
    I would've taken the savings on the CPU and bought better RAM or maybe even a different case, but that is just nit picking a bit :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Marcus52 , March 25, 2011 6:34 AM
    Very nice build for the price. However, I simply can't help but think for another hundred or so dollars a Sandy Bridge build would be worth saving up another couple of months for by the person who had a very tight budget. It's what I'd recommend to a friend, unless he/she had an immediate need that couldn't wait.

    ;) 
  • 7 Hide
    cangelini , March 25, 2011 6:37 AM
    one-shotWould someone please explain the point of comparing the old SBM to the new one if there isn't a list of the parts from the SBM done in the past? These have always been annoying when the reader is forced to look back to December for a detailed list of parts. This has been practiced for years here. It makes no sense comparing to something the reader has no idea as to the parts being used in the past. Seriously....Edit: Why Did I get a Minus one the second after my post was submitted?


    There is a list, but it requires reading the story through page eight, at least =)
  • 1 Hide
    mraltoid19 , March 25, 2011 6:53 AM
    Nice system! I don't know if a SB cpu will be much better. Bear in mind that the SB would have to be the i3 due to price. And as a Dual-Core with no ability to overclock what-so-ever, it may have a heck of a time going up against a true quad-core. On this config, I would have dropped down from the X4 925 to the X4 640. Then used the saved $25 towards a 6870 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Description=Radeon+6870&Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&sourceid=mozilla-search) Cheapest at Newegg is $190 (not to mention a $20 rebate, that brings it down to $170).
  • 1 Hide
    SpadeM , March 25, 2011 7:09 AM
    Actually there is a new review .. sort of ... for the 2100 in which it shows some pretty interesting numbers, and it's available here:
    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=intel_corei3_2100&num=1

    Numbers aside, looking forward to the next SBM.
  • 0 Hide
    Marcus52 , March 25, 2011 7:09 AM
    one-shotWould someone please explain the point of comparing the old SBM to the new one if there isn't a list of the parts from the SBM done in the past? These have always been annoying when the reader is forced to look back to December for a detailed list of parts. This has been practiced for years here. It makes no sense comparing to something the reader has no idea as to the parts being used in the past. Seriously....Edit: Why Did I get a Minus one the second after my post was submitted?


    I hope Tomshardware editors never stoop to writing reviews geared to people that won't make the effort to look up past articles.








  • 4 Hide
    dco , March 25, 2011 7:41 AM
    Quote:
    I hope Tomshardware editors never stoop to writing reviews geared to people that won't make the effort to look up past articles.


    yeah because who would want to live in a world that's convenient......
  • -2 Hide
    one-shot , March 25, 2011 7:42 AM
    delete please!
  • 5 Hide
    one-shot , March 25, 2011 7:46 AM
    cangeliniThere is a list, but it requires reading the story through page eight, at least =)


    Sorry, can't read with my foot in my mouth. :) 
  • 2 Hide
    Marcus52 , March 25, 2011 7:52 AM
    mraltoid19Nice system! I don't know if a SB cpu will be much better. Bear in mind that the SB would have to be the i3 due to price. And as a Dual-Core with no ability to overclock what-so-ever, it may have a heck of a time going up against a true quad-core. On this config, I would have dropped down from the X4 925 to the X4 640. Then used the saved $25 towards a 6870 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] la-search) Cheapest at Newegg is $190 (not to mention a $20 rebate, that brings it down to $170).


    I was thinking it would be more in my first post, but a quad-core SB can be had for $60 more, a mainboard can be had for $5 more, so now that I've actually looked it up, you can get into an i5 Sandy Bridge with a decent Asrock mainboard for a total of another $65. Overclocking on the stock cooler? My guess is results would be similar.

    That would be a 13% increase in price, and I'd be willing to bet the overall performance difference would be more than that.

    The better you know your software needs, the better you can tailor your system. I think a lot of gamers would shift as you would for the better graphics card, but that would actually hurt some games that need the stronger CPU. World of Warcraft is an example - while Cataclysm brought changes that make the video card much more important, the CPU is still a major player and when player populations get high the most critical element. It's something I think FPS multiplayer gamers might think about as well.

    ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    cangelini , March 25, 2011 8:00 AM
    one-shotI have lots of respect for the editors at Toms, don't get me wrong. I'm sure many other readers would also prefer a list of the previous SMB, as well. Searching through an article for components to compare the two is very inconvenient.Please take this into consideration on the next SBM.-Thanks!


    Thanks one-shot, but I'm not sure how else I can help you here. The complete list of comparison hardware is right there on the page called Test System Configuration And Benchmarks. You have this quarter's hardware and last quarter's hardware in successive tables. I'm not sure how much more convenient we can make it. If you have any suggestions, please suggest away!
    Best,
    Chris
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