System Builder Marathon, June 2011: $1000 Enthusiast PC

Assembly And Overclocking

The Xclio Nighthawk case is surprisingly pleasant to work in. There are a lot of cable management features you don't even see in more expensive models, plus a number of easy-access panels that open up to make optical and hard disk drive installation simpler. This enclosure is fairly roomy, and has no problem accommodating two Radeon HD 6850 cards. It's attractive enough with the fan LEDs turned on, but the control panel on top lets you turn them off if bling is not your thing. Either way, the Nighthawk has a classy look that'd make us think it's more expensive than it really is.

The build went smoothly, and there were only two issues to note. First, CrossFire did not work until I updated the motherboard's firmware to the newest option available, version 1B. The second issue was a surprise: the Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 cards don’t come bundled with a CrossFire connector! Luckily, we had a spare lying around the lab, but folks who don’t have that luxury will be disappointed. A CrossFire bridge should automatically be included with cards this powerful, and we encourage all graphics card vendors to keep that in mind.

The MSI P67A-G43 has a great BIOS interface to work in; it's straightforward and easy to navigate. We were surprised to see some simple games bundled in the firmware itself, and to be honest we’re not sure if this feature would ever be used. But if MSI wants to add it for free, who are we to suggest otherwise?

Overclocking

We’ll employ the same overclocking approach used in our previous System Builder Marathon configuration: feed the Core i5-2500K CPU 1.4 V, turn Turbo Boost off, and find the highest multiplier that it’ll take without crashing or throwing up unacceptable temperatures.

As in our last SBM, this CPU won’t run stably with a 46x multiplier, but it's rock-solid at 45x. This results in a 4.5 GHz clock, and in a Prime95 stress test, it caps out at about 90 degrees Celsius, or about 10 degrees short of its thermal limit. That's more than 20 degrees warmer than the ceiling we saw last quarter, so it's pretty easy to conclude that Cooler Master's Hyper 212 is a much more capable heat sink. Having said that, the Xigmatek Loki also costs half of the price and still makes this overclock possible. Most of the time, actual operating temperatures should remain far below what a synthetic stress test like Prime95 yields, too.

We’re not keen on pushing things as hard when graphics are concerned, as dual-card configurations tend to sacrifice stability when overclocked. As a result, we’ll limit ourselves to what the Catalyst Control Center’s Overdrive tool allows. We are able to push the cards to 875/1100 MHz GPU/memory from the stock 820/1050 MHz specification.

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    Top Comments
  • whysobluepandabear
    seller417650W is enough power for this rig?

    Well, looking into my tarot cards and crystal ball, I see It peaks at 400W at full load. So yeah, I think 650W may be a bit of an overkill.
    15
  • Other Comments
  • seller417
    650W is enough power for this rig?
    -10
  • kelby0320
    Radeon HD 9950 I want one
    -7
  • whysobluepandabear
    What? 6850 x 2 = $340? Um, I could get TWO 6870's for $350~ EASY. Sure, they have mail in rebates, but who cares.


    Two 6870's would stomp the 6850's, and you would literally spend the same, if not a measly $10 more.
    -10
  • quixilver1
    Why change the cooler from the $200 pc. It is only $5 more and still within the budget.
    1
  • whysobluepandabear
    seller417650W is enough power for this rig?

    Well, looking into my tarot cards and crystal ball, I see It peaks at 400W at full load. So yeah, I think 650W may be a bit of an overkill.
    15
  • quixilver1
    quixilver1Why change the cooler from the $200 pc. It is only $5 more and still within the budget.

    Should read $2000 pc.
    7
  • Tamz_msc
    Overall, its a good build.
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    whysobluepandabearWell, looking into my tarot cards and crystal ball, I see It peaks at 400W at full load. So yeah, I think 650W may be a bit of an overkill.

    Why would it be overkill? Its the kind of headroom you should have so your not straining the psu. Sure you could get away with less, but for a few dollars more than a 500w unit you can get a 650w. Its perfectly balanced and leaves room for upgrade. Its good to see what 2 6850's can do but i think if I were building this PC i would chose a faster single card and upgrade to dual cards later.
    3
  • akorzan
    seller417650W is enough power for this rig?

    Yes. There is a misconception that rigs need over-sized power supplies. I have a Core i7 875k and a Radeon HD5850 running on a 400 Watt power-supply. Is it pushing it? Yes, if I clock it to 4.2 GHz and run Furmark and Prime95 none stop...
    No if I run Furmark and Prime95 at 3.33 GHz, and definitely no for any realistic workloads.
    Why did I get a 400 watt power-supply? Because it is darn silent and was recommended on Silent PC Review for "budget" power-supplies. (Bare in mind that "normal" are gold SeaSonics)
    3
  • whysobluepandabear
    iam2thecroweWhy would it be overkill? Its the kind of headroom you should have so your not straining the psu. Sure you could get away with less, but for a few dollars more than a 500w unit you can get a 650w. Its perfectly balanced and leaves room for upgrade. Its good to see what 2 6850's can do but i think if I were building this PC i would chose a faster single card and upgrade to dual cards later.


    Because he was asking if 650W was enough, when all he had to do was look at the chart and clearly see the 399W max system (CPU+GPU) load.


    So essentially, for that system, the 650W is more than enough, and ...effectively an "Overkill".
    4
  • Kamab
    Most power supplies run most efficiently around 50-60% max load. That and they tend to not heat up as much at that load, so what you think is "Overkill" might be more reliable, efficient, and less likely to have failing components due to less heat.
    3
  • alikum
    Here's another question. Does it have sufficient power connectors for both cards?
    6
  • buzznut
    alikumHere's another question. Does it have sufficient power connectors for both cards?

    +1
    1
  • quixilver1
    alikumHere's another question. Does it have sufficient power connectors for both cards?

    Yes
    2x 6+2 pci-e connectors
    Card uses 1x 6pin connector each
    2
  • KenZen2B
    If you are going to overclock and spend that amount of money for the CPU, it does not make any sense to go cheap on the cooler. Next time show the difference between this cooler and the high end cooler when overclocking. It may only make sense to go cheap when not overclocking.
    3
  • alikum
    quixilver1Yes2x 6+2 pci-e connectorsCard uses 1x 6pin connector each

    I was under the impression that each requires at least 2 connectors because my toxic version requires 1x 6+2 and 1x 6
    0
  • nitrium
    Most (or even all) of the charts show "March 2010 $1000 system". I was actually confused, since I always skip the preamble, and go straight to the hard numbers.
    2
  • iam2thecrowe
    alikumI was under the impression that each requires at least 2 connectors because my toxic version requires 1x 6+2 and 1x 6

    my powercolour 6850 has 1 connector and so do most of them.
    "I have a Core i7 875k and a Radeon HD5850 running on a 400 Watt power-supply" - wouldnt try that on a diablotek 400w.
    3
  • Stardude82
    quixilver1Why change the cooler from the $200 pc. It is only $5 more and still within the budget.


    My guess is that the $2k cooler couldn't fit in the $1K cooler case. The Nighthawk is an inch narrower and the Loki is an inch shorter. There are still a few good cases which should work with the 120 mm fan.
    2
  • Anonymous
    This build completely killed my video card plans. 2 x Radeon 6850 are $10 cheaper than THE CHEAPEST GTX 570. But what's the better choice!?! Damn you graphics card producers for making this so hard :)
    2