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CPU And Memory

System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $2000 PC

CPU: Intel Core i7-950

Intel’s Core i7-950 was priced only $10 higher than its i7-930, yet it carries a rated speed of 3.06 GHz compared to the cheaper processor’s 2.80 GHz. That sounds like a high-value upgrade to us!

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-950

The base multiplier for the i7-950 jumps up to 23x (compared to the i7-930’s 21x multiplier), opening up a few more options when it comes to overclocking. And speaking of overclocking, the process of speed-binning—where a manufacturer determines which CPU runs best at higher speeds—means that we’re more likely to get a “good” overclock from this higher-rated part.

DRAM: Mushkin Essentials 998586

The best overclocking-value memory we’ve tested over the past two years have all used Micron’s D9KPT chips, but we’ve also found that these particular chips work slightly better without heat spreaders. That lead us to use Crucial’s bare modules (at least until the company raised its prices to the point where competing brands were far cheaper). So, imagine our surprise when we found this at Newegg:

Yes, Newegg was carrying the same Micron D9KPT chips, on the same Micron circuit boards, under a different brand, at a 40% lower price. Epic win, right? We placed our order pronto, and a few days later this is what we received:

Read Customer Reviews of Mushkin's 6 GB DDR3-1333 Kit

The part number on the chips corresponds to Hynix commodity-grade memory, parts that are so ordinary that the manufacturer didn’t even bother to put its brand on them. This is certain to put a crimp in our overclocking plans.

Not only are these far lower-grade than the parts we expected from Mushkin, but they’re organized completely differently, with twice the density. That means a module from the current part number 998586 set can’t even be mixed in multichannel mode with a module from the previous 998586 set, even though both carry the same part number. We realize that both versions of this model number are only guaranteed to be stable at the same 1.50 V, DDR3-1333 and lowly 9-9-9-24 timings, but shouldn’t cross-compatibility for modules of the same part number also be guaranteed? For shame Mushkin, for shame…

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