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System Assembly And Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $800 Enthusiast PC
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We were pleasantly surprised with Xigmatek's Asgard II case. The tool-less drive mounts work well, and the spacious interior provides ample room for a clean installation. For a budget-oriented chassis, it actually feels well-built, too. Our biggest complaint about this enclosure is that it appears to have been dropped during shipping, requiring us to push out a few creases.

With that said, Paul has used this case several times in the System Builder Marathon, and was happy with it in the past. It's good enough for me and my less-full wallet today.

The good news is that we didn't have any issues with the case, unlike Paul's experience yesterday. The orange-on-black color scheme inside is attractive enough, and we almost wish we had picked the orange-trimmed version to match.

Overclocking

Overclocking the Core i5-3550K is straightforward enough, and ASRock's Z77 Pro3 gives us all of the settings we need to do it properly. We did give the BIOS' auto-overclocking feature a try, but it failed to boot at 4.6 GHz. And while the automatically-configured 4.4 GHz setting did load up into Windows, one thread failed during a Prime95 stress test.

This forced us to tackle the overclock manually. Even with incremental voltage increases, the system wouldn't boot at 4.6 GHz. A 0.1 V bump to the processor yielded a stable 4.5 GHz. However, certain benchmarks returned lower performance than what I was getting at stock frequencies. So, I dropped the overclock to 4.4 GHz with a +0.085 V offset and got the speed-up I was expecting.

As for the memory overclock, I simply triggered the memory kit's XMP profile, which increased the frequency to DDR3-1600 with 8-8-8-24 timings.

I then swapped over to my graphics card. Not sure what to expect from AMD's Tahiti LE GPU, I was surprised to see the chip take 1,275 MHz and a memory frequency of 1,650 MHz. Unfortunately, those settings triggered some throttling during our benchmarks, requiring that I step back to a 1,150 MHz core clock and 1,575 MHz memory. Still, when you consider PowerColor's card ships at 975 MHz, our GPU overclock is respectable.

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