System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $2,000 Performance PC

Overclocking

We chose Gigabyte's Z77X-D3H based on our own recommendations. And yet, we suggested the Gigabyte board for enthusiasts on a more limited budget. We had apparently forgotten why the company's -D3H-series motherboards had previously been left out of our high-end builds since last year, only to remind ourselves on overclocking day.

We wanted a constant voltage level between 1.25 and 1.30 V. But the Z77X-D3H's voltage regulator simply couldn’t do what we asked under the rigors of overclocking. Setting the firmware’s Loadline Calibration setting to High kept the voltage where we wanted for a while. But, again, full-load testing stress caused a protection circuit to reset the system. The same safeguard keeping us from destroying the board instead inhibited our overclock, even though the processor was never active for long enough during real-world testing to exceed 70° Celcius.

The Medium Loadline Calibration setting allowed the core to drop to around 1.23 V under full load, in turn limiting our processor's maximum clock to 4.4 GHz.

The issues didn’t end there however, as the Core i7-3770K eventually climbed to 84° Celcius, even at our more conservative settings. Had we picked a motherboard better able to contend with aggressive overclocking, the mediocre heat sink and fan would have been our next bottleneck to address.

A combination of overclocking consistency and value pricing put G.Skill's 8 GB DDR3-1600 kit in our system. Proof of that consistency came when it achieved the same DDR3-2133 data rate at 10-11-10-24 timing seen in our previous $2,000 build.

Graphics cards tend not to be as flexible as host processors when it comes to voltage levels and overclocked frequencies, but we didn't need any more voltage to push the limits of MSI’s Radeon HD 7970 cards.

Automatic fan speed wasn’t sufficient for our overclocked settings, though. So, we set a simple slope in MSI Afterburner’s advanced settings. We also set “Start With Windows” and “Start Minimized” under the program’s General tab.

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    Top Comments
  • Darkerson
    kj3639After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!-Good Job

    They really had nothing to redeem themselves about. They went with something a little different, just to try it out. Id rather they go off the beaten path so we can get a better idea of how these builds would turn out without having to buy and build them ourselves.
    Also, if they didnt try something different, they would almost always be cookie-cutter builds until the next big thing came out. No thanks!
    At any rate, this is a really nice build. Have to say, though, I would be happy to win any of these.
    26
  • blazorthon
    Anonymous said:
    Suggested changes:

    Core i5 3570k - savings of $120
    2x - MSI N670 PE 2GD5/OC - $800 (gtx 670 OC'd to 1019 core clock)

    Rosewill FORTRESS-750 - $140 (80 plus platinum + 7 year limited warranty)
    LIAN LI PC-7B plus II - $100 (gamer cases look tacky, less is more)


    This was a balanced performance build, not a purely gaming build. The i5 would have hurt that significantly.
    17
  • Crashman
    NovuakeYeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...
    Maybe, maybe not, motherboard market has changed a little since the parts were bought and I've since seen some D5-series Gigabyte boards (with their better PWM) drop to $150...at least temporarily.
    12
  • Other Comments
  • Novuake
    Yeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...
    -7
  • Crashman
    NovuakeYeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...
    Maybe, maybe not, motherboard market has changed a little since the parts were bought and I've since seen some D5-series Gigabyte boards (with their better PWM) drop to $150...at least temporarily.
    12
  • mayankleoboy1
    Too much of cheap CPU coolers
    -1
  • Anonymous
    For the next SBM build, use the "SAMSUNG 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) MV-3V4G3D/US". People are posting low timings with very high frequencies. Plus it is low profile (half the size of every other non-heatsink memory modules on the market) and operates at 1.35v (overvolt it to 1.65v without worry).
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147096
    4
  • kj3639
    After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!

    -Good Job
    -8
  • herooftimex
    Suggested changes:

    Core i5 3570k - savings of $120
    2x - MSI N670 PE 2GD5/OC - $800 (gtx 670 OC'd to 1019 core clock)

    Rosewill FORTRESS-750 - $140 (80 plus platinum + 7 year limited warranty)
    LIAN LI PC-7B plus II - $100 (gamer cases look tacky, less is more)
    -14
  • JOSHSKORN
    I think Toms needs a new article: "The Dream Build" with gaming in mind.
    -1
  • Darkerson
    kj3639After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!-Good Job

    They really had nothing to redeem themselves about. They went with something a little different, just to try it out. Id rather they go off the beaten path so we can get a better idea of how these builds would turn out without having to buy and build them ourselves.
    Also, if they didnt try something different, they would almost always be cookie-cutter builds until the next big thing came out. No thanks!
    At any rate, this is a really nice build. Have to say, though, I would be happy to win any of these.
    26
  • C12Friedman
    My first thought, I kept going back to it also, was the motherboard, why? I kept going 2nd page, 1st page, 2nd page, back to first page, confusion reigned in my head. Took me a while to get past the second page. But since it was addressed at the end of the article, I guess it's known.
    4
  • Anonymous
    One think to consider are both Q3 and Q4 systems future proof. It's important for games and serious task to be able to extend life of your PC and Q4 in this category is certainly penny wise but pound foolish.
    -4
  • blazorthon
    kj3639After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!-Good Job


    The CPU was hardly a bottle-neck at all according to Tom's gaming benchmarks. Sure, power consumption was high, but that cold easily be alleviated by disabling one core per module (which shouldn't hurt performance in any of Tom's gaming benchmarks anyway). Why was the rig awful?
    3
  • blazorthon
    Anonymous said:
    Suggested changes:

    Core i5 3570k - savings of $120
    2x - MSI N670 PE 2GD5/OC - $800 (gtx 670 OC'd to 1019 core clock)

    Rosewill FORTRESS-750 - $140 (80 plus platinum + 7 year limited warranty)
    LIAN LI PC-7B plus II - $100 (gamer cases look tacky, less is more)


    This was a balanced performance build, not a purely gaming build. The i5 would have hurt that significantly.
    17
  • ojas
    Haha. Just goes to show how much more "gamey" my BestConfigs build could have been had i not been extravagant on things like liquid cooling and a Sabertooth board (and another SSD) :D
    4
  • EzioAs
    2 7970s in crossfire, nice! Best thing I've identified straight away. Even 2 7950s would suffice I guess, but that's just me

    I agree with blazorthon and Thomas, that with $2000 to spend and it's primary usage isn't gaming, a 3770K is the better choice (depends on usage). 3930K is just too expensive while an i5 is the best if you're not doing anything too CPU intensive.

    Nice choice for power supply as well. I like that you didn't go overboard on the psu. I only question the cooler and case. While the Hyper 212 is a great cooler for the money, overclocking is limited because it couldn't withstand the heat that IB output especially after 1.3V, some even lower (but I guess most of us here know this already). I guess it's probably best if you spend just a little bit more for a better cpu cooler (I know it's closer to $2000 already but spend a little more, maybe $2030 isn't so bad).

    As for the case, well that's actually a matter of taste. If I were to spend $2k on a new build, I probably would go for at least a $120 case (but again, it's a matter of taste). But I can't argue that the CM storm enforcer is one of the best case at it's price point. If it were me, I'd go for Corsair 400R

    So overall, good build. Good job! I really like it. Not much compromise at all :)
    9
  • RealJames
    I would have used an x79 board with 128gB of ram using a 120gB ramdisk and have it load all games/software from the ramdisk,

    I am using a 28gB ramdisk now leaving 4gB for OS, most programs and a few games installed to it, it is FAST
    -10
  • blazorthon
    RealJamesI would have used an x79 board with 128gB of ram using a 120gB ramdisk and have it load all games/software from the ramdisk, I am using a 28gB ramdisk now leaving 4gB for OS, most programs and a few games installed to it, it is FAST


    128GB of RAM would cost an incredible amount of money, undoubtedly more than this build's $2000 budget, if it had to fit in eight modules, the most that are supported by X79 *consumer* motherboards. You'd need 16GB modules and those are incredibly expensive with very high price per GB. Even an 8x8GB kit for 64GB would already be very expensive at several hundred dollars...
    6
  • ojas
    BTW, Thomas.

    Seriously, add Planetside 2 next time. Play the same map, with the three systems together, the same firefight. That game stresses EVERYTHING. Maybe not the GPU though, at least not that much (being DX9). But it's great to test RAM and CPU overclocks/general performance.

    Add to the fact that PS2 players with AMD CPUs have been complaining a lot. I have a Core 2 Quad and it's killing my rig.
    10
  • blazorthon
    ojasBTW, Thomas. Seriously, add Planetside 2 next time. Play the same map, with the three systems together, the same firefight. That game stresses EVERYTHING. Maybe not the GPU though, at least not that much (being DX9). But it's great to test RAM and CPU overclocks/general performance.Add to the fact that PS2 players with AMD CPUs have been complaining a lot. I have a Core 2 Quad and it's killing my rig.


    Being DX9 doesn't necessarily mean that a game can't stress the GPU ;)
    8
  • EzioAs
    Anonymous said:
    Being DX9 doesn't necessarily mean that a game can't stress the GPU ;)


    True. The Witcher 2 is DX9, yet that is one of the most demanding game so far
    9
  • ojas
    blazorthonBeing DX9 doesn't necessarily mean that a game can't stress the GPU

    True. Convenient generalization lol. :P
    7