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Building And Overclocking Our Mainstream Enthusiast System

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: Our Enthusiast PC

While the build went smoothly, I did encounter a handful of minor irritations. For instance, Apevia's X-Hermes surprised me with its excellent fit and finish. However, Cooler Master's large Hyper 212 Plus interfered with the case window's 200 mm fan. As a result, I had to remove that and sacrifice some of the enclosure's airflow. In addition, I was surprised to find that the ASRock Z97 Pro3 motherboard's internal USB 3.0 header is uncomfortably close to the top PCI Express slot. Normally, this probably wouldn't cause a problem. But because PowerColor adds a back plate to its card, occupying space it shouldn't, the USB 3.0 cable end presses hard against the Radeon R9 290. I unplugged the front-panel header and used the USB 2.0 interface on the bottom of the board instead.

Once everything was plugged in, the PC fired up without incident and software installation went smoothly. As you can see from the picture below, the case comes equipped with some cable management concessions, and ASRock's smaller board is dwarfed inside.


I can't remember how many Core i5-4670K processors I've tuned at this point, but the number is large. While I often boot successfully at 4.5 GHz, stability issues in taxing workloads almost always push me down into the 4.3 GHz range. This time is no different. A final overclock to 4.3 GHz is fed by a 1.285 V setting in the BIOS.

Left to its own devices, ASRock's board set my Team Group memory kit at 666 MHz, 9-9-9-24-1T timings. That's where I benchmarked it for the stock run through our test suite. Then, I invoked the XMP memory profile and ran the kit at 800 MHz with 9-9-9-24-2T timings for our tweaked results.

ASRock's Z97 Pro3 facilitates overclocking options and performance similar to boards that are significantly more expensive. The following CPU-Z screenshot illustrates our modified configuration:

I used AMD's Catalyst Control Center interface to overclock PowerColor's card. The TurboDuo board comes factory-tuned with a 975 MHz maximum clock rate. However, a power limit increase to the peak 50% settings allowed me to crank the core up 13% more. FurMark reported a corresponding 1100 MHz frequency under load.

The memory wouldn't cooperate at 1500 MHz, so I dropped it back to 1400 MHz. That's still significantly higher than the stock 1250 MHz setting.

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