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Assembling Our Budget Box And Limited Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $500 Gaming PC
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Building our $500 gaming rig was a simple, snag-free procedure. Most of the comments worth mentioning center on our $30 Rosewill microATX enclosure.

This rather small mid-tower case is noticeably heavier than the chassis we utilized last round. Double-boxed for added protection, its gross shipping weight was 50% greater. With more concessions for additional drives in a simislarly-sized enclosure, we were left with quite a bit less room for add-in cards. Our 9.5” GeForce GTX 560 Ti had to be angled a bit during installation. Once it was seated, though, it had about half of an inch of clearance between its shroud and the drive cage. Installed, the GeForce GTX 560 Ti does block the two center bays, though.

We again have to criticize Gigabyte's SATA port placement. Installing a dual-slot graphics card renders two of the H61 chipset's integrated ports inaccessible. The problem isn't huge, since we still have access to a pair of integrated connectors, along with two SATA 6Gb/s-capable ports, enabled by a Marvell controller.

Gigabyte bundled two cables with 90-degree SATA connectors in our retail package, rather than including one straight cable, as it did last quarter. This almost presented a problem. The cable either interfered with the graphics card or the bottom of the case, depending on the bay we used for mounting our hard drive.

Cable management was much easier this time around, though. In fact, we didn't use a single tie-strap in our system photos, just to show that it could be done. The enclosure itself also benefited from improved rear-panel rigidity, addressing one of our major concerns last time around. Unfortunately, slightly warped side panels were far more difficult to remove and install. Once they were locked down by thumbscrews, they wouldn't quite line up precisely with the front bezel.

Finally, although I was pleasantly surprised by the quietness of last quarter's 80 mm exhaust and 120 mm intake fans, it turns out that this enclosure's single 120 mm exhaust cooler isn't as quiet. It didn't hum or tick, but the sound of air turbulence made it the most obviously-audible fan in the system. As someone who appreciates a quiet PC, I would probably replace the cooler or experiment with a step down to 5, 7, or 9 V.

Overclocking

With no access to base clock settings, multiplier ratios, or memory data rates above 1066 MT/s, we’re limited once again to pushing lower latencies for any performance increase. Automatic memory timings dialed in 7-7-7-19 at 1.5 V. With a bump to 1.6 V, we found stability at 6-6-6-14 1T. Like last quarter, every attempt to manually adjust memory timings was answered by rapid beeps and a power cycle. The new timings were eventually applied after the restart.

MSI Afterburner served our purposes for overclocking ECS' GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Since I haven't been overly aggressive with our last few Radeon cards, staying within the bounds of AMD Overdrive, we didn't make any attempt to alter our GPU's 1.0 V core setting.

With core clock expectations between 900 and 950 MHz, I began stability testing at 880 MHz, bumping up the core in 10 MHz increments. Attempts to push beyond 900 MHz were punished with artifacts in DiRT 3’s game menus. Here's a helpful hint: if you aren't using DiRT 3, F1 2010, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, or Just Cause 2 for graphics stability testing, I highly recommend you add at least one of them. They have a tendency to demonstrate weaknesses in stability earlier than artifact scanners, synthetics, or other demanding titles like Metro 2033, Battlefield 3, or Crysis.

As I often do, I played it safe and quit overclocking the GDDR5 memory at 1125 MHz (4500 MT/s) before reaching the upper limits of stability. Our final testing frequencies were then dialed back to 891 MHz core and 1102.5 MHz (4410 MT/s) for the memory.

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    PCgamer81 , June 7, 2012 7:29 AM
    Wow.

    To think, for $500, one can experience most of what PC gaming has to offer.

    In this day and age, an Xbox 360/PS3 is absolutely inexcusable.
  • 10 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 7, 2012 4:52 AM
    Would have liked to see Diablo 3 and SC 2 benchmarks for this build.
  • 10 Hide
    cloakster , June 7, 2012 4:30 AM
    It is just incredible how well the G530 performs in gaming.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    cloakster , June 7, 2012 4:30 AM
    It is just incredible how well the G530 performs in gaming.
  • 10 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 7, 2012 4:52 AM
    Would have liked to see Diablo 3 and SC 2 benchmarks for this build.
  • -6 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 7, 2012 5:02 AM
    why are you not increasing the voltages on the GPU to get more clocks ?
    any enthusiast with limited budget would want to maximize his core clocks with higher voltages.. the card can keep cool by increasing the fan speed.
    More noise for a gaming session is acceptable.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 7, 2012 5:04 AM
    Quote:
    Dumping the bulk of our funding into graphics is sure to spell disaster throughout the media encoding and productivity benchmarks. But it's time to face the music.


    pun intended ? ;) 
  • 6 Hide
    s3anister , June 7, 2012 5:20 AM
    Celeron G530 is what I'm rocking in my gaming rig. It is definitely a capable processor, surprising given the legacy behind anything labeled Celeron.
  • 0 Hide
    s3anister , June 7, 2012 5:27 AM
    Slomo4shOWould have liked to see Diablo 3 and SC 2 benchmarks for this build.

    I can't give you exact fps rates, but my machine is very similar to this one (only difference is the GPU: 6950+Z68) and I get similar frame rates in all the tested games. So I'll infer to you what this rig would probably get close to.

    Diablo 3 maxes out at 60fps with occasional dips down to ~30fps when getting mobbed on hell. As for SC2, frame rates for me tended to be around 35fps on average with everything maxed out at 1920x1080 for both games.
  • 1 Hide
    pauldh , June 7, 2012 6:33 AM
    s3anisterCeleron G530 is what I'm rocking in my gaming rig. It is definitely a capable processor, surprising given the legacy behind anything labeled Celeron.

    Ah, but think way back.... slot 1, 440BX, and the Celeron 300A? I had a 266@412MHz, a 300A@464MHz, a 300A@450MHz, and a 333(that topped out down at an 83 MHz FSB).

    While not the first chips I had overclocked, those slot 1 Celeron's gave me the incurable OC bug! *dreams of G530K*
  • 0 Hide
    jestersage , June 7, 2012 6:34 AM
    Amazing! I never thought an SBM machine would ever come this close to my own rig. And confirm for me that my drooling over $200+ graphics cards is not an impractical fantasy for my current rig. I've been dreaming of retiring my old GT240 for a newer card and had the HD7850 (or comparable Nvidia counterpart when it comes out) in mind, or even an HD7770. I now feel justified and my wife will go nuts over the pc part purchase, again.

    I did notice one thing when I compared this build with my system - mine idles at 48-52 watts, too, and I use a 500W S12II. I think right-sizing the PSU will add to the efficiency. A 350w PSU is my bet for bringing the idle power draw closer to the 20% mark of the PSU rating where efficiency starts to pick up (as per 80plus requirements). I say 350w because whoever gets this will likely want to upgrade the CPU to something beefier sooner or later. Nah, sooner!

    Thanks, Paul! for tackling love and system-building with reckless abandon.
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , June 7, 2012 6:40 AM
    i got a question. if I were to use a phenom 2x4 965 BE(3.4ghz) for a gaming rig on a similar budget to this, would it bottleneck me in gaming and other applications?
  • 0 Hide
    pauldh , June 7, 2012 6:45 AM
    mayankleoboy1why are you not increasing the voltages on the GPU to get more clocks ?any enthusiast with limited budget would want to maximize his core clocks with higher voltages.. the card can keep cool by increasing the fan speed.More noise for a gaming session is acceptable.

    As mentioned, it was maiinly a matter of consistency with the past few builds. Dealing with fixed CPU clocks and memory frequency, I just haven't been too aggresive with previous efforts with Radeons, and thus didn't want to boost voltage here with the GTX. Trying to play it fair, that's all. Maybe once we revisit overclockable platforms, and are already dealing with increaded noise, I'll get itchy to max-out the GPU.

    Thanks for the feedback though. I'm actually surprised given the balance of the system, that people would desire to see aggressive GPU overclocking.
  • 0 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , June 7, 2012 6:45 AM
    If the rumored specs of xbox 720 and PS4 are correct, a $500 gaming PC like this will beat both consoles in graphics.

    PC gaming FTW!!
  • 1 Hide
    amdfangirl , June 7, 2012 7:01 AM
    bustapri got a question. if I were to use a phenom 2x4 965 BE(3.4ghz) for a gaming rig on a similar budget to this, would it bottleneck me in gaming and other applications?


    If you read the gaming CPUs hieracy chart, PhIIX4 965 roughly equals Core i3 2100t (power saving) http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-overclock,3106-5.html and is better than a Celeron. Simply put, Core i3 2100 (not power saving) is better. PhII 965 can only match it with a ~almost 4GHz OC.

    It's nice to know that my Ph II X3 isn't going to need to b replaced anytime soon :) . Just a new graphics card.
  • 5 Hide
    bartholomew , June 7, 2012 7:01 AM
    Impressive budget rig!
  • 6 Hide
    Darkerson , June 7, 2012 7:25 AM
    Not bad at all, considering the compromises.
  • 19 Hide
    PCgamer81 , June 7, 2012 7:29 AM
    Wow.

    To think, for $500, one can experience most of what PC gaming has to offer.

    In this day and age, an Xbox 360/PS3 is absolutely inexcusable.
  • -6 Hide
    assafbt , June 7, 2012 7:51 AM
    Ok, my apologies for saying this, but this build had no point. The 500$ and 1000$ price limits in June's builds were unreasonable, as for so little more you could have delivered much more. The limits need reason. The highest end build, may have been reasonable at the 1750$-ish where you not to choose the GTX680. Once you have chosen it, the limit should have gone up by a couple of hundreds.
    So we're left with 3 systems. One just short of high-end, one just short of enthusiast, and one just short of budget gamer.

    Once you've seen the market, you should have put more reason into the price limits.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , June 7, 2012 8:23 AM
    Somehow, i think a Pentium G850 ($88) + a EVGA/MSI GTX 560 ($190) would be a better choice. You'd cross the budget by about $8, but you could have seen much better performance overall, especially after an OC, seeing that those cards can hit 900 MHz+ easy enough.
  • -4 Hide
    truegenius , June 7, 2012 9:19 AM
    :o 
    pentium g530 can't handle a 560Ti, its too weak.
    it is almost equal to or less than phenom 2 x3
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , June 7, 2012 9:32 AM
    assafbtOk, my apologies for saying this, but this build had no point. The 500$ and 1000$ price limits in June's builds were unreasonable, as for so little more you could have delivered much more. The limits need reason. The highest end build, may have been reasonable at the 1750$-ish where you not to choose the GTX680. Once you have chosen it, the limit should have gone up by a couple of hundreds.So we're left with 3 systems. One just short of high-end, one just short of enthusiast, and one just short of budget gamer.Once you've seen the market, you should have put more reason into the price limits.
    The sub-$2000 build was high-end and will remain high-end until you can prove otherwise. And don't even bother picking on its case, because we could go back and forth on that one forever.
  • 8 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 7, 2012 9:33 AM
    as a budget rig, this build is admirable.
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