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Assembly And GPU Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Performance PC

A hole in the Antec Three Hundred case’s motherboard tray allows the installation of a cooler support plate, but using it with Scythe’s Mugen 2 Revision B requires at least three hands. The easiest way to install the CPU cooler is with it laying upside-down on a bench, manipulating the motherboard into position before inserting its screws. The complete process is outlined in our September $2000 build.

We prefer our fan to hang approximately 1/2" below the bottom fin of a tower cooler to increase airflow at the voltage regulator's heat sinks.  Unfortunately, the underhang seen above is reduced by the memory's tall heat spreaders. We still didn't experience any heat problems, however.

AMD’s Radeon HD 6950 barely fits within the Antec Three Hundred, its 10.9” length preventing 3.5” drives from being installed in nearby bays. Our 2.5” S599 SSD drives fit within the blocked bays by using A-Data’s included bay adapters, and putting the 2.5” drives in the blocked bays leaves extra room for the installation of additional full-sized 3.5” drives in the open bays. There was a lot of potential for problematic installation here, but it looks like everything worked out perfectly.

Note that our photo does not show the CrossFire bridge cable installed. Our motherboard didn’t include a CrossFire bridge, but the vendor is considering its addition for the B3 stepping re-launch. Newegg doesn’t sell a bridge of appropriate 82.55 mm center-to-center minimum length, and the bridges included with our cards are also too short. While we await Asus’ decision to include this part and Newegg’s link reactivation, buyers are still able to get the 90 mm flexible cable through the Asus eStore and a few other sites.

We had many options for overclocking our graphics cards, including the option to flash our card with the Radeon HD 6970 BIOS, thereby unlocking its disabled shaders and expanding its O/C range. Yet, there are some risks to flashing the card, such as memory speeds and timings that don’t work, and any flash will void the exceptional “double-lifetime” warranty offered by XFX.

That last statement is certain to gather heaps of criticism from folks who're a bit unrealistic. While it may be true that some warranties state that overclocking is prohibited, our warranty card made no mention of it. Further, this editor has claimed many warranties on his own, and yet never been asked whether or not a product had been overclocked. Finally, many users would argue that AMD’s own overclocking utility should never be used against card owners because it’s integrated in the driver, qualifying as intended use.

In an effort to represent his recommended real-world practices, this builder stayed within the limits of AMD’s overclocking software. That should prevent card damage and keep the valuable warranty intact. Of course, that level of caution did limit the card to a pathetic 5% overclock.

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