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Limited Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: The $400 Spirit Of Mini-ITX
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Antec’s TriCool fan is super-quiet at its lowest setting. Although the CPU and GPU load temperatures I measured were well within reason, though, I chose to test using the more audible medium setting, just to increase airflow over board components. The highest setting was far noisier, conflicting with one of this build’s goals, so I maintained the same middle setting for overclocking, too.

The platform I picked prevented me from increasing processing frequency, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to leave system performance alone. For starters, memory data rate is limited to 1333 MT/s on the Pentium G860, and our kit defaulted to 9-9-9-24 2N timings. The board did allow manual tuning though, and Crucial’s DDR3-1600 modules proved stable set to 7-7-7-24 1N at a stock 1.5 V.

We then shifted focus to graphics. The low-profile Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 ran cool and quiet out of the box with an 800 MHz GPU and memory operating at 4500 MT/s. Topping out in our Far Cry 3 burn test at 59 degrees Celsius at just 41% fan duty cycle, we knew the graphics processor was capable of more.

Using MSI Overdrive, I raised the power limit by 10%, and created a more aggressive fan profile that'd remain quiet during desktop use, but also assure GPU temperatures would remain in-check while overclocking. Cape Verde topped out just below its preset 950 MHz maximum, while the memory soared to 1250 MHz.

I ran a few tests and found that GDDR5 memory overclocking was very beneficial. 3DMark 11's Graphics suite went up over 80 points. More important, frame rates in each of our game benchmarks were up 1-2 FPS at important settings. But considering the small enclosure and my desire for controlled acoustics, no attempts were made to explore unofficial overclocking limits.

Rather, I dialed frequencies back a bit and tested with a 925 MHz core and 1225 MHz memory. At those settings, the customized fan profile ramped up as high as 60%, keeping the GPU from exceeding 60 degrees Celsius. This turned out to be far more pleasing than even our $650 PC's Tahiti-based Radeon HD 7870, as far as noise went.

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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 26, 2013 10:11 PM
    Enjoy the $400 build. Kinda hoped for an A10-5800k build to compare to.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    ingtar33 , June 26, 2013 9:36 PM
    great article. this type of look at how a low end "budget" build handles modern titles was perfect. Loved it. I think you got about the most you could hope for out of a $400 budget. Frankly i can't find a way to make something better at that price point. spot on really. nicely done.

    I do like how most of those games were "playable" on high settings at 1080p with that tiny rig... very cool.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , June 26, 2013 9:40 PM
    Nice build, makes me wonder how it would stack up to my old 4.0 GHz overclocked Core 2 Duo office PC. Which gets gamed on occasionally using its HD 6850 graphics card.
  • 7 Hide
    tourist , June 26, 2013 9:57 PM
    This is a great build and worthy of sitting next to any big screen.

    Great job
  • 10 Hide
    envy14tpe , June 26, 2013 10:11 PM
    Enjoy the $400 build. Kinda hoped for an A10-5800k build to compare to.
  • 6 Hide
    rmpumper , June 26, 2013 10:29 PM
    250 bucks makes HUGE difference. Unlike 2500 vs 1300 systems.
  • -7 Hide
    allanitomwesh , June 26, 2013 10:41 PM
    FINALLY! I agree this whole system builder was almost a fail.
    Also, I can't believe you had a SG05 and didn't build with it,it has an awesome power supply. Again,if you weren't getting a disk drive the V3+ was the smaller, higher quality case than CM 120 ( though they're finished on newegg)
    The obsession with ginormous cards in tiny places made your cases not tiny.Clearly,a more sensible build,like with a 670,would fit in a much smaller footprint.
    The lack of the FT03 Mini is a fail. It's a Mac killing case,and should've been the go to case for the $2500 build, because at that price,my case better look it.
    Otherwise I like that you were at least up to the challenge, and I applaud this last build.
  • 8 Hide
    Crashman , June 26, 2013 10:51 PM
    Quote:
    FINALLY! I agree this whole system builder was almost a fail.
    Also, I can't believe you had a SG05 and didn't build with it,it has an awesome power supply. Again,if you weren't getting a disk drive the V3+ was the smaller, higher quality case than CM 120 ( though they're finished on newegg)
    The obsession with ginormous cards in tiny places made your cases not tiny.Clearly,a more sensible build,like with a 670,would fit in a much smaller footprint.
    The lack of the FT03 Mini is a fail. It's a Mac killing case,and should've been the go to case for the $2500 build, because at that price,my case better look it.
    Otherwise I like that you were at least up to the challenge, and I applaud this last build.
    The FT03 Mini would have probably caused the $2500 PC's graphics card to overheat, or caused the graphics card to overheat the CPU. And a 670 might have worked, but then it wouldn't have been a $2500 PC. But please don't let the facts get in the way of your opinion.

    You could say that nobody should even bother spending $2500 on an ITX-based system, or that a system with ITX limitations should never be expected to provide top performance. At least those opinions would make more sense than the stuff you said above.

  • 5 Hide
    brucek2 , June 26, 2013 11:13 PM
    My favorite of the builds. Feels congruent to me in that budget, form factor and system capabilities all align to each other and to my personal sensibilities. I could see making a system like this for a bedroom or den.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , June 26, 2013 11:44 PM
    Quote:
    My favorite of the builds. Feels congruent to me in that budget, form factor and system capabilities all align to each other and to my personal sensibilities. I could see making a system like this for a bedroom or den.
    Or even an office! Really. I might not build one of these for a performance competition, but it looks like a solid alternative to my retired-gaming office PC.

  • 2 Hide
    CommentariesAnd More , June 27, 2013 12:07 AM
    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: Intel Pentium G860 3.0GHz Dual-Core Processor ($69.99 @ Newegg)
    Motherboard: Foxconn H61S Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($49.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: Corsair 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($29.99 @ NCIX US)
    Storage: Samsung Spinpoint M8 500GB 2.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive ($54.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 1GB Video Card ($99.99 @ Newegg)
    Wireless Network Adapter: Rosewill RNX-N180UB 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0 Wi-Fi Adapter ($9.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Rosewill RS-MI-01 BK Mini ITX Tower Case w/250W Power Supply ($49.99 @ Amazon)
    Optical Drive: LG GH24NS95 DVD/CD Writer ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $371.92
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-06-27 03:06 EDT-0400)

    Some improvements I would like to suggest , Maybe I am crazy , but felt I should do this.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , June 27, 2013 12:41 AM
    Even this diminutive little machine would significantly outpace my old Phenom II X3 710, XFX HD 4830 and 4x1GB DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12) for a pretty decent price.
  • 1 Hide
    army_ant7 , June 27, 2013 1:10 AM
    When I read how it's smaller than the Tiki in every way, I got kinda excited. It is pretty neat how small (and thin) this thing is. How one could wish that more low-profile decent-performing cards were made. That HD 7850 by Afox is interesting.

    Once the Kaveri APU's start rolling out, I wonder if you guys would end up choosing them over Intel CPU's + discrete GPU's for SFF builds like this or for any other budget configuration for that matter.

    BTW, was the Athlon X4 750K/760K not chosen due to its power req. and heat or was it just not available at the time?
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 27, 2013 1:36 AM
    This build definitely deserved an APU...
  • 0 Hide
    allanitomwesh , June 27, 2013 3:23 AM
    Quote:
    The FT03 Mini would have probably caused the $2500 PC's graphics card to overheat, or caused the graphics card to overheat the CPU. And a 670 might have worked, but then it wouldn't have been a $2500 PC. But please don't let the facts get in the way of your opinion.

    You could say that nobody should even bother spending $2500 on an ITX-based system, or that a system with ITX limitations should never be expected to provide top performance. At least those opinions would make more sense than the stuff you said above.


    I will say,since my point was lost in the rant

    Nobody should be building an ITX rig for $2500 that's bigger than the Silverstone SG10.

    A system with mini ITX should crunch top numbers and remain small.The two cheapest rigs prove that.


    I hope I make sense now.
  • -7 Hide
    re-play- , June 27, 2013 4:17 AM
    So AMD has APU CPU with integrated videocard that can run any game decently on low-mid setting and u choose for this matter intel? intel is really really paying u off very well to keep people away from good stuff... This build will kick the......butt of your intel build.

    AMD A10-5800K APU: http://goo.gl/XaFFP

    MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 Motherboard: http://goo.gl/DXM3W

    8GB Samsung DDR3 1600Mhz RAM: http://goo.gl/gVqCL - Another great option: http://goo.gl/Jbtye

    500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue Hard Drive: http://goo.gl/bM1Ww

    NZXT Source 210 Case: http://goo.gl/2wlae

    430W Corsair CX430 Power Supply: http://goo.gl/QzWZo

    These parts make up the $350 build however since this is a custom PC feel free to customize it with some of these options!

    OS - Windows 8 System Builder: http://goo.gl/OTZAL

    OS - Windows 7 System Builder: http://goo.gl/7hc9M

    Optical Drive - Lite-On DVD Burner: http://goo.gl/DCVBn

    Wi-Fi Adapter - Asus PCE-N15: http://goo.gl/JQ7Mt

    RAM Upgrade - 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 2133Mhz: http://goo.gl/bTOiK

    Graphics Card - Sapphire Radeon 7770: http://goo.gl/FrSHW

    SSD - 120GB Samsung 840: http://goo.gl/ykuCA

    HDD Upgrade - 1TB WD Caviar Blue: http://goo.gl/MZTnq
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , June 27, 2013 4:28 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The FT03 Mini would have probably caused the $2500 PC's graphics card to overheat, or caused the graphics card to overheat the CPU. And a 670 might have worked, but then it wouldn't have been a $2500 PC. But please don't let the facts get in the way of your opinion.

    You could say that nobody should even bother spending $2500 on an ITX-based system, or that a system with ITX limitations should never be expected to provide top performance. At least those opinions would make more sense than the stuff you said above.


    I will say,since my point was lost in the rant

    Nobody should be building an ITX rig for $2500 that's bigger than the Silverstone SG10.

    A system with mini ITX should crunch top numbers and remain small.The two cheapest rigs prove that.


    I hope I make sense now.
    What you're saying is that a $2500 ITX rig simply shouldn't exist, and you're contradicting yourself to say that it should remain small and crunch top numbers. The two cheapest rigs prove that.

    What you're really saying is that all the people who loved the $2500 PC were wrong. It's OK to believe that, but the reality is that your opinion on their market doesn't count any more than my opinion on feminine hygiene products. Both of us are ill-equipped to speak with authority on those respective issues.

  • 3 Hide
    allanitomwesh , June 27, 2013 4:32 AM
    Quote:
    So AMD has APU CPU with integrated videocard that can run any game decently on low-mid setting and u choose for this matter intel? intel is really really paying u off very well to keep people away from good stuff... This build will kick the......butt of your intel build.

    AMD A10-5800K APU: http://goo.gl/XaFFP

    MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 Motherboard: http://goo.gl/DXM3W

    8GB Samsung DDR3 1600Mhz RAM: http://goo.gl/gVqCL - Another great option: http://goo.gl/Jbtye

    500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue Hard Drive: http://goo.gl/bM1Ww

    NZXT Source 210 Case: http://goo.gl/2wlae

    430W Corsair CX430 Power Supply: http://goo.gl/QzWZo

    These parts make up the $350 build however since this is a custom PC feel free to customize it with some of these options!

    OS - Windows 8 System Builder: http://goo.gl/OTZAL

    OS - Windows 7 System Builder: http://goo.gl/7hc9M

    Optical Drive - Lite-On DVD Burner: http://goo.gl/DCVBn

    Wi-Fi Adapter - Asus PCE-N15: http://goo.gl/JQ7Mt

    RAM Upgrade - 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 2133Mhz: http://goo.gl/bTOiK

    Graphics Card - Sapphire Radeon 7770: http://goo.gl/FrSHW

    SSD - 120GB Samsung 840: http://goo.gl/ykuCA

    HDD Upgrade - 1TB WD Caviar Blue: http://goo.gl/MZTnq


    Your case is much much bigger.
  • 2 Hide
    slicedtoad , June 27, 2013 4:56 AM
    Quote:
    So AMD has APU CPU with integrated videocard that can run any game decently on low-mid setting and u choose for this matter intel? intel is really really paying u off very well to keep people away from good stuff... This build will kick the......butt of your intel build.

    No. They chose intel for the cpu, not for it's integrated gpu. They used the fastest half height, single slot gpu available to them along with it. Swapping out the intel cpu for the A10-5800K would have been a step down in gaming performance. Don't make stupid accusations.
  • 0 Hide
    jestersage , June 27, 2013 5:10 AM
    This build just resonates positive on me. It's not as beautiful or powerful as the $2500 build but I gravitate toward it just a tad more. This is something I'd build myself. And a year down the road it will have a few upgrades:

    -a core i5 3350P or whatever haswell version is available by then
    -the AFOX 7850 is available in my country :-P
    -a 120 or 240Gb SSD
    -more ram
    -a slim optical drive
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , June 27, 2013 5:41 AM
    Nice, enjoyed reading. What i'm wondering is, could you guys get your hands on a Kabini board and add a 7870 or 7850 to see how it does? Obviously i'm thinking about the new consoles here...The fact that Sony managed to fit all of that into $400...

    Quote:
    Nice build, makes me wonder how it would stack up to my old 4.0 GHz overclocked Core 2 Duo office PC. Which gets gamed on occasionally using its HD 6850 graphics card.

    Well i have a Core 2 Quad and a GTX560, manages fine at 1024x768, but a lot of times i'm intensely CPU bottlenecked. Arma 3's killing my CPU like no other game. Ok, maybe the FreeSpace 2 Open engine, but then that's single threaded.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6670/dragging-core2duo-into-2013-time-for-an-upgrade
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