What's Faster Our Builds or Dell's H2C?

Editor’s Note : This is the last day of our Overclocking Marathon. We’ve pushed three PCs to the edge of stability. Now it’s time to see if there’s a winner from a price/performance perspective. Before we get into that, here are the links to the previous three days of our Marathon.

An almost universal truth of computers is that lower-cost parts offer more value for the amount of money spent. The reason for this is simple : "one-model-down" components are often 20%-50% cheaper but only 10%-20% slower than the next-best models. But what happens when you overclock ?

Overclocking is certainly a good way to get a free performance boost, but larger gains often require specialized components. In particular, a highly-overclocked CPU usually requires an oversized cooler and higher-speed RAM for system stability. Value goes out the window once again when the cost of additional equipment exceeds the performance gained.

With these issues in mind, we overclocked three systems to find the ultimate performance of each, and now we’re ready to see how far our money got us.

Test Setup

The specifications of our overclocked test systems are listed in the following table. For information on the original specifications and how we got to these speeds, please read our XPS 720 H2C, Tom’s Hardware High-End PC, and Tom’s Hardware Low-Cost PC overclocking articles.

System Hardware
Dell XPS 720 H2C Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 at 3.79 GHz, 1084 FSB, 8 MB Cache
THG High-End PC Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 at 3.66 GHz, 1333 FSB, 4 MB Cache
THG Low-Cost PC Intel Core Duo e4300 at 3.15 GHz, 1400 FSB, 2 MB Cache
Dell XPS 720 H2C Dell XPS 720, Nvidia 680i SLI , BIOS : Phoenix A00 (05/03/07)
THG High-End PC ASUS Striker Extreme, BIOS : Phoenix 0901 (02/07/07)
THG Low-Cost PC ASUS P5B, BIOS : 1604
Dell XPS 720 H2C Corsair Dominator PC2-8500, 4x1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-15
THG High-End PC Crucial Ballistix PC2-8000, 2x 1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-15
THG Low-Cost PC Wintec Ampo PC2-6400, 2x 1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-16
Hard Drives
Dell XPS 720 H2C 2x WDC WD1600ADFD, 150 GB, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB Cache, RAID 0
THG High-End PC 2x Western Digital WD5000YS, 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB, RAID 0
THG Low-Cost PC Western Digital Caviar WD2500JS, 250 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB Cache
Dell XPS 720 H2C Nvidia nForce onboard Gigabit Ethernet NIC
THG High-End PC Nvidia nForce onboard Gigabit Ethernet NIC
THG Low-Cost PC Realtec onboard RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet NIC
Dell XPS 720 H2C 2x GeForce 8800 Ultra, 660 MHz GPU, 256 MB 2320 MHz RAM, SLI
THG High-End PC 2x XFX GeForce 8800 GTX, 630 MHz GPU , 768 MB 1800 MHz RAM, SLI
THG Low-Cost PC EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX, 610 MHz GPU , 768 MB 2020 MHz RAM
Dell XPS 720 H2C Dell 1000W 5-Rail Power SLI/CrossFire Compatible
THG High-End PC PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad
THG Low-Cost PC Aero Cool Zerodba 620W Crossfire/SLI ready
System Software & Drivers
OS Microsoft Windows XP Pro 5.1.2600
DirectX Version 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Platform Driver Intel INF
Graphics Driver - Nvidia ForceWare 158.22
Benchmarks and Settings
F.E.A.R Version : 1.0 Retail
Video Mode : 1024x768
Computer : Maximum
Graphics : Maximum-Custom-No Softshadows
Test Path : Options/Performance/Test Settings
Doom 3 Version : 1.3
Video Mode : 1024x768
Graphics : High
Test : Time Demo 1
Oblivion Version : 1.0 Retail
Video Mode : 1024x768
Graphics : High, 4xAA
Test : Inside & Outside save files
Lame MP3 Version 3.97 Beta 2 (12-22-2005)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to mp3
160 kbps
OGG Version 1.1.2 (Intel P4 MOD)
Version 1.1.2 (Intel AMD MOD)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to ogg
Quality : 5
TMPEG 3.0 Express Version : (no Audio)
fist 5 Minutes DVD Terminator 2 SE (704x576) 16:9
Multithreading by rendering
DivX 6.1 Version : 6.1
Profile : High-Definition Profile
1-pass, 3000 kb/s
Encoding mode : Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading
no Audio
XviD 1.1.0 Version : 1.1.0 Beta 2
Target qantizer : 1.00
Autodesk 3D Studio Max Version : 8.0
Characters "Dragon_Charater_rig"
rendering HTDV 1920x1080 & 1280x720
SPECviewperf 9 Version : 9.0.3
PCMark05 Pro Version : 1.1.0
System, CPU and Memory Tests
Windows Media Player
Windows Media Encoder
3DMark05 Version : 1.2
System Test Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2005 Version 2005.7.10.60
CPU Test = Arithmetic, Multimedia Benchmarks
Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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