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Overclocking

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $600 Gaming PC
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The Z75 Pro3's UEFI gives us all of the settings we need to maximize this platform's performance. Enabling "Non-K-Series Overclocking" makes available CPU ratios for all cores up to 37x, although the effective limit is 400 MHz above Intel's configured Turbo Boost settings. In other words, the CPU bounces between 3.5 and 3.7 GHz, depending on utilization.

CPU voltage adjustments are naturally available, though our Core i5-3350P didn't require them to run stably at its highest clock rates.

Base clock adjustment was also possible, though I chose not to tamper with the system's stability for, at best, another 150 or 200 MHz. Instead, I focused attention on improving the memory subsystem's performance. Bumped to 1.6,V, the G.Skill Ripjaws-series DDR3-1600 modules were stable at 1,866 MT/s and the same 9-9-9-24 1T timings.

Following impressive gains from last quarter's PowerColor Radeon HD 7850, I was eager to see how far a retail card from HIS could be pushed. Limiting myself to driver-based adjustments, AMD's OverDrive applet would cap the GPU's clock rate at an artificially-low 1,050 MHz. So, I broke out the last story's tool of choice: Asus GPU Tweak. This utility is capable of nudging core voltage up, exposing functional frequency sliders that exceed 1,050 MHz, and maintaining separate 2D and 3D clocks and voltage settings.

Our sample hit 1,160 MHz before I needed more voltage. At that setting, the default fan ramp was still able to keep the GPU from exceeding 65 degrees Celsius. At 1.2 V, the GPU topped out at a stable 1,230 MHz. At that setting a 100% fan duty cycle kept AMD's graphics processor at the same 65 degrees. The cooler was clearly becoming less effective. Nevertheless, this board's GPU had even more headroom than the last one we tested.

Graphics memory testing didn't go as well. Even with the fan set to 100%, and using stock core frequency and voltage, the GDDR5 was unstable 100 MHz higher than default (1,300 MHz). Added to our core overclock, though, the memory would only stabilize at 1,240 MHz. The modules simply weren't being cooled effectively, even with the fan spinning as fast as it'd go. In the end, I left the memory at its factory 1,200 MHz setting.

I then created a custom fan profile in GPU Tweak that spun the fan up to about 60% duty cycle upon entering a game and bounced between 70 to 80% during 3D activity. A few times, when the GPU hit 65 degrees, the profile kicked up to 90%, preventing the temperature from rising any higher.

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:43 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    ~54%(216W) capacity when under CPU + GPU load. There shouldn't be any concern with the PSU failing under these loads.
  • 13 Hide
    g-unit1111 , February 26, 2013 5:20 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    That 3350P is a pretty nice CPU though. It performs at near FX-8320 levels while consuming 1/2 the power. I'd definitely use it in a low budget rig over anything else.
  • 11 Hide
    pauldh , February 26, 2013 12:08 PM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    Have no fear there. Our power measurements are what is pulled from the wall. Factoring the efficeincy (loss) of the PSU, this 400W unit was outputting under 190W at peak load. It was in fact overkill, as built, and could handle a bump in graphics if your willing to use a Molex power adaptor. I'd feel comfortable running the far more power hungry Tahiti LE based 7870 on this PSU, especially paired with a Core i3.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    Proximon , February 26, 2013 5:04 AM
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.
  • 6 Hide
    esrever , February 26, 2013 5:12 AM
    I think you can fit the 7870 LE in there if you choose a cheaper mobo and went with an i3 or an AMD build.
  • 6 Hide
    EzioAs , February 26, 2013 5:12 AM
    As usual, love the system builder article.

    This $600 build seems nice. Personally, I would drop the optical drive, replace the Z75 board with a cheaper H77 motherboard, get a cheap 8GB (2x4GB) memory kit and a 2GB version of the Radeon HD7850. I think it's possible that it'll be between $600-610.

    That's just what I would change. This build is still nice to be honest. :) 
  • 7 Hide
    itzsnypah , February 26, 2013 5:14 AM
    Why isn't noise a benchmark? Every build you showcase you ignore acoustics. A very noisy build should affect it's overall performance negatively, while a quiet one should affect it positively. Noise is a very important factor in Case Reviews so why isn't it a factor here?
  • -8 Hide
    ARICH5 , February 26, 2013 5:19 AM
    noise isnt a factor in a gaming rig...thats for htcp stuff
  • 13 Hide
    g-unit1111 , February 26, 2013 5:20 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    That 3350P is a pretty nice CPU though. It performs at near FX-8320 levels while consuming 1/2 the power. I'd definitely use it in a low budget rig over anything else.
  • 4 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:32 AM
    The CPU budget is higher than the GPU budget for this gaming machine? I understand the desire for a 4 core processor but you could definitely have a better gaming rig by investing more in the GPU and trimming the CPU budget.
  • 20 Hide
    slomo4sho , February 26, 2013 5:43 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    ~54%(216W) capacity when under CPU + GPU load. There shouldn't be any concern with the PSU failing under these loads.
  • 0 Hide
    lunyone , February 26, 2013 5:55 AM
    It would have been interesting with a 7870 GPU, like below:

    / /

    CPU: ($123.79 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ($76.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: ($25.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $564.71
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 02:52 EST-0500)

    But the 3350P makes things interesting when an app can benefit from more cores! I had to get a better PSU to fit the 7870 into the budget. There is also $50 in MIR's equated into the final price, so the actual price paid would be $614 out the door. I'm not sure the i3 would have been a better overall CPU, but it would have made things interesting in the gaming department :) 
  • 1 Hide
    lunyone , February 26, 2013 5:56 AM
    Links didn't work above, so I'll put out the Plain Text version, so you can see the parts details.

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N/by_merchant/
    Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G55N/benchmarks/

    CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($123.79 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: ASRock Z75 Pro3 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($76.99 @ Amazon)
    Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Toshiba 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($49.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: HIS Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card ($209.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Zalman Z5 ATX Mid Tower Case ($25.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Corsair Builder 500W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Samsung SH-224BB DVD/CD Writer ($17.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $564.71
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 02:56 EST-0500)
  • 6 Hide
    de5_Roy , February 26, 2013 6:56 AM
    Nice. :) 
    going with a core i3 and 7870xt woulda allowed for better gpu-bound gaming experience, but imo a core i5 will likely offer better online multiplayer gaming experience than dual cores and amd counterparts.
    core i5's overclocked power consumption looks impressive, nearly same as sb pentium's with prime 95... i guess.
  • -2 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , February 26, 2013 7:50 AM
    It seems to me that the GPU was more of a bottleneck than the CPU in this build. I'd go with a cheaper H77 mobo, an i3, and a 7870 LE. I think you would have got more impressive numbers in games.
  • 1 Hide
    stickmansam , February 26, 2013 7:59 AM
    Why is Canada not included in the draw? I want my rights you hear me! QQ

    AFAIK there are no restrictions to contest stuff in Canada
  • 5 Hide
    vitornob , February 26, 2013 9:05 AM
    arich5i question the longevity of a 400w psu in a build like this though

    Do not question. Falcon northwest (a reliable company) builds the Tiki PC with a 450w psu.
    Uses an OC i7 3770k with the new GTX Titan.
  • 3 Hide
    abbadon_34 , February 26, 2013 9:06 AM
    No really surprise here, an i5 beats a Pentium, all other parts the same, an extra $100. I'd say keep the optical drive, if anything replace it with a Blu-Ray burner. If anything do a series of cpu/mobo/ram only, these are the true "system" upgrades, and show the true difference in AMD/Intel builds. Just as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and OS are excluded (even though they are essential, the same OS & apps are used in each one) the case, psu, and hard drives either would be reused or be similar enough to be irrelevent or simply cover up the real differences. A $200, $400, $600 cpu/mobo/ram would be perfect.
  • -2 Hide
    MrPintar14 , February 26, 2013 10:01 AM
    Quote:
    Sounds about right. Not quite the sweet spot for a budget rig, but then we don't get too many requests for $600 firm. A higher clocked i3 would have been the way to go.


    Yeah it didn't make sense to me that they jumped from a Pentium to an i5 and kept the same graphics card. I would've gone with an i3 and got at least a 7850 (maybe I'm biased because that's what I have in my PC)
  • -1 Hide
    excella1221 , February 26, 2013 10:16 AM
    I would've done something like this for a gaming PC.
    If it *must* strictly be <=$600, then at least a 2gb 7850 or a GTX660.

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db/by_merchant/
    Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/G6db/benchmarks/

    CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($122.98 @ SuperBiiz)
    Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($69.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($47.98 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.73 @ Compuvest)
    Video Card: HIS Radeon HD 7870 2GB Video Card ($219.99 @ Amazon)
    Case: NZXT Source 210 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($29.99 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Antec 450W ATX12V Power Supply ($38.24 @ Amazon)
    Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($18.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Total: $607.88
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-26 07:17 EST-0500)
  • 6 Hide
    phate1337 , February 26, 2013 10:27 AM
    nice work again guys!
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , February 26, 2013 11:15 AM
    While not really groundbreaking in any way, this was a good build. It should make a nice baseline; as a general purpose / family PC, it's what a LOT of people "ought to build," perhaps with minor tweaks.

    Btw, it is my understanding that these builds are sponsored by Newegg. This makes any pricing from any other store, no matter how nice, irrelevant in discussion of the build. Alternate vendors may be great suggestions in the forums, but not here.
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