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Overclocking the Sub-$4000 PC

System Builder Marathon: Overclocking
By , Don Woligroski

Here’s a quick reminder of our $4,000 PC’s component list and their prices.

June 2008 SBM High-End PC Component Cost
CPU Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 1,050
CPU Cooler Swiftech H20-120 Compact Cooler Kit 140
Swiftech MCR220 2x120mm Radiator 36
Silverstone RADSUPPORT09 13
Swiftech Chrome 3/8-Inch Fittings, 2-pack 5
Swiftech Plastic Hose Clamps, 4-pack 6
2x Swiftech 3/8-Inch Neoprene Tubing Packs 26
2x Scythe S-Flex SFF21E 120 mm Fan 30
Motherboard Asus Striker II Extreme 450
RAM Patriot Extreme Performance DDR3-1333 - 4GB 315
Graphics 2x Gigabyte GeForce 9800 GX2 GV-NX98X1GHI-B 1040
Hard Drive Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ (750GB) x2 240
Sound ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 90
Case Silverstone Temjin TJ09BW 250
Power Coolermaster RS850-EMBA 850W 180
DVD-RW Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology SH-203B 30
Auxiliary Fan Antec SpotCool Motherboard Cooling Fan 15
Floppy Drive NEC 1.44 MB Floppy Drive 9
Total Price $3,925

Inspired by our previous 4.35 GHz overclock using the same Intel Core 2 Duo QX9650 processor, we wondered how much farther the newer nForce 790i SLI on the Asus Striker II Extreme could take us. Our March marathon had, after all, relied on the 780i SLI equipped Striker II Formula, and everyone knows that the 780i is nothing more than an aging 680i with a PCI Express 2.0 hub attached. Surely the new chipset would have a positive effect.

Changes to this month’s $4,000 build were the motherboard, memory, audio card, graphics, and hard drive. Of these, only the motherboard could limit CPU overclocking, because the memory speed can be decreased far below its frequency limit, and the other components are supposed to be on fixed-frequency busses. We used the same 1.45V core voltage limit to aid in system longevity, along with the same 1.50V front side bus and Northbridge voltages. We also slowed the memory well below its rated speed for initial CPU stability tests, raising it only after finding the CPU limit. These precautions yielded the following maximum speed.

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