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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.

Display all 88 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    mgl888 , July 2, 2008 6:28 PM
    What a disappointment for the E7200...
    I have mine clocked at 3.6GHz@1.325V on a P35-DS3L, and up to 4.0GHz at 1.425V (although I would never run it at that voltage)

    Maybe the MSI mobo wasn't the best choice
  • 0 Hide
    rhysee , July 2, 2008 8:21 PM
    What a disappointment for the 4000$ machine .. overclocked and it does not beat the March machine by much at all .. in fact it loses a lot of gaming results!!..

  • 0 Hide
    gm0n3y , July 2, 2008 9:21 PM
    I guess it probably wasn't possible, but it would have been better if you guys had swapped the MSI mobo after you found it inadequate. Its also too bad that you guys chose quad sli for the $4000 build, but you don't know until you try I guess.
  • -5 Hide
    LAAkuma , July 2, 2008 10:13 PM
    The moral of the story is SLI motherboards suck badly, and are no competition from the intel based solutions, such as the P35,P45 and X38/48 based systems. I am COMPLETELY surprised that not one of these systems had a P45 chipset with 2 4870 or 4850 graphics cards. The P45 will do a FSB probably 500 MHZ higher than that piece of crap board they used on the low end system.

    The whole test was Nvidia crap motherboards and NVidia graphics cards? This test was a total fail. They could have done way better, even for the money on each test for overall performance.

    it just shows me the people working there just like their paychecks, because they sure don't do any real research on what systems are really good for the money. it looks like they just tossed a bunch of things together they probably got for free and benchmarked it.

    The sub 1000 build is an embarrassment to an organization like Toms. Toms should not allow such failures to happen, he needs systems that command respect. All that review commanded was laughter.
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , July 2, 2008 10:44 PM
    Quote:
    I am COMPLETELY surprised that not one of these systems had a P45 chipset with 2 4870 or 4850 graphics cards.


    No you're not, you've read enough to know that this series was published three weeks late and that the 4850 wasn't available when the systems were built 5 weeks ago. So why would you say this if you knew better? I think we can understand your motives. Shame on you.

    Quote:

    The whole test was Nvidia crap motherboards and NVidia graphics cards? This test was a total fail. They could have done way better, even for the money on each test for overall performance.

    Intel makes great chipsets, but they didn't support the best graphics cards in SLI mode. These great graphics cards didn't become crap simply because the 4850 was released, instead the 4850 raised the bar. That put former upper-midrange nVidia cards into the lower-midrange.

    Quote:

    it just shows me the people working there just like their paychecks, because they sure don't do any real research on what systems are really good for the money. it looks like they just tossed a bunch of things together they probably got for free and benchmarked it.

    LOL, if you'd done any research you wouldn't have said that. But you seem inteligent, so you probably did your research, figured out that these were superior configurations when specified in May, then, just to insult everyone for being late, feigned ignorance.

    Quote:

    The sub 1000 build is an embarrassment to an organization like Toms. Toms should not allow such failures to happen, he needs systems that command respect. All that review commanded was laughter.


    Unfortunately, your comments are too sick to command laughter. The $1000 system was a brilliant build in May, and its simply unfortunate that the article didn't go up on June 9 when it was planned.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 2, 2008 10:48 PM
    Quote:
    What a disappointment for the E7200...
    I have mine clocked at 3.6GHz@1.325V on a P35-DS3L, and up to 4.0GHz at 1.425V (although I would never run it at that voltage)

    Maybe the MSI mobo wasn't the best choice



    The motherboard problem was unfortunate. The team tested a bunch of processors on the MSI motherboard, and the E7200 was the only one with the problem. It was the best SLI motherboard for around $150, and if the guys had any idea this would happen they might have chosen a different processor.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 2, 2008 10:56 PM
    Anyone thinking they are gonna get a huge performace boost in games on a $4,000 dollar system compared to a $2,000 is freaking retarded. performane to price ratio drops signifigantly once ur comp hits the $2,000 mark you cant expect to double the price of all components on a processor and only get 15-25 percent performance increase and if ur using crysis as ur comparison that game is extremely inefficent at utilizing graphics cards hardware if you compare the performance to price ration on all the systems for crysis in order to get any real boost in performance you have to drasticly increase the cost of ur graphics cards is this the tom teams fault..no this is the way its always been. performance increases always diminishes as you go up in price range. And the 2 GX2s im sure was a experiment to see if nividas top of the line cards could dish it out and they can but you can expect to pay for it or you can try to find some cheaper 8800gtxs but they are kinda hard to find and if you guys dont like there setups then change them urself these systems werent ment to be the end all to be all systems in those price ranges they were ment to give you a rough idea of what kind of performance you can get in these price ranges and overclocking isnt always a exactly science you cant look at a product and say with out a doubt it will overclock flawlessly...if that were the case the feaking manufacture would have done that already
  • -6 Hide
    LAAkuma , July 3, 2008 12:43 AM
    HI crashman.

    What I meant was, the whole thing was a total waste of time. When a TOTAL and COMPLETE shift in graphics cards comes out about 2 weeks ago, and it was published the last 3 days, there is no excuse, whatsoever for not including it. So delay the thing 2 more days. No big deal.

    Total waste of time. And 3.1 GHZ on that Wolfdale? Shame, shame.

    My 6 year old kid clocked his wolfdale to 3.6 just reading basic information I told him to read on overclockers.com.

    So the guys at Tom's can't do better than my 6 year old son? And if that motherboard sucks, how about using another one. Its no excuse. its just lazyness.

    What that review showed the world, is like I said. The people doing the tests don't give a flying hoot, no matter what they say, about doing great tests that are usefull, all they care about is their paycheck.

    its undisputed. Its a garbage waste of time, and it should have never been published. I think we can agree on that.

    I can't think of 1 site better than Tomshardware. its the top level of reviews, period.

    And they do that? people should be fired.

    Its total lazyness.

    And yes, after the 4800 series came out, which they had 2 weeks of time to use, they should have shifted the review immediately.

    Its like me having a car review site, and reviewing a 07 car, then the new model comes out 2 months ago, and I just ignore it, and don't even mention it.

    I would be mocked, and my boss would **** fire me.

    LAAkuma
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , July 3, 2008 12:59 AM
    Quote:
    HI crashman.

    What I meant was, the whole thing was a total waste of time. When a TOTAL and COMPLETE shift in graphics cards comes out about 2 weeks ago, and it was published the last 3 days, there is no excuse, whatsoever for not including it. So delay the thing 2 more days. No big deal.
    Its total lazyness.


    I guess the guys at Tom's Hardware are just a little more honorable than you. They get a bunch of very well selected components for a system in May, they make promises to use those parts in some articles, then when the articles are delayed they still follow through on their promisses.

    People who don't keep their promisses deserve to be fired.

    To abandon the article would be pure laziness. And it takes more than two days to shift hardware, it takes at least a week to get new hardware and several days to test it.

    So, if not for Tom's Hardware keeping its promisses, they could have delayed the series until the middle of This month and given you what you wanted.

    That is, unless new hardware came out within those two weeks. Then, you'd be making the same claims about the new system.
  • 2 Hide
    abegnale , July 3, 2008 2:42 AM
    why is everybody bashing tom's writers? reviews are always a guesstimate of what it could possibly be with their configuration. factor in another choice (your own preference) then it can change the results across all benchmarks. i am more than sure that these writers are not saying their configurations are the best or should i say the only industry standard the masses will or can abide by.
    for me, these configurations are a merely a dream and by sharing their experiences with these kinds of gear, it is well appreciated by my book.
  • 3 Hide
    cleeve , July 3, 2008 3:01 AM
    laakumaAnd 3.1 GHZ on that Wolfdale? Shame, shame.


    It's shameful to report on a CPU/BIOS problem that doesn't work as it should?

    Funny, I would have thought shamefulness would have been to sweep it under the rug. I was under the misconception that reporting a real-world experience was our job...

    If you want pablum - perfect everything that doesn't reflect real-world PC assembly and configuration - then I guess we have different reporting standards than you.

    I'm OK with that, though. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , July 3, 2008 3:27 AM
    No wonder I have an Intel Chipset...P35 that is, not some POS NVIDA chipset. My last board was a 570 SLI, waste of money and couldn't OC for anything.
  • -2 Hide
    one-shot , July 3, 2008 3:31 AM
    laakumaHI crashman.What I meant was, the whole thing was a total waste of time. When a TOTAL and COMPLETE shift in graphics cards comes out about 2 weeks ago, and it was published the last 3 days, there is no excuse, whatsoever for not including it. So delay the thing 2 more days. No big deal.Total waste of time. And 3.1 GHZ on that Wolfdale? Shame, shame. My 6 year old kid clocked his wolfdale to 3.6 just reading basic information I told him to read on overclockers.com.So the guys at Tom's can't do better than my 6 year old son? And if that motherboard sucks, how about using another one. Its no excuse. its just lazyness.What that review showed the world, is like I said. The people doing the tests don't give a flying hoot, no matter what they say, about doing great tests that are usefull, all they care about is their paycheck.its undisputed. Its a garbage waste of time, and it should have never been published. I think we can agree on that.I can't think of 1 site better than Tomshardware. its the top level of reviews, period.And they do that? people should be fired.Its total lazyness.And yes, after the 4800 series came out, which they had 2 weeks of time to use, they should have shifted the review immediately.Its like me having a car review site, and reviewing a 07 car, then the new model comes out 2 months ago, and I just ignore it, and don't even mention it.I would be mocked, and my boss would **** fire me.LAAkuma



    YA!, go this guy, Don't know who it is, but let the hate out! Someone finally has the huevos to say it how it is.
  • 5 Hide
    geok1ng , July 3, 2008 4:17 AM
    1- the review was NOT a total waste: one can always use it as an example of what hardware NOT to choose at a given budget!
    2-I think the authors tried real hard to be honest with the problems they faced with the high end card chopice and the low end mobo choice.
    3- the review showed something that i was guessing already: a 3,2Ghz CPU is the minimal for 19x12 gaming and above, NVIDIA cards are poor overclockers with almost no gain from higher clock speeds, my 8800GT also do not increase fps numbers moving core clock from 600 to 720Mhz.
    4- i am looking forward to next system build marathon, the next best videocards for the money, as usual: EVERYTHING i read is useful, as long as i keep a grain of salt: you dont like SLI, dont build SLI systems, you dont like NVIDIA mobos, dont use it, but read what happens when someone use them.
  • 2 Hide
    jamesl , July 3, 2008 4:53 AM
    laakumaAnd 3.1 GHZ on that Wolfdale? Shame, shame. My 6 year old kid clocked his wolfdale to 3.6 just reading basic information I told him to read on overclockers.com.So the guys at Tom's can't do better than my 6 year old son? And if that motherboard sucks, how about using another one. Its no excuse. its just lazyness.What that review showed the world, is like I said. The people doing the tests don't give a flying hoot, no matter what they say, about doing great tests that are usefull, all they care about is their paycheck.its undisputed.


    you're a jackass

    that's a great motherboard
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N82E16813130159

    54% of the reviewers on newegg rate it excellent, 5 stars
    25% of the reviewers on newegg rate it good, 4 stars

    the reviewers at Toms picked this motherboard with full confidence that it would work, as anyone might who read the reviews on newegg; it isn't their fault that this board doesn't work with this new cpu

    its an excellent board for a variety of cpus, just not this new one

    and how is anyone supposed to know that unless some reviewer goes out and tests it, so this was not a watse of time, this was very informative

    this review used one onf Nvidia's top cards in sli, it use a highly rated motherboard and it used the new highly touted e7200, and you know what? they got decent results ! they showed that a sub 950 dollar system can give you plenty of bang for you buck compared to a 1500 dollars system or a 4000 dollar system

    why do people keep thinking that the goal of every system builder tom's does is to build he PERFECT system ? its not, its to put a system together and tell us how it performs,
    this system performed well, but not great and the reason it wasn't great was NOT their fault, but the reason was informative, educational and beneficial

    and your suggestion that "if that motherboard sucks, how about using another one" is just dumb

    you honestly think that's a valid suggestion? buy a motherboard and cpu, discover they work PERFECTLY FINE together, then attempt to overclock them and discover that it doesn't oc the way you would like, so you RMA the motherboard and wait a week for a replacement?

    newegg: did it work normally?
    you: yes
    newegg: did it work when you overclocked it?
    you: yes
    newegg: so, uh, why do you want to return it?
    you: it just didn't overclock as much as I wanted
    newegg: uh, ok, (lays: - laughing at you silently), just pack it back up, pay the postage and handling and send it back to us, will get a different board in a week or so (lays)
  • 2 Hide
    jamesl , July 3, 2008 5:11 AM
    laakumaThis was an article on the BEST DAMN SYSTEM YOU CAN BUILD for under $1000.Do you understand #4? The best system for under $1000? You get it?


    I don't get it, show me where it said the purpose of the article was to buid THE BEST DAMN SYSTEM

    laakuma
    If you do not release articles that people expect of you, then you fail as a business. You keep failing like this, then you lose readership, and eventually you lose enough reputation and become a joke review web site.


    perhaps you didn't realize, one of the builders was laid up in the hospital from reconstructive surgery following an accident.
    so if they didn't publish the article you wanted, when you wanted, then maybe you should take that up with his surgeon

  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , July 3, 2008 6:51 AM
    laakumaLOL kid, your a fool. Like a business cares at all if some employee gets in a wreck. "Lets put our business on hold because we lost 1 employee!"LOL Dude, shut your mouth and stick with tetris.LAAkuma

    So, you'd think that a site as big as Tom's has a few spare testers and writers they could just move away from one project to finish another? I have news for you, Tom's only had three testers and two writers in the U.S. who qualified. I have more news: Shifting the load to one writer would have still delayed this stuf by two weeks. Now, you might say that a two-week delay is better than a 3-week delay, but what about other articles that one writer would have had to delay, just to handle the responsibilities?

    Perhaps you'd prefer the company ship the system to one of Tom's foreign labs? Add shipping time, then think about what articles the foreign writer would have to push aside. You'd still be looking at a 3-week delay anyway.

    You can't run a small office as you would a large factory production floor. You can't simply hire some unemployed teenager to do this kind of work. You can't treat professional positions the same way you would unskilled labor positions, unless you have a large pool of unemployed professionals standing by.

    This isn't Burger King.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , July 3, 2008 7:37 AM
    laakumayes, I know, with management failures comes excuses. Problem is, excuses don't make any money for the company. There is no excuses in business, there is just what I mentioned, reputation, and profit.


    Yeh, you definately don't know anything about business if you don't include honoring your business agreements.
  • -6 Hide
    LAAkuma , July 3, 2008 8:40 AM
    I will remember that next time I post a review where I can't even close the CPU up to the speed stock processors come out. And I will also remember it when I place obsolete video cards in as well.

    Nothing like worse than stock CPU clocks and obsolete video cards to display my skill at building value systems.

    Fail.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , July 3, 2008 8:51 AM
    laakumaI will remember that next time I post a review where I can't even close the CPU up to the speed stock processors come out. And I will also remember it when I place obsolete video cards in as well.Nothing like worse than stock CPU clocks and obsolete video cards to display my skill at building value systems. Fail.


    Now you're just being obtuse. You can't have it both ways; Either the articles are too late, or the cards are outdated. If the articles are NOT outdated, then the graphics cards are, but if the articles ARE outdated, the graphics cards CANNOT be.

    You fail.
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