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Assembly & Overclocking

Tom's SBM: The $1,500 Mainstream PC
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We were lucky this time; the build went off without a single hitch. We did invest some time into installing Swiftech’s H20-220—it wasn’t difficult, but you want to take your time when installing and testing liquid cooling.

With no leaks to fry our mainstream build, the system booted up straight away. Setting up RAID 0 was as easy as setting the option in the BIOS; the Vista install took over from there. After some testing, it was clear that the system was a strong performer for the price; so we ran the standard benchmarks and proceeded to overclock.

Overclocking

As we stated before, while our old Q6600 sample provided us decent but not awe-inspiring results in our last system builder marathon. We wanted to get our hands on a new Q6600 revision G0 sample to really see what these processors can do, before moving on.

With the H20-220 water-cooling system keeping temperatures low, we started by simply boosting the CPU voltage to 1.5 V, and increasing the front side bus speed from the stock 266 MHz to 400 MHz. These changes increased the CPU speed from 2.4 GHz to 3.6 GHz straight away.

To our glee, the system booted immediately and took us right to Windows. Everything seemed peachy until we ran the Prime95 stress test, which failed at about 18 minutes in. We played with the BIOS voltages, memory timings, memory speeds, and other settings, to no avail. Regardless of how willing it was to work in Windows, the CPU was not stable at 3.6 GHz. So much for our dreams of exceeding 3.7 GHz.

At the end of the day, we were forced to pull back to 3.456 GHz at an FSB of 384 to achieve total CPU stability. While this is an impressive 1 GHz faster than the stock speed of the Q6600—and will provide a massive gain in performance over that default—we have to admit that it’s time to look to other CPUs to reliably support higher overclocks. The E8400 may not share the Q6600’s four cores, but it will likely make it to speeds approaching 4 GHz; the higher speed will compensate well for the fewer cores, and two processor cores are the sweet spot for which most software is optimized anyway.

As for our Radeon 4850 graphics cards, the overclocks there were just as disappointing. The strange part was that the Catalyst Overdrive feature—which we usually find to be conservative—would validate the cards at an impressive 785 MHz GPU speed. However, using these speeds would crash the system once the Crysis benchmark was run.

We settled with a stable 700 MHz core and 1070 MHz memory overclock. This is not bad compared to a reference Radeon 4850’s core clock speed of 625 MHz, but not great considering these cards were already factory overclocked to 685 MHz out of the box.

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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    dirtmountain , October 29, 2008 10:59 AM
    A E8500, single socket P45, HD4870x2,Sunbeam core contact cooler and a Coolermaster 690 would have made their budget and blown the socks off that build.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , October 29, 2008 7:12 AM
    Hi,
    This is my first comment although I have reading this website for the past 8 years. Anyway to th point - Usuallt I agree 90% with you on components you choose, especially in the high-end and budget configuration. But this time a lot of tings strikes me: First it is the CPU - I am pleased You have addressed the issue to a great degree in the article later, but still I think it will be appropriate to try to further increase the voltage because this is a watercooled 65nm CPU; Second the chipset I think it`s ot the best choise, X38 is a former high-end chipset so when You`re overclocking you should get the faster binned X48, but because this is mid-range configuration I think it`s best to taka advantage of the super popular P45; Third the motherboard I am not sure if a motherboard with a not so stron PWM is the best tool for overclocking such a power-hungry chip, You should try to overclock on a different motherboard to see why are yuo`re not receiving a more descent overclock;Forth and last the price difference to a 1066MHz kit is pretty small so I think it`s preferable because tis will give You flexibility to try higher FSB with lower multiplier, wchich should give another notch of performance. I am saying all this because I want to help You make this website even better.
    Best Regards. Bobby
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , October 29, 2008 7:38 AM
    I think it would be interesting to see power consumption and noise benchmarks for the PCs you build in this article series.
  • 5 Hide
    JeanLuc , October 29, 2008 9:48 AM
    I can see why you wanted to use a water cooling kit so that you got the best possible overclock from the CPU but water cooling is hardly ‘mainstream’ which is what I thought this system builder marathon was all about. The same goes for the choice of motherboard, the X38 is an enthusiast’s motherboard, something like the Biostar T Power i45 would have been more appropriate and according to CustomPC UK is just as good at overclocking as any other motherboard.

    Good choice in video cards, I’m glad you didn’t choose 4850’s with the stock coolers because those bad boys run really hot.
  • 2 Hide
    Proximon , October 29, 2008 10:20 AM
    Well it was a good try. Would have preferred a more truly mainstream rig, but then the forums are full of those.
  • 6 Hide
    Malovane , October 29, 2008 10:26 AM
    And I thought a $400 Dell or E-Machine was mainstream..
  • -5 Hide
    fallen2004 , October 29, 2008 10:47 AM
    P45 wouldnt have workd cos it would bottleneck the crossfire as it only runs at 8x and 4850's need 16x
  • 7 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 29, 2008 10:51 AM
    JeanLucI can see why you wanted to use a water cooling kit so that you got the best possible overclock from the CPU but water cooling is hardly ‘mainstream’ which is what I thought this system builder marathon was all about.


    I agree with this dude really. Anything watercooled is enthusiast, not mainstream. I don't know if americans just treat themselves to better hardware, but here in europe anyone with watercooling is considered an enthusiast. Nobody with a reasonable budget is going to 'waste' money on water cooling. Imo a tuniq, tr120 or a scythe something cooler would've been a more appropriate midrange guess. Also I'd expect anyone building a pc today to pick a p45 over an x38 (though I like the red slots on this one)
  • 3 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 29, 2008 10:52 AM
    fallen2004P45 wouldnt have workd cos it would bottleneck the crossfire as it only runs at 8x and 4850's need 16x

    Btw I'm running a 4870 on an x16 pcie v1 - that equals an x8 pcie v2 connection. And I can hardly claim that my system's limited by the bandwidth.
  • 10 Hide
    dirtmountain , October 29, 2008 10:59 AM
    A E8500, single socket P45, HD4870x2,Sunbeam core contact cooler and a Coolermaster 690 would have made their budget and blown the socks off that build.
  • 6 Hide
    grumps01 , October 29, 2008 11:05 AM
    How about some info on this "mainstream" system sound wise. How Loud or quite is this system use this Swiftech H20-220 Kit with larger pumps etc. Also what's the temperatures like (heat dissipation) like in general with this combination please?

    I know most ppl are probably more interested with the benchmarks, but I'm sure this might interest some people on what's it like to live with, thanks!
  • 0 Hide
    xsamitt , October 29, 2008 11:24 AM
    I'd Tend to agree ......Just Because the budget is mainstream Doesn't mean that any parts purchased within that Budget it.

    I think Dirt Mountain's build is more likely what I would build,Given the 1500 Budget.

    I also agree on testing for noise.A while Back I bought a Antec P180 and trust me ...It was anything but QUIET....Like the Company Stated.
  • 2 Hide
    clownbaby , October 29, 2008 11:36 AM
    A p45 would have bottlenecked the 4850s almost none at all (~1%), and saved on the build. And, if the liquid cooling was skipped in favor of a cheap xigmatek, there may have been enough money in the build left to use 4870s (or an x2)instead of 4850s.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 29, 2008 11:38 AM
    The p180 is supposed to be good at cooling, not particularily built for silence isn't it? I've never owned one, but that's how I understood it.
    Those looking for silence would buy a lian li chassis I think (though they're ugly imo)
  • 0 Hide
    xsamitt , October 29, 2008 11:49 AM
    I'll Take ugly silent over noise any day.
    Actually the p180 has been listed on web sites Becasue it was supposed to be silent.Go Figure.No more P180's for me.Bring on the ugly.lol.
  • 0 Hide
    radguy , October 29, 2008 11:53 AM
    darn I was wrong
    but I do think your results would have been better with x48/q9550 with good air cooling cost is easly obtained by cutting to a cheaper case and a good 50 dollar fan. However I understand that no way that system would have the wow factor this one has and good paying tribute to a great cpu.

    I should also note that if your going water cooling chances are noise level is important and it would be nice to get power consumption as well like erl said.

    Low end system...much harder to guess I go with a very low end p45/E5200/9600gt. Don't think I got this right either but very much looking forward to seeing what you guys did.
  • 0 Hide
    dirtmountain , October 29, 2008 12:31 PM
    You can get a E7200 and a HD4850 in a $500 build off newegg (not counting rebates) , i hope they don't settle for a garbage $500 system build, with a cheesy CPU and weak GPU.
  • 0 Hide
    DiscoDuck , October 29, 2008 12:33 PM
    I have the p180 and its as quiet as you make it xsamitt. If you set the tri-cool fans on low, get a quiet cpu cooler, video card, and psu, its definitely in the silent ballpark. Do you hears fans in your head? Are you unplugging at least once a day? I like my p180 lots.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 29, 2008 12:48 PM
    Watercooling, dual video cards, and setting up RAID are not mainstream; nor is a $1500 budget. I believe that most people would spend less than that for the ENTIRE package (including monitor, multifunction printer, OS, and software).
  • -2 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 29, 2008 12:49 PM
    My suggestion for the low cost:
    asus dvdrw drive (20), antec sonata 500 black (130), spinpoint 500gb (60), biostar 790gx (64), asus 9600gt silent (83), pny 2x2gb (60), 5400+ black ed (77) ; totalling 949 on newegg.
    That'd be a pc capable of gaming on a 22" lcd, look good and be reasonably 'future proof' as amd isn't about to throw its current chipset out the window. More importantly it'd be reasonably quiet without any money spent on aftermarked coolers.
    Personally I'd spend more (~570) and get an 4850 & x3 , but if 500 is the limit, then so be it.
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , October 29, 2008 12:53 PM
    dirtmountainYou can get a E7200 and a HD4850 in a $500 build off newegg (not counting rebates) , i hope they don't settle for a garbage $500 system build, with a cheesy CPU and weak GPU.

    I've just played around on there, and I can't see how you can get that done without picking a q-tec quality power supply. The cheapest p45 is going for $63 and the cheapest 4850 is @160 - that's almost half the budget gone, and you still need harddrive, dvd, memory, chassis and power supply costing an average $70 if you disregard the dvd.
    When I tried the intel way, even with an e2200 I'd end up over the 500 budget. You could pick a p35 or p43 and just get back in the budget, but that'd mean starting off with a cpu you'd have to oc very much to even deliver enough data for the grahpics at standard speeds.
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