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Test Hardware And Benchmark Settings

System Builder Marathon, Q1 2014: The $2400 People’s Choice PC
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Packing key reader-recommended hardware changes, my current $2400 build goes up against last quarter's effort, which wasn't very well-received. That system couldn’t hold this machine’s 4.5 GHz under the duress of Prime95 running all-out using AVX optimizations, so it was instead configured with a variable 4.4 (six-core) to 4.6 GHz (two-core) frequency range.

Test Hardware Configurations
 Current $2400 PCPrevious $2400 PC
Processor
(Overclock)
Intel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 - 3.9 GHz, Four Physical Cores, O/C to 4.5 GHz, 1.25 VIntel Core i7-4930K: 3.4 - 3.9 GHz, Six Physical Cores, O/C to 4.4 -4.6 GHz, +140 mV
Graphics
(Overclock)
2 x EVGA GeForce GTX 780: 902 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1059 MHz, GDDR5-67202 x Asus Radeon R9 290: 947 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5000, O/C to 1100 MHz, GDDR5-5600
Memory
(Overclock)
16 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 9-10-9-28, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 9-10-11-10, 1.585 V16 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 9-10-9-28, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 9-10-11-10, 1.585 V
Motherboard
(Overclock)
ASRock Z87 Extreme4: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock X79 Extreme4: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalLite-On iHAS124: 24x DVD±RPioneer BDR-208DBK: 15x BD-R
CaseNZXT Phantom 410Fractal Design Define R4 Black Pearl
CPU CoolerThermaltake CLW0217 Water 2.0 ExtremeThermaltake CLW0217 Water 2.0 Extreme
Hard DriveSanDisk SDSSDHP-256G-G2 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDSanDisk SDSSDHP-256G-G2 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerCorsair HX750: 750 W Semi-Modular, 80 PLUS GoldSeasonic SS-850AM: 850 W Semi-Modular, 80 PLUS Bronze
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 335.23AMD Catalyst 13.12
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1026Intel INF 9.3.0.1026

The biggest problem with last quarter's configuration wasn't my hardware choices, though. Rather, both of its graphics cards were slammed by a 50% price spike between the time they were ordered and when our System Builder Marathon went live.

Today's machine has a small issue of its own. Enabling XMP at otherwise-stock settings caused it to crash during Sandra's bandwidth-intensive Cryptography tests. Adding 20 mV core offset in firmware fixed that issue.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar"
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
Grid 2Version 1.0.85.8679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA
Arma 3Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase"
Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost"
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CCVersion 12.0.0.404: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously
Adobe Photoshop CCVersion 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CCVersion 7.0.0 (342), 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds
Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.5.0, Benchmark Only
3DMark ProfessionalVersion: 1.2.250.0 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks
Display all 37 comments.
Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 1:06 AM
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.

    1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)
    2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).
    3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).
    4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Darkerson , March 24, 2014 12:18 AM
    Interesting move, showing the nicest build 1st instead of last. Cant wait to see all the builds compared and see what you all come up with as the budget goes down.
  • 2 Hide
    captain_jonno , March 24, 2014 12:18 AM
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 12:40 AM
    Quote:
    Looks good. Surprised only went with a 750w PSU though. Considering 2x 780 ti's and overlocking
    Yessir, two 780s and a bit of experience in part picking lead me to expect around 700W of required system power. And, it came out just a little less than 700W.

    Power supplies of greater capacity and similar reliability at this price tend to be lower-efficiency units. And we like efficiency too.

  • -5 Hide
    YellowBee , March 24, 2014 12:54 AM
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 1:06 AM
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.

    1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)
    2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).
    3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).
    4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
  • 1 Hide
    YellowBee , March 24, 2014 1:08 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not a calculation, it's a reading for the entire system (at the power plug). Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take reading one. Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up.

    The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 3 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.

    So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the reading of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU power it takes to run the GPU.


    Very much appreciated and satisfying answer.
    Thanks Crashman :) 
  • 0 Hide
    bemused_fred , March 24, 2014 2:19 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I dont get the "W" usage?680+237 = 917w. Not 802w as meation above?
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system (at the power plug). No addition or subtraction was used.1.) Start the system, wait for all processes to load, take a measurement (Active, but idle)2.) Load the CPU using eight thread of AVX-optimized Prime95, take a reading (CPU Load).3.) Load GPUs with 3DMark 11 Test 1 in loop, take max reading as it heats up (GPU Load).4.) Load both applications (CPU+GPU Load).The "math problem" is that any program used to fully load the GPU also partly loads the CPU. So when test 4 is Prime95+3DMark, Prime95 can only use whatever CPU resources are left with 3DMark running.So the most accurate system power reading is with "CPU+GPU Load" applied. The system measurement for "CPU Load" still includes the power of an idle GPU. And the system power measurement for "GPU Load" still includes the amount of CPU energy it takes to run the GPU's test application.
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , March 24, 2014 3:05 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It's not calculated power, it's measured power for the entire system
    Any chance of including these calculations in all future articles, so that we know exactly how the power graph is calculated? Ta.
    Which calculations?

  • -7 Hide
    jabuscus , March 24, 2014 3:28 AM
    wow. such performance. many ram. they should've put in 16gb of ram for real high-end specs. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    Versutia , March 24, 2014 4:43 AM
    As I'm into quiet enclosures, I'd go along this route:

    http://pcpartpicker.com/p/3fuGw

    Wondering how much of a difference would non-reference cards make. Obviously, CPU cooler and RAM could be different, BR drive optional, storage drive as well.
  • 2 Hide
    sea monkey , March 24, 2014 5:25 AM
    Quote:
    G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-1866C9D-16GXM: DDR3-1600 C9, 16 GB (2 x 8 GB)


    Shouldn't that be DDR3-1866?
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , March 24, 2014 5:47 AM
    Nice comparisons to last quarter's build. All things considered, I think this is the best build I've seen in this series for quite a while.
  • -1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , March 24, 2014 6:30 AM
    I like the new focus and high end review first. This build mirrors my own approach except I don't play games so save on multi-GPU costs and no need to water cool as no overclocking either – stability is key to me. My similarly parted machine in November less the water cooling and multi-GPU cost almost $800-900 less after rebates. Can you add sound/noise dB monitoring and include in results? Multimedia machines and home office machines need to account for noise.
  • 1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , March 24, 2014 6:31 AM
    I like the new focus and high end review first. This build mirrors my own approach except I don't play games so save on multi-GPU costs and no need to water cool as no overclocking either – stability is key to me. My similarly parted machine in November less the water cooling and multi-GPU cost almost $800-900 less after rebates. Can you add sound/noise dB monitoring and include in results? Multimedia machines and home office machines need to account for noise.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , March 24, 2014 6:52 AM
    Note: Arma 3 is largely CPU bound, and seems to favour IPC.
  • 0 Hide
    Treynolds416 , March 24, 2014 7:02 AM
    I enjoyed the article very much, and I appreciate the new direction you're going in for gaming value. However, you don't need to mention that the prices of the 290 spiked last year. Seriously, we get it and you only need to say it once or twice instead of seven or so. Aside from that, still a very informative and well-thought out article
  • 2 Hide
    bigstonebang , March 24, 2014 7:33 AM
    When can we expect to see Tom's switch over to 4K gaming benchmarks? This build should be able to handle it and I want to keep tabs on both hardware and driver updates.Furthermore I think it is safe to say an enthusiast that is going to buy a multi-monitor setup probably already has one, but there are probably other like me that are waiting for reasonably priced hardware to be capable of handling 4K before buying a new monitor. Even though I haven't seen a 4K monitor that preforms like a "next Gen" technology should.Also now that Tom's has been very though covering multi-monitor resolutions I understand (and I hope other readers do as well) how they typically scale.I don't want to be a jerk I'm just trying to ask for an ETA, and if I don't ask, how will you know what I want?
  • -9 Hide
    Plusthinking Iq , March 24, 2014 7:58 AM
    2400$ and hdd... pls
    my fix is get a 700gb ssd, 780ti no sli problems, and a i5 4670, this is a much better gaming pc, and can go quiet build.
  • 3 Hide
    sea monkey , March 24, 2014 10:31 AM
    Quote:
    3.5-3.9 GHz, Quad-Core, 8 B Shared L3 Cache
    8 B?
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