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System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $1000 PC

Assembly And Overclocking

The only trouble we experienced during installation was a boot hang caused by an older BIOS that didn’t play nice with the Core i3-550 processor. Temporarily switching to Intel's Pentium G6950 just long enough to install a fresh BIOS saved the day.

We have to say that our $1000 SBM machines have always looked sleek, but this time the combination of parts comes together for a very sexy final result. By chance, everything ended up being black, including the case, motherboard, graphics cards, power supply, and even the memory modules. The accent colors are aluminum and copper from the CPU and graphics card heat sinks, making for a very attractive build. We couldn’t have made it prettier if we tried.


A final overclock of 4.0 GHz isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, we didn't get any miracles with this combination, and despite our ambitions, a stable 4 GHz was the best we could do. With the CPU set to 1.35 V, IMC at 1.3 V, PLL at 1.9 V, and PCH at 1.15 V; the highest BCLK frequency we could muster was 167.5 MHz. Multiply that by the CPU's 24x ratio and you have our final overclock of 4019 MHz.

There isn’t a suitable memory multiplier at this bus speed that will let us keep our latencies low, so the final memory clock is 502 MHz (1004 MT/s) at 7-7-7-24-1T timings.

When it comes to graphics, the ECS GeForce GTX 460 cards in SLI don’t disappoint, overclocking to 825/1650 MHz core/shaders and 950 MHz memory. This should take the performance of the graphics system close to what a couple of GeForce GTX 470 cards in SLI would muster.