Assembly And Overclocking
Gaining access to the Source 210 Elite's internals requires removing two thumb screws from each side panel. Inside you'll find an all-black interior, an adequate hardware bundle and a folded paper manual. The front-panel connections and exhaust fans are wired through the provided cable management holes, making them easy to tuck out of the way. With a moderate tug, the front bezel snaps off, simplifying removal of a 5.25” bay cover for optical drive installation.
After mounting the Core i3 processor, its push-pin heat sink and both memory modules, it was time to install the motherboard. This step went smoothly, since I did my homework to make sure my case had the standoffs it needed to accommodate our mATX motherboard. NZXT even supplies a 5mm socket to help tighten the screws. Unfortunately, my pre-purchase investigative work wasn't thorough enough; the assembly process soon ground to a halt.
Early in the build process I noticed the motherboard’s easily accessible CLR CMOS jumper, located between the processor and graphics card slot. But any points I’d award for that inclusion were erased as soon as I tried to connect front-panel headers. A Newegg review warned of tight spacing, but I underestimated the extent of the incompatibility. ASRock didn't consider the H81M-HDS' true gaming potential, it seems, when the company placed part of the front-panel header where a dual-slot graphics card would overhang.
When Sapphire's Dual-X shot up $20, I pulled it from my cart and substituted the most affordable R9 280 alternative. Our orders were due, and I was thrilled to have a $190 option. However, upon assembly, there was simply no way to seat the MSI card with our power and reset switch connections in place (at least not without modifying the case wiring or massive cooling shroud).
After confirming that the machine would boot from Intel's HD Graphics 4400 engine, I sent my discrete card in for a smaller alternative. Thankfully, the Sapphire Dual-X was again available at an even lower price, knocking my total down another $10. It’s not exactly fair to my colleagues that I'll benefit from this sequence of events, but I really can't complain.
Once my replacement arrived, the machine was good to go. The most difficult challenge to overcome was managing the PCI Express power connectors, which EVGA exposes on the same lead. The extremely stiff loop created by using both connectors had to be bent downward to fit inside the case. It's also worth mentioning that NZXT provides four-pin adapters for the two exhaust fans, which came in especially handy considering the placement of our motherboard’s system fan headers in relation to the case’s cable management holes.
I chose the Core i3-4150 partly because ASRock's H81M-HDS would support it with UEFI version 1.6. As it turned out, our board shipped with version 1.9 already installed, meaning it'd recognize the quicker Core i3-4160 right out of the box.
This quarter, it seems I took a page from Don’s book, meaning I'll likely ensure some ribbing from Thomas. But I was curious to test stock settings at default CL11 timings, which could have saved me a couple bucks by going with cheaper modules. My overclocking run would leverage the XMP profile's CL9 settings.
Since the Core i3 can't really be overclocked, my manual tweaking efforts would revolve around optimizing the graphics card's frequencies.
The Radeon R9 280's GPU operates at an 850MHz base clock rate. But in-game, our Sapphire Dual-X maintained its 940MHz peak Boost frequency. Using MSI Overdrive, I hit 1100MHz before noticing signs of instability. The card went 45 minutes in Far Cry 3 without an issue, but then locked up within a minute under Battlefield 4. Practicing a conservative approach, I didn’t push the graphics memory as hard as I could have. Instead, I settled for a 1080MHz GPU setting and 1300MHz (5200MT/s) memory.
Before testing, I did however mess with Sapphire’s fans, discovering that they start to get noisy above 50% duty cycle. I created a custom fan profile that peaked a little higher than the 42% default. This provided a bit more airflow to the memory, while also keeping the overclocked GPU running just as cool as it did out of the box.