Page 1:Changing Focus For A Look At Processor Performance
Page 2:CPU, Motherboard And Cooler
Page 3:Graphics Card, Power Supply And Case
Page 4:Memory, Hard Drives And Optical Storage
Page 5:Building And Overclocking
Page 6:How We Tested
Page 7:Results: Synthetics
Page 8:Results: Media Transcoding
Page 9:Results: Rendering And Productivity
Page 10:Results: Adobe Creative Cloud
Page 11:Results: Compression Tools
Page 12:Results: Battlefield 4 And Arma 3
Page 13:Results: Grid 2 And Far Cry 3
Page 14:Power And Temperature
Page 15:Q3 2014 Mainstream Enthusiast PC Under $1300 Verdict
Building And Overclocking
Let me start by saying what a pleasure it is to work within the large confines of Cooler Master's HAF XM. It provides a lot of drive bays and easy access, not to mention thoughtful cable management provisions including flared side panels that easily accommodated the colossal Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler. While the pictures below might give you the impression that I'm able to put together a clean system, anyone who has seen my previous builds knows that this isn't actually the case. Simply put, this is one of the most pleasant build experiences I've had, and the HAF XM is more than a little responsible for that. I highly recommend it.
Of course, pleasurable doesn't necessarily mean easy. Just because the case played nice with the beastly Noctua NH-D14, that doesn't mean the RAM wanted to. Previous experience with this particularly large cooling apparatus would have helped me appreciate how incompatible tall RAM heatsinks are. With no time to re-order parts, I performed a little warranty-voiding hacksaw engineering on one of the sticks:
Voila! A little filing to smooth the sharp edges, and we have the ability to install the customized G.Skill Trident under the cooler, like so:
It doesn't even look bad. That's not all, note the beige Noctua NH-D14 fan on the left. It turns out that it left precious little space for the graphics card, so I removed it and re-installed it on the other side of the heatsink, which was easily accommodated by the spacious HAF XM. The lesson here is, you might not want to assume that an air cooling setup is necessarily less hassle than a liquid cooler, especially when dealing with hardware as awe-inspiringly large as the NH-D14. A little prior knowledge and planning to accommodate this bad boy would have made my life easier. Lesson learned. Aside from these inconveniences, though, everything went quite smoothly and the system happily booted up on the first attempt.
For the system builder marathon I try to keep the overclocking methodology simple: add CPU voltage, and see where the multiplier can take us. With moderate air cooling and CPU voltage in the 1.25 to 1.3 V range, this almost always lands me a 4.3 GHz overclock with a Core i5-4670K.
This time, however, the Noctua NH-D14 and new Core i5-4690K allowed me to bump the voltage up to 1.335V without pulling the temperature above 80 degrees Celsius during a Prime95 stress test. This provided for a final stable overclock of 4.6 GHz, about 300 MHz higher than usual. By itself this doesn't account for a huge performance increase, but in conjunction with the G.Skill Trident RAM's 1200 MHz DDR3 XMP profile, the new build achieved some sizable gains compared to the system from the previous quarter's marathon.
As for the graphics card, we didn't have high hopes for a big overclock as Zotac's AMP! GeForce GTX 770 comes from the factory with a respectable clock rate increase over the stock specs, which eats into the available headroom. Nevertheless, we did manage to achieve a 30 MHz core boost and a 150 MHz (600 MHz effective) GDDR5 increase to 1180/1232 MHz core and 7800 MT/s memory. This was achieved with MSI's Afterburner utility, increasing the voltage to the maximum +12 setting, the power limit to the maximum 106%, and setting the fan at 100% (which wasn't too loud, surprisingly).
- Changing Focus For A Look At Processor Performance
- CPU, Motherboard And Cooler
- Graphics Card, Power Supply And Case
- Memory, Hard Drives And Optical Storage
- Building And Overclocking
- How We Tested
- Results: Synthetics
- Results: Media Transcoding
- Results: Rendering And Productivity
- Results: Adobe Creative Cloud
- Results: Compression Tools
- Results: Battlefield 4 And Arma 3
- Results: Grid 2 And Far Cry 3
- Power And Temperature
- Q3 2014 Mainstream Enthusiast PC Under $1300 Verdict