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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $1200 Enthusiast PC

Assembly And Overclocking

Everything fits very nicely in Rosewill's Challenger-U3, and we’re impressed with the enclosure’s build quality, airflow, and case management features. We were concerned that the colossal Xigmatek Gaia CPU cooler would interfere with the side of the case, but this isn’t a problem.

Even the large, dual-Radeon HD 6950 setup encounters no fitment issues, although we would have preferred more space between the 16x PCIe slots on the Biostar motherboard to facilitate better airflow.

The only problem we encountered was a product of our own negligence, as the dual-channel memory needs to be inserted in specific slots. The memory operates in any of the slots when you use an Phenom II processor, but the FX-6100 is much more picky about DIMM slot installation for dual-channel operation.


Despite the disappointments encountered on AMD’s FX family, we can at least say that the FX-6100 overclocks reasonably well. I was able to POST at 5.0 GHz using a perhaps-uncomfortable 1.50 V and boot to windows at 4.8 GHz.

Thermals are within a reasonable range, and if this was a regular test sample, I might have poured more voltage just to see what happened. But we send our System Builder Marathon configurations to contest winners when we’re through, and I didn’t have the heart to run experiments on hardware destined for a lucky reader. Because of this, our final overclock is 4.45 GHz with a 21.5x multiplier and a 207 MHz reference clock, using 1.476 V to drive the CPU. This isn't a poor result by any stretch. Memory topped out at 690 MHz (1380 MT/s) with 7-8-8-8-24-31 1T timings.

The factory-overclocked graphics cards aren’t willing to accept a meaningful increase, but we bump the memory and core clocks by 10 MHz just to say we did. The final graphics clocks are 880 MHz on the core and 1260 MHz for the GDDR5 memory.