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System Builder Marathon, Q2 2014: A Balanced High-End Build


Asus offers two modes for overclocking. “XMP” mode starts off with an Intel XMP memory profile. It’s a great way to get your memory running at its rated settings, while simultaneously enabling a wide range of additional overclocking options.

Here's where things take a turn for the worse. My retail Core i7-4770K wouldn't run stably at 4.3 GHz, no matter how much voltage I applied to it. Over time, I determined that the first core was crashing, so I couldn't even set a graduated overclock above 4.2 GHz unless I also wanted to set core affinity for every program. Yes, I know that professional overclockers might be tempted to put in the time, but real-world computing is more practical. I stuck with 4.2 GHz and licked my wounds.

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G.Skill’s DDR3-1866 CAS 8 kit overclocked to DDR3-2133 CAS 9, as predicted. I had to manually configure 9-10-10-27 timings, and was faced with a boot failure when I pushed further to 9-10-9-27.

A core clock rate of 4.2 GHz was accessible with a 1.28 V core setting. But 4.3 GHz remained out of reach, even at 1.3 V (I tried higher settings, too, before giving up). Offset voltage mode allows the board to idle down to a lower voltage, and I achieved a maximum 1.288 V core using the 0.025 V offset.

MSI's Afterburner software provides a handy fan profile page under the Settings menu, in addition to power limit and frequency modification. Our Hawaii GPU didn't overclock well, but the Radeon R9 290X's memory scaled all the way to GDDR5-6200.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.