System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Performance PC

CPU Overclocking

We borrowed a bridge from another motherboard for our tests, but buyers who choose to instead assemble the system with included components can use a closer slot for the second card, at the same time reducing airflow to the card above it and knocking both slots down to x8 mode. Finally, anyone who upgrades to three-way CrossFireX will be forced to use the closer slot for their middle card, and the CrossFire bridges included with the graphics cards are long enough to reach from the first to the second and from the second to third PCIe x16 slots.

While “Sandy Bridge” overclocking is primarily limited to the manipulation of its Turbo Boost multipliers (on unlocked K-series models), the process is actually fairly simple. We locked in a 100 MHz base clock and increased the maximum Turbo Ratio to 48x, set Load-Line Calibration to High, and used an Offset Voltage of +0.100 V to push our voltage under load to 1.40 V without disabling power-saving features.

Remember when we said we thought that G.Skill’s less-expensive, 1.5 V DDR3-1600 CAS 8-8-8-24 likely used the same components as its 1.6 V DDR3-1600 CAS 7-8-7-24? Increasing our 1.5 V memory voltage to 1.6 V allowed us the choice of 7-8-7 timings at DDR3-1600 or 8-9-8 timings at DDR3-1866, and our calculator told us the later setting would perform better. Hint: 1866/8 * 7 = 1633, and 1633>1600.

Here’s where we can pick between locked-in and floating multipliers, though it doesn’t list these options in UEFI. Instead we see “C1E, C3 Report, and C6 Report” options, and disabling all three will force the CPU to run at its maximum Turbo Boost ratio full-time. The EIST setting does not produce similar results.

Because power management does not reduce the performance of most applications but does save a significant amount of energy on-average, we left these settings enabled for our initial tests. After later finding that these settings do reduce our hard drive throughput tests, we wound up re-benchmarking the system with C-States disabled. Both data sets are represented in today’s charts so that readers can make an informed decision regarding the importance of this feature.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • wribbs
    Was wondering when the SBM would return. Now if I just had an extra $2K. Now lets see how the lower price models hold up.

    Sure is a good time to be building a new PC.
  • duk3
    I'd love to win one of these.
    Especially this one
  • dragonsqrrl
    Wow, nice system this time around. Excellent performance and efficiency, although I personally would've chosen a nicer case for a $2000 system. I know you guys have your reasons, and for the purposes of a purely price/performance oriented build it makes sense to skimp on the aesthetic qualities of a case, but for me personally, it's still nice to see a high-end case complement some high-end hardware.
  • toxxel
    Nice system for 2k, wondering what the other systems will offer for their respective tier.
  • sparky2010
    since the 6990 is out, wouldn't getting that one card be a legitimate choice too? isn't it also at around $600?
  • illuminatuz
    oh wow!!! you know what if you can really think you can make a performance pc.. i mean same performance.. but lesser cost..
    i am not saying OC and AMD thing.. same hardware..
  • dertechie
    That system looks familiar. Very familiar. Almost. . . have you been spying on me?

    I built a system exactly like that, except with an 2500K, P8P67 Pro, single 6950 2GB, single SSD, DVD rather than BD, H50 and a cheaper PSU. Tears through Metro 2033 maxed at 1920x1200 like butter. When prices on 6950s fall some more I'll add a card and see if they can handle Eyefinity.
  • illuminatuz
    and its possible.. just take a nice gtx 560ti rather two amd sli and take 8 gig ram.. since anything above 8 gig will give diminishing returns and 500 gb hdd is more than enough i think.. buy a cheaper case, (punch holes to make it cooler :P) thats it.. same cpu same mobo and everything else same. you can also opt for cheaper 1155 mobo. i think gigabyte's got some.. or asus maybe.. no need for some two pcie and crap.. you can take a higher gpu.. say like gtx 580 or 6990.. well sli will give value if you are going for long term.. and you can install server's power.. they are cheap and of higher quality (thats what i heard from my pc vendor). i think there better be another marathon where there are the best pc at lowest cost.. that would make more sense rather giving budget.. so that people can know what they can make with the money they got.. since not all have exactly 1000$ or 2000$ there are people from other countries as well following so keep up the good work fellas ^_^/~~
  • tapher

    Props on the build, dawgs. Daddy likes!

    Breath is bated for the bevy of builds to come!
  • andy5174
    Contest is limited to residents of the USA

    not again.....