What's Faster Our Builds or Dell's H2C?


Editor’s Note : This is the last day of our Overclocking Marathon. We’ve pushed three PCs to the edge of stability. Now it’s time to see if there’s a winner from a price/performance perspective. Before we get into that, here are the links to the previous three days of our Marathon.

An almost universal truth of computers is that lower-cost parts offer more value for the amount of money spent. The reason for this is simple : "one-model-down" components are often 20%-50% cheaper but only 10%-20% slower than the next-best models. But what happens when you overclock ?

Overclocking is certainly a good way to get a free performance boost, but larger gains often require specialized components. In particular, a highly-overclocked CPU usually requires an oversized cooler and higher-speed RAM for system stability. Value goes out the window once again when the cost of additional equipment exceeds the performance gained.

With these issues in mind, we overclocked three systems to find the ultimate performance of each, and now we’re ready to see how far our money got us.

Test Setup

The specifications of our overclocked test systems are listed in the following table. For information on the original specifications and how we got to these speeds, please read our XPS 720 H2C, Tom’s Hardware High-End PC, and Tom’s Hardware Low-Cost PC overclocking articles.

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System Hardware
Dell XPS 720 H2CIntel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 at 3.79 GHz, 1084 FSB, 8 MB Cache
THG High-End PCIntel Core 2 Extreme X6800 at 3.66 GHz, 1333 FSB, 4 MB Cache
THG Low-Cost PCIntel Core Duo e4300 at 3.15 GHz, 1400 FSB, 2 MB Cache
Dell XPS 720 H2CDell XPS 720, Nvidia 680i SLI , BIOS : Phoenix A00 (05/03/07)
THG High-End PCASUS Striker Extreme, BIOS : Phoenix 0901 (02/07/07)
THG Low-Cost PCASUS P5B, BIOS : 1604
Dell XPS 720 H2CCorsair Dominator PC2-8500, 4x1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-15
THG High-End PCCrucial Ballistix PC2-8000, 2x 1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-15
THG Low-Cost PCWintec Ampo PC2-6400, 2x 1024 MB, CAS 5.0-5-5-16
Hard Drives
Dell XPS 720 H2C2x WDC WD1600ADFD, 150 GB, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB Cache, RAID 0
THG High-End PC2x Western Digital WD5000YS, 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB, RAID 0
THG Low-Cost PCWestern Digital Caviar WD2500JS, 250 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB Cache
Dell XPS 720 H2CNvidia nForce onboard Gigabit Ethernet NIC
THG High-End PCNvidia nForce onboard Gigabit Ethernet NIC
THG Low-Cost PCRealtec onboard RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet NIC
Dell XPS 720 H2C2x GeForce 8800 Ultra, 660 MHz GPU, 256 MB 2320 MHz RAM, SLI
THG High-End PC2x XFX GeForce 8800 GTX, 630 MHz GPU , 768 MB 1800 MHz RAM, SLI
THG Low-Cost PCEVGA GeForce 8800 GTX, 610 MHz GPU , 768 MB 2020 MHz RAM
Dell XPS 720 H2CDell 1000W 5-Rail Power SLI/CrossFire Compatible
THG High-End PCPC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad
THG Low-Cost PCAero Cool Zerodba 620W Crossfire/SLI ready
System Software & Drivers
OSMicrosoft Windows XP Pro 5.1.2600
DirectX Version9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Platform DriverIntel INF
Graphics Driver6.14.11.5822 - Nvidia ForceWare 158.22
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Benchmarks and Settings
F.E.A.RVersion : 1.0 RetailVideo Mode : 1024x768Computer : MaximumGraphics : Maximum-Custom-No SoftshadowsTest Path : Options/Performance/Test Settings
Doom 3Version : 1.3Video Mode : 1024x768Graphics : HighTest : Time Demo 1
OblivionVersion : 1.0 RetailVideo Mode : 1024x768Graphics : High, 4xAATest : Inside & Outside save files
Lame MP3Version 3.97 Beta 2 (12-22-2005)Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 minwave to mp3160 kbps
OGGVersion 1.1.2 (Intel P4 MOD)Version 1.1.2 (Intel AMD MOD)Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 minwave to oggQuality : 5
TMPEG 3.0 ExpressVersion : (no Audio)fist 5 Minutes DVD Terminator 2 SE (704x576) 16:9Multithreading by rendering
DivX 6.1Version : 6.1Profile : High-Definition Profile1-pass, 3000 kb/sEncoding mode : Insane QualityEnhanced multithreadingno Audio
XviD 1.1.0Version : 1.1.0 Beta 2Target qantizer : 1.00
Autodesk 3D Studio MaxVersion : 8.0Characters "Dragon_Charater_rig"rendering HTDV 1920x1080 & 1280x720
SPECviewperf 9Version : 9.0.3
PCMark05 ProVersion : 1.1.0System, CPU and Memory TestsWindows Media Player Media Encoder
3DMark05Version : 1.2System Test Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2005Version 2005.7.10.60CPU Test = Arithmetic, Multimedia BenchmarksMemory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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