System Builder Marathon: The $4,500 Super PC

Hardware Settings And Overclocking

Hardware installation was almost as easy as a typical system, but we do have a few notes.

1.) The motherboard’s bottom slot is partly blocked by the water pump and lower radiator hose. The half-length, half-height Asus Xonar DX fit perfectly, though we’d have preferred to use a PCI card in the upper slot.

2.) The Corsair CMPSU-1000HX power supply has ferrite rings on the flat, removable PCI Express power cables that prevented them from being run between cards. We had to use the soldered-on "round" cables for the top card.

3.) The photo above shows the "wrong" optical drive installed. Our BD-RE drive arrived late, so we began overclock stability tests using a substitute part.

4.) Purging air from the liquid cooling system should be done with the CPU water block removed, as detailed in our earlier liquid-cooling case comparison.

5.) The side fan of our Zalman LQ1000 case didn’t provide enough air pressure to effectively cool our memory at its rated speed. We had to use lower voltage and speed, with increased timings as detailed below.

$4,500 Ultimate-Performance System Test Configuration
Component Base Settings Overclock Setting
CPU Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650
3.00 GHz, FSB-1333, 12 MB Cache
4.14 GHz (9x 460 MHz), FSB-1840
1.4125 V Core, 1.40 V FSB Termination
CPU Cooler Zalman LQ1000 Integrated Zalman LQ1000 Integrated
Motherboard Asus P5E3 Premium WiFi-AP
Intel X48, BIOS 0605 (09/02/2008)
Intel X48 Boot Strap : 400 MHz
Northbridge Voltage : 1.49 V
RAM 8.0 GB OCZ PC3-12800 Platinum Edition
4x 2048 MB, DDR3-1600, CL 7-7-7-24 at 1.90 V
Underclocked to DDR3-1333 8-8-8-24 at 1.76 V
DDR3-1533, CL 8-8-8-24
1.76 V
Graphics 2x MSI R4870X2 OC Edition (Crossfire)
2x ATI 4870 GPU (Per Card), 780 MHz
2x 1024 MB GDDR5-3600 (Per Card)
787 MHz GPU, GDDR5-3840 (960 MHz)
Hard Drives 4x Samsung HD103UJ (RAID 0)
1.0 TB, 72000 RPM, 32 MB Cache
Sound Asus Xonar DX PCI Express
7.1 Channels, DDL, DS3D GX 2.0
Network Integrated Gigabit Networking Integrated Gigabit Networking
Power Corsair HX1000W Modular
ATX 2.2, EPS 2.91, 2x 40A 12 V Rails
6x BD-R, 2x BD-RE, 16x DVD±R
Software and Drivers
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit, SP1 Unchanged
Graphics Driver ATI Catalyst 8.8 64-bit Edition Unchanged
Onboard Device Drivers Asus P5E3 Premium DVD Rev.360.01 Unchanged

With stability tests out of the way, it was time to finally install the "correct" optical drive and move forward to benchmarks.