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System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $1,250 Enthusiast Build

Assembly And Overclocking

This system was well thought out during the planning stages, and it really paid off with a smooth, clean assembly. The NZXT Tempest affords a lot of space, and the graphic cards weren't even difficult to fit together in MSI's well-placed PCIe slots.

Our only complaint--and it's a nitpick, really--is that the Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH graphics cards didn't come with CrossFire cables, which is a shame since they are premium Radeon HD 4850 offerings. While MSI thoughtfully included two cables with the motherboard, three are necessary for quad-CrossFire usage, so we had to use an extra one we had lying around.

Other than that, we have absolutely nothing to report. Everything ran smoothly on first boot and the Catalyst Control Center (CCC) was happy to utilize all four cards in CrossFire. With such a fringe setup, we assumed there'd be a bit more to do, but no fiddling was necessary.

Overclocking

Overclocking was a bit more involved. The graphics cards bombarded the case with heat, since these Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850s don't push their hot air out of the back of the case. The Xigmatek CPU cooler thus had to earn its keep.

The system would boot to 4 GHz, but the CPU really wanted a lot of voltage to get there. Of course, voltage begets heat, and heat begets instability. I suspect if the graphics cards exhausted their heat out the back of the case, or if we'd have had some liquid-CPU cooling, our overclocked numbers would have been a lot more impressive.

At the end of the day, with 1.46V fed to the CPU, we found a balance of speed and heat at a reference clock rate of 245 MHz and at the stock 15x multiplier, we were able to settle on a stable clock speed of 3.675 GHz. This is nothing epic, but is not terrible for a 24/7 overclock.

In order to keep memory latencies low, we had to choose a ratio that gave us a slight memory underclock to 1,306 MHz, but still allowed us to maintain the 7-7-7-20-27-1T timings. We also lowered the HyperTransport link multiplier to 9x, and the CPU-NB link to 8x. Northbridge voltage was increased slightly to 1.3V, and ACC was set to “Auto.”

The graphics cards were completely unwilling to budge at all in our overclocking efforts. While this is unfortunate, it's not entirely unexpected as the cards have a high factory overclock, meaning less headroom right out of the gate. We're also dealing with four cards in CrossFire, and the environment is not ideal for overclocking. On the positive side, these four Radeons are powerful enough to be held back by the CPU speed, so the CPU overclock should show us some positive gains.

  • gkay09
    I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...
    Reply
  • drealar
    Monstrosity @1250!!
    Reply
  • frozenlead
    gkay09I would have preferred the i7 860 paired with 2x HD 4890s or 2x GTX 275s or even a single HD 5870 for this budget...
    I agree. I mean, props for quadfire, but it's not really the best choice for the best performance.
    Reply
  • HibyPrime
    Even though it turned out to only be faster at high resolution gaming, I have to commend you guys for skipping the obvious here.

    An i5 750 build probably would have turned out better numbers on the whole, I would probably call this a last hurrah (and the $2500 too, im sure that'll be a quad) for quad CF/SLi based systems being used to run a single 30" monitor.. I'm sure we'll start to see the high end gamers moving over to eyefinity and whatever equivalent nVidia comes up with.
    Reply
  • gkay09
    But as this is an all-AMD build, the X4 955 would have been a better choice...And did you people come across any driver issues when dealing with Quad-crossfire ?That setup looks like asking for trouble...
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    4 x Gigabyte GV-R485OC-1GH Radeon HD 4850 in CrossFire

    Interesting but frankly not a huge fan of multi gpu set ups to being with let alone a quad fire set up i mean at least with nvidia you have decent scaling, but who am i to complain for that price and it seems to run high rez just fine.

    But that is a *** load of load power draw, noise(not too much nice zalman heat sinks on those cards) and heat coming out of that thing.

    bit surprised when i saw the load Wattage you got i thought the older 1300 rig was a i7 with 2x260's in sli which should come out to be less power draw under load even with a modded 4870 cards

    Little risky build but on the bright side you could run 8 monitors lol

    Conventional would have landed this price in the i5/i7 build with 2x4890's or a bit more powerful cards really depends on which cpu you settle with. Ofc ionno how long ago you order this. Would have came out a bit more rounded but not as great for higher resolutions and AA AF settings.

    This build is more of a high resolution gaming specialist. Personally i've never built a system with just gaming in mind i've always been a man that favors a more rounded system where you spend at least 3/4th of what you put into your gpu into your cpu

    Thomas Soderstrom's $2,500 AMD build tomorrow
    bah $2,500 and no i7 not like the budget couldn't fit very expensive gpu card and cpu in there. Oh well it wont loose out too much in games even with mutli gpu set ups...best have a sound card in there it be very refreshing for tom's builds to sport one. Interesting what monstrosity he has made to share with us.
    Reply
  • kelfen
    I see some scaling issues with x4!!
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    I agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Heh well, not all SBMs have to be perfect. I'm liking the whole experimental phase the SBMs are going through. More educational than just seeing a build I would have done myself.
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    jj463rdI agree with gkay09 on spending the extra $20 and going with the Phenom II X4 955 BE instead even if it pushes the budget a little over.At this price level I would probably choose a Core i7 build though.I really liked the $650 SBM budget AMD build that was a great choice.Well it was by demand to make AMD builds and this is what happens they timed it just right to be right after i5 release just to mess with us. AMD builds shouldn't hurt in games but in apps depending it can be murder or breaking even.
    Reply