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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,600 Alternative PC

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

The $1,600 PC’s second GPU does a great job of spinning down as part of AMD's ZeroCore technology suite. We attribute most of the power differences in non-gaming scenarios to the motherboard and our slightly higher CPU voltage.

When it's subjected to load, the second graphics card adds more than 200 W.

Manual fan adjustments keep the overclocked system’s GPU cooler, though the $1,600 PC’s second GPU pushes the temperature of its first GPU up by 9° Celsius.

Non-overclocked CPU temperature differences are far larger, though that’s the fault of a 90°-max fan slope. A low 18° ambient temp produces the big 70° delta.

Our newest build isn't only designed for gaming; it's a solid general-purpose PC that happens to be an excellent gamer, too. Graphics are simply the easiest place for us to get a return on our investment. Today's $1,600 setup is over 40% more powerful in games, both at stock and overclocked settings. CPU and DRAM bottlenecks at lower resolutions mean that our high-end performance chart (on the next page) will be far more important.

The only place we’ve seen the $1,600 PC pay (in performance) for its power increase is during games, and then only at 5760x1080. When we put all benchmarks on a chart of averages, its efficiency looks fairly poor.

The good news for our pricier build is that overclocking yields larger increases in performance than in power. Average efficiency actually goes up for this particular overclocked configuration.

  • Azn Cracker
    Aren't the 7870 myst only $240 a piece?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Azn CrackerAren't the 7870 myst only $240 a piece?See This?
    Article TextThe prices in that table were what we paid when the parts were ordered, and a lot of them changed over the last six weeks. For example, the PowerColor card is $20 less, per board. Other prices are up. All told, then, the total cost of buying our machine and replicating the build is within $20 of our original invoice.
    Reply
  • mikenygmail
    Please call the graphics cards 7870 LE from the start, like this:
    "Video Cards: 2 x 7870 LE - PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition"
    After all, it is much more than a standard 7870.
    I had no idea it was the LE until I got to the third page.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    mikenygmailPlease call the graphics cards 7870 LE from the start, like this:"Video Cards: 2 x 7870 LE - PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition"After all, it is much more than a standard 7870.I had no idea it was the LE until I got to the third page.In AMD/ATI model lingo, LE stands for a cut-down part. So a Tahiti-LE wouldn't be a 7870 LE, it would be a 7950 LE. The fact that it carries the 7870 model number is unfortunate, but the article attempts to make it clear that this is indeed a Tahiti-LE
    Reply
  • stickmansam
    Why not the 7870XT like Sapphire calls it?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    StickmansamWhy not the 7870XT like Sapphire calls it?That's fine, please tell AMD to do the re-brand!
    Reply
  • pyro226
    "a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?

    I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...
    Reply
  • I like that build better.. :D
    Reply
  • Fulgurant
    pyro226"a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...
    That sort of thing happens once in a blue moon. Don't let it bother you.

    I guess Tom's tale of woe summarizes why Intel recommends against higher than 1.575 volts on the memory controller of Ivy/Sandy:

    http://www.intel.com/support/processors/sb/CS-029913.htm#4
    IntelWhat are the Intel® Core™ i7 desktop processor DDR3 memory voltage limitations?Intel® recommends using memory that adheres to the Jedec memory specification for DDR3 memory which is 1.5 volts, plus or minus 5%. Anything more than this voltage can damage the processor or significantly reduce the processor life span.
    In any case, the performance benefits of overclocking memory on a Sandy/Ivy platform seem so miniscule that it's scarcely even worth considering. Buy memory capable of an appropriate speed @ 1.5V, and leave it be.

    (I know Tom mentions Intel's position on memory voltage on the last page of the article, but I wanted to re-emphasize it because I've seen literally hundreds of people dismiss Intel's statement on various hardware forums. When sites like Tom's Hardware push limits, even for questionable performance gains, we all benefit -- but when someone who's on a budget and might not know any better pushes limits on his own, hard-earned hardware, the results might be tragic. Tom's experiments with this stuff so we don't have to.)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    pyro226"a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...I told Chris the system was cursed, but he refused to let the project go after the seventh day. Three more days rescued the content, if not the hardware...
    FulgurantThat sort of thing happens once in a blue moon. Don't let it bother you.Once every 12 years is twice in 13 years too often...
    Reply