How We Test
I covered some of the points on how we tested Big Build in the prior Overclocking section. Aside from those notes, we purchased the parts, assembled the machines and ran the tests ourselves. I set up Big Build and the other machine in our Los Angeles test lab where I had access to the tools and space needed for this quarter’s System Builders Marathon. One key factor that I find important for working in the lab is having a climate-controlled environment to run the machines in, especially when testing the overclocking. Since most of my work was done at night, I had the A/C to myself and set the temperature to about 73 degrees F. With both machines fired up around mid-afternoon, the room's temperature rose to about 78 degrees F.
Using the standard Tom’s Hardware image and software, I benchmarked the non-overclocked PC configuration first, then set the overclocking on that machine and ran the tests one more time.
Aside from the variety of tools and hardware needed, we also introduced 4K monitors to the test scenario. We used a couple of 27” Viewsonic VP2780-4K displays sandwiching a 28” Acer XB280HK. Since Big Build’s Gigabyte GTX 980 graphics card had three DisplayPort outputs, we used them all for testing.
The images we use center on Windows 8 and are pre-loaded with all of the System Builder Marathon software. We simply write a fresh image to the machine's SSD, update the firmware, install the drivers and configure third-party tuning apps.
|Q2 $1600 Gaming PC||Q1 $1750 Performance PC||Q4 2014 $1600 PC|
|Processor (Overclock)||Intel Core i5-4690K: 3.5GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.2-4.4GHz, 1.24V||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4.0-4.4GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.6-4.8GHz, +20mV||Intel Core i7-4790K: 4.0-4.4GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.6GHz, 1.26V|
|Graphics (Overclock)||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980: 1178MHz GPU, GDDR5-7010 O/C to 1335MHz, GDDR5-8000||2x PNY GeForce GTX 970: 1178MHz GPU, GDDR5-7012 O/C to 1328MHz, GDDR5-7312||PNY GeForce GTX 980: 1216MHz GPU, GDDR5-7012 O/C to 1456MHz, GDDR5-7972|
|Memory (Overclock)||16GB Team Extreme DDR3-2400 CAS 10-12-12-31, Applied XMP Profile||16GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 10-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2133 CL 11-12-11-24, 1.6V||8GB G.Skill DDR3-2133 CAS 9-11-10-28, O/C to DDR3-2400 CL 10-12-12-28, 1.6V|
|Motherboard (Overclock)||ASRock Z97 Extreme6: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express Stock 100MHz BCLK||Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK||Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE:LGA 1150, Intel Z97 ExpressStock 100MHz BCLK|
|Case||DIYPC Adventurer-9601G||Corsair Graphite 230T||Thermaltake Chaser A31|
|CPU Cooler||Zalman CNPS10X Optima||Corsair H100i Closed-Loop||Phanteks PH-TC14PE 140mm|
|Hard Drive||SanDisk Extreme Pro 240GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Crucial MX100 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD||Plextor M6S PX-256M6S 256GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD|
|Power||Corsair CSM Series CS750M: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold||Rosewill Capstone-750: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold||Rosewill Capstone-750-M: 750W, 80 PLUS Gold|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64||Microsoft Windows 8 Pro x64|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 353.06||Nvidia GeForce 347.25||Nvidia GeForce 344.75|
|Chipset||Intel INF 126.96.36.1997||Intel INF 188.8.131.526||Intel INF 184.108.40.2066|