Overclocking the Sub-$1000 PC
Our $1,000 build used a low-cost processor, but the system was made to handle a significant overclock without breaking the bank. Here’s the component and price list, before rebates.
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Duo E7200||130|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master HyperTX 2||26|
|Motherboard||MSI P7N SLI Platinum||150|
|RAM||Crucial Ballistix 2x 1GB PC2-6400 Kit||55|
|Graphics||2x Gigabyte 8800 GT GV-NX88T512HPV1 (SLI)||376|
|Hard Drive||Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB ST3500630AS||80|
|Sound||Onboard 8-Channel HD Audio Codec||00|
|Case||Cooler Master Centurion 590 RC-590-KKN1-GP||70|
|Power||Silverstone ST400 400W||47|
|DVD-RW||Sony NEC Optiarc 7170 Serial ATA||25|
|Auxiliary Fan||2x OKGEAR D12SL-12 (120mm/1350RPM)||9|
These prices have been adjusted to reflect the cost at the beginning of this marathon’s publication last week, but the parts were ordered at the end of May. That means we couldn’t order components that didn’t exist in the market yet, and the price at the time of our order was $998.
A decline in total system price of $30 doesn’t seem that large, but our components also came with $100 in rebates. Why didn’t we include the rebates in our price list? Because when you’re buying a system on a fixed budget, you can’t wait for the rebates to clear on some parts before ordering the remainder!
The low-cost Intel Core 2 Duo E7200—a 45 nm process Wolfdale core clocked all the way down to 2.53 GHz with half its cache disabled—gave us high hopes for overclocking. But then we were confronted by an unpleasant surprise: regardless of which multiplier we used, the MSI P7N SLI Platinum couldn’t push this FSB-1066 based E7200 beyond FSB-1333. Heavy hearted, we were forced to settle on a final clock speed, at the processor’s maximum multiplier, of 3.16 GHz.
At least we wouldn’t need a large voltage adjustment to get to this speed, as the system was perfectly stable at a BIOS setting of 1.23 volts.
With a limited number of “linked” multipliers available to nVidia chipsets, we picked a 1000 MHz data rate and found Crucial’s Ballistix DDR2-800 modules to be perfectly happy to run this speed, at lower-than-rated 4-4-4-8 timings and 2.10 volts.
We tried overclocking the graphics cards as well, but when nVidia nTune reported the wrong default frequency to lab technician Shelton Romhanyi, he inadvertently overclocked to an “underclocked” frequency. Fortunately, further testing showed no noticeable performance difference from adjusting nTune’s GPU and shader clocks, so at least the performance hadn’t gone down as a result. And while nTune appears ineffective for controlling the graphics processor on Gigabyte’s custom-designed card, a graphics memory speed increase from 1840 to 2050 MHz data rate appeared to work.