$4000 PC OC Performance: Crysis, Prey
That’s right, our processor’s maximum stable limit was a whopping 193 MHz lower when using the 790i-equipped Striker II Extreme than it had been when using the 780i-equipped Striker II formula. Could this spell trouble for nVidia’s latest chipset? Our upcoming 790i Motherboard Comparison should provide some answers.
A lower overclock simply adds to the disappointment we already felt about the new configuration after our 9800 GX2 SLI pair proved less capable on average than an ancient pair of 8800 GTX cards, but at least the new motherboard offers the bandwidth advantage of DDR3.
nVidia’s recent chipsets offer a limited number of “linked” memory ratios, and numerous “unlinked” speeds, allowing virtually any stable front side bus frequency to work with nearly any memory. We’ve seen memory performance drop dramatically using some “unlinked” speeds, so we selected an FSB and CPU multiplier to provide the highest stable memory speed at our 4.16 GHz CPU limit.
Patriot Memory’s Extreme Performance PDC34G1333LLK PC3-10666 4 GB dual-channel kit was picked for its low price rather than overclocking performance, yet it was still stable at DDR3-1400 using its DDR3-1333 rated 7-7-7-20 timings.
Finally, it was time to overclock our graphics cards. Though our March $4,000 PC was sorely lacking in GPU overclocking capability, the new cards were much more compliant.
A few hours of adjustments and stability tests brought us to the resulting 720 MHz GPU, 1750 MHz shader, and 1080 MHz RAM clock speeds. We might have gotten slightly more from these cards had we the time to test them in smaller 1-2 MHz increments, but we feel comfortable that this was sufficiently near the actual limit to provide scores representative of a longer effort.
Crysis simply loves the overclocked 9800 GX2, placing our current configuration far above the former one, even though it has a lower processor speed. Let’s see what happens when we increase the detail level.
At “Very High” detail settings and 4x anti-aliasing, the current overclock leads in Crysis performance at up to 1680x1050 resolution. The problem is that most $4,000 PC users will likely use at least a 24” display, and even when overclocked, the current configuration falls behind at 1920x1200 pixels.
In fact, none of the configurations were capable of playing Crysis smoothly at 1920x1200 pixels and very high settings, even when overclocked. Many of us can do without anti-aliasing at such high resolutions… how about you?
At Prey’s default settings, simply getting back to the starting point of our previous build required overclocking the current build to near its limit. Impressive results at low resolutions don’t mean much for owners of mid-priced or better displays. On the other hand, the frame rates are high enough that any performance difference is academic.
Increased quality levels in Prey put even more emphasis on the former configuration’s flatter graphing curve, but the super-high frame rates for all systems will again mask the difference in actual game play.