Overclocking Buyer's Guide - September 2004

by Wesley Fink on 9/17/2004 12:05 AM EST


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  • jeeptrkr - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    Perfect timing and very infomative article. I'm looking to buy a MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum w/ an AMD 64 FX-55 cpu.
    How would Crucial Ballistix PC4000 2.5-4-4-8 compare to PC3200 2-2-2-5 on the MSI mb? Faster bandwidth ver tighter timings?
  • decptt - Thursday, September 30, 2004 - link

    Thank you, Fink.
    I ran Athlon64 Mobile 3200 2.0@2.55 Vcore 1.8

    I will drop to 10x250 vcore1.7 for safer :>

    Ballistix run@ 1:1 2.5-4-4-8 (I don't want to set 2.5-3-3-5 like the review for make sure that it works fine)

    I'll tell the testing result again.

    P.S. I had reached to 10x260 V1.8, windows works but Prime95 doens't work stable.
  • southernpac - Sunday, September 19, 2004 - link

    If Raid 1 is used (mirrowing), is the slow down negligble for a simulations gamer - or would it be noticable? Would the same be the case with 7,200 rpm SATA's?

    I also notice that you listed the eVGA 6800, but the July High-End Guide listed the Gigabyte 6800 (Ultra). Have you noticed performance or manufacturing differences between the 6800 vendors?

    The photo of the Crucial Ballistik PC3200 512 memory has a CL113V.X1 part number on it. I can't find that part number listed on the Crucial web site. ? Bill Mackay
  • thebluesgnr - Saturday, September 18, 2004 - link

    This is one interesting article, but I wish it had the same idea of a "Value" system as other AT articles. The Value system of this guide is too much for me, here's what I came up with:

    AMD Athlon XP Mobile 2400+ 45W $77
    ASRock K7V88 Raid $44
    512MB (1 X 512MB) Corsair Value Select DDR400 CAS2.5 $79
    128MB GeCube Radeon 9550XT $99
    Antec SLK3700-BQE Black ATX Midtower w/ 350W PSU $90
    Seagate 80GB 7200RPM SATA (8Mb Cache) – ST380013AS $71

    HSF not included, total of $460.

    One could change that system to a Chaintech VNF3-250 + Sempron 3100+, but I would rather upgrade the video card first.
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, September 18, 2004 - link

    #25 Wesley Fink- its great to hear a Value RAM roundup is being planned, listening to and where necessary addressing your readers comments is one of the main reasons AT is such a valuable website. Reply
  • Gholam - Saturday, September 18, 2004 - link

    You have a mistake on page 13 - you list CM Stacker as an all-aluminium case, while it definitely isn't. It has aluminium panels, but the chassis frame is made of steel. It also weighs 14.9kg... ouch. On the other hand, there is no other case where ducting the PSU is as easy... Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, September 18, 2004 - link

    #24 - I mentioned in the Value conclusion that you can cut $300 by choosing a cheaper case and an ATI 9800 PRO instead. Perhaps I should make those recommendations part of the Value OC chart in the future.

    #22 - I recommended one 512MB stick of Crucial Ballistix to get the cost down on the lowest priced system and still have great overclocking. We do plan a Value RAM roundup in the future.
  • cnq - Saturday, September 18, 2004 - link


    Keep up the good work!
    Only nit is that like last time, you "forgot" (maybe it was intentional) to present a value video card. The price of the video card stuck out like a sore thumb in the summary pricing table for the value system!

    The power requirements are ugly, but consider putting the 9800pro in the summary table for the value system next time. Until the X700XT and 6600GT's come out (and in AGP), you can't do better for $190. [Or at least you could have downshifted from a 6800GT to a 6800 to save a hundred bucks on the value system.]
  • ksherman - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    you know what would kick arse? doing comparison tests! Compare all the different rigs you guys reccomend and see who the winners are. i.e. Performance OC vs your high end setup etc. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    I really don't know why anyone here is so keen on the Sempron 3100+. You'd be a fool to buy one when the A64 2800+ is available at only a slightly higher cost, has twice the L2 cache, and most importantly 64-bit support. Anyone who buys a Sempron 3100+ today will regret it in a year or two when x86-64 Windows is supported.

    If you only keep a CPU for a year or so though, it makes even less sense getting something like the Sempron 3100+ with hopes of high overclocks unless you like always having an overclocked substandard processor.

    The non-high end memory issue is important and really needs to be covered, CAS 2.5 modules form the likes of Corsair are available at very competitive prices compared to CAS 2 modules. We need an article that looks at CAS 2.5 and also CAS 3 PC3200 modules from the major manufacturers so we can see how far they overclock, and at what voltages and timings. Most people don't buy CAS2 modules unless they're getting a top of the range CPU (2.4 GHz A64 or 3.2+ GHz Prescott), so if you look at an A64 3200+, you need to look at the memory most people will use with it.
  • MemberSince97 - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    ^^GJ^^ WF... Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    #10 - I just checked the ORB for 3DMark2001SE and the highest placing Intel was #10 - the 9 top scores were AMD. 2001SE IS sensitive to CPU speed and memory speed and is useful for comparing CPU's.

    3DMark2003 is not very sensitive to CPU and Memory, so it is excellent for testing pure video performance. Intel does lead in many of the top ten 3DMark2003 scores, but that is a result of Video card performance since 03 is very video centric. Consider the leads there the result of Intel's chipset prowess in graphics support. Looking at the top 20 it is like 50/50 AMD/Intel in 03.

    #17 - The DFI is already for sale in the US. The problem is it is selling out very quickly. Additional production is on it's way to resellers, and DFI is gearing up more production for October.
  • gnumantsc - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Just a little typo in regards to 2 x 74GB Western Digital 74GB Raptor 10,000RPM SATA RAID (148MB Total) Should be 148GB not MB.

    Unless there is a raid system to make your 2 HDs 1000 times smaller :)
  • helopilot - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Wesley: What an *excellent*, well written article! Full of very
    useful info, specs, opinions and lots of general observations and
    tips. I think this is one of the best pieces I've read on a
    hardware review site. You must have invested considerable time on
    this article!

    I especially appreciate the level of detail you've incorporated and
    the tables, diagrams, graphics etc. that really help to get the
    information across to the reader. You deserve high praise indeed
    for this level of tech writing.

    Keep up the Good Work!

  • PolaroidPaul - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Great review but one issue that bugs me. I am looking into building a value OC system and it sure seems like the DFI board is a good one. Unfortunately, it is practically vapor ware at the present time.

    Maybe parts that are not readily available should not be on the recommended list. I hate having to wait for parts to show up in distribution while every article tells me how good the sample was. Tell me about what is comming but don't put it on the list if it does not show up as availalbe on your real time pricing list.

    Just my humble opinion!
  • Illissius - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    I will repeat the stuff about the value RAM. You say yourself that the A64 isn't as sensitive to memory bandwidth, and the doubling of it with socket 939 only results in 2-9% performance gains. 'Enthusiast' memory is a lot less than twice as fast, so you can extrapolate how much extra performance that would gain, and it makes little sense to spend double on it when that money would be much better spent on a faster processor or video card*.
    Actually, you should just split the memory into Performance and Value, same as with the processor. Ballistix and EB for Performance, and standard value RAM from someone reputable (eg Corsair Value Select) for the Value. Hell, why not seperate /every/ component into Performance and Value? 9800Pro/6600GT and 6800GT for the video card, WD Raptor and random 120-200GB drives, and so on.
    ...I'm starting to think that the best thing to do would be to just flat out split the Performance and Value into seperate buyer's guides. They're at least as different as the mid- and high end guides are.

    One more thing, and then I'll stop - the HSF has much more significance in the overclocking equation than you seem to be attributing it. You don't need to give it a seperate section, just mentioning a list of the better choices would be nice (afaik, Zalman CNPS7000A-(Al)Cu, Thermalright SLK-947/8U, SP-94/7/8, and XP-90/120, and possibly others), because for the person just getting into the whole overclocking thing, they may not know ;).

    * Contrary to a common misconception, you don't need faster memory to overclock the processor. Most boards can lock the memory at stock speeds, or otherwise can use a 5:4 ratio or something.
  • iversonyin - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    i would fork out a little more for 2800+ athlon 64 then usin the sempron

    hes right on the money $20 more, u r better off with 2800+ 64 then sempron
  • thebluesgnr - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link


    it's actually:

    X300SE = 9600SE
    X300 = 9600
    X600PRO = 9600PRO
    X600XT = 9600XT

    No 9200 in PCIe.
  • DEMO24 - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    This is to poster #2. You CAN buy a x300 or x600. its called the 9200 for a x300 and a 9600 for the x600. Theres nothing speical to the x cards below the x800 cuase they are all jsut old cards made to fit PCI-e. A good way for ATI to make money and look good. Reply
  • ksherman - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Yippie! someone finally OCed a Sempron! Ive been wondering how well those cheapos would do... Sounds amazing! Reply
  • whitelight - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    For ram, look into PQI's 2-2-2-5 (2x512mb) solution. It overclocks really well with relatively tight timings and has samsung's tccd chips. It's also cheaper than other solutions ($250) Reply
  • axel - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Hi, very interesting article indeed.

    The only thing I do not really understand, and rather see as an error is the following:

    You say that almost every top overclockers i.e. in the futuremark 3dmarks ORB database are on AMD platforms. Though, except if I'm not looking at the right place, if I'm taking into account the 5 best scores, I see that 4 of them are running Pentium4 platforms, and only one is an AMD (which is actually on the 4th position of the top-5).
  • AlphaFox - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Id like to see how the XP stacks up against the 64 when overclocked.. I have a XP mobile 2600 and am running it at 2.46Ghz and everything I throw at it runs as smooth as silk.. I dont see a need to upgrade unless there was something I couldnt run, or run smooth. Reply
  • eetnoyer - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Any chance you've tested the limits of the ballistix RAM on the DFI. If so, how high did it reach? Reply
  • Nickel020 - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Nice article, but there is a mistake on page 5 (CPU and Motherboard: VALUE OC Recommendations):
    The heatsinks listed (XP-90 & 120) are made by Thermalright, not Thermaltake.
  • Shinei - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Nice article, though I'm curious to see how the 3200-M64 performs compared to the Clawhammer and Newcastle desktop cores. I know the Newcastle revisions have an upgraded memory controller, or something like that; does the 3200-M64 have the same upgrades, or is it based on the older Clawhammer revision?
    And why the choice of OCZ's PowerStream? Antec puts out a 550w that's just as reliable as the 480w you suggested as an alternative... Unless I missed a review that pointed out the OCZ to be more robust than the Antec supply.
  • qquizz - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    This is my type of review. I can't have too many of them. I do agree with slashbinslashbash about some guidance on value oriented RAM. The price differences between 2-2-2-5 memory and say 2.5-x-x-x value memory is rather drastic. But if none of it will o/c then so be it. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    #2: Under the Value OC Alternative system Wesley writes "Buy an ATI 9800 PRO for $200 less and overclock the heck out of it." So it looks like you were right on the money ;) Personally I'm looking at a 9600XT All-In-Wonder as it's about the same price at Newegg; less performance in games (still reasonable framerates in Doom3) but with the ever-so-cool All-In-Wonder functionality added. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    Great guide. The only thing that I'd ask you to do differently (or rather, to add next time) is to make a "value" recommendation for the RAM. Nowadays I won't use any less than a gig of RAM, but I think it's silly to pay substantially more for RAM than for the CPU. Even just one stick of 512MB in the Value Alternative system costs more than the CPU.

    I'd like to know some "value" RAM alternatives that might not have such aggressive latency timings but will still keep up with the mobo and CPU, if it's possible. I know you guys can't test every cheapo stick of RAM out there, but... any sort of guidance would be appreciated. All the big brands offer "Value" RAM. Will none of it overclock? Is the performance from the recommended $280 (for 1GB) RAM actually worth the $120 premium it commands over, say, two $80 sticks of Corsair Value Select (on front page of ZipZoomFly)? Would that $120 be better spent on the CPU? It's more than the difference between the Sempron 3100+ and the "Value Recommended" system's A64 3200+.. and it nearly covers the upgrade to both the CPU and motherboard.

    Also, two errors: 1) the eVGA 6800GT is listed as $389 under the Value Alternative system but at $383 under the Value Recommended system; 2) the Value Recommended system sums to $1440, not $1460.

    Again, great guide, it's probably what I'll be looking at when I decide on my next system.
  • decptt - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    For AGP VGA, do you have a value altervative for limited budget not playing doom3?

    For me, 6800 is too powerful to run multimedia and encoding DivX.

    Do you think 9800Pro can be runner up?
    Anyone knows about when ATI X series for AGP (X300, X600) will be coming? or ONLY PCI Express :'(
  • Avalon - Friday, September 17, 2004 - link

    I like the inclusion of value OC recommendations in this guide. The biggest gripe I had about previous guides were that they only recommended what you find in this guide's performance recommendations. Some overclockers do it for the bragging rights, others do it to save money and get themselves a more powerful system at the same time. Nice work. Reply

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