The Clarkdale Experiment

I’ve been waiting for Intel’s 32nm CPUs to arrive on the scene, because I’ve been wanting to build a small, but relatively potent, gaming system. Now, Anand wasn’t all that impressed with the price/performance ratio of the Intel Core i5 661, suggesting that Intel had priced the CPU too high relative to the competition.

Interestingly, Anand also found the power consumption to be a little iffy, noting that his system idled at around 110W (though he did suggest it was high partly due to the particular Asus motherboard he used in the CPU review.)

I saw an opportunity with Clarkdale to do a little experimenting. I wanted to build a small gaming system with low idle power, but capable of running high end games at high frame rates. The $205 Core i5 661 looked to be just the CPU for that – two cores, two more virtual cores seemed like a good fit for even modern game titles. All you need is a better GPU… and maybe a few other things.

For example, I’d need a good discrete graphics card. Storage was relatively important, but I could get by without dropping in a terabyte drive. This system wasn’t intended to be a repository for digital video. Even though modern PC games take up a lot of space, there even a 250 or 320GB drive is ample enough to hold quite a number of games. For example, I probably have a dozen current generation games installed using Steam, and my Steam folder is just 131GB.

So in my mind, Clarkdale can enable a different class of system. Right now, I’ve got a system running a different Asus motherboard (the P7H55D-M EVO). It’s also got a discrete graphics card in it. After I build a system, I always run 3DMark Vantage as a kind of sanity check to see if it's all working properly. This little monster generates a 3DMark Vantage score of 12,738.

Did I mention that it idles at just under 70W?

Let’s see exactly how I built this thing.

The Components
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  • viciki123 - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk/4_alfred-a...">http://www.weddingdressonlineshop.co.uk/4_alfred-a... Reply
  • ctbaars - Monday, February 08, 2010 - link

    How's the build coming along? Reply
  • v12v12 - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    Still, at over $2,100, it’s an expensive little system


    Ya don't say? This is... a frivolous waste of time and money. You're justifying spending over two-thousand dollars on a cramped "gaming" system? Who says "yeah Imma go out and get myself a $2K XYZ-toy," just to *see what it can do?* Sure you can do plenty of other things with it, but it's primary use (to justify the expense) IS "gaming." Complete fail for two-thousand dollars lol. An EIGHT HUNDRED dollar HD, that performs just how much better than similar technology or even "low-tech" mechanical drives (which for the money, would destroy it in over-all performance AND redundancy)?


    I don't want to sound as sharp or harsh as some of the other posters, but sheesh for real? That HD purchase alone defines all shopper's logic... You probably should have broken down just how much performance per dollar per SPACE and weight you are "saving," VS the system you could have built (rationally), which would have been larger, a bit heavier (really just how much do you move your case to and from LAN to LAN) but would destroy this tiny-toy in all performance areas. You're telling us that a good 3-5min (or less) of "heavy" moving a regular sized box around, would justify the cost to go small and expensive? Hit the gym guy... b/c if carrying around a ~30lb box is *that* much trouble—your physical health maybe be indeed also?...

    Posts like these just feed the gaming-fanboys, who love irrationally justifying any overpriced, and wanton purchase. All of which under the guise of "gaming," so it *must* be worth it? Give us a break... Gaming and gamers are the least respected "group" when it comes to building sensible systems... They wine about a box that costs more than $800, thus justifying going to cheaper AMD parts to some how supplant for lack of funds or a real job... Then in turn they'll focus on 1 performance part (GPU) so much, they over look other performance parts that would gain them a massive percentage of overall system performance (SSD + better CPU for starters) at the cost of 5-15fps.

    As I've said before, for the money—give me the better (Intel) CPU+HD combo Vs the better GPU (SLI etc.) and slower CPU (AMD) rig (for now.) *Shaking head...* "Gaming," what a joke and a waste of time "hobby." Yeah I like to play some games, but the sole focus of my build... laughable. Sorta like blowing all your cash on performance parts for your car to zip around a track uber fast, but... when it snows, rains, is foggy or in any other typical driving condition ( you'll be spending majority of your time in) your car is lame and is sliding around all over the place, haha! But man, it sure can run some fast laps on a *perfect* sunny day: ZOOM-ZOOM! Ya Zoom-zoom-zoom-zoom!
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, February 02, 2010 - link

    Well, your last paragraph can apply to pretty much any hobby. Where I live plenty of people still buy golf equipment even though you can't use it half the year. The lakes I boat on are surrounded by houses, most of which are used only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Some people enjoy gambling at casinos. There are tons of ways to "waste" money, but if you can afford it and enjoy it then why not?

    Why this needed to be published here is what I question. Without any comparisons to other possible components or complete builds it doesn't seem any different than if they picked a user at random from the forums and had them write about their build.
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Friday, February 12, 2010 - link

    Well, your last paragraph can apply to pretty much any hobby. Where I live plenty of people still buy golf equipment even though you can't use it half the year. The lakes I boat on are surrounded by houses, most of which are used only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Some people enjoy gambling at casinos. There are tons of ways to "waste" money, but if you can afford it and enjoy it then why not?


    Not really... many hobbies that you've listed involve LIVE interaction with people and there's no game in existence that can match this complex and HELPFUL social interaction. I have direct experience with youths and grown adults who are ADDICTED (but in denial) to gaming & thus ruin their social lives by avoiding going out and interacting with their family & friends; they substitute online "friends" for the latter. They blow $1000s & $1000s on a never ending carrot-on-a-stick. Money which could have bettered their lives immensely.
    __MOST "gamers" whining about the $2100 are NOT even close to being in the same financial class (or their parents) as someone with a seasonal-home, boat or casino trips (often comp'd by the casino). Gambling (I've been to Vegas +10x) doesn't require blowing all your money; it's YOUR choice to. You also don't have to gamble much at all; there's TONS of attractions (social) you can partake in.

    Kids (even many adults) these days are fat as fsck, lazy, bored and socially inept precisely b/c of "gaming." Ive seen BOTH eras where *I* would go out and "play" w/friends b/c THAT was our "gaming." Now kids barely move around at all, unless they are getting up from the TV/Console/PC to get junk food and sugary drinks to fuel more gaming addiction.

    Again gaming leaves you with almost NOTHING to take away from it: A few people will posture that they've learned things (I have) they can take away IRL, but that's an exception to the general behavioral practices of "gamers." Builds like this represent what's wrong with the minds of gamers in general; they are too caught up in the FPS/newest/max-settings race Vs practicality of their build.

    Going with AMD b/c it offers "comparable" FPS, but severely lags Vs Intel in EVERY other (practical) category is lunacy. Again once it's time for new games and this and that... Where will your AMD box be then; BEHIND, lagging, and thus the cycle of self-delusion and chasing FPS continues. If I spent a paltry amount more on Intel; I'm assured that this problem is much less severe---AND I can still use the machine longer b/c it's FASTER overall, thus still meeting min-sys requirements Vs your AMD rig which is now unable to even compete.
    __Think about it this way: while 15fps isn't a huge deal at the top of performance graphs, BUT fast-forward 4-5yrs and now the diffs of 40FPS Vs 25FPS determines "playable" Vs NOT at all.

    Intel is "better," for the moment, but using gaming as a crutch for AMD's failures is invalid.

    Hey STAFF... FIX THE DANG B/U/I & misc buttons PLEASE!
    Reply
  • xeopherith - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    I think you mean defies not defines. Reply
  • v12v12 - Saturday, January 30, 2010 - link

    Yeah... you got it... it's hard to catch all the little mistakes, esp w/no *edit* function. Plus, I wasn't going to go through opening word for a complete grammar and spell check underline appraisal ;-) Thanks...

    Hey Tom's staff, hows about a readily available EDIT FEATURE and or B/I/U buttons that actually WORK more than 1/2 the time?

    Thanks guy(s).
    Reply
  • sabrewulf - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    There's nothing particularly special about the idle power of this build. I've got i860 + P55 + 5850 + X-25M + 1TB/7200 at home and it idles @ ~75 W. If I unplug the TB, guess what it idles at? "Just under 70W"

    Stuff is just more efficient these days. The 32nm dual-cores really don't bring anything to the table in that respect.
    Reply
  • GullLars - Friday, January 29, 2010 - link

    A great idea for a setup, but i have a couple of suggestions to bump the value a bit.

    #1. Use 2x Intel x25-M G2 80GB or 3x x25-V 40GB in RAID-0 off ICH10R instead of the colossus. This will give 400-600MB/s read bandwidth and more IOPS than you know what to do with. These can be mounted ANYWHERE in the case with duct-tape (or something simelar) and will be securely mounted that way too.

    #2. If you need a bit more storage for LAN and need to have the computer portable and don't midt a slight bump in price, use a 320-640GB 5400RPM (for noise) 2,5" harddrive, or 2 in RAID-0 if you need more bandwidth (requires 1Gbit lan to utililize for filetransfers).

    #3. Use a custom cooling sollution for 5850 and not the reference design. Will reduce the noise at load by a great ammount.

    #4. Put in a noctua (or simelar) 80mm-120mm low-noise fan for intake/exhaust air to ventilate. Fresh cooler air in the case during load means other fans have to work less, wich gives lower noise.
    Reply
  • xenor - Thursday, January 28, 2010 - link

    The amount of time folks spend researching the smallest minute details about each component cracks me up. If they paid themselves a conservative $20/hr for all the time they wasted reading 10 sites reviews on each little itty bitty detail...they would spent their entire budget on the research.

    Until somebody actually builds a cross-referencing database of comprehensive reviews and compatibility that allows a potential buyer to "test" the interaction of several components at once, most everything people lay out is either speculation or anecdotal personal experience. I'm not saying that the input isn't valid, its just that folks get worked up about a technical "truth" that may get blown out of the water tomorrow.

    Maybe some of these FoldingTeams can back off proteins for a bit and help contribute to such a database? You know, bring some of the actual capitalism style free market that this country really needs (Thanks for screwing that up NYSE, marketing & sales people)
    Imagine building a machine in a hybrid-cart with each component you add giving instant feedback on compatibility (i.e. several hundred other folks who have the exact same combination successfully running either at stock or overclock). With each component you add you also get X (user-selected) number of suggestions for either %cost +/- or %performance (benchmark relative). When the system is finally built, you get the virtual benchmarking scores (+/- 1 standard deviation) and then quick options for changes you want to make or trade-offs you can take. (Give me 10% better graphic scores..or..I want 10MB/s faster random read/write rates, etc.) When all is send and done, the cart automatically calculates which single retailer has the best price or lets you know if a combination of a few will save you significant money. I'd gladly pay $50 each time I wanted to build a system to have access to such a purchasing app.

    However, until Utopia arrives (where, BTW, mail-in rebates will be a crime and any company offering them will have the board of directors executed), I guess the best we can hope for is a revamped NewEgg review system or for testing sites to throw together whatever equipment the vendors throw at them.....
    Reply

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