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2009 Mid/Low-Priced PC w/ Intel platform OC educational article 2009 Mid/Low-Priced PC w/ Intel platform OC educational article
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2009 Mid/Low-Priced PC w/ Intel platform OC educational article
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Old 15th April 2009, 06:42   #1
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Default 2009 Mid/Low-Priced PC w/ Intel platform OC educational article

The last two years saw the emergence of the Netbook and its fast acceptance,
along with the gradual decrease of desktop PCs in the market.

Of my close friends and classmates, when buying a new computer,
over half just simply consider buying a notebook.

One situation I have run into is the first-time buyer.
Unless they only want to go online – in which case they later buy a notebook or netbook
– oftentimes they still feel the notebook/netbook doesn’t meet their needs and then buy a desktop PC.

My personal view is notebooks are primarily for people who spend a lot of time outside,
and require the convenience of all-the-time access to a PC.

If most of the computing needs are at home, I would still recommend getting a PC and a 22” monitor for more ideal computing.
This combo is actually still about the same price as a 10” Netbook.
Additionally, a desktop PC’s price range is lower, has better performance, and can easily combine with better performing sound and visual systems.

Choosing a desktop PC does require some homework.
Most entry-level models have a price around NTD10,000~12,000 (around USD 330~450).
For this report we have a budget of around NTD 13,500~15,000 (about USD 400~450) to make a better performing PC for the reference of those in need of a new computer.

CPU
I will be using the currently hot Intel Pentium dual-core E5200 with 2.5GHz, 45nm architecture and 2MB Cache.

Recently, the Malaysian made 5 capacitors version has had a surprisingly good performance.
This week, for B834, the online community saw that between Q828~Q838 can all achieve around 4GHz.
The CPU is around NTD 2300, about USD 68 give or take.

E5200’s outside appearance:


Packaged items:
User guide, sticker, heat sink, and the E5200 CPU


Memory DRAM
Since 2008 the price of DDR2 has been constantly dropping, and the current price of DRAM is about the same as the cost to make it.
Of course, choosing 2GB X2 is an economic choice,
and since it is better to have more than to not have it and need it, we won't skimp on the DRAM.

I am using Corsair DDR2 800 2 GB X2, dual channel; though the price is a wee bit higher,
Corsair is an international recognized brand that is known for being very stable in dual channel, and the price is still well within the acceptable level.

This piece was around NTD 1500, which is about USD 44.

CORSAIR TWIN2X4096-6400C5 G




Motherboard
Currently, when building an Intel platform, the chipset of choice is most likely the Intel P45.
The P45, since its unveiling last May - already some time now
- has been used by all motherboard manufacturers to compete with one another.

I am using the DFI BLOOD-IRON P45; its cost - for a P45+ICH10R - is at an entry level,
but overclocking is a DFI specialty so its capability is good.

This board runs NTD 3700, about USD 110.

DFI BLOOD-IRON P45 specs


Southbridge ICH10R, supporting RAID
Two PCI-E slots supporting ATI CrossFireX dual-GPU technology



Graphics card
Since ATI and NVIDIA are the two major players, I spent a long time thinking about which 3D chip, either the ATI 4670 or NVIDIA's 9600GT.
With P45 supporting ATI CFX technology, I decided, in the end, to go with the MSI R4670 1GB.
This card runs around NTD 2850, about USD 84.

MSI R4670-2D1G/D3


This card has DVI IO ports and 1 GB DDR3 RAM.



Hard Drive
Most economical hard drives these days run about 500-640 GB.
The Seagate’s 11th generation had a few problematic products requiring changes to the firmware.
However, the new 12th generation 500 GB HDD has had no reports of any issues.
I used the Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500 GB, which runs around NTD 1900, about USD 52.

The Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500 GB HDD


Different from other 3.5" HDDs, this series is thinner.
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Old 15th April 2009, 06:45   #2
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The above combinations are not absolute, if you need less performance even more entry-level products exist,
and, for those demanding more power, higher performance products of course exist.

With a higher budget, one could change the CPU for the higher E7200 or a quad-core Q8200.
The RAM could be upgraded from 2GX2 DDR2 800 to 1066 and the graphics card could be switched for the better performing ATI HD4830 or NVIDIA 9800GT.

The motherboard could also be changed to a P43+ICH10R or P45+ICH10.
However, when looking at cost-to-performance,
most looking to make the above PC upgrades would only pick one more expensive component, and pick one spec to really improve.

Testing Platform
CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200
MB: DFI BLOOD-IRON P45
DRAM: CORSAIR TWIN2X4096-6400C5 G
VGA:MSI R4670-2D1G/D3
HD:Seasgate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB
POWER:Corsair 400W Power Supply
Cooler:Intel original cooler


The below tests all use two presets, normal and overclocked, for comparison.
With these components,
overclocking will improve the total PC performance and, without spending the extra money,
bring the performance close to the next level up of components.

First I'll start with an introduction about tweaking the BIOs, the main weapon for upgrading the CPU and DDR2.

Tuning the CPU
E5200 starts at a frequency of 200X12.5 =>2.5 GHz
Simply adjust the CPU Clock to get 320x12.5=>4.0GHz
If you are unsure if the DDR2 can stably keep up with the new setting, at this time you have reset back to the original settings immediately.



CPU Voltage settings must be set according to the specifications of each CPU.
For this batch of E5200s, although many can support up to 4GHz without a problem, there are some variations in the quality.
According to information online, the E5200's of the past few weeks need a voltage of around 1.2~1.3V to support a stable 4GHz.


Tuning DDR2
When overclocking RAM, the most important thing is DRAM Speed, than the target DRAM speed will show this setting and then run the true DRAM frequency.


Like the CPU, tuning DDR2 voltage also depends on each product.
This piece to run stably at DDR2 926 CL5 5-5-18, the DRAM voltage control should be 2.170V.


For the parameters, they can be either tweaked manually or left entirely on auto.
When full auto is engaged, the motherboard will pick the DDR2's integrated SPD directly.


When overclocking, aside from having good CPU and DDR2, the motherboard's quality also needs to be good.
Every motherboard maker's mainboards have slightly different overclocking capabilities, voltage scopes, compatibility issues, etc.
Aside from what the chipset, P45+ICH10R, can combine with, the motherboard vender is another choice that should be considered.
For overclocking, the DFI BLOOD-IRON P45 is known to be good.

CPU Performance test
E5200 Default 199.6Mhz X 12.5 =>2494Mhz

Hyper PI 32M 22m31s
CPUMARK 359


CrystalMark


CINEBENCH
(1 CPU) 2893
(X CPU) 5601
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Old 15th April 2009, 06:54   #3
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E5200 OC 320 X 12.5 =>4000.5Mhz

Hyper PI 32M 15m52s
CPUMARK 576


CrystalMark


CINEBENCH
(1 CPU) 4620
(x CPU) 8772


Word on the net is that the recent E5200 have been good at overclokcing,
but the 5 capacitors, Made in Malaysia version has not received any negative reviews.

The factory default heat sink is good enough to stably handle 4GHz, and the voltage can be set to under 1.3V.
However, the downside side is that the temperature tested was rather high: when overclocked, full operation in the OS displayed over 70~80 C.

That said, the E5200's only downside was the slightly high tested temperature,
in actuality, the heat sink was only slightly warm to the touch.

DDR2 performance test
2GBX2 DDR2 798.2Mhz

EVEREST 5733MB/s
Sandra Memory 4651MB/s


DDR2 OC 927.2Mhz CL5 5-5-18 2.17V
SP2004 Blend type showed a stable 3.90GB


EVEREST 7330MB/s
Sandra Memory 6544MB/s


Because DDR2 IC's price has already slid down to rock bottom for sometime now,
the current DDR2 is unlikely, as before, to occasionally show a truly great overclocked performance.
However, 2GB X2 that can overclock to over DDR2 900 can be considered pretty good.

VGA performance test
First, let me introduce how to use software to overclock a VGA card.
Although ATI's driver software comes with overclocking functionality, it limits the frequencies one is allowed to adjust.
Using Riva Tuner VGA software, offers a lot more options.

After opening the software, choose the VGA card picture displayed to enter the tuning portions of the software package.


From the tuning page, you may tweak the VGA core's and memory's frequencies.


Choosing the fourth large clock image will monitor the VGA card's status.
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Old 15th April 2009, 07:02   #4
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MSI 4670 1GB Default 750/1746Mhz

3DMARK2006


3DMARK VANTAGE


Need for Speed Undercover
1600X1200
Anti-Aliasing 4X


Crysis Benchmark


4670 OC 833/2160Mhz

3DMARK2006


3DMARK VANTAGE


Need for Speed Undercover
1600X1200
Anti-Aliasing 4X


Crysis Benchmark


MSI R4670 overclocking capabilities are excellent.
From the above image, you can see the multiple testing software and gaming results, overclocking yields improvements of about 20~30%.

HDD performance test
HD Tune Pro's shows the fastest performance of 124.1 MB/s, with an average of around 95 MB/s.
CrystalDiskMark read 106.9 MB/s and wrote 110.4 MB/s.


ATTO Disk Benchmark&FDBENCH


Hard drives have no way to be overclocked, and can only run at the factory defaults.
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 is the first single 500 GB version for the series.
Though its performance its not much better than the previous 320 GB version,
with an improvement of over 10 MB/s across the board, you won't feel it lacks a thing.

The above tested PC configuration ran a total of about NTD12250, about USD360.
Only combining it will a DVD burner, Case, and power supply, and you can have yourself a low-cost overclockable PC.
If one is truly able to overclock and uses it, than it extends the performance life of this computer,
and allows more time to prepare for the next new PC.

Simply speaking, overclocking won't use a lot of time, and is a good way to boost the performance of a PC.

Possibly some people will fear that overclocking will cause instability to the point of a system crash,
but I personally feel, for the average usage scenario, this is a non-issue.

For example, if the CPU can stably perform at 4GHz,
than perhaps one could overclock to only 3.3~3.6GHz and use leave it there for a long time.
The temperature won't be too high, the voltage not too much, and the stability won't be a problem.

Every year, I come up with a similar article in the hopes it can help those looking to build their own PC.

Of course, I want to highlight again, the above specs are not absolute, and can be modified based on the user's needs or budget.
All the parts can be improved or decreased.

For those who are looking for better 3D graphics, the VGA card can be upgraded to an HD4830 or 9800GT, or even a truly high-performance model.

Those looking to improve the CPU, for example those who might do a lot of file conversion,
could also buy a high-level dual-core CPU or even a quad-core Q8200.

One only needs to choose within one's budget, choose the most economical, the best PC suited to his/her needs .
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