System Build, i7 950 Overclock

Update. The memory died just before Christmas (2011). Either heat related or a bad batch I don’t know but it’s all going back to Corsair. In the meantime I upgraded to 24GB of their Vengeance line which runs at 1.5v (the XMS runs at the Intel-recommended max of 1.65) and includes fancy “Vengeance” heat spreaders. Just in case it was heat I finally replaced the stock CPU cooler with the Zalman CNPS 10X -tho I had to swap the included fan for a regular case fan as the included one would not clear the RAM slots. I also got rid of my two RAID1 sets and went with an OCZ Agility 3 240GB SSD and a WD Black 2TB 64MB both connected to the 6GB/s SATA ports.

Original post:
Build and settings to overclock an i7 950 to  ~3.8Ghz on an Asus Rampage III Formula motherboard.  I saw the i7 950 at MicroCenter for $230 (12/23/10) and couldn’t pass it up.  The Formula board is overkill, but I like the SupremeFX X-Fi audio, Intel NIC and insane overclock support – a real budget build would stick with the Sabertooth or one of the more basic boards.  Memory was on sale (and a great buy for top-notch memory) and rebates on the video (GTX 470 is a must-have to get supported GPU-accelerated “Mercury” playback in the Adobe CS5 suite), PSU and new optical drive (hey, the new boards don’t have IDE!) brought the price down to <$1000.  I reused my drives (and the new Intel controller read the RAID 0 sets), case and Dell 1907FP monitors.  My old parts (Q9550, Asus P5K Deluxe)  will go to replace an ancient Dell 4700 that needs to be retired.

Stable  settings (I have not tried to go too far, I need this thing rock-solid):

CPU Level UP: Auto (I tried the two options here, neither would boot)
Sync Mode:  Enabled
Ai Overclock Tuner : Manual (I tried XMP and Level up and could not boot)
CPU Ratio: 24  (changed from 23)
CPU Turbo : Disabled
BCLK Frequency: 160 (changed from 133, this is where you keep digging for speed with an increase in CPU voltage as needed)
DRAM Frequency: DDR3-1604Mhz (changed from auto)
UCLK : 3207Mhz (changed from auto)
All other settings are AUTO except:
CPU Voltage: 1.24375 (I tried it slightly lower but one of the baseline tests failed)
DRAM Voltage: 1.5

All virtualization support is on as is SpeedStep

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

www.passmark.com Performancetest 7.0 performance numbers:
PassMark Rating: 2640.3
CPU Mark: 8069.6 (stock i7 is 6338) / Memory Mark :2188.5
2D: 535.4  / 3D: 3029.7
Disk Mark: 1134.5

Windows 7  Experience Index: Proc 7.5, RAM 7.8, Graphics 7.8, Drive 5.9 (no SDD here!)

Before I re-enabled Speedstep the CPU ran at ~65degC at idle and ~83 under load (the Passmark CPU tests).  With SpeedStep the CPU drops to low-40s at idle, and the PassMark benchmarks are unchanged.  SpeedStep rocks!

Editing HD video from my Canon 7D in Premier Pro CS5 is amazingly smooth and fast with the new rig.  Photoshop + Lightroom + Premier Pro + After Effects + Encore and this doesn’t even break a sweat – or more importantly the bank.

CPU: Intel i7 950 3.06 Ghz Quad-core CPU with hyperthreading, Zalman cooler
MB: Asus Rampage III Formula
RAM: 6x Corsair 4GB DDR3 1600 Vengeance (24GB total)
GPU: EVGA GTX470 1.2GB RAM
HD: (2) WD Black 500GB RAID 1 C: / (2) Samsung 400GB Spinpoint RAID 1 OCZ Agility3 240GB C:, Toshiba older 120GB SSD E:, WD Black 2TB 64MB F:, Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB / Seagate Green 2TB in external USB3 enclosure.
Optical: Samsung 22x SuperMulti Lightscribe
Case:Antec 900 w/ (3) 120mm and (1) 200mm fans
PS: XFX 650 XXX modular PSU

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