Saturday, July 2, 2011

Intel Sandybridge, here I come (Core i7 2600K, ASRock Z68 Extreme4)

After a lot of thought, I went ahead with the Sandybridge upgrade. If you know me, you should know that I am always looking for the sweet spot when it comes to performance for the $$$. This time, things have changed.

Why did I have to upgrade?

Well, I didn’t have to, but there were few issues with my old PC.

  • It wouldn’t POST some times. It had warm boot problems.
  • I couldn’t add a second graphics card, if I wanted to, because the SATA ports would be right underneath the second card, rendering 4 out of 6 ports unusable. Of course I might not add one right now, because there is no real need at the moment. But definitely when BF3 comes out. Maybe I would buy two GTX560’s or 570’s.
  • I was doing a lot of video encoding stuff. A faster CPU would benefit.
  • And most importantly, fun! And we got our mid-year bonus + I made about 40k in the last couple of months from overtime work.
  • Besides, I could sell my old stuff off, so that I can make some of what I spent, back.

So what did I upgrade to?

Let’s see why I chose each of them.

CPU: Because of hyperthreading as it would help my video encoding stuff. Also, because it was second hand, it was only about 5k more than a 2500K.

Motherboard: Because of this thread. There is a lot of support for this motherboard, and the guy who calls himself Ket in that thread, is a reviewer for ASRock and we can get our problems resolved through him. Peace of mind. And the motherboard is so damn stable! And it boots super fast (about 10 seconds faster than before), even with the old Vertex 2 drives in RAID-0.

Cooler: Of course because of better cooling, tidier internals and low weight on the motherboard. The stock fan is so loud. Right now I am running a couple of Enermax T.B. Silence fans in there, but I ordered a couple of Cooler Master Blade Master fans because they have a very good static pressure rating (which is important for cooling a radiator.) Should come today.

I have managed to overclock the CPU to 4.5GHz with 1.35V in BIOS. Of course CPU doesn’t get that much volts. It gets 1.336V when idle and 1.320V at load, because of VDroop. I was hoping it would do better with the volts, but not to be. Only a handful of CPUs do 4.5GHz with less than 1.3V and you have to be very lucky. Unless you pump 1.4V or something in the vicinity, you cannot get those overclocking results every reviewer is posting. Some even clock past 5GHz, but they are not safe settings for 24/7 so what the hell!

One of the setbacks with this upgrade so far is the idle power draw. As per reviews, the Sandybridge’s idle power draw is exceptional: much lower than a Lynnfield. I measured the power draw and found out that the new setup uses up about 5W more than the old setup. That cannot be right! Well, I don't know. Should stop worrying about these unnecessary stuff.


The PC indeed feels faster. The programs open up very quickly. I didn’t expect that to happen, but it does. For example, iTunes with the whole music library loads in 2 seconds vs. 3 seconds.

Check out the detailed specs, pics and benchmarks here.

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