In Part 3
I did some shopping and got the volt mod gear I need for my ludicrous overclocking adventure. In this fourth installment I'll be focusing on the test bench and my initial testing of the card.
I'm fortunate that I've got some spare components around that I use for reviews. Believe me, there is nothing worse than tearing apart your main rig every time you want to do some serious benchmarking. There is also something so satisfying about a real test bench. None of this sissy hardware in a case nonsense. When I bench, out come the 200CFM deltas, 38mm thick Panaflow fans, the multimeter and my trusty "Highspeed Tech Station".
I quickly built up the system using the following components:
- Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (G0 revision)
- Asus P5K-E Motherboard (P35/ICH9 Chipset)
- Thermalright TRUE Copper heatsink with Delta 1212VHE fan.
- Sapphire X850XT Video Card
- 2x1GB Corsair PC2-8500 DDR2
- Corsair TX-750 Power Supply
- HighSpeed Tech Station (top deck model)
This thing sounds like a monsterâ€”I love it. The Panaflow "High" over the X850 is loud, but the Delta on the TRUE Copper is a monstrosity.
Before I overclocked anything, I installed Windows XP with SP3 and kept it to an absolute bare install and disabled almost everything. There were only 14 running processes once I finished with it. Just about all unnecessary services were disabled including themes, sound and even DHCP. It's not that hard to set a static IP in the interest of LUDICROUS SPEED
Since I've got a quad on this bench, I've decided to focus on 3DMark 2006. The current top spot for a single X850 series card is 3311 points. You can see a live roster by clicking here
. Interestingly, I stumbled across my old personal best
from back in January of 2006. I was still proudly using my X850 at that time, along with a single core Opteron 148 at 3.3GHz (I had it on my Vapochill LS at the time). I managed 2438 points which was quite good at the time. Today, its about 30th in the rankings buried on the third page somewhere.
I did a quick run with everything at default clocks and managed a respectable 2622 points. Because 3DMark 2006 is multi-threaded, the quad really helped and I was able to squash my old personal best without even overclocking the X850.
Next, LUDICROUS SPEED. I didn't hold anything back this time and pushed the Q6600 as far as I possibly could. I pushed it beyond 4GHz which is quite high for a 65nm quad. It took about 1.55V to get it stable but thankfully, the TRUE Copper and Delta combo kept it nice and cool. I was able to push it to 4.1GHz at 1.6V, but I couldn't quite get it to pass a full benchmark loopâ€”I'd need lower temps if I want 4.1GHz to be a reality.
For the X850, I managed a clock speed of 594MHz on the core and 610MHz on the DDR3. Not too shabby for the retail cooler! I did force fan speed to 100% and the point-blank Panaflow reduced the core and PCB temperature substantially. I didn't record any solid readings, but we're talking in the range of 20 degrees or more thanks to the Panaflow.
So, what did this buy me? 2840 3DMarks
. That may not sound like a big jump, but this benchmark is VERY GPU limited with an X850. Amazingly, I am now number 7 on the charts (really number 5 as several runs are the same person and setup ahead of me). This is pretty amazing for an all-air run at default VGPU and VDD. I can't wait to give it a big VGPU boost and get it on the Vapochill. I seriously think I have a chance at breaking the record.
Now, obviously, my system is not terribly high end. A 4GHz Q6600 is pretty decent, but its no QX9650 that can push 4.5GHz+ or more at sub-zero temperatures. Benchmarking old cards like the X850 is not a very popular activity, and this is my biggest advantage right now I think. My original goal that I outlined in Part 1
was to provide a fitting tribute to my old X850 that I spent so much of my hard-earned on. If this card can be in the number one spot for even a day or two, I've met my goal! Heck, I'm amazed it is as high as it is on the chart already.
This is far from over! Let's see what this thing can do.