Sandy Bridge at the helm
Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs and motherboards launched at the turn of the year to general acclaim. Many enthusiasts primed their credit cards for some furious spending, and system integrators licked their lips at the thought of shifting a large number of new PCs with Intel's newest technology inside.
The initial rush of sales for standalone Sandy Bridge components - CPUs and motherboards - and SI-built PCs was brought to a near-standstill after Intel dropped the bombshell that it had diagnosed a manufacturing flaw in the SATA 3Gbps storage ports on the 6-series chipsets - serious enough to affect all shipping motherboards. CPUs, however, remain trouble-free.
With workarounds in place for systems with two or fewer storage drives and motherboard manufacturers promising to deliver new chipsets bereft of the problem in a few weeks, many system integrators are holding fire and waiting it out.
Before the SATA issue was publicly communicated by Intel on January 31, we contacted Scan Computers with a view of reviewing a Sandy Bridge-based system. Appreciating that the company is still selling such machines with the understanding that the offending motherboards will be replaced completely free of charge when newer silicon becomes readily available, we decided to take a close look at a PC equipped with a heavily overclocked Core i5 2500K CPU and twin GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards.
|Scan 3XS GTK SLI PC|
|Chassis||Lian Li Lancool PC-K58|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 2500K @ 4.7GHz (47 x 100MHz BCLK)|
|Mainboard||ASUS P8P67 PRO, P67, LGA1155|
|Memory||8GB (2 x 4GB) Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1,600 @ 9-9-9-24-2T|
|Hard disk(s)||Boot: OCZ Vertex 2E 60GB
Storage: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB, 32MB cache, 7,200rpm
|Display||None, optional extra|
|Graphics hardware||Dual EVGA GeForce GTX 560 Ti FPB 1,024MB in SLI (overclocked at 900MHz core and 4,056MHz memory)|
|Optical drive 1||Pioneer DVR-S19L DVD-ReWriter|
|Optical drive 2||None, optional extra|
|Sound hardware||Onboard high-definition audio|
|Speakers||None, optional extra|
|Networking hardware||10/100/1000 from ASUS motherboard|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit|
|PSU||XFX 650W non-modular|
|Input devices||None, optional extras|
|Additional software||Acronis True Image Home 2011; rest to be confirmed|
|Notable items||Pre-overclocked CPU, pre-overclocked dual GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards|
|Included warranty||Two years; first year on-site, second year return-to-base|
|Price||£1,349.00 including VAT|
|Shipping||Free for HEXUS.community members|
Intel's quad-core, non-hyperthreaded Core i5 2500K chip is no mean performer in an out-of-the-box spec, but really shines when pushed. Scan takes advantage of this fact by ramping up the clock to a lofty 4.7GHz, cooled by a heavy-duty Akasa heatsink known as the Venom. No chances are taken with the vagaries of the base clock; it's a straight jump to a 47x multiplier here.
Rather than switch off a multitude of power-saving technologies when overclocking, which is the norm, Scan keeps the Intel SpeedStep function active, meaning the chip clocks down to 1.6GHz when idling: good stuff.
The ASUS P8P67 PRO is a good choice as a mid-budget P67 board that is full of the expected features. In particular, it has supplementary SATA 6Gbps ports that help ameliorate the problem caused by Intel's woes.
Handily, the board also features a trio of PCIe x16 mechanical ports, of which two bifurcate down to x8 in multi-GPU mode for either NVIDIA or AMD cards. Scan opts for two pre-overclocked GTX 560 Ti cards from EVGA and pushes them farther, to 900MHz core and 4,056MHz memory (we're informed that the final memory clock may well be a little higher).
Thick-density memory enables Scan to put in just a couple of Corsair Vengeance modules, totalling 8GB, offering you the opportunity of upgrading to 16GB without breaking the bank.
We've become accustomed to seeing solid-state drives on medium-priced PCs, and the Scan machine is no exception. Offering a reasonable 60GB by way of an OCZ Vertex 2E - suitable for a basic operating-system install - and backed up a ubiquitous 1TB mechanical drive, we have no complaints in this department.
The budget precludes a Blu-ray drive and a dedicated soundcard - the latter something we'd hope to see in a gaming-centric PC. Powering it all is a 650W PSU from XFX. The capacity may not seem overly generous at first glance, sure, but the frugal nature of Sandy Bridge parts and relative TDP goodness of 560 Ti cards means it's stout enough for the job.
On first inspection, then, the Scan is a well-rounded system that's heavily overclocked with a minimum of fuss. Let's now see how it's put together.