The idea of a low clock challenge is to provide a playing field for benchmarkers to prove their tweaking skills in a given benchmark. Setting specific limitations constructs the playing field and opens the doors to a lot of people to compete that might not have the newest or best hardware that a wide open competition would require. Overclockaholics.com recently had a low clock 3Dmark 01 challenge which locked CPU clocks to 4.2GHz and limited Nature Frames Per Second to 1200FPS for single card or 1400FPS for dual card entries. These two simple limitations really setup an array of possible winning combinations that require tweaking skills at both the software and hardware level.
Needing a bit of a break from pounding my head against the wall with a memory review, I took a couple days to get back in the 3DMark 01 tweaking seat – which hasn’t been sat in for some time – and tried my hand at the Overclockaholics.com 3DMark 01 Low Clock Challenge. Here is my story of how I came to winning the single card category last weekend.
There are two primary platforms that can be competitive in this type of challenge, using an Intel C2D on the 775 platform or the slightly less potent Intel i7 socket 1366 platform. The reason i7 is actually a worse a platform for 3DMark 01 is the fact that the Nature benchmark scores are terrible on the i7 platform at 4.2GHz compared to C2D. You will soon find out that I had plans to take care of that. Essentially though, I had both platforms setup ready to rock but my goal was to be competitive with the i7 platform using whatever means necessary. I began preliminary testing on the Intel i7/X58 platform with phase cooling on the CPU. The need for sub-zero cooling on the CPU will also be explained shortly.
With the GPU on air, it was apparent that being competitive just wasn’t going to be possible. At a minimum, 90K was going to be required to win this thing, at this point in the weekend, I think the top score posted for single card was around 89.5K already. Even with the CPU under sub-zero conditions allowing for a very nice uncore clock – which helps 01 scores tremendously – the Nature FPS were just too low to compete. That is when the big guns were brought out to help the little GTX260 play with the C2D boys.
A little rubber eraser, 1 KingpinCooling.com Tek9 4.0 Slim, a 50K ohm variable resistor, a couple shop towels, and this setup was ready to rock 01′s world. The variable resistor was the only mod done to the card which was done to bypass OCP. Other than that, this is just a straight up Gigabyte GTX260 216SP video card. Here is a complete list of the hardware used for the rest of the competition.
|Processor:||Intel Xeon W3540 (3845B010)|
|Motherboard:||EVGA X58 3X SLI Classified (BIOS S21S)|
|Processor Cooling:||Chilly1 Single Stage|
|Thermal Paste:||Arctic Silver Ceramique|
|North Bridge Cooling:||Stock|
|South Bridge Cooling:||Stock|
|Memory:||OCZ Blade 3x2GB PC3-17000 8-9-8-24 (OCZ3B2133LV6GK)|
|Video Card:||Gigabyte GTX260 OC 216SP (GV-N260C-896H-B)|
|Power Supply:||Corsair HX1000W|
|Additional Fans:||Scythe Ultra Kaze 120MM 3000RPM 133.6CFM (DFS123812H-3000)|
|Hard Drive:||Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 7200 40GB ATA133|
|OS:||Windows XP SP2 (custom n’light job)|
|Ambient Temperature:||23C ~ 25C|
Over the course of two six hour sessions, this system was beaten, abused, and downright throttled. The GTX260 nicely surprised me willing to run through Nature at -140C. Normally these GPU’s will cold bug well before that without a special BIOS so either these cards had that special BIOS, or this card is just a freak of nature. Either way, the GPU clocks definitely helped the score and took the single card results for the competition to the next level. Here are a couple photos of the two bench sessions.
Most of the benching was done with the GPU at -120C and the CPU at -30C ~ -35C. The digital multi-meter is showing the resistance across the OCP mod which I set to 13.33K Ω. This allowed GPU voltage of 1.25v to be used at clocks in excess of 1000MHz. For the suite of benchmarks, GPU clocks were set to 1026MHz with shaders running at 2052MHz. The GPU memory clocks were most stable at 1215MHz but could creep close to 1300MHz. For Nature however, the GPU clocks were set as they are in the screen shot below, 1080/2160/1215. Here is the screen shot of my best – and winning – single card result.
Obviously this isn’t even the best this setup could pull off at 4.2GHz because Nature is far from maxed out. If I could get GPU clocks high enough to hit the 1200FPS limit in Nature, the overall score would have been at least 92K. Either way it didn’t matter as this was enough to win the competition and take home a very much needed KingpinCooling.com F1 EE CPU pot. I have been benching with a MMouse Rev3 CU pot for so long that the upgrade to one with more mass is guaranteed to help with multi-threaded benchmarks like Vantage and 06 with the i7 processors. To wrap things up, here are a couple photos of the setup during tear down. Plenty of snow was produced during the bench session, nothing like winter in July.
I would like to thank Overclockaholics.com for a great contest, the rest of the competitors for pushing me to go LN2 on the GPU, and KingpinCooling.com for the prize. All I can say is that this card is far from done.