Sandy Bridge Build Log Metamorphosis: Corsair Link, CrossfireX, and Vengeance Gaming

By Mike Clements, on December 8, 2011

In our first two installments of the Intel Sandy Bridge build logs, I documented the initial build of a workstation and then we did some benchmarking to document the performance. Since that time the machine has undergone an amazing metamorphosis into an all out gaming rig. With the aid of my assistant below, I made some substantial changes to the original build.

 

MAIN

 

The first addition to this log is the addition of the Vengeance® M60 Performance FPS Laser Gaming Mouse and the K60 Performance FPS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Oh yeah, Battlefield 3 and CoD 3 here we come.

 

M60

 

K60

 

The original GPU was the NVIDIA GTX580. At the time I made these changes I did not have an extra GTX580 available for SLI. However I did have two ATI HD5970s laying around, so I figured I could get CrossfireX performance from those that would exceed the single GTX580. It's a good thing I already had the beastly Professional Series™ Gold AX1200 PSU installed, as it will easily handle this load with power to spare for OCing and other additions.

 

HD5970s

 

I recently decided to send my Dominator GT CMGTX7 memory kit out to be used in some extreme OCing rigs utilizing LN2 that could better make use of them. So for now I have a really nice looking set of our red Vengeance DDR3 memory (CMZ8GX3M2A1866C9R) to use in it's place.

 

Vengeance Reds

 

Perhaps the most interesting change I made was the addition of our Corsair Link™ cooling and lighting kit to my system. In my opinion, Corsair Link is functional bling. According to our Corsair Link product page:

"Corsair Link™ offers exciting new capabilities in system monitoring and control. Select Corsair products can be linked together for monitoring , with an amazing level of control. Everything is available on your screen with a software interface that’s advanced, intuitive, and easy to use. Corsair Link kits and accessories provide everything you need to outfit your system with the power and flexibility of Corsair Link."

We'll get to some screenshots of the Corsair Link GUI here in just a bit, but let's begin with some benchmarks first. With chapters one and two of this build completed, the changes I made to this system are just begging to be benchmarked and overclocked. So here’s the stock and OCed CPU-Z screenshots using ASUS’ customized ROG CPU-Z.

 

ROG CPUZ

 

It’s amazing how far CPU processing power has come in the past two to three years. With only some minimal OCing, the average person these days can hit times in SuperPI that in the past took LN2, system tweaking, OS tweaking, and some serious OCing skills to achieve. Here are the stock results on the left and OCed results on the right for 1M and 32M. You can easily see how OCing improves the performance in this benchmark. Thanks to the Hydro Series H100's cooling prowess, OCing the processor to the 4.6GHz was a breeze.

 

SuperPI

 

Obviously more CPU power is going to translate into better scores on tests that benefit from additional CPU cycles. Based on the results below, I’d say that Futuremarks' PCMark Vantage is one of those tests. Both tests did well with the storage benchmark because the Force GT SSD RAID-0 array is so blazing fast. However the CPU OC had a huge impact on the other scores, as you can see below:

 

PCMark Vantage

 

PCMark 7 is a newer version of the PC Mark utilities. The testing suites and benchmark customizations are a bit more advanced than PC Mark Vantage, and as a result we’ll be adding it to our benchmark arsenal. Again you can clearly see the areas where additional CPU power is useful. Good thing the H100 is keeping things cool.

 

PCMark 7

 

In the past, I have frequently used the Auto Gordian Knot video conversion tool to convert my favorite movie, Yellowbeard, to an .avi file. AGK multi-threads well, and makes use of multiple CPU cores. It is a very good test to illustrate the benefits of OCing in real world tasks. For this test however, I used a different video from my collection and performed a two stage test. Some really good BMX videos from my personal collection are making my cardio sessions at the gym more bearable so, I decided to document the process and show the results here. First, I converted the DVD to an .avi using AGK. Without the OCing, I would have lost 37 seconds of my life I'd never get back.

 

AGK 1

 

Then I used the Handbrake encoding tool to convert the .avi to an MP4 video suitable for use on my iPod touch. Handbrake seems to be equally, if not more sensitive to the CPU OC than AGK. So, overclocking means that you can spend more time using your iPod and less time updating it. The stock run took 7 minutes, 51 seconds. With the OCed CPU, the time was reduced by 33 seconds to 7 minutes, 18 seconds. So, when you add the 33 seconds saved in this test to the 37 seconds I saved with the AGK process, there's over one minute more cardio exercise I can get in.

 

Handbrake

 

I have been using a beta version of our upcoming Corsair Link kit in this system. For those of you that want the ultimate in system monitoring, control, and customizations, Corsair Link is what you need.

We'll feature some updated pictures showing the final production hardware very soon. In the meantime, here's a few screenshots to tantalize your imagination. Corsair Link is absolutely a tweakers delight! This is a shot of the main screen:

 

LINK Home Screen

 

The monitoring icons can be moved and placed exactly where you want them representing each monitored location. I have to admit that I am really impressed and pleasantly surprised with Corsair Link so far.

 

Link Icons

 

Other screen options include the ability to break the monitored items into different groups. This is one of many really neat ways to look at the information Corsair Link provides.

 

Link Groups

 

If you are interested in monitoring your system performance, there's also a graphing option. You can select the parameters you wish to include in the graph.

 

Link Graph

 

The lighting controls in Corsair Link are far from basic on and off. The light color defaults to blue and have manual preset buttons on the Corsair Link lighting node. In addition to these presets, you also have RGB sliders so that you are able customize your Lighting Kit colors to pretty much any hue that anyone would ever want to see inside a computer. The lighting node can control up to 33 Corsair Link RGB LED strips.

 

Link RGB

 

This is by no means a comprehensive or complete view of the Corsair Link's abilities. There's quite a bit more functionality built into the software. I have just covered a few of the features here.

The foundation of the PC we began with was extremely solid. So if you are looking to build a solid workstation or a barnstorming gaming box, there’s not a lot of difference outside of the possible storage and graphics needs. It’s plain to see that overclocking will benefit either type of build, and adding a little Corsair Link personalization and custom controllability is just icing on the cake. You just need to add the right Vengeance gaming keyboard for your type of play, and you are set!


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