System Builder Marathon: High-End System

Luscious

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Considering the money you guys had left over, I am dumbfounded why you didn't get a better case.

Looking around on frozencpu.com, $500 will get you a "complete" high-end water cooling system - that is, 120mm x 3 radiator, reservoir, fans, fan guards, shrouds, CPU block, pump, two GPU blocks, NB/SB chipset block, hoses, hose clamps, attachments, etc.. - and still stay within your $4000 budget.

Being the true enthusiast, if I am buying a striker extreme for $300, a G0 QX6850 for $1050, and two video cards for $1000, it would be silly not to spend a few hundred more on a well-planned, high-performance water cooling system that keeps ALL OF THEM COOL. The additional time it takes to set up and install will most likely pay off big dividends down the road when I overclock.

On Newegg.com $249 will get you a Lian-Li PC-V2000Aplus II full tower case, with room for all your water cooling gear AND PSU. Sure, it doesn't come with a dual 120mm radiator, but choosing a case just because it HAS a dual 120mm radiator is like choosing a car just because it's got navigation and 20" wheels - in other words, the enthusiast will get around it and can do it himself.

EDIT: Even cheaper, for $200 is the Lian-Li PC-G70B with even more room inside.

In fact, $160 will get you the Swiftech H2O-120 compact CPU liquid cooling kit, with the CPU block/pump in one unit and the radiator/reservoir in a second unit. Easy to mount, performs well, and completely usable in ANY case you like with a 120mm fan mount on it. Invest $90 more and you can pick up the Apex Ultra kit with full-flow 1/2" ID tubing, dual 120mm radiator, and a radbox mount that attaches to any case with any size fan hole.

There is a difference between the enthusiast, who will plan his build and get the most out of his gear, and the guy who just picks stuff off newegg.com and puts it together. Anybody can slap gear in a case and hit the power button, but it takes the enthusiast to look at every component, every sub-component, plan his build, research benchmarks, compare prices, make sure they work together, fit the right accessories to get the most performance, and most importantly, devote the time to get this all done.

This is not to criticize your builds here in the article or the work of your team in any manner, you have all done a great job. But it seems your objective is more "what can I buy off the shelf and quickly slap together for $4000" as opposed to "how would an enthusiast spend $4000".

I guess enthusiasts have more time to spend, whereas editors must meet strict deadlines.
 

segap21

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A 1kW PSU seems such an overkill. Why don't you test the system to see what the peak power draw is?

I couldn't agree more with
But it seems your objective is more "what can I buy off the shelf and quickly slap together for $4000" as opposed to "how would an enthusiast spend $4000".
 

snootch

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Personally I would of used a larger case with fans o' plenty like the coolermaster rc-830 or 832. Every review I have ever seen of that case exudes quality. I would of moved the WC gear outside the case as well to improve cooling and make instalation easier. $300-$350 gets you an all-included cooling solution with a huge radiator w/ 5 120mm fans in the Thermaktake Symphony. Then, there would be adequate WC cooling capacity to WC the 8800GTX's as well.
 

mad-dog

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Yah, i concur on the general concensus that there is a large margin separating "needed components" vs "dream components".
A E6750 C2D, single GTX 8800GTX, Enermax 750W PSU.....
Choosing a $1,000 CPU to do the same amount of work that a $210 C2D could handle easily....gimme some of what you been smokin.
Oh BTW, the EVGA 680i is the best SLI mainboard in production right now, not to mention the integrated water-cooling found on the EVGA Black Pearl.
When you get serious about building "down to earth", "real world", "best bang for the buck" systems let me know.
It's a great system you have there but overkilled to the max.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff


THG made the same argument for using the faster X6800 rather than the slower QX6700 last time, but nobody listened.



Give me a break. I've had about as much luck overclocking the ECS 680i as I did with an old Foxconn i975X. The Striker Extreme is better.
 

nickc07

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This is very funny to me. I started thinking about building a top-end system. I was thinking about $5000. Then after reading reviews and studing a bit it seems crazy. IMO the only reason to spend more than $2500 on a computer is for EPEEN rights!

Dont get me wrong $1000 on a CPU, dual $900 GPUs, etc... Sound like alot of funny but it overkill & will be outdated in less than 3 months.
 

proof

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I should have known better than to expect Tom's Hardware to not go the "its uber expensive so it must be the best" route and use the Striker Extreme. I would have gone with the Blitz Formula and two 2900XTs only because I am sick of the 680i chipset.
 

Crashman

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LOL, THG simply picked the highest-overclocking 680i board from it's former tests. The site hasn't even tested the Blitz Formula, but the Blitz Extreme didn't leave the same impression.
 

dark41

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For the record, we have Crucial Ballistix PC2-6400, PC2-8000, and PC2-8500 in systems. On every one, CPU-Z 1.41 reads them as PC2-6400. I suspect they're all the same chip with different labels. They all perform similary, 1215MHz-1235MHz. Great stuff, but no need to buy the more expensive kits just because of the label IMO. Great observation and choice by the author on that one.

When going with SLI, the motherboard options are limited. To stay with Intel CPUs, the 680i is really the only option. However, 2900XTs use a temendous amount of power. 2 of those in crossfire would probably exceed what this PSU is capable of, let alone what it does to your electric bill. After a year of running 2 2900XT's you could have bought a 3rd 8800GTX and put a good down payment on a 4th. So I'm happy that they went with SLI instead.

I use a Thermaltake Kandalf case (almost identical to the basic Armor w/o water cooling) and air cooling. I'll be interested in seeing just what this system does for overclocking compared to mine. I think water cooling is a waste of time with the new Intel Conroe, but it should surely help the graphics cards.

If they hadn't insisted upon putting the hard drives in the bottom, rather than on top in the back where they belong in that case (for photographic reasons), most of their case modifications wouldn't have been necessary. The entire reason for putting the hard drives in the top in back is that they have a separate exhaust fan, rather than drag all that heat across the entire system from the front. No wonder their chipset and RAM were running hot.

I'm quite happy with the Kandalf and the price. My list of things that could be better is similar. Some disassembly/reassembly is required to fit a big PSU. Also the tool-less PCI card clips don't seat very well and need to be taken off everytime I want to change video card or pull the motherboard. I've also replaced the top 90mm fan with a 120mm fan (quieter and better air flow), but using a couple cable ties to replace the plastic fan housing was pretty simple.

Otherwise, for building an SLI system I think the review did a pretty decent job of selecting components. Too bad they thought pics were more important than performance and leaving the case intact though.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff

The pump had to be rotated to clear the graphics cards, so the holes had to be drilled no matter where the drives were placed.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff


Pick one and I'll tell you what's wrong with it...you thought this was an easy choice?
 

randomizer

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The percentage improvement for oblivion was skewed because of the indoor FPS increase, the outdoor increase was much less. Probably should have commented on that in the conclusion regarding game performance difference. Not a bad article, and I agree with the editor's opinion (as do most people I'd say) about the doubt over the value for money of the build. Can you guys pass some of that cash over this way so I can afford the "budget" build :lol:

EDIT: @Crashman: mad-dog referred to the EVGA 680i not the ECS 680i.
 

snootch

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I'd be interested in what you think of the Coolermaster RC-832/830 cases.
 

Elaruwan

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Its good to note that not many cases allow for all the 3.5 or 5.15" bays to be used with water cooling, a pump, tubes and a radiator take up a lot of space!

So what do enthusiasts do? Either design well routed case systems from scratch, or use REALLY BIG CASES.

I've used the armor in builds before, and its really big, but as the author implied, its construction is nothing really to rave about.

I use a Lian Li PC-V2100 PLUS II with an HE120.3 mounted to the top, and I have only lost one 5.15" bay of 6, and still have 12 3.5" bays for HDD's :) (6 of which are filled)

Due to there being dual PSU space, you can fit the pump above the first PSU, and lose no extra space (unless you are building a workstation and want that slot :O)
 

ratbert

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Could have gone with the Gigabyte 3D Mercury water cooled case. It has everything piped up and ready to install (just add water!) Plus expansion to add VGA water blocks, etc. Also comes with a power supply extension bracket for the longer power supply units. Seems this would have eliminated some of your "customizing".

Some here are mentioning an add-on water system. The newer large mass/heat pipe/120mm fan HSF's cool as well and are quieter to boot, so I don't see this as an option. Even the Gigabyte case is too loud if you turn the radiator fans on high, but it seems to perform well with the fans on medium. I am unconvinced you need to go the water route, but with $4k there are a lot of options. Maybe a remote pump/fan you put outside and pipe through the wall. Hey, you already have antifreeze in it...

Also would have like to have seen a crossfire setup with the HD 2900 XT 1Gb cards, maybe with the Asus P5K Deluxe.

These first two items would add a little to your cost, although the MB is cheaper. But you would still be under $4k.

I don't know if you would need to change PS. Would have liked to have seen power consumption #'s.
 

Seraphic

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Why did they use the Creative X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS? Isn't that card no longer for sale? They sell the Creative X-Fi Platinum Fatal1ty Champion Series now.

Is the FPS version better then the Platinum version?

(just ordered the Platinum version, so I hope the FPS isn't a better card...)
 

sojrner

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"better" in what sense? It is the same dsp, same (as of yet unused) xram... both are good cards, but I agree that using an unavailable component kinda sucks. With the xfi fatal1ty cards though the performance is the same.
 

Crashman

Polypheme
Former Staff


I like them a lot, I just don't know of any large radiators that will fit inside one. Does anyone sell a kit that mounts in the front, as with Thermaltake's Armor LCS?
 

Crashman

Polypheme
Former Staff


The 3D Mercury doesn't have as much cooling capacity. That same processor was used in the Extreme FSB quad-core test with a 3x120mm radiator, so even the 2x120mm radiator of the Armor LCS was a bit of a comprimise.

One option would be to swap out the Armor LCS's included pump with a Swiftech RP-1000, does anyone know how those perform?
 

Crashman

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Former Staff


V2100 Plus II mounts the motherboard upside-down, which can cause the chipset heatpipe to lose most of it's functionality. I haven't seen a list of which boards (or aren't) affected, but who wants to take that risk? This is the biggest reason why a Koolance pre-configured case system wasn't used.
 

proof

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Silverstone TJ07
Thermaltake Mozart TX
 

Crashman

Polypheme
Former Staff

TJ07 is a great case and one of the first considered for adding a third-party water cooling kit. Unfortunately, this wasn't a case modding article, and adding a large radiator would have required precision cutting.

The Mozart TX is a unique situation because it's so shallow. A 4-fan square radiator would probably fit at the top, but the added thickness of the radiator and four fans stacked together might not allow room for the optical drives to be inserted all the way. The Mozart TX is really the only "tough call" here and it's surprising you brought it up! Let's consider the options:

Mozart TX (windowless for side fan support): $220
MagiCool XTREME Quad 480 Radiator: $100
2x 1/2" hose barbs for radiator: $10
Swiftech MCP-655B pump: $90
Swiftech MCRES-Micro Reservoir: $15
Swiftech Apogee GT water block: $75
Clamps ~$5

That would be a nice kit! It only cost $515 and you'd better hope the radiator and fans don't block the backs of any optical drives.

Oops, forgot to add two more fans for the radiator, plus a side fan, you'd be up to around $540.
 

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