System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $2,000 Performance PC

Graphics, CPU, And Motherboard

Graphics: 2 x MSI Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire

AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 is a formidable weapon in the graphics war. But most of the models with aftermarket cooling employ designs that exhaust heated air back into your chassis. That's bad news, particularly when you have two of them in CrossFire.

MSI’s R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC uses an axial fan that, even though it's noisier, blows most of the card’s heat out of its rear I/O panel. We purchased a pair.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI’s R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K

Intel’s flagship LGA 1155-based processor is about 34% less-expensive than the Core i7-3930K, which drops into the company's LGA 2011 interface. It also has 33% fewer cores.

On paper, that sounds like a fair trade. Consider, however, that there are still many applications unable to utilize a processor with six cores, ready to execute 12 threads concurrently. In that context, the Core i7-3770K is set up to score a win, we think.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-3770K

Other components, such as the hard drive and SSD, won’t suffer at all from the fact that we're choosing a less expensive CPU. So, we’re not counting on the entire system rewarding a 34% price reduction in return for 33% fewer cores. Instead, we’re looking for improved graphics test results to overwhelm the combined performance charts.

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-D3H

Gigabyte's -D3H-series motherboards are designed to provide high value to performance seekers on a budget, lacking many of the so-called high-end add-on controllers that most of us ignore anyway. The last time we tried one in a high-end build was more than a year ago (System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $2000 Performance PC). But, with graphics eating most of our budget, we thought this was a good time to bring out a value leader.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's Z77X-D3H Motherboard

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  • Steveymoo
    I was getting ready to whine about power consumption with those AMD cards, but it looks like they're not so bad! I'd be interested to know how loud/whiny this system gets, and how it would perform with 2 gtx 680s instead.

    Also, I find it weird that those crossfire GPUs fall flat on their face at 2560 resolution in some games. Is there some kind of crossfire/gpu memory issue going on there?