System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

Motherboard, CPU Cooling, And RAM

Motherboard: MSI NF980-G65

Reading through the comments to many of our SLI articles, it appears that many of our readers have forgotten that SLI solutions do exist for AMD’s processors. While Nvidia’s nForce 980a SLI might be from the same generation as AMD’s 790FX, the same can be said of AMD’s “new” 890FX northbridge, which is really quite evolutionary.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's NF980-G65

Like the 790FX, the only thing that differentiates Nvidia’s 980a SLI from “new-generation” chipsets is its lack of SATA 6Gb/s support. Since the only drive we’ve seen to exceed the previous-standard’s 3 Gb/s has problems of its own, we didn’t feel much pressure to add the new transfer standard to our “must have” list.

One feature often overlooked by performance enthusiasts, Nvidia HybridPower offers high-end machines the ability to save power in 2D mode by idling discrete graphics cards, plus the ability to output onboard audio directly through the motherboard’s HDMI connection. The NF980-G65’s DVI output is unfortunately not Dual-Link capable, so we left its controller disabled for today’s test.

CPU Cooling: Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B

Newegg doesn’t seem to know the name of Scythe’s part number SCMG-2100 CPU cooler, even though it’s written on the box. It’s hard to sell something if buyers can’t find it, and lower sales volume could be the reason Newegg charges only $35 for this $40 part (while charging $50 for Cooler Master’s competing $40 part).

Read Customer Reviews of Scythe's Mugen 2

Scythe’s Mugen 2 Revision B actually beat that more-popular competition in our LGA 1156 cooler roundup, and includes the needed brackets to fit our NF980-G65 Socket AM3 motherboard in the correct cross-flow configuration.

Better cooling for less money? That sounds like a bargain to us!

RAM: 8 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1333 CAS 9

High-end PC owners expect their entire build to be a little more extreme than those at the mid-range level, where 4 GB memory capacity is now commonplace. Eight gigabytes is the next step up for AMD’s dual-channel memory controller.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ripjaws DDR3-1333 Kit

G.Skill’s F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL appeared to be the best-value memory kit in Newegg’s extensive collection, offering DDR3-1333 data rates at a mere 1.50 V for less than $200.

That lower base voltage could leave extra room for overclocking, but only a full stability test will reveal whether or not these modules can keep their cool.