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System Builder Marathon, Sept. '09: $2,500 Performance PC
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2.5" SSD to 3.5" Bay Adapter: SNT SNT-SATA2221B Hot-Swappable Backplane

We couldn’t think of a better device to hold two low-heat 2.5” SSD drives than a dual-bay hot-swappable backplane. For a low $22 price, the SNT-SATA2221B offers the conveniences of tray-less design and front-panel access while consuming only a single 3.5" external bay.

Read Customer Reviews of SNT's SATA2221B Backplane


This is actually a far better-designed unit than the one that appeared in our February SBM, as it requires no cable adapters and only a single power plug. The design is also cheaper to produce, though Newegg carries other brands of this product at up to twice its price.

For three-times its price, buyers could even find an upscale version with a single-data connection and built-in RAID controller. The RAID version was probably the original design from which this cheaper version is derived, but we decided to save our $44 and use motherboard RAID instead of an external controller.

3.5" to 5.25" Bay Adapter: Vantec EZ-Swap EX (Accessory-Only)

Our case doesn’t have a 3.5” external bay and the only 3.5” to 5.25” bay adapters at Newegg have a thumb groove for Epson-style floppy drives.

The solution, of course, is to buy the Ultra-ATA EZ-Swap EX, discard the unneeded bits, and use its less-expensive yet better-looking 3.5” to 5.25” bay adapter to hold our SNT backplane.

Component Cooling: Antec SpotCool

Motherboards are designed to use the draft from the CPU cooler to keep the voltage regulator and chipset northbridge cool, but that design puts liquid-cooled systems like ours at risk of instability. Instead of adding a big memory cooling fan and hoping the rear-panel exhaust would keep our motherboard cool enough, we picked a familiar part that can serve both needs.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's SpotCool


A flexible wand allows Antec’s SpotCool to be aimed in nearly any direction, while a three-speed controller allows it to be set from 2,000 to 3,000 RPM. If that’s not enough to satisfy your purchasing demands, Antec went on to add four blue LED lights to this ultra-flexible $15 part.

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  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 28 September 2009 15:51
    5870s next SBM? Bring it on!
  • 0 Hide
    blibba , 29 September 2009 00:21
    I'm aware that a comparison with the last high end SB PC would be misleading as it, basically, didn't work properly, but nonetheless it would be nice to see something to put the performance into context.
  • 0 Hide
    rickbmb , 29 September 2009 06:27
    Looking at the benchmarks for fallout 3 and world in conflict, the 1300$ pc from a few days ago is not that far behind. (pretty close when o.c'ed)
  • 0 Hide
    computersss , 29 September 2009 07:01
    what really pisses me off is that tomshardware guys always seems to try to make it exactly 2500~ and they sometimes put some things that isn't needed like Antec 0761345-75018-9 "SpotCool" LED Fan and an NZXT case for such a budget ?!!! i think they should rename the title to maybe 2000$-2500$ so that they don't put unneeded things to just make it the exact price do anyone agree?
  • 0 Hide
    demondrumer , 29 September 2009 20:28
    Im really suprised that all fit i personaly wuold have opted for a better case why dident they choose something like a coolermaster sniper ..... and then they wouldent have to buy that spot cooler thingy and still have 2500 XD
  • 0 Hide
    timbozero , 30 September 2009 00:29
    I am always 'concerned' by watercooling that has no reservoir. With the Panzerbox the radiator location is in the very top of the case and would surely end up as the 'reservoir' , collecting any air that built up over time ?
    Would a pump and reservoir (sealable type) fixed to the case floor work for air collection (something like the Thermaltake Prowater ones) or, would air continue to migrate to the radiator regardless ?
  • 0 Hide
    waxdart , 30 September 2009 18:50
    computerssswhat really pisses me off is that tomshardware guys always seems to try to make it exactly 2500~ and they sometimes put some things that isn't needed like Antec 0761345-75018-9 "SpotCool" LED Fan and an NZXT case for such a budget ?!!! i think they should rename the title to maybe 2000$-2500$ so that they don't put unneeded things to just make it the exact price do anyone agree?


    I think they should just build the performance machine for raw power. LED fans and Daft cases are a matter of taste or lack of.

    So the price of these machines isn't the limit. It should be the average FPS / cost. or what ever value per cost that is the focus of the test.