System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $3,000 Extreme PC

Cooling And Case

Cooling: Swiftech H20-220 Ultima XT

Heat has always been the enemy of overclocking, but cooling an LGA 1366 processor at over 4.0 GHz and 100% load requires something with a little more capacity than traditional air cooling. Achieving even modest gains from a Radeon HD 5970 graphics card is an even bigger concern, as the manufacturer was already forced to underclock each of its two Radeon HD 5870 graphics processors to assure survival under a reasonably-sized heat sink. Yet, even with our $3,000 limit, building a high-capacity liquid-cooling system could have put a huge dent in the budget of other components.

Read Customer Reviews of Swiftech's H20-200 Apex Ultima Extreme Duty

Swiftech provides the solution with its H20-220 Ultima XT that offers all the parts we’d need at a savings of over $60 compared to separately-purchased components. Swiftech’s kit fits our expandability needs perfectly, as its MCP-655B pump and 0.5” fittings offer enough flow for a system at least twice as complex as ours. And while its high-capacity 2x120mm radiator might be barely big enough for our needs, there’s enough savings in the kit to allow a three-fan radiator upgrade to be purchased separately while still saving money compared to separate components.

The Apogee XT water block is the star of this kit, with a copper base and brass top providing enhanced durability and electrolytic corrosion resistance compared to earlier copper/plastic and copper/aluminum parts.

Case: Cooler Master Cosmos S

External cooling components don’t just look ugly, they also create huge risks when moving a system from place to place. We needed a case that would hold all of our parts internally, and the extended height of our graphics card cooler meant the model used last September simply wouldn’t work. Of the three cases that would hold all our parts appropriately, Cooler Master’s Cosmos S stood out as the best-looking and most flexible.

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Cosmos S Chassis

The Cosmos S follows our expandability theme by allowing a later upgrade from the current dual-fan to a triple-fan radiator and, as our installation pages will show, it has enough room for nearly any other hardware the end-user might wish to add.