System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,600 Alternative PC

Motherboard, Graphics, And Power

It’s keepin’ me waitin’…

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H

After initially considering the Z77-HD4 for an early project, I had grown dubious of the voltage regulator used on the problematic Z77X-D3H-based machine. But when the motherboard we initially picked for this build failed as well, I had to circle back, look closer, and search for issues responsible for killing the parts we were buying.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's Z77X-UD4H

Instead of the UD3’s tiny five-phase regulator, we instead find a 12-phase design that’s a closer match to Gigabyte's venerable UP5 TH implementation. With questions of capacity out of the way and an advanced feature set worthy of its higher price, we were happy to make the switch. We’ll discuss why our initially-chosen Z77 Extreme4 was later replaced shortly.

Video Card: 2 x PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition

If one Tahiti-LE-based graphics card is good, then two must be better, or so goes the idea behind the GPU performance upgrade in today’s widely-upgraded build.

Read Customer Reviews of PowerColor's PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition

Axial fans blow GPU heat into our case, and dual GPUs compound the problem of that heat rising into the CPU cooler. Our oversized Noctua heat sink will maintain our overclocking goals in spite of this problem, allowing us to use this pair of top-value cards, even though we'd typically frown on such a thermal configuration.

Power Supply: Corsair HX750

I understand the difference between input and output power, yet still had no idea that our $1,000 PC’s 520 W power supply would prove vastly overkill for a system that topped out around 340 W (calculated output at 85% efficiency).

Those results technically leave enough capacity to power a second graphics card. However, the Antec PSU I was using doesn't have enough connectors to drive my second PowerColor board.

Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's HX750

The good news is that I got excess capacity from Corsair HX750 for free, at least compared to other 80 PLUS Gold-rated units of similar quality. Seasonic’s X650 Gold, for example, was listed at the same price. And smaller high-end units didn’t give me enough auxiliary PCI Express connectors.

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  • mi1ez
    ASRock defaults DDR3-2133 memory to 1.5665 V. Add in the 1% over-voltage we’ve been seeing nearly every board vendor sneak in over the past several product cycles, and we come up to around 1.68 V.

    1.5665 + 1% = 1.582165
  • Steveymoo
    Nice, this is a well balanced build! That's a good bit of troubleshooting you did there as well - I always wondered whether the super heavy CPU coolers would cause any problems, especially when you move the case around. I always worry that the large heatsink could sheer off when I have to transport my computer to a new flat.

    Better be careful y'all!
  • spentshells

    get a normal cooler Cm212 or even a CM tx4 and spend that other 50 bucks on some better cards. 7950's should be a minimum for a build of 1600
  • Anonymous
    Could've gone for a 7970 and a 3770k instead. I think most people would prefer to stay away from crossfire in a new build unless they're going for more performance than the best single GPU card. Maybe a board with more USB 3.0 internal headers would've been nice, i'm not a fan of having to plug devices in the back unless they are there to stay(exception being USB audio devices)
  • LePhuronn
    And the moral of this story is don't bother with archaic lumps of metal to cool your CPU. H100 people, simply no other choice.