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

Building Our $2,000 PC

Even though our case is designed to allow easy CPU cooler installation, we had an even easier time getting everything set up out in the open. A support plate mounted behind the motherboard spreads the load of Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo cooler.

Four standoffs inserted from the motherboard’s top side are secured to its underside via a quartet of nuts, holding the support plate in place prior to heat sink installation.

Attached with two clip-on brackets, removing the Hyper 212 Evo’s fan gives us access to the mounting bracket's screws. Each screw is held into bracket holes with a clip and two springs, and pulling a screw outward allows it to be slid into a different mounting position.

The Storm Enforcer’s 2.5” drive cage blocks half of our power supply's cable ends, making the feature appear as though it was added simply to pad the enclosure's specifications sheet without regard to its usefulness. Secured by two screws and two slide tabs, we simply remove it.

The case includes one 3.5” adapter, as does Mushkin’s SSD. We used the one that came with the SSD, along with two of its included screws.

Optional screw holes in Cooler Master’s drive rails lack recessed holes. So, we put the screws on the inside of the tray. With the screws now acting as locating pins, the enclosure's drive cage holds the rails firmly against the adapter tray.

Another set of holes in the adapter tray would have allowed it to be installed forward, placing its SATA connector on the same vertical plane as that of a 3.5” drive. We instead favored mechanical support near the mounting rail latches, as shown in the photo above.

Cooler Master’s Storm Enforcer holds our high end configuration with little room to spare, as MSI’s 11” Radeon HD 7970s push the limits of compatible card length.

An LED-equipped fan lights the front of our finished build in red, making it impossible to hide this case in a power user’s office. Although this wasn’t our intent, the combination of powerful graphics and playful aesthetics make this a gaming machine that can also do productive work, rather than vice versa.

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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?