System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $2400 Performance PC

Graphics, Case, And Power

Graphics Cards: PNY Liquid Cooled GTX 580s in SLI

We were terribly disappointed by the GPU overclocking capabilities of our previous $2000 build, but should have expected what we found, given then we used cards from a company famous for binning its top cards to sell as more expensive models.

Those cards were purchased for their exceptional warranty, rather than their overclocking headroom. This time, however, we put performance first.

Read Customer Reviews of PNY's Liquid-Cooled GeForce GTX 580s

With proven overclocking capability, PNY’s liquid cooled GeForce GTX 580s came to mind when we were putting together a system specifically designed to highlight overclocked value. Its XLR8 VCGGTX580XPB-LC includes a single-thickness radiator and single fan (Antec H2O 620 equivalent) with a custom GPU-mounted pump, while its VCGGTX580XPB-LC-CPU uses the double-thick two-fan radiator and CPU-mounted water pump found in Antec’s H2O 920. Yes, that's a graphics card that can cool the CPU!

Case: Fractal Design Arc Midi

Pleasing results from our recent MicroATX Gaming Build round-up compelled us to take a closer look at one of the contender's bigger brother, Fractal Design’s Arc Midi.

Read Customer Reviews of Fractal Design's Arc Midi

Designed to hold a double-120 mm-fan radiator on top, our pair of single-fan radiators fit using alternative placement.

Power: Mushkin Joule 1000 W Gold

We wanted something a little bigger and more-efficient than our previously-chosen SeaSonic 850W Silver unit and found an excellent price in Mushkin’s MKNPSJL1000.

Read Customer Reviews of Mushkin's Joule 1000 W

Though Mushkin’s original Joule power supply earned a somewhat-mixed reputation, support for the later Gold version is nearly unanimous among its reviewers. Distrust for its predecessor might have driven down the price of the improved product, but we have enough faith in the newer 80 PLUS Gold-rated part to treat its low cost as a value bonus.

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  • HEXiT
    gotta say im a little surprised you didnt go for the 2011 socket and the new i7 for such a pricey setup...
    im pretty sure if you had re-jigged the numbers a little you could have squeezed this in instead of the i5 based architecture of the 1155 sockets.
  • HEXiT
    not being sarcastic m8, its just when it comes to the high end builds , toms usually shows off the latest tech... as you have with the water cooling. but i would have liked to have seen the new cpu's at work productivity wise with a decent gfx card... its a nice build but just not the build i was hoping to see this month...
  • damian86
    I think the only reason they installed a i7 instead of an i5 is because it's supposed to be a performance pc(not only for gaming) which is where the i7 scores a bit more, so it deserves the pole. I agree with you that they could have ordered a better gfx set (imo a nice evga hydro/or phantom edition)+ I would have tried a Gigabyte or Asus MB,I quite like the msi though.
  • lkuzmanov
    Price/performance wise a pair of Gigabyte 6950 1gb OC absolutely murders GTX 580 SLI.
    They're roughly two times cheaper, quiet and cool, require less power (another saving) and would've avoided this water cooling misunderstanding at the same time allowing for a better MoBo, a better fitting top-mounted H100 and perhaps a cache SSD or a better case.
  • damian86
    I would like to see why you think 2 6950s would murder 2 580s..
  • lkuzmanov
    @damian86 "Price/performance wise"... If you refer to Anand's Bench:

    FPS FPS (OC) Price FPS/Price FPS/Price (OC)
    2384.60 2647.15 1030.00 2.32 2.57
    2081.60 2263.74 480.00 4.34 4.72

    I've addded the OC figures assuming perfect scaling with the OC for both the PNY 580's used here and 2 x GIGABYTE's GV-R695OC-1GD.

    Things may change slightly if you only consider 2560 or 1920, remove the CPU limited titles from Anand's selection, plus the individually more powerful 580's may (or may not) provide better smoothness at higher resolutions (see micro-stuttering), but you see what I mean, I'm sure. Total Load Power under Furmark is 850 vs 510, so you can save some cash on the PSU or move up in quality.

    In the meantime I noticed they've already added a pair of 1Gb 6950's to their Enthusiast build, so I see what they've done now...