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Graphics And Power

System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: $2,500 Performance PC

Graphics: Dual Radeon HD 5870 in CrossFire

ATI’s latest Radeon HD 5970 dual-GPU graphics cards were not yet available when we placed our order. Knowing about the upcoming release and the minimal gains achieved when moving from three to four graphics processors, we really wanted to try three Radeon HD 5850s instead. Unfortunately, neither solution would fit our budget unless we made major compromises for the rest of the system, and we simply couldn’t wait for even a single Radeon HD 5970 to reach the market.

Read Customer Reviews of Diamond's 5870PE51G Radeon HD 5870

Recent shortages of Radeon HD 5870 processors have added $30 to the price of each Diamond Radeon HD 5870 graphics card--when in stock. The Radeon HD 5870 pair adds $860 to our price list, but the Eyefinity surround-graphics option and competition-slaughtering frame rates make these cards worth every penny when it comes to gaming and user experience.

Buyers who can wait for Radeon HD 5970 availability might consider purchasing one of these Radeon HD 5970 cards, thereby saving around $190 in system costs. While often slower than two of its single-GPU predecessors, the potential to reach identical speeds makes its larger case requirement the biggest drawback of this dual-GPU card.

Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-850HX

While today’s $2,500 build aims for the best balance of performance, it still contains the graphics components of a high-end gaming system. We thus expect the graphics cards to consume the majority of system power and based our power supply selection upon those needs.

Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's CMPSU-850HX

Our previous $2,500 build used a monster-sized 1,000W power supply that turned out to be pure overkill for the application. The potential energy savings of an 80-Plus Gold Certification, the cost savings of a lower-capacity unit, and a semi-modular design that reduces cable clutter while maintaining its high-efficiency rating, Corsair’s HX850W (CMPSU-850HX) was an easy choice for today’s build.

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