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Power Supply: Cooler Master RS-850-EMBA

System Builder Marathon: Sub-$4000 PC
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Cooler Master’s top 850W power supply remains our choice for this System Builder Marathon in spite of severe criticism by several readers. We checked NVidia’s SLI-Approved Lists thoroughly and inspected each of the recommended units, and came to the conclusion that the RS-850-EMBA was unbeatable for its price in our configuration.

Cooler Master RS-850Cooler Master RS-850

Helping our selection was the fact that most of NVidia’s choices had significant problems, ranging from the listed power-plug fitment issue (latch too wide to fit into the hole) to user issues with too much power being supplied over a single PCI-Express cable header on modular-cable units. The select few from NVidia’s list that had neither issue were far more expensive than the RS-850-EMBA, yet our experience has shown that our current favorite model has plenty of power to spare.

And experience is what our decision was really about. We’ve heard rumors that Cooler Master used less-reliable suppliers, but those rumors concerned older, lower-rated models. We’ve heard rumors that 850 watts isn’t enough, but our system pulled less than 600 watts under gaming conditions, where graphics power consumption is highest. We’ve heard rumors that there wouldn’t be enough amperage to the 12-volt rails, but our unit’s 720 watts of maximum 12-volt power is far more than even the 600 watts total system power demanded by our configuration.

In other words, we’re completely confident of our selection and have severe doubts about the veracity of claims against the RS-850-EMBA’s adequacy.

Motherboard Cooling : Antec SpotCool

The Asus Striker II Extreme comes equipped with a water block, but this feature is wasted on us. The problem is that water cooling the CPU and Northbridge still leaves a bunch of other components to become unstably hot, including our value-priced RAM. Asus has even included a VRM fan with most of its liquid-cooled-chipset motherboards, but these accessory fans tend to be inefficient and noisy. Our testing has led to a better solution in the Antec SpotCool.

Antec Spotcool FanAntec Spotcool Fan

The SpotCool provides excellent airflow at moderate noise levels that are easily dampened by our ATX enclosure, cooling the RAM, chipset, and VRM effectively.

Asus’ inclusion of a water block on the Northbridge is actually a minor drawback for us, because it reduces the sink area normally protecting the chipset. Yet the Antec SpotCool was effective enough to keep our chipset well below 60 degrees Celsius during overclock testing for our upcoming competition, while still providing the additional cooling to other components.

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