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Case, Power, And Optical Drive

System Builder Marathon: $2,500 Enthusiast PC
By

Case: Cooler Master Stacker 830 Evolution

Overclocking places a far greater demand on case ventilation when using a CPU air cooler, rather than a liquid-cooling radiator, because the heat sink cannot be moved to an optimized location. The good news for this $2,500 PC is that our case choices wouldn’t be limited to those that support a large radiator as they had in previous, more-expensive builds. Better yet, manufacturers have long known how to design a case to support optimized air cooling, so that making our selection was like stepping into a time machine.

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Stacker 830 Evolution


Open ventilation and directional flow are competing concepts in case design, but with flexible fan placement, Cooler Master’s classic Stacker 830 is able to provide a little of both.

Two design advantages that caused us to choose the CM Stacker 830 over newer models are its side fan and power supply placement.  The side panel supports up to four fans and the two front fans point at the front of our graphics cards and system RAM. Cool air is directed into the CPU cooler and both graphics coolers, with the added benefit of cool-running RAM that is easier to overclock. And the top-mounted power supply, with its intake fan on the underside, assists the case’s exhaust fan in removing heat from the CPU area without the added noise of an additional top-panel fan.

Competing cases often use a bottom-mounted power supply, which is generally a bad idea from both ventilation and cable-management standpoints, but many buyers choose those because of the novelty associated with how "new" they are. Possible advantages of the "newer" design include cooler power supply operation and added space at the top of the case for large liquid-cooling radiators, but good power supplies are very heat tolerant and our system doesn’t require additional space for liquid cooling. Furthermore, the advantage of "cooler operation" goes away quickly as bottom-mounted power supplies plug with dust from the average user’s floor.

One problem with open-ventilation cases is that they aren’t very good at containing noise, but mitigating the issue is our selection of quiet components. We added two quiet fans to the two that Cooler Master includes and connected them all to motherboard headers for automatic speed control. Our graphics cards are also relatively quiet under normal loads and our hard drives make minimal noise even during seeks.

Power Supply: SilverStone OP1000 Evolution

While many manufacturers would love to up-sell buyers on super-high-capacity power supplies, we at Tom’s Hardware know a little about the real power requirements of various hardware. Careful consideration of our components lead us to an estimate of around 800 W at peak system load. Rather than pad those numbers by 50% as so many manufacturers prefer, we began our search for a better-value, high-quality unit in the 850 to 1,000 W range.

The problem with finding an adequate part is that most manufacturers don’t even sell a 3-way SLI power supply with less than 1,200 W capacity, and the few reasonably-priced 1,200 W units we did see were from brands we didn’t completely trust. The only company we found with enough faith in its own products to produce a 1,000 W power supply with enough PCI Express (PCIe) power connectors to support our graphics configuration was SilverStone Technology.

Read Customer Reviews of SilverStone's OP1000 Evolution


A total of 80 amps of power on a single 12 V rail can generate up to 960 W of the SST-OP1000-E’s 1,000 W rating to high-draw devices such as the graphics and CPU power regulators. Still far from cheap, a $200 price tag provides high value given this copious capacity.

SilverStone’s excellent reputation has only been slightly tarnished by rumors of modest amperage limits on the modular connectors of its dual-output PCIe power leads. As a non-modular design, the OP1000 Evolution can’t have that problem. While it lacks the cable-management benefit of a modular design, buyers benefit from a lower-cost product with the solid internal components on which SilverStone built its glowing reputation.

Optical Drive: LG GGC-H20LK DVD burner with Blu-ray and HD-DVD ROM

A Blu-ray reader might not add to the performance of our $2,500 system, but details like these are what separate high-end from mainstream PCs. Buyers of upscale machines shouldn’t be limited to old media formats, but added support for DVD burns and steeply-discounted HD-DVD movies can help somewhat frugal buyers to justify the added expense.

Read Customer Reviews of LG's GGC-H20LK Burner


DVD burn speeds of 16x might not set any records, but anyone who is seriously impatient could cheaply add a second higher-speed DVD burner while keeping the GGC-H20LK for its 6x BRD read capabilities.

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Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    gwellin , December 31, 2008 1:06 PM
    thomasxstewartfINAL lASLTY, yOU mENTION oCTOBERS 64 BIT TEST & recent PREVIOUS LOW COST & MID TESTS WHERE 32 BIT uLTIMATE, YET THIS TEST HAS NO MENTION OF O/S AT ALL. ITS XP RIGHT, TOM FOOLERY AGAIN, COMPARING ENTIRELY DIFFERNT SYSTEMS. BEST ULTIMATE WILL SCORE IS 13,000 VANTAGE HERE, YET ULTIMATE 64 HAS PRODUCED 38,000 3D VANTAGE BY REPUTABLE WEBSITE. SO GO FIGURE, BEFORE YOU WASTE $3,000.00SignedHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.


    Why do people type this crap. Do you not actually read what you type when you type it. "i tHINK tHIS iS rEALLY cOOL". WTF really. Do us a huge favor and don't type like a retard, infact just don't post anymore.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
  • 13 Hide
    inveriti , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    It seems like Tom's doesn't read their own reviews... In their own GPU chart, they never recommend a 3x SLi system, and not without reason. The last card only gives a third of its on-paper output. Also, why the hell get 3 TB of storage? Do you plan on pirating that many DVD's or burning that much money on them? And only 3 GB of RAM? No, sorry, you're dropping the ball on this one. NO "enthusiast" would sacrifice a solid 6 GB of good RAM in Vista for a uselss hard drive and ostentatious third video card.

    Follow your own recommendations, guys. Get an ATI 4870 x2, put the money into better RAM and cooling, then use what's left to get a pair of Raptor hard drives as workhorses and a 1 or 1.5 TB hard drive for media storage if you want to use all your $2500.
Other Comments
  • -1 Hide
    tipmen , December 31, 2008 9:08 AM
    First
    LG GGC-H20LK 6X Blu-Ray/HD DVD-ROM, 16X DVD±RW for $23??? you mean 223?
  • 0 Hide
    douglesso , December 31, 2008 9:10 AM
    Thanks for the fantastic information and detailed analysis. I just ordered the same motherboard and video card last week for my new build. Glad to see that holding out for the i7 was a worthwhile wait.
  • 0 Hide
    tipmen , December 31, 2008 9:12 AM
    Sorry couldn't read my comment but nice blbuild by the way nice to see this. Hlaf the price and more performance.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 10:02 AM
    Total price is off. Should be something like 2,447 and not 2,247
  • 0 Hide
    kelfen , December 31, 2008 10:17 AM
    except the cpu is fine because of oc
  • -6 Hide
    kelfen , December 31, 2008 10:26 AM
    antec twelve hundred
  • 5 Hide
    dieseldre2k , December 31, 2008 11:12 AM
    appreciate the article but i would drop the third HD (keep the other 2 in RAID) and use the extra money to get 6 gigs of ram instead. i'd also be wary of the scaling on 3 video cards but i dont know enough about that, plus i'm sure u guys were trying to use up all $2,500.
  • 0 Hide
    jcknouse , December 31, 2008 12:14 PM
    I didn't see it right off. might have missed it.

    I saw where u said that you reached limits at 75F/23.9C room temps. However, what was the CPU temp after running full load with your air cooling solution?

    I am curious, because I think I put too much thermal paste on my AMD Phenom 9850 install cause it runs up around 60C when i go 100% load. I hate going anything over that, so i haven't OCed it.

    Would love to hear what you guys at Tom's consider "acceptable" full load max temp for the CPU, and how you base that temp level. Manufacturer specs? Personal experience? A little of both?

    Thanks in advance
  • -1 Hide
    Sparky4688 , December 31, 2008 12:22 PM
    Great review.

    The December $1250 system performs very close within 2-3 seconds for Audio/Video editing and Applications and in several cases performs better. For non-gamers the December $1250 is a better value.

    I built a $1250 system based on the November E8500 chip and now wished I had waited for the i7 as it performs 100-150% better for Audio/Video editing and Applications....
  • 2 Hide
    Sparky4688 , December 31, 2008 12:26 PM
    jcknouseI didn't see it right off. might have missed it.I saw where u said that you reached limits at 75F/23.9C room temps. However, what was the CPU temp after running full load with your air cooling solution?I am curious, because I think I put too much thermal paste on my AMD Phenom 9850 install cause it runs up around 60C when i go 100% load. I hate going anything over that, so i haven't OCed it.Would love to hear what you guys at Tom's consider "acceptable" full load max temp for the CPU, and how you base that temp level. Manufacturer specs? Personal experience? A little of both?Thanks in advance



    Guide for thermal paste is to to use a razor's edge at a nearly flat angle to very thinly, evenly, and smoothly cover the entire CPU heat sink. Too much paste can have an adverse effect as you noted.
  • 2 Hide
    MJRSnyder , December 31, 2008 12:37 PM
    Drop one of the hard drives and bluray drive and get 2 4870x2s and it would have destroyed
  • -1 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , December 31, 2008 12:55 PM
    TW2007 said: "Total price is off. Should be something like 2,447 and not 2,247"

    No, it's correct. They specifically mentioned that the price of the components went down nearly 10% since they purchased the system.

    Ph0X said: "There's 3SLI GTX260, 3 x 1TB, Bluray WRITER!, but it doesn't even have 6gb ram!!?"

    6GB of RAM is unusable in a 32-bit operating system, and it is not a Blu-Ray writer, it's a READER with DVD/CD writing capabilities. Your comment was probably voted down for these reasons.

    dieseldre2k wrote: "appreciate the article but i would drop the third HD (keep the other 2 in RAID) and use the extra money to get 6 gigs of ram instead."

    Again, 6 Gigs of RAM would have been a complete waste of money in a 32-bit build. I for one am glad they are finally benching a RAID 5 in here because I have been weighing getting a RAID 5 build for some time but have been dissuaded because of the lack of testing/interest by other gamers. I don't want to pay $2500 for a system that dies withen weeks because I just happened to be in that 3% that get a hard drive that fails withen the first year. Honestly, I'll bet that RAID 0 vs. RAID 5 performance isn't a big deal and would really like to see a RAID 0 in the next build to compare this one with.
  • 0 Hide
    cah027 , December 31, 2008 1:01 PM
    Oh Crap ! I just ordered the UD5 MB and one 260/216 with the intension of gradually adding additional 260's over time. Looks like I am limited to 2way SLI.. oh well.. Maybe I will just step up to a x2 card.... I mostly wanted the i7 for encoding and light gaming so I should be ok.. Glad to see the encoding benches look so good !
  • 16 Hide
    gwellin , December 31, 2008 1:06 PM
    thomasxstewartfINAL lASLTY, yOU mENTION oCTOBERS 64 BIT TEST & recent PREVIOUS LOW COST & MID TESTS WHERE 32 BIT uLTIMATE, YET THIS TEST HAS NO MENTION OF O/S AT ALL. ITS XP RIGHT, TOM FOOLERY AGAIN, COMPARING ENTIRELY DIFFERNT SYSTEMS. BEST ULTIMATE WILL SCORE IS 13,000 VANTAGE HERE, YET ULTIMATE 64 HAS PRODUCED 38,000 3D VANTAGE BY REPUTABLE WEBSITE. SO GO FIGURE, BEFORE YOU WASTE $3,000.00SignedHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART von DRASHEK M.D.


    Why do people type this crap. Do you not actually read what you type when you type it. "i tHINK tHIS iS rEALLY cOOL". WTF really. Do us a huge favor and don't type like a retard, infact just don't post anymore.
  • 13 Hide
    inveriti , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    It seems like Tom's doesn't read their own reviews... In their own GPU chart, they never recommend a 3x SLi system, and not without reason. The last card only gives a third of its on-paper output. Also, why the hell get 3 TB of storage? Do you plan on pirating that many DVD's or burning that much money on them? And only 3 GB of RAM? No, sorry, you're dropping the ball on this one. NO "enthusiast" would sacrifice a solid 6 GB of good RAM in Vista for a uselss hard drive and ostentatious third video card.

    Follow your own recommendations, guys. Get an ATI 4870 x2, put the money into better RAM and cooling, then use what's left to get a pair of Raptor hard drives as workhorses and a 1 or 1.5 TB hard drive for media storage if you want to use all your $2500.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , December 31, 2008 1:18 PM
    why not spend the extra $$$ on more RAM on 64 bit Vista?
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