System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $2500 Performance PC

Assembly Part 1: Finding The Right...Saw?

All of the parts in this build were carefully and specifically chosen to fit each other, so I take none of the blame for any required modifications. Follow along to see why!

For example, the Prodigy case’s top cage still fits with a long graphics card in place, but the tabs of its trays do not. I knew this assembly was removable, so it played no part in my component selections.

I would need to move the front fan up to the center position in order to get my desired airflow pathway, but the middle mount only supports 140 mm fans. This could have been problematic, except that a spare I had on-hand alleviated the issue altogether. Since Newegg lists my spare part, I simply added it to the build sheet.

Also notice that in the rear of the case, holes surround the stock 120 mm fan. Fitting a 140 mm fan here reduces the amount of air that flows around the fan, which could have otherwise hurt its performance.

The problem exists between Asus and Asetek, ODM of more than half of the closed-loop liquid cooler brands that I’ve tested. Its universal bracket isn’t quite universal; the bumps for LGA 775 and 1366 stick out far enough to touch surface-mounted components under the board. This is the same cooler and motherboard used in the famous Tiki, and nobody from any of the associated companies mentioned the need for an alternate support plate.

Some cooler manufactures send a different plate for each processor interface. Others use sliding mounts to fit multiple sockets. Either of those solutions work, because both of those solutions reduce the support plate’s contact area. Unfortunately, multi-hole universal plates collide with a couple of motherboard components that might easily be broken.

A sharp knife will cut into the plastic, but resistance increases as the knife is pushed in further. To avoid slipping and cutting the entire nub off, I tried using a file. The plastic was too slippery for the file to grab, so I tried a rasp. Eventually, I found that a fine hacksaw blade was my best cutting solution.

This fitment issue is specific to this motherboard, but covers several types of CPU coolers. I’m starting to feel a little better about not handing Asus an award for this otherwise excellent product.

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  • sherlockwing
    Interesting $2500 MITX build, granted most people(including me) would have built a $2500 rig around 780 SLI in a ATX case.
    2
  • burnley14
    This just might be my favorite SBM ever, and this particular build my favorite machine of all time. Even if the relative value is slightly lower, many people including myself are willing to pay a small premium for a smaller footprint. Well done!
    6
  • nvidiamd
    this is the best build on toms ever! no substandards and overkills. two thumbs up!
    5
  • slomo4sho
    Seems I was pretty close in my initial guess:

    Anonymous said:
    -2
  • Madn3ss795
    Assembling part reminds me of LEGO...
    0
  • agnickolov
    I wish the build had a 512GB SSD, but I understand the builder's value sentiment. The fast HDD is pure waste, however. A 2TB HDD can be found for under $100.
    0
  • sarinaide
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    -1
  • csf60
    I would take a 770 and water-cool that rig any day, but I suppose that's personal preference.
    -2
  • sarinaide
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    -3
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Still struggling to get my mind on a high performance ITX system, to me its more a case of how much high end you can chuck into a psuedo M-ITX chassis which for all intents and purposes are not small form factor by any stretch of the imagination. Having owned a Prodigy they can hardly be said to be SFF when their total surface area is as much as a ATX chassis, it is like calling a HAF XB M-ITX.

    The main point of the article is that diminishing returns are high at that price point, only a overclocked system (again not a fan of in the confineds of a ITX system) give it value.
    At the initialization's initiation, SFF meant "Shuttle Form Factor". The term has since been abused for everything from Micro ATX gaming cubes to book-sized PCs. Book-sized system builders would argue that Shuttle's fairly big traditional boxes aren't true SFF because they're too big, even though the term originally referred to these! If you remove the handles, this case is roughly the size of Shuttle's old 2-slot boxes (it's around 2 inches taller and 2 inches shorter in length)
    Anonymous said:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming
    Gaming only? Then when the Core i7?
    Anonymous said:
    is there any particular reason to go with the i7
    Read pages 16 and 17
    Anonymous said:
    other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5
    Did you see the overclocking section? Three mediocre i5's in a row and i7 leads to O/C victory, in addition to the gains on pages 16 and 17.
    Anonymous said:
    The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.
    Did you see a heat issue? I did not. Why would someone want to spend more money for less gaming performance? Or are you now saying that this is not a gaming PC?
    3
  • tomate2
    Anonymous said:
    It is safe to say that the purpose of the machine is gaming, for that is there any particular reason to go with the i7 other than to say you maxed the platforms highest capable chip but in terms of true benefits there is little over an i5 yet over a $100 been dropped on it. The next question is why not a GTX Titan, most of a 690 's performance but on less power and heat which is quite punishing in a Prodigy's confinds.


    For future reference: you should read an article before posting so that you don't make a fool of yourself.
    3
  • de5_Roy
    really enjoyed reading the article, reading the assembly part was fun. the build looks great imho.

    i think this build wins in terms of performance per heat or temperature per volume(size of the pc). i know the metric sounds weird but that is a Lot of performance crammed into that small case. a titan would possibly improve temperature and still be a lot faster than 7870xt(comparing past q's enthusiast pc) even though it was unavailable during ordering the parts). for example, you can't squeeze an fx8350 (no mini itx mobo) in that case, and trinity only goes up to 2module/4threads.
    edit: just realized how unfortunate gtx780's launch timing is... it coulda been a good candidate for the high end performance pc. may be next quarter....
    0
  • ehanger
    Nothing that couldn't be built a year ago.
    3
  • Onus
    It was interesting to see specific mods / add-ons called out in this build; I'm not sure I've seen that done before, but the results were certainly worthwhile.
    I'd love to win this one. My own games (especially at 1920x1080) don't need a GTX690 so I might swap in a lesser card in order to use the drive cage, but this would be one sweet system to sit on my desk.
    How loud were the fans?
    0
  • antemon
    why in the world did no one use the HAF XB or the A30?
    -4
  • sarinaide
    Anonymous said:
    why in the world did no one use the HAF XB or the A30?


    I am assuming its because its for M-ITX only albeit that the HAF XB could take ITX and is as big as a Prodigy.
    2
  • ojas
    Very interesting build! At least predicted a Platinum PSU correctly :P

    I was expecting a Titan or a 780, though. CPU choice was pretty much a given.

    And no one's hating your PSU choice, so far too :D

    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    It was harder to notice with the previous build’s lower frame rate, but both configurations hit a snag at 2560x1600 and the Ultra quality preset. That snag is memory, where 2 GB of graphics RAM simply isn’t enough. The new build's so-called 4 GB card only gives 2 GB to each GPU, and that proves to be a problem.


    Um... no? There is no justification for this. 2560x1600 almost twice as demanding as 1920x1080, and you are just seeing the expected performance drop from the resolution increase. There is no evidence of VRAM limitation.

    Yeah i was thinking the same thing...had it been due to VRAM i'd expect the FPS to be closer together for both builds.
    -2
  • Amdlova
    i will do sli 670 on micro atx mobo... LOL 520W power supply will suport
    mini cases (Y) epic win
    -1
  • Fokissed
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    It was harder to notice with the previous build’s lower frame rate, but both configurations hit a snag at 2560x1600 and the Ultra quality preset. That snag is memory, where 2 GB of graphics RAM simply isn’t enough. The new build's so-called 4 GB card only gives 2 GB to each GPU, and that proves to be a problem.


    Um... no? There is no justification for this. 2560x1600 almost twice as demanding as 1920x1080, and you are just seeing the expected performance drop from the resolution increase. There is no evidence of VRAM limitation.


    Crysis 2 uses 1800MB+(normally) of VRAM at 1920x1080 on my GTX 680 4GB. It peaks at 3GB usage at times. I have no doubt that modern games at high resolution are limited by 2GB of VRAM.
    -1
  • frillybob101
    This is the one I want to win!
    2