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

The Build

Fractal’s Arc Midi might be designed for a dual fan top-mounted radiator, but that doesn’t mean two single-fan units can fit. Though it might have been possible to position these side-by-side within the empty case, tanks on the top and bottom would have prevented motherboard and side panel installation. Generally, we like our PCs to include motherboards.

Instead, one radiator needs to be installed on the top panel and the other on the rear panel. Both are fitted with their fans blowing out of the case as exhaust, pulling heat away from memory and voltage regulator components.

The snap-off front panel comes with a single intake fan. Since our radiators have their own fans, the original rear-panel exhaust fan is snapped into the spare front-panel mount as an extra intake.

The Arc Midi’s sliding trays each hold a 3.5” drive on vibration-dampening grommets using shoulder screws, or a 2.5” drive without grommets using standard screws. Since the 2.5” drives most often found in full-sized systems are SSDs, the lack of noise dampening for this form factor is acceptable.

The top-mounted radiator is placed in the case's forward mounting position to make room for the thicker radiator on the rear panel. Had the thicker radiator been mounted on top, it would have prevented memory installation. We also like our PCs to include memory.

The finished system is particularly attractive to users who don’t like the distraction of gaudy lights.

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  • Onus
    When I saw how much power this thing sucks down, I was glad to see that it pretty well shows the law of diminishing returns. This does nothing to change my opinion that only where time is money, i.e. for professional use, is this kind of cost justified. Spending this amount of money just to play games is a waste of resources all around, from the money to buy the parts, to the expense of running it. For future high-end builds, please specify the professional and/or his/her software that this machine is being designed to run. Justify the GPU choice by throwing in a GPGPU application that can take advantage whatever was selected. BTW, it does LOOK great; nice case choice.

    Also, as much as I understand the frustration with sacrifices, IMHO that's where the best lessons are.
    Fun to read, yes, but just not practical. Hmmm, I guess that means the downvoting is about to begin...
    27
  • hmp_goose
    Retire Crysis? Blasphemy!
    13
  • Other Comments
  • shak2300
    when i first saw "System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $2400 Performance PC" first thing i thought was a x79 build, $2400 just for performance PC using a 2600k CPU i kinda cringe , i cant imagine how much more expensive it would be if u did it with a 3930k, yes i know it not a big different in performance between the two but was just wonder :)
    -2
  • hmp_goose
    Retire Crysis? Blasphemy!
    13
  • Onus
    When I saw how much power this thing sucks down, I was glad to see that it pretty well shows the law of diminishing returns. This does nothing to change my opinion that only where time is money, i.e. for professional use, is this kind of cost justified. Spending this amount of money just to play games is a waste of resources all around, from the money to buy the parts, to the expense of running it. For future high-end builds, please specify the professional and/or his/her software that this machine is being designed to run. Justify the GPU choice by throwing in a GPGPU application that can take advantage whatever was selected. BTW, it does LOOK great; nice case choice.

    Also, as much as I understand the frustration with sacrifices, IMHO that's where the best lessons are.
    Fun to read, yes, but just not practical. Hmmm, I guess that means the downvoting is about to begin...
    27
  • Novulux
    Quote:
    The contest opens on December 19, 2011 9:00 PM PDT and closes on January 4, 2012 9:00 PM PDT.


    So, I wait until tomorrow to enter?
    1
  • cangelini
    NovuluxSo, I wait until tomorrow to enter?


    No, you're good today. It should start with today's story. I'll see if I can get that changed.
    2
  • one-shot
    $2400 and no i7 3930K?
    -4
  • Crashman
    one-shot$2400 and no i7 3930K?
    What, and ditch one of the graphics cards for a reduced average-performance score? 3930K didn't show up until after the system was ordered, but I stand with the first argument, there's just not enough performance to be gained using these specific apps.
    jtt283For future high-end builds, please specify the professional and/or his/her software that this machine is being designed to run. Justify the GPU choice by throwing in a GPGPU application that can take advantage whatever was selected.
    We try to add professional apps that at least a few thousand of our readers have access to, but I'll ping Chris for more. Basically we try to spend our money boosting our own apps and adding a few more is probably justified. Suggestions?
    jtt283BTW, it does LOOK great; nice case choice.
    I was a little disappointed in my examination of the Arc Midi, that it's nowhere near as solid as the Arc Mini. I think it's because it's larger (so the bracing bends are further appart). As nice as the Arc Midi looks, the Antec Three Hundred is far sturdier at a similar size.
    jtt283Also, as much as I understand the frustration with sacrifices, IMHO that's where the best lessons are.Fun to read, yes, but just not practical. Hmmm, I guess that means the downvoting is about to begin...
    I almost voted you down for saying that... :P
    6
  • Anonymous
    love the fractal case!!
    0
  • mattmock
    I can't find the storage benchmarks. Am I just overlooking them? I am thinking about getting the Crucial M4 for Christmas. It seems like a good overall value.
    0
  • Crashman
    MattMockI can't find the storage benchmarks. Am I just overlooking them? I am thinking about getting the Crucial M4 for Christmas. It seems like a good overall value.
    They're on the PCMark benchmark page. Tom's Hardware uses those four application-based results to calculate the storage score.
    1
  • stuffex
    add battlefield 3 into the benchmarks please! i wanna see how the computer performs!
    1
  • Crashman
    stuffexadd battlefield 3 into the benchmarks please! i wanna see how the computer performs!
    Great! Now, any suggestion for benchmarks that might be somewhat common among readers that could highlight the value of a six-core CPU?
    0
  • giovanni86
    "I was a little disappointed in my examination of the Arc Midi, that it's nowhere near as solid as the Arc Mini. I think it's because it's larger (so the bracing bends are further appart). As nice as the Arc Midi looks, the Antec Three Hundred is far sturdier at a similar size."

    Its also half the price.

    Toms needs more current benchmarks, some of these games were talking are ages old. And need i say we need a RTS game in this mixture. I am a bit disappointed that the 3930k wasn't in this build along with a nice X79 board. Not that a 2600k processor isn't fast enough but you never know. I would rather pick up my six core but thats just me, and most likely it could be a waste. But like i said you never know, i remember SupCom came out and that required some CPU multi core power. Not sure how many cores were needed but a Quad was definitely better then a Dual core.
    1
  • cmartin011
    replace crysis with battlefield 3!
    5
  • a4mula
    The love affair with nVidia continues. 3x 6950 can be had for substantial savings even while factoring a nf200 motherboard while providing increased performance and eliminating microstuttering. The inclusion of watercooled gpu/cpu setup while novel, is little more. The loss of a cpu HSF and no addition of spotcooler means your VRMs and memory are relying on just a single exhaust fan being pushed through a radiator for circulation. I know this was a 'no-sacrifice' build, in the end it just felt like an ill-planned money sink.
    0
  • Zeh
    I would also like to see a comparison using three 6950s. Also, microstutter is gone with a triple card configuration.

    Considering the price of the 2 gtx580s, 3 hd6950s might offer better value - as long as the game allows multi-gpus.
    4
  • a4mula
    ZehI would also like to see a comparison using three 6950s. Also, microstutter is gone with a triple card configuration.Considering the price of the 2 gtx580s, 3 hd6950s might offer better value - as long as the game allows multi-gpus.


    You can compare the two by using another article by Thomas Soderstrom that also utilizes the i7-2600k but is looking at SLI/Crossfire scaling.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/crossfire-sli-3-way-scaling,2865.html

    In the 3 games that the two systems both had shared benchmarks, the 3x 6950 was the clear winner.
    1
  • Formata
    I guess it would have been nice to see what this 'gaming system' can do on a few more games we are actually playing not just games we use to bench.
    0
  • CaedenV
    nice build, but it looks like somewhere in the $2000-2400 range there is a definite loss in !/$, though it does still help with the ultra high end graphics on games like metro.

    Toms, can we get some reviews on how the computers from each bracket compare year over year as a general summary to end the year out? I would love to see what $2000 gets you in 2010 vs 2011, and even 2009. My bet is that there would be some decent changes over the last 2 years as everything has droped in price with the exception of those peskey hard drives.
    2
  • Crashman
    ZehI would also like to see a comparison using three 6950s. Also, microstutter is gone with a triple card configuration.Considering the price of the 2 gtx580s, 3 hd6950s might offer better value - as long as the game allows multi-gpus.
    After the failure of the Gigabyte board from the last SBM, this builder wanted to try the competitor from MSI. Upgrading to 3-way support would have required a far-more-expensive NF200-equipped motherboard to get the PCIe lane multiplication...and the Core i7-3930K wasn't available when the machine was ordered. So, maybe a 3930K next time using less-expensive 3-way CrossFire to recoup some of the extra money? That depends of course on availability and cost of competing solutions.
    a4mulaThe love affair with nVidia continues.
    I'd address the rest of your post but you've already proven yourself incapable of making an accurate statement. Tom's Hardware uses AMD graphics far more often in its SBM machines. Now go on to Tomorrows build and let's see if you claim a love affair with AMD...
    7