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CPU And Cooler

System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $2,000 Performance PC

Processor: Intel Core i7-930

We picked the lowest-cost processor for Intel’s high-end platform with overclocking in mind. The Core i7-930 features the same die as the i7-920 used to reach 4.30 GHz in our previous System Builder Marathon.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-930

Though it may not be as powerful or as overclockable as Intel’s six-core Core i7-980X, the higher-performance processor comes at a 350% price premium that would have pushed this month’s total system cost skyward by nearly 50%. Most applications still struggle to use more than two cores, so putting a quad-core model in today’s machine is no great sacrifice.

A higher base speed of 2.80 GHz (compared to the i7-920’s 2.66 GHz) is still no guarantee for better overclocking results, but we’re going to put a full effort into achieving ridiculously high frequencies. The only really good thing we can say about the switch to a newer model is that its higher base speed comes at no additional cost.

CPU Heat Sink: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev.B

The dirty little secret of Core i7 overclocking is that a big air cooler can often do the job just as well as a large liquid cooler can. Part of that is due to how Core i7 processors are extremely heat-tolerant. When a big air cooler is mandated, we can’t think of a more highly-recommended part than Prolimatech’s Megahalems Rev.B.

Read Customer Reviews of Prolimatech's Megahalems Heat Sink

The Megahalems Rev.B is likely to provide even lower temperatures than our previous liquid-cooling system, simply because that system was crippled by a restrictive GPU water block. Yet, achieving good temperatures with this heat sink requires us to purchase at least a medium-capacity cooling fan, since no fans are included in the package.

Cooling Fan: Scythe Slip Stream SY1225SL12LM-P

We wanted a pulse-width modulation (PWM) fan for its superior speed control, but were bummed to find that Newegg carried nothing in our preferred 2,000-2,500 RPM range. Fans faster than that are often inefficient at low RPMs, and we wanted a system that would remain quiet, except when placed under extreme loads. After careful consideration, we settled for a Scythe SY1225SL12LM-P.

Read Customer Reviews of Scythe's SY1225SL12LM-P Fan

Model familiarity came from our previous 10-cooler roundup where Scythe’s Mugen 2 Revision B cooler took second place using the same part.

We also wanted to try a 38 mm-thick fan, but Newegg doesn’t sell the Prolimatech 12038 clips required for conversion. Since the sink does include a second set of 25 mm clips, we modified these so that we could retest the system using Delta’s ultra-powerful AFC1212DE-PWM

Anyone considering a similar conversion needs to know that this 3,900 RPM oversized fan is incredibly noisy at full speed and that Gigabyte’s default fan speed control doesn’t make a large enough speed difference to suit most users. Tuning the fan’s ramping speed can be accomplished through Gigabyte EasyTune6 software.

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