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

Case And Power

Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion

Many readers will likely be disappointed that we chose a $70 case for today’s high-priced build, especially when we had so much money left in the budget for upgrades. But today’s build is all about performance and we have no qualms about the performance of Antec’s Three Hundred Illusion.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's Three Hundred Illusion


Several factors that went into our case selection were ventilation, durability, quality, and convenience. Ventilation is especially critical in a system that has two hot graphics cards and an overclocked processor, and the Illusion attacks this with dual 120 mm intake fans, a 120 mm rear-exhaust fan, and a 140 mm top exhaust fan. The Three Hundred Illusion’s ventilation becomes more impressive when considering that Antec was able to pack it into a convenient mid-tower form factor.

Even more convenience comes from design features, such as an access hole for installing screw-on CPU coolers and front-panel ports that are actually on the front, rather than on the top. The Three Hundred Illusion is small enough to sit on a desk, which is a convenience that makes its front-panel connectivity even more important. However, users who prefer desk placement are still left potentially wanting FireWire and eSATA ports and perhaps a lower front-panel port location to eliminate the problem of cables dangling in front of optical drives.

Constructed of medium-thickness steel with chip-resistant paint and corrosion-resistant plating on all unpainted surfaces, the Three Hundred Illusion is durable enough to outlast several builds. Panel fit is nearly perfect and we never found a sharp edge on which to cut or scrape our hands. If this description sounds like that of a high-end case, well, the Illusion Three Hundred is about as close to the high-end as we could find for under $100.

While we don’t find many “advanced” features like screwless drive bays, we don’t plan on changing parts on a frequent basis. Screws save money without compromising durability.

Power: SilverStone Decathlon DA750

Our previous build required only a 750W power supply, but since it was designed for future upgrades, such as an additional graphics card, it was equipped with a 1,000W unit. This month’s build is not intended to support an additional graphics card, so we decided a 750W unit would likely be sufficient.

Read Customer Reviews of SilverStone's Decathlon DA750


SilverStone’s DA750 is one of the least-expensive “quality brand” power supplies in its class, and its fully modular design is a bonus to builders who demand clean cable organization.

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  • Maybe you guys should give away a $10,000 PC in September ;)

    Oh, and are those temps right? Nearly 93 C CPU temp when overclocked? I'd scale that back a bit...
    18
  • RelayerNeed a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.
    Nobody thought it would draw more than 750W peak load. Even so, the article has been revised to show that the actual power output was only 660W to 680W, well below the unit's limits.
    a4mulaCan't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.I'm not seeing the point of the Blueray drive. If this was a bare bones value to performance build it sticks out like a sore thumb. 700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560. Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.
    It's OK a4mula, but you're completely wrong.
    1.) The air temperature in the case was excellent. Tom's has tested enough cases to know that smaller models that fit tightly around the CPU cooler do an excellent job of cooling the CPU area, so long as the rear fan is fast enough.
    2.) Tom's tested the 212+, and it's only fair (not great). This months build was expected to reach high overclocks.
    3.) Tom's has also done an i7-860 build around six months ago, that CPU was one of the worst-overclocking i7's Tom's has ever used. Subtract around 4-8% in game performance for using x8 slots, and the value evaporates.
    4.) Would you build a $1000 machine that can't run DVD's? Then why would you build a $2000 machine that can't play BRD's? BRD's are close enough to mainstream that not having the capability should be the thing that "sticks out" IMO, but you do make a decent argument since this pick was based on an opinion.
    5.) Yeh, you saw how dual 470's smashed the performance of dual 5870's? Oh, that was a 5970...well there you go. 470's take the big win.
    So a4mula, points 1-3 and 5 are purely factual and based on testing. You might be able to win the opinion-based argument on #4, but whoever gave you the thumbs-up was also wrong so don't let popularity mislead you.
    11
  • maydaynomoresave yourself $1,700 and buy a PS3 or a Xbox. Games are ported to the PC anyways (except for a few titles). Fifa Soccer looks horrible on a pc, or any other sports game (which is what I mostly play anymore). Spend the money on a vaccation, college fund for your kids. How about a 50" TV with an xbox and a blue-ray player. PC gaming is dying...as much as I hate it, its true. Used to be an avid PC gamer. Defended PC gaming against console fanboys. Not anymore. I've given in... We lost, they won. This was somewhat of a close fight. Next round the PC will get knocked out. I hate it as much as you do, but its inevitable. You want someone to blame? Blame Pirates. They killed PC gaming.


    Games or no games, pirates or no pirates, there is nothing like custom building your own PC.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • ^ Very good selection of parts IMO...
    It still has a room for a SSD -> OCZ Vertex 2/ Agility 2 50GB or Vertex/ Agility 60GB...these both retail under $200...
    4
  • That's just sad! in 3 months your 2000$-3000$ investments depreciated at awful rate! and usually when an average customer builds a PC he at-least don't expect to repeat the process with-in few months.

    But, a good rig!for someone who is just about to build his new PC with that much budget!
    5
  • Maybe you guys should give away a $10,000 PC in September ;)

    Oh, and are those temps right? Nearly 93 C CPU temp when overclocked? I'd scale that back a bit...
    18
  • I wanted to enter the competition... but I live on the other side of the world :(

    Great build though, might have put a bit more money towards the case if I was building it
    6
  • I love SBMs, and the fact that I haven't built my p55 setup yet, and I'm sure the Megahalems will look great in my new case. Can't wait for the cheaper builds!
    5
  • Need a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.
    0
  • Can't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.

    I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.

    700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560.

    PSU that is being heavily overtaxed. You're risking the entire 2k machine by running 100w over the psus rated value. The only thing keeping this machine running is the fact that Silverstone makes high quality parts and you have a single rail. Had this of been a multi-rail you would have been pulling out a gpu, scaling back your overclocks, or buying a new psu. At some point you have to wonder if this is a safety hazard.

    Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.
    4
  • $50 cases with side opened>hiogh end case with side closed.
    And no, I've never had problems with dust. And I own a dog. Go figure.
    -4
  • IMO they should have taken an i5 750 (USD80 saved) and 4GB of CL7 1066-no game out there uses more than 2GB, more than 4GB is a waste(at least another USD40 saved). P55 mobo with 2x x8= USD 120. 80 saved. Total: USD200. Dual 5870's anyone? Don't forget- the 5970 has a lot of problems with CFire scaling- even a pair of 5850's can beat it in most cases, especially at 2560-blame crappy ATI drivers.......
    -4
  • RelayerNeed a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.
    Nobody thought it would draw more than 750W peak load. Even so, the article has been revised to show that the actual power output was only 660W to 680W, well below the unit's limits.
    a4mulaCan't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.I'm not seeing the point of the Blueray drive. If this was a bare bones value to performance build it sticks out like a sore thumb. 700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560. Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.
    It's OK a4mula, but you're completely wrong.
    1.) The air temperature in the case was excellent. Tom's has tested enough cases to know that smaller models that fit tightly around the CPU cooler do an excellent job of cooling the CPU area, so long as the rear fan is fast enough.
    2.) Tom's tested the 212+, and it's only fair (not great). This months build was expected to reach high overclocks.
    3.) Tom's has also done an i7-860 build around six months ago, that CPU was one of the worst-overclocking i7's Tom's has ever used. Subtract around 4-8% in game performance for using x8 slots, and the value evaporates.
    4.) Would you build a $1000 machine that can't run DVD's? Then why would you build a $2000 machine that can't play BRD's? BRD's are close enough to mainstream that not having the capability should be the thing that "sticks out" IMO, but you do make a decent argument since this pick was based on an opinion.
    5.) Yeh, you saw how dual 470's smashed the performance of dual 5870's? Oh, that was a 5970...well there you go. 470's take the big win.
    So a4mula, points 1-3 and 5 are purely factual and based on testing. You might be able to win the opinion-based argument on #4, but whoever gave you the thumbs-up was also wrong so don't let popularity mislead you.
    11
  • 8708 said:
    Nobody thought it would draw more than 750W peak load. If anyone involved with the project had known this, a larger unit would have been purchased.It's OK a4mula, but you're completely wrong. 1.) The air temperature in the case was excellent. Tom's has tested enough cases to know that smaller models that fit tightly around the CPU cooler do an excellent job of cooling the CPU area, so long as the rear fan is fast enough. 2.) Tom's tested the 212+, and it's only fair (not great). This months build was expected to reach high overclocks. 3.) Tom's has also done an i7-860 build around six months ago, that CPU was one of the worst-overclocking i7's Tom's has ever used. Subtract around 5-8% in game performance for using x8 slots, and the value evaporates. 4.) Would you build a $1000 machine that can't run DVD's? Then why would you build a $2000 machine that can't play BRD's? BRD's are close enough to mainstream that not having the capability should be the thing that "sticks out" IMO, but you do make a decent argument since this pick was based on an opinion. 5.) Yeh, you saw how dual 470's smashed the performance of dual 5870's? Oh, that was a 5970...well there you go. 470's take the big win. So a4mula, points 1-3 and 5 are purely factual and based on testing. You might be able to win the opinion-based argument on #4, but whoever gave you the thumbs-up was also wrong so don't let popularity mislead you.


    1) 21.6, 69.5!, 43.6, 69.9! Above Ambient? These are Excellent case temperatures? What are you used to using as a case, hell?

    2) 212+ Has been tested by multiple sources and it's consistently scored high across the board, matching and exceeding the TRUE in many comparisons.

    3) Lol, I find that humorous as the 860 is almost a consistently higher overclocker than the D0 920/930 and destroys the older C0. You may have been unfortunate with a bad binning, but any amount of time looking into the 860 and the p55 with it's lack of northbridge shows how strongly these chips perform. As far as your 5-8pct numbers for x8/x8 you're grossly misrepresenting the results. It came out to an average of 3pct.

    5) Sorry 5970 doesn't equal dual 5780's, nor does it equal dual 5850s even though it's clocked as such. Perhaps you haven't heard but crossfireX has a pretty major issue with memory management, and thus with scalability.

    I could care less about popularity. You put together a ragtag rig that I wouldn't trust to my worst enemy let alone to a follower of Tom's. You lacked focus, foresight, and worst of all you did it with no apologies.
    10
  • 214880 said:
    1) 21.6, 69.5!, 43.6, 69.9! Above Ambient? These are Excellent case temperatures? What are you used to using as a case, hell?
    I stuck a thermal probe inside the case and it runs around 10-over at the DRAM. Had I hung it further away from the board, it probably would have been better.
    214880 said:
    2) 212+ Has been tested by multiple sources and it's consistently scored high across the board, matching and exceeding the TRUE in many comparisons.
    10C worse than the best cooler in my test, see http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/lga-1156-heatsink,2535-14.html
    214880 said:
    3) Lol, I find that humorous as the 860 is almost a consistently higher overclocker than the D0 920/930 and destroys the older C0. You may have been unfortunate with a bad binning, but any amount of time looking into the 860 and the p55 with it's lack of northbridge shows how strongly these chips perform. As far as your 4-8pct numbers for x8/x8 you're grossly misrepresenting the results. It came out to an average of 3pct.
    I'll split it with you can call it "at least 4%" see http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/p55-pci-express-scaling,2517-10.html Chis says SLI scales better which is why I had to broaden my estimate. Then again, his findings are based on the 480 http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-480-3-way-sli-crossfire,2622.html
    214880 said:
    5) Sorry 5970 doesn't equal dual 5780's, nor does it equal dual 5850s even though it's clocked as such. Perhaps you haven't heard but crossfireX has a pretty major issue with memory management, and thus with scalability.
    Again I refer to Chris, since he and Don are the graphics gurus: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-5970,2474.html
    214880 said:
    I could care less about popularity. You put together a ragtag rig that I wouldn't trust to my worst enemy let alone to a follower of Tom's. You lacked focus, foresight, and worst of all you did it with no apologies.
    As you can see, my plan was well thought out and had far more forsight than yours because I actually went to the experts, rather than guessing a build off the top of my head. I really don't want to offend you, I just disaggree with you. Thanks.
    3
  • $2000 for a PC, are you crazy?? For $2000 I can buy like 4 iPads!
    -31
  • Some minor changes and this can be converted to a nice build
    1. Temps are too high for 24/7 use. Maybe clocking the CPU down a notch should help. I dont understand why no review site mentions IOH temps for X58 but whenever i see a build there is always a fan attached to it even with high end boards like Classified and Rampage series.
    2. 470 do scale very well in SLI but the amount of heat, power and noise are too uncomfortable. Better use 2 5850s, they do not perform as well but i dont think would render any game unplayable.
    3. The PSU used is already overtaxed and should be upgraded to 900-1000W unit (if using 470 SLI). Forget room for expandability, i doubt it would last a couple of months of rigorous use. This PSU should do well with 2 5850s though.
    4. A SSD for boot is definetly required with 50 GB Vertex 2 available for $200 and Intel 80GB for $220, i think its a must have for a system like this.
    5. A better case is also needed like Antec 902 or CM 690 II
    7
  • You should of picked a different board. Surely Asus or MSI had something comparable that didn't have the slots so close together. You're choking those video cards.
    0
  • Also, I'd like to see an article where you guys take some graphics cards apart and put a better thermal compound on the card. It doesn't take that much time. I did it on my HD 4770 and it lowered my idle temps by 6C. In a hot case like this, little things like thermal compound can make a difference.
    1
  • Another thing that would be reeeeeally interesting to see what kind of performance one could squeeze out of some of the absolutely cheapest parts. How well does hardware from the smaller and/or virtually unknown brands perform? =)
    I mean... How many times have you not choosen the well known brand over the one with the strange or unknown name only because of just that - The name? I know I do...

    Thank you for some interesting reading... As allways =)
    3
  • save yourself $1,700 and buy a PS3 or a Xbox. Games are ported to the PC anyways (except for a few titles). Fifa Soccer looks horrible on a pc, or any other sports game (which is what I mostly play anymore). Spend the money on a vaccation, college fund for your kids. How about a 50" TV with an xbox and a blue-ray player. PC gaming is dying...as much as I hate it, its true. Used to be an avid PC gamer. Defended PC gaming against console fanboys. Not anymore. I've given in... We lost, they won. This was somewhat of a close fight. Next round the PC will get knocked out. I hate it as much as you do, but its inevitable.
    You want someone to blame? Blame Pirates. They killed PC gaming.
    -21
  • PoisonerYou should of picked a different board. Surely Asus or MSI had something comparable that didn't have the slots so close together. You're choking those video cards.


    PoisonerAlso, I'd like to see an article where you guys take some graphics cards apart and put a better thermal compound on the card. It doesn't take that much time. I did it on my HD 4770 and it lowered my idle temps by 6C. In a hot case like this, little things like thermal compound can make a difference.


    It was said in the article that the cards have some extra ventilation holes on top of the card especially meant for SLI, besides temps were kept in check even after ocing and noise was not tested in this article so this really isn't an issue.

    Antec 300 isn't a hot case my friend, far from that. In terms of airflow it beats most other cases hands down which sometimes cost much more.
    3
  • Things I liked:
    -Great PSU. That thing ranks similarly to Corsairs modular HX series and Antec's new TruePower series in my book.
    -The HD103SJ Samsung Harddrive. This can actually be purchased for a lot cheaper than ~$80 in many instances, making it a decently performing, high storage/cost ratio hard drive.

    Things I disliked:
    -SLI 470s. I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with the ultra-sized dice Nvidia decided to use for their project. While I understand the price-performance ratio was being the primary concern here, I still don't agree with the what you've sacrificed to accomplish that. BUT I'm an ATI fanboy, take this with a gallon of salt.
    -Antec Three Hundred Illusion. Really? Take a look at the CM 690 II Advanced for just a couple dozen bucks more... that might have solved much of your case-related problems. *cough* temperatures *cough*
    -SSD. I know, I know, it has little effect on gaming performance, but anyone who has used a decent SSD in any configuration knows what difference it makes. Shave off enough seconds in loading times here and there, you're saving quite yourself quite a bit of time (and frustration).
    5