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Budget Stretchers: The Motherboard And Power Supply

System Builder Marathon, August 2012: Alternative $2000 Gaming PC

Motherboard: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3

If the first thing you spotted on our parts list was the motherboard, you might have figured out our original plan. We wanted this build to include three-way SLI. Unfortunately, Intel's Z77 Express chipset barely supports two cards, dropping each to eight third-gen lanes. Knowing that we couldn't fit three $400 cards (the GTX 660 Ti wasn't even close to available at the time) and an unlocked high-end CPU into our $2000 budget, we began making plans for an alternative solution.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's G1.Sniper 3

Every video card in an SLI array operates on the same data, which helps explain why the total available memory in a multi-card configuration equals the capacity of one board.

It also explains the purpose of a feature that Nvidia used to call Broadcast in its older NF200 switch, which repeated data to multiple links simultaneously. Supposedly, this capability is built-in to the PCI Express 3.0 specification, and PLX is able to multicast 16 lanes of traffic to four slots via its 48-lane PEX 8747 bridge. Gigabyte uses that component to enable four-way SLI on its G1.Sniper 3.

The G1.Sniper 3 isn’t the only motherboard to include the PEX 8747 bridge, but it is the cheapest one that Newegg had in stock. A reasonable price didn’t prevent Gigabyte from stacking the package with features, from its on-board Killer E2200 networking and Creative CA0132 audio controllers to its added-in 802.11n module with Bluetooth capabilities. A robust bundle of features makes the G1.Sniper 3 appear a killer deal, in spite of the fact that it cost more than twice as much as many of the Z77 Express-based motherboards we’ve reviewed.

Power Supply: Seasonic X-1050

Seasonic manufactures some of the most stable power supplies we’ve used, but often charges less than some of our other top picks. We again shot for a part that would at least support three-way SLI out of the box, and found it in the X-Series X-1050 (part number SS-1050XM).

Read Customer Reviews of Seasonic's X-1050

This amazingly capable unit outputs up to 87 A of power on a single 12 V rail without skipping a beat on efficiency. It features full modular cabling that could (unofficially) support up to four graphics cards without a need for adapters. Included cables are packed in a stylish black and gold bag.

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