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System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $3,000 Extreme PC

Constantly-advancing technologies assure that “future proof” systems will never exist. But a little consideration of near-term improvements should allow a system to remain useful a little while longer than some of the haphazard tier-one builds we still see from time to time.

To that end, we believe we’ve covered every aspect of upgradeability in today’s high-priced build. Easy upgrades such as additional memory modules, an additional graphics card, or even a replacement CPU with additional cores should be able to keep this particular system near the top of the performance curve for at least a year or two, and we even have the extra power supply capacity to support those upgrades.

Overclocking did push us up against the limits of our 2x 120mm radiator, but not before we reached impressive 62% CPU and 31% GPU overclocks. Those who’d like to push the GPU farther will find that the case and pump can easily handle an upgrade to a 3x 120mm replacement, and that this type of upgrade can still be made within our original budget.

Yet we’d have preferred a second high-capacity storage drive for similar money, to enable RAID 1 redundancy. With no consensus between builders and readers over the value of these features, pocketing the price difference was an easy way to avoid conflict.

Raising the budget for this month’s system allowed us to avoid regret completely, with an extra $400 spent on cooling (including the more expensive video card model) that would have otherwise forced us to sacrifice the SSD drives. Reaching our goals without pushing the limit of this new budget should help this system score extra points in Thursday’s value analysis.

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