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Graphics And RAM

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

Graphics: PowerColor Liquid-Cooled Radeon HD 5970

Looking for a better price on the performance seen in our previous-build’s twin Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards, we quickly decided on a single Radeon HD 5970. Beyond cost savings, the dual-GPU card allows easy upgrades to quad-GPU CrossFireX whenever graphics performance begins to feel “dated.” Fortunately, none of the air-cooled cards we would have chosen were available when we placed our order.

Read Customer Reviews of PowerColor's Liquid-Cooled Radeon HD 5970

What turned the lack of air-cooled cards into a good thing was that it forced us to think beyond basic performance-per-dollar and instead consider the ultimate benefit of liquid cooling an ultra-hot card. Less hot air in the case means less extensive cooling requirements for other components like RAM and the CPU voltage regulator. Even the graphics card itself should overclock better with the limits of its stock cooling solution removed. Looking forward to future upgrades, a second air-cooled card could have partially blocked the cooling fan of the first, but liquid cooling avoids such conflicts.

RAM: Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS 9

Fortified with Micron’s D9KPT memory, Crucial’s unadorned DDR3-1333 CAS 9 modules consistently win our value-overclocking comparisons by reaching higher speeds at a lower price than competing brands that often use the same parts. Those second-place competitors have heat spreaders attached with double-sided thermal tape, a method we believe hinders cooling at the low-voltage levels used with Core i7 processors.

Read Customer Reviews of Crucial's DDR3-1333 CAS9 Kit

Supporting data rates as high as DDR3-1990 and DDR3-1600 latencies of 8-7-7-18, these low-key, low-cost CT3KIT25664BA1339 triple-channel 6GB kits have found their way into previous SBMs for nearly a year.

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