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Motherboard And Case

System Builder Marathon, June 2011: $2000 Performance PC
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We put the two big changes up front in today’s build.

Motherboard: ASRock Z68 Extreme4

A simple PCIe bridge was enough to put ASRock’s Z68 Extreme4 far above its competitors in our recent roundup, and even earned it an award following hotly-contested races in both performance and overclocking. That PCIe bridge made this the only board in the competition that could support an upgrade to three-way CrossFire without sacrificing a slew of on-board features, compared to its competitor’s configuration that shed functionality in a three-way graphics setup.

Read Customer Reviews of ASRock's Z68 Extreme4


While we chose not to use the four-lane slot for today’s test, we still wanted the system to provide our giveaway winner the option to do so later. Of course, they’d need an eight-slot case for that.

Case: Lian-Li PC-9F

Our case needs were fairly specific: at least two 120 mm intake fans must deliver air to the graphics cards and GPU cooler before the air exits the graphics card and rear-panel exhaust. A single 180 mm fan would also work, but anything smaller would not. Antec’s low-cost Three Hundred Illusion filled that role admirably in the past, but we also needed eight slots this time. The newer One Hundred has the extra slot, but lacks the quality materials used in the Three Hundred.

Stepping down from a good $65 case wasn’t an acceptable option for our $2000 build, so we decided to step up.

Read Customer Reviews of Lian-Li's PC-9F


The PC-9F increases fan size to 140 mm, while partly blocking that extra airflow with a sideways drive cage that makes installation easier. It also gets rid of the flashy LEDs to draw more attention to its brushed aluminum finish.

The PC-9F doesn’t include a top fan like the Antec Three Hundred, but it does have a mount for one. Removing a brushed-aluminum filler panel allows an included mesh fan cover to be installed in its place, but we didn’t even bother to order a separate fan for this location. This builder believes that a good rear-panel fan is the best solution for the removal of CPU heat from the case, and kept his fingers crossed that the included rear-panel fan would be good enough.

Display all 115 comments.
Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    fyasko , June 21, 2011 7:37 AM
    tacoslaveBULLDOZER!!!!


    WHERE!?!?!?
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    regenon , June 21, 2011 4:42 AM
    I gess u wanted to say:
    A pair of Radeon HD 6950s beats a pair of GeForce GTX 570s at our 2560x1600 target resolution, and the HD 6970 is even faster.
  • 7 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 21, 2011 4:52 AM
    Finally you made a decent choice regarding the case. I could not believe you went with the Antec 300s on previous builds of this category.
  • 5 Hide
    buzznut , June 21, 2011 4:59 AM
    I agree, though some may care less for what's on the outside I can't see putting together a $2000 PC with a 50 dolla case.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , June 21, 2011 5:09 AM
    Yes, I am pleased to see a classy looking Lian Li case being used and not one of those gargoyle-inspired transformer-looking abominations that appeal only to google-eyed children and pimply-faced teenagers. That an adult might actually purchase that sort of monstrosity damped my hope for the future of the supposedly mature population of this world!
  • 8 Hide
    amk09 , June 21, 2011 5:30 AM
    I would do anything to get a rig like this, sucks growing up in a poor family :( 
  • 0 Hide
    hmp_goose , June 21, 2011 5:35 AM
    So it's now considered "safe" to RAID 0 SSDs? I thought Tom's once had a big "here be dragons" label for that practice …
  • 1 Hide
    compton , June 21, 2011 5:38 AM
    I too like the upgrade to a Lian Li. I didn't have a problem with the SBM method of fitting into a tightly constrained budget - but it's still good to see an attractive system as well as impressive performance. If someone is building a $2000 system, they can pony up a couple extra bucks for a better case. The System Builder Marathon is one of the best things going.
  • 6 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , June 21, 2011 5:41 AM
    Again, another great high-end build (very similar to previous build), and my only real complaint (albeit a small one) from the last $2000 system was also addressed, the case.

    Are you guys satisfied with your decision to go with a higher-end case? Have you noticed any tangible benefits? For example, lower system temps, better build quality, better cable management, more interior room to work, additional features, etc...?
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , June 21, 2011 5:51 AM
    Great looking case. Looks better than my own Lian Li/Lancool Dragon Lord case.
  • -5 Hide
    whysobluepandabear , June 21, 2011 6:04 AM
    Todd SauveYes, I am pleased to see a classy looking Lian Li case being used and not one of those gargoyle-inspired transformer-looking abominations that appeal only to google-eyed children and pimply-faced teenagers. That an adult might actually purchase that sort of monstrosity damped my hope for the future of the supposedly mature population of this world!



    You give vivid details describing children and teenagers, but might I add something for the adults? Something like: "That a wrinkly, weaker and deteriorating adult might actually purchase". Something along those lines - we must make those adults look like old fuddy-duddies, whom are at the brink of a midlife crisis any moment now!
  • 9 Hide
    Travis Beane , June 21, 2011 6:06 AM
    I've put a lot more money than that into my PC, and yet I've got a lot less.
    Damn you evolving technology.
    :'( 
  • -7 Hide
    fstrthnu , June 21, 2011 6:28 AM
    Anybody else think it's about time for Intel to release the Sandy Bridge Extreme-edition processors? We could really use hexa-core sandy bridge by now
  • 2 Hide
    R6ex , June 21, 2011 6:41 AM
    Time to change to a GTX 580 SLI or Asus Mars 2 set-up for the next SBM.

    I'm tired of this Radeon Crossfire set-up for the past half year.

    Don't forget to check out the 8-cores Bulldozer as well.
  • 1 Hide
    prisoner37 , June 21, 2011 6:59 AM
    hmp_gooseSo it's now considered "safe" to RAID 0 SSDs? I thought Tom's once had a big "here be dragons" label for that practice …


    there was a recent article about this, where they discussed that in raid0 drive performance scales as you add drives, so by taking 2 drives with a 250mb/s write rate, you get nearly 500 mb/s. so not only is it safe, it adds performance

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-raid-iops,2848.html is the article
  • -7 Hide
    tacoslave , June 21, 2011 6:59 AM
    BULLDOZER!!!!
  • 20 Hide
    fyasko , June 21, 2011 7:37 AM
    tacoslaveBULLDOZER!!!!


    WHERE!?!?!?
  • 0 Hide
    miltduds , June 21, 2011 8:26 AM
    Its nice to see appearance being taking into consideration again when spending 2000 dollars on a rig. It does feel like something is missing though when the CPU doeskin have six cores or a "X" in it's name.
  • 4 Hide
    jeroly , June 21, 2011 9:04 AM
    So 3 months of progress gets us a slower machine with slower optical read speeds and a crappier cpu heatsink/fan?

    Choosing an inferior hs/f in order to save a couple of bucks is not the kind of choice we're looking to see in a $2000 'top-of-the-line' rig, btw

    Moreover, perhaps the hs/f choice is why you couldn't overclock this one as much as the last one.

  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , June 21, 2011 9:55 AM
    dragonsqrrlHave you noticed any tangible benefits? For example, lower system temps, better build quality, better cable management, more interior room to work, additional features, etc...?
    Nope. In fact the Three Hundred Illusion has slightly better airflow at the intake due to its longitudinal hard drive cages. But the transverse hard drive cage is easier to use, and the system still had more than enough airflow for the parts selected.
  • 0 Hide
    srgess , June 21, 2011 10:16 AM
    2000$ wtf ! I came to 1807$. Perso i would change case, videocard,ssd,cpu cooler. I guess you added extra 100-200$ for screen, OS.

    Seasonic SS-850HT: 125$
    XIGMATEK Gaia SD1283: 30$
    2x A-Data S599 SSD: 120$ x2 (240$)
    Lian-Li PC-9F :106$
    LG WH10LS30: 89$
    2x MSI R6970: 320$ x2 (640$)
    8 GB G.Skill DDR3-1600: 74$
    Intel Core i7-2600K: 314$
    ASRock Z68 Extreme4: 189$
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