Inputs And Outputs
For such a fully-featured board, the output options are somewhat sparse. There’s only one network connector, controlled by the onboard Killer e2100—a second network port would have been appreciated. Audio outputs include analog (via 1/8" mini-jacks) and digital (via optical and S/PDIF) options. There are eight USB ports here, four 3.0 and four 2.0 connectors.
Keep in mind that there are also two USB 3.0 ports on the front-access control panel and an eSATA/USB combo port (not seen here).
Kingston Memory Overkill
So much else about this build is ludicrously overpowered that we thought Kingston’s HyperX T1 Black memory modules would be a perfect fit. Three 4 GB sticks of the stuff results in a a total 12 GB of DDR3 RAM running at 1600 MT/s. Note the colossal heat sinks (like you didn’t already).
Samsung SSD For Silence And Speed
No high-end build is complete without an SSD, so we’re using Samsung’s 470 series (specifically the 256 GB MZ5PA256HMDR). With 250 MB/s read and 220 MB/s write speeds quoted by the manufacturer, this drive is a solid contribution to this stunner system. Of course, we’ll need something larger than 256 GB for user data, and that’s where Seagate’s Barracuda XT 2 TB comes in.
Thermaltake's 1200 Watt Beast
The Thermaltake Toughpower 1200 W PSU combines an incredible 112 combined amps on four 12 V rails with the convenience of modular cables. Of course, if you’re using four graphics cards, you’re probably going to need all of the PCI Express connectors you can get your hands on. We even needed two extra Molex-to-PCIe adapters to get a total of eight PCIe connectors, in this case to feed four Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards.
Twelve Threads Under The Hood: Intel's Core i7-990X
The Core i7-990X is Intel's ultra high-end consumer flagship. Sandy Bridge might overclock and scale better than Gulftown, but there are no six-core models based on the more mainstream design as of yet.
In any case, the Core i7-990X's 3.46/3.73 GHz base/Turbo Boost clocks and unlocked multiplier are nothing to sniff at. While the Core i7-2600K might occasionally show a slim advantage in gaming situations, it cannot help but cede victory to the more complex 6C/12T configuration in more heavily-threaded applications.
At $1000, Intel's top-of-the-line CPU might be overpriced. But there are folks out there willing to pay whatever it takes to get the best-of-the-best. For now, the Core i7-990X is it.
Zerotherm Nirvana NV120 Cooler
Zerotherm’s Nirvana NV120 has proven itself capable of keeping overclocked CPUs running cool enough in our lab, and with a minimum noise footprint to boot. While we know there are higher-end air coolers (and indeed, liquid coolers that'd fit in this chassis), the Nirvana doesn't have a problem with our Intel Core i7-990X Extreme.
And here she is in all of her glory: Gigabyte’s G1.Assassin motherboard in Cooler Master’s extra-large HAF-X case, the six-core Intel Core i7-990X cooled by Zerotherm's Nirvana NV120, 12 GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM, a Samsung 256 GB SSD, Thermaltake's Toughpower 1200 W PSU, and four Gigabyte Radeon HD 5870s.
You can certainly make quad-CrossFire with four dual-slot cards a reality with this setup, but even with the extra space there isn't a lot of breathing room for graphics cards. This combination of hardware makes for a great open-case picture. However, it deserves four Radeon HD 6950 cards at the very least. The quartet of Radeon HD 5870s we had on hand for testing doesn't scale as well as the newer models (when they're running correctly). At the end of the day, they perform on par with three Radeon HD 6950s in three-way CrossFire.
Unfortunately we don't have four Radeon HD 6950s on hand, so we'll have to revisit this monster when we can throw in the graphics muscle it deserves. Until then, we can dream about the things our dream machine might be capable of doing in the latest titles.