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System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Bonus Build

Component Installation And GPU Overclocking

Outlined in our September $2000 Build, Scythe’s CPU cooler sandwiches the CPU between bottom-mounted brackets and an under-socket support plate. Antec’s Three Hundred series cases have an access hole in the motherboard tray specifically to address this task, but manually aligning the mounting holes of the cooler, motherboard and support plate is most easily accomplished with the motherboard outside the case and the cooler laying on a bench, upside-down.

Dexterous builders will note that the same method can be accomplished with the motherboard inside the case, by using a 5/8”–thick book as a spacer beneath the inverted CPU cooler, raising it to motherboard level with the case laying “access side” facing down.

Because the fan of this oversized cooler overlaps memory sockets, it should be attached using supplied clips only after the memory has been installed.

We then installed the hard drives, followed by the power supply and graphics card. This installation order makes it easiest to hide excess power cable length behind the hard drive cage.

Note that even though we used both CrossFire bridge cables, two cards require only one. The second cable normally connects a third card, but it was added to this build for the sake of appearance.

We loaded Windows and immediately moved on to overclocking and stability tests. AMD’s Overdrive utility limits this card to 950 MHz maximum core clock and GDDR5-5800, and we’ve had poor experience with clock-unlocking programs.

AMD’s automatic fan controls appear to err on the side of reduced noise, forcing a crash after extended testing. We manually increased the fan speed to 45%, but anyone who wants less noise at idle can instead use MSI’s Afterburner utility to create a custom fan profile.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.