Case, Power, And CPU Cooler
Case: Lian Li PC-9NA
ASRock’s X79 Extreme6 motherboard appeared to be a bargain, but that bargain came at the cost of slot layout. Since each graphics card requires an extra slot for cooling, a third card in the board’s bottom slot necessitated a case with an eighth expansion slot.
Read Customer Reviews of Lian Li's PC-9NA
Finding an eight-slot case for $100 wouldn’t be easy, since Newegg’s search engine bundles them with 7+1 (side slot) units. That eighth slot needed to be directly beneath the seventh slot in standard spacing. Combining fair performance with high build quality, Lian Li’s PC-9N should have sufficed…before the price went up. Currently, the black version is $95.
Power: Corsair HX850
My search for an 80 PLUS Gold (or better) power supply that could feed three GeForce GTX 760 graphics cards and a power-hungry Sandy Bridge-E-based CPU was complicated by the need to keep its price under $150. After scrolling past a list of brands I’ve never tested, Corsair’s HX850 became the clear choice.
Read Customer Reviews of Corsair's HX850
Semi-modular design means all the cables Corsair thinks you’ll need (motherboard and dual 6+2-pin PCIe) are permanently connected to the unit. Removable cables (four 6+2-pin PCIe, secondary EPS12V, and several SATA power cables) are packed in a separate bag.
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14 SE2011
Sandy Bridge-E-based processors are known to run hot. In fact, they require so much cooling that Intel doesn’t even pack them with its own solution. The firm instead suggests separately purchasing its own branded version of Asetek’s closed-loop liquid cooler.
Read Customer Reviews of Noctua's NH-D14 SE2011
But sealed liquid systems don’t do a very good job of cooling the motherboard-mounted voltage regulator, so I instead picked the award-winning Noctua NH-D14. Though the standard kit can be installed in LGA 1366 fashion, the SE2011 kit adds special springs and standoffs for LGA 2011’s integrated mounting bracket.
On the other hand, Paul's single GPU was OK with 2GB. I figured we'd need a jump to 4GB with 3-way on his GPU, but 3GB on the 7970 probably would have been enough. Also, a total difference of $60 still would have fit within the budget limit, so, maybe Ivy-Bridge E and Radeons for the next build?
In order to prove what you're saying, I would have needed to search for worse-performing overpriced parts. You'll see on Day 4 that this build has the best performance of the three. So this build actually doesn't prove anything, except maybe that six core processors boost six-core benchmarks and that more graphics power gives you better frame rates at 5760x1080 (etc). But we didn't actually need any proof for those things, did we?
Tom, the future builds need to have better budget tiers. The doubling of the funds in each tier is fine in certain cases but it doesn't provide real insight into hardware choices. Having the tiers with a fixed figure increase such as a $250-400 increase in budget per tier would make more sense. Also, I would love to see the comeback of the $500 budget builds.
Lastly, what happen to the idea of themes each quarter?