System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $2550 Performance PC

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.

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  • rolli59
    Nice one I got surprised, Tri SLI! I can see why editors wanted to try it knowing that the GTX770 is just an power efficient and overclocked GTX680.
  • CaptainTom
    3x7970's would decimate this build for the same amount of money...
  • slomo4sho
    The gaming benchmarks are surprisingly disappointing. Maybe going with a 3770K/4770k with three 7970 or 770 may have provides better results.
  • Crashman
    741589 said:
    3x7970's would decimate this build for the same amount of money...
    Not sure about decimating, but it would have cost a little more and not filled Paul's curiosity. IIRC, the 760 4GB's were around $20 cheaper on order day.

    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?

    52743 said:
    This build proves that spending the most money does not equal to best performance.
    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?
  • lp231
    This build proves that spending the most money does not equal to best performance. It's all about balance and most of the time, it's getting 2 or more graphic cards that drives these systems pass the $2K mark. If I had $2550 to spend on a build, I know that half of the $2550 won't be going towards 3 graphic cards.
  • slomo4sho
    8708 said:
    Maybe Ivy-Bridge E and Radeons for the next build?


    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?
  • CaptainTom
    ^ Check the prices. A 7970 is the same price as the 4GB 760's. A 7970 is 20% faster than the a 760 and that lead grows at higher resolutions. Just look at how 3x7970's gain on 3xTitans...
  • CaptainTom
    ^ Check the prices. A 7970 is the same price as the 4GB 760's. A 7970 is 20% faster than the a 760 and that lead grows at higher resolutions. Just look at how 3x7970's gain on 3xTitans...
  • Yargnit
    I'm assuming going with Nvida as opposed to AMD video cards had to do with AMD not fully supporting frame-pacing across multiple monitors and all settings. Thus with 3-way video cards they wanted to go with what would provide the smoothest experience.
  • persuse
    not overclockable ram ?
  • piklar
    SLI GTX 780s with 4770K combo would smash this build out of the park for the same cost. Also a case with decent airflow might have been better..
  • slomo4sho
    700372 said:
    SLI GTX 780s with 4770K combo would smash this build out of the park for the same cost. Also a case with decent airflow might have been better..


    Not quite... the three cards, CPU, and motherboard total $1690.
    2x 780 = $1300
    This would leave $390 for the CPU and board... The 4770K is currently $340 so you end up with $50 for the board. Although the extra $75-100 may have resulted in better performance than what is observed in this article, going with 3 7970s with a 4770K may have provided better performance at a lower cost.
  • ojas
    Agree with Yargnit, CrossFire performance isn't something to write home about.

    @Article: I guess this build is more balanced as it does everything well, though a part of me is a bit dissappointed with the gaming benchies.

    SB-E's showing it's age, i guess.

    Thomas: Time to upgrade your gaming benchmarks, maybe? Games like Crysis 3 should be included IMO. FC3 is a good thing to keep. BF3, maybe not.

    Other suggestions:
    Arma 3, TW: Rome II.
  • Plusthinking Iq
    at 2k and above, there should not be any hhd's, just ssd, evo 750gb maybe, hdd is sad. and one 780, sli is not worth it, i do not agree with cheap all in one closed watercooling, to noisy, expensive and noisy is bad, and in a few years its slow and noisy pc.
  • Traciatim
    These crazy over priced special purpose machines are kind of silly. We already know tri-sli doesn't scale well unless you a pushing a huge amount of pixels. Thr huge budgets make it so it's easy to go overboard on something in almost every tier. I think you should keep it at 500-1000-1500. At least that way the budget causes the machines to have some better constraints.
  • Crashman
    1413468 said:
    at 2k and above, there should not be any hhd's, just ssd, evo 750gb maybe, hdd is sad.
    That my friend is an opinion. And one in fact that many of us would consider wrong. If you had the money for a 750GB SSD and a bunch of storage, you could buy three 2 TB HDD's for RAID 5 and have enough money left for an expensive dinner.
  • piklar
    Id have gone for the $2600 to see how far I could push it performance wise. A 4770K with SLI GTX 780s, $340 for the 4770K , $1300 for the cards, MSI Z87-G45 for $145 , Ripjaws X Series (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 for $80 totals $1865 leaving $735 towards the case Raven RV03 for airflow, decent 900-1000W PSU, Cooling (hyper 212 Evo would be fine in push/pull) SSD - Samsung 840 EVO 250gb with 2TB of storage is fine and any cheapo diskdrive dvd burner. This build would destroy the build in the article..
  • iam2thecrowe
    741589 said:
    3x7970's would decimate this build for the same amount of money...


    yes it might produce more FPS as recorded by FRAPS...............but would not produce smoother game play
  • iam2thecrowe
    700372 said:
    Id have gone for the $2600 to see how far I could push it performance wise. A 4770K with SLI GTX 780s, $340 for the 4770K , $1300 for the cards, MSI Z87-G45 for $145 , Ripjaws X Series (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 for $80 totals $1865 leaving $735 towards the case Raven RV03 for airflow, decent 900-1000W PSU, Cooling (hyper 212 Evo would be fine in push/pull) SSD - Samsung 840 EVO 250gb with 2TB of storage is fine and any cheapo diskdrive dvd burner. This build would destroy the build in the article..


    i totally agree with this, but i would figure out how to fit a corsair h100 liquid cooler in there. Even just a pair of 770's overclocked would have been a good choice.
  • Onus
    Who would build and use this PC, other than a tech-site hardware editor? I really believe the actual [type of] user needs to be identified for the high-tier "professional" PC. As a result, once again I'm disappointed in what looks like clear lack of value in this build. I usually stew over my responses to these builds, and I'll have more to say about this one, but I really didn't care for it. Hopefully my contemplations over the next few hours will answer the "Why?" question a little better. As it is, I'm really looking forward to seeing the value that one of you guys squeezes out of the $350 build.
  • geok1ng
    Strike 3. TH managed to epic fail on all 3 builds this quarter. More of the same: picking a CPU that you know will not overclock well, pair it with 4GB VGAs for gaming titles that you know do not need 4GB and do not have the juice to actually run anything that really needs 4GB and this is the end result: a hot powerhog, overpriced piece of hardware. As BOFH would say: an steaming turd.
  • Crashman
    178001 said:
    Strike 3. TH managed to epic fail on all 3 builds this quarter. More of the same: picking a CPU that you know will not overclock well, pair it with 4GB VGAs for gaming titles that you know do not need 4GB and do not have the juice to actually run anything that really needs 4GB and this is the end result: a hot powerhog, overpriced piece of hardware. As BOFH would say: an steaming turd.
    Strike 3 for a guy who doesn't know much about computers. Look at the benchmark results and the recent 4k gaming article to see why extra cores boosted scores, extra GPUs boosted 4800 and 5760, and extra GDDR5 was needed to run 5760 reliably. Unlike the other guy's opinion that capacity can't justify the use of an HDD, your complete argument is counter-factual. Good day!
  • Plusthinking Iq
    8708 said:
    1413468 said:
    at 2k and above, there should not be any hhd's, just ssd, evo 750gb maybe, hdd is sad.
    That my friend is an opinion. And one in fact that many of us would consider wrong. If you had the money for a 750GB SSD and a bunch of storage, you could buy three 2 TB HDD's for RAID 5 and have enough money left for an expensive dinner.


    ssd is not an opinion, is fastest 1 unit solution, and the best solution is less parts, highest speed, stop holding back the future by buying a hhd,
  • sarinaide
    They were certainly not aiming for prettiest rig around.