System Builder Marathon, Q4 2012: $2,000 Performance PC

Building Our $2,000 PC

Even though our case is designed to allow easy CPU cooler installation, we had an even easier time getting everything set up out in the open. A support plate mounted behind the motherboard spreads the load of Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo cooler.

Four standoffs inserted from the motherboard’s top side are secured to its underside via a quartet of nuts, holding the support plate in place prior to heat sink installation.

Attached with two clip-on brackets, removing the Hyper 212 Evo’s fan gives us access to the mounting bracket's screws. Each screw is held into bracket holes with a clip and two springs, and pulling a screw outward allows it to be slid into a different mounting position.

The Storm Enforcer’s 2.5” drive cage blocks half of our power supply's cable ends, making the feature appear as though it was added simply to pad the enclosure's specifications sheet without regard to its usefulness. Secured by two screws and two slide tabs, we simply remove it.

The case includes one 3.5” adapter, as does Mushkin’s SSD. We used the one that came with the SSD, along with two of its included screws.

Optional screw holes in Cooler Master’s drive rails lack recessed holes. So, we put the screws on the inside of the tray. With the screws now acting as locating pins, the enclosure's drive cage holds the rails firmly against the adapter tray.

Another set of holes in the adapter tray would have allowed it to be installed forward, placing its SATA connector on the same vertical plane as that of a 3.5” drive. We instead favored mechanical support near the mounting rail latches, as shown in the photo above.

Cooler Master’s Storm Enforcer holds our high end configuration with little room to spare, as MSI’s 11” Radeon HD 7970s push the limits of compatible card length.

An LED-equipped fan lights the front of our finished build in red, making it impossible to hide this case in a power user’s office. Although this wasn’t our intent, the combination of powerful graphics and playful aesthetics make this a gaming machine that can also do productive work, rather than vice versa.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Novuake
    Yeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...
  • Crashman
    NovuakeYeah, should have gone for an ASRock board at the same price point...Maybe, maybe not, motherboard market has changed a little since the parts were bought and I've since seen some D5-series Gigabyte boards (with their better PWM) drop to $ least temporarily.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Too much of cheap CPU coolers
  • For the next SBM build, use the "SAMSUNG 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) MV-3V4G3D/US". People are posting low timings with very high frequencies. Plus it is low profile (half the size of every other non-heatsink memory modules on the market) and operates at 1.35v (overvolt it to 1.65v without worry).
  • kj3639
    After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!

    -Good Job
  • herooftimex
    Suggested changes:

    Core i5 3570k - savings of $120
    2x - MSI N670 PE 2GD5/OC - $800 (gtx 670 OC'd to 1019 core clock)

    Rosewill FORTRESS-750 - $140 (80 plus platinum + 7 year limited warranty)
    LIAN LI PC-7B plus II - $100 (gamer cases look tacky, less is more)
    I think Toms needs a new article: "The Dream Build" with gaming in mind.
  • Darkerson
    kj3639After building that awful piledriver rig you go ahead and do something like this... and totally REDEEM YOURSELVES!!!-Good JobThey really had nothing to redeem themselves about. They went with something a little different, just to try it out. Id rather they go off the beaten path so we can get a better idea of how these builds would turn out without having to buy and build them ourselves.
    Also, if they didnt try something different, they would almost always be cookie-cutter builds until the next big thing came out. No thanks!
    At any rate, this is a really nice build. Have to say, though, I would be happy to win any of these.
  • C12Friedman
    My first thought, I kept going back to it also, was the motherboard, why? I kept going 2nd page, 1st page, 2nd page, back to first page, confusion reigned in my head. Took me a while to get past the second page. But since it was addressed at the end of the article, I guess it's known.
  • One think to consider are both Q3 and Q4 systems future proof. It's important for games and serious task to be able to extend life of your PC and Q4 in this category is certainly penny wise but pound foolish.