System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2009: $2,500 Performance PC

CPU Cooling And Case

CPU Cooler: Xigmatek HDT-S1284 and Crossbow Bracket

Our choice of graphics put so much strain on our budget that we could no longer afford a liquid-cooled X58 platform. But the good news was that LGA 1156 didn’t need liquid cooling to reach good clock speeds--or so we thought. We were, after all, reaching 4.3 GHz “on air” by using a Core i7-870 in motherboard reviews.

Read Customer Reviews of Xigmatek's HDT-S1284EE

Unfortunately, the huge cooler from our motherboard reviews wasn’t available at Newegg when we placed our order. Instead, the only 120mm cooler we could find in-stock to fit LGA 1156 was Xigmatek’s HDT-S1284EE, and even then we needed to purchase the company’s Crossbow ACK-I5363 bracket to complete its installation. The combination of a $39 cooler and an $8 bracket would remain a good value compared to liquid-cooling systems, but only if it could meet our performance expectations.

Case: Lian-Li PC-K7B

Our other big-budget sacrifice would be the case, yet our lack of liquid cooling meant that we no longer needed one that could support a dual-fan radiator. For around $30 less than our previously selected NZXT Panzerbox, the Lian-Li PC-K7B would do the job.

Read Customer Reviews of Lian-Li's PC-K7B

Lian-Li’s legendary build quality still applies to this cheaper, steel-framed part, which was available for only $80 when we placed our order. An excellent panel fit and the quality-appearance of an anodized-aluminum shell make this part a good value, even at its current $90 price.

Small enough to look good on most desks, Lian-Li fits this particular model with top-panel buttons and jacks that are more useful in under-desk use. While a major annoyance to this editor, we understand that many readers prefer the alternative placement.

The PC-K7B is, in fact, one of the few sub-$100 cases to support Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards, something more popular cases such as the Cooler Master Storm Scout can’t accomplish without major modifications. Dual intake fans are balanced by a single exhaust and the power supply’s intake for a well-designed cooling path.

Lian-Li’s refined exterior is countered by the rugged look of its competitors, making appearance a matter of preference. However, the PC-K7B certainly looks more expensive than it really is, and we believe those pricey looks are a good match for the system’s $2,500 budget.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • noob2222
    If you went with the 5970, this build would have been fine, but with using 2 5870s, I would have opted a little different, x58 isn't that much more.

    Cpus are almost identical in price, wich leaves only the MB.

    UD4P - 170
    UD3R - 188

    I think in my book it would have been worth the $18.

    The other thing thats a bit overpriced is the HDD as mentioned. At $300 for 2TB, thats $150/TB. 1.5TB drives cost that much, put in 3 drives and save $150 and have .5TB more space.

    Aside from that, good build.
  • ColMirage
    Wait, why is the contest limited to the USA now?

    I am disappoint.

    Aside from that, the build is nice, and I can't wait to see the other ones.
  • scook9
    This article has me second guessing me selling my desktop!
  • Onyx2291
    Very powerful, but if I were to have it. I think I'd steer clear of overclocking myself haha.
  • Gigahertz20
    Horrible build, $2,500 and no SSD drive? That is inexcusable, a SSD drive is one of the best parts you can add to a high end computer, the noticeable performance improvement going from a regular hard drive is like night and day.

    The $860 dollars spent on video cards and $600 for hard drives is a waste. This system should have went with one 2TB WD Caviar Black hard drive for storage and then a 160GB SSD hard drive as the main drive. For a video card, one Radeon 5870 is more then enough, the money saved by not buying a second 5870 should have gone to buying a good full tower case and better CPU cooler.
  • enzo matrix
    Good all round build.
  • rambo117
    Great read, as always. Gosh, if you guys are calling last SBM performance PC "outdated", id hate to know what my rig is... =/
  • liquidsnake718
    enzo matrixGood all round build.

    Yes I was thinking just that.... an SSD for the master, and a 1tb or a 2tb for backup slave drive.... then a 5970. That would have been ideal as this is considered high end.....
  • tacoslave
    ColMirageWait, why is the contest limited to the USA now?Tom's.I am disappoint.Aside from that, the build is nice, and I can't wait to see the other ones.
    Yes we know you're a disappointment. Geez you're worse than kevin parrish.
  • wft, you put crossfire on a P55 chipset? You do know that there are only 16 PCIX lanes to the CPU right?

    $300 for a 2TB drive? Are you insane? How can you possibly justify not getting 2 x 1TB Caviar Blacks for $200 total and then getting an SSD?

    2 X 5870 for $860 over 5970 for $650? How much of a performance difference can you possibly expect with Crucial CAS 9-9-9-28 over CORSAIR XMS3 9-9-9-24 which costs $90 for 4GB?

    No water cooling on a system that costs $2500?

    This is the worst build I've ever seen at this price point.