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

Hardware Installation

Our SBMs are written to suit the majority of builders, so our hardware installation notes will point mostly to the unique installation demands of the components.

Xigmatek’s Crossbow bracket set includes a unique multi-socket support plate, shown above with the Nehalem (LGA 1156/LGA 1366) side facing upward. The paper backing must be removed carefully from four self-adhesive tabs to avoid peeling the insulating tape from the metal bracket.

Mounting holes must then be accurately aligned with those of the motherboard, followed by slight pressure to seat the plate’s adhesive tabs. Notice that the other side of the bracket has pegs designed for insertion into LGA 775 cooler mounts and must face away from LGA 1156 or LGA 1366 motherboards to prevent damage.

Two mounting brackets from the Crossbow kit are attached to the HDT-S1284 cooler, as shown. With our CPU already on the board and thermal paste applied to it, the cooler is ready to be installed.

Four spring-loaded screws also included in the Crossbow installation kit provide moderate pressure to hold the CPU cooler in place. We’d have preferred a little more contact pressure, but didn’t go so far as to add spacers between the screw head and spring.

The HDT-S1284 is not specifically designed for the narrow confines of LGA 1156 socket-to-DIMM clearance and its fan overlaps the closest module of our set. Users who want to use RAM sinks with this motherboard and cooler combination would be limited to two modules.

The remaining parts installed without incident. This is probably the cleanest high-end build we’ve done in a long time, partly because there are no liquid-cooling lines and the case has cable stowage room behind its motherboard tray.

While most people attempting to build a $2,500 system have enough experience to fill in the missing details, anyone who lacks the skills to build a standard PC can find a full set of instructions here.

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.