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System Builder Marathon, June 2012: $2000 Performance PC

CPU, CPU Cooler, And Memory

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K

Every hot new technology inspires early adopters to keep their eyes out for performance data, and so we felt compelled to beg, borrow, and steal to get a Core i7-3770K in our top-end machine, even if it wasn't around when we started our shopping trip. Although availability remains spotty, we thought it important to represent Intel's most modern architecture before we start drawing comparisons to other Sandy Bridge-based machines.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-3770K

We couldn’t find a good reason not to include the i7-3770K in this particular machine, though we did consider revisiting Sandy Bridge-E again. The performance benefits of the more expensive Core i7-3930K would have also had to overwhelm a pricier motherboard and memory, and that math simply didn't work out in our minds.

In weighing a minimum 15% increase in machine cost against a maximum 15% increase in average performance, we decided that a mainstream quad-core chip gave us the best possibility for exceptional value.

CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS12X

Our last build hid a beautiful cooler behind a solid side panel, if only because we were doubling up on noise reduction (function over form, and all of that). Other than looking good, the cooler itself was a low-noise part. And we were so pleased with its cooling-to-noise ratio that we brought it back for an encore.

Read Customer Reviews of Zalman's CNPS12X

Zalman’s CNPS12X is a truly massive component that we probably wouldn’t use in a PC we planned to carry around. But we're more than happy to pick it for a stationary system. Large enough to cool even a highly-overclocked Sandy Bridge-E-based processor, we’re relying on it to mitigate the thermal issues inherent to Ivy Bridge CPUs.

DRAM: G.Skill Ares F3-1600C8D-8GAB

A powerful cooler helps with our CPU overclocking endeavors. But combining size and silence with style, leaves us in a position where we encounter severe memory clearance issues. Fortunately, G.Skill has a solution:

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ares F3-1600C8D-8GAB Memory Kit

For less than $60, G.Skill’s Ares-series DDR3-1600 C8 dual-channel 8 GB kit adds a performance kick to low-profile memory. This is probably the company’s best-kept secret, since our testing has shown similar overclocking capabilities between its Ares and better-known Ripjaws X modules.

These low-profile parts also cost about the same as their “high-performance” siblings of the same data rate/timing combination.

  • Trialsking
    Very nice build, if only I had $1800 to spare
  • rohitbaran
    Well, is GTX 680 availability good enough now?
  • mayankleoboy1
    i would never buy a green 5400 RPM over a 7200 RPM drive, no matter the cost.
  • Now imagine if two GTX 670 were available!!
  • vakuma5000
    Awesome Build!!

    I have the exact same GTX 680 from ASUS, and I love it. Managed to get 1337Mhz out of the core and 6800 out of the memory. I achieved that with only 115% power limit. If I raise the power limit any higher, i start to loose performance and stability. That is a truly awesome memory oveerclock you got out of it! Congrats!

    Very much looking foreward to the value comparison.
    Would LOVE to see the 1800$ build win the value comparo!
    GO GTX 680!!

    My vote goes towards keeping a gaming focus as opposed to a more "all-in-one" type build.
    Love the System Builder Articles, love Toms!
  • strandiam
    So many great cases to choose from with so many great features....
  • vakuma5000
    Unfortunately GTX 680 availability is still pretty spotty.
    Had to spend 2 days on newegg, refreshing the page every few mins to get the model i wanted.
    However, it IS looking better. They are listing them more often on newegg, and they don't sell-out as quickly as they were a few weeks ago.
    Check newegg daily from 5:30pm to 6:30 pm CST, and you should be able to catch one.
    The GTX 670's are in stock right now.
    Good luck rohitbaran!
  • slicedtoad
    should we keep the gaming focus or move back towards higher-cost do-it-all machines?
    Personally, I'm happy with the gaming focus. Don't know how others feel but gaming performance is more important than productivity benchmarks for me. I compile a lot of code and do some video encoding but I find gaining fps in games is more important than shaving seconds off my work. Besides, productivity follows gaming performance close enough.

    On another note, I dislike value comparisons when things like SSD size and optical drives have made an impact in price. A larger SSD does nothing for a benchmark but is awesome in practice. I'd prefer only comparing the combined price of the gpu, cpu, cooler(s) and mobo in the value chart. That's not a perfect solution but it annoys me that things like high quality PSUs, nice cases, blu-ray burners and large SSDs throw things off so much.
  • Crashman
    strandiamSo many great cases to choose from with so many great features....Perhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time?,3203-5.html
  • sam_fisher
    CrashmanPerhaps the award-winning NZXT Phantom 410 next time? 203-5.html
    My only dislike about this build is the case, for a $2000 PC I would prefer a case that was tidier and larger than the Antec Nine Hundred (especially with the layout of the HDD bays). The NZXT Phantom 410 would be much better for that budget.