Graphics, Motherboard, And Power
Graphics: Asus GTX 680 DirectCU II Top Edition
Just as the CPU dictated our cooling and RAM choices, graphics dictated our motherboard layout and power needs. We knew from the beginning that this would be Nvidia’s turn, since its GTX 680 bested the similarly-priced Radeon HD 7970 used in our previous $2600 build.
Asus’ GTX680-DC2T-2GD5 offers enhanced cooling and power optimization to help us top its already phenomenal 1201 MHz / GDDR5-6008 factory-configured overclock. However, we didn't pick this card for today's story; rather, Newegg helped us track it down, given significant supply issues on GeForce GTX 680s.
Done over, we'd be inclined to go with one (or even two) GeForce GTX 670s, which weren't yet available when we started buying hardware, but sell for as little as $140 less than this model.
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme6
Our recent round-up revealed two top-value choices for Ivy Bridge-based overclocking, and we suggested that on-board features and slot layout would be the best criteria for a buyer to select between them. The competing board supported three-way graphics at x8-x4-x4 mode and PCIe 3.0 transfers, while ASRock’s sample supported x8-x8x-4 with the third slot in PCIe 2.0 mode. Either board would force all sixteen lanes to a single card if the other slots were unpopulated.
We want to leave the option for SLI open as an available upgrade, but don't really care about three-way configurations here. Eight-lane transfers for two-way SLI are surely adequate, thanks to the bandwidth-doubling ability of PCIe 3.0 (compared to PCIe 2.0).
Scratching three-way SLI off our list forced us to consider what other devices a user might want to put in that third slot, and the borrowing of CPU-based lanes for that slot on MSI’s board nudged us towards ASRock’s design.
Power: Seasonic X750 Gold
A high-quality power supply is probably the most important part in a high-end system, lest it be saddled with instability and the potential of a fiery death. Thanks to Seasonic, we were able to match the needed stability and capacity with a high-efficiency 80 PLUS Gold rating for only $160.
Efficiency improved on the Ivy Bridge and Kepler architectures put the X750 Gold's output capability at roughly twice what we thought we’d actually need. But this build was designed for upgrades. Advanced planning should allow the winner of this system to eventually add SLI and several drives without worrying about overburdening the unit.
In addition to fulfilling all of our power desires, the X750 Gold’s full modular cabling will allow ours to be a relatively clutter-free build.