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System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

CPU, CPU Cooler, And Memory

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K

Several readers voiced their displeasure with the CPU that powered last quarter's $2400 build, preferring the six-core design of Intel's Sandy Bridge-E. But we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend more than $1000 on a Core i7-3960X, and the award-winning Core i7-3930K was not yet available when we placed our order.

A brief wait briefly fixed the availability issue. And as of this writing, the still-expensive, but certainly more accessible processors are in-stock.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-3930K

Six cores provide 50% more peak compute performance than four, though many programs are still unable to utilize every core. Six more logical cores, enabled by Hyper-Threading, allow well-threaded apps to keep physical resources more completely loaded.

As a multiplier-unlocked K-series SKU, we even expect to blow way past the processor’s 3.80 GHz peak Turbo Boost limit in our overclocked configuration.

CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS12X

We really loved the CNPS12X’s great cooling and low noise in our recent round-up of LGA 2011-compatible coolers. But fitment issues forced us to give our award to someone else. While we still have the same reservations about Zalman’s top-performing model, we knew the parts selected for this specific build would make it a perfect fit.

Read Customer Reviews of Zalman's CNPS12X Heat Sink/Fan

A 6” width fills most of the socket area of an ATX motherboard, while a 5.2” thickness hanging over DIMM slots typically requires memory no more than 1.5” tall. We had already picked a compatible motherboard prior to selecting Zalman's CNPS12X, and found that our chosen memory modules were available in both 1.25”- and 1.55”-tall varieties. Our choice was made easy at that point.

Memory: G.Skill F3-1600C9Q-16GAB

From a value and overclocking standpoint, we love G.Skill’s Ripjaws-Z DDR3-1600 CAS 9. The only problem was that it didn’t actually fit beneath our behemoth CPU cooler. We would have simply gone to a different cooler, if not for the alternative model of our chosen RAM.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's F3-1600C9Q-16GAB Memory Kit

Using the same on-module components and performance rating as the Ripjaws-Z kit, unassuming heat spreaders on these Ares modules should allow us to use our preferred CPU cooler without sacrificing memory performance. G.Skill even sells this model for the same price, and a low heat signature for the underlying parts gives us hope that we'll see identical overclocking capability.

  • llguitargr8
    Just curious, did you guys purchase all these parts and right these articles before the GTX 680 was released? I really thought you guys would have gone with that, and if it wasn't because they weren't available at the time, then what makes the 7970 better in your opinion?
    Reply
  • llguitargr8
    Sorry, *write. It's late.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Not sure if I agree with that choice of cooler but I definitely like the rest of the setup!
    Reply
  • bystander
    llguitargr8Just curious, did you guys purchase all these parts and right these articles before the GTX 680 was released? I really thought you guys would have gone with that, and if it wasn't because they weren't available at the time, then what makes the 7970 better in your opinion?Almost all these build articles are based on purchases that took place 2 months ago. Even if they were to have bought these parts today, it would be hard to purchase a 680, as stock is a major issue.
    Reply
  • mjmjpfaff
    I like it a lot. I am glad you mixed it up and went with the x79 platform.
    Reply
  • esrever
    I like the build except the x79 adds like $500 extra that I see very little benefit from.
    Reply
  • Pezcore27
    Love the build. Do want!
    Reply
  • e56imfg
    Dang I need to win this one!! I'm so happy they balanced the CPU with the GPU this time around.
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    Good job: Working through the details of the CPU cooler like that is half the fun of this hobby. Great build.
    Reply
  • theuniquegamer
    Good build . But there could be more improvement by replacing a $600 cpu and $320 mother board with a i7 2600k and a $200 z68 mother board . And also replacing the 7970($590) with 2x680 at 2x$500(from the money saved from cpu and motherboard and 7970). It may give better gaming result than this build.
    Reply