CPU: Intel Core i7 920
The decision to go with Intel’s Core i7 wasn’t an easy one, especially with AMD’s Phenom II offering a very compelling price/performance ratio. Ultimately, the choice came down to price. With the $1,300 ceiling allowing us to get the Core i7-920, as well as other powerful components, it was a hard CPU to ignore.
In our past experiences with the Core i7-920, we’ve been rewarded with strong performance and high overclocks. The only real downside to using this CPU in a Micro-ATX system is the high amount of heat it kicks out. Previously, we've seen the Core i7-920 hit close to 100 degrees Celsius, and we’re not especially optimistic that temperatures will stay low in a small Micro-ATX chassis. We will try to address this with an aftermarket CPU cooler.
As well, there aren’t a lot of Core i7 Micro-ATX motherboards out there that support the dual graphics card configuration for which our budget allows. But despite these shortcomings, the Core i7 CPU will likely supply us with the highest performance possible in this price range, so we’ll do our best to find a good cooler and motherboard to accompany it.