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System Builder Marathon, Dec. 2011: $1200 Enthusiast PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: AMD FX-6100

By now it’s no surprise that AMD’s new FX family doesn't shine particularly brightly against similarly-priced Intel parts. However, we held out hope. We wanted to exploit the fact that all of the FX chips boast unlocked multipliers, whereas Intel doesn't give you that flexibility. Our first choice for a threading-heavy benchmark suite was the eight-core FX-8120, but that model wasn't available yet when we placed our order. As a result, we had to settle on the FX-6100.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's FX-6100

With a relatively low $160 asking price, this processor's six integer execution cores should be ample for gaming. From what we've seen so far, though, the Bulldozer architecture isn't as lithe there as we'd expected. It will be interesting to see how far it can go with a powerful CrossFire graphics setup.

Motherboard: Biostar TA990FXE

Read Customer Reviews of Biostar's TA990FXE

Biostar’s TA990FXE AM3+ board already has a great reputation for overclocking well, and it supports two graphics cards with full PCIe x16 bandwidth for each. The relatively low $130 asking price makes this fully-featured premium model an easy choice for this system build.

CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Gaia SD1283

Read Customer Reviews of Xigmatek's Gaia SD1283

We’re fans of Xigmatek’s relatively low-cost, powerful CPU cooling solutions. We decided to give the Gaia a try. With a 120 mm fan and three 8 mm heat pipes for a reasonable $30, this large cooler doesn’t disappoint.