System Builder Marathon, March 2011: $2000 Performance PC

Case And Power

Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion

We wanted a case with at least one 180 mm or two 120 mm intake fans to support good airflow to our externally-vented graphics cards and CPU cooler, yet our budget initial allowed only $130 for this component. Lian-Li’s PC-8FIB was, unfortunately, out of stock, and few others could meet our minimum requirements for quality, ventilation, and aesthetic simplicity. Antec’s Three Hundred Illusion came closest, while saving us $60-$70.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's Three Hundred Illusion

The Three Hundred Illusion is impossible to beat at its price and even tough to match at twice that price. Thick steel panels are superbly fitted and given a high-quality finish, putting to shame the toy army tank-designs typically marketed to gamers. Both intake fans and the top exhaust fan feature soft blue LED lighting, and Antec also includes the requisite rear-panel fan behind the CPU cooler.

Power: Seasonic SS-850HT

Our system wouldn’t require 850 W, yet that rating is hard to pass up when a top manufacturer offers it at a moderate price. Seasonic is still one of the most respected names in the power supply business, and this 80 PLUS Silver-rated model sells for only $130. Two 40 A, 12 V rails provide up to 840 W combined power for high-demand devices such as the overclocked CPU and graphics cards.

Read Customer Reviews of Seasonic's SS-850HT

Of course, you’re going to have to “give something up” to get those quality internal components at a low price, and the SS-850HT lacks fancy paint and modular cables. We’ll use most of its cables in our build and hide the rest behind the case’s lower drive cage.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • wribbs
    Was wondering when the SBM would return. Now if I just had an extra $2K. Now lets see how the lower price models hold up.

    Sure is a good time to be building a new PC.
  • duk3
    I'd love to win one of these.
    Especially this one
  • dragonsqrrl
    Wow, nice system this time around. Excellent performance and efficiency, although I personally would've chosen a nicer case for a $2000 system. I know you guys have your reasons, and for the purposes of a purely price/performance oriented build it makes sense to skimp on the aesthetic qualities of a case, but for me personally, it's still nice to see a high-end case complement some high-end hardware.
  • toxxel
    Nice system for 2k, wondering what the other systems will offer for their respective tier.
  • sparky2010
    since the 6990 is out, wouldn't getting that one card be a legitimate choice too? isn't it also at around $600?
  • illuminatuz
    oh wow!!! you know what if you can really think you can make a performance pc.. i mean same performance.. but lesser cost..
    i am not saying OC and AMD thing.. same hardware..
  • dertechie
    That system looks familiar. Very familiar. Almost. . . have you been spying on me?

    I built a system exactly like that, except with an 2500K, P8P67 Pro, single 6950 2GB, single SSD, DVD rather than BD, H50 and a cheaper PSU. Tears through Metro 2033 maxed at 1920x1200 like butter. When prices on 6950s fall some more I'll add a card and see if they can handle Eyefinity.
  • illuminatuz
    and its possible.. just take a nice gtx 560ti rather two amd sli and take 8 gig ram.. since anything above 8 gig will give diminishing returns and 500 gb hdd is more than enough i think.. buy a cheaper case, (punch holes to make it cooler :P) thats it.. same cpu same mobo and everything else same. you can also opt for cheaper 1155 mobo. i think gigabyte's got some.. or asus maybe.. no need for some two pcie and crap.. you can take a higher gpu.. say like gtx 580 or 6990.. well sli will give value if you are going for long term.. and you can install server's power.. they are cheap and of higher quality (thats what i heard from my pc vendor). i think there better be another marathon where there are the best pc at lowest cost.. that would make more sense rather giving budget.. so that people can know what they can make with the money they got.. since not all have exactly 1000$ or 2000$ there are people from other countries as well following so keep up the good work fellas ^_^/~~
  • tapher

    Props on the build, dawgs. Daddy likes!

    Breath is bated for the bevy of builds to come!
  • andy5174
    Contest is limited to residents of the USA

    not again.....