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Building A Liquid-Cooled MicroATX Gaming Monster

Test Settings

Test Hardware Configurations
Ultimate Performance Mini PCSystem Builder Marathon $2000 PC
Motherboard (Overclock)Asus Maximus IV Gene-Z LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express101.1 MHz BCLKGigbyte Z68XP-UD3 LGA 1155, Intel Z68 Express102 MHz BCLK
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-2600K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to to 4.75 GHz, 1.38 VIntel Core i7-2600K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to to 4.48 GHz, 1.36 V
Memory (Overclock)8 GB G.Skill DDR3-2200 CAS 9-11-9-28, O/C at 1.65 V to DDR3-2158 CL 10-10-10-308 GB G.Skill DDR3-1866 CAS 9-10-9-28, O/C at 1.60 V to DDR3-1901 CL 9-10-9-16
Graphics (Overclock)2 x PNY GeForce GTX 580: 857 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4212O/C to 950 MHz GDDR5-43002 x EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR: 772 MHz GPU,  GDDR5-4008No O/C
CaseFractal Design Arc MiniAntec Three Hundred Illusion
CPU CoolerPNY XLR8 Integrated Liquid CoolingCooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
Hard DriveCrucial m4 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDAdata S511 120 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 280.26
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.0.1030

We compared today’s microATX build to our previous ATX build to see how much more performance its higher clock speeds would provide.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
F1 2010V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Just Cause 2Version 1.0.0.2, Built-In Benchmark "Concrete Jungle" Test Set 1: Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF Test Set 2: Highest Details, 8x AA, 16x AF
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene Test Set 1: DX11, High, AAA, 4x AF, No PhysX, No DoF Test Set 2: DX11, Very High, 4x AA, 16x AF, No PhysX, DoF On
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 9.0.3.15 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.94: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.0.0.1555: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 14.0 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.2: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.15, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • compton
    I really like this setup. The Maximus Gene-Z is very swank, and it's on my short list even though the last thing I need is more motherboards laying around.

    I was a huge proponent of uATX cases until I needed space for an Asus Essence STX and a Killer Networks 2100 NIC. I found a compromise with the Lian Li PC A05NB -- it's one of the smallest ATX cases around, not much larger than the uATX enclosure I was using prevously. The diminutive Gene-Z is perfection for uATX boards, and wouldn't be out of place in larger cases -- but it's nice that you were able to cram so much into such a modest enclosure.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    Question: why does the Mobo choice have a 'bad voltage regulator?'

    Anyways. Love these kind of articles. Helps other users get more of what they assume. Keep it up Tom's.
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    dogman_1234Question: why does the Mobo choice have a 'bad voltage regulator?'Anyways. Love these kind of articles. Helps other users get more of what they assume. Keep it up Tom's.it doesnt have a BAD voltage regulator, it just doesn't deliver enough stable power for overclocking much, nor do the VRM's have good cooling on them in that gigabtyte board. This was the assumption for the poor overclcking perfromance in the SBM.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    iam2thecroweit doesnt have a BAD voltage regulator, it just doesn't deliver enough stable power for overclocking much, nor do the VRM's have good cooling on them in that gigabtyte board. This was the assumption for the poor overclcking perfromance in the SBM.How does one avoid this?
    Reply
  • aznshinobi
    Man... I was thinking custom water cooling loop when I saw this. I guess not. Not a huge fan of manufacturer pre-made loops, I find them expensive for their price. I.E All the Corsair Hydro series products.
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    Question: is the overclocked i7 passing the Intel Burn Test @ Extreme Preset? I am asking this because my 2600k cant pass this test @ 4,4 Ghz, it simply shuts down (thermal protection kicks in, no errors :))
    Reply
  • ceps
    Love this build, i love mATX builds, maybe the most interesting build I've seen here. Good Job!!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    crisan_tiberiuQuestion: is the overclocked i7 passing the Intel Burn Test @ Extreme Preset? I am asking this because my 2600k cant pass this test @ 4,4 Ghz, it simply shuts down (thermal protection kicks in, no errors )Eight threads Prime95 small FFTs for max CPU.dogman_1234How does one avoid this?On the Gigabyte board you could probably see that half of the voltage regulator had no heat sink, but some crap boards have sinks so it's only a little helpful. Otherwise you have to pick a board you like, then use your search engine to find out what other people are getting from their overclocks.

    In the case of that board, it was stable at 1.35V, fluctuated quite a bit at 1.36V, and dropped all the way down to 1.36V when it was set to 1.38V.
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    CrashmanEight threads Prime95 small FFTs for max CPU.On the Gigabyte board you could probably see that half of the voltage regulator had no heat sink, but some crap boards have sinks so it's only a little helpful. Otherwise you have to pick a board you like, then use your search engine to find out what other people are getting from their overclocks.In the case of that board, it was stable at 1.35V, fluctuated quite a bit at 1.36V, and dropped all the way down to 1.36V when it was set to 1.38V.sry, i retract what i was saying :( i tried Burn Test again (with 20C room temp not with 30 :P ) and it passed @ 4,5 GHz). I have an AsRock MB and used "Load optimized overclock settings for 4,4Ghz, and i dont know why, it sets the PLL voltage to 1,75V, witch is very high. I have set the PLL to 1,55 V and now it works great @ 4,5 GHz ... What can i say, i am always learning something :P
    Reply
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    A Core i7-3930K sounds good for the next $2000 build if it's out by then. GTX 580s are horrible bang-for-buck, so I'd step down to two Radeon HD 6970s for 2560x1600 gaming. It should be comparable in gaming to this one and much faster in multi-threaded. It remains to be seen how much X79 motherboards will cost, but I think a great system could be made on that 'budget'.
    Reply