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System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $2,000 Performance PC

Motherboard And Graphics

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R

While our previous system used a similar motherboard to allow the option of a multi-card upgrade, the two graphics cards in this month’s system would require two PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 x16 slots simply to reach intended performance levels. Gigabyte’s X58A-UD3R gives up few features compared to the prior build’s -UD7 in order to achieve its far lower price, a combination that earned it a value award one month ago.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's X58A-UD3R

Chief among the X58A-UD3R’s features are USB 3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, and support for up to four single-slot or three double-slot graphics cards. We, of course, only needed the two primary PCIe x16 slots for our two cards, as any third card would steal eight lanes from the second slot.

Features given up to save money compared to the previously used X58A-UD7 include a reduction from 24 medium-capacity to eight high-capacity power phases, the loss of a second network port, and the lack of Gigabyte’s Hybrid Silent Pipe 2 heat sink/water block apparatus.

Graphics: Two Gigabyte GeForce GTX 470 cards in SLI

Our highest-priced PC has always been designed to game at 2560x1600. Reaching that resolution without giving up visual features has often required a graphics configuration priced at over half of the budget for today’s system. Our most-recent machine stepped up graphics power at a lower price with its liquid-cooled dual-GPU card, and today we’re hoping to beat those results using two lower-priced parts.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 470

Though previous tests have shown that each GeForce GTX 470 graphics card is only about as powerful as a Radeon HD 5850, additional tests have shown that SLI scales more predictably. Our hope is that better scaling will allow these two second-seed cards to outperform the two top-rung graphics processors of our previous machine.

SLI does present a cooling challenge for motherboards like ours, with its full-bandwidth slots only two spaces apart. The problem for many previous and/or competing solutions is that the top card must draw its air from the tiny space between it and the second graphics card. Nvidia designed its GeForce GTX 470 to mitigate that issue, with three holes in the circuit board to allow air intake from above.

  • gkay09
    ^ Very good selection of parts IMO...
    It still has a room for a SSD -> OCZ Vertex 2/ Agility 2 50GB or Vertex/ Agility 60GB...these both retail under $200...
    Reply
  • Aatish
    That's just sad! in 3 months your 2000$-3000$ investments depreciated at awful rate! and usually when an average customer builds a PC he at-least don't expect to repeat the process with-in few months.

    But, a good rig!for someone who is just about to build his new PC with that much budget!
    Reply
  • frye
    Maybe you guys should give away a $10,000 PC in September ;)

    Oh, and are those temps right? Nearly 93 C CPU temp when overclocked? I'd scale that back a bit...
    Reply
  • TomD_1
    I wanted to enter the competition... but I live on the other side of the world :(

    Great build though, might have put a bit more money towards the case if I was building it
    Reply
  • Flamango
    I love SBMs, and the fact that I haven't built my p55 setup yet, and I'm sure the Megahalems will look great in my new case. Can't wait for the cheaper builds!
    Reply
  • Relayer
    Need a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.
    Reply
  • a4mula
    Can't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.

    I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.

    700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560.

    PSU that is being heavily overtaxed. You're risking the entire 2k machine by running 100w over the psus rated value. The only thing keeping this machine running is the fact that Silverstone makes high quality parts and you have a single rail. Had this of been a multi-rail you would have been pulling out a gpu, scaling back your overclocks, or buying a new psu. At some point you have to wonder if this is a safety hazard.

    Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.
    Reply
  • madass
    $50 cases with side opened>hiogh end case with side closed.
    And no, I've never had problems with dust. And I own a dog. Go figure.
    Reply
  • madass
    IMO they should have taken an i5 750 (USD80 saved) and 4GB of CL7 1066-no game out there uses more than 2GB, more than 4GB is a waste(at least another USD40 saved). P55 mobo with 2x x8= USD 120. 80 saved. Total: USD200. Dual 5870's anyone? Don't forget- the 5970 has a lot of problems with CFire scaling- even a pair of 5850's can beat it in most cases, especially at 2560-blame crappy ATI drivers.......
    Reply
  • Crashman
    RelayerNeed a bigger PSU. Why are you using the one you did? You have the funds to buy one that will drive this system properly.Nobody thought it would draw more than 750W peak load. Even so, the article has been revised to show that the actual power output was only 660W to 680W, well below the unit's limits.
    a4mulaCan't say I agree with much here. You pick up a budget case that's going to restrict airflow due to lack of wire management, and then drop 75 on a cooler. Megahalems are spectacular, I own one myself but you've defeated any gain by placing it in a subpar enclosure. Should have just went with a 902 and a CM 212+. Would have been cheaper and less restrictive.I still fail to see the love of 1366 in these builds where there is no intention of upgrading to hexacore. Save the $100 and do a p55 i7-860 build. You're going to get performance that rivals the 930 on every benchmark including those that take x8/x8 into consideration. You'll surpass the 930 in a few.I'm not seeing the point of the Blueray drive. If this was a bare bones value to performance build it sticks out like a sore thumb. 700 for dual 470s when you can get dual 5850s for 560. Sorry Thomas, just not feeling this build at all. I see about $400 of budget that could have easily have been trimmed and would have been within a few percentage points of the current build. This could have gone towards anything from your much wanted redundant storage to SSD drives.It's OK a4mula, but you're completely wrong.
    1.) The air temperature in the case was excellent. Tom's has tested enough cases to know that smaller models that fit tightly around the CPU cooler do an excellent job of cooling the CPU area, so long as the rear fan is fast enough.
    2.) Tom's tested the 212+, and it's only fair (not great). This months build was expected to reach high overclocks.
    3.) Tom's has also done an i7-860 build around six months ago, that CPU was one of the worst-overclocking i7's Tom's has ever used. Subtract around 4-8% in game performance for using x8 slots, and the value evaporates.
    4.) Would you build a $1000 machine that can't run DVD's? Then why would you build a $2000 machine that can't play BRD's? BRD's are close enough to mainstream that not having the capability should be the thing that "sticks out" IMO, but you do make a decent argument since this pick was based on an opinion.
    5.) Yeh, you saw how dual 470's smashed the performance of dual 5870's? Oh, that was a 5970...well there you go. 470's take the big win.
    So a4mula, points 1-3 and 5 are purely factual and based on testing. You might be able to win the opinion-based argument on #4, but whoever gave you the thumbs-up was also wrong so don't let popularity mislead you.
    Reply