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

Case And Power

Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion

Many readers will likely be disappointed that we chose a $70 case for today’s high-priced build, especially when we had so much money left in the budget for upgrades. But today’s build is all about performance and we have no qualms about the performance of Antec’s Three Hundred Illusion.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's Three Hundred Illusion

Several factors that went into our case selection were ventilation, durability, quality, and convenience. Ventilation is especially critical in a system that has two hot graphics cards and an overclocked processor, and the Illusion attacks this with dual 120 mm intake fans, a 120 mm rear-exhaust fan, and a 140 mm top exhaust fan. The Three Hundred Illusion’s ventilation becomes more impressive when considering that Antec was able to pack it into a convenient mid-tower form factor.

Even more convenience comes from design features, such as an access hole for installing screw-on CPU coolers and front-panel ports that are actually on the front, rather than on the top. The Three Hundred Illusion is small enough to sit on a desk, which is a convenience that makes its front-panel connectivity even more important. However, users who prefer desk placement are still left potentially wanting FireWire and eSATA ports and perhaps a lower front-panel port location to eliminate the problem of cables dangling in front of optical drives.

Constructed of medium-thickness steel with chip-resistant paint and corrosion-resistant plating on all unpainted surfaces, the Three Hundred Illusion is durable enough to outlast several builds. Panel fit is nearly perfect and we never found a sharp edge on which to cut or scrape our hands. If this description sounds like that of a high-end case, well, the Illusion Three Hundred is about as close to the high-end as we could find for under $100.

While we don’t find many “advanced” features like screwless drive bays, we don’t plan on changing parts on a frequent basis. Screws save money without compromising durability.

Power: SilverStone Decathlon DA750

Our previous build required only a 750W power supply, but since it was designed for future upgrades, such as an additional graphics card, it was equipped with a 1,000W unit. This month’s build is not intended to support an additional graphics card, so we decided a 750W unit would likely be sufficient.

Read Customer Reviews of SilverStone's Decathlon DA750

SilverStone’s DA750 is one of the least-expensive “quality brand” power supplies in its class, and its fully modular design is a bonus to builders who demand clean cable organization.

  • 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