Motherboard And Graphics
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3
Have you ever wished you could go to a computer store, buy everything on the shelf, and then decide for yourself which parts to keep? Review editors are privileged to have actually tested much of the hardware they use in system builds, and there’s nothing better than a value award to explain why this editor picked Gigabyte’s upper-mainstream model.
Intel’s Z68 Express chipset supports Quick Sync video transcode acceleration, plus discrete graphics via Lucid Virtu software, which is a feature we value (even though it’s not supported by our SBM benchmark set).
Gigabyte chooses the least-expensive way to add SLI support to its Z68XP-UD3, switching from a single x16 slot to two x8 slots when both cards are installed. That’s not a problem for us however, since Nvidia graphics aren’t particularly bandwidth hungry even when configured in SLI mode. A greater concern to us is whether a motherboard with no sink on half of its voltage regulator will provide the stability for our overclocking attempts, even though it worked well at voltage levels only slightly below today’s target.
Graphics: EVGA GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB in SLI
Only the cheapest GeForce GTX 580 graphics card would allow us to upgrade from our previous build’s Radeon HD 6970s, and we were surprised to find EVGA’s lifetime-warranty-bearing -AR model among them.
What isn’t there to love about EVGA’s 015-P3-1580-AR? Really, there's only the possibility that these particular cards will resist our overclocking efforts, since EVGA is known for binning its cards to sell the more scalable GPUs at a higher price. As a result, samples most likely to overclock the highest will have likely already been set aside for more premium cards. Still, we value the lifetime warranty on this reference frequency-based model.