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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $2000 Performance PC

Case, Cooling, And Power

Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion

Enthusiasts often chide us for using cheap cases in our most expensive build, but there are a few things that set Antec’s Three Hundred Illusion apart from a typical budget-minded enclosure. Chief among them are solid quality and cooling.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's Three Hundred Illusion

Antec’s Three Hundred is one of the least expensive cases we know of to use heavy gauge steel, increasing its ability to withstand years of hard use and hardware changes, while simultaneously reducing noise. The Illusion version also includes two 120 mm intake fans, making it the most affordable chassis able to support the cooling needs of a system with two GeForce GTX 580 externally-vented graphics cards and an overclocked Core i7 processor.

CPU Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus

One of the easiest ways we’ve found to increase the cooling performance of a case is to fill most of the void between its graphics card, side panel, and top panel with the largest heat sink we can find. It makes sense that bigger is better when it comes to heat sinks, but we’ve also found that larger cases that fit more loosely around the CPU cooler often perform worse. The Antec Three Hundred and nearly any 120 mm tower cooler are a perfect match.

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Hyper 212 Plus

It’s good that these are such a great pair because, quite frankly, Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Plus is mediocre at best compared to similar designs from other manufacturers. Its performance should be adequate for our specific overclock needs however, and we didn’t have room in our budget for the more often used Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B.

Power: Seasonic SS-850HT

Seasonic’s basic 850 W power supply has proven to be an exceptional value through several of our $2000 builds, connecting the four PCIe power connectors required for our dual GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards to two 40 A, 12 V rails.

Read Customer Reviews of Seasonic's SS-850HT

Even more value comes from the units 80 PLUS Silver rating, and the only sacrifice we had to make was the exclusion of removable cables. All excess cables must instead be stashed away within the case.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • wrazor
    Great article. I am wondering, if instead you had gone with the EVGA 3GB GTX 570 SLI, maybe OC would have been possible? 2000$ is quite a bit of money. I wonder how these babies would hold out for Nvidia's 3D experience? Personally I am not a big 3D fan in theatres(headache and stuff), but gaming has to have a chance. You had an article on projectors gaming experience? Do it with 3d performance\eyefinity with the system marathon builds? That would be really cool. :)
  • Yargnit
    I'm actually surprised that after the recent micro-stutter article you didn't opt for 3x 570's/6950's/6970's instead of 2x 580's. the First two should be cheaper than 2x 580's, while the third would cost very similarly.

    All three should have provided at least equal performance, and been better on intangible benefits to micro stuttering.
  • DjEaZy
    ... a bit of stagnation in performance department... no big difference in Q2 and Q3 models... gonna wait til bulldozer...
  • decembermouse
    Poor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?). Nice graphics, but severely limited by the other components. Hence, "nice graphics" doesn't matter. It's like putting a V10 inside a Dodge Neon. Just... why? I make a point of using good cases even in less-expensive builds. Compromising on PSU and the case are two things I've learned are no-nos. We can see how this hurt the outcome, When any OC whatsoever results in instability, you've made a mistake (or several).

    Now I know we'll see the usual "well this is meant to be a learning experience, learn from our errors and improve for next time" comments, but these are not mistakes I expect to see Tom's writers making. Even non-uber-enthusiast readers can probably see that some of the imbalances here. No result is horrible, but I'd have expected Tom's to look at that Newegg shopping cart and immediately think "nope guys, this isn't right. This gfx setup... in an Antec 300?" etc.

    Always love these articles guys, keep them up! Even if I do disagree with some of the choices obviously ;) Really looking forward to $1k and $500 builds in the coming days!
  • anonymous x
    decembermousePoor case decision. Inadequate PSU (did you seriously expect good overclocking results?).No, this case cools better than many (most?) cases more expensive than it. 2x 120mm intake is more than adequate for SLI cards with room for air to flow between them. Did you even look at the power consumption numbers? The system when overclocked only consumed 697w at load from the wall (actual consumption is less), while the PSU is rated at 850w.
  • Pawessum16
    Where the heck did they get that SSD for $170????? It's $205 on Newegg, and that's after a $35 price drop. What a steal....
  • Hupiscratch
    These SBM keep becoming cheaper. At first was 5k, then 2.5k and now is 2k for the enthusiast one. The recession is beating hard.
  • karma831
    All I can say is...WOW you guys have bad luck with overclocking.
  • jestersage
    maybe one of the 120mm fans should have been placed on the side panel? just wondering...
  • iam2thecrowe
    all i have to say is, ditch the crappy Gigabyte motherboard and get sonething better, and for the price difference get the i5 2500k, its no real loss to the i7.