System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $1000 Enthusiast PC

Assembly And Overclocking

All of the components we picked fit nicely into Raidmax’s Atlas case, and we don't have any assembly problems to report.

The only stumbling block was a lack of four-pin power connectors needed to connect the included case fans. Corsair's CX600 PSU only comes with a quartet of those Molex plugs, and we used all of those up on dual four-pin-to-PCIe power adapters for the GeForce GTX 460 cards in SLI.

In order to solve that problem, we used a single Molex-to-PCIe adapter we had in the lab, freeing up a fourth four-pin connector for fan duty. Although we didn't run into any stability issues using the CX600, we probably won’t be picking it for a dual-graphics-equipped machine in the future.

The small EVGA P67 Micro motherboard accommodates two graphics cards without difficulty, but doesn’t leave the top card a lot of room for airflow. Because the graphics cards are relatively close to the processor, we'll orient the CPU cooler to pull air from the right side of the chassis. 


We’ve overclocked a handful of Core i5-2500Ks now, and the majority of them top out with a 45x multiplier at 1.4 V using entry-level aftermarket air cooling. The specimen in this build is no different. When we bumped its multiplier to 46x, one of the execution cores suffered an error in our Prime95 stress test.

The Cooler Master Hyper TX3 does a good job considering its sub-$20 price tag, and our final CPU overclock is 4490 MHz with a 45x multiplier. Memory performance is also improved over default settings, since we're able to invoke the XMP memory profile option in EVGA's BIOS, cranking the frequency up and timings down, from 9-9-9-24 1T at 666 MHz  to 7-8-7-24 1T at 800 MHz.

As far as graphics cards are concerned, we usually find that overclocking is hamstrung when we start messing with dual-card solutions. This time around, though, our results are encouraging: with the GPU voltage raised from 0.937 to 1.0 V, we manage to push the core clock from 720 to 850 MHz. The memory also jumps from 3600 MT/s to 3700 MT/s. Moreover, we're cranking the fans up to 100% for stress testing purposes (Ed.: Hey now, I'd consider that cheating if I were Thomas or Paul).

  • aznshinobi
    Mobo is overpriced, and so is ram. The cost of the 460's you could equally get 2x6870s. PSU kinda sucks, for $1000 you can at least save else where (IE RAM+MB) and still get the Antec HCG750, while also getting 2x6870. Just personal opinion.
  • scubba85
    Why would you go with the 750gb WD, when the samsung spinpoint f3 1tb is the same price?
  • Zero_
    Why all the overpriced components? This is bad...

    Off the top of my head,

    1. There are a number of decent Z68 motherboards for around $130.
    2. Hyper 212+ costs $30
    3. A Corsair 2x4GB 1600MHz CL9 kit costs $50
    4. There are plenty of good 1TB drives for $55
    5. Antec Earthwatts 650W costs around $60

    And don't give me any crap about price increases over the past month. All of these have remained the same for the past 2 months.
  • Kridian
    Where exactly on this site do they announce the winners of these contests?
  • slicedtoad
    I'd prefer either a larger ssd or none, 30GB would be annoying.
    At the $1000 mark i'd opt for 8GB of ram, no ssd and a better hdd. And not a microATX.

    Also why isn't micro stuttering mentioned? If i remember correctly, these cards have issues with it.

    Guess that was mostly negative stuff, i liked reading it anyway though, keep em coming.
  • decembermouse
    I like this system a lot better than yesterday's. A more balanced build. Kudos! It's always interesting to see similar setups and how they compare, for instance in this case the 6850s versus the 460s. Glad you are switching it up. I'd say you were right on the CPU front to stick with the 2500K. Nice work overclocking those GTX 460s and the CPU. And I'd say this is an appropriate chose of computer case for this kind of setup. I had my reservations about using Antec's cheapest "gaming" enclosure for the $2000 build, but this is spot on.

    Nice PSU as well. I do wonder though why you didn't go with the CX600V2, as it's 80+ Certified and sells for the same price as the CX600 (actually, a $10 MIR right now so $59.99).

    Also, and this isn't a critique but purely personal preference, I would probably forego the SSD for myself and stick with a cheap HDD like a WD Green. Loading times aren't that important to me; I'm willing to wait a few more seconds if it means I can put the $ I saved towards a better mobo, HSF, or better non-reference GPU cards. Call me crazy but I'm willing to wait a bit longer, as well as not having to worry about my OS drive wearing out, in order to get very slightly better performance/temps. I realize that drive performance is an important metric for most people though so I'm glad you are incorporating that into these modern builds. Can't wait to see the $500 one :)
  • iam2thecrowe
    interestingly still going for dual mid-range cards despite the whole microstuttering article you guys wrote up recommending against dual mid range cards. Better motherboard than the high end build, at least its not Gigabyte. A 30GB SSD is completely pointless, i was unaware they even made them that small. But i suppose its something different to you usual, there are so many possibilities with a mid range build. Will be more interesting to see what you can fit into the lower end build.
  • _Pez_
    I wouldn't had chosen a pair of gtx 460 because those are not quite power efficient as pair of gtx 560 non TI would be, I would had picked up to two HDD over a SSD. Overall I like this dynamic "System Builder Marathon" that uses TH, It helps you to take better decisions.
  • spookie
    I would get a different: motherboard (not a mAtx), hdd (samsung spinpoint 1tb), case (I don't like the look of this case) and maby a different cooler (212+)
    other than that, its a realy nice build
  • _Pez_
    _Pez_I wouldn't had chosen a pair of gtx 460 because those are not quite power efficient as pair of gtx 560 non TI would be, I would had picked up to two HDD over a SSD. Overall I like this dynamic "System Builder Marathon" that uses TH, It helps you to take better decisions.I want to delete this comment, I made some mistakes with grammar. If I had chosen, I wouldn't have gotten a pair of ... so embarrassing..