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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: $2000 Performance PC

CPU, Cooler, And Memory

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K

Most of our System Builder Marathon configurations reflect the back and forth arguments between two camps: more CPU and more GPU. Any time we shift our focus to one, the benchmarking dynamic changes. We hear the folks who want more than a mainstream Ivy Bridge-based chip in our highest-end machine. However, we also know that not all of our tests take advantage of more than four cores, limiting the utility we'll see in the performance results.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-3930K (opens in new tab)

On the other hand, the resolutions we're using to compare machines are too low to justify a massive graphics subsystem. We'd need a triple-screen setup to really tax the benefit of two or three GeForce GTX 670s, for example.

And so we're back with a six-core Hyper-Threaded Intel Core i7-3930K, a CPU that gives us most of the performance of the flagship Core i7-3960X, but at slightly more than half its cost.

Cooler: Scythe Mugen 3 Rev. B

As we got closer to the top of our budget, we realized that our first choice in a CPU cooler simply wouldn’t make it into this month’s build, nor would its award-winning competitor. Instead, we needed to find a solution for around $50 with similar cooling performance, noise be damned. Unfortunately, we hadn't yet reviewed anything with that combination of low cost and prowess.

Read Customer Reviews of Scythe's Mugen 3 Rev. B (opens in new tab)

This is where Newegg’s buyer reviews came in handy. Knowing what defines a good design, we compared all of the available sub-$60 coolers with the surface area needed to satisfy our demands. We then checked our forums, along with the forums of a couple overclocking communities. All of those considerations narrowed our search to two products, and Scythe’s part number SCMG-3100 was the one that fit our motherboard.

Memory: G.Skill Ares DDR3-1600 CAS 8 16 GB

All of today's desktop processors have integrated memory controllers, and most builders know enough to pick their memory based on their CPU's specs. But what about picking memory based on a CPU cooler?

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ares DDR3-1600 16 GB Kit (opens in new tab)

We figured out a few quarters ago that G.Skill’s Ares kit uses the same modules as its award-winning Ripjaws series, so long as you compare parts with the same rating. The difference is in the heat spreader, and the Ares modules are short enough to fit underneath the fans of many oversized CPU coolers. Really, these modules run cool enough that they don’t usually need big heat spreaders.

G.Skill’s 16 GB part number F3-1600C8Q-16GAB looks just like its 8 GB counterpart, but has two more modules on the other side of its info card.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Darkerson
    Interesting setup. I would have favored a way beefier single GPU or a nice dual GPU setup, but I mainly only game, and dont do a lot of encoding or whatnot.
  • The contest opens on August 20, 2012 9:00 PM PDT and closes on September 3, 2012 9:00 PM PDT.
    So... i notice now that it opens at August 20, not August 19 when the $500 SBM appeared. I submitted my entry at August 19 10:30 PM. So that means that i haven't entered into the sweepstakes, or did i? I am confused, cause only one entry can be accepted.
  • Nice quality build! Enough said!
  • trumpeter1994
    That has got to be one of the luckiest GTX 670s I've ever seen.
  • sarinaide
    Gigabyte G1 Assassin Z77
    120GB SSD
    500GB HDD
    2xGTX 670
    2x4GB DDR3 1866

    And still probably cheaper with obviously better performance.
  • Crashman
    sarinaidei5-3570k/i7-3770kGigabyte G1 Assassin Z77120GB SSD500GB HDD2xGTX 6702x4GB DDR3 1866And still probably cheaper with obviously better performance.Probably not, unless you're only testing games. But we should probably test that anyway. Does anyone else want to see it?
  • zander1983
    Ditch the BR Writer, get a BR combo drive and save yourself $60
  • Crashman
    zander1983Ditch the BR Writer, get a BR combo drive and save yourself $60Sorry, I don't see any combo drives for $30 so the savings would be much less than $60. Plus, you'd lose BD-RE backup capability, which can be handy.
  • sarinaide
    CrashmanProbably not, unless you're only testing games. But we should probably test that anyway. Does anyone else want to see it?
    It would be very interesting, the IvyBridge chips in productivity numbers hold quite well with the SB-E chips that is the only area which should be a contest.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    16GB ram pointless imo. 2 TB 5400rpm hdd? ...i rather get a 1 TB 7200 rpm hdd. i7 3970k ... i rather get the i7 3770k. From theese i would squeeze in a gtx 680.