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.