Budget Stretchers: The Motherboard And Power Supply
Motherboard: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3
If the first thing you spotted on our parts list was the motherboard, you might have figured out our original plan. We wanted this build to include three-way SLI. Unfortunately, Intel's Z77 Express chipset barely supports two cards, dropping each to eight third-gen lanes. Knowing that we couldn't fit three $400 cards (the GTX 660 Ti wasn't even close to available at the time) and an unlocked high-end CPU into our $2000 budget, we began making plans for an alternative solution.
Every video card in an SLI array operates on the same data, which helps explain why the total available memory in a multi-card configuration equals the capacity of one board.
It also explains the purpose of a feature that Nvidia used to call Broadcast in its older NF200 switch, which repeated data to multiple links simultaneously. Supposedly, this capability is built-in to the PCI Express 3.0 specification, and PLX is able to multicast 16 lanes of traffic to four slots via its 48-lane PEX 8747 bridge. Gigabyte uses that component to enable four-way SLI on its G1.Sniper 3.
The G1.Sniper 3 isn’t the only motherboard to include the PEX 8747 bridge, but it is the cheapest one that Newegg had in stock. A reasonable price didn’t prevent Gigabyte from stacking the package with features, from its on-board Killer E2200 networking and Creative CA0132 audio controllers to its added-in 802.11n module with Bluetooth capabilities. A robust bundle of features makes the G1.Sniper 3 appear a killer deal, in spite of the fact that it cost more than twice as much as many of the Z77 Express-based motherboards we’ve reviewed.
Power Supply: Seasonic X-1050
Seasonic manufactures some of the most stable power supplies we’ve used, but often charges less than some of our other top picks. We again shot for a part that would at least support three-way SLI out of the box, and found it in the X-Series X-1050 (part number SS-1050XM).
This amazingly capable unit outputs up to 87 A of power on a single 12 V rail without skipping a beat on efficiency. It features full modular cabling that could (unofficially) support up to four graphics cards without a need for adapters. Included cables are packed in a stylish black and gold bag.