Motherboard And CPU
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
Focusing on the “perfect balance” of current performance and future expansion meant finding a motherboard that would support today’s relatively-affordable Core i7 models and any six-core upgrades, currently affordable three-DIMM kits plus three additional modules, our current single-card and future CrossFire-graphics upgrades, and future SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0 expansion needs. Only the X58 chipset can do all those things today, and even it requires add-in controllers to get the job done.
With all of the above-noted features (plus dual eSATA, dual Gigabit Ethernet, support for up to 10 internal SATA drives, a massive 24-phase voltage regulator, and the builder’s choice of enormous air or liquid heat-pipe cooling), Gigabyte’s GA-X58A-UD7 appears to be the best choice for our particular needs.
CPU: Intel Core i7-920
Our previous System Builder Marathon (SBM) used a 2.8 GHz processor, but a change in socket type required us to “downgrade” to a CPU that’s only 2.66 GHz at stock settings and doesn’t even have the high Turbo Boost multipliers of our previous selection. Further adding to the apparent loss in CPU value, the replacement model sells for the same price as the faster one it replaces.
Fortunately, Intel’s Core i7-920 processor (especially with the most recent stepping) is famed for its overclocking capabilities, unlike the dud i7-860 we used last December. This means that, while most of our CPU-limited benchmarks will suffer slight losses at stock settings, our overclocked configuration should solidly defeat the previous build.