System Builder Marathon, March 2010: $3,000 Extreme PC

Test Settings

Swipe to scroll horizontally
$3,000 Performance PC Test Settings
Row 0 - Cell 0 Standard SpeedOverclocked
MotherboardGigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 Chipset: Intel X58-ExpressUnchanged
ProcessorIntel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz Four Cores, 8MB L3 Cache4.3 GHz at 1.36V, 205 MHz Base Clock
MemoryCrucial 6.0GB DDR3-1333 Triple-Channel Kit 3x 2GB (6GB Total), CAS 9-9-9-28DDR3-1640 at 1.64V, CAS 8-8-8-18
GraphicsPowerColor LCS AX5970 2GB GDDR5-4200; Radeon HD 5970 Dual GPUs at 750 MHzGDDR5-4880 980 MHz GPU x2
System Hard Drives2x Crucial CT64M225 SSD (RAID 0) 64GB x2 (128GB Total), SATA 3.0 Gb/sUnchanged
OpticalLite-On DH-4B1S-08 SATA Blu-ray Burner 4X BD-R, 2X BD-RE, 12X DVD±R, 4X BD-ROMUnchanged
CaseCooler Master Cosmos-S RC-1100-KKN1-GPUnchanged
PowerSilverStone ST1000-P 1,000W Modular ATX12V 2.2, EPS12V 2.91, 80-Plus SilverUnchanged
CPU CoolerSwiftech H20-220 Ultima XT Liquid Kit 2x 120mm RadiatorUnchanged
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsATI Catalyst 10.2
ChipsetIntel INF
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS) Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA
Dirt 2 DemoIn-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call Of PripyatCall Of Pripyat Benchmark version Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion: x64 Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min Default format AAC
Handbrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1.0GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPEGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion: Import File: "Terminator 2" SE DVD (5 Minutes) Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX Codec 6.9.1Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search
XviD 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7MB TIF Image Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8 Benchmark: THG-Workload (334MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • zoemayne
    More than 64GB is gonna be needed for multiple games and good apps... those ssd's can only handle 5 games max.
  • zoemayne
    the case is sick it just needs a black interior
  • Crashman
    zoemayneMore than 64GB is gonna be needed for multiple games and good apps... those ssd's can only handle 5 games max.
    You're repeatedly ignoring that it's 128GB, not 64GB, because the article repeatedly states that the drives are striped (Level 0) by the RAID controller. And there's a terabyte of added storage on top of that for stuff that isn't programs.
  • sid1712
    I couldn't have made it better. Amazing rig for a 3k budget.
  • Onyx2291
    Nice fail there Zoe.

    This thing is a beast.
  • anamaniac
    Nice as it is, my only complaint is that...
    Overclocked 5970 + i7 on a single 120.2?

    Well, I personally would have dropped something else and gone for a 120.3 or 140.3 radiator. =D
    Hell, maybe even a 140.4 radiator, but then again, I like my system to run chilly and silent. It's also be very difficult to mount a 140.4 I assume. Maybe I could jack a radiator form work, I think it's about 1 metre by 3 metres by half a metre. Granted, it's for industrial use, but just for one day, please boss please?

    Good results on the i7 though. Decently low voltage and still managed to reach 4.3GHz. My i7 is a lemon. It makes me sad. =(
    Also an impressive overclock for a 5970.

    At this kind of power, you should be testing multi monitor resolutions. I have a 5770 and I run 7 megapixels, you use a 5970 and only run 4 megapixels.

    Looking forward tho the $1,500 build. See how my build compares to one six months older on a similar budget (and cry).
  • tacoslave
    i cried when i saw that 5970. in action
  • tacoslave this is what happened when i saw that 5970 in action "I CAME"
  • Crashman
    9490893 said:
    Nice as it is, my only complaint is that...
    Overclocked 5970 + i7 on a single 120.2?

    Well, the explanation is in the conclusion, the builder wanted redundant storage instead of the big radiator but chose neither, leaving enough room in the budget for anyone who wanted to copy the build to make their own upgrade choice.

    But what's not in the budget is that the water was never hot, it was barely warm. The problem with running the CPU at 100% load and the GPU at 100% load is that the water temperature went up by around 10 degrees...we're talking about going from the 30's to the 40's here at full load. The article points to the GPU cooler as a likely flow restriction so I have three solutions:

    Solution 1: Add 1/2" by 3/8" adapter T's and cool the chipset block, parallel to the GPU block. That would allow some of the water to bypass the GPU cooler, which is OK since the GPU was always cold. But 1/2" by 3/8" T's are hard to find outside of a hardware store, and Newegg certainly doesn't have them.

    Solution 2: Switch to a 3-fan radiator. A 4-fan unit won't fit nicely into that case, and making an ugly system wasn't considered a solution.

    Solution 3: Add a second liquid-cooled 5970 parallel to the first. Get twice the GPU power and completely unblock the lines in the process. The GPUs would run slightly hotter when each gets only half the water, but at least the CPU block's flow won't be restricted. And...since it's probably adding another 10 degrees to the coolant...stick the three-fan radiator in there as well. For FOUR grand you could have a KILLER system!

    OK, so solution 1 is the cheapest, but you have to admit solution 3 is tempting...
  • Sihastru
    I kinda like it. Dramatic power increase for the overclocked components. But also dramatic performance increase.

    Another solution to the constricted water flow would be to change the block on the 5970.

    This build gets one and a half thumbs up from me, not that anyone cares...