System Builder Marathon, June 2011: $2000 Performance PC

CPU And Graphics

CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K

Intel’s Sandy Bridge microarchitecture already proved its per-clock superiority in a few of our articles, and it has the additional benefit of overclocking to higher clocks than any of its predecessors. The only question for us would be which model to choose.

Read Customer Reviews of Intel's Core i7-2600K

Of course that’s not a real question, since only the K-series processors are unlocked, and we’ve seen a few reputable overclockers get dud -2500Ks. We wanted the extra security of a top-binned part and the potential (if marginal) multitasking improvement of Intel Hyper-Threading, so our only real option was the Core i7-2600K.

Graphics: 2x MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5 in CrossFire

Continuing our cost-savings effort without scaling back performance, we picked the cheapest pair of Radeon HD 6970s we could get our hands on. MSI was equaled only by HIS in price on the day we purchased our cards and, even though we don’t count temporary rebates in our cost analysis, we couldn’t help but notice that MSI’s rebate was bigger.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's R6970-2PM2D2GD5

A pair of Radeon HD 6950s beats a pair of GeForce GTX 570s at our 2560x1600 target resolution, and the HD 6970 is even faster. Without enough money to even try a pair of GeForce GTX 580s, these are the best cards for our budget.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.