System Builder Marathon: High-Cost System

Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650

What can we say about Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX9650 that we haven't already? With two dual-core Penryn dice in a single package, the Wolfdale "core" features 12 MB of total L2 cache and a 45 nm manufacturing process, that when paired with Intel's latest "High-K" gate oxide technology, has allowed these units to run up to 4 GHz on air cooling.

Of course, that "Air-Cooled 4.0 GHz" can only be accomplished under ideal conditions. Loading up a system in a case increases air temperature around the cooler, with the resulting increase in core temperatures acting as a barrier to high overclocks. But while high speed case fans could resolve that issue, we chose a more elaborate liquid cooler to allow even higher clock speeds without offensive noise levels.

A high price had made the QX9650 the only 45 nm processor with good availability, as 45 nm dual-core processors are continuously sold-out. Yet if $1,060 for the Core 2 Extreme QX9650 makes buyers a little light-headed, prices for the few QX9770 units we've found would cause them to faint.

Motherboard: Asus Striker II Formula

It probably wouldn't shock most readers to learn that Tom's Hardware doesn't pay for most of its parts, but instead must request samples from various marketing departments. The deadline for selecting today's components passed around a month ago, and a firm launch date for anticipated 790i SLI models had not yet been established. We needed a "Wolfdale" supporting SLI motherboard to replace our former Striker Extreme, and we found it in the Asus Striker II Formula.

While we might have missed an early chance to look at an upcoming 790i SLI model, we have no regrets about our 780i SLI based Striker II Formula, since this is a stable and full-featured part. Its features include PCI Express 2.0 for two of the three PCIe x16 slots, full x16 pathways to all three slots, dual Gigabit networking, and a shielded "SupremeFX-II" audio riser card for enhanced sound quality.

The Striker II Formula includes a full cable kit, dual cooling fans to assist the VRM sinks in a liquid-cooled system, SLI and 3-Way SLI bridges, an externally-accessible system status display panel, a full cable kit and the game Company of Heroes.

To keep our system portable, we did not install the system status display panel, which would have otherwise dangled by its cable.

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  • TDL
    Thanks for the great article - I'm having fun building this - I do have 3 questions though - the fan duct assembly fan has 3 wire sets, 1 has the 3wire motherboard connector, the second taps into a regular power lead. The third is a single wire - the case documentation does not describe that one - what is that little single lead for? Also the motherboard sound card has some connectors on it - I assume one is for the case headphone/mic lead? Third, should teflon tape be used in the dual radiator threads if not how tight is tight enough for the O-rings? Thanks great article!
  • Dax3000
    Hi Thanks For The Great Article - I Am Also Building A System With A Few Modifications I Loved Asus Boards But Can Never Seem To Overclock Them At All So I Am Going With A EVGA 780i FTW when they come out, THat Processor IS Sweet But No Way CAn I JUstify PAying $1060 or more here in canada for 1 Pc Component when i already own three computers, I was thinking maybe a Q6850 when they come out, i have changed the middle fan in my case already and i am just waiting on my 120 rad to get here as i already have the other parts from another computer i built that i couldn't use so that saved me a few dollars:) and i can't find that power supply anywhere so i am gonna do with a X3 1000 watt from ultra i hope it's good enough. and since i am not a really good overclocker no point in risking a high end system by messing around with 2 expensive graphics cards will 2 9800GTX+ work for me ? and omost importantly after my system is finished and filled how do i top it up if it needs more water do i have to take the top rad down to fill it everytime or can i just add water in to the same rad. thanks alot of your help and keep up the great work.
  • DaveCharleson
    I've been installing and have three questions. First, there seems to be no pump in this system - have I just missed something?

    Second, the twin fan radiator seems to draw the air from inside the case up through the radiator and then out the top of the case. Wouldn't you want to draw cooler air from the outside past the radiator?

    Third, I don't see any connection to the video card although the 880GTX card is built for water cooling. Wouldn't you want to include this in the loop?

    This is my first build with water cooling so sorry if the questions belie this.
  • jimwalk
    The Arctic Silver instructions for applying to Intel Quad Core CPU W/Heatspreader are at