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System Builder Marathon, Q1 2013: $1,600 Alternative PC

Case, SSD, Hard Drive, And Optical Drive

Just Chasing After Some Finer Day…

Case: Fractal Design Define R4

We pick our own components, but those selections are subject to availability, just like they are for you in the real world. That explains why every Tahiti LE-based graphics card in our System Builder Marathon comes from PowerColor, and why I went with the windowed version of the award-winning Fractal Design Define R4.

Read Customer Reviews of Fractal Design's Define R4

Many readers love windows. But my goal was to achieve the optimal balance of quietness and cooling. The window on this chassis eliminates one of the noise-dampening mats we'd normally get in the non-windowed version. Fortunately, quiet fans and optimized vent placement mean that this Fractal Design case is still going to be pleasantly silent.

SSD: Mushkin Chronos Deluxe MKNSSDCR240GB-DX

Read Customer Reviews of Mushkin's 240 GB MKNSSDCR240GB-DX

The 240 GB Chronos Deluxe served as the sole drive in my $1,000 performance-oriented PC. But most folks also need a data drive, too. Our SSD will host the operating system and applications, while documents, music, and movies are stored elsewhere.

Hard Drive: Western Digital WD1002FAEX

Read Customer Reviews of Western Digital's WD1002FAEX Hard Drive

Western Digital’s Caviar Black 1 TB drive was an easy choice for me because it wasn't really mine. We've had a number of readers ask for Western Digital's Black-series drives for holding their user data, and of course we're willing to oblige.

This move became even easier when Western Digital updated its drive configuration from the former 32 MB cache and SATA 3Gb/s interface (FALS) to the current 64 MB, SATA 6Gb/s (FAEX) version.

Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST

Read Customer Reviews of Asus' DRW-24B1ST

I have low expectations of DVD writers; I only want to believe that on the rare occasion I use mine, it’s going to work. Asus’ DRW-24B1ST gets top ratings from Newegg customers, I’ve never experienced a failed Asus drive, and this unit even gives us the bonus of 24x writes.

  • Azn Cracker
    Aren't the 7870 myst only $240 a piece?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Azn CrackerAren't the 7870 myst only $240 a piece?See This?
    Article TextThe prices in that table were what we paid when the parts were ordered, and a lot of them changed over the last six weeks. For example, the PowerColor card is $20 less, per board. Other prices are up. All told, then, the total cost of buying our machine and replicating the build is within $20 of our original invoice.
    Reply
  • mikenygmail
    Please call the graphics cards 7870 LE from the start, like this:
    "Video Cards: 2 x 7870 LE - PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition"
    After all, it is much more than a standard 7870.
    I had no idea it was the LE until I got to the third page.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    mikenygmailPlease call the graphics cards 7870 LE from the start, like this:"Video Cards: 2 x 7870 LE - PowerColor PCS+ AX7870 Myst Edition"After all, it is much more than a standard 7870.I had no idea it was the LE until I got to the third page.In AMD/ATI model lingo, LE stands for a cut-down part. So a Tahiti-LE wouldn't be a 7870 LE, it would be a 7950 LE. The fact that it carries the 7870 model number is unfortunate, but the article attempts to make it clear that this is indeed a Tahiti-LE
    Reply
  • stickmansam
    Why not the 7870XT like Sapphire calls it?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    StickmansamWhy not the 7870XT like Sapphire calls it?That's fine, please tell AMD to do the re-brand!
    Reply
  • pyro226
    "a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?

    I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...
    Reply
  • I like that build better.. :D
    Reply
  • Fulgurant
    pyro226"a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...
    That sort of thing happens once in a blue moon. Don't let it bother you.

    I guess Tom's tale of woe summarizes why Intel recommends against higher than 1.575 volts on the memory controller of Ivy/Sandy:

    http://www.intel.com/support/processors/sb/CS-029913.htm#4
    IntelWhat are the Intel® Core™ i7 desktop processor DDR3 memory voltage limitations?Intel® recommends using memory that adheres to the Jedec memory specification for DDR3 memory which is 1.5 volts, plus or minus 5%. Anything more than this voltage can damage the processor or significantly reduce the processor life span.
    In any case, the performance benefits of overclocking memory on a Sandy/Ivy platform seem so miniscule that it's scarcely even worth considering. Buy memory capable of an appropriate speed @ 1.5V, and leave it be.

    (I know Tom mentions Intel's position on memory voltage on the last page of the article, but I wanted to re-emphasize it because I've seen literally hundreds of people dismiss Intel's statement on various hardware forums. When sites like Tom's Hardware push limits, even for questionable performance gains, we all benefit -- but when someone who's on a budget and might not know any better pushes limits on his own, hard-earned hardware, the results might be tragic. Tom's experiments with this stuff so we don't have to.)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    pyro226"a board damaged a processor that in turn damaged every board it touched, which in turn would damage every processor it touched" and ram damaging a CPU?I think I'm a bit afraid to build computers now. If either of those situations would have happened to my $600 build, I would have cried and given up...I told Chris the system was cursed, but he refused to let the project go after the seventh day. Three more days rescued the content, if not the hardware...
    FulgurantThat sort of thing happens once in a blue moon. Don't let it bother you.Once every 12 years is twice in 13 years too often...
    Reply