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System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $2000 Performance PC

Motherboard, CPU Cooling, And RAM

Motherboard: MSI NF980-G65

Reading through the comments to many of our SLI articles, it appears that many of our readers have forgotten that SLI solutions do exist for AMD’s processors. While Nvidia’s nForce 980a SLI might be from the same generation as AMD’s 790FX, the same can be said of AMD’s “new” 890FX northbridge, which is really quite evolutionary.

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's NF980-G65

Like the 790FX, the only thing that differentiates Nvidia’s 980a SLI from “new-generation” chipsets is its lack of SATA 6Gb/s support. Since the only drive we’ve seen to exceed the previous-standard’s 3 Gb/s has problems of its own, we didn’t feel much pressure to add the new transfer standard to our “must have” list.

One feature often overlooked by performance enthusiasts, Nvidia HybridPower offers high-end machines the ability to save power in 2D mode by idling discrete graphics cards, plus the ability to output onboard audio directly through the motherboard’s HDMI connection. The NF980-G65’s DVI output is unfortunately not Dual-Link capable, so we left its controller disabled for today’s test.

CPU Cooling: Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B

Newegg doesn’t seem to know the name of Scythe’s part number SCMG-2100 CPU cooler, even though it’s written on the box. It’s hard to sell something if buyers can’t find it, and lower sales volume could be the reason Newegg charges only $35 for this $40 part (while charging $50 for Cooler Master’s competing $40 part).

Read Customer Reviews of Scythe's Mugen 2

Scythe’s Mugen 2 Revision B actually beat that more-popular competition in our LGA 1156 cooler roundup, and includes the needed brackets to fit our NF980-G65 Socket AM3 motherboard in the correct cross-flow configuration.

Better cooling for less money? That sounds like a bargain to us!

RAM: 8 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1333 CAS 9

High-end PC owners expect their entire build to be a little more extreme than those at the mid-range level, where 4 GB memory capacity is now commonplace. Eight gigabytes is the next step up for AMD’s dual-channel memory controller.

Read Customer Reviews of G.Skill's Ripjaws DDR3-1333 Kit

G.Skill’s F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL appeared to be the best-value memory kit in Newegg’s extensive collection, offering DDR3-1333 data rates at a mere 1.50 V for less than $200.

That lower base voltage could leave extra room for overclocking, but only a full stability test will reveal whether or not these modules can keep their cool.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • IzzyCraft
    Love the case choice everything else is pretty much can't really hate it or love it, but i mean you can't really hate any of the parts when they cost that much as they are all good but some just not right for some jobs.
    I do not care for AMD and SLI just because you'll be using an nvidia chipset and my past experiences with them have been poor.
    I also do not care for 6 cores for games although i mostly use my computer for other things which may like those 6 cores, but i don't find too many uses for 2 480's outside of gaming.

    Hopefully the next one will be one i can't help but agree with, A i5-750/760 with 2 460's in sli :D
  • Tamz_msc
    This month's SBM is forgettable.It confirms that AMD+SLI = BIG fail.
  • Tamz_msc
    A better option( without sacrificing GTX 480 SLI) in my opinion is:
    Core i7 950 (add 100$)
    GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R (add 50$)
    GSkill 6GB RAM(subtract 70$)
  • proofhitter
    Big CPU fail. I love your honesty, good one Tom's! Nice try nevertheless. Keep it up!
  • jrharbort
    The lesson here? AMD hexacores are still the best value on the market, but is still unable to keep up with the i7 in overall performance clock for clock. It's sadly not the best choice in high end systems, but it still wont stop me from recomending it to friends interested in sub-$1000 systems.
  • sassan_88
    I dont like systems Based on AMD's chipset
  • jj463rd
    With Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.
  • Crashman
    jj463rdWith Sandybridge and Bulldozer just right around the corner I don't think that it makes any sense to build right now with current (especially CPU + motherboard)components.Maybe not...this system was built a couple months ago.
  • makwy2
    Love the honesty. I think this is just shows that a MUCH cheaper AMD chip ($700 less) is close but not quite in true competition with the top of the line Intel chip. I'll stick to my AMD chips because I am not made of money.

    Again, I love the honesty and straight talk TH brings with these bi-monthly features that give system builders a real idea about performance and cost-effective parts.
  • aaron92
    I really do value the AMD Hex vs Intel, 6 cores is already cutting edge and 12 threads is going beyond a desktop computer for this year atleast.