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System Builder Marathon, August 2012: Alternative $2000 Gaming PC

Budget Stretchers: The Motherboard And Power Supply

Motherboard: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3

If the first thing you spotted on our parts list was the motherboard, you might have figured out our original plan. We wanted this build to include three-way SLI. Unfortunately, Intel's Z77 Express chipset barely supports two cards, dropping each to eight third-gen lanes. Knowing that we couldn't fit three $400 cards (the GTX 660 Ti wasn't even close to available at the time) and an unlocked high-end CPU into our $2000 budget, we began making plans for an alternative solution.

Read Customer Reviews of Gigabyte's G1.Sniper 3

Every video card in an SLI array operates on the same data, which helps explain why the total available memory in a multi-card configuration equals the capacity of one board.

It also explains the purpose of a feature that Nvidia used to call Broadcast in its older NF200 switch, which repeated data to multiple links simultaneously. Supposedly, this capability is built-in to the PCI Express 3.0 specification, and PLX is able to multicast 16 lanes of traffic to four slots via its 48-lane PEX 8747 bridge. Gigabyte uses that component to enable four-way SLI on its G1.Sniper 3.

The G1.Sniper 3 isn’t the only motherboard to include the PEX 8747 bridge, but it is the cheapest one that Newegg had in stock. A reasonable price didn’t prevent Gigabyte from stacking the package with features, from its on-board Killer E2200 networking and Creative CA0132 audio controllers to its added-in 802.11n module with Bluetooth capabilities. A robust bundle of features makes the G1.Sniper 3 appear a killer deal, in spite of the fact that it cost more than twice as much as many of the Z77 Express-based motherboards we’ve reviewed.

Power Supply: Seasonic X-1050

Seasonic manufactures some of the most stable power supplies we’ve used, but often charges less than some of our other top picks. We again shot for a part that would at least support three-way SLI out of the box, and found it in the X-Series X-1050 (part number SS-1050XM).

Read Customer Reviews of Seasonic's X-1050

This amazingly capable unit outputs up to 87 A of power on a single 12 V rail without skipping a beat on efficiency. It features full modular cabling that could (unofficially) support up to four graphics cards without a need for adapters. Included cables are packed in a stylish black and gold bag.

  • idroid
    now THAT'S a real 2000$ PC, not the other 2000$
    Reply
  • zander1983
    Now this is a $2000 machine. The 3930k is a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have. If you need more horse power, swap the 3570k for a 3770k.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    idroidnow THAT'S a real 2000$ PC, not the other 2000$Actually, this one is the fake, as in the experimental PC designed specifically for gaming. The other one was picked by reader recommendations, and that's why it made it into the "main event".

    That is to say, as much as this one costs, it's still pretty much worthless to the majority of high-end users. Basically it's a $1000 PC with a bunch of extras.

    To put it another way, money "wasted" on the other one went towards making it more flexible and practical. Money "wasted" on this one went towards supporting future upgrades to its SLI array. It's nothing more than an expensive toy.
    Reply
  • brucek2
    I enjoyed the article and am glad Tom's ran it. I agree with Crashman though about this being an experimental system: while I may rarely have call to exercise six cores, it is something that would come in handy from time to time. Meanwhile, I will never be gaming at 5760x1080. I'd get more value out of the original system.
    Reply
  • hmp_goose
    Why aren't they in portrait mode?
    Reply
  • dudewitbow
    orz, using blue ares ram and an antec eleven hundred together makes me think back to my wishlist changes I wish I could have gotten instead.(albeit im still deficient on other parts)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    hmp_gooseWhy aren't they in portrait mode?Too narrow. The wide bezels are a major distraction when they're that close together. I think manufacturers should make some 5x4 or at least some 4x3 mid-sized displays specifically for this purpose.dudewitboworz, using blue ares ram and an antec eleven hundred together makes me think back to my wishlist changes I wish I could have gotten instead.(albeit im still deficient on other parts)Ares is cool because it lets you run pretty much any CPU cooler you want, without sacrificing memory frequency or timings.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    9536498 said:
    Actually, this one is the fake, as in the experimental PC designed specifically for gaming. The other one was picked by reader recommendations, and that's why it made it into the "main event".

    That is to say, as much as this one costs, it's still pretty much worthless to the majority of high-end users. Basically it's a $1000 PC with a bunch of extras.

    To put it another way, money "wasted" on the other one went towards making it more flexible and practical. Money "wasted" on this one went towards supporting future upgrades to its SLI array. It's nothing more than an expensive toy.

    Really? If it were me, I'd pick this one over the original $2000 PC. There are a lot more people gaming at 5760x1080 and 2560x1600 than they used to be so having more GPU performance is much more beneficial. Although that's primarily for the gamers, for other 3D purposes, video editing, etc the 6-cores 3930K and single GPU might be the best choice
    Reply
  • bawchicawawa
    Would have went with crossfire 7970 for that res.
    Reply
  • killabanks
    they are both great machines!! i personally think the sweet spot is somewhere around 1500 if you can get acceptable 5760x1080 performance
    Reply