The biggest news in the four months since our previous Extreme PC Buyer's Guide is price cuts. Intel has followed the most drastic of these, pricing its fastest dual-core at half of what the next model down had previously cost. Another surprise is that AMD has yet to counter Intel's performance moves, instead relying on huge price reductions in its own line, but with no increase in speed. This translates into great news for our $4,000 budget, as the totality of savings has left room for an SLI configuration, but which one would we choose? Read on to see how far this system has advanced from earlier efforts!
Current Cost: $240
Consecutive Guides: 3
Price Change: $0
That Cooler Master's classic Stacker 830 has made it through three consecutive guides is a testament to both its good design and the "form before function" attitude of the brand's competition. Things that keep the Stacker 830 on top include its four 120mm side panel fan mounts, in addition to top, front and rear mounts, plus its traditional motherboard/power supply layout when used its more common "ATX" configuration.
Nine 5.25" bays support a wide variety of drives thanks to Cooler Master's inclusion of a 3x 5.25" to 4x 3.5" adapter cage, and lining the entire front panel with large bays opens the option of using alternative multi-drive racks.
Several other cases were considered for the guide, but came up short. Without picking on any particular brand, many put the power supply at the bottom where it can't draw warm air away from the CPU. Of course, that's better for power supply longevity, but it hurts CPU cooling where power supplies are generally more durable. Though a few competitors add an extra lid-mounted fan in the same place, the added fan does nothing that a power supply fan would not have... except make the system noisier.
Using the traditional "upright" layout for ATX boards allows motherboard heat pipes to work with the assistance of gravity. We've been told that some motherboard heat pipes purely gravity fed and lack the wicks needed to make them work upside-down, but haven't cut any apart to find out.
Current Cost: $260
Consecutive Guides: New
Price Change: N/A
We normally consider a component based upon its primary function, but this time we added convenience to something normally considered just a little boring. Conveniences such as a modular design using flat cables for easier cable management, and a 135mm bottom-mounted intake fan that draws warm air away from the top of a motherboard.
Not that form is preceding function, as the X3 delivers a whopping 70 amps (840W) to its single 12V rail, a rail that can supply any device with the maximum required power and without the limitations normally imposed by multi-rail designs. Ultra also rates its X3 at 85% peak efficiency, a very impressive number considering the losses many modular power supplies take due to the slight added resistance on the extra connections.
We haven't found any proof that the X3 is the "best" 1000W power supply for use at the edge of its rated capacity, but our system doesn't actually need 1000W. Our former PC Power & Cooling 750W choice was certainly enough, and buyers who would rather save a few dollars and buy from a company with the industry's best reputation, might consider it:
PC Power & Cooling's Silencer 750 Quad delivers the same performance as it did when selected for our March Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, and best of all, its price has fallen to around $200.