Want to put together a super fast desktop system using the latest components? Here are the plans for a system that will give you the top-dog bragging rights ... for a while at any rate! Oh, and you'll get the cutting edge performance at the best price possible.
This system will be built around Intel's latest CPU - the six-core Core i7 980x Extreme Edition.
Note: At the time of writing, these CPUs aren't generally available for retail sale, but review pieces are making the rounds. These CPUs should be hitting the shelves shortly.
As I've already mentioned, the CPU that I'll be using here is Intel's first six-core (or hexacore) Core i7 980x Extreme Edition. This is a 3.33GHz part that can be Turbo Boosted up to a whopping 3.6GHz. It has six cores, which when combined with Hyper-Threading makes a whopping 12 threads available. Add to this 12MB of L3 cache, triple-channel DDR3-1066 memory interface, 130W TDP, and a brand-new stock cooler.
Six cores/12 threads offers an insane amount of power, more than the average user can hope to utilize. But having more power than you can use has never put off hardcore enthusiasts in the past!
Technically, the 980x "should" work with any Socket LGA1366 motherboard that's had a BIOS upgrade to make it "Gulftown" compatible (if you've not updated the BIOS in the last few weeks, go look for an update). That said, if you're putting down $1,000 on a CPU, you should look for a motherboard that offers you the best possible performance.
The motherboard I've chosen for this build in Gigabyte's GA-X58A-UD3R, which is not only robust and reliable, has a tweakable BIOS, and complements the 980x well, but also has advanced features such as USB 3.0 support.
An excellent board to go with your 980x!
This build needs a serious GPU, and they don't get any more serious that the ATI Radeon HD 5970. These cards are the ultimate, offering DirectX 11 support, and the ability to spread your game across three screens using Eyefinity.
The HD 5970 is basically two HD 5870 cards crammed onto a single circuit board. Performance is defendant on driver support for a particular game, but in my testing the HD 5970 seems to be consistently faster than the 5870 ... and it should be for the price!
Price: Around $700
When dealing with a CPU like the 980x, if you're going to get into a bit of overclocking you want to make sure that the RAM doesn't become the limiting factor. So here I've gone for 6GB (3 x 2GB) of Corsair Dominator GT RAM.
These modules are super fast, ultra-low latency and hand-picked to make sure they working right up to the tolerances.
This system screams out to have a solid-state drive (SSD) fitted!
One of the best SSDs on the market now is the 120GB OCZ Vertex drive. It's not the fastest about (OCZ have a Vertex EX which uses faster SLC or Single-Level Cell flash memory, but the performance does not justify the price jump), but this MLC (Multi-Level Cell) flash drive will offer plenty of performance and will be able to easily keep up with the rest of your hardware.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
The final component of this build that I'm going to give you is the PSU. You don't need a fusion reactor for this kind of build, but you do need a pretty hefty PSU in the region of 600 to 800 Watts.
For this build I've chosen a Zalman ZM750-HP 750W, which is a fully-featured PSU that offers you everything you'd need for a system like the one we're building here.
Barebones price: $2899
You do need to add a few bits (a chassis, optical drive, OS, monitor, peripherals ...), but this super-powerful Core i7 "hexacore" system will leave other systems eating its dust.
... and before you ask, yes, this system will play Crysis ... really well!
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