Photos: building a Sandy Bridge PC

Photos: building a Sandy Bridge PC

Summary: We needed a testbed PC running Intel's latest-generation Core i7 processor, so we built our own. Here's how it turned out.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Reviews
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  • This view of the motherboard shows the general arrangement of components. Note the two blue PCI-E x16 slots, which are separated by enough distance to fit a pair of double-width SLI-enabled graphics cards, and the trio of PCI-E x1 slots. At the bottom sit six outward-facing SATA sockets — two of them 6Gbps-enabled, the rest 3Gbps — and an eSATA socket. The on-board RAID function offers RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10.

    Under the 'Desktop Board' heatsink lurks the P67 chipset, which provides what Intel calls the Platform Controller Hub. There's a single Gigabit Ethernet socket, support for 7.1 audio, 14 USB 2.0 sockets and a pair of USB 3.0 sockets on the back panel. Also noteworthy is the 'Back to BIOS button' on the back, which forces the board to power-on to the BIOS menu using default values while retaining previously saved changes.

  • This shot showcases the Noctua NH-C14 heatsink and its six heatpipes with dual 140mm fans, which are very quiet in operation. The system includes two sets of cables that slow the fans' spin speed from 1,200rpm to 900rpm or 700rpm. This promotes quietness, and a 140mm fan shifts a lot of air — 110.3 m3/hr at 1,200rpm, 83.7 m3/hr at 900rpm and 71.2 m3/hr at the slowest 700rpm setting. We used the 900rpm setting and the CPU temperature hardly shifted from 33 degrees C. Despite the overhang of the fans, we managed to install memory modules with the heatsink installed, although you could probably take the lower fan off to make DIMM installation a bit easier, as well providing greater noise reduction while retaining plenty of thermal headroom.

  • The Fractal Design Define R3 tower case has a clean appearance that carries through to the internals. The bulk of the inside is finished in black, but the eight drive bays are fitted with white slide-out trays that make it simple to swap drives in and out. This diminutive 80GB Intel X25-M SSD, secured using the supplied thumbscrews, looks a bit lost in all that space.

Topics: Hardware, Reviews

Manek Dubash

About Manek Dubash

Editor, journalist, analyst, presenter and blogger.


As well as blogging and writing news & features here on ZDNet, I work as a cloud analyst with STL Partners, and write for a number of other news and feature sites.


I also provide research and analysis services, video and audio production, white papers, event photography, voiceovers, event moderation, you name it...


Back story
An IT journalist for 25+ years, I worked for Ziff-Davis UK for almost 10 years on PC Magazine, reaching editor-in-chief. Before that, I worked for a number of other business & technology publications and was published in national and international titles.

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  • Update: We will, of course, be keeping an eye out for the SATA II bug in this system's P67 (Cougar Point) chipset
    Charles McLellan
  • Jeez thats a massive heatsink lol! Typical of a big company like Intel to make such a small error :(
    themanunderyourbed@...
  • The heatsink IS pretty big, especially for a 95W part, but it'll cope easily when this extreme version of the chip is computing flat-out.
    Manek Dubash