I took on a personal project a couple months ago. I wanted to build the ultimate PC. Everyone that reads my blog knows I’m a Apple guy, yet I was determined to put together an amazing PC. Let me start by telling you this: It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not cheap.

I started with the chassis, and the search didn’t take long when you just Google sexiest computer case ever… ok well maybe you have to Google a little more than that. My search ended when I came across the Level 10 by Thermaltake (and BMW). This is not just a isolated individual component chamber chassis, this bad boy is a work of art. Like all works of art however, you pay a premium. Coming in at $750-850, that makes most people cringe, I mean this puppy doesn’t even come with a reach around power supply.

The case weighs a whopping 47 lbs, empty. See that handle on top? Yah you’ll need the damn thing, and this isn’t traveling to your local LAN parties anytime soon without a dolly. Fully loaded with all equipment I think mine weighs about 80 some odd pounds at least. The design is intuitive and creative, however I honestly think it should cost around $300-$400, definitely not it’s current steep pricing. The compartments feel a little loose when opening and closing, and the HDD LED’s have a pressure sensitive switch that sometimes becomes loose and the LED turns off. Installing SSD’s (and connecting the power & SATA to them) isn’t any fun either in the HDD trays.

For the CPU there was no other choice than the Intel i7-980x. Review after review stated the same thing. This is a beast of a processor. It will set you back $1000, no I don’t have a typo, that’s a thousand clams dood just for the CPU and were not using that corny Intel HSF it comes with, oh no my friend, it’s go big or go home around here. It’s overkill for gaming, it’s right at home with 3d rendering, video editing, hell even crunching away at S.E.T.I. in it’s spare time (if power consumption is of no concern to you). If your one of those guys that likes to punch the other guy one more time in the face after you’ve already knocked him out, then this my friend, is the CPU for you as well. This CPU is relentless in it’s power and computational abilities.

Now I said just a few sentences ago “if power consumption is of no concern to you” I wasn’t directly referring to the CPU alone. The CPU itself actually is greatly efficient in power consumption, I meant the system as a whole, and your not buying a i7-980x and slapping a GT 240 in there, your going to be running a killer triage (or quadro) of GPUs. Which brings me to the next component line up…

GPU’s my friend…and lot’s of them. When you think you have enough gaming and rendering power, toss in another GPU, and just when you’ve been knocked out by complete overkill of multi-billion polygons and 16x anti-aliasing, this asshole (me) hits you again in the head with a UPDATED third now a FOURTH GPU. 3x 4x XFX 5870 GPU’s. Again, review after review call this an insane setup, with “little practical application”.

The triple QUAD Crossfire Eyefinity setup is killer, and playing games at 2560×1600 with everything maxed is a true visual bliss, but well get more into that later. Keep in mind that in order to power all three of these and still have enough juice to power the rest of your Chernobyl setup, your going to need a whopping PSU. When all three cards are inserted into the Motherboard, it just doesn’t seem right that the fans are blocking one another though, I just can’t get over that. The triple quad crossfire setup (the way I configured it with a 2gb Eyefinity 6 card as primary) will set you back a total of $1,700-$2,200.

RAM, yup that’s what I did, rammed this sucker with 24gb of DDR3 Patriot’s Sector 5 2000mhz memory. Since this is brand spanking new memory, and hard as hell to acquire, it will set you back more than the CPU and more than the cost of the QUAD Crossfire setup, the memory costs a whopping $2,120 for 24gb at the time of writing this.

Sound card? Sure most motherboards come with decent 7.1 surround sound support, but why leave it to the motherboard to process audio? Not when you can buy the Xfi Fatality Titanium. The card supports all configurations of surround sound and can process a ridiculous number of simultaneous sounds at the same time, at studio quality. The card also has onboard 64mb of RAM for audio processing. Xfi sets you back about $150-$200 UPDATED: The sound card becomes unsuable once you install QUAD crossfire or SLI on most motherboards, there is just not enough room or slots to fit it in. Using onboard 7.1 sound now.

Now all of these components need a home right? This was probably the toughest choice in the whole build process. Originally I purchased the x58 Classified by EVGA, against my natural intuition to try something other than Gigabyte and Asus, as I read and heard great things about this motherboard. However… two mobo’s later, I just was done with the shitty quality of QOS with EVGA. They had shipped these motherboards from the factory stating on the box “Supports i7-980x” however you needed to perform a BIOS update, wait… just wait… with a older i7 CPU. Yah, as if I just have an extra one laying around just in case I need to perform a BIOS update…

I ended up nabbing the Asus Rampage Extreme III, of course, a beast of a motherboard.  This is one of the few motherboards that support:

a. dual, triple or Quad Crossfire

b. 24gb of RAM

c. All your intense nerdy desires and needs

On top of that it’s drop dead gorgeous and has a plethora of bells and whistles. Bluetooth overclocking via cellphone? Check. Dual 8pin CPU power for LN2 overclocking? check. Quad Crossfire or Quad SLI? Check. Oh Oh wait…NATIVE support for i7-980x CPU? Double Check. $350-$400

For hard drives I went with two choices, one, I wanted raw speed, so naturally I went with Intel Solid State Drives 160gb…four of them…in RAID 0. For the storage capacity that we were not going to get with the SSD, I went with 2x2tb WD 7200rpm drives…again in RAID 0. This maxes out the storage locations for the Level 10 chassis otherwise I’d have gone and bought a couple more SSD’s and went with one 2tb HDD for storage.

Now everyone who paid the premium prices for SSD’s is going to feel like an idiot in about two years when SSD prices drop dramatically and larger capacities once again reign king, but if you want the fastest right now, your going to pay for it. EACH 160gb Intel SSD will cost you about $500 not including taxes, shipping and handling, then again…none of the items I listed have included taxes shipping and handling.  So for four SSDs from Intel will cost you Keep that in mind! Some people underestimate how much this will play into your factors when budgeting your setup.  The two WD 2tb’s will set you back about $350-$400 total.

Optical drive? Yah this is boring shit, there all the same, nothing new or amazing has changed the way things operate here. I went with an Asus BLURAY/burner drive which set me back about $150.

Cooling? Oh lord was it a pain in the ass to meet the 150mm tall HSF requirement for the Level 10 chassis. Everyone out there that knows a thing or two about cooling your CPU knows that most HSF that reign king are all around 160mm tall and taller. I however, learned the hard way. For a few weeks I settled with the SpinQ, and even then I had to dremel the fins and bend the heat pipe because it blocked the last memory DIMM. Eventually I ended up with the Corsair H50 [UPDATED: now I have the H70] self-contained water cooling kit. However I couldn’t leave well enough alone so I threw away the shitty 120mm fan that came with it, and bought two Silverstone 120mm fans that each push 110CFM of air, and sandwiched the radiator between them.. As of writing this, I received an email from a friend that Corsair has an “H70 kit” coming out with better performance, so as soon as I see it I’ll nab it. Note: Two silverstone fans and Artic Silver 5 will cost about $50.

The H50 does a great job at keeping the CPU cold, I have the (stock 3.33ghz cpu) overclocked to 4ghz comfortably with LOAD temps never raising above 52c. [UPDATED: dropped CPU to 3.8ghz for better stability due to the large amount of memory decreasing stability] For now I’m satisfied. The Corsair H50 will cost you about $70. *Note: I wouldn’t use the thermal paste that comes on it already, use Artic Silver 5/6/7 whatever number its on now.

Sooo we have all the components listed except PSU.

Powering this monstrosity requires that you have a mack daddy power supply. Not your pansy “Super gooder really excellent 800 watt” no-name brand. There are only a few brands I’d recommend, Corsair 1200watt, Thermaltake 1200 watt, Antec 1200 watt, and PPC 1200 watt. I went with two, yah I said it, I bought two, and I’m glad I did. In the picture at the very top of this post you’ll see I have the Antec 1200watt PSU installed, and I hated it. It has these big honkin plastic shits near the end of every main power cord, which hinders the ability to properly manage your cables and route them in small spots. Also while the Antec says it’s modular, I’d say that’s a shady way of putting it. All main power cables are NOT modular, unlike the Corsair, where all but the main and cpu 8 pin are.

A 1200watt PSU will cost roughly $275-330, and trust me when I say it’s needed.

So the system is assembled, everything works (albeit there were many obstacles to surpass along the way) Win7 ultimate x64 was installed, but wait…what kind of monitor are we going to use for this?

Nothing other than three Dell 30″ 3007′s. Even on the Dell page for them it say’s this build’s original moniker “Go big or Go Home”. Buying them new will cost you $1,399 EACH.

And this is what it looks like:

Performance? It’s stellar, Adobe After Effects CS5 renders like butter. Gaming? Frakin radical [UPDATED: some games can bring the system to a crawl sadly, Metro 2033 a heavy DX11 game, and certain other titles can definitely bring it down to a couple frames per second] . File Transfers? Wicked, just plain wicked. I can’t complain one bit. Price? eeeeeeeeh you could buy a cheap car for the price of this, and in about 4-6 months this will be outdated technology, so the choice is yours my friend.

Total cost including taxes and shipping $13,558 , extra cabling, speakers, Fatality gaming headset, G5 laser mouse, and illuminated keyboard, not included.



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