Updated: The most extreme PC you can build today

This machine is extreme in every sense of the word. Performance price size cooling this monster could not be any more extreme. This is the sort of thing you buy with the change you have left over once you’ve had your Porsche delivered.

Core System: $8182

CPU: Intel 3960X $1249

6 core total 12 threads 3.9GHz Stock “Turbo” speed with decent overclocking capabilities there really is nothing on the market readily available that’s faster. Remember though this machine is about extremes not value for money. Also doesn’t ship with a cooler but I’ll get to that later.

Motherboard: ASUS Rampage 4 Extreme – $539

Big nasty and kind of expensive. OK it’s really expensive but a better board you won’t find. This thing has everything. OSD overclocking “key” quad SLI/xfire it is also the only board on the market that will let you run a 1366 HSF/Water block without special mounting gear. Though at $699RRP (as you can see above the “street price” is always lower) money saved here would pay for a substantial cooling setup. This board is reviewed on APC if you want to read up on it.

PRICE DROP — Video cards: 4x HIS HD7970 ($569 each) – $2279

Yes 4x HD7970s. Unlike the older Radeon cards the new 7xxx card scale as well in xfire as Nvidia cards do in SLI. What does that mean? Well you get SLI 2x Nvidia cards and you will usually get almost a 100% increase in frame rate (so it nearly doubles). Until now running a card in xfire would maybe give you a 75% gain and less again when you add a third. Benchmarks are showing that the gains in xfire are now more linear and closer to 100% like SLI. So running 4 card will give you almost 4x the performance of a single card. But running 4 cards will produce a lot of heat and require a lot of power. Something in the vicinity of 850w of the video cards alone.

PRICE DROP — Cooler: Custom water cooling setup – $1412

(See notes below for a complete list and breakdown of parts.) $1400+ for cooling? What? This is a Koolance-based setup running a redundant pump loop and a GPU water block cooling each of the above 7970 video cards. Seriously if you think you’d be able to run 4 cards and not cook the top two you’re crazy. The setup runs a Hardware labs Black Ice GTS 240 radiator for CPU cooling and a Black Ice SR1 240 for cooling the video cards. The CPU-370 block has plates to tune the restriction but with 2 pumps running in series pressure drop won’t be an issue. Extreme cooling extreme cost extremely quiet. For more detail please read below.

PRICE DROP — RAM: 4x G.Skill F3-17000CL9D-8GBXL 8GB 2x4GB @ 2133MHz ($95 each) – $380 total

Fastest RAM that’s readily available since 4x4gb kits seem to top out at 1600MHz at the moment. 8x4GB sticks should give you 32GB which should be more than enough to run everything. All at once.

PRICE DROP — SSD: 4x Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD ($345 each) – $1380

With SSD prices dropping and speeds rising on a regular basis these four drives in a RAID Stripe should give you pretty much the ultimate setup coming close TO maxing out the bandwidth of your hard drive controller.  An array like this would push data around something along the lines of 2GB/s read and write (most mechanical HDDs can only move 100-200MB/s). A terabyte should be enough but if you feel the need you can add an extra mechanical hard drive. Just make sure it’s not on the same controller as the SSD array or you will suffer a minor performance hit.

Optical drive: Pioneer BDR-206 Retail kit – $145

Why not? Blu-ray writers are cheap enough now for everyone. Not that you’re ever going to burn a Blu-ray disc but building a machine of this calibre it seems like a waste not to.

PSU: Enermax MaxRevo 1500w – $399

Biggest PSU i could find. Like I said above the video cards alone will draw +850w on their own let alone the rest of the system. This is also one of the few PSUs I’ve seen that ships with 8x8pin PCI-E power connectors obviously needed to feed 4x 7970s. 6x12v rails 1650w max. output and 94% efficient.

Case: Cooler Master Cosmos II Ultra tower – $399

Cooler Master’s current Flagship case and it’s a massive bit of kit and when i say massive we’re talking nearly 2 foot tall nearly 2 foot deep and more than a foot wide. They have really thought about the layout giving special thought to water-cooling setups. There’s room to run a 240rad (2x120mm fan radiator) in the top and bottom of the case and room for a single 120rad in the back if you so wish. The top rad can even be mounted outside the case under the top dress panel. Side panels run a very well designed hinge system and there’s room enough to run 13 hard drives 10+1 expansion slots and it’s obviously XL-ATX compatible.

Core System Cost – $8182

In more detail: Water-cooling system – $1412

There is nothing available “off the shelf” that would come close to cooling the above system properly. It’s an expensive setup but it’s pretty much the best you can buy. Parts list follows:

CPU Waterblock: Koolance CPU-370 and LGA-2011 upgrade kit – $91

The CPU-370 is pretty much the best CPU waterblock on the maket. It’s also the best looking (not that you’ll see it in this Cosmos case). I have included the s/2011 upgrade kit only for prudence’s sake. Technically you don’t need it for the R4E but it’s there just in case the CPU-370 s/1366 back plate doesn’t fit.

GPU Waterblock: 4x Koolance VID-AR797($135 each) – $540

The 797 GPU waterblock is the cheapest on the market but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. The more expensive coolers offer a metal top plate where the Koolance uses a high-density plastic. Typically the Koolance blocks are flow-rated for the CPU blocks so keeping track of the overall pressure inside the system is easier. Nnote: these blocks will only fit reference cards. The Sapphire and HIS are currently “known” reference boards though Sapphire is planning to release a non-reference board with better air cooling in the not too distant future. Make sure if you do plan to build a similar setup that you can get a block that fits.)

NEW — Pumps: 2x Koolance PMP450 ($109 each) – $218

This pump is again a modified Laing pump but this time based on the D5. This pump moves more water than the DDC pump listed before but at a lower static pressure. Unlike the DDC there is not much different between the brands electronically but the housing and heatsinks differ from model to model.

NEW — Reservoir: Koolance RP-452X2 2.0 + – $149

While not technically needed a reservoir helps in the bleeding of air out of the system.  Air in a water cooling loop will quickly kill the pumps and ultimately the rest of the system. The RP-402X2 5.25 is no longer available in Australia and it looks like Koolance have removed it from its line-up. This is probably due to the fact that this version’s a lot easier to bleed and due to the pump placement doesn’t bleed as much heat into the water from the pumps.


1x Hardware Labs Black Ice GTS 240 – $55

1x Hardware Labs Black Ice SR1 240 – $85

The 2x radiators are slightly different with the SR1 much thicker offering better cooling properties. The water will flow from the pump setup into the CPU block then into the GTS rad where the water will be cooled then into the 4-way video setup the SR1 rad then back into the pump setup.

Fans: 4x Enermax Twister Bearing Silence 120mm PWM Fan ($19 each) – $76

These Enermax fans move a lot of air and are also PWM so they can be run easily off the motherboard’s fan controller. They are also modular for easy cleaning.

Fittings Hoses and Coolant:
10x Enzotech Compression Black 3/8″ ID 5/8″ OD($8.50 each) – $85
3x ENZOTECH BSLI-1 bridge connector ($20 each) – $60
2x ENZOTECH Rotary G1/4 Male to Female ($10 each) – $20
12x Primoflex Clear 3/8ID 5/8OD ($3.50 per 30cm) – $42

The rest are compression fittings coolant additive and tubing. Compression fittings have a cover that screws down and seals over the barb providing a clean fit and reducing the likely hood of leaks. They look the goods too.