"What if I have about US$5000 to spend – Could I have a true 8-core/16-thread CPU in a small form factor setup without compromising on storage, thermals or online gaming prowess?"
Well, we show that we can!
Previously at CES, we came across a similar mATX based rig huming along discreetly in a hotel suite without anyone noticing. Since then, we have been obsessed with building a similar setup, specced out with some of the best hardware from around our lab, to see how much compute power we could squeeze in a small form factor. The following is a list of parts that we've used…
CPU (Intel Xeon E5-2690 2.9GHz)
A hercules among CPUs, this top of the line Sandy Bridge-EP Xeon packs 8-cores/16 threads at 2.9GHz (turbos to 3.8GHz), providing up to 152GFLOPs per socket and has 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes for ambitious multi-GPU builds. In well threaded applications, our behemoth of a processor behaves like a 4.6GHz Core i7-3960X, making it an excellent choice if you don't overclock (which you currently can't). You can read our full review on it here.
Quick search on Newegg shows it retailing for US$2039, and if you are on a tighter budget the entry level 8-core 2.2GHz (Xeon E5-2660, 95W) is not too far behind performance wise and goes for a more palatable US$1329.
Motherboard (ASUS ROG Rampage IV GENE X79)
The X79 mATX scion of the acclaimed ASUS Republic of Gamers Rampage IV series, this small form factor motherboard still boasts of the same extreme overclocking-oriented engineering (like the Digi+ II VRMs and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors) as its larger siblings, coupled with Intel gigabit ethernet for no-frills low latency networking and dual PCIe 3.0 x16 multi-GPU support. Also, the onboard 8-channel SupremeFX III audio solution is rated at an above average 110dB SNR, doing away the need for a discreet sound card.
One of the main reasons that we prefer using ASUS ROG X79 boards is the excellent UEFI BIOS, which has a clean and functional layout for overclockers, and it recovers well during unstable runs. Frequent bios updates by the ROG team to squeeze out every drop of memory and graphics performance is also a huge plus.
The Rampage IV GENE can be purchased for US$289 on Newegg.
CPU HSF (Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E edition)
To take care of the CPU cooling (135W TDP on the 2.9GHz 8-core E5-2690), we used the recent announced Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E, which is a updated version of the original Silver Arrow that we did a review on last year. Featuring eight nickel-plated 6 mm copper heatpipes and 2 * 154mm*120mm of heat dissipation area, it is bundled with an efficient pair of TY-150 & TY-141 ultra low noise PWM fans (clips for an optional third fan is included) for best-in-class cooling.
We will update our readers about the pricing when it is publicly available.