The upside is low maximum power consumption and high efficiency. The downside is that we have only two PCI Express power connectors and a lack of modularity--all existing power connectors are permanently attached. If you need more power for a second GPU, a great alternative is Seasonic's Platinum 860W power supply, but that would set you back $220 instead of the Antec's $120 cost.
Nvidia Finally Gets Power Efficiency
Maybe it's all the effort Nvidia has been spending lately on building low-power processors for mobile devices. Or maybe the company just got tired of having low-wattage sand kicked in its face by AMD. Whatever the reason, Nvidia's latest high-end GPU, the GeForce GTX 680, is a power-sipping prodigy. The Asus-branded GTX 680 card I selected requires two six-pin power connectors, something unheard of in a flagship graphics card.
Nvidia also endowed the GTX 680 with the ability to support four displays; I currently have one running three 30-inch panels on my desktop, which gives me a total of 12 megapixels of screen real estate. Trust me, that's a lot of windows.
The GTX 680 is certainly faster than AMD's flagship Radeon HD 7970, but it's also smaller, quieter, and cooler. The 1536 GPU cores translate into superb performance in modern PC games. Even a huge performance hog such as Metro 2033 reaches over 30 frames per second at 1920 by 1200 screen resolution. Perhaps more representative is the 62 fps we saw in Batman: Arkham City at 1920 by 1200, with maximum detail levels and 4x multisampling antialiasing enabled.
The Processor-Motherboard-Memory Triangle
I wanted a platform that offered growth potential without sacrificing performance. That meant LGA 2011, which supports huge memory bandwidth and Intel's top-of-the-line CPUs. On the other hand, I didn't want to break the bank, so I opted for the lowest-cost LGA 2011 CPU: the quad-core Core i7-3820. It has 10MB of L3 cache, a quad-channel DDR3 memory controller, and Hyper-Threading support. It includes a staggering 40 PCI Express lanes, making it suitable for multi-GPU setups, if you so desire. Offering a base clock of 3.6GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost speed of 3.8GHz, it's no performance slouch. The two additional cores that ship with the pricier 3920K and 3960X CPUs won't add much to gaming performance, either.
The underlying motherboard platform is the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 board, based on Intel's X79 chipset. It's one of the more power-efficient X79 boards available.