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This bench has a black bracket that holds your PCIe cards and can be slid parallel to the motherboard to accommodate different board layouts. It will take up to four two-slot cards, and DimasTech sells a longer 10-slot bracket on its website for workstation boards. We had to use the provided aluminum thumbscrews to secure the cards, since all of the screws we had in The Lab were either too coarsely threaded or not the right diameter, which is unusual. Installing cards is easy, because your view of the board slot is not blocked by a case. The video cards will end up sandwiched right next to each other, though, so you’ll need a tool to release the slot-locking mechanism on two of them (we used a PCI slot cover). The upper two cards can get quite toasty, so we moved the bench’s built-in flexible fan arm right in front of their rear intake area, and we told the motherboard to max out its RPM. We saw an immediate FPS boost in our tests, because by default these cards will throttle once they get to about 83 C.
Since the Glacer 240L cooler has integrated tubing that’s relatively short, the orientation pictured was our only option. We could have put the fans on the other side of the radiator, but since performance was already superb, we decided we liked the looked of them with the grills on top. To mount the radiator, we used the bundled screws, which became the right length when we added some rubber gaskets, also included. The radiator actually doesn’t give off much heat, even when the CPU is overclocked and firing on all cylinders, so we didn’t have to worry about the nearby power supply fan pulling in a lot of hot intake. In fact, the CPU never crossed 65C in all of our benchmarks, even when overclocked to 4.5GHz. We even threw Prime95 at it, and it didn’t break a sweat. Temperatures are also affected by ambient temperatures, though. With our open-air layout, heat coming out of the GPUs doesn’t get anywhere near the radiator, and The Lab’s air conditioning helps keep temperatures low, so it’s pretty much an ideal environment, short of being installed in a refrigerator. Your mileage may vary.
Despite our penchant for extreme performance, we rarely build triple-GPU systems, so we weren’t sure how well they’d handle 4K, but we figured they’d kick ass. Thankfully, they handled UHD quite well. So well, in fact, that we also tested the system with “only” two GTX 780s and still got respectable gaming performance. For example, with two cards, the Bioshock Infinite benchmark reported an average of a little over 60 FPS on its highest settings. In Tomb Raider, we disabled anti-aliasing and TressFX, maxing out all the other settings, and we still averaged 62 FPS. We benchmarked the opening sequence of Assassin’s Creed 4 with AA and PhysX disabled and everything else maxed out, and we averaged 47 FPS. The Metro: Last Light benchmark, however, averaged 25FPS on max settings, even with PhysX disabled.
Unfortunately, we had trouble getting Hitman: Absolution and Metro: Last Light to recognize the third card. This issue is not unheard of, and made us think: If you stick with two GPUs, you no longer need the PCI Express bandwidth of expensive LGA 2011 CPUs, or their equally expensive motherboards, or a huge power supply. That potentially cuts the cost of this system in half, from around $4200 to roughly $2100. You could also save money by going with, say, a Core i7-4930K instead, and a less expensive LGA 2011 motherboard and a smaller SSD. But it’s still a pretty steep climb in price when going from two cards to three.
The test bench itself feels sturdy and looks sweet, but we wish that it accepted standard computer-type screws, and that it came with a 2.5-inch drive bay or could at least fit a standard 3.5-to-2.5 adapter. We’d also recommend getting a second articulating fan arm if you’re liquid-cooling, so that one could provide airflow to the voltage regulators around the CPU, and the other could blow directly on your video cards. With the fan aimed at our cards, we instantly gained another 10 FPS in the Tomb Raider benchmark.
The Seagate 600 SSD was nice and speedy, although unzipping compressed files seemed to take longer than usual. The X79 Deluxe motherboard gave us no trouble, and the bundled “Asus AI Suite III” software has lots of fine-grained options for performance tuning and monitoring, and it looks nice. Overall, this build was not only successful but educational, too.
|Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)||2,000||1,694|
|Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)||831||707|
|ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)||1,446||1,246|
|x264 HD 5.0 (fps)||21.1||25.6|
|Batmans Arkam City (fps)||76||169|
The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.