Articles :: Building A Low Cost SLI Gaming System: Part One ::

Doc Overclock · 04-26-2006 · Category: Guides

A $600.00SLI Gaming System

After spending a few dollars on the internet I had about a three day wait before all the parts arrived from the various e-tailors. I then had to get together the basic gathering of all the tools and other stuff like zip ties and the like to get ready for the assembly of the system. If you are using new parts like I was for this build it does make things easier. Have all the manuals you personally need to begin assembling the system so you can begin to put the parts on the motherboard as needed. Some people are just more mechanically inclined or familiar with computer components so those individuals may or may not need to access all the manuals, but for the beginner and definitely the first time builder, the manuals are more than just necessary, they are vital to your mission.

Always make sure you have everything you need to complete your task, you will need the following items listed below to do a custom built system. Make sure to find an adequate flat space to work on that is clean and as ergonomically accessible as possible to insure stability and ease of accessing the inside of your chosen enclosure. These first items I have listed below are some standard things to have ready, especially if you want to be able to have a cleanly built system with no cable or wiring mess. You can just throw it all together, plug it in and go, but there is art when it comes to building your perfect beast and you should take pride in your work and not build a messy monster. A good work area, a little prep and some patience combined with focusing on the project can result in some pretty good workmanship. The ending product results: Your shiny new system.

Tools and Accessories

  • Phillips and Flat Head Screw-Drivers
  • Scissors and Needle Nose Pliers
  • Thermal Paste
  • Zip Ties (Assorted Sizes)
  • Double Sided Tape
  • 1.44 Floppy Discs (Needed For SATA Drivers)

The cleaner the system is on the inside of your enclosure also reflects in the amount of air restriction there is, which is a determining factor in how well the system dissipates heat. When using at least one intake and one exhaust fan, the enclosure uses an air exchange method of sucking fresh air in and blowing hot air out the rear of the case for additional system cooling. The air exchange method works much better however when the flow of air is not restricted by a bunch of cables and wires all over the place, therefore blocking the pattern of the air flow, which circulates through the inside of the enclosure, and across the motherboard and CPU helping to keep temperatures down. The cooler the system runs the more stable it will be as heat is the worst enemy of your PC and can cause errors from strange system lockups to screen tears in video games if the VGA cards memory overheats too much.

Like all system builds, it all starts with the motherboard, and awhile back we reviewed a very nice one from the folks over at Epox that had some interesting features targeted at just such a project. At the moment the Socket 754 platform is very near its EOL, so prices on CPUs are very reasonable and being an SLI board means you can use the latest NVIDIA cards available in your configuration leaving a wide space for system spec options. Many people ask the question, how do I know what parts work together, and nowadays for the most part, the components work together pretty well regardless of the maker as long as they are mainstream manufactures and not some off the wall unknown from nowhere, nowhere land. In the old days there could be serious discrepancies between which parts worked with what parts, but as technology has advanced that has become an almost moot concern for the end-user. Just make sure to use AMD or Intel CPUs with their correct motherboard and that the memory specs are correct and the rest should just fall into place.

Just pay attention to the details and you should be fine. Installing the motherboard into the Codegen case was done easily enough as the case offered the proper mounting hardware so that the board could be mounted without hassle. I had an old ASUS CPU cooler in my closet and decided to use that instead of one in the retail box just because I could and really for no other reason other that it looked better. We tried to keep the wires out of the way as much as possible after installing the DVD and floppy drives into their bays for better airflow. The SLI cards installed into the system in a simple fashion and only required the SLI bracket to be installed as the 6600 series card does not require any additional power connection to work like its more powerful siblings. I hate to be redundant, but remember that for SLI you need two cards of the exact same specs to work properly, this is not saying that an Asus card cannot work with an XFX card, only that they need to match as far as clock speeds go. Another thing to remember if you try using two different clocked cards the SLI subsystem will default to the slowest cards speeds.

I had originally thought that any power supply would do building a system that's power requirements were not all that much, but the SLI required a better power supply that the one provided in my modest case, so out the window it went. The CODEGEN supposed 400W was a decidedly no-go PSU for this project, and in fact had issues even before we even got through the entire Windows installation prior to SLI, causing minor stress. We swapped out the POS PSU and installed a nice neat Thermaltake 430W unit that did the job quite nicely and was quiet as well. SLI needs adequate power to pump the two cards so this is one area where you may not want to skimp. Our In-Lab experience dictates that the higher rated the power supply is, the less problems are seen and in general offers a more stable running system environment than that of low cost/low power solutions. If you want to use the more robust 6800 through 7900 series cards FROM NVIDIA you will need a good 500W or better PSU in any event. Many of the power supply units being released today offer SLI support right out of the box and companies like Ultra Products and Thermaltake have really ramped up this market with high power SLI units that rock.

If you are just staring your journey into the DIY adventure we have a few handy guides to get you up and going and help you get the job done without pulling your hair out. If you follow the easy to comprehend steps in these guides you should have your system up and built in no time. The guys here in our forums section are also always readily available for questions as am I, so even if you get in a spot and can't figure it out, we are there to help get you through it. I intended this article as a guide on how to discern what a gaming system really requires and then how to buy and begin your own home-build project. The depth of how custom you build you bad-boy machine depends on you and some people go all out and really make some sweet systems. You will have a real feeling of achievement when you finish your work and the know-how is yours to keep forever, not to mention the included bragging rights.

How To Install A Motherboard:

How To Build A PC:

How To Install A Video Card:


  1. Introduction
  2. Buying Your System Parts
  3. Our System Parts
  4. The EVGA 6600GT SLI Cards
  5. A $600.00SLI Gaming System
  6. Test Setup and Overclocking
  7. Performance
  8. Conclusion

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