Maingear Ephex 3-Way SLI Performance Gaming System
Maingear Ephex: Interior Design and Quality
The interior of the Maingear Ephex turned out to be a case study in superior cable management and design layout. As you'll note in the pictures below, this Ephex system is extremely clean and well organized internally.
Strapped in tight and ready for battle are three EVGA GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics cards, which consume every available slot in the chassis, except for the PCI Express X1 slot in the first position, where Maingear elected to install the system's cold cathode light switch that is available on the systems IO back-plate. On a side note, we'd offer that the way the Silverstone TJ10 is designed it is a bit cumbersome if you're the type that likes to have quick access and availability of pulling or moving cards in the system. The side panel inside trim plate you see in the top left shot actually obstructs the area over the card slots, preventing direct access to their retaining screws unless you poke a long screw driver through the slot's access hole directly above it. As you can imagine, unless you have a long magnetic screw driver, things can get sort of awkward here. Ultimately you can remove the trim plate all together to gain unrestricted access but that takes removal of even more hardware, which is less than optimal.
In addition, with three of NVIDIA's behemoth flagship graphics cards operating in 3-Way SLI, an overclocked Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor and three hard drives, Maingear needed to back-up this system with a serious power plant, namely Silverstone's own DA1200 PSU. The DA1200 has a continuous power output capacity of 1200 Watts; that's not peak power output mind you but continuous. NVIDIA's system specs for 3-Way SLI call for a PSU capable of 1100 Watts peak power, so the DA1200 is more than up to the task. The Silverstone DA1200 also has dual 8-pin PCI Express and six 6-pin PCI Express power connectors at its disposal, and it offers 1080 Watts / 90Amps of power across its single +12V rail -- in short, and we don't say this sort of thing too often, that's some kick-ass power.
Another nice feature of the Silverstone TJ10 case is its removable drive cage that has a simple press fit design that easily clips in and out of position. Again, a 120mm intake fan is positioned in front of the drives and actually pulls cool air into the general motherboard area but also circulates a lot of air over the drives themselves as well. Finally, you can get a good look at the new Asetek LCLC self-contained liquid cooling system that Maingear employed in this particular Ephex build. As an option to "Redline Your CPU", users can select this water cooling system on Maingear's site at time of configuration and purchase for a $300 premium, but that also comes with a warranty-backed 4GHz overclock for a QX9650 CPU or in our case 3.8GHz for the QX6850 that was installed in our test system. Overall the Asetek LCLC works really well, keeping the QX6850 quad-core CPU at a comfortable 55°C or less under heavy load, even at its aggressive overclocked speed.
In addition, the LCLC and the entire system as a whole was relatively quiet, especially when you consider the amount of horsepower under its hood. The loudest component in the system seemed to be the Silverstone PSU but even that was more than reasonable for the amount of power it can produce. In short, if you're in the market for a system with specs like this, you'll expect the acoustics to scale a bit along with performance, but we have to say the Maingear Ephex does a decent job of keeping noise in check.