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Building-Virgin, suggestions welcome!

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January 2, 2011 2:32:22 PM

Hello all,

I'm Ash. I've often thought of building a computer from time to time, to have somethign that is truly unique and personalized, that I can be proud of. Well, before joinging the Navy, I never really had the funds for such an endeavor, but now, I feel it's as good a time as any to fulfill that lifelong dream. Only one problem: I don't know where to start! Sure, I'm familiar with the basics, I can take tower apart and put it back together, replace parts, etc., but building one from scratch?

I've decided to stretch out the project, buying one piece at a time so I can really enjoy the process. I've ordered my case:

http://www.xoxide.com/nzxt-crafted-phantom-black.html

But after that, I don't know where to go!

Task #1: Decide which component should be purchased first, decide the exact model, and order it!

I want this machine to be capable of gaming with the best of them, but I will also be doing a lot of music processing (Amateur musician :p ) and possibly some video editing, as well as my occasional forays into programming and video game design.

I'd love any suggestions, comments, or (constructive) criticism you all have to offer. Forums, in my experience, are one of the best learning tools available today, so I look forward to learning a ton from the community.


Thanks, everyone!


January 2, 2011 2:50:12 PM

Next step is the motherboard and power supply. Get a good OCZ/Corsair/Thermaltake/Antec at around 550w.
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January 2, 2011 3:57:45 PM

I'm reading up on how to choose a motherboard... I think this is going to be the hardest part for me. I've dealt with almost every part of a computer except the CPU and motherboard, so I'm not even sure where to start on that one.

I know it needs to have more than one PCIe slot, and preferably room for a good chunk of RAM, but other than that I'm in the dark.
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January 2, 2011 11:44:00 PM

What is your budget? That's really the determining factor.
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January 3, 2011 5:24:32 AM

I was thinking about cross-firing two graphics cards, but I may go with a single card... haven't really decided on it yet.


I am trying to nail down the budget, but it's taking a bit of research, as I had no idea what these parts go for these days. Here's about what I have so far (I've also narrowed down some of them):

HDD: Looking into Solid State drives, or possibly RAIDing 2 HDDs together (Atleast 1 TB)
Optical Drives: Minimum 2 drives, preferably BD-ROM (Lightscribe would be cool too)
Power Supply: 550-600w
Motherboard: ???
CPU: ??? (Probably i7 or equivalent)
RAM: Looking for a motherboard with atleast 4 slots, total of 12-24 GB
Graphics: GTS450 or higher (Possibly 2x if the motherboard allows)
Sound: ???
Case: NZXT Phantom Black

I'm thinking between 1000 and 1500 total... does that sound feasible?
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Best solution

January 3, 2011 8:56:49 PM

That budget should be plenty to build a system around the i7-950. I would look at a good Asus, Gigabyte, or EVGA motherboard. EVGA generally has a lot of overclocking features, and Asus has very strong quality.

If you're thinking about crossfire/SLI, you may want a bigger PSU, but it is GPU dependent.

You can get the A-Data S599 64GB for $114.99, and that'll be enough to hold your OS and a few programs. It's a great SSD that comes highly recommended and is fast. Couple that with a 1TB Hitachi (54.99), Samsung F3 (69.99) or WD Black (87.99). If money is tight, go for the Hitachi (they still run well); the F3 is faster than the WD Black.

If you're just gaming and using the computer normally, go with 6GB (3x2GB) DDR3-1600 with a Cas Latency of 8 (or 7, if you can find it). Unless you're doing tons of video/photo work or other heavy programs (NOT games), 6GB is all you really need.

For a video card, you shouldn't be looking lower than a GTX 460. They're all under $200, so SLI is easily a possibility. My Antec EA650W easily powers two OCed GTX 460s, and is only $70.

You may not need a dedicated sound card, unless you're a real audiophile. Just make sure that your motherboard has the inputs you need (EXCEPTION: don't sacrifice motherboard quality for the sound inputs. A sound card can always be found.).
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January 4, 2011 6:47:53 AM

Wow thanks that is a lot of useful information! I should be able to make a few more decisions now, but it also brings up a few questions:

So what exactly is the difference between the GTS and GTX series graphics cards?

For heavy music work (i.e. Audacity, FL Studio, etc.) I would think I'd need a bit more RAM, but how much?

When I finally get down to putting the system together, I'm not sure how to go about it (Not dumb, just inexperienced :p )
Will I be putting only the essential parts together at first to install the OS, then add things like graphics cards, wireless cards, etc. after that, or will it be ok to put everything together before I install the OS?

I was looking into the i7s, but what are the pros and cons vs. AMD processors? I know you have to make sure the motherboard and CPU are compatible, but how do the two stack up against one another?


PS I received confirmation that my case has been shipped, so I should have it by next week!i7s
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January 4, 2011 7:44:53 AM

For installing it all, there is a great guide on this website somewhere (idk im a noob but i have read it). As well as the manuals that come with
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January 4, 2011 7:55:42 AM

It is usually built with every part you're planning on using inside of it before you install the OS.

As for the amount of RAM, 6GB of 3 Channel DDR3 should be fine; just make sure you get a 64-bit OS so you can utilize all of that.
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January 4, 2011 9:37:36 AM

Paejunho said:
Wow thanks that is a lot of useful information! I should be able to make a few more decisions now, but it also brings up a few questions:

So what exactly is the difference between the GTS and GTX series graphics cards?

For heavy music work (i.e. Audacity, FL Studio, etc.) I would think I'd need a bit more RAM, but how much?

When I finally get down to putting the system together, I'm not sure how to go about it (Not dumb, just inexperienced :p )
Will I be putting only the essential parts together at first to install the OS, then add things like graphics cards, wireless cards, etc. after that, or will it be ok to put everything together before I install the OS?

I was looking into the i7s, but what are the pros and cons vs. AMD processors? I know you have to make sure the motherboard and CPU are compatible, but how do the two stack up against one another?


PS I received confirmation that my case has been shipped, so I should have it by next week!i7s



The GTX series is intended for maximum gaming performance, while the GTS series is more of an everyday consumer-level item. if you're gaming, you'll want the GTXs.

I somehow managed to gloss over the working side of this computer (as opposed to the gaming side ;) ). If you're doing really intense stuff, 8-12 GB RAM will be good for you. You can always add more memory later, if you're not sure. If you get the same brand/model, you won't have any problems.

There are homebuilding guide around the site somewhere, and also on the net. You just need to be careful and conscious about static electricity; touching a metal ground before touching parts, etc. The most common method is to put the CPU, RAM and cooler onto the motherboard, then install it and everything else into the case and board.

You can put everything you need on the motherboard; it will be unrecognized until you install the drivers for the system components anyway.

AMD CPUs generally have better value, but when comparing the computational power of AMD and Intel, MHz for MHz, Intel generally outperforms AMD. An important note about the i7s is that they are the only CPUs that support triple channel memory (three sticks in a set).
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January 4, 2011 6:17:33 PM

What advantage does triple channel offer vs. just three or four sticks "not in a set"?

I think I'm definitely going to look into the i7-950, and at least one GTX460 (I'll leave room for another :)  )
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January 4, 2011 7:41:18 PM

It's my understanding that the information is split up among the three sticks in triple channel (two in dual channel), so the computations move more quickly, as opposed to having one chunk of data handled by one stick (and the other sticks serve as overflow?).

Triple channel will give you a little better performance over dual channel, and it's worth it for the i7s. Even AMDs 6-core uses dual channel, and most of the i7s outrun it in terms of total performance (as opposed to performance per cost).
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January 4, 2011 7:50:42 PM

Ah ok makes sense. So what if my motherboard has four slots, and I fill all of them, will the fourth stick act as "Overflow" for the the set of triple channel sticks?
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January 4, 2011 8:36:28 PM

It won't work properly; you'll probably experience a huge decrease in performance and even system stability. You're better off buying 2 dual channel sets. (It'll probably cost less too).

The X58 boards have 6 RAM slots (2 triple sets), and all other dual channel boards have 4 slots (2 dual sets). The second set at least needs to have the same latency and speed as the first (that's how I'm running 2 different triple channel sets in mine).
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January 4, 2011 8:53:02 PM

Got it. So tonight after work I'll be doing some research on RAM, motherboards, and CPUs, and hopefully I'll be able to come to at least a preliminary decision.

Thanks for your help so far. I really appreciate your knowledge and experience. :) 
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January 4, 2011 8:53:45 PM

Best answer selected by PaeJunho.
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January 4, 2011 9:26:56 PM

Just FYI, I was informed on another thread that the A-Data S559 has some issues with the controller, so you're better off with the OCZ Vertex 2 or the like.
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January 5, 2011 7:41:14 PM

Paejunho said:
How is this combo? It looks pretty good to me, but is it good value for the money? Also, whats the difference between this motherboard and the other X58 board, which is about $50 cheaper?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...


Which other board were you referring too? I saw the ASUS Rampage III Gene and the P6TD.
It's probably more expensive because it is 3-way SLI certified, while the other only support 2-way SLI.
If that's of interest to you, get it, but keep in mind the only 3-way SLI capable GPUs are the GTX 285s (I think; either 280 or 285), 470/480, 570/580. It may not be worth it if you stick with GTX 460s or the like, and you don't get that much more performance from a 3rd GPU at the moment.

From what I hear, the ASUS Rampage III Gene is a good board (and for OCing too), and it's reasonably priced.

As for the EVGA board, I wouldn't use a recertified board. That board is an older model (probably pre-SATA III), and it's been used. If you're planning to work this computer hard with games and video, I would get a brand new board.


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January 5, 2011 10:54:21 PM

Sorry I meant the ASUS P6X58D Premium vs. the P6X58D-E.
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January 5, 2011 11:24:00 PM

That is a great question. They have all of the same specs, so I don't know what makes them different. Maybe somebody else on the forum knows.
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January 6, 2011 2:05:52 AM

I was looking at the Rampage board as well. I think choosing the board is going to be the toughest part of this whole thing.

My case came today.... It is huge! 5 Optical drive slots and room for 7 HDDs!
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January 6, 2011 3:12:40 AM

What is your opinion on the Sabertooth X58? I almost certain I've decided on it, but I want to make sure I'm not missing any huge flaws or anything.
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January 6, 2011 7:39:30 PM

Any of those boards will suffice for what you're doing. They all have roughly the same options and are all of great quality. The Sabertooth series (P55, P67, and X58) are some of the best board Asus makes.
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January 6, 2011 8:01:33 PM

Great, I've decided on this much so far then:

NZXT Phantom Case (Black)
ASUS Sabertooth X58 Motherboard
Intel Core i7-950 CPU
2x Kingston HyperX 6GB (2GBx3) DDR3 1333/1600 Latency 7 RAM (Need suggestions on 1333 vs. 1600)
OCZ Vertex 2 50/60GB SSD
GTX-460 (2x eventually, need suggestions on a good manufacturer)
Windows 7 Professional (As opposed to Home Edition, mostly for the virtual XP features)

Still looking at hard drives, thinking about RAIDing two of them in addition to the SSD.
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January 6, 2011 8:16:30 PM

Get the HyperX with the Cas Latency of 7 and 1600MHz speeds. It also has a lifetime warranty.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You'll want the 60GB SSD, as Windows 64bit and drivers will fill up about 40-50GB (depending on what else ends up being installed on the SSD). The Samsung F3s are great hard drives and are faster than the WD Blacks.

EVGA is the way to go with the GTX 460s. These are very similar to what I had (mine are no longer made; they just had the stock clock settings):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
They have a lifetime warranty, and can easily overclock using the MSI Afterburner program (if you need help when it comes to that, ask me).
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January 6, 2011 9:12:59 PM

I totally forgot you had already mentioned the F3s :p  I will definitely look into those.

Thanks for all your help; with this, I've pretty much got the whole system planned out, with the exception of the optical drives!

I plan on getting the motherboard next week :) 
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January 6, 2011 11:18:22 PM

Optical drives are really cheap. DVD burners run $20-25, and you can get a Blu-ray reader for about $50. Blu-ray burners are about $100, but aren't quite necessary. I have a DVD burner + Blu-ray reader combination in my system and it's quite useful.
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January 7, 2011 6:54:32 AM

Looking to find one that reads Blu-ray, writes CD/DVD, and has lightscribe capability.

Here's a question: with all these capabilities usually wrapped up into a single component, why are 5 optical drive slots necessary?
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January 7, 2011 8:07:48 PM

You'll either need a blu-ray combo drive (~$75), a blu-ray reader + dvd burner (~$75), or just spend another $25 and get a blu-ray burner (which will also burn DVDs/CDs). How you want to go about that is up to you.

Some people like having multiple burners to duplicate multiple discs simultaneously. I like having two disc drives that can read discs (don't have to take out game CDs very often, granted I use Steam a lot).

Other uses include storage drawers and fan controllers that fit in the 5.25" bays. There are also audio cards that have a 5.25" bay controller/inputs, and you can also put in racks for more HDDs or fans to blow down onto your 3.5" rack of HDDs. I have a fan controller and it's pretty neat, but kind of bright. I could even remove my HDD rack inside and fit 8 DVD drives (muhahaha)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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January 7, 2011 11:04:16 PM

My case has a built in fan controller, but I don't think it reads internal temperatures, so there's something to think about. Also, one of those universal memory card readers seems like it would go in one of those 5.25" bays, right?
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January 8, 2011 12:18:35 AM

Oh yeah, forgot about the built in controller in the Phantom. The only pain with the temp sensors is that you have to place them. However, it is easier to place them as you are building the computer (since one needs to go on/near the CPU) as opposed to putting it in after the fact (what I did; pain in the @$$).

I think you're better off buying fans to fill up the spare slots instead of another fan controller with flashy blinky things, but that's my opinion.

Most universal card readers need a 3.5" (external) bay, but there are adapters to mount a 3.5" external device in a 5.25" bay. There may be some 5.25" readers out there, but I'm not sure.
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January 8, 2011 4:02:00 AM

Yeah I just got back from the store (checking out local prices as opposed to ordering online) and all i could find was a 3.5" card reader, so I was going to ask about it, but you read my mind :) 

Definitely want one of those, though, as I have several cameras and other things that read various cards.

Anyway, like I said, I was checking out local prices, and they are ridiculous. Not that I expected otherwise from retail stores like Best Buy, especially living in Hawaii (everything is more expensive here. Milk gets up to $8 a gallon sometimes!)

Got any tips about finding good deals on parts online?
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January 8, 2011 6:43:34 AM

The link you posted about your GTX 460 GPUs doesn't work anymore, so I looked them up and found two versions... this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and one that has "external exhaust", although it looks like they both do. Is there any reason to go for the more expensive one, or do you think the model at the above link is the better choice?
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January 8, 2011 9:33:09 AM

The increase in price is for the warranty and maybe an over clock (don't know which other card your talking about); the card you linked has a 2 year warranty as opposed to the lifetime. EVGA makes good cards though, so the lifetime may not be necessary.

As for retail stores, their prices suck everywhere. Best Buy usually only sells NVidia-made cards or crappy brands, and they usually are overpriced. I saw a 2.5" hard drive enclosure there for $60 a few months ago, and I bought one last week on Amazon for only $5.
For parts, I would look on Newegg and compare with Amazon. The only reason I say that is because Amazon has a lot of items with free shipping, and their prices generally match Newegg's (excluding shipping).
Also, look for combo deals involving parts you're looking for. You can sometimes save a lot, but even $10 is money you don't have to spend.
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January 8, 2011 10:20:29 AM

Cool. I have been using google to compare prices on parts, and Amazon and Newegg are usually the first two sellers, so I have a pretty good idea about prices for most of the parts I'm sure about now.

I was looking at operating systems, and I have a question about "OEM", just to make sure I am understanding it right... The OEM version of the software basically has no tech support and can't be installed on another machine, right? It's what they sell to vendors to put on stock computers so they will have an OS but the person who buys it can't just transfer the OS to other computers? I guess the point I'm getting at is if you are going to build a machine from scratch, OEM is essentially a way to get a cheap OS, with almost no drawbacks, yes?
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January 8, 2011 10:37:53 AM

Yeah, you pretty much have the idea of how it works. Sometimes a part may be bundled with OEM software (Blu-ray drives sometimes are, because Windows can't handle Blu-rays without software).

There are also OEM parts; they come without any cables (e.g. a retail HDD comes with a SATA cable, an OEM HDD does not), but they tend to be cheaper than just the price of a just a cable.
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January 8, 2011 11:15:33 AM

Cool so here's an upgraded list of what I know for sure so far:

NZXT Phantom Black
ASUS Sabertooth X58
Intel Core i7-950
OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB
Samsung F3 1TB
Kingston HyperX 6GB DDR3 1600 (CAS Lat. 7) x2
MS Windows 7 Professional OEM
EVGA GTX 460 1GB (x2, but I'm going to start with one)

I'm still looking around for Optical drives, which I'll probably get pretty close to the end. I also found a few 5.25" card readers, some of which have temperature sensors and fan controls built in (I just want the card reader :p ). And the power supply will probably be a 650w-ish something-or-other.
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January 8, 2011 11:01:19 PM

I'd look at Lite-On, Asus, LG, and Samsung drives; they have some good and bad ones, but make sure to read the reviews on Newegg. Some people rate them poorly just because W7 doesn't natively support Blu-ray playback.

Your system sounds like it is coming together great. I'd recommend a Corsair or Antec PSU (in that order). If you go with Corsair, try to get a 650W AX or HX series; if you go Antec, the EA650W (my PSU), TP-650, or TPQ-650 are all great and will easily power your system.
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January 8, 2011 11:04:01 PM

I was wondering if you have any recommendations on CPU coolers? I've seen several, but I can't tell which ones are actually worth the money. I hear that if the processor comes with one, it's usually crap.
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January 9, 2011 1:13:19 PM

Well, stock coolers are ok for general use, but once you start loading up the CPU, the stock cooler doesn't perform well.

I switched from the Titan Fenrir (~$55) to the Cooler Master Hyper 212+ ($30) and have seen about the same performance for half the price. The CM 212+ comes with 1x120mm fan ready to mount, as well as a second mount for another 120mm fan (known as a "push-pull" setup).

The installation instructions are crap, but there's a good video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSq_xbxsm7Q

I did a CPU stress test and barely even hit 50C on full load. For the low price, you're almost skeptical of the quality, but it really performs above your expectations.

Amazon has it for $25 with free shipping:
http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-RR-B10-212P-G1-Univ...

I would also recommend Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste (like $10 for a few grams, but it's worth it).
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January 10, 2011 5:04:45 AM

That sounds great. Not the coolest looking piece of machinery, but It's on the inside of the tower so it really doesn't matter :) 

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January 10, 2011 10:18:29 AM

Looking at case fans right now... trying to find some good LED or cold cathode fans. What I'd really like to do is add a sound sensitive inverter to the cold cathodes on the fans so they pulse with the music... know a good brand I should look at?
And is what I'm talking about possible? I would assume the lights run on a different circuit than the fan itself, because I know the light can be turned off...

Also, looking into a tv tuner card. Not "must have" item, but my desk is blocking one of the cable hookups, so I might as well use it since no one else can :p 
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January 11, 2011 11:00:03 AM

UPDATE:
I've ordered the first small set of parts:

-Samsung F3 1TB HDD
-CoolerMaster Hyper 212+
-NZXT Sentry 2

I'll be ordering the next set (Motherboard, Processor, and a Lite-on DVD drive) this week on pay day!
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January 14, 2011 9:48:07 AM

UPDATE:
Received my shipment today, and ordered:

-Intel Core i7-950
-ASUS Sabertooth x58 Motherboard
-Lite-on Lightscribe DVD/CD RW drive

It's slowly starting to come together :p 
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January 14, 2011 11:25:28 AM

Nice. All you need is the PSU and the RAM and you can put most of the system together in the case. The hardest part is going to be routing those cables. Sometimes, they just aren't *quite* long enough ;) 
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January 14, 2011 12:53:20 PM

Yep :)  Then just the GPU and SSD to install the OS. I'm really excited about this :) 
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January 14, 2011 4:29:47 PM

You should be. I've been helping another friend put a Sandy Bridge build together, and I'm getting frustrated at how slowly he's getting his parts ;)  He got a check intended for the computer that covers 90% and all he's bought is the CPU so far...
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