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New build advice -- Dual 1-1.5K General PCs

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April 15, 2011 4:06:06 PM

Background: I'm planning on replacing both my computer and my wife's. Both are ~ 5 year old core 2 duo based systems running Windows Vista. I've build most of our systems for years, but it's been awhile, so I'm not familiar with optimal components and who the reliable brands are at the moment.

Approximate Purchase Date: I'd like to buy the parts in the next week and finish the builds before month's end.


Budget Range: $1,000-$1,500 U.S. for each After Rebates, so less than $3,000 total for the two, less is fine.


System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, spreadsheet/tax/accounting work, word processing, HD video editing, internet browsing.


Parts Not Required: (e.g.: keyboard, mouse, monitor (current monitors are Acer LCD 1680x1050)


Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com


Country of Origin: United States


Parts Preferences: I like what I'm hearing about the new Sandy Bridge CPUs. I'm interested in using SSDs for the operating system and games and a HDD for media storage, but don't know if I can do it in my budget, and I'm not sure about the reliability of the SSD drives given that they're still relatively new tech.


Overclocking: Maybe. I don't tend to because reliability and quiet are more important to me than bleeding-edge speed, and I've not done it before.


SLI or Crossfire: Maybe


Monitor Resolution: 1680x1050


Additional Comments: Reliability is foremost in our needs. We'd like to be able to play Starcraft 2 at full settings at our screen's native resolution. I'd like to be able to play Sword of the Stars 2 when it comes out; it will take advantage of Dx 11. All other things being equal, we're willing to sacrifice a little power for quiet. When I try to edit and burn HD home videos of the kids and such at present, it takes a looooong time and the videos frequently have little hiccup pauses in them where I assume the CPU just couldn't keep up with the encoding, so I'd like something fast enough not to have that problem anymore.

We have a home network using wired cat 5e and an Acer Easystore running Windows home server which backs up our files and stores our music collection.

I sometimes dual-boot my computer with Ubuntu, so parts with Linux support are great, but that's a low priority after all other considerations.

Thanks so much for your insights!
April 15, 2011 4:35:37 PM

I should have mentioned that I'm willing to pay more for higher-quality, more reliable parts as opposed to something faster/bigger/shinier, but less reliable.

Also, I'm willing to spring for more power-efficient parts if they are equivalent other than the price.
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Best solution

April 15, 2011 4:55:50 PM

Let me start with the case.

Your needs do not require anything more than a mini-ITX motherboard. You could do with a truly small case.
But, for real quiet, there is nothing better than the Antec Solo full ATX case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Read about it here: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article272-page7.html
I have used it, and it's derivatives, the P150 and designer500. It is easy to work with and is one of my favorites.

Sandy bridge is definitely the way to go. They run quieter, and are stronger on a clock for clock basis. I see no need for more than a dual core.
I suggest the i3-2100 @3.1 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Since you will be using a discrete graphics card, a P67 based motherboard might be best, even though you will not be doing any overclocking with any non K sandy cpu. Nor is any needed; they are shockingly quick. H67 would give you support for the sandy integrated graphics, about the equivalent of a $50 discrete graphics card. Probably not quite good enough for SC2.
Intel is always good and reliable, and I have no problems with Asus, gigabyte, or ecs which I have used in the past:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ram speed is unimportant for SB, and considering the low cost of ram today, I suggest a 8gb(2 x 4gb) kit of ddr3 1333 ram:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

A good midrange graphics card is all you need. EVGA has good support. Look at the evga GTS450:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You will need a 400w psu(22a on the 12v rails) from a quality vendor. My short list would include Corsair, Antec, PC P&C, Seasonic, and XFX. Here is the Antec 430W unit:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Get a cpu cooler with a large 120mm fan. It will keep your pc quieter when under load. The CM hyper212 is a good inexpensive unit:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

------------ good luck---------------
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April 15, 2011 5:00:37 PM

Do you want two identical builds? For gaming, the 2500k is king, while for video editing, the 2600k is highly recommended but might give you less fps while gaming. Whatever we recommend, you should go with the unlocked version as overclocking is very easy and will extend the useful lifespan of your build.
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April 15, 2011 5:03:41 PM

geofelt said:
Let me start with the case.

Your needs do not require anything more than a mini-ITX motherboard. You could do with a truly small case.
But, for real quiet, there is nothing better than the Antec Solo full ATX case:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Read about it here: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article272-page7.html
I have used it, and it's derivatives, the P150 and designer500. It is easy to work with and is one of my favorites.

Sandy bridge is definitely the way to go. They run quieter, and are stronger on a clock for clock basis. I see no need for more than a dual core.
I suggest the i3-2100 @3.1 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Since you will be using a discrete graphics card, a P67 based motherboard might be best, even though you will not be doing any overclocking with any non K sandy cpu. Nor is any needed; they are shockingly quick. H67 would give you support for the sandy integrated graphics, about the equivalent of a $50 discrete graphics card. Probably not quite good enough for SC2.
Intel is always good and reliable, and I have no problems with Asus, gigabyte, or ecs which I have used in the past:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ram speed is unimportant for SB, and considering the low cost of ram today, I suggest a 8gb(2 x 4gb) kit of ddr3 1333 ram:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

A good midrange graphics card is all you need. EVGA has good support. Look at the evga GTS450:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You will need a 400w psu(22a on the 12v rails) from a quality vendor. My short list would include Corsair, Antec, PC P&C, Seasonic, and XFX. Here is the Antec 430W unit:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Get a cpu cooler with a large 120mm fan. It will keep your pc quieter when under load. The CM hyper212 is a good inexpensive unit:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

------------ good luck---------------

Wouldn't he want an i5 atleast if he plans on doing hd video editting?
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April 15, 2011 5:14:04 PM

farsuka said:
Wouldn't he want an i5 atleast if he plans on doing hd video editting?


Good point, although HD video editing was near the end of the usage list.
Once you are looking at the i5 cpu's, you are into the $200 price point where the 2500K would be the cpu of choice. That is probably a good recommendation anyway.
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April 15, 2011 5:54:49 PM

geofelt said:
Good point, although HD video editing was near the end of the usage list.
Once you are looking at the i5 cpu's, you are into the $200 price point where the 2500K would be the cpu of choice. That is probably a good recommendation anyway.


Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Any change in motherboard recs if I go with the i5? Is there an advantage to the 2500K as opposed to the 2500 if I'm not going to overclock?

Anyone have any thoughts about price/speed/reliability of SSD vs. HDD and which brands you recommend?
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April 15, 2011 6:04:07 PM

With a P67 chipset based board it won’t matter if you are using the Intel® Core™ I3 2100 or the I5 2500K, the board will supports them both. Both if you really aren’t using of the system for gaming a matchup of the Intel Core I3 2100 and the H61 or H67 chipset based board works very well and you don’t need to add in a graphics card.

Christian Wood
Intel Enthusiast Team
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April 15, 2011 6:08:53 PM

Is it possible to build one now, based on P67/2500k, and wait a bit until Z68, where you can have a discrete GPU and access to Quik Sync and OCing (if you so choose)?
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April 15, 2011 6:12:55 PM

The only real advantage of a -k CPU on a P67 board will be noticed down the road when you feel you need a bit more speed and decide to overclock. It truly is very easy on the unlocked Sandy Bridge CPUs.
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April 15, 2011 6:18:32 PM

I forgot to mention that I am planning on using the 64 bit version of Windows 7 as the primary OS on these machines, so I will need components that are well-supported for 64 bit (I know that's not as much of a problem as it was a few years ago, but still.

I don't do a lot of HD video editing, just a bit with making DVDs of home movies of the kids, but I do want a CPU/RAM/GPU combination that will make those projects run quickly and smoothly when I do them.

@IntelEnthusiast -- We do a fair bit of gaming, so I suspect I will need an add-in graphics card to meet our needs.
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April 15, 2011 6:24:11 PM

spitz said:
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Any change in motherboard recs if I go with the i5? Is there an advantage to the 2500K as opposed to the 2500 if I'm not going to overclock?

Anyone have any thoughts about price/speed/reliability of SSD vs. HDD and which brands you recommend?


Most any sandy motherboard will be good, pick your favorite vendor. They will all support any fo the sandy processors.

If you are not going to overclock, then there is no advantage to the K versions. But, there is very little price difference for the K version that it makes sense to get one with a P67 motherboard anyway. Modest overclocks are easy and safe. In the future, you might change your mind. In the future when you do another upgrade, you will more than make up the difference in resale value.

The prices for SSD's will keep going down. Currently, they are about $2 per gigabyte. It is a competitive market so your cost will be comparable.

There is much advertising of sequential speeds to differentiate between products. The reality is that you get a SSD for it's random performance.
Most sandy bridge motherboards will have two 6gb sata ports. This can make a difference in benchmarks for some of the newest ssd's. Really, though, the gen 2 ssd's are still plenty fast enough in normal desktop usage. Currently Intel seems to have the lowest return rates. Read this link, and look at other components also. There are some eye openers for me:


http://www.behardware.com/articles/810-6/components-ret...
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April 16, 2011 5:26:43 PM

Taking into account the excellent advice and links you've provided, I've come up with the tentative builds below. Further advice and tweaking or feedback is welcome and appreciated. My plan is to post a final build plan Sunday the 17th and order on Monday the 18th.

Case: Antec Solo ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $90
recommender: Geofelt recommendation

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $225
reason: nd_hunter rec as I do wish to be able to do HD video editing

Motherboard: I want to go with a P67 based motherboard, and I'm leaning toward ASUS, as I've used them in multiple past builds without problems. I'm a bit lost as to which ASUS p67 motherboard to go with, though, and would appreciate any input.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $220
reason: I'm leaning toward the ASUS SABERTOOTH P67 (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard, since it seems to be specifically designed for reliability and decreased vibrations from attached fans.

RAM: Kingston 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3N9K2/8G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $86
reason: Geofelt's link to the hardware reliability/return rates seemed to indicate that Kingston has a far lower return rate than most of the other RAM manufacturers.

GPU: MSI N460GTX CYCLONE 1GD5/OC GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $185
reason: I'd like a bit more power in the GPU than Geofelt recommended in case we increase monitor resolution or pick up a more graphics-intensive game in the future. MSI seemed to have good reliability, and this card design was reviewed as quieter than average. Input is welcome. How much bigger a power supply would I need to support it?

GPU alternative: EVGA 01G-P3-1366-TR GeForce GTX 460 SE (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $120 after rebate (4/16 only)
reason: Newegg daily deal today, hard to beat that price if people think it's an OK card.

PSU: This is the place I really still need help. I know Antec has the most solid reputation here, I dislike the 80mm fans they use in their power supplies at this level. I've used CoolerMaster supplies with the larger 120mm fans and found them much quieter in the past. CoolerMaster also has a good return rate according to Geofelt's link, but none of their power supplies at this level are certified for efficiency. I'm also not sure how much more power I need with the upgraded graphics card I'm considering. I appreciate any educated guidance on PSU.

CPU cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $35
reason: Geofelt recommendation

HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $90
reason: WD reliability

SSD: Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW160G310 2.5" 160GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $320
reason: Intel reliability

Media Drive: ASUS Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $22

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit 1-Pack - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $140
reason: I'll probably install dual-boot Ubuntu on mine as well.


These are my thoughts at the moment. I really appreciate ongoing feedback and those of you who generously share your expertise.
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April 16, 2011 7:11:19 PM

How about this XFX 650w PSU? Bronze certified. Mostly modular. Looks good, lol. And I used it for my build and my fathers build 5 weeks ago. It's solid. Also, I believe it is made by Seasonic for XFX.
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April 16, 2011 8:14:30 PM

Graphics cards like the cyclone do a good job of cooling in an open test bed. In a case, the heat needs to be ejected by case cooling. That raises both the gpu and cpu temperatures, and hhe fan speed necessary to cool them.Not good. I prefer the direct exhaust type cards. The evga card you listed looks like a better cooling unit in the case.

A quality psu of 450w will do the job for any of these cards. Look to Antec, PcP&C, seasonic, XFX, or corsair for good units.

For quiet, look at a gold efficiency rated psu such as the seasonic 550w:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
You will pay a premium for it, but the fan will probably never need to run.

I like the asus sabretooth, primarily for the 5 year warranty.

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April 17, 2011 2:52:42 AM

OK, with the additional feedback, here's my current plan:

Case: Antec Solo ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $90
recommender: Geofelt recommendation

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $225
reason: nd_hunter rec as I do wish to be able to do HD video editing

Motherboard: I want to go with a P67 based motherboard, and I'm leaning toward ASUS, as I've used them in multiple past builds without problems. I'm a bit lost as to which ASUS p67 motherboard to go with, though, and would appreciate any input.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $220
reason: I'm leaning toward the ASUS SABERTOOTH P67 (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard, since it seems to be specifically designed for reliability and decreased vibrations from attached fans.

RAM: Kingston 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3N9K2/8G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $86
reason: Geofelt's link to the hardware reliability/return rates seemed to indicate that Kingston has a far lower return rate than most of the other RAM manufacturers.

GPU: MSI N460GTX Hawk Talon Attack GeForce GTX 460 (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $180
reason: Slightly cheaper than the other MSI card, loses the open design Geofelt advised against.

PSU: Seasonic SS-560KM Active PFC F3, 560W ATX12V V2.3/EPS 12V V2.91, 80Plus Gold Certified, Modular Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $120
reason: Geofelt rec; I like the low temps, silent fan, efficiency.

CPU cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" Long Life Sleeve 120mm CPU Cooler Compatible Intel Core i5 & Intel Core i7
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $35
reason: Geofelt recommendation

HDD: Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod[...]6822136533
cost: $90
reason: WD reliability

SSD: Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW160G310 2.5" 160GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $320
reason: Intel reliability

Media Drive: ASUS Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
cost: $22

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit 1-Pack - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod[...]6832116992
cost: $140
reason: I'll probably install dual-boot Ubuntu on mine as well.

Total cost: $1,520, after rebates and before shipping. A big chunk of that is for the SSD. Any final thoughts?
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April 17, 2011 4:05:23 AM

You will not regret the SSD.
Good job.
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April 17, 2011 3:15:32 PM

The ASUS motherboard is out of stock at NewEgg. What others vendors do you recommend?
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April 17, 2011 3:40:14 PM

Amazon and TigerDirect are ok. Got my ASUS board through TigerDirect. Ordered some stuff through Amazon too with my build. I had no problems with either.
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April 17, 2011 5:56:44 PM

That Samsung beats that WD h/d in speed, quietness, price, reliability, and price. Four category's which count. This build allows you some future proofing in case you decide to play something more demanding and/or size up on the resolution. Add whatever SSD you choose to this build and your good to go. :) 

This build includes a factory over clocked gtx 560 with the option to add another later on for SLI. Also includes is Windows 7, an after market cpu h/s (thermal paste included, 8GB of low voltage RAM, etc...

One other thing...all the board manufacturers recommend low voltage RAM for these 1155 mobo's as in 1.5v or less.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $79.99 - $69.99 after mail-in rebate FREE SHIPPING
COOLER MASTER Storm Scout SGC-2000-KKN1-GP Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Combo Discount: -$10.00 Combo Price: $174.98 $10.00 Mail-In Rebate Card Price After Mail-In Rebate(s): $164.98
CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W ATX12V v2.31/ EPS12V v2.92 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC High Performance Power ...
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Combo Discount: -$30.00 Combo Price: $244.98 FREE SHIPPING
ASUS P8P67 PRO (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-8GBXL

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... Combo Discount: -$10.00 Combo Price: $464.98 $20.00 Mail-In Rebate Price After Mail-In Rebate(s): $444.98
MSI N560GTX-TI Twin Frozr II/OC GeForce GTX 560 Ti (Fermi) 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video ...
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K

http://www.amazon.com/Cooler-Master-Hyper-Sleeve-RR-B10... $27.22 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler, RR-B10-212P-G1

http://www.amazon.com/Lite--LightScribe-Layer-Drive-IHA... $24.99 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25
Lite-On LightScribe 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive IHAS424-98 - Retail (Black)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99 FREE SHIPPING
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

Total: $1,117.13 *not including shipping, rebates, etc...
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April 17, 2011 6:11:06 PM

as usual, why_me's build is frustratingly good. from what ive seen they are still letting you nail these promo codes on with combos,
might as well give em a try:

EMCKFJE26 (10% off all desktop ram)
EMCKFJE34 (10% off corsair psu's)

i think you have some flexibility in case choice, as there are many good ones in the price range, and you should pick the one your wife likes the best:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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April 18, 2011 2:48:51 PM

Best answer selected by spitz.
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