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Motherboard, Cooler, And Memory

System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Mid-Range PC

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3LR

Since the Core 2 Quad is a bit more expensive than the E8500, we needed to consider cheaper motherboard options to stay in the fight. This isn't such a bad thing, as Intel's P45 chipset has proven to be both fast, flexible, inexpensive, and a good overclocker.

We chose Gigabyte's GA-EP45-UD3LR because it is a no-frills motherboard that offers more-than-adequate performance, reliability, and BIOS options. While there isn't a huge list of extras, what the board does offer is solid basics like reliable long-life capacitors and a good amount of tweakable BIOS options for the overclocker. We're giving up CrossFire compatibility, but with awesome cards like the 4870 X2 and GTX 295, the GA-EP45-UD3LR will be able to hold its own in the gaming arena.

Cooler : Xigmatek HDT-S1283 and ACK-I7751 Retention Bracket

Xigmatek’s reasonably-priced HDT-S1283 served us very well in our E8500 overclocking experience. It has more work to do when cooling a quad-core processor like the Q9550, but it's relatively inexpensive and comes with its own cooling fan unlike some of its competitors. With the budget so close this time around, every little bit counts, so we're sticking with the HDT-S1283. Of course, we will once again pay a little extra for the ACK-I7751 retention bracket to help keep the large cooler in place.

Memory: 4 GB G.SKILL HK DDR2-800

You have to love DDR2 memory prices lately–G.Skill offers 4 GB of its HK memory in a dual-channel kit for only $50. This is not cheap stuff as the 4-4-4-12 timings will attest to.

Since we're sticking with 32-bit Vista to keep things on a level playing field when comparing our latest build to the previous months' systems, 4 GB should be more than enough.

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