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Mad Cow

Mad Cow's Build a Killer Gaming Rig on a Budget Thread

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I am in need of building a nice rig on somewhat of a budget. I am not setting an amount, per se, but am looking for the best bang for the buck. After looking over the reviews, I am set on going Intel, though the argument could be made to go AMD II X4 940.

I already have my case (Thermaltake Armour), good PSU (Antec 700W modular still in box) and opticals (DVD writer, etc.). I also have a relatively new GPU in the GTX 260 and will stay with that for now, though I will look at possible upgrades at the end for future reference (read when Battlefield: Bad Company 2 comes out). I also have a 1 TB HDD unused to date, but will be looking at a SSD for OS and most-used games. This build is going to happen in the next few weeks, so if nothing else will serve as a nice notepad for my links.

So with that, :thumbup::hot:

So what I am looking for here:

CPU (and cooler)

Motherboard

RAM

HDD

For CPU, it all comes down to i5 or i7. Socket 1156 or Socket 1366. If you look at the reviews, it is easy to see that the i5 is a monster. Sure, it does not have hyper-threading and limits any Crossfire to 8X vs 16X, but that is not too much of a concern for me. Also, the overclocking on the i5 is insane, reaching over 4 GHz from the 2.66 starting point on air. That alone sends it to about 25% higher performance than a stock i7 920.

That said, looking for the best bang for the buck, I am going with the Intel i5-750 for $200. It saves $80-90 over a i7 920 and will save a LOT more than that in the motherboard and RAM, since we can do dual-channel vs triple-channel. Total savings is probably close to $250 all things considered. I know how to overclock and consider the $250 a nice gift from the OC gods to even this rig up with a lot more expensive setups.

For a cooler, I will need an aftermarket cooler. The Artic Cooler Freezer 7 for $34 shipped is a classic and a performer. It is not akin to installing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on your motherboard, either, which is nice. I will easily be able to hit 3.6 on that bad boy, which is great.

Motherboard, here is the question. You figure that mobos for this CPU will go from $90 to $200, with some great performers around $130-150. That said, I am in love with the ASRock P55 Extreme board for $140 shipped. It supports quad SLI or Crossfire, has 3 PCIe slots for GPUs, etc. Tons of features for not too much cash. Good value.

RAM - Well I know going into this that I either have to go 2X2 or 4X2 with the dual channel, but that is OK. 4 GB of DDR3 dual is around $80, so I could easily double up later when it drops further. There are tons of ways to go here, so I am just picking the highest rated 2X2 set at the 'Egg - GSkill 4 GB set for $86 shipped.

I will be back to add my SDD thoughts and see if anyone has any input. I am sitting at $460 for the guts, which is not bad at all for the power this bad boy will have.

Edited by Mad Cow

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I will be back to add my SDD thoughts and see if anyone has any input. I am sitting at $460 for the guts, which is not bad at all for the power this bad boy will have.

This is the way I am going......planning on getting one and installing Windows 7 on it probably next month. The 80 GB Intel drive with 3.5 on Newegg looks nice and I know someone else mentioned it somewhere in here.

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As far as SSDs go, there are really only three options these days.

Intel (second gen)

OCZ Vertex

Patriot Torqx

Everything except the Intel and Indillix controllers suck (to varying degrees -- Samsung starts OK but degrades without possibility of recovery, JMicron are horrible right from Day 1).

Two absolutely fantastic articles on SSDs:

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=1

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3631

I think you made the right call on the Core i5. I'm building a gaming rig for my boss and just picked that CPU up from Microcenter for $160. Went with Gigabyte on the mobo but I have no need for SLi. My boss is looking to get in under the $700 mark (without a monitor) so I ended up with:

Core i5 750 $160

GigaByte GA-P55-UDM Mobo $110

Corsair 550VX PSU $70AR

XFX AMD 4870 1GB Vidcard $145

2x2GB Corsair DDR3 1600 $81

Samsung 750GB HDD 7200RPM $60

Samsung 22x DVD Burner $31

He already has a case and a monitor.

If I were building this rig for me, I'd add-in an 80GB Intel 2nd Gen SSD, go up to a 5850 or 5870 vidcard, and possibly another 2GB of DDR3 (2x3GB).

Overall for $700 I think he's getting a decent gaming box here though.

Edited by Zasada

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As far as SSDs go, there are really only three options these days.

Intel (second gen)

OCZ Vertex

Patriot Torqx

Everything except the Intel and Indillix controllers suck (to varying degrees -- Samsung starts OK but degrades without possibility of recovery, JMicron are horrible right from Day 1).

Two absolutely fantastic articles on SSDs:

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=1

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3631

I think you made the right call on the Core i5. I'm building a gaming rig for my boss and just picked that CPU up from Microcenter for $160. Went with Gigabyte on the mobo but I have no need for SLi. My boss is looking to get in under the $700 mark (without a monitor) so I ended up with:

Core i5 750 $160

GigaByte GA-P55-UDM Mobo $110

Corsair 550VX PSU $70AR

XFX AMD 4870 1GB Vidcard $145

2xGB Corsair DDR3 1600 $81

Samsung 750GB HDD 7200RPM $60

Samsung 22x DVD Burner $31

He already has a case and a monitor.

If I were building this rig for me, I'd add-in an 80GB Intel 2nd Gen SSD, go up to a 5850 or 5870 vidcard, and possibly another 2GB of DDR3 (2x3GB).

Overall for $700 I think he's getting a decent gaming box here though.

That i5 at Microcenter is taunting me. I have looked at it for a few weeks now, and while my mom and stepfather live in Columbus where there is a MC, figure $200 shipped to me vs $160 plus tax ($10) then shipping to me ($10) and there is only a $20 savings for a lot of work on their part. :wall:

I am up in the air about the SSD. A good 640 GB WD Black HDD can boot up pretty darn fast as well and only costs $75 vs the $230+ investment of an SSD.

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A few other SSD notes, the Extreme Corsair series are also VERY NICE.

You might find it interesting as well that Intel drives are made by Micron, or their partner IMFlash anyway. The main plant for that is right here in the city I work in, Lehi, Utah.

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As far as SSDs go, there are really only three options these days.

GigaByte GA-P55-UDM Mobo $110

That mobo might be a nice fit, especially since I have a mATX case sitting around extra.

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I am up in the air about the SSD. A good 640 GB WD Black HDD can boot up pretty darn fast as well and only costs $75 vs the $230+ investment of an SSD

I have a 60GB Vertex and absolutely love it. I don't know how much web surfing and "general use" type stuff you use your gaming rig for, but the SSD makes everything "instant on". I have to go with Anand that it is the single biggest upgrade you can make to your PC from a usability point of view. I'm actually waiting for the OCZ Colossus to hit the market so I can upgrade my gaming rig to 128GB (more space equals more games on the SSD and off the Raptor!) and then I'll move my 60GB Vertex to my laptop (which has a painfully slow 4800RPM HDD).

A few other SSD notes, the Extreme Corsair series are also VERY NICE.You might find it interesting as well that Intel drives are made by Micron, or their partner IMFlash anyway. The main plant for that is right here in the city I work in, Lehi, Utah.

Ah, I mised that Corsair uses Indillix as well. Definitely put them on the list. As an aside, I am really impressed with Corsair's products as of late. I don't want to sound like a fanboy but everything I buy from that company seems top-notch. Their PSUs are now in all three of my desktops and I only go to them for my friend's builds as well. Edited by Zasada

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I am up in the air about the SSD. A good 640 GB WD Black HDD can boot up pretty darn fast as well and only costs $75 vs the $230+ investment of an SSD

I have a 60GB Vertex and absolutely love it. I don't know how much web surfing and "general use" type stuff you use your gaming rig for, but the SSD makes everything "instant on". I have to go with Anand that it is the single biggest upgrade you can make to your PC from a usability point of view. I'm actually waiting for the OCZ Colossus to hit the market so I can upgrade my gaming rig to 128GB (more space equals more games on the SSD and off the Raptor!) and then I'll move my 60GB Vertex to my laptop (which has a painfully slow 4800RPM HDD).

A few other SSD notes, the Extreme Corsair series are also VERY NICE.You might find it interesting as well that Intel drives are made by Micron, or their partner IMFlash anyway. The main plant for that is right here in the city I work in, Lehi, Utah.

Ah, I mised that Corsair uses Indillix as well. Definitely put them on the list. As an aside, I am really impressed with Corsair's products as of late. I don't want to sound like a fanboy but everything I buy from that company seems top-notch. Their PSUs are now in all three of my desktops and I only go to them for my friend's builds as well.
Hmmm, well, we shall see. I might have to dedicate some of those FBG suns funds to getting a SSD and splurging.

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i know i could just look it up, but does someone feel like giving a quick breakdown of what an SSD is?

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i know i could just look it up, but does someone feel like giving a quick breakdown of what an SSD is?

Solid State Drive. A hard drive with no moving parts. Think of it as a really big USB memory stick. Except much much faster and it uses the SATA interface instead of USB.Regular hard drives are spinning platters and to read/write data, an arm has to move to a point on the platter and write. If it has to read or write to multiple points on the platter, it spends most of its time moving around rather than actually reading or writing.With an SSD there is no moving around looking for data. It's always just "right there". Hence the speed difference.But they're also very pricey. It makes sense to buy a small drive and put the operating system plus a few apps/games on it. You will almost always need a second (standard) hard drive for storage to put your media files on. For media files, speed and responsiveness isn't all that important. Edited by Zasada

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So Z, would you say 60/64 GB is enough to load up Windows 7 as well as 2-3 games? That jump to 128 is huge in $.

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So Z, would you say 60/64 GB is enough to load up Windows 7 as well as 2-3 games? That jump to 128 is huge in $.

I have Win7, WoW, and some apps on my SSD right now. That uses 40GB of the 60GB total. With all the xpacs, WoW itself is now 14GB (!?). They say you should never really fill the SSD to the brim since it puts more cycles on the memory. When I have some time, I'm going to streamline my Win7 install. I'm using the Ultimate RTM right now and there's a lot of bloat I think I can cull.I'm not sure what footprint BF2 has now, but if you're talking Win7 + 3 games @ 4-5GB each, you'll have plenty of space with a 60/64GB drive. I think with a non-ultimate version of Win7 and some effort put in to slim it down, the install footprint should be less than 10GB leaving space for 6-10 games depending on which ones. Edited by Zasada

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i know i could just look it up, but does someone feel like giving a quick breakdown of what an SSD is?

Solid State Drive. A hard drive with no moving parts. Think of it as a really big USB memory stick. Except much much faster and it uses the SATA interface instead of USB.Regular hard drives are spinning platters and to read/write data, an arm has to move to a point on the platter and write. If it has to read or write to multiple points on the platter, it spends most of its time moving around rather than actually reading or writing.With an SSD there is no moving around looking for data. It's always just "right there". Hence the speed difference.But they're also very pricey. It makes sense to buy a small drive and put the operating system plus a few apps/games on it. You will almost always need a second (standard) hard drive for storage to put your media files on. For media files, speed and responsiveness isn't all that important.
appreciate it.Right now i've got a 750Gig western digital HD with everything on it. (running windows xp64). is it cost feasible to buy one of these and move my OS over to it (and eventually update to Windows 7). Is it dificult to do? Would i see any performance boost?

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So Z, would you say 60/64 GB is enough to load up Windows 7 as well as 2-3 games? That jump to 128 is huge in $.

I have Win7, WoW, and some apps on my SSD right now. That uses 40GB of the 60GB total. With all the xpacs, WoW itself is now 14GB (!?). They say you should never really fill the SSD to the brim since it puts more cycles on the memory. When I have some time, I'm going to streamline my Win7 install. I'm using the Ultimate RTM right now and there's a lot of bloat I think I can cull.I'm not sure what footprint BF2 has now, but if you're talking Win7 + 3 games @ 4-5GB each, you'll have plenty of space with a 60/64GB drive.
BF2 is around 3-4 GB I believe. That is with the new patch and the Special Forces expansion. Come February though, I would have to boot BF2 from the SSD in favor of BF:BC2

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damn, just looked on Newegg. wow those things are expensive. doesnt seem worth it at all. I can live with my computer taking 45 seconds to boot up.

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appreciate it.Right now i've got a 750Gig western digital HD with everything on it. (running windows xp64). is it cost feasible to buy one of these and move my OS over to it (and eventually update to Windows 7). Is it dificult to do? Would i see any performance boost?

In terms of boot time, application/game load time, and overall "snappiness" of your browsing/desktop performance, there is a huge difference with an SSD.Your games won't get any faster framerates and your movies won't encode any faster though.So it depends on what you mean by "performance boost". In some ways, absolutely. In others, no.

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damn, just looked on Newegg. wow those things are expensive. doesnt seem worth it at all. I can live with my computer taking 45 seconds to boot up.

Yes, they really are for people that aren't looking for the "value" option. PC geekery is my vice (and I'm generally on my PC more than I watch TV or any other leisure activity) so it's worth it to me. For others, not so much, and it would be worth waiting for prices to come down.Although the 60GB Vertex is essentially the same price today as what I paid six months ago.

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damn, just looked on Newegg. wow those things are expensive. doesnt seem worth it at all. I can live with my computer taking 45 seconds to boot up.

Yes, they really are for people that aren't looking for the "value" option. PC geekery is my vice (and I'm generally on my PC more than I watch TV or any other leisure activity) so it's worth it to me. For others, not so much, and it would be worth waiting for prices to come down.Although the 60GB Vertex is essentially the same price today as what I paid six months ago.
yeah, i do have a budget (although i spent a ton on my current PC 2 years ago) but i still consider myself a pretty big geek. That being said, those prices seem absurd just to shave a few seconds off boot time. I've given some thought to buying a raptor drive, but with this new development, i'm probably just better off holding off for my next build when this SSD tech comes down in price.edit: although, to be fair, i did spend like $200 on my case. At least it will last me another build or 2 :useless: Edited by TLEF316

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edit: although, to be fair, i did spend like $200 on my case. :hot:

$1100 on a monitor. But it has lasted through three builds now. :lmao: Edited by Zasada

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This thread is so feeding my inner :). Shopping for toys without having to spend the $. Thanks, MC, for sharing!

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Thinking I might just make due with my 1 TB drive for now, it is a 7200 RPM, and then jump on an SSD when they drop in price. Given the proliferation, it is a given that will happen. Plus, there should be some good deals to be had around Black Friday/Christmas, especially this year.

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Man, I am getting antsy to order these parts. Guess I shoulda waited. :heart:

Any other thoughts on my components?

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:hifive: what game are you building this for?

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 mostly.I actually have not played my MMO LOTRO in over a month now and have dropped to rare playing of FPS's like my BF2 and such. My time has decreased to almost nothing over the last month, but I want to enjoy what time I do have. :lmao:

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The i7 920 sells at Microcenter B&M for $199, making my decision that much harder now. I might have to get my stepfather over there. :confused::X

ETA Link

Edited by Mad Cow

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Killer combo deal on Monday. This will be $230 after rebate and sale price. 80 GB Intel SSD and a great case.

Sold!

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Am I the only one reading through this thread asking for a "Computer hardware-to-English" dictionary?

:lmao:

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Killer combo deal on Monday. This will be $230 after rebate and sale price. 80 GB Intel SSD and a great case.

Sold!

Holy crap that is a good deal. How do you know that is coming Monday?

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Killer combo deal on Monday. This will be $230 after rebate and sale price. 80 GB Intel SSD and a great case.

Sold!

Holy crap that is a good deal. How do you know that is coming Monday?
Posted at Slickdeals that it goes on Special Monday. Probably some sort of Columbus Day/Thanksgiving sale.

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I was hoping this topic would come up again soon...

I'm not a gamer but the wife has slowly morphed into one :no: . She's been playing FFXI (or whatever is the latest) on an Dell E1500 laptop on close to minimum settings which has been fine for her. She's recently tried playing Aion and it doens't run too well on her lappy. I'd like to build her a budget rig that'll run Aion with no problems (as well as multi tasking applications she uses for work - she uses Visio, Outlook, and some other memory hogging apps) .

My budget is $500 (rig only... already have monitor/keyboard/speakers/etc...) A quick check through Newegg and I put the following together...

GIGABYTE GA-P55M-UD2 LGA 1156 Intel P55 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail $109.99

AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor Model HDZ550WFGIBOX - Retail $102.00

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT - Retail $70.99

EVGA 512-P3-1150-TR GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail $134.99

Western Digital RE2 WD5000YS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive $49.99

LG 22X DVD±R DVD Burner Black IDE Model GH22NP20 - OEM $26.99

This has me at $495 and I still need a case and PSU. Any tips where I can improve the deal or value? Looking to pull the trigger later this month.

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EVGA 512-P3-1150-TR GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail $134.99

:yuck:

Go ahead and grab an XFX Radeon 4870 if you're wanting to stay in the DirectX 10 realm. $120 after a $20 manufacturer's rebate, twice as much VRAM (1GB). I would personally equate the GTS 250 to the illegimate second child of an upstanding Chinese family (see: NVIDIA). I can't blame you for not wanting to go with the GTX 260 for $160, but you can still do better at a cheaper price.

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EVGA 512-P3-1150-TR GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail $134.99

:yuck:

Go ahead and grab an XFX Radeon 4870 if you're wanting to stay in the DirectX 10 realm. $120 after a $20 manufacturer's rebate, twice as much VRAM (1GB). I would personally equate the GTS 250 to the illegimate second child of an upstanding Chinese family (see: NVIDIA). I can't blame you for not wanting to go with the GTX 260 for $160, but you can still do better at a cheaper price.

newegg shows the XFX Radeon 4870 1GB as 144.99. Where did u see it for 120 after rebate?

yeah, i'm not on the up and up on video cards (or other components for that matter) so any other advice would be appreciated :football:

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EVGA 512-P3-1150-TR GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Supported Video Card - Retail $134.99

:yuck:

Go ahead and grab an XFX Radeon 4870 if you're wanting to stay in the DirectX 10 realm. $120 after a $20 manufacturer's rebate, twice as much VRAM (1GB). I would personally equate the GTS 250 to the illegimate second child of an upstanding Chinese family (see: NVIDIA). I can't blame you for not wanting to go with the GTX 260 for $160, but you can still do better at a cheaper price.

I have to say that I have been an ATI fanboy for a long time, yet lately, NVidia cards just work, and work well, while ATI/AMD cards have issues, in my experience, with drivers and overheating.

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Combo deal came with the Icy Dock SSD converter as well, for $240. I am in the SSD club now fellas. :shrug:

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My stepfather is a member of the MSDN so has 10+ Windows 7 licenses, so he is going to send me 3 keys to set this rig up, as well as a couple of others. Free OS = :rolleyes:

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My stepfather is a member of the MSDN so has 10+ Windows 7 licenses, so he is going to send me 3 keys to set this rig up, as well as a couple of others. Free OS = :moneybag:

GOOD FOR YOU!!!!;)

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I need one of these, too so might as well make this note for myself. ;)

This is the AM Shell Shocker, BTW. No idea how the guy at SD knew about it, but :confused:

80 GB Intel 2nd gen SSD AND a nice new case.

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if i was to buy an SSD, install windows 7 on it and delete xp64 off my current HD, how dificult would it be?

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if i was to buy an SSD, install windows 7 on it and delete xp64 off my current HD, how dificult would it be?

Personally, I have no idea. I am curious if I will need to do anything special with this as well.Zasada? Any tricks to throwing up the OS on the HDD? What about if I wanted to put a SSD and my 1 TB HDD in the CPU and have dual OS's - 1 Win7 for me and say 1 Win XP Pro for the wife and kids? Feasible as long as I don't mind doing all the rebooting?

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Possible i7 mobo

Just making notes in case I get that i7-920 from Microcenter and have my stepfather pick it up for me. $200 for that vs $200 for the i5. :thumbup:

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:kicksrock:

No :nerd: peeps on yet today I guess.

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For a cooler, I will need an aftermarket cooler. The Artic Cooler Freezer 7 for $34 shipped is a classic and a performer. It is not akin to installing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on your motherboard, either, which is nice. I will easily be able to hit 3.6 on that bad boy, which is great.

I just had the fan go out on mine after about 2 years. Wouldn't be a big deal other than the fact that the fan is proprietary and you can't simply replace it with a stock fan. I found a new one for $3 plus shipping ($7) and regret not purchasing a couple in case this happens again.

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