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


Mad Cow

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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.
Gotta be a Dell fan if it is proprietary.
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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.

You can get a 920 for $265 shipped. Sure, the mobo is more expensive but I think the performance gains are worth it.
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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.

You can get a 920 for $265 shipped. Sure, the mobo is more expensive but I think the performance gains are worth it.
I can get a 920 for $220 total with Microcenter, which complicates things for me. :lol:
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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.

You can get a 920 for $265 shipped. Sure, the mobo is more expensive but I think the performance gains are worth it.
I can get a 920 for $220 total with Microcenter, which complicates things for me. :goodposting:
Ah, I didn't see that you had a MC near you. I've been thinking about getting one from there as well but the nearest one is in Tustin, which is a 45 mile drive through LA traffic - no thank you. I might ask my wife's cousin who lives in Anaheim to pick one up for me but otherwise I'll be having it shipped.
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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?
Installing Win7 to an SSD is cake. In fact, Win7 recognizes the SSD and disables features that are no longer necessary or could put unnecessary wear cycles on the memory (superfetch, defrag). I actually turn off indexing and have shut off my page file (the last one carries a bit of risk but it's been working fine for me thus far).Lots of people dual-boot OSes. I don't so I can't provide any first-hand experience. But also know that Win7 has an "XP Mode" feature that uses virtualization to allow users to keep using XP if they like. Not sure how that would impact your family using the PC though.When I got my SSD, I installed it and installed Win7 (RC at the time, I now have RTM on it) on it and relegated my Raptor to secondary drive status, leaving Vista installed on it. Once I was comfortable that everything was great with the SSD, I copied all non-replaceable data from the Raptor to my HTPC and formatted said Raptor (which deletes the OS and all the assorted crap on it). I then moved my data back to the Raptor from the server and it's just my "slow" drive now for things I don't want to put on the SSD.But the short answer to your question is that installing Win7 to an SSD is no different than a regular HDD on the user side. In fact, if you didn't know it was an SSD you were installing it just behaves like a really fast HDD.
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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.

You can get a 920 for $265 shipped. Sure, the mobo is more expensive but I think the performance gains are worth it.
I can get a 920 for $220 total with Microcenter, which complicates things for me. :goodposting:
Ah, I didn't see that you had a MC near you. I've been thinking about getting one from there as well but the nearest one is in Tustin, which is a 45 mile drive through LA traffic - no thank you. I might ask my wife's cousin who lives in Anaheim to pick one up for me but otherwise I'll be having it shipped.
I don't live near a MC, but my mom and stepfather lives near one of the ones in Ohio, and he said he would be willing. I just have to decide on this one. I am OK with that i5, and for what I do, I do not see that much performance boost. If I did a ton of multi-tasking, maybe. But for me, gaming and the rest of the family basic computing.
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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 = :goodposting:

When it became clear that Win7 was RTM and TechNet subs would get the OS two months before retail, I pulled the trigger on a subscription. $240 to outfit all five of my home PCs with Win7 and Office 2007 was a no-brainer. Also if Office 2010 hits TechNet before my sub expires, I get that too.
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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?
Installing Win7 to an SSD is cake. In fact, Win7 recognizes the SSD and disables features that are no longer necessary or could put unnecessary wear cycles on the memory (superfetch, defrag). I actually turn off indexing and have shut off my page file (the last one carries a bit of risk but it's been working fine for me thus far).Lots of people dual-boot OSes. I don't so I can't provide any first-hand experience. But also know that Win7 has an "XP Mode" feature that uses virtualization to allow users to keep using XP if they like. Not sure how that would impact your family using the PC though.When I got my SSD, I installed it and installed Win7 (RC at the time, I now have RTM on it) on it and relegated my Raptor to secondary drive status, leaving Vista installed on it. Once I was comfortable that everything was great with the SSD, I copied all non-replaceable data from the Raptor to my HTPC and formatted said Raptor (which deletes the OS and all the assorted crap on it). I then moved my data back to the Raptor from the server and it's just my "slow" drive now for things I don't want to put on the SSD.But the short answer to your question is that installing Win7 to an SSD is no different than a regular HDD on the user side. In fact, if you didn't know it was an SSD you were installing it just behaves like a really fast HDD.
The reasoning for dual-boot OS for me is to let the family crap up their HDD however they see fit, and leave me my nice, sleek SSD. 80 GB will handle an OS and the games I care about for now.
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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.
Gotta be a Dell fan if it is proprietary.
It's pricey and not available for i5 CPUs, but Thermalright's Ultra 120 Extreme wins just about every HSF comparison by any reputable website. I have two, one in my gaming rig (running a 50% overclock on my C2D E4300) and my HTPC (virtually fanless).
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The reasoning for dual-boot OS for me is to let the family crap up their HDD however they see fit, and leave me my nice, sleek SSD. 80 GB will handle an OS and the games I care about for now.

Ah, yes -- that makes sense. While it would take 3 years of 24/7 defragging my SSD to hit the memory's wear cycle limit, I still am very careful about what I choose to install to it. I took the more expensive route to this end: My wife got her own laptop and my PC if off limits. :rolleyes:
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The reasoning for dual-boot OS for me is to let the family crap up their HDD however they see fit, and leave me my nice, sleek SSD. 80 GB will handle an OS and the games I care about for now.

Ah, yes -- that makes sense. While it would take 3 years of 24/7 defragging my SSD to hit the memory's wear cycle limit, I still am very careful about what I choose to install to it. I took the more expensive route to this end: My wife got her own laptop and my PC if off limits. :lmao:
However, I might just get my son his own system since I will have enough parts for 2 systems now. Set him up, my daughter has a system. Then no touchie for them of my wife and I's computer. We have not let the daughter have internet on her computer in her room to date, so that will be something to think about I guess.
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The reasoning for dual-boot OS for me is to let the family crap up their HDD however they see fit, and leave me my nice, sleek SSD. 80 GB will handle an OS and the games I care about for now.

Ah, yes -- that makes sense. While it would take 3 years of 24/7 defragging my SSD to hit the memory's wear cycle limit, I still am very careful about what I choose to install to it. I took the more expensive route to this end: My wife got her own laptop and my PC if off limits. :confused:
I did this as well. Wife and kids each have a laptop and i have a cheapie 'community' system for nieces or nephews to use if they come over.Nobody touches my work or play systems and they couldn't get into my laptop if they had too!Amazing how fast the 'community pc' gets effed up!
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The reasoning for dual-boot OS for me is to let the family crap up their HDD however they see fit, and leave me my nice, sleek SSD. 80 GB will handle an OS and the games I care about for now.

Ah, yes -- that makes sense. While it would take 3 years of 24/7 defragging my SSD to hit the memory's wear cycle limit, I still am very careful about what I choose to install to it. I took the more expensive route to this end: My wife got her own laptop and my PC if off limits. :confused:
I did this as well. Wife and kids each have a laptop and i have a cheapie 'community' system for nieces or nephews to use if they come over.Nobody touches my work or play systems and they couldn't get into my laptop if they had too!Amazing how fast the 'community pc' gets effed up!
Any problems with hardware and such with Dual-OS PC's? Never done one before, so just curious. I used to have 2 systems with a KVM, but sick of that. Now I am sick of 5 user profiles never being logged out and slowing the PC down whenever I want to play.
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Any problems with hardware and such with Dual-OS PC's? Never done one before, so just curious. I used to have 2 systems with a KVM, but sick of that. Now I am sick of 5 user profiles never being logged out and slowing the PC down whenever I want to play.

A long time ago I used to dual-boot XP32 and XP64. Everything seemed to work OK (aside from XP64 being a driver nightmare). You'll probably want to password-protect your boot option so that your family doesn't boot to your partition to take advantage of the speed the SSD brings. :shrug:
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Any problems with hardware and such with Dual-OS PC's? Never done one before, so just curious. I used to have 2 systems with a KVM, but sick of that. Now I am sick of 5 user profiles never being logged out and slowing the PC down whenever I want to play.

A long time ago I used to dual-boot XP32 and XP64. Everything seemed to work OK (aside from XP64 being a driver nightmare). You'll probably want to password-protect your boot option so that your family doesn't boot to your partition to take advantage of the speed the SSD brings. :shrug:
I will just tell that the boot option is a bug and if they enter the Windows 7 option, a dozen puppies will be slaughtered in China somewhere.
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Any problems with hardware and such with Dual-OS PC's? Never done one before, so just curious. I used to have 2 systems with a KVM, but sick of that. Now I am sick of 5 user profiles never being logged out and slowing the PC down whenever I want to play.

A long time ago I used to dual-boot XP32 and XP64. Everything seemed to work OK (aside from XP64 being a driver nightmare). You'll probably want to password-protect your boot option so that your family doesn't boot to your partition to take advantage of the speed the SSD brings. :yes:
I will just tell that the boot option is a bug and if they enter the Windows 7 option, a dozen puppies will be slaughtered in China somewhere.
:shrug: Good tactic!
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:rant:

It all shipped! :thumbup:

This and This and This all for $240, and the Retail SSD comes with a 2.5 to 3.5 converter anyway, so now I have 2.

:nerd:

The SSD is sold out now -- which indicates just how good a deal this was. I actually spent a few minutes this morning trying to justify the case purchase in an effort to get the SSD, but I couldn't. I'm still going to hold out for the OCZ Colossus but that Intel deal is rockin.

To be honest, 80GB is probably the sweet spot in terms of size. I feel like the 60GB I have right now is just a hair too small, but 128GB is too $$. That Intel drive is the Goldilocks SSD, I guess.

Edited by Zasada
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1 Intel Core i5 Processor i5-750 2.66GHz 8MB LGA1156 CPU, Retail I5-750BOX $199.99 $199.99

Sub Total $199.99

Coupon Saving

-$15.00

Tax $0.00

Shipment method: UPS Ground Shipping & Handling $0.00

Total $184.99

:thumbup:

Mobo and RAM to go.

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Realistically, I had decided on the i5. It will shave $200 off the final price, and with a little OC, that i5 will outperform a stock i7-920 with ease. That is half the fun of all this anyway.

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ATI Radeon 5770's are out

I'm reading user comments about the cards and they are supposed to perform in the range between the 4870s ($145), and the 4890s ($185) for a meager $159.99. This, coupled with DirectX 11 may just make me take the bait! I'm sure a dozen reliable computer enthusiast sites will have benchmarks and FPS ratings up before lunchtime.

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MC - you've inspired me to build my first gamer intensive rig in several years (that and I just completed my mancave and wired my HD projector to where I plan on putting a PC to be able to put it on the big screen and speakers).

Anyway, I tried for the SSD deal yesterday but it was sold out. Could you keep me plugged in to any can't miss deals over the next several weeks? I'm not looking to build something today or tomorrow but am looking to piecing together a nice rig between now and Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Don't want to go crazy with the $$$. Consider it a budget project that I'm willing to splurge a little on in key areas.

Edited by Drifter
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MC - you've inspired me to build my first gamer intensive rig in several years (that and I just completed my mancave and wired my HD projector to where I plan on putting a PC to be able to put it on the big screen and speakers).

Anyway, I tried for the SSD deal yesterday but it was sold out. Could you keep me plugged in to any can't miss deals over the next several weeks? I'm not looking to build something today or tomorrow but am looking to piecing together a nice rig between now and Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Don't want to go crazy with the $$$. Consider it a budget project that I'm willing to splurge a little on in key areas.

This was exactly my goal. :potkettle:
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I ended up canceling that eWiz order due to some hassle they were giving me, as well as some stories I read about them purposely dragging their feet on orders to charge their $6 rush order fee. Newegg has a $2 rush order option, but man you never need it. I could order the last few things right now and it would be out the door within 30 minutes.

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:shrug:

Order Summary

Qty Product Description Price

Order #: 26748799

1

Nippon Labs Beige 15 ft. USB cable A/male to B/male Model USB-15-AB - Retail

Item #: N82E16812816019

Standard Return Policy

$7.99

1

ASRock P55 Pro LGA 1156 Intel P55 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

Item #: N82E16813157171

Standard Return Policy

$119.99

$114.99

1

Intel Core i5-750 Lynnfield 2.66GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80605I5750 - Retail

Item #: N82E16819115215

CPU Replacement Only Return Policy

$199.99

1

Silverstone FP34-B USB 2.0 Card Reader - Retail

Item #: N82E16820131008

Standard Return Policy

$39.99

1

OCZ Obsidian 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3OB1600LV4GK - Retail

Item #: N82E16820227495

Memory Standard Return Policy

$93.99

$83.99

1

ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro Rev.2 92mm Fluid Dynamic CPU Cooler - Retail

Item #: N82E16835186134

Standard Return Policy

$36.98

$33.98

1

DISCOUNT FOR AUTOADD #4677

-$7.99

Subtotal $472.94

Tax $0.00

UPS 3 Days $5.99

Order Total $478.93

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Did I miss the GPU or are you using a current card?

Gonna keep my GTX 260 for now. It is plenty. I might move on to something else in a few months, but for what I do that GTX 260 is awesome.
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I have been doing a lot of video editing w/ AVCWare recently, 160GB on the laptop just isn't cutting it.

I have two dell desktops that I am going to be picking apart to see if there is anything worth salvaging. I noticed my newer of the two has a GeForce 8800 GTS OC, is that any good or crap these days?

looking at a Core i5 or i7

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I have been doing a lot of video editing w/ AVCWare recently, 160GB on the laptop just isn't cutting it.I have two dell desktops that I am going to be picking apart to see if there is anything worth salvaging. I noticed my newer of the two has a GeForce 8800 GTS OC, is that any good or crap these days? looking at a Core i5 or i7

If you're editing video, the i7 is probably worth the extra $. The 8800 is "OK", depending on what you're playing and at what resolution. If you're going to upgrade the rig anyway, you might as well do the vidcard too. CUDA is starting to show some signs of life and you'll need a current gen vidcard to get that capability.
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I have been doing a lot of video editing w/ AVCWare recently, 160GB on the laptop just isn't cutting it.

I have two dell desktops that I am going to be picking apart to see if there is anything worth salvaging. I noticed my newer of the two has a GeForce 8800 GTS OC, is that any good or crap these days?

looking at a Core i5 or i7

If you're editing video, the i7 is probably worth the extra $.

The 8800 is "OK", depending on what you're playing and at what resolution. If you're going to upgrade the rig anyway, you might as well do the vidcard too. CUDA is starting to show some signs of life and you'll need a current gen vidcard to get that capability.

So Zasada, would you advise against the 5870? I don't think it supports CUDA or PhysX.
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I have been doing a lot of video editing w/ AVCWare recently, 160GB on the laptop just isn't cutting it.

I have two dell desktops that I am going to be picking apart to see if there is anything worth salvaging. I noticed my newer of the two has a GeForce 8800 GTS OC, is that any good or crap these days?

looking at a Core i5 or i7

If you're editing video, the i7 is probably worth the extra $.

The 8800 is "OK", depending on what you're playing and at what resolution. If you're going to upgrade the rig anyway, you might as well do the vidcard too. CUDA is starting to show some signs of life and you'll need a current gen vidcard to get that capability.

So Zasada, would you advise against the 5870? I don't think it supports CUDA or PhysX.
Honestly, I am looking at that 4890, Nick. :confused: It seems to have amazing bang for the buck right now.
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So I have it all on the way now. Now I just need my stepfather to speed along the Windows 7 Ultimate setup for me and I am :wub:

You know you can just download it from TechNet (assuming he gives you his login and pw), right?
Hmm, I might just ask him if I can download it and go from there. I assume it is an ISO you DL?
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So I have it all on the way now. Now I just need my stepfather to speed along the Windows 7 Ultimate setup for me and I am :confused:

You know you can just download it from TechNet (assuming he gives you his login and pw), right?
Hmm, I might just ask him if I can download it and go from there. I assume it is an ISO you DL?
Yup, just an ISO like the RC was. Burn it to a DVD and you have your own multi-use Win7 install disk. Still need a key for each install though. Edited by Zasada
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So Zasada, would you advise against the 5870? I don't think it supports CUDA or PhysX.

Honestly, I am looking at that 4890, Nick. :confused: It seems to have amazing bang for the buck right now.
PhysX is totally overrated and barely in use.AMD has their own version of CUDA, not sure i fthe 4890 uses it. I think it does. I know the 5870 does.The 5750 seems to be a pretty good buy right now too. DX11 for 1.5 Benjamins. Edited by Zasada
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So Zasada, would you advise against the 5870? I don't think it supports CUDA or PhysX.

Honestly, I am looking at that 4890, Nick. ;) It seems to have amazing bang for the buck right now.
PhysX is totally overrated and barely in use.AMD has their own version of CUDA, not sure i fthe 4890 uses it. I think it does. I know the 5870 does.The 5750 seems to be a pretty good buy right now too. DX11 for 1.5 Benjamins.
AMD actually was utilizing their own CUDA-type item before NVidia. The idea was to use all those shaders for something other than graphics, since ATI traditionally had so many more than was needed.Just go for bang for the buck, I would say. I will stick with my 260 for now. It has plenty of horsepower and then I will look at it all again in January or so.
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For those of you still playing, here's a P55 board for $100 shipped. MC's caveats about ewiz apply.

http://www.techbargains.com/news_displayItem.cfm/181222

And I echo MC's comments about NewEgg. In the years I have been ordering from them, not once have they failed to get me a purchase in three days or less.

Also at that link there is a Gigabyte GA 955M UD2 mobo/i7 combo for $379 and a mobo/i5 combo for $299.

ETA that's only about 20 bucks cheaper than New Egg on the same i7 parts.

Edited by Nick Vermeil
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I have my eTailer rankings as such:Newegg>>>ZZF=Mwave>>>>TD>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>eWizAdjust your cheatsheets accordingly.

About the same for me except that I won't touch TD with a 10 foot pole. I find Amazon to be good with order fulfillment but their prices aren't always that great.A great little shop I use for heat sinks is jab-tech.com. Small outfit but they've always treated me well.
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