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Black Friday Build


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Thought this might interest some. At the very least, it allows me to drink my coffee and avoid working ;)


My business partner Paul and I were cruising the web last week when we started seeing all the pre-black Friday marketing collateral start popping up on the web. Whether because of tanking markets, an uncertain consumer economic outlook or simple insanity, we noticed that a lot of the pricing seemed pretty good. Crazy good, in fact.


After some deliberation, we decided to take a recently received government tax rebate (good 'ol GST... thanks Tory's), and try to stretch it as far as possible on Black Friday to build the most powerful gaming system possible. We would then give this to our good mate (and our one and only long-suffering employee) Mark. Mark had been squirreling away spare change (whatever his wife didn't get ahold of) to try and save for some semblance of a gaming rig for about 6 months now. The poor bastard had even given up coffee, a precious and highly worshipped commodity at our office, to save money. Plus we figured we owed him a nice bonus, since we've had rather a good year.


So it came down to $1400. How many FPS could we jam into a steel box for $1400? Well, let's find out.


After spending the better part of 2 days doing little to no work, we had settled on a basic configuration.


Antec 900 $70

OCZ EliteXstream 800W $98

EVGA 750i FTW $179

Intel E8500 $229

G.Skill F2-8000C5D-4GBPQ $45

2x BFG GTX 260 $249 each

Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme $66

Seagate 1TB $99

LiteON 20X DVD-RW $25


Total: $1060 + 7% GST = 1134.20


Wow. We had no idea this would be so cheap. Bear in mind that some of these prices are net of MIRs, but we figured since we are fairly conscientious, it was fair to include this discount.


So we had spent less than $1400. Did we put the mouse down, pocket the change and go buy $5 lattes? Haha, well no, of course not. I mean we did go buy lattes, but we didn't stop there :)


So with $248 before taxes to spend, we wanted to make a change that would achieve either (a) better performance, (b) longevity and future upgradability, or © utter coolness.


We figured utter coolness was out, since $248 wasn't enough to make us even remotely hip. So it was down to performance or longevity. Or maybe both?


Within budget, we calculated that we could move to a 780i platform and upgrade to Core 216 video cards. This would give us the possibility of tri-SLI down the road, better performance out of the box, and more features. Not bad.


Alternatively, we could move to 790i, upgrade to low-end DDR3 and leave the video cards as is. This would certainly be more "future-proof" (we guessed), but it was unlikely performance would jump a lot since we could only afford literally the absolute cheapest DDR3-1333 OCZ RAM we could find. But then Mark could potentially spring for a RAM upgrade at some point in the future, making this a viable platform. Plus the 790i board was only $10 more than the 780i. Would this not make total sense?


While we hummed and hawed, we were poking about on the web and found a review of the Reaper kit that was within our DDR3 budget. As it turns out, overclockability on the same board we were looking at seemed pretty good - 1800MHz at 1.8v and 9-9-9 timings wasn't atrocious, afterall. We also stumbled on an article comparing SLI performance of the GTX 260 in regular and Core 216 varieties. The differences were pretty neglible once two cards were enabled.


So that sealed the deal. 790i + DDR3 it was. $1369 dollars later, and now all we had to do was build the thing.


TBC.... (when I get a fresh coffee)

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Mmmmm. Starbucks Christmas blend. Burnt & delicious :\


Where were we? Ahhh yes. So we had dropped around $1580 (before MIRs), and were ready to get dirty and build us a computer.


So when the parts arrived yesterday, we took the day off and holed up in my kitchen. Armed with anti static bracelets and magnetic screwdrivers, we got to work.


The first thing I'll admit is that I'm not a huge fan of the Antec 900. Its not that it's neccessarily HARD to work with/in, just that it doesn't leave much room to hide cables. Other than that, things went smoothly. We weren't building the space shuttle, afterall. 1 optical drive and 1 hard drive don't really lead to complicated wiring problems.


A couple hours later - most of which was spent zip tieing cables and making it look as pretty as possible - we were done, and ready to start the tedious process of installing windows and trying to set a base overclock. Mark's a great guy, but a PC enthusiast he is not, and we specifically bought parts that we knew we could overclock.


Another thing I realized that I hated was windows. Suprise. 2 bluescreens later, we finally had Vista 64 Premium installed. Now before the internet coast guard starts circling and screaming "pirates ahoy!" over their megaphones, I'll explain that no I didn't spec the cost of a Vista OS in our parts breakdown. And no, I didn't use a pirated copy - my business license and lawyers fees aren't worth the trouble. We had several copies of x64 in the office that we bought when we upgraded our systems to 8GB of RAM, so we decided to save the extra cash and cracked one of the unused copies.


Final Results


E8500 @ 3.825GHz, 425x9, 1.3v

RAM @ 1700MHz, 7-7-7, sync, 1.8v


We're pretty happy with the result! Crysis Warhead plays >50FPS with this setup @ 1920x1200, which is more than anyone could ask for <$1500.


Happy Holidays!

Edited by politbureau

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Btw, the $45 G.Skill at Newegg just went up to $99 this morning:(. And I think its the G.Skill F2-8000CL5D.



Bought it at $45 a few days ago :D.


Looks like a good build, not familiar with the 750i performance vs other chipsets thou.



EDIT: Ram is back down to $45, silly Newegg.

Edited by Krazyxazn

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Btw, the $45 G.Skill at Newegg just went up to $99 this morning:(. And I think its the G.Skill F2-8000CL5D.
The G.Skill stuff is great. Used it on my 780i before I got the 790, and for DDR2-1000, it would post at 1200 with minimal voltage and tight timings. Pretty sick.


I wish I had purchased a bunch of stuff during those sales. I saw the XFX GTX 260 216 black edition for only $250. Thought about getting it but decided not to, then it sold out, and now the price is back up to $300.
Yeah you guys in the US probably could have done the same system up for maybe $100-$200 less. Because of the economy and exchange rate, us Canadians are pretty much paying a 3-5% premium. I imagine for ~US$1500, one could have built the same system with tri-SLI Core 216 cards. Edited by politbureau

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I think its great you are helping him out! Not to many folks do that anymore!
It's true, far too little of that going around these days, especially with the economy the way it is. But Mark has been with us at our company since the start, and has worked above and beyond expectations (and pay grade) to make us a success. It's certainly a team effort here, but he's an integral part of that team, and we owe him much for our successes. Plus he puts up with our very un-business-like shenanigans, which in and of itself is worthy of near sainthood. I have him over to the house regularly for drinks, and he's always drooled over my gaming rig. His finances are pretty tight with a stay at home wife and 2 kids, and even though we over pay him (he might argue), money is inevitably tight. So we figured this was a nice thank you.


Karma +1


P.S. I just found out that the BFG Maxcore cards are Core 216s. Who knew? Bad marketing on BFG's part, but it definitely sweetened the deal. And Mark had enough saved up already that he ordered one from Canada Computers to complete the trinity. Nice :)

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