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Author Topic: [CONTEST] The 2006 Build-A-GT-Staffer-Computer Contest  (Read 4802 times)
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Zarkon
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« on: February 01, 2006, 03:59:08 PM »

It seems that a couple of the staffers here at Gaming Trend have come into a little bit of money each.  $700 to be exact.  Since both myself (one of us) and Dreamshadow need computer upgrades, it has been decided (and approved by Knightshade Dragon) to hold a contest here on Gaming Trend to allow you, the readers, to attempt to build the best desktop computer for $700.  
 
Prizes?  At the moment, the prize is two games, one donated by both myself and Dreamshadow.  This is subject to change, and efforts will be made to tailor the games for the person winning the prize(s).  Both myself and Dreamshadow will be purchasing the winning parts in the middle of March, which means that this contest will end on March 15, 2006.

THE RULES
1)  Must contain all components listed.
2)  Must be a suitable gaming machine.
3)  Must be upgradable.
4)  Coupons and discounts are acceptable as long as they are available for use on or about end of contest date.
5)  One response per person, although edits are allowed (and suggested).
6)  Total price must be no more than $700 including shipping.
7)  Items must be purchaseable at one time from one retailer.  This is to ensure that all parts can generally arrive at both staffer's locations together, so we're not waiting to put together our new toys.

Current Systems

Zarkon's:
CPU:  Athlon XP 2400+
Motherboard:  ECS K7VTA3
RAM:  2x512 PC2700 DDR
Video:  Radeon 9800 128 MB
Audio:  CMI8738 5 Channel
Speakers:  Altec Lansing ACS33
Case:  Generic Full Tower
Storage:  Western Digital 120 GB IDE, Seagate 160 GB IDE
DVD:  BTC 8X DVD+-RW/40X CDRW
PSU:  Can be included in case.  If not, must be added here.

Dreamshadow's Laptop:
CPU:  Pentium 4 3.0 GHZ w/ Hyperthreading
RAM:  1 GB DDR (unsure of speed)
Video:  ATI Radeon 9700 Mobility
Storage: 60 GB IDE
DVD/CD:  DVD-ROM/40x CDRW

REQUIRED COMPONENTS

CPU
Motherboard (must support SATA, IDE and PCIe.  AMD or Intel are fine, but remember rule #3)
Case (Must be something that looks good.  Personally, I've been looking at the Aspire X-Dreamer with the side panel, LED fans and front temp. display)
Speakers
Ram (Must be no less than 1 GB, preferably 2.  Generic is fine, as long as it works)
Storage (SATA is a must, I personally prefer two drives, Dreamshadow may prefer otherwise).
DVDRW/CDRW
Video Card (PCIe, of course)
Audio (possibly onboard)
LAN (possibly onboard)

Let's see how creative you guys can be!

(Note:  While GT Staffers may participate in the contest, they are not eligible to win prizes.  Should the best computer be from a staffer, a mutually-agreed upon runner-up will be selected to win the prizes.)

Another note:  If you have contacts with stores / retailers / system builders, use 'em!  If you happen to work for ComputersRUs, for example, and know a coupon code that isn't well-known, use it!  I'd say use employee discounts, but that'd be harder to do what with Tom and I needing to actually send money for the parts. biggrin

Also, if you work for a system builder or retailer, hell, use your site and advertise a bit! biggrin
[Last Edit:  2/2/06]
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Dreamshadow
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2006, 04:11:24 PM »

It's been a hard worker for the last year and six months...but poor Zefiris needs a companion.  She's tired of my abuse of the video card.  And in the long run, that's what is really hurting me.  The Radeon 9700 that is built in has hit its limit, partially due to poor driver support by ATI and Dell.  I need a machine that will let me play BF2, Guild Wars, Dawn of War, and Planetside at a decent resolution and framerate. smile  And the wife is only letting me have 700 from the tax return to do it in.

I'm curious to see what people can come up with.
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Zarkon
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2006, 04:18:46 PM »

With me, it's a bonus from work for $700.  Granted, it's $620 after taxes, but hey, I can make up the difference.  And on my end, the bottleneck is both the video card and the processor.  Newer games push this sucker really hard...and man, Oblivion's coming up.  C'mon guys, PLEASE help me build a machine that can run Oblivion and look SWEET while doing it, much less WoW, Half Life 2, and the other beasts. smile

I want a machine that both looks and plays pretty.

[edit]
Nothing's wrong with putting in a system spec early, and editting it as time goes on.

As far as video cards go?  Take a look at the ATI X1600.  For the price, it's very nice.

[edit]
A few notes.

1) A gaming desktop for $700 without monitor is -very- possible. I've done the basic work once already a few months ago. Was able to price all components for around $700. I won't specify what components I used, because that'd ruin the fun.

2) I'm not upgrading simply because I'm making the jump to SATA and PCIe. Tom's not upgrading because he's wanting to go to a desktop.

3) Guys? Instead of worrying how it can't be done or how we should be doing other things, why not give it a shot and see what you can come up with? It's not like you can't change your setup as the weeks go on. This is supposed to be fun, after all.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2006, 04:49:49 PM »

I think by entering early I would most likely gimp myself since prices are always changing. So I shall wait till closer to the end of the contest to enter....and hope to hell I dont forget.
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2006, 05:29:20 PM »

I'm out.

I've come to the realization that I won't be happy recommending anything with the requirements given for that amount of money as a gaming machine.

I wish whomever else gives it a shot luck.
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Punisher
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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2006, 07:22:35 PM »

You both might be better off just upgrading your current system.....

What Video slots do both PC's have?
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Dreamshadow
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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2006, 07:43:24 PM »

Quote from: "Punisher"
You both might be better off just upgrading your current system.....

What Video slots do both PC's have?


I'd happily upgrade...but dell wants more money than the laptop is worth to *replace* my current one and give me a new laptop.  There is (according to them) no way for me to purchase and install a new video card on my laptop (it used to support an ATI Radeon 9800...).
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Tom "Dreamshadow" Tjarks
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Daehawk
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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2006, 09:03:57 PM »

Quote
5) One response per person, although edits are allowed (and suggested).


Does that mean if we post a setup now and then by the time the contest end date approaches we can still change out choices some? I dont want to post knowing that later if prices drop or better hardware is released that I cant change my entry to reflect that.

If I can then ill try to post something soon.
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Dreamshadow
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2006, 09:27:35 PM »

Quote from: "Daehawk"
Quote
5) One response per person, although edits are allowed (and suggested).


Does that mean if we post a setup now and then by the time the contest end date approaches we can still change out choices some? I dont want to post knowing that later if prices drop or better hardware is released that I cant change my entry to reflect that.

If I can then ill try to post something soon.


You are correct.  We would hate to have something as simple as a sale or industry price drop affect your entry.
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Tom "Dreamshadow" Tjarks
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Punisher
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2006, 10:30:42 PM »

Quote from: "Dreamshadow"
Quote from: "Punisher"
You both might be better off just upgrading your current system.....

What Video slots do both PC's have?


I'd happily upgrade...but dell wants more money than the laptop is worth to *replace* my current one and give me a new laptop.  There is (according to them) no way for me to purchase and install a new video card on my laptop (it used to support an ATI Radeon 9800...).


Ahh, didn't know it was a laptop. they are correct though. I "think" Alienware makes a laptop that has an upgradable video card and "maybe" the Dell XPS, but I'd have to check mine.
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Destructor
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2006, 11:58:40 PM »

Quote from: "Dreamshadow"
She's tired of my abuse of the video card.  And in the long run, that's what is really hurting me.  The Radeon 9700 that is built in has hit its limit, partially due to poor driver support by ATI and Dell.

I don't count this as my post, but a random thought - hit http://www.omegadrivers.net/. They offer ATI drivers that'll work on ANY video card, no matter the make or model (assuming it's from the last 3 years or so, of which your 9700 definitely counts). I use them on my laptop with an ATI 9600 without any issues.

Hell - with that raw power of your laptop (3.0ghz processor), you should be able to run WoW and Guild Wars smoothly once you get some current drivers on the thing. I know I could on my laptop, and it's pretty close to yours (but you have the better video card, if only by slightly). YMMV though, as my laptop's resolution is 1280x800 (widescreen). Helps.

One last thing - $700 for a gaming laptop is impossible. You tend to not see 'real' (not intergrated via system RAM) videocards until you hit the $1000 range.
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Zarkon
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2006, 02:42:07 AM »

[To Be Deleted When I Figure Out How]
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Dreamshadow
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2006, 02:44:27 AM »

Quote from: "Destructor"
Quote from: "Dreamshadow"
She's tired of my abuse of the video card.  And in the long run, that's what is really hurting me.  The Radeon 9700 that is built in has hit its limit, partially due to poor driver support by ATI and Dell.

I don't count this as my post, but a random thought - hit http://www.omegadrivers.net/. They offer ATI drivers that'll work on ANY video card, no matter the make or model (assuming it's from the last 3 years or so, of which your 9700 definitely counts). I use them on my laptop with an ATI 9600 without any issues.

Hell - with that raw power of your laptop (3.0ghz processor), you should be able to run WoW and Guild Wars smoothly once you get some current drivers on the thing. I know I could on my laptop, and it's pretty close to yours (but you have the better video card, if only by slightly). YMMV though, as my laptop's resolution is 1280x800 (widescreen). Helps.

One last thing - $700 for a gaming laptop is impossible. You tend to not see 'real' (not intergrated via system RAM) videocards until you hit the $1000 range.



Don't want a gaming laptop. smile  I'm going back to a desktop. smile

Tha said, I use the OmegaDrivers, but lately they've hit a point where they are terribly inefficient.  I would drop back a few versions, but that breaks several of my games at this point.  It's a catch-22, powered by the SOTA (Shadowrun fans unite!).  Guild Wars I recently had to drop back to min detail with the last two versions of the Omegas...It sucks, but it is playable.  I'm mostly tired of the inflexability.  Dell no longer carries any parts on my laptop, and wants more than the 700 I want to spend on a PC to carry a warranty on my laptop, so it's back to the desktop for me.
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Tom "Dreamshadow" Tjarks
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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2006, 03:23:14 AM »

Weird that the Omega drivers failed for you.

Anyway...now I gotta find and build some PCs. Let's see here...

I'll be back. biggrin
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Daehawk
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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2006, 04:35:35 AM »

Omegas screwed up my gaming about a month after trying them about 4 years ago. never used them again.

ill have my post later too
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« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2006, 05:18:52 AM »

Agreed - I've had nothing but trouble with Omega drivers.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2006, 06:31:57 AM »

Well damn this is harder than I thought at first. Ive been out of the hardware comparison loop for a few years now and trying to just jump right back in is hell. smile

Its VERY difficult to get quality in all your required areas. It would be pretty easy with some crappy parts in there. Also are you sure you need a case and other parts that you could carry over? smile Would make it easier and could add more and better parts. Like instead of 1 hard drive you could get 2 and instead of 1 gig ram you could get 2. I think one of the hardest things to get in this setup is speakers. I would'nt buy anything but Logitech and I had to choose a pretty low end set for those.

I also really wanted to put in a 6800GS vid card but no way i could at the price..even though its only 188.

Also theres some great parts I would'nt switch out for anything else...like the case Im suggesting.

All from Newegg of course.

Anyways heres what Ive got right now....

CPU
AMD Sempron 64 3300+ Palermo 800MHz FSB 128KB L2 Cache Socket 754      $111.00

Motherboard
.MSI K8N NEO3-F Socket 754 NVIDIA nForce4   $53.00

Case
Antec LifeStyle SONATA II   $99.99

Speakers
Logitech X-230 32 Watts 2.1 Speaker   $37.00

Ram
mushkin ENHANCED MEMORY 1GB   $77.31

Storage
Western Digital Caviar SE WD1200JS   $75.00

DVDRW/CDRW
LITE-ON   $35.99

Video Card
XFX PVT43GNDF3 Geforce 6600GT   $119.00

Audio
Onboard

LAN
Onboard

Thats it for now. comes in at around $700 not including tax. Will keep this updated..I need those 2 games! hehe

Total $608.29 + tax and shipping.

EDITED. I recalculated all the prices for todays market. Unfortunately I had to remove the Audigy 2 value sound card because it seems Newegg no longer carriers it. Adjusted prices for all parts  brings the price down to $608 plus shipping and taxes. You can always find another sound card but the onboard should do great. With the saving you might up grade one other component to something better too.
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« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2006, 12:45:08 PM »

Just a fyi Daehawk but the CPU/Motherboard you have listed are different socket types.

Also, is a PSU needed?  You state you need a case but not if you need a new PSU.

DrJones
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Zarkon
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« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2006, 02:09:08 PM »

Edits made:

Suggestion to people who've already posted:  When and if you make a system build, just edit your original post.  That might make things a bit easier to skim through.  

Oh.  I think in a couple of weeks, maybe by the end of the month, I'm going to do a sample build to show what I was looking at.  The only difference is going to be that it isn't going to be from one retailer.  slywink

Oh, and a request:  Please put total price at the bottom including shipping and tax.  

Zipcode for me is 76667, Tom's is 76148.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2006, 04:32:24 PM »

Whoops..editing. It was late hehe

Ok fixed my mobo suggestion. Got my K8N mixed up with my KN8.

 I may change it completely later anyways smile
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Zarkon
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« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2006, 03:48:39 PM »

Bump, front page updated.

As an update?  I just put together a decent system for approx. $760.  Athlon 3200+, gig of ram, 250 gig HDD, Radeon X1600 XT video card.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2006, 07:24:43 PM »

So hows this contest going? looks like I have a 50/50 chance of winning a game smile

Still plan on editing my submission.
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Zarkon
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« Reply #22 on: February 11, 2006, 07:26:09 PM »

You're currently the only entrant, sad as that is.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2006, 07:54:03 PM »

Ah.I thought I saw another entry a bit back. Looks like its gone now.

Well i cant say im sorry..I need something new to play haha. Ive seen some deals recently but they are always the weekend or 2 day type ones. Im waiting to the last to resubmit my items.

I rechecked those speakers I posted since I was'nt too happy about $40 speakers but looking around it seems reviews liked them so thats came out better than I thought.

I have to upgrade also soon. I cant play BF2 or Oblivion or most anything new. And older stuff I have to turn way down. I think ill have $75 a month free to use for mine. Gonna take me till around July to get the upgrades but thats better than nothing. Im lucky that I can reuse most everything. I hope Im only gonna need a mobo, cpu, and vid card. I may have to get a new powersupply though. My 350w probably wont feed all my stuff plus a 6800GS.
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« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2006, 08:34:06 PM »

System Summary: AMD 3200, SLi-compatiable mobo w/ Socket 939 and 4x DDR slots totalling 4gig max, "nice" black case w/ side panel and 400wt PSU, cheap Logitech 2.1 speakers, 1gig CORSAIR PC3200 RAM, Black Samsung DVD/RW unit, 160gb Seagate SATA drive, 7800GT 256mb PCIe, and onboard LAN and Audio.
Upgrade Summary: 3 slots for RAM, 1 SLi slot for a second 7800GT, Socket 939 that supports all the latest AMD processors.
Price Summary: $712 with shipping and rebates included.

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice
 $170 + $4 - $0 - Link

Motherboard: eVGA 133-K8-NF41 SLi / AC97 Audio / up to 4gig RAM
Free with Video Card + $4 - $20 - Link

Case: Rosewill 400WT Black Case (looks "fancy")
$55 + $15 - $0 - Link

Speakers: Logitech S200 2.1 Speakers
$18 + $7 - $0 - Link

RAM: CORSAIR 1GB 184-Pin PC3200
$79 + $5 - $0 - Link

DVDRW/CDRW: SAMSUNG Black DVD Burner
$38 + $0 - $0 - Link (There is a "weekend only special". This may only relate to the shipping, however if the price does change I can recommend another around a similar price range)

Storage: Seagate Barracuda SATA 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache
$87 + $5 - $0 - Link (Again with the Weekend special thing. I'll post a replacement, which would probably be 120gigs instead of 160, depending on how much the sale price is.)

Video Card: eVGA 7800GT
$359 + $6 - $20 Link

Audio: Onboard
LAN: Onboard

Price: $706
Shipping: $46
Rebates: $40
Total: $712

Sorry it's a bit over. You can select a "generic" 1gig stick over the Corsair and shave off about $15 or $20, if you must stick to the $700 price point. Or, you can go with 2 512mb sticks, which are also cheaper. Alternatively, just ditch the speakers and save up a $100 or $200 in getting a real audio setup - like a decent sound card and a good set of 5.1 speakers.

To be honest, for $700 your not going to get a big SATA, your not going to get as nice as case as you probably wanted, and the speaker quality won't be superb. If you want this sort of things, your going to need more money. However, they're still all decent parts.

EDIT: Woah, just added up the price again, and it came out to 806. So consider this invalid until I get a lesser video card and what not. The CPU was also a lot more experience than I had hoped.
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Zarkon
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« Reply #25 on: February 20, 2006, 05:36:16 PM »

We've got less than a month to go, and only -2- entries.  C'mon guys, it can't be that hard, and Newegg can't be the ONLY place to get stuff, can it?  

Don't forget to put what consoles you've got in your entries, also, so we know what systems to get games for on the winner. smile
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« Reply #26 on: February 20, 2006, 06:50:06 PM »

Updated 3/15.

Ok, here goes nothing. All found at Newegg:

Aspire X-Infinity ATX Black case with 420W PSU - $57 link
Asus K8N-VM Nforce4 MB  - $62 link
Athalon 64 3700+ 1MB L2 Cache - $212  link
A-Data V-Series 1GB DDR400 Ram (one stick) - $66  link
Maxtor SATA 250GB HD - $84 link
Samsung 16x DVD+- RW drive - $37  link
Sapphire Radeon 850XT PCI 256Meg Ram - $154 link
DCT 5.1 Speakers - $24 link

Total price = $696

For additional bonus savings (Free shipping at Newegg), use code PCG10406 at check out. The code's only good for orders placed between 3/17 - 4/20/06, though.
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Zarkon
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« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2006, 05:05:41 AM »

Here's a challenge for you to beat.  I bent the rules -slightly- for this one, building it to my personal specs and using multiple sites.  At any rate, this is what I came up with smile

Motherboard:  Asus A8R-MVP Crossfire ($102)
Memory:  1 GB Ramses PC3200 ($79)
CPU:  Athlon 64 3200 939 pin ($165)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon X1600 XT ($165)
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500JS 250GB SATA II HDD ($94)
DVD Drive:  Pioneer DVR-110 ($40)
Case: Aspire X-Dreamer Black ($66)
Speaker: Logitech 2.1 speakers ($25)

Total, after tax and shipping:  $736

Granted, Tom's wanting a SLI board with an Nvidia card, so his could be done a bit cheaper.
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Daehawk
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« Reply #28 on: February 21, 2006, 05:32:28 AM »

Whens this end again?
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« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2006, 06:01:25 AM »

March 15.  

With the help of another staffer, I was able to tweak my listing to be nearly the same price with all but 2 items coming from the same site. biggrin
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« Reply #30 on: March 03, 2006, 02:43:41 PM »

Just bumping this due to the recent news post.  12 days left!
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« Reply #31 on: March 05, 2006, 05:00:48 AM »

http://www.pc-infinity.com

SYSTEM CONFIGURATOR WITH AMD SOCKET 939    SYSTEM CONFIGURATOR WITH AMD SOCKET 939    1   -$0.00    
     MOTHERBOARD: Asus A8V K8T800 Pro/RAID add -$85.99         
     CPU: AMD Athlon 64 Processor 3000+(1.8GHz) 939pin         -$169.00    
     NENOLIGHTS: NONE              
     MONITOR: NONE              
     MOUSE: NONE              
     KEYBOARD: NONE              
     ASSEMBLE: Do not assemble              
     WARRANTY: 1 YEAR WARRANTY              
     PACKAGING: OEM (with cables, drivers, manual, I/O plate)              
     CARD READER: NONE              
     BIOS UPDATE: Don't, keep as is              
     THERMAL COMPOUND: I know I have to use it and I already have one !!!              
     SPEAKERS: 180WATT STEREO add $7         -$7.00    
     OPERATING SYSTEM: NONE              
     APPLICATION SOFTWARE: NONE              
     WIRELESS CARD: NONE              
     NETWORKING CARD: ONBOARD              
     MODEM: NONE              
     SOUND: ONBOARD              
     OPTICAL DRIVE: 16X DVD-RW & 52X CDRW/DVD COMBO add $75         -$75.00    
     HARD DRIVE COOLER: NONE              
     2ND HARD DRIVE: NONE              
     HARD DRIVE: 160GB Serial ATA H. Drive add $69 (HOT!!!)         -$69.00    
     CASE: NONE              
     COOLING FAN: STANDARD FAN (Free when purchase with cpu)              
     DISCOUNT: REBATE         ($1.00)   
     MEMORY HEAT SINK: NONE              
     MEMORY: 1GB 533MHz RAM         -$92.99
     VIDEOPCIE: eVGA GF6600         -$119.00    
     Total:    $616.98    

FREE UPS GROUND SHIPPING.  That leaves you guys $83 to blow at the strip clubs. slywink

I own all consoles except xbox360
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What the...?
PJ Lorenz
Daehawk
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« Reply #32 on: March 14, 2006, 05:22:10 PM »

I adjusted my post to reflect all current prices.
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I am Dyslexic of Borg, prepare to have your ass laminated.

Check my trader rating. Im 22+ and zero negs. Trade with me! smile
Dreamshadow
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« Reply #33 on: March 16, 2006, 06:39:57 AM »

All right, the contest is closed.  I'll get with Jason and we will determine the winners!
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Tom "Dreamshadow" Tjarks
Aunt Wu: Care to hear your fortune, handsome?
Iroh: At my age there is really only one big surprise left, and I'd just as soon leave it a mystery.
Daehawk
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« Reply #34 on: March 23, 2006, 04:32:10 PM »

smile
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I am Dyslexic of Borg, prepare to have your ass laminated.

Check my trader rating. Im 22+ and zero negs. Trade with me! smile
frost
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« Reply #35 on: April 07, 2006, 01:24:59 AM »

any word yet on who won this thing?
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Zarkon
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« Reply #36 on: April 07, 2006, 01:56:32 AM »

Whups.  Yes, sorry.

Actually, due to the judges having a blonde day, we had a tie between Jack Burton and Ralph-Wiggums.

Congratulations to both of them, and we'll get the prizes out as soon as possible. biggrin
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frost
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« Reply #37 on: April 07, 2006, 03:45:48 AM »

just my opinion, but i would rather have the pc that Wiggum pieced together.  Just my $0.02
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