I love Fry’s! If you have never been to a Fry’s store, just imagine Newegg or Tiger Direct as a brick-and-mortar store, then combine it with a Best Buy, and you are fairly close. I can spend hours in there, and frequently do because there is a Fry’s less than ten minutes from my house. This trip was better than usual considering that I had a shopping list and money. I would be paying a premium of 8.25% on anything I bought there because of sales tax, but I also assigned some benefit to the convenience associated with any potential returns or exchanges.
My first stop was at the posted sale ads and I was excited to see the Core i7-920 processor on sale for $229. That price was $40 under Newegg even with the sales tax, so I decided to buy it. Since I intended to also buy at least a keyboard and mouse, I grabbed a shopping cart on the way to the case aisle. Buying a case and power supply would give me a jump on reading the instructions and studying the wiring harness in advance of receiving the remaining components, but I was not going to overpay for that privilege.
I saw a lot of cases that I liked, but my requirements (black, understated, ATX size, gamer cooling) helped me narrow it down quite a bit. I wanted the power supply to mount in the bottom of the case, and I did not want a front drive bay door that I had to open to access the power switch. These features narrowed the field a bit more. I finally chose the Antec Nine Hundred Two. I particularly liked the array of fans in this case, with two intake fans at the front bottom and two exhaust fans at the top rear, plus options to mount 2 more fans pointed at the graphics card(s). I liked the overall appearance with the display window on the side panel, storage tray on the top, and no drive door. Sometimes, you just know when you have found the right one, and this case did it for me. Power supplies were right next door, so I stopped to look for a match to this case.
The case interior was black, so it would be really nice if the visible power supply were also black. In addition, I needed the power supply fan at the back of the unit instead of the top, because I did not want to blow hot air into my case. I also wanted a modular power supply in order to minimize the wiring harness for a cleaner look, since this build would have only the basic components. These requirements left me with few options, but fortunately I found the Antec Signature SG850 on sale for $179. This was a premium quality 850W power supply at a great price, and I quickly fell in love with it despite the slight budget overrun.
The case was a little over my original budget also, but I really liked these two units so into the cart they went! I was really happy two weeks later when the Fry’s ad featured my case on sale, and I was able to cash in on their 30-day price guarantee for a $50 refund. The total price for these two components including tax came in at $312 after the refund, only $12 over budget.
I began to think that I might find everything I needed on this trip, and focused next on the motherboard and memory. My research led me toward the Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard, but Fry’s didn’t have it. However, they did have the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P. The sales associate was able to give me online access for research on the Gigabyte vs. the Asus, and I found a couple of reviews comparing the two boards. I concluded that the Gigabyte was roughly equivalent to the Asus and a very acceptable board with a nice layout and strong overclocking capabilities. The price was $291 including tax, so within my budget. I liked the idea of being able to swap out a DOA board in 20 minutes instead of the RMA and wait approach of online buying, so it went into the cart also.
However, I wasn’t so lucky on memory. I looked at everything they had, but nothing satisfied my requirements for frequency and timing. The brand selection was not great, and they did not have Mushkin at all. So the memory would have to be ordered online and the prospect of leaving with a complete system was gone. Still, it was worth shopping for the remaining components.
I found almost everything else that I wanted, and the sales associate obtained permission from his manager to match Newegg's price on anything that was cheaper. Of course, I still had to pay the sales tax, but Fry’s was cheaper on some items (like the processor) so I came out about even. Other highlights were finding a GTX285 overclocked graphics card for only $20 more than my budget for the GTX280, and getting the Zalman CPU cooler that I wanted on sale for $20 less than Newegg.
I did not find a monitor that satisfied me for the price I could pay online. Also, Fry’s did not carry OEM optical drives, and I wanted a black drive with no gaudy logos since the drive bay was not covered. So that left three items to be ordered from Newegg including the Mushkin memory modules.
The total price between Fry's and Newegg for all components, including tax and after rebates was $2132 – right on budget. I made a few adjustments to my original list of items, but I came home with a smile on my face and a pile of boxes in my car.
Final Component List:
Intel Core i7-920 processor
Zalman CNPS9900 CPU cooler w/Arctic Silver 5
Gigabyte EX58-UD4P motherboard
Mushkin 6GB DDR3 1333 Triple Channel memory
Antec Nine Hundred Two gaming case
Antec Signature SG850 power supply
BFGTech GeForce GTX 285 OC 1GB graphics card
Samsung 2433BW 24” Widescreen 1920x1200 monitor
Western Digital Black Caviar 1TB 7200RPM SATA HDD
Sony Optiarc 24x SATA DVD/CD optical drive/burner
Logitech Illuminated keyboard
Logitech G5 gaming mouse
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
The Newegg order was placed and delivery scheduled for next Thursday. I put in for a vacation day on Friday and looked forward to that day with anticipation and some apprehension. Would I spend the upcoming weekend gaming like never before or staring at a $2000 doorstop?
Tune in to our next episode when Orcin asks his kitchen table, “How hard do I squeeze this tube of thermal compound to get a glob the size of a BB?”
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