New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

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New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:19 pm

Hello All! This is my first post to techreport, and I just want to say thank you in advance for your help! I am looking to build a small form-factor gaming rig. I realize this will limit my performance, to some degree, but I don't want a gigantic piece of hardware. Generally, I want to play FPS games in multiplayer mode. This will be doubling as an HTPC as well, if that is relevant. Below is what I've put together at Newegg. I am in the US, and would probably prefer to shop at newegg or amazon whenever possible, but if it's a good deal, I'm willing to look elsewhere.


A few more things about me. I have never built a computer before, so please explain any comments/suggestions in detail. I am concerned with the compatibility of the above components, their overall performance and price. Does this work? Additionally, what will/won't such a system be able to handle? Are the components (brand, model) of reasonable quality? Have I forgotten anything? Thanks again for all your help!
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:55 pm

What kind of FPS games are you planning on playing? If you want to play games like BF4 at higher settings and on a well-populated servers you will need a more powerful video card with at least a 3GB of video memory, such as AMD's 7950 or higher. Same goes for CPU - you will need at least a quad-core CPU (preferably with hyperthreading if it will be from Intel).

Also, since you have never built a PC - I suggest taking a look at pre-built systems like Falcon Northwest's Tiki or similar ones from other system builders. There is nothing wrong in enjoying an advantage of pre-built and pre-tested system with full warranty for a little bit more money :wink:

P.S: Whatever choice you'll go with - you should also consider buying a properly sized UPS unit (unless you already have one). I personally suggest CyberPower units, but APC's units are also a good choice.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:27 pm

Welcome to the Tech Report.

Have you looked at similar threads in this forum?
viewtopic.php?f=33&t=89213
viewtopic.php?f=33&t=89332
viewtopic.php?f=33&t=88627
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:54 pm

Hello TML, and welcome! :D

I think it’s great you’re looking to build your own PC. It’s a bit tricky at first, but it will eventually become enjoyable (I hope :wink: ). I’d said dive in!

Looking at your list of components, the first thing that sticks out is the power supply you’re considering. I understand it comes with the case, but a 550w or higher PSU is what you’ll want; it’s a good long term investment since the PSU is the heart of your system (feeds all the electricity/power to all the components). Don’t take me wrong the 450w should suffice, but could be pushing it.

Personally, I’d suggest going with a midsize tower. This will help with keeping your system cool by giving the components (i.e. your video card and CPU) fans room to breathe/circulate air. Good cooling/ventilation is important since the GPU, CPU and memory sticks do get hot, especially when gaming. It will also help extend the life of your PC in general.
For example: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811119233

Same thing about the motherboard, it only has one PCIe slot, which could prevent you from upgrading in the future. By the way, I like ASRock, I have one in my gaming rig. If you do go with a midsize tower, then get the equivalent ATX mobo.

I agree with JohnC about playing BF4. You’ll want higher performing hardware if you’re looking to play it at high to ultra settings, the 7950 is one of the best price/performance cards by AMD.

Good luck TML!
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:34 pm

In terms of size, mITX is actually quite powerful as long as you can fit a beefy GPU in the system. You're only locked out of extra expansion cards (like sound cards) and SLI/Crossfire, which I wouldn't recommend anyway.

That being said, before you go super small (especially since this is your first self-built machine), consider mATX over mITX. mATX will allow for some extra expansion, and a larger case will give you some extra room to work with. You don't have to go as large as Corsair's 350D, but that is an example of a roomy case with a lot of builder-friendly features. I recently built my machine in the 650D, which, while larger than I might have liked, was so easy to work with that I would buy another one in a heartbeat.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:34 pm

I'm a big fan of mATX unless you really need either the smallest footprint possible (mITX) or a vast array of expansion cards (ATX). It tends to be the sweet spot in terms of price versus performance and there are some pretty compact mATX cases out there.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:44 am

JohnC wrote:What kind of FPS games are you planning on playing? If you want to play games like BF4 at higher settings and on a well-populated servers you will need a more powerful video card with at least a 3GB of video memory, such as AMD's 7950 or higher.

I found this 7950 on sale for $219 with a $30 mail-in-rebate to bring it down to $189.99 plus free shipping.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Sat Oct 12, 2013 3:09 am

This site doesn't get a lot of respect around here, but this really is a great list (click "See full content" on the first post):
Tom's Hardware Forums - PERFORM THESE STEPS before posting about POST/boot/no video problems!
It'll help you if you put the thing together and have one of the aforementioned problems, or, alternatively, you can read through it before you do your build to help avoid obvious first-time builder mistakes.
JohnC wrote:What kind of FPS games are you planning on playing? If you want to play games like BF4 at higher settings and on a well-populated servers you will need a more powerful video card with at least a 3GB of video memory, such as AMD's 7950 or higher. Same goes for CPU - you will need at least a quad-core CPU (preferably with hyperthreading if it will be from Intel).
JohnC is absolutely right here. That little Pentium + 660 setup you have right now will serve for some older/lighter games, but it's definitely a "gaming right now" PC and will not serve you for AAA titles going forward. Strongly suggest an upgrade to an FX-6300, FX-83xx, or Intel quad (Core i5/i7) if you can spare the money; the GTX 660 will serve for now, and can be more easily upgraded later.
JohnC wrote:Also, since you have never built a PC - I suggest taking a look at pre-built systems like Falcon Northwest's Tiki or similar ones from other system builders. There is nothing wrong in enjoying an advantage of pre-built and pre-tested system with full warranty for a little bit more money :wink:
Definitely! Given that TML's looking at a dual-core system, though, I suspect he's trying to save money, and Falcon Northwest is ... well ... Σ(・∀・;)
JohnC wrote:P.S: Whatever choice you'll go with - you should also consider buying a properly sized UPS unit (unless you already have one). I personally suggest CyberPower units, but APC's units are also a good choice.
This is good advice, but again expensive. I don't even have one! (´・ω・`)

Given what you've picked, TML, it looks like you're trying to build a machine on a somewhat limited budget; while I appreciate and admire your desire for a small form-factor, have you considered going with a slim ATX or Micro-ATX case? You might be able to spare a lot of expense and end up with a better machine in the process. Cases like the Cooler Master Elite 361 manage to cram a full-sized ATX motherboard, full-size power supply, and full-size GPU into a case not much bigger than a Playstation 3.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Sat Oct 12, 2013 7:33 am

auxy wrote:
JohnC wrote: Also, since you have never built a PC - I suggest taking a look at pre-built systems like Falcon Northwest's Tiki or similar ones from other system builders. There is nothing wrong in enjoying an advantage of pre-built and pre-tested system with full warranty for a little bit more money :wink:
Given that TML's looking at a dual-core system, though, I suspect he's trying to save money, and Falcon Northwest is ... very expensive.
CyberPowerPC is cheaper for a customized build. Cheaper still is a refurbished or scratched and dented Dell XPS 8700 with the addition of the Radeon HD7950 that End User suggested. Total price would be under $900.

auxy wrote: Have you considered going with a Micro-ATX case? You might be able to spare a lot of expense and end up with a better machine in the process.
I agree that Micro-ATX is generally easier to build, more flexible and less expensive than mini-ITX.

There are a half-dozen good micro-ATX LGA1150 motherboards available for under $140.
$105 ASRock Z87M Pro4 micro-ATX Z87 LGA1150 motherboard
$240 Intel Core i5-4670K processor

There are some good small micro-ATX cases that will still accept large gaming graphics cards. I believe that Silverstone offers the best compact cases.
$50 Rosewill Line-M micro-ATX mini-tower case
$100 or $110 Silverstone Temjin TJ08-E micro-ATX mini-tower case
$95 or $105 -10MIR Silverstone Grandia GD05 micro-ATX HTPC media center case
$116 or $130 Silverstone Sugo SG10 micro-ATX SFF cube case
+ $42 pack
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:04 am

Usage is important too:
  • If you want a shoebox rig that you can fit in a rucksack and travel elsewhere with, you need to stick with mITX
  • If you just want something small to fit under a TV, or at a small desk, then mATX has better options:

For transportable builds, size will limit how powerful a graphics card you can build with:
  • 11" long - Silverstone SG05,450W PSU, max GPU length =10"
  • 14" long - silverstone SG08,600W PSU, max GPU length =12"

For mITX, nvidia make the best options, because they have decent blower fans which fully exhaust the hot air out of the back.
This is vital if you want good, quieter cooling:
  • The reference GTX 660Ti is 9.5" long (get this instead of a GTX 760)
  • The reference GTX 770 is 10.5" long
  • If you are on a budget, AMD's R9 270X is a re-badged HD7870 and can be found with a new 9.5" blower fan reference cooler that seems pretty decent.

My advice would be to get an AMD card if you can (they have all the console wins and future games are far more likely to run better on them) but at the same time, there are no high-end AMD cards with good blower fans on them right now. The GTX770 is a rebadged GTX 680 and whilst it's Nvidia, it's still a great option at the moment.

I'll also second an i5 if you can afford one (the retail cooler is actually fine for mITX) and don't forget to buy a slimline-SATA (sometimes called a Micro-SATA) adapter for the slimline DVD drives you'll want in one of those Sugo SG05/SG08 cases (and you do want one of those two if you build mITX for portability)
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:11 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:CyberPowerPC is cheaper for a customized build.

Meant to mention that in myself...my last PC was built by them and was excellent, and the price difference was around $50. It can vary higher than that depending on the components, but still isn't awful/completely ridiculous.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:11 am

Chrispy_ wrote:For mITX, nvidia make the best options, because they have decent blower fans which fully exhaust the hot air out of the back. My advice would be to get an AMD card if you can (they have all the console wins and future games are far more likely to run better on them) but at the same time, there are no high-end AMD cards with good blower fans on them right now.
Is a Radeon HD7950 good enough? This should fit into a Sugo SG10 (micro-ATX) or SG08 (mini-ITX) SFF case.

Radeon R9-290 reference cards appear to meet your criteria, as well.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:26 am

Yeah, it just depends on dimensions (and budget) but the SG05 is more portable and limits you to 10" cards.
Check out the OP's original spec. 12" cards are expensive, without a clear budget, it's possible that 10" covers everything he can afford.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:58 pm

Hi All. Thanks for all your input! I have been working on a new build based on your comments and suggestions. I will post it tonight once I finalize it, but didn't want everyone to think I had forgotten about this. Stay tuned....
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:58 pm

Warsam71 wrote:Looking at your list of components, the first thing that sticks out is the power supply you’re considering. I understand it comes with the case, but a 550w or higher PSU is what you’ll want; it’s a good long term investment since the PSU is the heart of your system (feeds all the electricity/power to all the components). Don’t take me wrong the 450w should suffice, but could be pushing it.

Cut the crap! ;)
Have you actually done any measurements to have any idea whether 450W would be pusing it?
He needs a good-quality PSU, not a large capacity one.
I've had a 3570K and 7950 or 670 on a 400W PSU.

auxy wrote:Cases like the Cooler Master Elite 361 manage to cram a full-sized ATX motherboard, full-size power supply, and full-size GPU into a case not much bigger than a Playstation 3.

The mATX advice is nice, but I think that CM case isn't good on noise / thermals.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:20 pm

Hope the revision has a new GPU with the current price drops! That PSU in the silverstone case is fine for your build. I believe it has an 8pin and 6pin PCIE cables to support a high end gpu. Heck, I'm running an GTX 470 on an CX400 and it never gets warm.
Also the CM Elite case mentioned is not that great. Sure it will fit, but temps are rather higher, build quality is mediocre, just not that great of a case. Have an empty one sitting in closet.....
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:49 pm

Okay folks. The long awaited second build! I decided to switch up the case and get a different PSU. Also, as suggested I beefed up the GPU and CPU, but managed to only add ~$100. Let me know what you think, if I've missed anything compatibility-wise, etc.


With the switch in case, no more dvd drive bay. Not a huge loss, if I find myself wanting one later, externals are easy to come by. Also, I am going to try and hold out on an HDD until Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I should be able to make it, but again, an easy fix if not.

Regarding the PSU, from what I've read, the wattage isn't super important, I just need to make sure there is enough power available. With a single 12V rail @ 32 AMPs, I should have more than enough to power my GPU (max load of ~17A) and the rest of my components. If I am mistaken, please let me know (nicely) and I will pay attention. Also, before someone jumps on me for trying to jam an ATX PSU into a mini-ITX case, this one explicitly says it supports ATX PSUs. I feel like this is a pretty good build for the total price, but feel free to disillusion me (with links!) if I am wrong.

To those advocating for a larger form factor, I hear what you're saying. I know it's easier to build, keep cool, etc, however I don't want a monster. This will be in my living room doing double duty as an HTPC, and I just don't want it to be large. Also, I WANT to build this. That is part of the reason I am getting a new computer. It will be entertaining when it's done, but I am also looking forward to the challenge of putting it together. That said, I am going to ignore the suggestions to buy a pre-built system, thought I do appreciate the input.

Thanks again for all your input!
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:57 pm

If no one else pointed it out yet, and for all that's good and holy in DIY computer building - get a dual channel RAM kit. You will cripple the CPU performance with a single stick of RAM running as single channel. You can ignore the rest of this post if you want, I just posted some tweaks below, but whatever you do please DO NOT ignore this piece of input.

=====
I personally feel the 'S' lower TDP processors are not a good buy for all but the most thermally-limited situations, such as all-passive or extremely small form factor/all-in.one PCs...the Node 304 is not one of those situations. Just get a regular i5-4570 for the same price, the added speed difference isn't huge percentage-wise, but the real-world power draw difference won't be very much. (Or if you wanted to stretch by another $20, get the i5-4670.)

As far as the motherboard...I'm sure that one will suit you fine, and it's nice that it's a mITX board without the CPU socket jammed up against the PCIe slot, but the Asus mITX motherboards are even better, they center the socket so it's not up against either the PCIe slot or the other edge of the motherboard. This would allow for a good tower cooler in the future, unless you plan on sticking with the stock heatsink which is OK, or you plan on getting an all-in-one liquid cooler. They are a bit more expensive for comparable features though.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:07 pm

Looks like a nice build. I would change the psu though. You need two 6 pin adapters, and there really isn't a reason to use them with your setup. If you enjoy the CX line from corsair, then get the 500 with proper connections: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139050
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:15 am

If you're dead set on mini-ITX, the build in this thread is a good example.
viewtopic.php?f=33&t=89213
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:44 am

I've built in the Node 304 and I can't say that I was disappointed, knowing that it would be somewhat cramped. The rest of the part list is fine, my only concern was the thickness of that video card but after seeing pictures you're good to go. Take your time, get your cables neat and tidy and remember things come out as easy as they went in. You can move wires and stuff around once you're sure it's all working. Have fun with your 1st self built toy!
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:14 am

MadManOriginal wrote:If no one else pointed it out yet, and for all that's good and holy in DIY computer building - get a dual channel RAM kit.




Why don't I just change this to 2 of these DIMMS (found I could get them for $60/DIMM, vs. $85 for 2x4GB DIMMS). Problem solved, yes?

GeForce6200 wrote:Looks like a nice build. I would change the psu though. You need two 6 pin adapters, and there really isn't a reason to use them with your setup. If you enjoy the CX line from corsair, then get the 500 with proper connections: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817139050


Thanks, GeForce6200, good catch! I hadn't realized I needed to PCI-e adapters for the video card. That would have been devastating. So besides replacing the PSU with the CX500M as GeForce suggested, and adding one more memory DIMM, is there anything else I should be concerned with?
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:52 pm

Alright folks. Thanks again for your help. I have ordered everything from my build posted last night, but following the suggestions of GeForce and MadMan I have replaced the processor with the 4570 (not the 'S') and the PSU to the CX500M. I also added a stick of RAM to properly utilize both channels so everything should be good to go!

Final specs:

    i5-4570 @3.2GHz
    16GB DDR3 RAM
    RADEON HD7950 3GB GPU
    128GB SSD
    ASRock B85M-mini-ITX Mobo
    Corsair CX500M PSU
    All jammed into a Fractal Design Node 304 mini-ITX case!

I can't wait to start building, which brings up another question. I have access to Windows 7 or Windows 8. I had Win8 on an old laptop and hated it, but I'm wondering if it has any advantages I should know about over Win7? Anyone have any strong opinions on this? I know people are quoting some pretty insane startup times with Win8, but is this just the effect of using an SSD? Thanks again!
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:22 pm

Aside from subjective cosmetic preferences and irrelevant junk like "OMG, the boot time is shorter by 0.000009 seconds now!" you should get better performance out of future games which will utilize new DX11.1 features. The first game where you will see such performance difference will be BF4.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:24 pm

If you've already tried Win8 and hated it I would say just stick with 7. 8 does seem to boot a bit faster, but with an SSD even 7 will boot plenty fast enough. 8 has a few nice features, like the improved Task Manager and better multi monitor customization. Once I made the switch I didn't look back, but then again I never really used the Start Menu in 7, I used 3rd party launcher apps. Even if you hate the Metro/Modern thing, it's usually pretty unobtrusive. I only ever see it on startup and when I use it occasionally as a glorified app launcher.

You could try out 8.1, it might change enough things to be more palatable for you. But if strongly prefer 7 to what you've seen of 8, I don't think there are really compelling enough reasons to switch.

You can always install 7 now and upgrade to 8 later, whether you upgrade in place or do a clean install.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:52 pm

Gilligan and SuperJawes' bickering aside, I have heard that Win8.1 is better than the original release was, so maybe I will give it a try. Especially if future games are going to utilize the features of that OS, I may as well avoid the hassle of upgrading later unless necessary. If I REALLY hate it, I can switch back, but I will probably give it a shot. I certainly see the advantages of Win8 if you have a touch screen, but I thought it a poor choice to force the touchscreen optimized interface on everyday PC users.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:01 pm

Sorry about that...didn't meant to tangent on the topic of wire gauges.

For Windows 8 versus 7, though, just stick with what you choose. It's a pretty steep upgrade from 7 to 8 (like $100).

Windows 8 takes some getting used to. First off, figure out how you use the Start Menu in 7. If you mainly use it for "Windows Key, type to search," that still works as it does in 7, although it looks very different. Secondly, read up on keyboard shortcuts, specifically Windows Key ones. Clicking to sleep/shut down is not done through the Start Screen, and takes four clicks (4). Learning to WinKey+I to open the Charms menu saved my sanity. I'm still not entirely happy about the change, but the shortcut is easier than mouse clicks.

I would definitely recommend trying 8 before you make a decision either way, if you can.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:13 pm

TML wrote:Why don't I just change this to 2 of these DIMMS (found I could get them for $60/DIMM, vs. $85 for 2x4GB DIMMS). Problem solved, yes?

You may want to add a second 2x4GB kit if you are going to play BF4. My total system memory usage when playing BF4 is close to 8GB.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:19 pm

Yep, if you tried 8 and hated it, there's no point in buying 8 over 7. I have been running W8 since pre-RC at home and every day I use W7 at the office. It's staggering how stupid some things in 8 are and when you switch between W7 and W8 multiple times a day it's genuinely hard to see what the point of 8 (or 8.1) is unless you have a tablet or convertible touchscreen laptop.

As for things in Windows 8 that I miss when I'm at work on 7? None. The only reason I stick with it at home is because I have to support all those poor bastards who come to me with "WTF?! How do I do this in W8?!!" type of questions.

It's already been mentioned but make sure you buy at least two sticks of RAM, whatever size you go for.
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Re: New Small form-factor Gaming Rig

Postposted on Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:44 pm

Thanks for your input everyone. I am going to start with Win8 and see how it goes. This whole experience will be new to me, so what the hell, why not keep it new all the way? Also, everyone can relax, I got 2 RAM sticks (2x8GB). I'll be back when everything arrives and I can start building, no doubt questions will arise. Plus I'm sure everyone will want to see how this thing works out!
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