CES 2011: More Electronics Porn

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Mean for this to be typed and posted a week ago, oh well. I had the chance to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas again this year. Apparently the only reason why either of us visits Vegas is to eat food and view gadget porn. Drinking and gambling? Not so much lol. Though the convention seemed even more crowded than last year, it was loads of fun. A couple of paragraphs of random stuff:

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Mobile computing had a large representation at this year’s CES, both in terms of technology used (next generation of chipsets, etc) and devices; Tablets in particular. Oh so many tablets. There was also still a big focus on 3D, both with and without glasses. If I recall correctly, there were only a couple of glassesless TVs at CES 2010. This year, just about every major TV vendor had one on display in some form. The television quality was impressive, but the 3D effect had less depth than the with glasses sets. They were also fairly sensitive to distance and viewing angles. The 3D wasn’t all that effective if you weren’t standing close the TV within a fairly narrow range. I still don’t get the focus on 3D and don’t see myself ever sitting in front of anything for an extended period of time wearing those godawful glasses. Oh: Blu-Ray Star Wars!

I didn’t realize that Windows 7 natively supported and detected touch screen devices. There were quite a few tablets and all-in-one TV/PC devices running off of native Windows 7. The user interface wasn’t as slick as some of the other devices, but I like the idea of being able to both create and view content on a portable device. The Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablets were the clear favorite. The Motorolla Xoom won CNET’s best of show.

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Razer had a magnetic PC motion controller demoing Portal 2 both at their booth as well as at Intel’s booth. Apparently, since the base station uses a magnetic field to track the controllers, it’s not sensitive to line of sight. It’s going to be launching this year for “under a hundred dollars” with exclusive Portal 2 content. In terms of game support, I think the Hydra SDK is already available on Steam. I am going to be really really tempted to get this. Under a hundred is a good price point, but it depends on how many other past and future games offer support. Exclusive Portal 2 content and general curiosity may be the deal maker.

Most of the big name audio manufacturer’s were present with new and currently available products on display. I am considering purchasing a nicer headset so I took a look at most of the products on the floor. I am normally pretty wary of wireless devices (audio quality, latency, battery life), but Creative’s Tactic3D Omega looked pretty interesting. They seem a little flimsy though. I am sure that the intention is to create a light weight pair of headphones comfortable for hours of gameplay, but I personally like headphones that feel solid (I’ve broken a couiple before :/).

I have a gallery with a couple of photos from the convention. More pictures will be added later but I am an aweful photographer…

Cataclysm and DX11

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So finally, after about a year of waffling back and forth between various upgrades, I bought a new video card last week. I was going to go all out, I didn’t really have a budget per se, but I settled on a 1GB Radeon HD 6870 (upgrade from a 512 8800GT), which didn’t actually cost that much. WoW runs at a consistently smooth rate, in combat, instancing, flying, etc. The only performance drop that I have noticed is while navigating through the Stormwind Trade District or really any area with a huge concentration of players. Other than lowering the shading options, I don’t think there’s a whole lot I can do about that.

Heat, noise level and of course, performance were the main upgrade factors. My old card could run WoW at almost maxed out settings, but it would chug and heat the card up to around 77 °C at 80% fan speed (85 °C at 100% speed during the summer). That’s fine, it’s within operating range of the card but whenever the fan ramps up to 60% speed+ it makes an awful whirring sound (tiny ass single slot cooler fan).

The stock fan on the new card is almost completely silent so long as it stays below 50% speed. Luckily, I haven’t seen it go much over 30%, even after stress testing it at 100% GPU usage in Futuremark several times. It stays relatively cool too: 62 °C while playing WoW, low 70’s at 100% usage. I probably care more about the noise level of my computer than I should, but it’s a pet peeve. I specifically built this machine keeping that factor in mind. It was irritating that the one and only part that made any sort of noise was my video card.

I know that there was a small graphical difference between DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 in the Cataclysm beta, but I don’t think there is now. Aside from a small performance boost, everything else looks the same at max settings. I took quite a few comparison screenshots over the weekend, specifically focusing on water and lighting. I was going to post them, but since I really couldn’t see a difference I don’t see a point. However, here are a couple of screenshots of WoW with maxed out settings. It’s worth noting that I run the game at 1920×1080 windowed with vsync enabled.

The Logitech G13 Gamepad

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Edit: My WoW configuration is posted here if anyone is intersted.

Just a little background: I have been using the Belkin n52te and its predecessor the n52 for a number of years. It’s a great device, great functionality, pretty decent software and an okay(ish) build quality. The software though hasn’t been updated in quite some time. I don’t think that Windows 7 is listed as a supported operating system (I mean, it works fine, but still). But that aside, the computer peripheral itch hit me once again so here I am, with yet another gamepad: The Logitech G13. So, this post isn’t so much a review as it is a semi-comparison to the n52.

It is also worth noting, just as a general preface to any gamepad: These devices really shine in MMOs and perhaps PC RPGs with a crapload of buttons. After binding every single ability and overcoming the learning curve, there was a notable improvement in my performance and reaction time. It  does though take an amount of time to create a profile, bind shortcuts and learn the layout for a possibly not very long computer game. So if you are a WoW player, highly recommended, especially for classes with an enormous amount of keybindings. Other game genres like first person shooters? Not so much.

As always, with any peripheral, ergonomics will differ according to hand size and personal preference. You really need to give the G13 a test drive on a store display or at a friend’s place before purchasing it. From my experience, it is suitable for people with medium to large hands. I find the gamepad comfortable with my average sized chick hands, though I do have to awkwardly stretch my fingers over to hit the G1, G7, G8 and G14 keys. Small handed folk may want to find another alternative.

G13 itself is much more comfortable than I thought it would be. I was initially worried about it’s curvature. It is much flatter in comparison to the n52 and was under the impression that it would feel awkward or something. I am actually finding the G13 to be less of a strain after extended play periods. The palm rest is textured nicely and the flatter design is more in tune with how my hand wants to naturally rest. I have two ergonomic gripes though.

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One, I wish that the thumbstick was a bit closer. One element that I really liked about the n52’s design was how the D-pad was angled. In terms of location and distance, it sat exactly where my thumb wanted to sit. I have to stretch my thumb over a little on the G13; It’s not uncomfortable but it doesn’t feel optimal. The thumbstick’s hat is also a little small for my taste. I wish it were a little bigger.

Two, I wish that the first 2 columns of keys (G1, G2, G8, G9 and G15) were shifted downwards by perhaps a quarter of an inch. The first column of keys on the n52 are slightly lower (along the horizontal axis) than the other 4 columns, which makes sense seeing as how most human left hands have pinkies that are shorter than the other 4 fingers.

In terms of build quality, I have always been very pleased with Logitech’s peripherals.The G13 is no exception: it is a very well constructed and solid device. I mean, it has to be at least 5 times heavier than the n52. The thumbstick doesn’t creek and the paint doesn’t look like it’s going to wear off. It feels premium. My n52te still works, but there is notable wear and I am wondering if I will run into key sticking problems in the future. If the keys on the G13 are of the same make as Logitech’s gaming keyboard line then I shouldn’t have any problems. As far as the LCD goes, it’s almost identical to the LCD on the original G15 keyboard. The one thing that I really miss about the G15 LCD was the ability to see who was talking on Vent without having to tab in and out.

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Ergonomics aside, if you are already used to playing with a gamepad then there isn’t much of a learning curve. You can pretty much transfer your entire n52 layout over button for button with leftovers (the G13 has way more bindable keys). By the way, using the LUA scripting future build into the keypad software, you can even retain the n52’s shift state toggle functionality. For example, on my WoW profile (default state being M1), the G11 key will activate hotbar slot 3. When my WoW profile is set to M2, the G11 key will activate the map. I have thumb button G23 bound to momentarily shift into M2 when pressed and back to M1 when released. So in order to activate my map, all I need to do is press both G23 and G11 at the same time.

I will go over my WoW profile in a later post when I finalize it, but in a nutshell, I have combat abilities bound in M1, menu items (map, bags, talents) bound in M2 and extras like the raid icons and recount screens bound in M3. If anyone needs it, I can also post my LUA script. Oh: The thumb buttons on the G13 are a lot easier to press than the n52’s thumb button.

If I haven’t already mentioned it: The Logitech’s software is really pretty nice. It uses the same configuration program for their gaming keyboard line (as you can probably see in the screenshot). The G13 is a bit expensive for what it is, but that’s just the way it is with gaming peripherals, or so it seems. As mentioned above, try all of the gamepads out in the store before buying one. If you are impartial, you might as well just get the G13. It has better software, it’s built better and has more buttons.

If anyone is curious, size comparison:
Size-comparison

Another Computer Toy: Asus Xonar DX

I have several more posts to make regarding certain games and certain game updates that were released recently. I even have a few cheesy videos, yay. Anyway, I finally got around to picking up a new sound card for my machine last weekend. I never bothered installing the X-Fi on this machine; I think I’m kind of done with Creative’s crap ass drivers, though in all fairness I haven’t used it in about a year. The Realtek onboard sound was actually pretty decent and more than sufficient if you aren’t picky. By the way, I’m not an audiophile or an expert of any sorts. I am however, picky enough to want decent sounding audio on my computer (and a new toy).

Anyway, I was at Fry’s and picked up a Xonar DX for $69. I read quite a few reviews and system guides stating that it was good, providing the most “bang for the buck”. I figure, Worst case, I get a mediocre card for a low investment and/or return it. My sound is notably clearer, I really wasn’t expecting that much of an improvement. I mean, I expected my sound quality to somewhat improve but I didn’t think that there would be that much of a difference.

It’s particularly fantastic for music. I spent quit ea bit of time going through my stash, listening to things that were previously way to heavy on the bass or way to trebly with onboard sound. For example, I used to have to manually turn my bass down on my volume doodad whenever Streets of Philadelphia would cycle up in iTunes. Otherwise, neighbor angering bass would flood out from beneath my computer. No so much anymore, it’s quite nice and balanced. Gaming is pretty good as well. From what I understand, GX’s EAX emulation isn’t quite as good as the real thing, but I can’t really tell the difference. It sounds great to me.

For what it’s worth, here are a couple of things that weren’t really included in any of the hardware reviews that I read. It’s a great card for the price, but there are a couple of quirks:

  • SVN kills the dynatic range and causes loud popping noise whenever I start certain sounds (like playing something in iTunes and changing songs). Solution was to turn it off.
  • There’s no automatic headphone detection for whatever reason. In order to switch to headphone mode and kill the speaker sound, you have to manually switch the analog out settings. It’s not that big of a deal but it’s a little irritating.
  • I don’t know why many of the newer cards do this but: Mic input and line-in are on a shared jack.

Also, don’t use the installation disk. Download the drivers from Asus’s website, especially if you are running a newer operating system. The disk is a little out of date.

Q4 2010 Computer Upgrades

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I was fiddling with my computer about a month or go for the sake of installing a VGA slot fan which I think to be honest, does jack shit but whatever; I don’t feel like removing it (I think I’m done with single slot VGA fans by the way. Noisy ass fans). My current card, which is finally starting to show its age, is an EVGA 512MB 8800gt. It really wasn’t all that bad of a value considering that I have had it for almost 3 years. It will still run most things at a reasonable frame rate at high and very high settings, but the temperature and noise rise greatly as a result.

The room in which my computer resides is warm but not warm enough to warrant running the air conditioner unless it is unbearably hot outside. Consequently, my video card has been running at range of 80 to 84 degrees Celsius on the hotter days this summer (idling at 55 to 60 degrees Celcius); Which is within the card’s normal upper temperature range (it runs hot), but makes the fan speed ramp up to 100%. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. If it bothers me that much I can add an aftermarket cooler, but that is a pointless expenditure on a 3 year old video card.

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But anyway, long story short: My original intention was to buy a new card when I built this machine (but Newegg as well as every other vendor was out of the card that I had wanted). Now that NVIDIA has released their new line of reasonably priced mid-range cards, I am thinking of getting one soonish. Maybe in September or October (but definitely before Cataclysm releases), depending on what else is available. I don’t want to spend more than $200 to $250; I am going for the best value per performance.

This is the card that I am considering: The Gigabyte 1GB 460 GTX. I am also thinking of just maxing out the last two RAM slots on my motherboard since it will only cost about $100 more. I regret not doing so when I built this machine. Because of my stupid huge ass CPU cooler, I will either have to remove and re-seat it or figure out a way of prying off of the fan clips without breaking them in order to fill up the last two slots. I wasn’t actually sure if there would be enough overhead clearance for another two sticks + the RAM heatsinks but I checked on that when I installed the slot cooler. There should be enough clearance.

Review: Logitech G110 Keyboard

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Three years is a record. Three years without spilling on, trashing or utterly destroying yet another keyboard; All to be ruined by one morning cup off coffee. But I digress, the Gods laugh and Keiya gets an excuse to purchase yet another toy.

The Logitech G110 is exactly the same as the Logitech G19 minus the color LCD. The keyboard that I ruined was the old school G15 (the older one with more buttons and adjustable screen). I used to use the LCD to monitor system stats while I gamed. But since switching over the Windows 7, I prefer to use the desktop widgets docked on my secondary monitor, which are a lot better anyways particularly since there are widgets specifically for Riva Tuner, NVIDIA, etc. The only real use that I have for the LCD nowadays is to see who is speaking on Ventrilo, which isn’t worth an extra $100.

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This keyboard also feels almost exactly the same as my old G15 and presumably the same as the G19. It is a bit narrower though, by about an inch or so at the expensive of an extra column of G keys. For better or for worse, it is of the same construction quality too: Which is to say, very very nice but not quite as solid feeling as something Razer pops out (Logitech makes cheap ass wrists rests). The keys are tactile but soft; Soft and quiet enough to sneak in a late night of WoW without waking your spouse (I dislike noisy keyboards).

Oh here’s something new: The G10 has it’s own onboard USB soundcard with inputs for an analogue microphone and headphones. Above the inputs (which are located at the top) are two buttons: Mute microphone and mute headphones. I really like this feature because is eliminates the awkwardly long and hazardous wire running from my case to my head (it’s also easier to access and stash the cord to the side).

FYI: Plugging a mic into the keyboard input will automatically mute your speakers, even if you do not have headphones plugged in. Which is kind of annoying because I have both Vent and the game sounds routed through my speakers most of the time. This is easy enough to fix in the Windows control panel.

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Instead of having an ipod-ish volume dial, the G110 has volume scroll wheel similar to a mouse wheel. The G110’s multimedia buttons feel a lot better than the old school G15’s in both quality and location in my opinion. My other keyboard’s volume dial and play buttons were half pressed in and slightly loose feeling. I also like having them located on the right side near my mouse. I don’t have to reach over as far. Also for what it is worth, the drivers for the multimedia keys work out of the box with the most recent version of iTunes (on Windows 7 at least).

You can customize the keyboard glow to your heart’s content. Any color of the rainbow is at your fingertips, literally! The macro programming also works exactly the same as the G15 which is to say, very well. The software is self explanatory: Pick a button on the configuration screen and macro it. There’s no hassle and I haven’t encountered any software problems.

Oh one other thing: The high speed USB port isn’t too useful. There are very few thumb drives and devices that will run on it without getting a power warning. It’s nice that the hub is finally USB 2.0 but still…If you are strapped for cash, you might want to look somewhere else. $75 is still pretty steep for well, a keyboard. But if you can mentally justify the cost and/or want a nice gaming keyboard, it’s a great peripheral.

iPhone OS 4.0: Results

Q: Are there any plans for you to run unsigned applications, like on Android?
A: There is a porn store for Android to go to. You can download them, your kids can download them. That’s a place we don’t want to go. We’re not going to go there.

You know, I laughed at loud when I read that question off of Engadget today, causing a coworker to look at me inquisitively. But really, if you want porn on your iPhone there’s really nothing stopping you from acquiring it some other way. Seriously, who goes to the app store to find porn?

I am actually fairly satisfied with the 4.0 announcement. Multitasking was announce as predicted; From what I under stand, instead of being a battery raping free-for-all, it works by pausing the app completely except for specific services like say, the ability to play music. No home screen widgets though is sort of a bummer. I was kind of hoping for that one, but whatever.

I still cann’t remove first party apps but honestly, the only reason why I ever wanted to do that was to reduce home screen clutter. The folders are a more elegant solution for people who have massive amounts of applications. Just because I don’t use the stock app or the compass doesn’t mean that it should just vanish I guess. Stashing it away is more than sufficient.

Oh, forgot to list these on the other post. I whinge about the iPhone platform not having them from time to time in WoW, over Gtalk or whatever. I didn’t really expect Apple to implement them, yay!

  • Game Center: It’s a petty wish I know, given that it’s mostly for epeening achievements ala XBox Live. There are several existing services that do something similar with achievements, friend matching for mutiplayer, profiles and what not such as Open Feint, but there really isn’t any unified place to do that sort of thing and it feels silly.
  • Bluetooth keyboard support: I’ve gotten used to the touch screen keyboard, but it’s still not nearly as fast as just typing on a normal keyboard. Also, a keyboard would allow me to edit blog posts and lengthy documents on the go.
  • Playlist creation within the iPhone OS: Oh snap I didn’t think that they would ever add this feature in reasonable time. I like creating playlists of songs that I like, select songs from certain genres and whatever. It’s irritating not being able to do that on my phone and having to wait until I get home so that I can play with iTunes.

…I have to wait until this summer though. Ignore the shittacular editing, it’s late.

iPhone OS 4.0 Predictions and Wishes

I totally caved into a huge itch and switched over to AT&T recently for the sake of getting an iPhone. It has since been the object of my tech obsession. My predictions and wishes for tomorrow’s iPhone OS 4.0 announcement.

  1. Multitasking for non Apple produced applications. I want to be able to text AND still listen to Pandora.
  2. A new UI doodad: Hopefully in the form of a homescreen enhancement. I keep my phone sync’d with my Google calendar. I would love a summary of the day’s appointments on the homescreen along with any mail and message notifications.
  3. Pseudo file management through iTunes (like how the iPad does it)
  4. The ability to change the background. iPad does it right? It’s my God given right to have the ability to use my own ugly ass background without having to jailbreak my phone 😛
  5. (Maybe) The ability to remove certain first party applications so that I don’t have to shove them all onto the last app page and pretend that they don’t exist when in reality it bothers me that they are there.
  6. (Maybe) Software rotation lock….at least in Safari so that I can surf in bed in a non-awkward manner.
  7. (Probably not) Some form of over the air syncing
  8. (Probably not) A unified native chat client for both text messaging and services like GTalk and AIM.
  9. A pony?

If Apple doesn’t at least announce multi-tasking the entire internet is going to cry foul. It has been the number one speculation on every single tech site and blog for months on end. Actually to be honest, I can’t think of too many things that I really would want to multi-task with other than services like Pandora. Please can we have some sort of rotation lock in Safari? I surf and read things in bed; Playing the tilting game is fucking annoying.

Oh also: I don’t know/think that any phone actually does this, but I have always wanted the ability to customize the phone vibration. For example, 1 short pulse for text messages and 2 short pulses for something else.

CES 2010: Electronics Porn!

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Late posting for the lose. I guess CES is little more than an afterthought at this point given that I am posting this way after the con had ended. Anyway, I had the pleasure of attending the Consumer Electronic Show this year with someone special (<3 2-man raid FTW). For those who don’t know what CES is: it is a trade show held annually in early January, showcasing the latest and greatest in the world of gadgets, electronics and doodads.

So the show: Being a first timer, I can’t really draw a comparison to last year’s CES. It’s my understanding that the recession has obviously hit the electronics industry. There was a lot on display, but not too many big announcements or anything that reallywow’d me in terms of being innovative or new tech. Of the popular ‘themes,’ 3D home theater technology was obviously the big thing this year; Nearly every major booth had some sort of 3D television or device on display.

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All but the lenticular 3D television display (missed this one sadly) utilized wireless polarized glasses with active shutter technology to produce the 3D effect. They are kind of like the movie theater glasses, but chunkier and more expensive. The televisions themselves need to be 3D capable in order to work, though speculation is that at some point, this feature will be integrated into the new televisions whether you want it or not.

I honestly don’t see it being integrated into home television viewing life any time soon. The 3D effect itself is pretty neat, especially on movies and videos designed to maximize the effect (like Avatar). It’s still an expensive gimmick though. The equipment is expensive, the glasses are kind of uncomfortable and dumb looking, and there aren’t many videos designed for it yet. One of theTV’s was very angle sensitive. The effect didn’t seem to work well at all unless we were standing dead center.

I was very impressed with what Nvidia had to offer in terms of 3D for games. I know that this has been on display at several cons, but I’ve just sort of brushed over it before. It is still a glasses based system that requires a special monitor (well, 120hz refresh rate); and it’s still expensive, but it’s usable on the current generation of video cards and looks fantastic in my opinion. I think that this system has a lot of potential in the future but it’s still too expensive and too taxing on most systems (huge FPS hit when the 3d effect is on according to several benchmarks).

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We spent quite a bit of time at Microsoft’s booth playing with the Surface and enjoying the cushy carpet on our weary feet (seriously, it was soft). The 4-player touch tower defense game was one of the things that instantly drew me. Multi-touch in general was on display in multiple booths. I think I have a video somewhere of Intel’s cube thing.

The LEGO MMO looked much much better than I really had ever expected it to be for whatever it is worth coming from a dedicated WoW veteran. I have looked into it further since the con and have only heard and seen good things. I am pretty jaded on newMMO releases at this point but I might keep track of this one because it looks interesting. Oh, the bit about being able to build things in game and then order the model in actual LEGO bricks is pure win.

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D-Link had a router that also served as a digital picture frame and NAS drive dock. I am not sure why this sort of device isn’t more common. Networking equipment is butt ugly and a pain in the ass to keep out of sight or hide unless you are particularly clever about strapping things to the underside of your desk. So why not make them attractive looking of functional in some visual sort of way? D-Link offers this solution.

Overall, CES was great. I attended mostly for vacation purposes. Consequently, I missed quite a few things that I kind of wanted to see and unfortunately didn’t bother taking too many notes. I think next year I am going to see if I can get a press pass and perhaps uuh have an itinerary of some sorts. It’s such a huge con, so much to see. I took quite a few pictures, most being goofy/cute couples photos for my personal collection. I’ll post of the a few on this site later.

Proposed New Computer: Q4 2009 Edition

New computer building time. So, this is what I will likely order within the next week or so. I could probably save cash by just cannibalizing one of the media harddrive and PSU (it’s nice and fairly new) out of my current system, but I want it to remain functional for future use. Actually, there’s one thing that I will likely cannibalize out of my old machine: the sound card. Onboard sound is pretty good nowadays, but I like my X-Fi. Well okay, I like the knobs and shit on the front panel…

Component Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-860 $289.99
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-P55-UD4P LGA 1156 $169.99
Memory G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1333 $89.99
Graphics DIAMOND 5870PE51G Radeon HD 5870 $399.99
Storage Primary: WD VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10000 RPM $229.99
Data: WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM $109.99
Optical: SAMSUNG SH-S223B $30.99
PSU CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W $99.99
Case Antec P183 $139.99
Cooling  CPU: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 $29.98
Fans: Scythe SY1225SL12L 120mm x3 $26.97 ($8.99×3)
Sound Onboard $0

Total:

$1617.86

I know that the i5-750 is the current supposed sweet spot in terms of performance vs price. But, for not really that much more, the i7-860 offers a good boost in performance with hyperthreading, a faster turbo boost, etc.

Still a bit torn on whether or not I really want to go SSD for my primary HDD. The speed would be nice for the OS and WoW, but I still don’t think that it justifies the extra cost. so instead, I’ll probably just go with a 300GB Western Digital VeliciRaptor for the primary drive and a 1TB Cavalier for my data.