Welcome to my HTPC / Gaming build notes!
First, I want to send a huge thank you to the website creator/owner! It was a great resource and a great place to keep track of everything.
I built my last computer using a Q6600 and a 8800GT back in 2008. It was still running pretty well, but the case had pretty lousy airflow so the fans had to run at close to full speed to keep the temperatures down. Needless to say, it was loud. I also wanted to be able to run my Steam games at high settings on my 1080p TV and this setup wasn't keeping up.
Sometime during the summer, I started doing research on a new computer. I had originally wanted to buy an Alienware X51 or a Cyberpower Revolt, but after discussing it on some forums, I decided DIY was the way to go.
I set myself a budget of $1000 and started gathering parts. Below is a summary of why I went with certain parts and some general notes on the build.
CPU: I spent a couple of weeks researching what the best CPU would be for my needs. Since I'm going to be using this machine for gaming and media, I felt the i5 was good enough. I went with the Haswell because it was only $10 more at Microcenter and I figured it would be better for future proofing.
CPU Cooler: I didn't have one in my old rig and I would constantly see temperatures in the 60's. I figured I would do it right this time with a proper cooler, especially since I was getting a "k" processor". I figured at $20, the 212+ would serve my needs and not break the bank. The installation went pretty smooth, but man it is big! I haven't tested it under load, but at idle, the CPU temp is at 36C, so I'm pretty happy.
Motherboard: I knew I wanted a Z87 board for overclocking possibilities. This was the cheapest one at Microcenter and all the bad reviews blamed the firmware, so I went with it. One drawback is that the front chassis fan lead can only control via PWM and the only 3-pin leads with voltage control are the second CPU fan lead and CHA_FAN1. I had to route the front fan wire to the 2nd CPU fan lead. It's not a big deal, but it was a pain to change it after everything was in place.
Memory: After some research, I knew I wanted a minimum of 1600 MHZ, 1.5V, and CAS 9. These were the cheapest sticks that would meet my needs. They are also low profile and look pretty cool too.
Storage: Given my budget, I knew I could afford to throw in an SSD in there. I wanted to experience the responsiveness everybody's been talking about. This Toshiba drive was on sale for $150 so I snagged it.
I've had the 2TB drive for a couple of years now and even though it's only 5400 RPM, it feels pretty snappy. I was even running my Steam games from it and it worked great.
The 640gb drive is from a WD MyBook I got for free at an end of year move out sale. It didn't come with a power adapter, so I tore out the drive and it now sits at the bottom of my case. edit: I tested the HD and it had a lot of read errors so I ended up tossing it.
Video Card: I spent a long time doing research for a video card. I won't be playing the latest games and am using my living room TV at 1080p so I looked for the best value for the money. I also was looking for a short card that would fit in my old case. I was about to spend $250 on a 670 when I came across the 7950 for $200. With the $50 savings, I figured I could buy a new, better case. I'm going to try my hand at overclocking this card so we'll see how that goes. Currently, I'm having trouble getting the HDMI audio to work, but I feel like it's just a driver issue. I will uninstall and re-install to see. edit: I fixed the sound issue thanks to dschutt84 but I ended up selling the card for $400 thanks to the mining craze. I ended up upgrading to a GTX 770 and had some money left over to buy some games.
Case Fans: I got these with a fan controller for almost free after rebate and they worked well in my last build. I knew I wanted to replace the existing blue LED fan on the Line M, so I used these. I am very happy with these so far. At 700 RPM, they are almost silent, which is exactly what I was looking for in my HTPC setup.
Power Supply: I was going to stick with my five year old 550VX, but the more I researched, the more I realized a fully modular PSU would be a better option. This way, I can also keep the old PC running as a whole computer.
Case: Admittedly, I spent the most time doing research on a case. Since it was going in my TV stand, I needed a case that would fit. I wanted to use my old Apevia XMaster but it only fits cards that are 9" long. That left me with very few options. I first started looking at ATX cases, but they were all too deep. I then started looking at the mATX offerings and finally settled on this one because of the great reviews. I like the stealth look of it and after changing out the LED case fan, it doesn't cause much light pollution. It really is a great case to work with for the price. As you can see, cable management is a bit tough, so I need to work on that some more.
OS: I've been using Windows 7 for a few years now and while it has been great, I wanted something new. Windows 8 gives me a new feel for my new computer, which is exactly what I wanted. It is going to take some time getting used to it, but so far, I've been pleased.