NOTE: this build is published with my final prices. I purchased the CPU, MoBo, and SSD from Micro Center locally. The RAM and PSU were bought from Newegg (Free shipping!). The GPU was bought from EVGA B stock ($5 shipping). The case and HSF were bought from SuperBiiz [$18 shipping :( ]. All together, including shipping and California sales tax on the in-person and online purchases, I spent $855 on this build. A link to a PCPP list with all these items sans custom prices can be found here http://pcpartpicker.com/p/QHYdQ7
PassMark Score: 4,778 http://www.passmark.com/baselines/V8/display.php?id=45871356293 no tweaking of anything yet, just the raw out of the box score.
The goal for this build was a compact desktop that could run the games I play at 120+ FPS and let me render things in Premiere and compile code fairly quickly without creating a lot of noise and heat. I previously was running an OC'ed Phenom II X6 1090T (per the BIOS it was a 128W TDP chip, plus whatever TDP the OC added), along with an OC'ed 6850HD. I had everything in a HAF 912 case with every single place to put a fan filled and running at 100%. This build served me well from fall 2010 until a few days ago when I sold it cheaply to a friend who is just starting to get into PC gaming. However, it was LOUD and under load would heat up a room pretty damn quick.
I waited until the new Skylake architecture was released before buying any new parts, but upon seeing early benchmarks for Skylake and knowing that I wasn't interested in DDR4 or overclocking this time around, I decided to stick with the Haswell based Xeon 1231 v3 and an H97 chipset mobo.
I believe that you can either chose a price and optimize a build for performance, or chose a performance level and optimize a build for price. I decided to optimize for a performance goal, and prioritize quality parts where the cost difference was minimal or the quality difference was substantial. For instance, the Fractal Design Core 1300 has all the features I needed in a case, even though I could have spent twice as much on a case with a tiny bit more precise engineering. The EVGA G2 550W 80+GOLD PSU could have been substituted for a 500W EVGA 80+ PSU, which would have saved me around $40, but I felt that full modularity, very good engineering (check out the jonnyguru.com reviews of the EVGA G2 series), a fan that only spins up under high load, and a 7 year warranty was worth the extra cost.
I spent extra on the GPU compared to a similarly performing AMD part because I was attracted to the fact that Nvidia's Maxwell GPU's are passively cooled when idle, and that the GTX 960 would perform much better than my previous GPU, while drawing less power at stock speeds, and less power when OC'ed.
The Scythe Kotetsu was probably a waste of money from a performance:budget standpoint, but I wanted a quiet CPU cooler, and it's not like heatsinks go out of date. All of the aftermarket heatsinks I have purchased in the past are still in use today by friends and family.
I bought the MX200 purely out of brand loyalty, and the fact that I could pick one up for $89.99 at Micro Center locally. I have the same capacity MX100 in my ThinkPad X201 and it's served me well, and the difference between the MX200 and any cheaper higher performing drive was miniscule.
The G.Skill RAM was the highest specced RAM officially compatible with my MoBo and CPU. 1600mhz and CAS latency of 7. Doesn't really matter what the timings are but I've always liked G.Skill, it was pretty, it was the fastest availible, and it was only like $8 more than getting much slower and much uglier RAM. I've always been of the mind that it's better to buy too little and order more RAM then to buy too much and ending up wasting money. For me, for now, 8gb is completely sufficient, and I hope it will be until it's time to upgrade to a chipset that supports DDR4 or whatever is current at the time.
The ASRock H97M Pro4 MoBo was the cheapest board availible that met all of my expansion slot, chipset, port, quality of life, and heatspreader requirements. The cheaper boards just looked like they'd burn up the second things got toasty and had dark age BIOSes. For a few dollars more, the ASRock BIOS is a pleasure to work with, and everything was placed conviently enough on the board.
I had no major issues while building, and cable management was a breeze between the modular G2 and the ample cable tie locations inside the Core 1300.
This build from a completely subjective point of view is quiet and cool. I set custom fan curves for the CPU fan and the two case fans, setting all at 40% unless the computer is under heavy load, and it stays nice and quiet. I left my PC on, but turned off my monitor, and my friend who was chilling in my room for like 20 minutes didn't realize that my PC was on. It's not passively cooled so it will never be completely silent, but unnoticed to a casual observer is pretty damn good I think :)
I get a constant 290-300 fps in CS:GO and TF2, and am always above 120 in Civ V and Dota 2. Any other games I play are significantly less demanding, and I will get either the engine maximum or hundreds upon hundreds or maybe even thousands of frames.
booting is fast enough that I need to turn on my monitor before my computer, or else I don't even see the boot sequence happening (monitor takes 7 or so seconds to go from off to fully on)
TO COME: More pictures when my friend stops by with his DSLR
PS: I didn't realize until I had finished the build that I had happened to buy all blue parts, and then Eiffel 65 classic started playing in my head. I'm blue DA BA DE DA BA DI...
i7 4770 without the iGPU. Lower TDP, lower cost, no loss for anyone using a dedicated GPU. One of the best value CPUs on the market.
Included fan is high quality and nearly silent at low RPMs, keeps an 80W chip cool without making lots of noise. Great value if you can find one for $40 or less shipped.
Perfect size for the components I chose, decent build quality, good value at $45, great value sub $40, not really worth it above $55 or so. The mounting holes for the HDDs and SSDs aren't perfect, but the small amount they were off by didn't prevent me from installing anything. Could use some more preinstalled dust filters. The included fans are pretty quiet at low RPMs and should keep non overclocked components with plenty of fresh air. Cable management with a modular PSU was easy. Front panel buttons and I/O are mediocre, but that's what one expects with a budget MicroATX case.
Great PSU, well engineered, made of quality components.