My kids (10 & 12) wanted only one thing for the holidays this year: A gaming computer of their own. So we built it together.
The plan was to purchase a high quality case and power supply which would last for several future builds (Fractal Design Define R4, SeaSonic 660W Platinum), buy low/mid end everything else and upgrade over time.
Since our goal for the first build was to be able to play Skyrim at 1080p 60fps. A Haswell i3 and middle of the road graphic card (say a HD7770) should do it! Budget $750
Then the words "for only a little more we can get" and "wouldn't it be fun if we could over clock a bit" came ... So ... i3 ->i5 (only $50 more) -> i5 K (over clock +$25) but wait a second our non over clocking $80 motherboard won't work we need an X87 one so now $110 oh wait the UD4H is much better and only $40 more ... AND we can't use the stock intel cooler if we over clock ... add $30 ... The HD7750 for $69 is a bit board line ... for less then $30 more a HD7770 then WHAT A DEAL a HD7850 2Gig for $110 ... blew our budget to $940.
In the end we have a really nice system which will only get better over time ...
EDIT: (A note about the GPU: if I were striving strictly for the best gaming machine possible for the $; I would have taken all that money we put into over-clocking and put it into the GPU. But 1) the kids do not need a better GPU right now and 2) for the kids to OC, they have to understand what they are doing and therefore they have to learn a lot ... so it was the better allocation of funds for us ... never said gaming shouldn't be educational ... uhhh, I mean fun ... yeah that's it! 3) buy what you need not whats hot (unless your after bragging rights). That $100-$150 saved now will buy so much more GPU in a year or two)
pictures: * the boxes * air testing & burn in - spent several days running like this testing everything out * wire side - the rats nest is actually pretty good for me * inside 1 & 2... I love this case * case noise dampening (closing up wire side) * back (wireless adapter from old computer) * front (ready to go)
Part Ratings: Ok so everything gets 5 stars ... as I am rating for mix of quality, performance and value for the $ (for 11/2013). You might rate differently. The Toshiba drive earns 5 stars now but if it doesn't last it will get reduced. Intels i5k I'd like to see cheaper but this is the retail going rate, it worked as expected out of the box ... five stars (I haven't push the OC at all ... as we have not got to that yet). The hyper 212 is probably one of the best bang for the buck coolers around, an easy 5 star. The Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H is quite a solid board (I mean solid!! Probably one of the heaviest motherboards I've seen) with great components. It's hard to say if the perceived quality is worth the extra cost ... so not strong on value but still 5 stars (very happy, really like this board). The Fractal Design Define R4 is one nice case - with a few small faults: needs more places to tie down wire behind the motherboard, I'd like it if the side panels were hinged with latches instead of screws, if screws then at least use captured screws ... and how about some real documentation (instead of the cryptic nonsense that comes with it) letting the user scratch their heads puzzling out the parts and options. But I still give it 5 star. The Seasonic PSU is very nice, built like a tank and very quiet ... it's a 5 star quality & performance for sure and a killer 5 star value at $80. Although it's a bit silly to ship it in a velvet jewelry bag ... made me laugh (should have presented it to my wife but she'd probably kill me ... getting her hopes up to find a damn PSU). The HD7850 2G is a strong bang for buck value at $110 ... timing is everything ... this card stuck out of the crowd as I perused our $100 range target in the GPU pcpartpicker list sorted by price. The other thing about the 7850 is that it has a very high performance per watt metric making it a very cool running GPU for it's performance. This gives us a lot of room for some 5 star OC in addition to being a 5 star value pick. The DVD/CD writer is inexpensive, just works, no complaints 5 star value. Windows 8.1 ... I like it and I'm not a Microsoft fanboy by any stretch. It's taking me a little time to figure it out but thats because I'm not a Windows guy. 5 Stars so far .... The Logitech wireless Combo is a solid keyboard and mouse. For $20 it's a steel and a strong 5 stars on value. If over time things change I'll reduce the value and report why here.
UPDATE 12-10-13: Skyrim runs pegged at 60fps and the GPU is not even close to being stressed (sits between 42-52 degrees while playing) ... everyone is happy
UPDATE 5-20-14: Skyrim is fully mod'ed and we didn't need a heftier GPU ... it's flying at 1080p. My son tells me that many of his friends are jealous on how fast Skyrim is on this machine. No problems so far. I can see that we will have to do another gaming build since the kids clash for time on this one. I started by buying a SeaSonic Platinum 760 (since I could not pass it up at $99.99 after MIR). It's currently being tested and burned-in in this system. I moved the 660 temporally to my wife's system.