After almost 7 years with my 2009 Mac Pro, I decided I wanted to get a new system for some medium to heavy gaming. My old system performed well enough, but some newer titles didn't have the graphics quality I was looking for and were beginning to stutter. I was upgrading from a dual quadcore Xeon 2.26 GHz rig, with a GTX 670, and 16 GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 RAM. I wasn't too worried about a theme or anything like that, and since the case I chose doesn't have any windows, this ended up giving me more flexibility in the part selection, since colour didn't matter. I set a budget of about $2000 Cdn with taxes and shipping.
I decided on a Skylake build because it is only slightly more expensive than a Haswell build and gives me access to DDR4 RAM, at a much reduced cost of a Haswell-E build. I also didn't need the extra cores of Haswell-E, as I don't use a lot of multi-core, multi-threaded applications. The i5 still seems to be the right balance of performance for gaming and price, and with no real need for multi-threading as I said, I didn't want to pay the extra for an i7. I went with the unlocked chip because I wanted to do some overclocking. I'm very happy with my i5 6600K: I've managed to get it up to 4.6 GHz stable at about 1.3 V and a peak of 70 degrees C in stress tests, and my system is quite responsive when compared to my dual Xeon 2.26 Ghz quad cores.
The Skylake K series chips don't come with a stock cooler, and I would have bought a new one anyway for overclocking. I wanted to try liquid cooling, and the Corsair H100i GTX seemed to be good cooling for the price. The fans have a bit of a noticeable whine at high RPM, but it isn't very loud. Installing it in my case was a bit tricky, as the radiator has to go on top of the fans, as opposed under them in the recommended installation in the manual. Also, the liquid hoses are a bit stiff, and it is a tight angle from the top of the case where the radiator is installed to the CPU on the MB, so I had to ensure that the hoses didn't sit against the rear case fan. Overall though, the installation wasn't difficult, and it keeps my chip quite cool under stress testing, as I said above. The only thing that I don't like for cable management, is the mini-USB cable for the controller has to run over top of my GPU to plug into the USB pins on the MB. It doesn't look tidy, and I had to attach it to the water hoses to make sure it doesn't make contact with any fans or the GPU heat sinks.
I had to go with a Z170 for overclocking, and I settled on the Gigabyte Z170MX Gaming 5 as it seemed to be sufficient for my needs at a good price point, and I didn't need an ATX board necessarily. I'm happy with my choice, as the overclocking was easy and it's stable. It doesn't have a lot of expansion for PCIe cards, but the only thing I plan to add in the future might be a second GPU for SLI, which is possible with this board. It also supports plenty of SATA drives, an M2 drive if I decide to get one some day, and 64 GB of RAM which is more than enough for what I will need for the foreseeable future (arguably 32 GB is also more than enough for me, but for the price, better safe than sorry).
As I mentioned already, I wanted DDR4 RAM because it is almost on par price wise to DDR3 now, but has better clock speeds and potential clock speeds. I didn't get very fast DDR4 this time around, as I was trying to stay within budget; I could have reduced it down to 8 GB instead of 16 GB and got faster RAM, and in hindsight that may have been my better option, but I recently upgraded my previous system from 10 GB to 16 GB because it was getting RAM starved at times, so I didn't want to risk it. The Corsair RAM is a good value for the performance, and seems stable, though I haven't tried to overclock it past the advertised 2666 MHz.
Every modern system should have an SSD for the OS drive, and I found a good deal on the 500 GB EVO 850 to have plenty of room for my OS, and for my more frequently used games. I already had a 3 TB HDD data disk that I transfered from my old system. I went with SATA instead of M2 both because of cost per GB, and because what I've read says that M2 isn't quite worth it yet. The EVO 850 is a fast drive, and Samsung has a good reputation for reliability, and so far I'm happy with the drive.
The choice of GPU is always hard, and I have no particular affinity to AMD or NVIDIA (unlike many haha). I was leaning towards a GTX 970, because right now I only do 1080p gaming while running 2 monitors; but I found a good deal on the MSI GTX 980, and I decided it was worth the extra cost for the possibility for 1440p gaming for when I decide to upgrade my monitors some day. I'm not a gaming enthusiast, so I doubt I will ever do 4K gaming, but with SLI the option is there if I change my mind. I went with NVIDIA over AMD in the end just because those are the cards I'm most familiar with. I think I made a good choice, and this card is overkill for my use now, but I plan to keep it for at least 3 years, and I think it should continue to perform well for at least that long.
For the case, I didn't want something too much larger than what I had for my previous system, and the Corsair Carbide 500R had good reviews, and a good layout. It has lots of space for drives and expansion, good air flow, and good pre-installed fans. Even stress testing my system, it never gets over about 31 degrees C, and the system fans are quiet. The top cover where the radiator for my cooler is installed does bow up slightly, but not enough to be very noticeable. Installation of all of the components with this case was very easy, and it looks good (I'm not fussy about windows and LEDs, but the lighting on the stock fans are kind of cool). It also has good cable management, which is something that I'm never great at.
For my PSU, I think I probably overdid it in terms of max wattage, but checking its specs, at my main loads of 350 - 450 W it is near max efficiency anyway, so I'm not too bothered by it. I've had good experiences with EVGA products in the past, and this one has a 10 year warranty and good reviews online. The installation wasn't as smooth as it could have been, because for some reason the mounting holes stripped a couple of the screws that came with the PSU, but I just used some of the screws that came with the case which worked. It is very quiet, and I don't think the fan has turned on yet (and I don't have it set to Green mode).
Optical Drive: I went with DVD drive mainly for installation disks, so I didn't need BlueRay. Plus these are very cheap, and it never hurts to have one.
Wifi Card/Adapter, Bluetooth: I am only using Ethernet, as it has the better speeds compared to wifi and my modem is right next to the computer. Bluetooth might have been nice, but not needed for now.
OS: As much as I don't like Windows 10, overall it isn't the worst OS ever, and it is really still the only option for all of the games I have (until Linux gets more developer and GPU driver support).
Overall, I'm very happy with the performance of my new system for the price. It benches pretty well, and is overkill for my current use, while providing me some good options for upgrading in the future. Plus, I love creating system builds, and trying to maximize performance for price, and eventually that always translates into me wanting to build a system for real. It has been almost 10 years since I last built a system, and while a lot has changed technology wise, a lot has stayed the same (including my system initially failing to boot because I didn't seat the CPU properly, which happened ten years ago too haha). This build was fun for me, and I'm really happy with the result.
Good value for cost and good overclocking potential.
Good cooling, fairly easy installation. Slight whine in the cooling fans, but not excessive.
Good stability, overclocking ability, and expansion slots for the price.
Good performance and capacity for the price.
Fast, easy installation, good price.
Great GPU, good manufacturer overclock, with a lot more overclocking potential. Quiet even at high loads.
Good size, easy installation of all components, good stock fans and fan options, looks pretty good.
Good constant power, quiet, good warranty.
It's Windows 10, with all of its issues, but it's not horrible for usability and still needed for gaming.