EDIT: I've upgraded enough components that I've decided to update this post. the parts I've upgraded I'll tag (UPGRADED) in the individual part reviews.
I'd like to start by stating that this site is more than just a list of parts. It is also a community of builders. Constructive criticism can be helpful, so please, no down-votes without some explanation. Hopefully, this can be a help to new builders. I welcome any suggestions on how to improve my configuration. I’ll try it out; if it works, then I’ll repost the build with the modifications.
A brief description of my use for this machine will explain most of my parts choices. The bulk of parts were purchased in February of 2014; the extra RAM, RAID array, monitor, UPS, and various others were added around August of 2014; the CPU and cooler March of 2015. This is used for backup storage for many other computing devices. I use it for testing/diagnostics/cleaning/recovery of drives from other systems. I primarily run Windows 8.1 Pro (now 10 Pro) on here, but I will also run win7 and a variety of Linux distros. I do some gaming with this, but not excessively. I’ve also converted my 600+ DVD collection to soft-copy, and use this as a media center to watch them with Kodi.tv (formerly XBMC). Kodi is controlled and run independently on a HDTV in another room. Kodi also can run independent sound, so I can game while someone else watches a movie. I can have a large number of USB devices connected to this at the same time, so a lot of ports were needed. Even though I’ve been running this for more than a year, I’m finally posting this with my recent CPU upgrade. So, let’s start with that on my part list breakdown.
This CPU is a beast for the price. It seems to effortlessly chew through file compression. It handles multi-device multi-tasking quite well too (i.e. playing a movie, gaming, receiving a smartphone backup dump and compressing it; all at the same time). I would recommend it as a cheaper alternative to an i7. A couple of notes about Xeons; the E3 series is comparable to an i7 of the same generation (e.g. E3 V3 is Haswell, V2 is Ivy Bridge), none are unlocked for overclocking, and many of them don’t have an IGPU (nomenclature ending in 0 or 1). I point out the lack of IGPU for gamers that also record their sessions. Intel quick sync video requires the IGPU, and can be quite helpful for video encoding.
(UPGRADED) I'm using this with a Noctua A15, which is a great combination. My CPU cooling solution is a self proposed cooling system for an effective yet low profile upgrade to a stock cooler, while still only being an air cooler. Running Prime95 for maximum heat I hit only 61C. Normal use heavy load (including gaming) is a top of only 55C.
This was a pretty good deal at the time. The BIOS is pretty easy to navigate, with many OC options. The system fan controller, Fan Xpert 2, was lacking some features, but I worked around them by lightly modifying the profile files. One feature I’ve found to be extremely helpful is the BIOS Direct boot hardware button. I’ve needed that a few times when I got stuck in bootloops while testing tolerances. If you plan on overclocking on a UEFI system, make sure it has this. The biggest downside is that the extra two SATA ports are Asmedia and do not connect with the Intel RAID controller. This gave me some headaches with some configuration tests. The Asmedia ports are not bootable, but can be unmounted from an OS. The hot swap for these ports don’t always like to cooperate. I’m currently only using one for my ODD; so far no problems with that.
EDIT: I've been running this RAM with stable timings of 7-7-7-21 Ch2 @1600Mhz, 1.5V. It has made my system overall snappier.
This RAM is potentially very impressive for the price. XMP 1 runs its advertised speed, latency, and voltage. However, I’ve run these at 1866MHz, 8-8-8-24, 1.5V, and 2133MHz, 9-9-9-24, 1.5V. Since I can’t OC the memory controller on my CPU, I just keep at on XMP 1.
(UPGRADED) Yes this is a very fast SSD. However, I'm taking a star off due to faulty speed advertising for TLC NAND. It runs an virtual cache of 20GB; running some of the cells as effective SLC. If you try to benchmark for more than 20GB, you find a more realistic speed of TLC NAND.
To store all the data, I have two RAID 0 arrays setup with the 4x4TB drives (added in Aug, 2014). The main array is hardware striped for performance, the backup is software spanned. Although, RAID 10 is easier to setup, its advantage of lower array failure require six or more disks. I have decreased energy use and decreased latency due to less disks having to spin up on access. I spanned the 2nd array for two reasons; performance is not as important, and a spanned array has a better chance for data recovery in the event of a failure. At the time, there was a good deal on these drives on Newegg, and I did manage to get these from two different batches (by luck).
The entire purpose of this drive is an environmental safety. I backup my data to it once a month, then it is stored in a fireproof, waterproof lock box.
It runs a bit slow, but I expected as much from an archive drive. I would recommend this to anyone that has a similar need. It would not be quite so reliable as a primary storage drive, and likely much worse as a system drive.
The Asus GTX750 is only running a 1600x900 monitor and a 720p tv, but it seems to handle that pretty effortlessly. Most games I can run at max settings or one notch below, with v-sync off. Everything short of stress testing, I can barely hear the fan running. When I’m not gaming, then I don’t hear it at all. I will eventually be looking to upgrade to a GTX960 later this year. I’m looking at one of these 2:
or possibly this one, if the extra 2GB are worth the extra money:
(UPGRADED) After scouring cases relentlessly, I finally found this gem. There maybe a handful of better cases for what I want. However, having a maximum height clearance of 19" under my desk restricted a number choices. I could put an overwhelming amount of information in this review. So, I'll stick to a few key points, and let you you check more thorough reviews from others. First off, OPTIONS! there are so many ways to build with this case. It is really impressive, and also a bit daunting. I stuck with a mostly stock configuration. Front access dust screen, for both front and bottom. Though they are only screens. The front dust screen can be augmented with with Silverstone ultra fine filters (14cm or 12cm). The bottom is not so easy for that though. If you want the side to be an intake, there is no included filter. Again with Silverstone, a 140mm magnetic ultra fine filter fits quite nicely there. SATA power extension cable could be a big help with the stealth 2.5" drive mounts. Despite any issues I've had with it, this is the best case I've ever worked with.
(UPGRADED) My old 400W platinum fan-less just wasn't keeping up with this system when loaded. I decided to upgrade for limited future-proofing. I carefully chose this based on several factors: Corsair's great reviews, including reviews for this model, platinum rating, fully modular, minimum 650W, fluid dynamic bearing fans, fans only run as needed, and PSU to system communication (Corsair Link). The price is pretty good for these features. If it fits your need, I highly recommend it.
This is a cheap but effective BD reader. Normally I wouldn’t have anything special to say about an optical drive. However, this one is very quiet. The only time I’ve heard it making a significant amount of noise is when burning a standard audio CD at its fastest speed.
Wireless Network Adapter
This is just an Intel 7260, dual band wireless AC 2x2 plus BT 4.0. It’s a half-mini PCIe card (like for a laptop) with a PCIe 1x adapter and external antenna. The main reason for this was to give my router some freedom. I am enjoying other perks from it as well. It’s a good buy for the price.
(UPGRADED) This fan has some catchy and sometimes specific uses. This is a 140mm fan with only 120mm mounting. Noctua includes these with a number of CPU coolers. Which perfectly fit my need. It may be a slightly unusual combination, but it works very well. Also, I breathe louder than this thing.
With few possible exceptions, Noctua is the quietest for the amount of air it moves. That, along with lifespan, is why I bought these. The side fan (always on) does most of the work on providing fresh air for the CPU, GPU, and PSU, whereas the front fans are primarily for the RAID arrays (set to come on once the CPU reaches 35C then 40C). The rear exhaust only kicks in once the CPU gets to 45C. The Asus fan controller is based on the CPU temp. Never running faster than 700RPMs, these fans work quietly well.