Here's my latest creation. I had to keep my budget as low as possible for a top to bottom setup (monitor, peripherals, everything). The only piece of my rig that I had was a Logitech G240 Mouse Pad. I looked at build ideas tirelessly on PCPartPicker and consulted with a great deal of individuals in person and online for some suggestions, but I couldn't really figure out what was right for me.
My last build was an AMD 8350 on a Sabertooth board with SLI 760s and I knew I wouldn't come but so close with my budget. I started to look on Craigslist for second hand machines to scrap for parts and build my own setup. I ended up finding a nice little machine for $400 that resulted in the foundation for my build. After I purchased the machine, I immediately took everything apart, scrapped some parts and began the process of obtaining new parts and put everything back together.
I could've done a bit better on the financial side with the new parts, as I just bought most of the stuff locally using a friend's small discount. After the expedited shipping costs that I was looking at with Newegg, I pretty much spent roughly the same amount of money. (I learned my lesson with the standard shipping, as a pack of screws and a molex cable took over 2 weeks to receive). Overall though, its not easy being on my budget and trying to obtain literally every component for a new machine. With the parts quality for the price, it's not easy to beat.
This Gamma case is quite tough for cable management. Mixing the non-modular PSU with this case is rough. Plus the internal space available and areas for fans is somewhat meh. The case just came with the rig, so I'm dealing with it for the time being.
The one kicker to this build/rebuild is that I was able to recoup some of the costs by selling a bunch of the extra parts off on Craigslist. I've managed to sell about $125 worth of parts thus far and I still have two or three things left to sell, so in essence, I'll drop the total price down by a lot. The money I've recouped is not reflected in the build price.
Now, onto some of the parts.
Intel Core i5-2500k I am in love with the 2500k. I haven't went Intel on a desktop since the Core 2 days and I'm so impressed with this chip. I had a Sandy Bridge i7 in a laptop and loved it, but I think I love this processor even more. The overhead is outstanding for overclocking and it handles heat like a charm. I did manage to hit 5 ghz while playing around with overclocks, but it failed Prime95 tests. The highest I've been able to achieve with stability thus far is about 4.5 Ghz. I haven't thoroughly experimented with stable overclocks yet, as I've been focusing on getting everything settled with the build.
Cooling This is the first aftermarket air cooler I've ever owned. I've either used stock air or AIO liquid coolers. I really love the potential of the EVO and the cooling it provides. I have 5 120mm fans installed as well as a PCI exhaust fan in a negative airflow configuration (This case is difficult to achieve a neutral airflow scheme with the EVO). At stock clocks, I've kept the CPU at around 30C idle and it will peak at 55-56C under 100% load. In games, it won't even break 50C.
RAM I'm using a mixture of the ram that came with the system and a set that I purchased. I've never used the XMS ram, but I held on to 2 of the 4 ram sticks that came with the system and I'm selling the other two. I added the Vengeance ram to give it a little boost, as I do use some ram intensive programs on occasion. 12GB is plenty for me for now. I will eventually get some matching Vengeance ram when a sale hits at some point.
Hard Drives Not a fan of PNY products, but this SSD (it is the Optima, not the XLR8) is quite good. I've had the comparable Kingston and I don't notice too much of a difference between the two. It does not perform like the Samsung 850 I owned in the laptop that my wife now uses, but its still a good little SSD. For the data drive, you can't go wrong with a Seagate Barracuda. I've been using Seagate stuff for many years and I've been extremely satisfied.
Motherboard This is the motherboard that came with the system. It is actually the UD3 instead of the UD5. I was never very familiar with this socket or the boards that fit the Sandy/Ivy Bridge CPUs. That said, from the reviews I've read and first-hand experience, it is a nice little mobo. Not a ton of features, but it works well.
GTX 760 GPU This area is where I was conflicted. The machine came with a 7770 that I sold off. I had originally purchased a 270x for about $40 cheaper, but the card was bad and I took it back. My last rig ran SLI 760s and I absolutely loved it. I didn't have a huge selection to choose from, as I was just buying all of my stuff locally. I opted to go down the 760 route again because of price/performance and my hands-on experience with the card. After benchmarking it through passmark, it scores higher than the reference 760 completely stock. With some OCing, I can probably score better. I don't think I'll own this rig long enough to buy a new card for it unless I pick up another 760 second hand and SLI it. The rig is being handed down to my wife when I'm done with it.
PSU This is what I hate the most and in hindsight, I should've forked out the extra money for a Corsair. That said, this isn't a bad PSU per se, I'm just not a fan of non-modular PSUs and it could be more efficient for my tastes. The reviews on it are fairly decent and its an all-around average PSU from what I've gathered. I will be upgrading this and selling it off before I make any more changes to the rig.
Case The NZXT Gamma is not a great case for cable management. It's also not very friendly for people who like a lot of fans in their cases. That said, if you're on a budget, it's a durable case that reflects NZXT quality. Like I said though, good luck with the cable management. As you'll see in the pictures, I ended up having to zip tie a lot of stuff to the bottom of the case and the HDD racks to perform at least a little bit of cable management because I had nowhere else to put the stuff. I eventually gave up on this one after clearing airflow obstructions for my CPU/Ram/etc. One important thing about this case, the edges and corners are VERY sharp!
Overall, I think its a satisfactory build for my budget and needs. I know I could've saved some money in some areas if I wanted to deal with the free shipping hassles or paying for expedited shipping. The cable management is less than desirable, but I'm not really going to mess with it any more. In essence, I'm happy with the build and I'm itching to build a new one from scratch!
Note All of the parts that end in $XX.00 are the parts that came with the second hand purchase. I just used randomized prices to equal out to $400 overall.
All of the $xx.99 parts are ones that I purchased new at a local store with the aforementioned discount.