bigger photos : http://imgur.com/a/fc1Rm
The old college laptop died and after doing some research (thanks to LifeHacker and reddit) I determined it would be better to build rather than buy. This is the first time ever building one but I've performed a few XBox surgeries. PCPartPicker is an amazing tool for shopping parts and reddit /r/buildapc is a fantastic resource. This is just a home PC for normal use and some Excel + VBA, I use XB1 for gaming. Here goes...
Intel i3-4340 - Was originally going to go with a cheap AMD processor from the MicroCenter bundles but numerous people recommend checking out the lower end Intel chips. After checking out some reviews, decided to go with Intel since I probably wouldn't need so many cores.
MSI Z87-G41 - Plenty of hookups for my needs and has USB3.0. A few minor hiccups that the mobo may or may not be responsible for. First is the load lever that closes on top of the processor seemed to need a legitimate amount of force. I watched a few install videos and nobody seemed to pull the lever down near as hard as I did. I checked a few times to see if something was out of place but nope. Eventually I worked up the courage and got it closed. Second thing is the 24-pin power cable from the PSU. My fingers are still sore 2 days later from working that cable in. It took an incredible feat of controlled strength to get it in there and not break the motherboard. Overall, everything works, the BIOS is pretty useful and it looks cool so I'll let it slide.
G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 2x4gb - I don't know what to say... it's RAM and it works. Looks cool too.
Samsung 840 EVO - It's been some time since I had a new machine and holy smokes have hard drives come a long way. I went a bit over budget to grab the 840 EVO from Staples with a $30 off coupon. This thing is crazy fast. Installing drivers and such caused the system to reboot numerous times and every time I was impressed how fast it started up. I ran the magician software that came with it and got 547MB/s read and 529MB/s write. About 70,000-75,000 IOPS. Fantastic drive.
WD Caviar Blue 1TB - Works just fine, hasn't crashed yet. Wish it came with a SATA III cable.
Rosewill Line Glow ATX case - Looks pretty cool, USB3.0 headers, comes with 4 fans. However plugging the fans in is confusing, I had them plugged into the mobo incorrectly at first and the system would not power on. I ended up just moving them to the PSU component power cables and leaving only the CPU fan plugged into the mobo. Cable management is either not very good at all or I just plain suck at it. I see a lot of beautiful and clean builds on here and mine will not be one of them. The drives lock into place with twist fasteners, no need for tools, and there are a few adapters for flexibility. The LED fans are pretty cool. Overall, it's a good case for the price.
Corsair 430W - $20 with rebate, can't beat that. Only issue was the 24-pin power cable being an extremely tight fit on the motherboard. Not sure who is at fault here.
Samsung SH-224DB optical drive - $17 at MicroCenter, just wish it came with a SATA cable
Acer G246HL - I have a dual Dell LCD display at work (finance/insurance) and every time I sit down in the morning it makes me appreciate this wide screen beauty. Big change from the old laptop as well. Only knock here is that it doesn't have an HDMI cable and didn't come with a DVI cable either (almost $40?). For that price I think I would have rather grabbed an IPS display or a 27" LED with an HDMI cable.
Rosewill RNX-N250PCe - I have a small-ish apartment so I'd expect it to receive excellent signal strength and it does.
Cooler Master bundle - Both for $30 is pretty good, the LED fans are nice and match the case. The only requirement I had for the mouse/keyboard was that the mouse have a thumb "Back" button.. it's an odd must-have feature, I know, but it's my computer dammit!
As far as retailers go... NewEgg - ordered Monday afternoon, delivered Wednesday afternoon. Unreal shipping speed and it was free.
Amazon - ordered Monday afternoon, delivered Thursday and Friday afternoon. Text alerts are cool.
Staples - ordered Monday evening, delivered Thursday afternoon.
NCIX - Not sure what the problem is here. Yes, we had storms here in DC but I ordered Monday afternoon and it took exactly a week to get here from Buffalo, NY. I'll be passing on them for NewEgg and Amazon in the future even if the price is the same.
MicroCenter - Sweet CPU/mobo bundles and it's always a good idea to go there just to look around. A shrine to the electronics gods.
Overall, pretty happy about how it turned out. Many thanks to PCPartPicker and reddit for all the help and hopefully this review can help somebody else just as all the reading I did helped me.