Here's my first build, Matilda, named after my favorite character in children's fiction, created by my favorite author of children's literature, Roald Dahl. I tried to keep it under $500, but missed by $50 or so.
I think I made a few mistakes, but nothing critical when I chose the components. I also made some pretty good decisions. First off, the mistakes.
If I had to do it over I would have gone with a modular power supply, but being a cheapskate I went with the cheapest alternative, a 400W EVGA. It only has four SATA connectors. The CPU cable is too short. I have to run it over the video card, which doesn't appeal to me, especially since the card is the hottest thing in the case. I'm ordering an extension cable so I can run it around the mother board. Also, I think maybe I should have gone with 500W instead of 400W. But, according to pcpartpicker, my system only uses 218W so why would I need something bigger than 400W? What do you guys think?
As for the video card, I went cheap. First I bought an EVGA 01G-P3-1302-RX GeForce 8400 refurbished card from Newegg, but the tiny fan was so noisy I couldn't stand it. Newegg wouldn't give me a refund, only a replacement with another likely lousy item. Instead I put the EVGA card in my inventory and bought a fan-free Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 card with comparable 1GB capability. It's beyond my comprehension why folks spend $2,000 on a video card. My graphics run fine on the games I occasionally play, like Civilization 5, World of Warcraft, and Crusader Kings II. I'm not a heavy duty gamer, and prefer strategy to shooter games. When I run into a game I love that my card can't handle I can always cough up more bucks for a more powerful card.
The ASRock 970 Extreme4 motherboard I chose might be a bit of overkill. It's loaded with bells and whistles I'm not likely to use, like one key overclocking and Xfast USB (that crashed when I tried to use it to copy to my external drive). I ended up uninstalling it. There are others that could have saved me a few bucks, like the MSI 970A-G43 or the GIGABYTE GA-970A-UD3P.
Now, for my best decisions.
I went with the AMD FX-6300 CPU. It's been rated as the best dollar per gigahertz value by more than one site, and it runs like a champ. The stock fan that came with it is noisy, so I'm going to upgrade it next month. I could go with something cheap like a ARCTIC Alpine 64 GT for under $10. But maybe I'll go with with a one of those gigantic coolers like a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus for $30. Besides, a better fan will be needed if I decide to tinker with overclocking. I could use some advice from you folks on this.
The Thermalflake (I mean Thermaltake) case I went with is actually pretty nice. I like that it has three 2.5 inch bays. Beyond my SSD, I can stick the drives from my dead laptops in there. I wonder why most mid-tower cases have three 5.25 external bays. Why would anyone need three optical drives? I wanted something with a bigger window and more minimalistic in design, but it was the closest I could find for $50. I could have got it for $35, but rebates are an anathema. I fail to comprehend why they require all that paperwork to get a measly $15 check in the mail a couple months later.
As for the other stuff, the RAM, the SSD, the hard and the optical drives, I just went with the highest rated gadgets on Newegg. They work just fine. The 240GB SSD drive I got from Amazon is the best speed-inducer I could have gone with. There are plenty of 1TB hard drives out there that work just fine. I guess I thought the name Barracuda was kind of cool. Besides, I have a 500GB Seagate external USB drive that's been reliable for ages.
Overall, though, I'm pretty pleased with this first build. It's been a ton of fun. Your comments and advice will be most welcome.