So this was my first build. After much fretting, deliberating, consulting, and fretting some more, I pulled the trigger on the hardware and the installation was surprisingly easy. Weird. It was actually more difficult to convince the Misses that a solid state drive would be the best upgrade we could make, and after I found the Corsair Force on Newegg on the cheap, she finally bought in. Anyway, so this is it. Please comment on anything you'd like- I know there are areas where I could have gotten better hardware so please share! On to the nitty-gritty:
Processor: I didn't have the $$ to spend on an i7 & I don't plan on doing any overclocking of my i5. Yet, in saying this, I think I may be bottle-necking my build with the unit i chose. After doing to post-build research, I perhaps should have gone with the 4670 or some other upgrade. Either way, I'm happy with the 4570 for the time and it completely smashes the AMD phenom (I think???) that I previously had. Oh, and BTW - the Hyper 212 EVO was a disaster trying to install. Of all the hardware, this gave me the most trouble... Just to spite it, I plan on upgrading to water cooling in the next year.
MOBO & RAM: When researching MOBO's i quickly realized I had no idea what to look for. So I relied on reviews and tried digging up as much info as I could. 2 straight months of research led me to the Z87-D3HP, and quite honestly, I could not be happier with my decision. It has plenty of space, well laid out, room for up to 32gb of ram! Oh yeah. I didn't necessarily need the Z87 chip, since i'm not overclocking, but it was a decent price, and I get 10 USB 3.0 ports, so there's that. The only draw back is it's not SLI capable, only Crossfire ready. With the GTX 660 card I purchased... oops. :) Also, the Ballistix Elite are massive! There's no way i could get another set of sticks in with the Hyper 212 EVO. In saying that, they are as stable as can be & I wouldn't trade them for the world... ok so that's a bit of an overstatement, but you get the idea.
Storage: Like I said, getting the Misses on board with the solid state drive was the hardest part of the build! But now that we have it, we're spoiled beyond belief! I'd never go back & both the Corsair & the Seagate are holding up beautifully. I've even convinced my brother (for whom I'm building an AMD build over X-mas) to upgrade his build to include a solid state. Really. Cannot. Overstate. Solid State = Awesome!
GPU: At the time of purchase, AMD just came out with their new cards - the R9 & R7's. I waited to see what that'd do to the GPU market & in the first week, not much moved, so I picked up the 660. It's been good so far - minus a little worry about temps, but that's for a different post. Had I not been so impatient, I could have gotten a HD 7870 for $50 less than I paid for the 660. Oh well - hindsight is always 20/20.
Tower & PSU: I really like the large 200mm fan on top & the amount of cool air it shoves into the case. Once I replace the Hyper 212 with a water cooled system, i'll probably add another case fan on the side as well. Also, blue LED's are cool. One thing I didn't enjoy about the case was the lack of space behind the MOBO mounts. trying to run cables back there is sort of useless as the back/side panel really don't re-attach if there are more than 2 or 3 cables back there. Oh well. Live and learn. And so far the PSU is powering everything I have with room to spare. I have no gripes.
Benchmarks: What's the best program to test a system & benchmark it? I'd like to include the benchmark & stress test results, but I don't know what's best...
Overall, I really enjoyed building this & am going to be building my brother's computer over X-Mas. I have room for improvements, yet this machine does what I need it for now - which is light gaming (mmo's, skyrim, civilization v, etc.) and music production/recording. I'd also like to improve the cable management, but air flow seems ok for the time, so I'm not overly concerned at the moment. I'm just being nit-picky.
TL;DR - I built it. I like it. It has room for improvements.
Thanks for reading & please share your thoughts!
P.S. - Those first pics are of my old factory-purchased machine. Never again. Never. Again.