-- OVERVIEW --
Note: all prices include shipping and tax to NYC, and rebates.
I decided it would be fun to learn how to build a computer, and then have a great workstation for hopefully 5-10 years.
I wanted to have consistent performance from CPU and GPU, so that one would not bottleneck the other, and wanted to hit a good value point.
I am not going to overclock-- I would have enjoyed toying around with that sort of thing years ago, but now the extra work just doesn't interest me in a hobbyist kind of way. It's a very cool thing to do, but I want a system that is low maintenance. Plus, with the amount of money people often spend in cooling the overclocked components, it seems they could instead upgrade the processor to the next level and get similar performance.
I collected the parts over 2-3 months, so I spent a ton of time doing research for best components for value, best brands, and pricing patterns. I saved about $300 (15%) and got better parts by being patient and systematic about purchases. I was only $30 off the best possible price for all components. I thought this was one of the most fun parts of the build actually, but that also represents my Operations Research background.
-- COMPONENTS --
LG UH12NS30 Blu-Ray Optical I couldn't be happier with this. I got a great price, and its brushed aluminum face is an absolutely perfect match for my Corsair Obsidian series case. There was a slight complication in the install in which I had to use a screwdriver to pull up the top of the slot as I inserted the drive into the front of the case. It had been prevented from going fully in by about 2mm.
Corsair 250D Mini ITX Case This is probably a difficult case for a first build, but it's very pretty and I'm glad I went with it. I'm not sure if the 2x USB 3.0 case connectors on the front are 'upside-down' because the text on the Logitech mouse/keyboard receiver I have plugged into it looks upside down, and almost every other USB connector I've come across is oriented differently. Perhaps there is no standard so sometimes things align and sometimes they don't.
EVGA GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video Card Remarkably, EVGA wasn't really on my radar compared to MSI, Gigabyte, and Asus. (I just realized I don't have any Asus components which is very surprising because I really trust that brand and thought I'd end up with 3 or 4. A lot of second places for me I guess.) Anyway, this video card is amazing so far, and I hear support is excellent, so I'm very happy with it. I'll publish speeds soon. My only complaint is that sometimes one of the two fans has a slight rattle, but sometimes it fixes itself, and sometimes I can if I just touch it a little.
Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard It was unclear to me which 'revision' of this motherboard would be shipped, so that was an annoying variable in research, but I got the 2.0 which is good (and has WiFi ac instead of n, which is a crucial difference). I wish there was more than 1 system fan connector, as discussed below, but other than that it's been good so far. I bought a fan splitter for $5 and it perfectly solves the issue. The first time I put the mobo through the IO Shield, I left a tab over a bit of an HDMI port, and didn't notice it until I was almost done, so I had to do a little screwdriver handiwork to fix that-- I didn't do a great job, so I just covered it up with an Intel sticker! I don’t really like the BIOS; I suspect that it thinks my RAM is a different speed than it is, and it’s generally confusing. Gigabyte is known for having poor English grammar and spelling, and it definitely shows up in its software and firmware. This is the first component I would say I wish I had gotten something else, probably Asus.
Corsair 550W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply Unit Fine so far. The included cables are too stiff, but I have no basis for comparison.
Dell U2414H 23.8" These monitors are beautiful. The bezel is as small as they come, and the Dell stand is as well made as they come. The matte finish is perfect. People complain about the lack of DVI, but those converters are not exactly difficult to come by; and the included 2 HDMI, DP, and mini DP isn't exactly under provisioned.
-- THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN --
My video card recommends 600watt minimum system PSU. I got 550 and think I'll be fine, but would have been nice to know this before-- I didn't realize video cards published this information. I also chose 550 because this website did very similar build, with a 780, and used a 550watt PSU (the exact same PSU I got). I wonder if a 750watt bronze at the same price would have been smarter. Regardless, I've burdened the heck out of it, and there haven't been any issues, so I think I'm okay.
My motherboard only has 1 system fan connector, whereas the case has two and room for three more. I found a fan splitter to fix the issue. This was obviously my oversight, but it also seems odd for a motherboard to only have 1 system fan header, even for a mini ITX.
The GPU has a serial number sticker right on the board, covering pins, but this is okay. Obviously it isn't conductive, but it is a surprising spot at first. My EVGA card also had a plastic film on much of it that was very hard to notice, even when looking for it!
-- OTHER THOUGHTS --
The keyboard is phenomenal-- my first mechanical. I can't believe how solid and well constructed it is. I am immediately typing much easier and faster. Definitely glad I went with the "Brown" style Cherry MX keys. My only complaint about the keyboard is that the indicator lights-- caps lock is on, scroll lock, etc.-- are way too bright. But fortunately those aren't on very often, and I could probably cover them up if I needed to. Another $70 to get one from WASDKeyboards definitely wouldn't have been worth it, although I am going to buy their 14" wrist rest for $15. I also sprang for dampening O-rings.
The mouse was a disappointment. It failed about a year after getting it. The rubber on the wheel got separated from whatever actually registers turns in the mouse. Also the paint on the thumb and a few other places had peeled. Shame. Replaced it with a Razer Mamba Tournament Edition Chroma, which is better so far anyway.