Build Goal: Long-lasting tower for some moderate gaming, music editing, and daily general use for me and the occasional family member.
Budget Goal: $900 tower after rebates (Monitors, Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers and ugly decade-old Walmart desks already owned)
Mobo: I kind of regret not getting the Extreme4 for the USB 3 front jacks alone. It was out of stock several places I looked when I was ready to buy, so I cut off $20 with the Extreme3. At least I was able to get an SSD I like instead of the cheapest one available with that $20 difference. I guess I can settle for the only having USB 3.0 on the back of the machine. The system froze up when I would plug in a new USB device while it was on. I had to install a quick bio's fix that was an update specific to USB 2.0. Whatever it was, it worked.
Cooler: It was my first time with an aftermarket cooler. Installing that Hyper 212 Evo was a little unnerving. Even though it's pretty simple, the instructions almost worthless. And finding ways to properly balance a motherboard, get a firm grip, and still not bend anything was kind of annoyingly difficult. I just didn't see it coming. It will be way easier next time around.
RAM: Waiting to see if I want to upgrade to 16GB for music editing/composition work. Hopefully not. I got a discount on this set with the GPU, so it was effectively the cheapest 1866 available.
HDD: I got the 1 TB Caviar Black with a 24-hour promo on Newegg for $71. It wasn't in the budget, but I had lucky timing.
SSD: I really just wanted the OS on there and a few select programs, so 64GB is enough for me at this time. I'm just pleased I fit it into the budget. I cut a lot of corners to fit this in. If you comment and say that I should ditch the SSD altogether and upgrade my GPU, and you state it like it's a fact, I will find you and punch you in the gonads. You've been warned.
GPU: So I started out planning on something close to a GTX 650 and ended up more than doubling the price to the 7870. (no I couldn't find an XT at the time that fit my budget.) This puppy goes far above and beyond my needs and will for quite a while. The only games I currently have that will really put this to good use are the two free ones that came with it and BF3 (free from Origin for the SimCity server damage control).
Case: Don't worry, it's not sitting directly on the carpet. It has two half-inch high wooden planks under it to allow plenty of airflow down the center from front to back. There is a little bit of light bleed with the front LED's. I'm considering switching those fans with some others. (FYI, the top of the case was a little tight after I put 2 120mm fans in, so a radiator might make access to cpu fan plugs difficult.) Despite the light bleed and the necessity for purchasing additional fans, I still like the case. But I kind of feel like I would have been better served with a Corsair 600T.
PSU: The CPU cable was barely long enough to fit behind the mobo, and might not make it in some cases. It's advertised as having 3 LED colors, blue, red, and white, but mine only does blue. That means it doesn't match my front white LED's, which is kind of a bummer. But it only cost me $47. Not sure if returning it is worth the wait just for a light.
Other Thoughts: No overclocking just yet. This is my first serious gaming build on my own, I've never done it before, and I need to do my homework first. The CPU is running really cool right now, so hopefully I can get this thing up to at least 4.8 GHz. I still have 2 fans to add once my connectors come in. One will be intake at the bottom by the PSU because there is already a dust filter there. The other will either be side intake or I will put the drive bay frame in and mount a fan to blow directly on the GPU.
Grand Total After Rebates: $896
Money Left Over to Spend at In-N-Out Burger: $4 and a $20 Newegg gift card, which I'm guessing they won't accept.