After doing extensive research (multiple mounths!) I decided to build my own desktop for a couple of reasons:
1) It would have more than enough power for 90% of my work: spreadsheets, writing, researching and browsing
2) Ability to do some pretty awesome gaming
3) Ability to run both Win 7 and OSX - with the correct components
4) Ability to upgrade components if needed, in stark contrast to my 2007 iMac
5) Significantly cheaper than buying Apple products
6) I had developed an obsession for wanting to build my own PC (I'm an engineer by trade and nerd at heart)
I decided to purchase all of the components at the Microcenter store right down the street from me for a couple of reasons: the convenience, easy returns and support if needed. My choice paid of instantly! I ended up spending ~$80 less than expected as they had informed me of discounts that were not obvious from their webpage. After my first experience there, I can't say enough good things!
CPU and Motherboard: I had originally gone to purchase the i5-4570 since it was $160 vs $180 for the i5-4670k. I had no plans to overclock any time soon, if ever. I'm nothing close to a power user, just an enthusiast. However, after working with the sales associate they said that if I purchased the i5-4670k instead of the i5-4570, I would get $30 off the motherboard. The new combo (i5-4670k: $180 + GA-87N-WIFI: $104.00 = $184.00) would all be cheaper than my original plan (i5-4570: $160 + GA-H87N-WIFI: $134 = $194.00). I save $10 AND get and upgraded 3.4GHz overclockable processor versus the 3.2 GHz locked processor... why not?!
I have no need for the i7. I don't do any video editing or advanced gaming. Don't see the need for the 8x hyper-threading any time soon. In the unlikely scenario I do need it within the next couple of years, it's easy to upgrade ;).
Since I'm not overclocking, no need for anything above the stock CPU cooler.
There are simple reasons for my choosing the motherboard: it's easily supported by OSX, fits in my case, and delivers what I need.
Video Card: I spent a whole lot of time researching this component. Almost more than the CPU. I'm not much of a gamer, but I am interested in trying some new games. I wanted something that could run the modern games at pretty high settings without spending an excessive amount of money. I went back and forth between the 660 and 760, but settled on the 660 since I read it was enough to run modern games without issues. I know what people are going to say: Why the 660 when you can get the 760 for only ~30% more!? Well I am not a serious gamer, and money is money. Why spend more for something I don't need? Plus, if I'm unhappy with the 660, Microcenter makes it easy to return within 30 days.
Other components: SSD is a must today. I love its quick boot time. I have one in my work laptop and it's night and day from a mechanical. Samsung 840 Evo had great ratings, reviews and a comparably reasonable price.
For the RAM, I couldn't decide between 4GB and 8GB. Eventually I decided on 8 after the sales associated informed me it was an additional $10 off with a promotion they had. I read a lot about how much the various classes of RAM within each frequency don't really make a difference in performance. At least nothing noticeable to someone like me, so no need for a more "advanced" model.
Case: This was also a back-and-fourth between a mini-ITX and ATX mid-tower. I decided I really like the look of the BitFenix Prodigy versus any of the mid-towers. I also liked its size, since I didn't want a massive tower taking up precious office space. Plus it has two 3.0 USB ports on the front, all at a reasonable price. I also read it does really well with airflow for its size.
PSU: Decided 500W was more than enough for my purposes. Decided not to use modular. BitFenix recommends against using modular for this case. The Prodigy actually has a nice space to tuck away unused power cords, so it all worked out well. This PSU is quiet and picked it up for a very good price.
Monitor: This also was a lot of research. I was used to my iMac's screen, so having a IPS high-res larger monitor was a must. I decided 27" was a little excessive for my uses, especially for the ~$300 price jump. The Dell Ultrasharp is a very sharp resolution IPS monitor and is the perfect size. I have zero complaints with it. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Especially with the USB utility it adds making the switch to my work laptop really easy.
Well, if you read all of that, you must be as obsessed as I am about building a PC. I had a lot of fun, and am completely satisfied with the build. I had minimal problems. I learned a couple of things however, that I may offer as tips to any new builders:
1) If you decide on not using an optical drive, make sure you have a good USB stick and another computer to create the boot disk and to copy over the initial drivers. For whatever reason the GA-H87N-WIFI didn't connect to my network (unlike my HTCP's MSI) without installing the Intel drivers. I had to copy over the drivers from the supplied CD to the USB drive. After installing the network drivers, I could connect to the internet and download the rest of the drivers I needed.
2) Make sure you plug your OS bootable USB drive into a USB 2.0 port.
3) I had issues with my GPU on initial set-up. It would just start-up in a black screen no matter what DVI port I plugged in to (MOBO or GPU). Here's what I had to do:
Step One: Started up the computer WITHOUT having the video card installed
Step Two: After installing the initial drivers, I rebooted my computer in safe mode
Step Three: I disabled the Intel HD Graphics 4000 driver
Step Four: Shutdown and installed the video card
Step Five: Plugged in the monitor the GPU and started it up and it worked perfectly
4) Check how many fans your motherboard supports. Mine only has one SYS FAN header. I needed to go back to purchase a solution to connect two case fans.
That's about it. I'll post up some pictures and maybe some metrics at some point.