I mainly use this bad boy for gaming, but I'm going to take some online programing classes on it as well. Very pleased with it so far, it's able to max out anything I can throw at it and only Crysis 3 seems to go below 60 FPS in a few select parts, something that should be remedied with an aftermarket cooler and overclocking my CPU. Bought the parts during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so I only ended up paying $800. I'd personally consider the performance compared to the price I payed to be pretty darn good, at least for a first time builder.
CPU: Was going to get a slightly lower clocked FX variant, but thanks to Cyber Monday I was able to get this 8350 instead. Glad I did, since my goal was to meet or exceed recommended specifications for even the most demanding (and, honestly, probably poorly optimized) modern games. For most of them, the FX 8350 is listed outright as the recommended AMD card. It runs SUPER hot right now, but I'm going to blame the stock cooler and I plan on getting a new cooler soon.
Motherboard: Decided I didn't really need a bunch of fancy bells and whistles that more expensive motherboards have, so I decided to put most of the cost cutting in this part, while still making sure I didn't get anything low quality. Some of the connectors are in less than optimal positions, (I needed to do some tight cable management to make sure I didn't get any cords stuck in my graphics card fans) but otherwise it is serving me quite well.
Memory: It's 8 gigs. Pretty standard stuff, but I got it for 56$ and I don't think I've ever seen RAM like this go any cheaper. Also, it's shiny. I like shiny.
Storage: Just your average Joe 1tb drive. Will most likely get a 240bg SSD alongside it at some point.
Video Card: It was a no brainer for me, seeing the price drop to $300 for the R9 290, that this would be the card to get. I was originally going to get an Nvidia card, I really like the feature set that they have, but they didn't have anything in my price range with 4gb of memory, at least not anything that came close to the r9 290 in terms of other key aspects of performance. And like I said, I was gunning for recommended system specs for recent games, and some of them have been asking for 4gb, so it was the R9 290 for me. I wish I had the foresight to buy my card on Black Friday, since by the time Cyber Monday rolled around most of the 290s with better reviews were sold out, but I managed to get this Gigabyte for $250. Still some monster performance for that price.
Case: I just wanted something flashy and white. My Xbox's are white, so I thought I would try to color coordinate. Definitely looks cool, but I'd prefer if the motherboard installation were different. Not sure if those fans on the top are going to be really helping or severely hurting performance on the graphics card right underneath.
Power Supply: I just wanted something with a Bronze+ rating and 750W from a reliable brand. "Oh, EVGA is a good brand," I thought to myself. "Not a bad price too. 'Semi modular' as well... Cool, I guess? I just want something that works." Sure enough, I got a semi modular power supply with high quality braided cables. Quite surprised, as I was just trying to get the cheapest PSU I could find that wouldn't sacrifice the safety of my system. I didn't need no fancy pants doohickey, but this ended up being one of the nicer parts in my build.
Optical drive: Yeah, not super necessary, but this being my first build I had no idea how I was going to install windows without one. Also, I have some older disc games that I'll probably pop in from time to time looks longingly at modest collection of star wars game discs
Operating system: I've warmed up quite well to windows 8.1, and I can honestly say that I prefer it to 7 after using it for long enough. So windows 8.1 it was for me.
Added some newer pics. Still too much graphics card sag?
1/6/15 update: replaced the stock cooler with a Noctua NH-u9b. It wasn't until I was removing the stock cooler that I realized I had it installed wrong :P (In my defense, the arm to lock down the cooler was the opposite orientation in the manual than on the actual unit. You live, you learn) and now my CPU temps are MUCH better. Also added a blue LED fan to pump fresh air directly into the intake fan of my new Noctua. It's a neat fan, I plan on getting another to dispense of the air the Noctua puts out when I eventually pick up an SSD. Total price of build is now $860