First build, hence the obligatory blue LEDs haha.
EDIT: Please note that this build was initially completed in September of 2013. The only recent changes have been the motherboard and power supply. All parts were purchased from Newegg. I know I can get them cheaper elsewhere, but they gave me a line of credit, so that was that, I suppose.
I started off with a budget build mentality, but that didn't work out too well. My impressions of the next-gen consoles were poor so I decided to move into PC gaming (with some nudging from a friend, of course). Price is high for being an average system due to me owning nothing PC related, so I needed all peripherals.
Technically, this is an update. When I first built the system, I opted for an MSI 970A-G46 due to relatively positive reviews and it could seat a FX chip. However, let me be far from the first or last to tell you, do not buy this board with any kind of overclocking hopes. The VRM section will just about catch on fire. My initial overclock on that board was 4.2 @ 1.4v. The VRM would peak at over 75C during prime95. I acknowledged my mistake (and spent money twice... learn from my mistakes) and bought a higher quality board to actually have a stable OC. Another change from the initial build was the power supply. I bought a OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W at first. I can't think of anything really negative about that PSU aside from it is only semi-modular and it doesn't fit my planned upgrades. Onwards...
CPU - Feels super snappy. Last new PC (laptops excluded) my family bought was a POS eMachines back in 02, so this feels like lightspeed. I'm quite pleased with this little guy. AMD is always lumped into the budget category but with a good overclock, it can hang with the Intel chips. Well, up until you bump the Intel to the same clock speed that is. I digress. I'm not quite sure how to test if your CPU is a bottleneck (during gaming) but based on the benchmarks I ran, there isn't a whole bunch gained in the GPU benches. But that would make sense, wouldn't it? ;)
Cooler - For $35 it can't really be beat. You could pick up the giant Noctua if you want top-end air cooling, but at that price point, spend a couple more bucks and grab an AiO watercooler. 5 egg review with over 8,000 people saying it's good. Grab it until you get a liquid cooler and you'll do fine.
Thermal Paste - I got some AS5 off the computer buddy and I bought some MX-2 just for comparison. At stock clock prime95 testing, the temperatures were within a degree or two. I'd chalk that up to ambient temp, mounting and application errors or something similar. Personally I like the MX-2 just a bit more. Little easier to clean up, and, in various tests I've found, it's a tiny bit better thermally.
Motherboard - Having gone from a "budget" board with the MSI to the second best AMD board that ASUS offers... WOW. The build quality is outstanding. The soldering on the PCB is so clean. Just a thing of beauty. I almost didn't buy it based on the color scheme. But I also didn't feel like spending an extra $50 for a Crosshair. The look of the board has grown on me though. It is a fantastic board. It handles overclocking so much better than the MSI (VRM goes to 60C max).
RAM - As far as I can tell, it works just great. I tightened the timings a little bit and it works just fine. I haven't bumped the speed up yet as I've only been playing with the CPU and (to a lesser extent) the GPU. Some people might not like the heat spreader or the color might not go with what they're planning but it's got a lifetime warranty, so I'm not complaining.
Storage - I'm pretty sure the SSD opens programs before I actually click on them. In all seriousness, buy a solid state. It's flippin great. The WD is a nice value spin drive. Lots of storage for the price, so I'm down for that.
GPU - I was initially going to buy the 7870 but when I went to place the order, it was sold out so I had to find something close to it in about 5 minutes. The XFX fit the bill. I didn't know a couple of things when I bought it. First, it is vcore locked and therefore pretty limited in overclocking. HWBOT reports the average overclock to be over 1.1ghz, so that bums me out slightly. Second, while the double dissipation fans work well, they are quite loud once they really get spinning. With headphones on, you can't really hear it, but if there is anyone else in the room, they might get annoyed. Finally, even when overclocked, you're not turning everything up to max settings. But that's not really a fault of the card itself, rather me wanting crazy detail. I'm gonna hang out until Maxwell gets released and see what that does to prices. Even then I'll probably still get video card envy and want the latest and greatest. :P
Wireless adapter - Don't much feel like snaking ethernet through the walls so this will do just fine. Cheap, always connects to my network, and it does okay speeds (~5 mb/s down). Comes with a USB extension cable so you don't have to have a heavy (by USB standards anyway) device hanging off the back of your tower.
Case - This is a pretty good case for the money. Lots of airflow, can bit a 280/240 rad up top, number of HDD trays, etc. The front fans attach with clips and the first time I was cleaning the filter (which is integrated into the panel, boo) I snapped one of the clips off very easily. Maybe I don't know my own strength or something, but I would have been happier with a removable filter and fans that attach with screws. A few of the motherboard standoffs wouldn't screw in easily, but it was nothing a pair of pliers didn't fix. The cable routing is good I suppose. No grommets on the holes but no biggie there. Just a few minor issues, it is a fine case overall.
Additional fans - BLUE LED FANS AHHHH!!!! Seriously though, they move an acceptable amount of air for the price. Not very loud but noticeable.
PSU - Seasonic guts, full modular, jonnyguru approved, and it was on sale. What's not to like? Very, very nice quality. Plan to make my own individually sleeved harnesses at a later date which I'm sure will be both soothing and mind-bogglingly tedious at the same time.
Blu-ray drive - I watch a large amount of movies and would like to backup my personal collection. I could've had a DVD burner for less than $20, but where's the fun in being cheap when it comes to computers? Maybe I'm just far more careless with my money than I should be... Hmm.
Monitor - Fairly cheap, well reviewed, and best of all, I like the way it looks. Might bump it up to 1440p in the coming two years but in the meantime, I'm very pleased with the display.
Keyboard - Always read that mechanical boards were the absolute business so I decided to find out if they were telling the truth. The answer is an emphatic yes. I opted for the brown keys and they have a brilliant click without being obtrusive. Typing is now a thoroughly enjoyable experience (doing a long review like this is quite a nice time). Some people like different keys so try them all out. You won't go back to a membrane board. Ever.
Mouse - Cheap, laser, dpi switch (never knew how useful that would be until I started gaming), comfortable. The scroll wheel isn't as stiff as I'd like and I needed to download the drivers to get the side buttons to work. Why this isn't built into Windows by now I have no idea. Also, when I downloaded them, the Gigabyte site wouldn't work (select drivers from list, click download, routed back to main page), so I had to get them from a third party. Worked fine after that.
Fan controller - Another purchase that I didn't think all the way through. It works just fine but I don't care for the design anymore. Beeps after every touch, which can get on your nerves if fine tuning your fan speeds. The temp sensors probably work, but I just tucked them out of the way. Probably go for a manual slider style controller next time.
Cable management is maddening if you try to make it nice. I tried a few different ways but ultimately settled on what is pictured. I know you guys are sticklers for cable management.
Couple notes on the pictures. One shows the CPU power cable routing. It was just a tight fit to be aware of on this case. Another shows the bundled up fan controller wires. Third from the end shows the CPU fan connector. The reason for this was that I had wrapped the wire around the housing of the fan due to the proximity of the top exhaust fans. I had to plug the wire in, clip the fan to the heatsink, and then secure the wire to the fan housing. Second to last picture is testing results. Final photo shows the clearance between the side panel and the 212 Evo (slightly over 1/4").
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I had a lot of fun and am looking forward to modifying it in the future. Any and all comments, criticisms, and advice are welcome. -Alex