So over Christmas break I got the bright idea of selling my late 2012 iMac to build my first PC. It was totally out of the blue, and I had no idea how to do it. I don't think I've ever even seen the inside of a modern computer before.
With that said, I spent a lot of my break researching and getting advice from more experienced builders. I sold my iMac for $1,600 and bought all these parts the next day.
CPU - I chose the Xeon because it was a perfect fit for my price range. I knew I didn't want to downgrade to an i5 because they can't hyperthread and I couldn't justify spending the extra $200 I would need on an i7 in the initial price difference, a decent cooler, and a decent Z97 board for overclocking. The only tradeoff I can see is no overclocking, but I'm not really concerned about that, hyperthreading I think is more important. I used prime95 and the blend torture test for 2 hours to stress test. I got no errors and a 63 degree max in that short time. I will be running longer tests in the future to ensure its stability. I think it idles so low because I always run the case fans at full since I can't hear them anyway and the ambient temperature in my house is very cool in the winter, but it gets pretty hot during testing. Most people don't hit 60 with a similar cooler configuration, so I'm a little
competitive worried but I'm sure it's fine.
CPU Cooler - Pretty much the most popular cooler ever. Cheap, quiet and gets some good cooling going. Figured it’d be worth it since I heard bad things about the boxed cooler and this is so cheap anyway. I can start to hear it around 1250 RPM if I'm sitting at my desk making no noise and not listening to music, but it almost never exceeds 1000 so I don't hear it unless I'm testing.
Motherboard - I chose the Gigabyte board because it's cheap, has good onboard audio, and full ATX, but I confess it's primarily that it has nice gold accents ;)
RAM - Seemed like decent memory for the price. 1600Mhz is the highest speed H97 boards support I believe, but I've also heard speed doesn't really matter that much. And it's yellow; complements the board. Memtest86+ throws no errors. I’d probably go for a Mushkin DDR3 pair if I had the choice now as I’ve heard they’re solid as well plus they are very low profile.
Storage - The SSD is one of the highlights of the build I think, really solid 250GB option from what I've read, and it's got a gorgeous finish. So far boots have been super fast. The mechanical storage I chose is also a solid option as reviewed, I don't think I'll need very much of it for now but it's so cheap why not.
GPU - Another highlight. The main issue with my iMac was of course its terrible GPU and the fact that a lot of my work at the present revolves around games, specifically TF2 for now. This will blow the older games I play out of the water, and handle the AAA titles decently. It runs Assassin’s Creed Unity maxed out at decent FPS, though I’ll probably have to play around a little more to get it where I want it. I overclocked it to 1479Mhz on the core boost clock and 7350Mhz on the memory, which does pretty well. It stays quiet and cool at all times and I get 0 coil whine. The only time I’ve ever been able to hear it is when I did MSi Kombustor 3’s Furry Donut V2 burn-in test, which is where I achieved the 67 degree temp. With my current overclock (which is likely to change), it scored a 10810 in 3DMark Fire Strike.
Case - I've heard wonderful things about this case. It's silent, has good airflow, looks great to me and of course supports my components. The cable management was great, though dampered by not having a modular PSU.
PSU - This was something that was recommended to me. It is very solid and I’ve had no issues with it driving all my stuff. However, I do really wish I had gotten a modular PSU as dealing with the cabling was an absolute bear. I think I eventually got it to a nice spot while keeping good airflow, but it took quite some time and doesn’t look the best. It’s still a great PSU though. If I ever get a different one for another build or to replace this if power consumption becomes an issue, I’ll probably go for a Cooler Master V550 or a Corsair HX650.
EDIT Feb. 6, 2015: replaced the SeaSonic S12G 450W with a SeaSonic X650 650W since I was having problems with > display crashes under load, display turning off when plugging DAC and amp in etc.
Optical Drive - Just something that works, I do anticipate some usage out of this for music CD's and installs.
Peripherals - The keyboard is a cheap Kailh Blue (MX Cherry knock-off) that has nice backlighting, a sleek design, and is of course mechanical. I hope the keys hold up, but it's backed by a 5-year warranty so I'm not worried. Having used it for a few days now, however, I can see I don't particularly like the switches as they do just feel "cheap" (you can hear them creak a lot of the time, they get stuck occasionally). Also, the keyboard has made me realize I don't particularly like clicky keys like blue switches. If I ever get another keyboard, I'll probably get a K70 with red or brown switches. Oh well. The mouse looks great to me; it's nothing fancy and has that classic design I've liked in my old DeathAdder. It's got 16.8 million RGB lighting customization which is a nice feature to me. The main reason I'm not getting another DeathAdder is because I hate Synapse and Steelseries Engine is working pretty nice. My dad just upgraded to the 5K iMacs at his office, so the monitor is his gift to me for this build. I don't like the bulk or color of it (honestly the colors seem kind of washed out to me coming from my iMac too), but they eliminate the cost of a monitor from my build so that’s nice.
Only the motherboard price includes shipping; the final cost was $1,572.
Thanks for reading!