Decided to treat myself before heading back to school and $150k in debt (as this is a tech forum, please refrain from commenting on my life choices :P ) that and my XPS 8300 had a GPU meltdown (Radeon HD 5670's thermal compound sucks!!!) Hope you guys like it and feel free to make comments!
My goals: reliable gaming machine using parts a) salvaged from the XPS, b) using proceeds from XPS, or c) on sale at a "good" price (thank you PCPartsPicker and Slickdeals) AND spend less than $1200 (the further from this, the better). All prices are with tax and after discounts/rebates. My main concerns were to keep costs down while still using parts that were considered "best for the $" and enough wiggle room to get by for the next 2-3 years. I decided against Haswell and the LGA 1150 socket just on price alone and stuck with what I current have listen below.
This was my first build in almost 10 years and man...technology has come far! The HAF 922 was a pleasure to work with and is keeping my case super cold - but I had to get a fan controller to keep sound down and now it's quieter than the Dell ever was. If I wasn't going to school I would've done a custom water cooling loop, but have instead opted for the EVO 212 (most forums and sites showed data that the Corsair H60 performed about the same and I didn't want to pony up for anything beefier that would perform better). The cooler does do a good job keeping my CPU cool at 4.2GHz (12hours of Blend Tests on Prime 95 only had a max temp of 63!) - I would go more, but I need to keep my power consumption down...ish... that and I can get away with 1.12V :)
Salvaged list: Dell 23" monitor at 1900x1080, generic Dell keyboard, 1TB hard drive, cheap-o ram, DVD drive (stealthed), and Windows 7. Replaced list: Sold Dell mobo and used $55 towards the G45, sold i7-2600 to get the i5-3570k (used remainder of the $$ to purchase the GPU), and am hoping for a little more back for the case and PSU.
Possible Upgrades (highly unlikely):16 - 32 GBs of RAM at 1600 MHz & another Geforce 660 in 2-way SLI