This all started with a friend giving me a great deal on a slightly used MSI Radeon R9 390 graphics card. I took him up on the offer (it was a great offer), then considered using it in my existing "game" system.
Once I took a look at the specs of the "game" system I had, I realized that this would have been a complete insult to the R9 390 to use it in that system.
So as not to insult my awesome new great deal video card, I started building lists of what a "dream" system would be, then toned it down a bit to the list I came up with. I also took the chance to fully involve my children and my wife, as this would be their system also. Fortunately, we're a family of geeks, so this worked well.
We then saved up for several months and purchased the parts in waves. Once the final batch of parts arrived on 3/11/16, we started building.
First...the case. The HAF XB EVO case from Cooler Master is a seriously beefy case. It's about the size of a milk crate with nice sturdy handles on the sides. It also comes almost completely apart allowing for ease of working in the case and assembling parts. Cable management is also a breeze with so much room to work with. Just make sure you plan out where to run what cables before bolting things down and you should be fine. Simply put, I love this case. We did max out the fans in the case for maximum cooling, but that was a relatively inexpensive upgrade and well worth it (especially the 200mm fan that's mounted in the top).
Next...the "guts". After much examining and comparing of reviews, looking at our budget and several hours of Youtube videos about processors, motherboards, and CPU coolers, we landed on using the Intel Core i7-6700K (unlocked for overclocking) mounted in an MSI Z710A Gaming M5 motherboard using a Termaltake Water 3.0 Extreme for CPU cooling. I'm glad we did. The CPU was on the upper end of our budget, but it was worth the extra cost, as was the MSI motherboard (more on that in a moment). I'd never used a liquid cooling system, but after watching many Youtube video reviews of the systems, we elected to go with the Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme. It fit easily and superbly in the HAF XB case (mounted in the front grille). Sitting at idle the system easily keeps the processor at a cool 25C. We've not completely pushed it yet, so I don't know how it will behave under full load (but I'm looking forward to finding out). It was worth the extra expense to go with the liquid cooling system.
The video card (which stated this whole thing) is a dream. I'm normally an nVidia fan, but this AMD card from MSI truly rocks. Graphics are smooth and steady, even with game settings at high (again, though...I've not fully pushed it to the max yet). Even if I hadn't gotten a deal on this card from my friend, I would have been comfortable paying the current price of about $340 for this card. Very very solid graphics card.
For storage, we elected to use a 240GB SSD drive from PNY and a Toshiba 7200 RPM 1TB hard drive. The SSD drive, as expected, is blazing fast as the boot drive and the 1TB storage drive is large. I don't expect to have problems from either of these any time soon.
I had initially planned to use a blu-ray optical drive, but after doing some research found that a lot of users were disappointed with how PCs interface with commercial blu-ray disks without expensive software...and even this things still weren't great. As a result, I elected to stick with the tried-and-true DVD-RW drive. No regrets there, and also no surprises. Nothing to see there...move along.
We elected to get a decent power supply and went with the EVGA 850W ATX12V. This will leave us plenty of ability of add another of the awesome MSI R9 390 (or comparable) cards in the future for utilizing Crossfire. Since Crossfire configurations with the AMD graphics chipset allows you to use cards within the same generation together (rather than requiring the exact same card), I felt that this would allow ample opportunity for "bang for the buck" upgrades in a year or so. (Note that things in this area change a lot, so the nVidia may not require the same cards for linking them together by the time you read this). We just wanted to make sure that when we wanted to add a second video card for Crossfire that we wouldn't have to add another power supply. It is a semi-modular power supply, so this also made using it extremely easy and fast during installation. We also only used the modular cables we had to have, keeping the guts of the system relatively clean of useless clutter cables.
Once it was together, it booted on the first try. Windows 10 installed from scratch super easily (I'd done upgrades, but not a from-scratch install up until this point). The system was up and running in just a few short minutes. The MSI utilities for the motherboard made installing the system board drivers extremely easy, and the utilities for the MSI graphics card were just as simple to install and use. They all come with update utilities also, which makes downloading and installing the drivers simple as can be (which is expected in today's market, but it's still nice to have the utilities work so well as these). I have to say that I'm now fully an MSI fanboy. The documentation did leave a bit to be desired, but it's not difficult to figure out the parts that the documentation doesn't cover well.
Notes on assembly: I'd never used a liquid cooler before (as I mentioned before) and the assembly did take a bit longer than other types of coolers. However, after assembling it and putting it in place, I can say that its doing its job excellently. Being new to liquid cooling makes me a bit nervous, but going the "all in one" approach made it a snap to do.
I was also very surprised how quiet the system is overall. With eight total fans in the system, I expected it to sound like a Harrier Jump Jet taking off or landing, but with only slight exception, the fans run amazingly quiet. They do kick in when things start to get busy, but it's much quieter than I expected it to be. I'm glad I splurged a bit on the Cooler Master brand fans. The noisiest fans in the build are the Thermaltake fans that are part of the liquid cooler. Not a complaint there, but just stating how it is.
Overall, this is the best computer I've ever used. It was a pleasure to build and configure and I don't regret the investment a all. It was a great learning experience for my kids to spec out and build the system together and I expect we will get a long life from this system.
The Kraken Lives! Release The Kraken!
Excellent processor. It's easily overclockable, but runs extremely fast and very solid even at base speeds. Using this processor will definitely aid in "future proofing" you system for the foreseeable future. I spent $379 on this processor at the time of my build and feel it was a good investment.
Took a bit of time and careful reading to assemble (the bracketry is designed to fit many different slot types base on how it's assembled), but it seems to be a very nicely and solidly built liquid cooler. Very much worth the extra expense.
Excellent excellent motherboard. Nice utilities (especially the MSI Commander, which allows you to monitor and tweak BIOS settings from withing the OS). Very much worth the price of $180 I spent on it at the time of my build.
Fast, a snap (literally) to install, and a great deal at the price. You can't go wrong with Corsair RAM.
Blazing fast drive. Makes an excellent boot drive...my system restarts in 35 seconds with this drive installed.
Amazing video card. Easy to install and configure. It chews up my games, then asks for more. I expect I will be using this card for a while before needing to upgrade. I can't rate this card highly enough.
Best case I've ever used. Easy to work in with plenty of room to assemble the components. All the sides come off and the motherboard mounting tray comes out, which makes installation a breeze. I elected to add more fans, but they were easy to install.
Very solid power supply. The semi-modular cables were easy to install and use, were nice and long, and it came with plenty of cables...more than enough for what I needed in my build.
Nice large and quiet fan. I was surprised by how quietly and smoothly it runs.