This build has been the project of about 3 years, beginning in early 2011. I was originally upgrading from some ancient Dell in hopes of being able to run Minecraft and Netbeans better. I did a little bit of research and determined that the Phenom II series was the cheapest chipset that could still do reasonably well in gaming. Lucky for me, I have a Microcenter nearby and shortly after found that there was a refurbished HP Pavilion p6616f for $350. I got it, and for a long time it suited me and my usage really well. Then in early 2012 I started high school and many of my friends were into computers. Though I had been interested in software, this was the first time I had ever done serious research into hardware. Around that time, I also got into playing more graphics-intensive games such as Oblivion and Mount and Blade. I began to see that my computer was lacking, launching me into a spree of upgrades.
In my build, I listed the p6616f as $350 and all the parts that I kept from it as $0. Note that those parts came from the p6616f. Here are my thoughts on the individual parts, in the order that they are listed in my part list.
Patriot Viper 3: This is the first thing that I upgraded in my computer. Gave it 4 stars because it isn't quite as speedy as I though it would be. The latency benchmarks are stellar, but that's about it. Can't really blame it because it's bottlenecked by my motherboard. Still, great price for the quantity and quality.
Samsung 840 EVO: What can I say other than this thing is a beast. Got it for Christmas this year, installed it, and did some benchmarks. I wasn't too impressed, but after I migrated everything and turned on rapid mode, it blew me away. Super fast opening (and closing) everything. Its Passmark benchmark actually beat the number 3 OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 Max IOPS. In addition, putting the drive in rapid mode brought each of the WEI GPU ratings up 0.1. An added bonus there. Note that the $100 includes the drive, the bay, and the SATA cable.
Asus USB-N13: One of the things that was faulty on the p6616f was the internet card. Picked this up and it works great. Put it at 4 stars because my computer is as far as possible from my already bad internet. Again, not really the part's fault. Found some new drivers for it recently and that helped a lot as well.
Corsair CX500: I know I could have gotten it for cheaper, but I went to Microcenter the first day of summer break, and this is what they had. At least it wasn't the normal $65. It's solid and hasn't given me any trouble. Note that it was an upgrade from the stock 250W PSU.
Windows 7: Clean and nice, especially when upgrading from XP.
AMD Phenom II X4 830: Though it is slowly slipping down the benchmark ratings, it is solid and handles everything I throw at it beautifully.
Seagate Barracuda 750GB: A good drive. In retrospect, I am pretty lucky that I didn't get saddled with a 5400 RPM drive. I still use it as primary storage for random programs I rarely use and backup which works wonderfully.
CD/DVD Disk Drive: It works.
HP p6616f Case: I really like the way that it looks and especially its size. The light on the clear power button is a nice added touch. Only complaint is cable management, not as bad as it could be, but still a bit of a puzzle. I made sure to only put the cables in places where they wouldn't affect airflow too much, but it still looks messy.
Acer Monitor: Got a great price on this monitor refurbished. Beautiful HD 1080p, with no broken pixels or anything. Also, the plastic is a nice mixture of shiny and matte black that makes it look really sleek.
GTX 550ti: Based on reviews and general consensus, I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be enough for some of the games that I play. Overall though, it runs them spectacularly, especially for the price. On Oblivion, I get a consistent 60 FPS on ultra high. Just Cause 2 really is the only game I play that stresses it, and even then I get a fairly consistent 60 FPS on high (only in cities does it lag a little). I JUST missed out on a refurbished 560ti for only 5 dollars more. It was gone by the time I was out of school. I know that I could have gotten a fairly comparable deal with rebate on a 7770 or even at times a 7850 (saw one for $90 a while back), but just like with the PSU, I was at Microcenter with my money, and wanted to be able to upgrade ASAP.
HP Pavilion p6616f: Worked great when I got it and continues to work excellently in its Frankenstein form.
Foxconn Motherboard: I feel most lucky about this part. This motherboard could have been a piece of junk, but it wasn't. Instead, it came with an unprecedented amount of goodies, that through my upgrade process, have made me want to kiss it. Example #1: PCIe x16 slot, loved it during GPU upgrade. Example #2: 4 RAM slots, loved it during my RAM upgrade, even though I only use 2 of the slots. Example #3: SATA 3.0, especially because neither the hard drive nor the disc drive that came with the computer use anything above 2.0; loved it during my SSD upgrade. All of this on an micro ATX board too.
I had tons of fun with the upgrades and I continue to have fun as I enjoy the fruits. I hope I addressed everything and I'm more than happy to add new pictures and field questions. Thanks for taking the time to look over my gushing.
Please note that the final price should be $715.