Apologies for potato quality on pictures
My laptop was at the end of its life and I hadn't spent any real money on myself since before going to university (I graduated 2 years ago.) Time to build that custom pc that I'd always dreamed of and cement my status as super nerd!
For months I'd been watching tech videos on youtube and reading articles about tech, mostly to procrastinate from my postgrad. It was fantastic to be finally learning properly about hardware when I'd always billed myself as someone who knows about computers. Eventually, I saw a couple of deals that were so worth it I just had to start assembling parts, with longevity, power, and silence in mind.
General notes on the build:
I am very aware that for the price I paid, I would have been able to buy a system with a gpu equivalent of a 980ti. The extra money I spent is for better future proofing and quieter performance. I am happy with this trade off, considering until now I have been 'gaming' on an intel hd 3000.
At time of buying, I paid ~£1450 for the whole system.
Don't panic when you first turn it on (like I did.) The fans started spinning, the mobo lit up....then it rebooted....and rebooted....and was then fine.
I did not buy a wrist strap; I just touched the grounded psu periodically. All was well.
I scratched the bottom of the mobo screw holes when mounting the mobo on the headers. It is clearly fine but I recommend not being an idiot and doing that.
I did not do a test bench first boot up, with the rationale that if one of the pieces had to be RMA'ed, thus was a major inconvenience to me anyway that outweighs having to unscrew a couple of things.
Also, I found the dark rock pro 3 cooler to be easier to install when the mobo was already in the case.
I really would have benefited from a magnetic screwdriver. It was fine without, but it would have made certain little bits go so much more smoothly.
I definitely used just a little too much thermal paste, only because the syringe thing applied paste quicker than I thought it would. I figured I'd go for it anyway because it wasn't a ridiculous amount extra and temps are excellent, so no harm done.
CPU: Intel i7 6700k
There is no way that I need this cpu for the tasks I usually do. However, I want this build to last as long as possible and whilst I would have been fine with the i5 6600k, spending so much on this build made me think I should just go for it. This was not a wise decision price wise but I am absolutely loving what this thing can do. I have it set to a very conservative overclock of 4.5ghz, but will push further when I move the tower to a place with better general airflow. Temp under load is max temp running a cpu stress test.
CPU Cooler: Dark Rock Pro 3:
Looks incredible. Pictures do not do it justice. I chose this cooler because I wanted the power of aio water cooling but without the price tag. Also, being my first pc build, I wanted to go for air cooling for simplicity's sake. Lastly, it is incredibly quiet for what it can do. It was so heavy I was worried about it hanging off the mobo actually but obviously it's fine in practice. The packaging for this cooler is excellent. Great soft foam packed perfectly fitted around the cooler and a small foam slider separating it from the box of screws etc. Very very easy to assemble, contrary to what some online reviews have claimed. The only tricky bit was installing the cooler onto the board after the back plate. The sheer weight of the thing meant it was impossible to screw it in accurately whilst the machine was the right side up; I hung the case sideways off a table, placed the cooler in place on top and screwed it in that way.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-z170X Gaming 7
Bought this because it was on sale. Its looks are controversial, (love it or hate it) but it performs excellently. It has a million and one features and I am so happy to have USB 3.1 type C, (the only real 'must' for me on the motherboard) and also the backlit IO. Very lucky to have got a board with 'armour' surrounding the pcie slots, as I had my eye on that feature but couldn't afford to be too picky.
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB
Came bundled with the mobo. Is RAM. Works. A thing to note though: these sticks are low-profile RAM and are a must with the cpu cooler I chose.
Case: Fractal Design Define R5 (Titanium with window)
Looks gorgeous; I had my heart set on this from the moment I decided I'd build a pc. Feels incredibly well made until you take both side panels off and then it feels a bit flimsy. The windowed side on my product was a bit wonky when separate, but fitted well enough onto the side. It's not a problem but I genuinely am disappointed that there aren't two fans included in the front, just for symmetry rather than function. I have since purchased another fan for the front and while it doesn't make any difference in terms of cooling, it was switched air pressure in the case from negative to positive and now it looks complete when I open the front panel. A note about the SSD plates on the back: Whilst this is sweet placing for the SSD, I found a 10 degree Celsius decrease in temperature when I moved it to the HDD rack. I was still within acceptable operating temps of course, but I feel better knowing I've got that extra 10C. No psu shroud on this case wasn't a problem for me until I watched about a million case reviews and realised how great they look. Still, a small price to pay for a case that is incredible in every other way. I will be keeping with this case for many many years.
Monitor: Acer XF270HU
This monitor is beyond incredible. This was the first part I purchased because I got a great deal on it, and hence it affected decisions I made about other components. This monitor is the freesync version of the much loved XB270HU. Not only is it much cheaper, but because it was released later they seem to have taken feedback into account and implemented ideas into this product. For a start, it is matte black, unlike the glossy XB270HU which makes this monitor much more aesthetically pleasing. Secondly, menu navigation is better. The packaging for this product is great and I felt very confident about the condition I would find it in when I opened it. A word of warning though. This make of monitor has notoriously bad quality control. There are horror stories online of multiple dead pixels and unacceptable back light bleed occurring with multiple RMAs. I was very very lucky: I have no dead pixels and the back light bleed is what I would consider to be acceptable given I've come from a six year old 720p laptop screen.
PSU: Corsair 750RMi
Chose this because I wanted high quality, room for expansion in terms of power and being quiet in general. Had a great review on JonnyGuru, so went for it. The packaging is incredible and the psu looks and feels premium. I have but two complaints. Firstly, the wires were so stiff that I found cable management to be difficult, and plugging everything into the board and bending cables made me feel like I was going to break it. Secondly, the sata cables were frustrating. The right angled ending connector is nice...but they did this twice with two separate cables, when I needed a flat one at the end for my build. The sata plugged into the ssd (mounted vertically) is squished worryingly against the board. I have since moved it into the HDD racks.
GPU: Sapphire Nitro R9 390 (with back plate)
The decision to buy this was made by the purchase of the monitor. Reddit has a hard-on for the r9 390 but I was actually edging towards a gtx 970 because of the lower wattage/heat output and better driver support. However, buying a freesync monitor meant I had to go with the r9 390. I went with the sapphire version partly because the reviews were great and partly because I got a deal on it. So far I am very very happy with it and it performs excellently at 1440p. The 8GB vidram is perfect for my now very heavily modded Skyrim. It also doesn't spin the fans when at low temps so that's a plus for silence. I have lazily overclocked it, but this model doesn't have great oc potential anyway so I'm happy with the ~8% performance increase. Temp under load is max temp under a gpu stress test.
SSD: Samsung 850 Evo 250GB
Went from a 5400rpm HDD in my laptop to this. Unbelievable increase in performance. I went with this commonly known quality SSD considering I was going to install the OS on it. If I get more SSDs in the future, I will purchase more budget options. Also purchased because silence.
HDD: Western Digital 1TB 7200rpm
Was reluctant to buy this for noise reasons, but it is inaudible through my case and wouldn't make too much noise anyway given it's mainly used as storage for music/movies etc. I purchased Western Digital because I was worried about the reviews from the equivalent Seagate drives.
So there we have it! A personal computer that I use for all my computing needs, with enough power and longevity to keep me satisfied for years whilst being damn near silent to boot. Thanks to all the youtube channels/tech websites/ forum posts I've consumed over the last six months!