What started as a plan to make the cheapest PC possible led to many hours spent on the one, the only PCPartPicker, slowly trading i3's and GTX 950's for i5's and 1060's, until a nice, mid-high performance build took shape. The goal was to never sacrifice quality where it counted, a mindset that convinced me to replace a budget chipset with a Z170 motherboard, as well as an unlocked i5 from a Core i3. In the end I got everything I could ask for and more from my first system, and it impresses me considering the low price (not including the stereo or peripherals).
Lets talk about the components;
CPU & Cooler: I've only just begun to dabble in CPU overclocking, and easily reach 4.5GHz with a fixed Vcore of only 1.24V! I don't regret choosing the i5 as its performance should last me many years, and runs cool. That is partly due to the be quiet! cooler mounted atop it, which looks better than the ever popular CM Hyper 212, and works just as well, all while remaining inaudible.
Motherboard: I've heard complaints about ASRock, but have had a great experience so far. The Extreme3 isn't flashy, but it has a nice feature set, stemming from its Z170 heart. It features an acceptable onboard audio chip and a USB 3.1 port and one USB-C, in case that becomes relevant. Also, ASRock included support for both SLI and CrossFire, as well as M.2 NVMe SSDs.
RAM: I admit, I overspent just a touch on the RAM. For some reason my frugal self was overcome by the somewhat random obsession with low-latency memory, so I bought a pair of 4GiB sticks @ 2400MHz with a CAS latency of only 12! (for what it's worth)
Storage: 1TB WD HDD. What else is there to say? (Other than I'm awaiting the funds to justify an SSD of some sort.)
GPU: This was a tough choice. I actually purchased and assembled the whole PC sans the video card in May, while I could recover from the financial hit and make a more informed decision on a good card. At first I thought a GTX 950 would be suitable, then felt that a 960 was worth the delta in price. That was until I decided to wait for Pascal and Polaris. I was disappointed in AMD's Linux support, so I went Team Green. Gigabyte's 1060 G1 Gaming handles 1080p gaming (on Linux) with ease, allowing me to use maximum settings and never needing to worry about temperatures,
but the card does whine a bit when the fans turn on and off. As it turns out, I was able to remedy the fan issue by loosening the fan mounting screws on the card (the fans were vibrating against the heatsink). However, for $270, this card performs flawlessly and makes the long wait for a graphics card worth it.
Case: Thermaltake won me for a budget chassis with workable cable management AND didn't even have as many angles and edges as a Lamborghini Veneno! (Sorry/not sorry Lambo fans, I'm a Ferrari guy!) The build was straightforward in this case, to me it looks nice for the deal I found it for, and has enough tie-down points to make cable management work (but could use more). Overall it's a thumbs-up.
PSU: I didn't know of Corsairs' CX line having some issues with output before I bought this one, but I learned that a little too late. It was inexpensive, it works, and has all-black cables.
Monitor: It's glossy, is a sweet-spot in size for 1080p, and looks nice. One dead pixel, but for the low price I can't complain.
Keyboard & Mouse: So satisfying to type on, I'm glad I went mechanical. It was the cheapest one with Cherry switches that I could find, and still has a nice build. No LED's, but I'm not into RGB everything. The mouse is hardly a gamer's choice, and is beginning to frustrate me with signal latency and stuttering, but for now I'm managing.
OS: Linux (Ubuntu Gnome)...because it's superior.
Stereo: I'm an audiophile, who likes to crank it on occasion. Klipsch it is! The H/K is a good ol' receiver from the 90's that my parents are lending to me, which is hooked up to an Onkyo CD player, which is the only part that was purchased used from this whole setup! I'm surprised how well the two floorstanders work at a desk, and while I sit very close to them while on my PC, I'm still "within range" of the horns, and it still sounds a whole lot better than any Logitech 5.1 setup ;-) When I want to listen to music I roll my chair back to a REAL listening position, and proceed to rock out. I have no external DAC for my computer, and I may not buy one, as I don't use my PC as a source for critical listening...I actually turn it off to lower the noise floor!
P.S. Apologies about the redundant part reviews below, I didn't realize how they clog up the build page until they were already written.
Solid performance, powerful CPU. Could be cheaper but we'll see if Zen can put AMD back into competition. The 6600k overclocks well, and mine doesn't require much voltage to run stably (4.5GHz @ 1.24V).
Great cooler, effective at keeping temps down. A little on the tall side, so be sure to check clearances. Effectively silent!
Well-priced Z170 board. No frills, but many useful features like USB 3.1 and USB-C. Overclocks well, with 8 phase CPU power delivery.
Fast RAM, low latency. Nothing to report other than no issues.
A little noisy, as HDD's are. Relativley fast performance, and lots of capacity per dollar.
This video card performs well, but had an issue with the fans. They would rattle against the heatsink when spooling up from their zero RPM mode, in a rather disconcerting way. I was able to loosen the fans' mounting screws such that they are no longer pressed up against the heatsink, mending the issue, but it shouldn't have been a problem in the first place.
A more than decent case for the price, good features and materials, with two included fans (which could be quieter).