First off: This build evolved over time, spanning about 3 years (2011-2013). That is why some of the purchase prices are so different compared to today's prices. A couple of purchase prices are probably inaccurate as I undoubtedly used as many promotion codes as I could :P
I started off a PC gamer, playing games like Age of Empires 2 & Empire Earth 2 on desktops thrown together with hand-me-down and mismatched parts put together by my father & cousin. When the xbox360 came around, I migrated over to consoles for a couple of years. I still used my PC here and there, but I mostly played Halo & Forza. But in 2011, my interest for PCs sparked again (My hand-me-down power supply blew up XD) and I decided that I wanted to build my own computer, with my own money, with parts I chose and researched, and with my own hands. Long story short, I went for it and haven't look back at consoles since.
I'm going to go over my parts, grouped by year.
2011: During this time I had an Antec 300 case, Seagate 500GB HDD, Gigabyte mobo, and Nvidia GTX 460. Stock intel cooler.
CPU - Intel Core i5-2500K - This fabulous processor was the original foundation that I built my PC around. I've loved it. It's fast, runs cool, and still has a couple of years left to go. I run her at 4.5Ghz 24/7 now. I've followed the release of Ivy & Haswell, and they have been such incremental improvements that I see no reason to upgrade. By the time I retire my 2500k, I'll probably have had it for 4-5 strong years.
RAM - G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600 (2x4GB) - Back when I got these ram was cheap. 8GB for $40? That's a steal nowadays! I've never tried overclocking these, but I doubt they can do much more than 1600. From all I've read, memory has very little effect on Sandy so I don't think I'll be messing with them any time soon.
PSU - Corsair HX650 - This power supply has been rock solid. Semi-modular. I'll probably be using it for quite awhile.
2012: My PC saw a LOT of change this year - I caught the SFF bug.
SSD - Intel 320 series 80GB - In early 2012 I caught I great deal on this SSD. $1/GB was extremely rare at this time. This little guy was $160 with a $80 MIR. Needless to say, I mailed that bad boy in.
Motherboard - Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe - At the time, this was the best 1155 mini-itx board available. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive, selling for no less than $200 (often more) no matter where I looked. I was just about to give up the idea of going mini-ITX when something caught my eye on newegg - an Open Box P8Z77-I for $150. Out of all of the ITX motherboards out there, and on the very day I was about to quit the idea, the EXACT motherboard I was looking at shows up? Must have been fate :P. Anyway, this is a fantastic ITX motherboard. Brilliant layout and innovative design. I've been able to push my 2500K to 5GHz with it, but at that point I was scared I was going to fry the CPU (or severely shorten its lifespan), so that was a very short run.
Case - My new motherboard needed a new home, and I gave it a Bitfenix Prodigy (I really wanted to keep my ATX PSU). It was white. Unusual and kinda cool looking, definitely unique. After a couple of months, I thought it was one of the ugliest cases I've ever seen! lol
CPU Cooler - I got a Cooler master Hyper 212 Evo and played around with overclocking my 2500k in my Prodigy. Great cooler.
GPU - MSI GTX 660ti - When I went ITX I decided to retire my GTX 460. I bought a 660ti for $310, and it came with Borderlands 2 which I was going to buy anyway, so I considered it a $250 purchase. I ran 3DMark 11 awhile back and compared the scores, and my 660ti effectively doubled what my 460 could do. Unfortunately, I cannot give this card 5 stars - In this specific model, MSI overvolted the PWM controller itself. I never would have bought it had I known that at the time of purchase.
2013 - Things got messy this year. I decided the Prodigy is ugly and things got cramped XD
Case - Cooler Master Elite 120 - After a few months in the Prodigy, I came to dislike it. Its big (micro ATX sized, its too big to be called "Small form factor"), ugly, and the way it wobbles on its plastic feet/stands drove me crazy. I swapped it for a CM Elite 120. In the 3 years I've had my PC, this case was by far the most problematic thing I've ever used. Terrible layout, it took me months to figure out how to properly cool it. (More on this later)
CPU Cooler - Cooler Master Geminii M4 - For my new actually SFF case, I got a low profile cooler. Cooler master even demoed the case with this cooler, so surely they work well together, right? Nope. No matter the configuration, fan speeds, case fans, with/without video card, I couldn't run my CPU with this cooler without underclocking/volting to get reasonable temperatures. To clarify - This is not the fault of the Geminii M4. It is a good, quiet cooler when it can actually breathe. The issue was 100% the fault of the case. Due to the layout, the clearance between the cooler & the PSU was so small that it was starved for air.
CPU Cooler V2 - Zalman LQ-310 - Yeah... Didn't get a good price on this. However, this cooler solved all of my cooling issues with the CM Elite 120. I was again able to overclock care-free once I got things figured out, and I run at 4.5Ghz under this cooler. (I'll update with load temps later today, it's been awhile since I've done any stress testing)
HDD - Toshiba 3TB 7200rpm - The 500GB Seagate I had been using works great, but it was no longer sufficient. (I blame Steam sales :P)
Alright, this last bit is going to be about the configuration it is in today. I've already mentioned above that the Cooler Master Elite 120 is an awful case. The only thing going for it is ATX PSU compatibility. But I made it work.
Originally I tried to run with the case using a low profile air cooler. That was a huge waste of time and effort. To anybody who is considering doing a build in this case - You'll have to underclock or use a low power CPU if you want to run on air (or get creative with pulling air through a passive PSU). Any meaty low profile cooler won't be able to get enough air flow due to the power supply being directly above it. This is what I did - I removed the hard drive cage completely. It was riveted in place too, so it was a bit of a pain to get out but definitely worth it. In its place I put the radiator of my closed loop liquid cooler, with the fan pulling air from inside the case and exhausting out the front. I know, totally unusual but definitely the best way to do it. If the fan is configured as an intake you'll end up creating a massive hotspot around your motherboard & PSU due to the combined exhaust of your CPU & GPU having trouble leaving the case. (This effect is diminished if your GPU is a blower type). When I had my cooler configured that way, my PSU was so warm I'd say it was almost hot to the touch. Very bad.
So I figured out a way to keep my CPU cool, but what about storage? I ripped out the hard drive cage, right? Well I found an adapter that allowed me to put both my HDD & SSD in my 5.25" bay (I don't use CD/DVD drives). It works brilliantly, but the downside is that I had been using the 5.25" bay to stuff all the extra cabling, so things got a lot messier after I installed the adapter. I did the best I could, but its still a bit of a mess. (It was actually quite clean before I put the 5.25" bay to use)
So that's my PC. It's not the best way to do a PC by any stretch of the imagination, but I love mini-ITX haha!