This was my first build in about 15 years. I'd been buying off-the-shelf since then. Many thanks to my Acer Aspire ASE380-UD421A for many, many years of flawless service since late 2006. Not a single problem in nearly seven years of service. But I was feeling saucy and wanted to build my own.
My goal was to create a gaming machine, balancing good quality with savings where possible, but at the same time allowing for a bit of ability to upgrade. The hardware side of the build had no problems whatsoever. Installing Windows 7 64-bit, surprise surprise, had a few hiccups. My first gaming experience has been Metro: Last Light (came free with the video card), and I have to say the difference was jaw-dropping compared to my old system. Scary good.
BEST EXPERIENCES: The motherboard and the case (see desc). The mobo is smart, well laid out, and up to date in features. And the case has been the best expenditure I've made, even though my original thought was "Why would I want to spend that much on a case?" So much I didn't know. Cable management is easy, the space is ample, and I love the look. As you can see, I still need to do a little cable tidying on the interior, but even so, it's pretty open.
WORST EXPERIENCES: The installation guide for the Zalman CPU heatsink/fan needs improvement. There was an online video that wasn't exactly spot-on. I also would've preferred some sort of bracket for the rear of the mobo. I wish they'd warned me in advance that a great deal of pressure would be required to install the heatsink/fan -- especially after so many ZERO INSERTION FORCE warnings on the CPU. I kept thinking I must surely be crushing the chip beneath me. Also, Windows 7 (64 bit) had all sorts of hiccups in installing updates. I had to repair a number of errors just to get to the latest and greatest, and I still have a couple of updates for which the error code has no reference at Microsoft. But it all seems to be working... for now.
MIXED FEELINGS: On the one hand, the i5 3470 (Ivy Bridge) CPU is a great value for the money, but I regret not being able to overclock it. The fact that I have an Intel motherboard means that BIOS doubly dampens that ability (unlike other boards that might allow you to faux-overclock it). The good thing is that none of that is necessary, as I'm pushing software on max settings, and this setup is doing a remarkable job.
PART BY PART: CPU -- Great value for the money; regret that I didn't forethink the ability to overclock CPU Cooler -- Love the design, but the install and instructions were lacking. Feared I was crushing the CPU, especially with no rear bracket. Motherboard -- Wonderful. Onboard power/reboot switch with digital error display. Lots of current features and accessories. Memory -- Seems to be doing its job well. Storage -- Love both the SSD and the HDD, but the 120G SSD gets eaten up quickly. Should've gone one click larger. Video Card -- Thoroughly impressed. Puts off a ton of heat, which justifies the three onboard fans. Case -- BEST item of the build, by far. Thoughtful design, great cable management, lots of room. Don't skimp on case. Power Supply -- Love the ease of use. Wish I'd gone 850 in case I want to use SLI (just to be safe). Great extras and so easy. Don't skimp on this, either. Case and Power Supply, IMHO, should be the foundation. Optical Drive -- Doing just fine. I should've pulled one from an old machine though. Still, wonderful value. Operating System -- Leave it to Windows 7 (64 bit) to be the one nuisance in the build... (sigh)
I will update benchmarks when I can.