First off, I would like to thank PCPartPicker as the information on the site was invaluable. This is my first build ever. I spent about 2 months learning about the components, developing ideas, and watching prices fluctuate.
I am currently working on my doctorate in a science field and I wanted a well balanced computer that could tackle the majority of tasks I do on a regular basis. I have a balance of work and play: Photoshop for microscope images or pictures taken with my Nikon DSLR, some light video editing, lots of movies/netflix, and some gaming (i.e., BF4). I was extremely nervous during the out of case build and was very excited to get the POST to work on the first shot... such a relief!!
Here is a summary & rationale for the component choices:
CPU: I have had better luck with Intel over AMD in the past. I went with a I5 4670K for the option to overclock. I have not tested my luck in the chip lottery yet. I plan to run everything at stock speed for the first week to ensure there are no stability issues and once I am happy with it, I plan to start overclocking.
CPU Cooler: I battled with the idea of going consumer water (i.e., Corsair H100i) over air. Ultimately, I was more comfortable with air and went with the Xigmatek Dark Knight II SD1283 Night Hawk due to favorable reviews and the color. Installing the brackets and mounting the cooler was a bit challenging at first. I think it is mounted a degree or two off center. Further, mounting the fan was a pain. The rubber gromets and fins were a real challenge to line everything up. I wish I had routed the 4 pin cable on the other side, but once it was mounted, I didn't want to try again. Performance-wise, I am happy with the cooler. I think idle and load temperatures are acceptable.
Motherboard: One of the easier choices I had to make. I went with Asus ROG for the quality components, overclock features, and aesthetics. So far it has performed beautifully. The only hiccup was having to load XMP profiles for the ram. The only minor annoyance I have with the board is that the LEDs and power/reset switches are constantly on as long as the PSU is delivering power. You have to disable power at the PSU or wall to turn off the LEDs.
Ram:I went with G.Skill Sniper Series 16GB DDR3 1866. So far the ram have performed extremely well; however, I had to load XMP profile to get the full speed unlocked.
Storage: 250GB Samsung 840 EVO is blazing fast. First SSD I've ever owned and I am amazed at the load times. Windows 8.1 boots in a matter of seconds. I also had a Western Digital 1TB drive from my last PC and I plan to use it as media drive.
Video Card: I agonized over this component more than any other in the build. With high end Maxwell 20nm probably coming out in Q3/Q4, I decided to go for a price-performance ratio I thought was acceptable. I also plan to SLI in the future, so I thought the 770 was a good bet. I went with Asus to match the motherboard and because I have read reviews that the temperatures can be up to 5C cooler than other non-reference boards, thus leaving room for further OC.
Case: What a wonderful purchase. I originally planned for a mid-tower (i.e., Phantom 410), but I wanted to avoid clearance issues and move lots of air. The case is amazing and has lots of space. The rubber gromets helped with decent cable management for a first time builder. The 30W fan controller also made for easier management. I failed to realize two of the pre-connected wires to the fan controller were extension cables, so I accidentally bought more than I needed. The SSD mount on the back was also a very cool feature.
Fans: Went with Corsair Air Series for high quality fans. Did two LEDS for a nice subtle red glow without it being over the top. Put the non-LED for top exhaust. All fans were easy to mount and are quiet as can be. The only complaint is that the cables are REALLY SHORT (especially so in the full tower). Thankfully I managed to get some cheap cable extensions and had 2 included with the fan controller in the case
Power Supply: Went with Corsair once again and I am very happy with it so far. As a first time builder, I did not want to deal with extra cables, so I opted for full modular. I also wanted headroom for overclocking and SLI in the future, so I went with the 860W. The individual cables are generally quite nice, but some were a bit stiff. The instructions were pretty minimal and didn't explain that some of the cables excluded optional pins, so I had to figure out why a pin was missing for a few of them. I have noticed some very minimal coil whine, which is apparently a common issue with this PSU. I have the case far enough away from me to make it a non-issue.
3D Mark score: everything stock so far.