So this actually ended up being my first build even though my sister only mentioned needing a new computer after she saw me planning my gaming build. I told her to let me build her one as her birthday gift so she could get a lot more out of her money. I'm just a poor college student so she did pay for all the parts, but I did the research and construction for her.
My sister is a teacher and all she really needs her computer for is surfing the web, email, and preparing lesson plans/classroom presentations. I wanted to build something that would be more than enough because I know she won't be replacing or upgrading for many years. Here's a rundown of my parts explanations/reviews:
CPU: I know this i5 is probably more than she needs, but like I said, I'm looking to the future on this one. I chose the 4590s for its price/performance ratio and high efficiency. There was no need for gaming capabilities so the Intel HD Graphics 4600 was a solid option to cut down on price. Also, overclocking isn't an option here so the stock cooler will perform just fine. There isn't much installed yet, but I'm very happy with how snappy the system feels with this processor.
Motherboard: I just picked the cheapest socket 1150 board with USB 3.0 headers, more than 2 SATA III ports, and decent reviews. I was a little disappointed to find out there was only one sys fan header which required me to plug another modular cable into the power supply just for one fan, but that's really my fault for not paying attention to the spec. Otherwise, I'm happy with the choice as it has all the necessary features and a nice UEFI Bios.
Memory: This was the cheapest 1600mhz CAS 9 RAM I could find and it also matched the black/white color scheme! I had a little trouble getting the XMP profile to load properly but the problem fixed itself with a few more resets.
Storage: I went with the classic SSD boot drive + data HD configuration. Both drives are as cheap as you can by at their specs and get solid reviews. I'm quite impressed with the PNY Optima. Booting into windows from a cold start takes about 10 seconds which is a good bit faster than my older Samsung 840 in my laptop.
Case: I liked the aesthetic of this case as well as its impressive feature set for a budget case (USB 3.0, removable HD bay, tool-less drive trays, dust filters, reusable PCI covers, sound damping material). I wouldn't suggest it for a gaming rig because there aren't too many cooling options, but it works perfectly for a high efficiency build like this. Cable management is possible, but honestly a bit harder than I expected in this case. There isn't much room behind the motherboard tray and I was worried the side panel was gonna bow out before I put it on. I did my best to get the cables to lay flat, but it didn't turn out as clean as I wanted.
Power Supply: This Corsair 80+ Gold Semi-Modular power supply went on sale just before she was ready to buy all her parts. The price made it a no brainer.
Optical Drive: What can I say, it plays/burns DVDs/CDs and it was cheap.
Operating System: I loaded Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry Pro which any student can get for free from the dreamspark website. As far as I can tell, it works perfectly as a desktop OS. It seems to be essentially the same as Windows 8.1 and I've had no compatibility issues so far.
Peripherals: She needed the whole shebang so I just got her the cheapest options with decent reviews. I knew she wouldn't care very much about high quality in these areas so I opted to save some money. The Gateway monitor is a solid 1080p screen. Very bright and decent colors for a TN panel. The keyboard and mouse work fine and I quite like the feel of the keys. The speakers are just okay but for the price I don't think you can get better. The speaker on the "subwoofer" is tiny and really can't handle the low end. I had to create a custom EQ in the sound properties to make these sound decent. If you're comfortable messing with the EQ, you can get a pretty good sound out of these little things. They are loud and the sub can at least fill out the mid-range pretty well. I wouldn't say these speakers have any kick, but they do have a little pop.
Overall, I'm happy with how this build came together, especially for my first go at it! I think I got my sister a really solid performer for a good price and I hope she's gonna love it. My only real hiccups were forgetting to turn the power supply on and figuring out how to properly load windows onto a bootable flash drive. Feel free to leave any comments/suggestions.