My 6 year old laptop was struggling, so I decided to build a new computer. This is my first time building a PC.
The machine is used for photo, video, and music editing. I'm also a gamer, but up until now I've been doing all my gaming on consoles. I haven't played a game on a PC since 2001, with Max Payne 1, Halo: CE, Oni, etc. Before that...it was Mechwarrior 2 (...'dat nostalgia...Hnngg!!) Anyways, I DO have a huge backlog of games I need to play through though, so I might as well play them on this. Looks like I'm joining the PC Master Race...
I tried to squeeze as much computer as I could out of my dollars. Some parts were purchased during Black Friday weekend. Others were purchased before and after Christmas. Overall, it took about 1 month to acquire everything. The prices listed are the actual prices paid after tax/rebates/etc. Scroll down to the very bottom for a couple money-saving tips.
CPU: I picked up a 4770K from Micro Center for $280. Exactly 14 days after I bought it, the 4770K dropped down to $250 (just within Micro Centers 15 days price protection window), so they refunded me the difference and I got it for $250 :)
COOLER: I grabbed a Hyper 212 EVO, as what's the point of buying an unlocked processor and only using the stock cooling?
MOTHERBOARD: I went with the Asus Z87-A (bundled it with the 4770K at Micro Center for the discount). The Z87-A had all the features I need. Just like with the CPU, Micro Center ALSO dropped the price on the Z87-A fourteen days after I bought it, so I got another price protection refund for it as well as a new $10 rebate offer.
GPU: I originally bought a Radeon 7870. However, soon after I got it, the lightcoin mining craze exploded and people starting buying up AMD cards like crazy. So I flipped the 7870 on eBay for a $50 profit. I used that $50 to get my Sound Blaster Z, for free. After that I went with a GTX 770 as it seemed like the ideal card for some 1080p gaming. I picked up a PNY 770 OC for $280. It came with the Nvidia Holiday Bundle, and I sold those games for another $45, bringing the total cost down to $235.
SOUND CARD: A Sound Blaster Z, purchased for free . I already have some external soundcards (ODAC, FiiO E10) so I mainly wanted the Sound Blaster Z card for two things: 1) Its "SBX Pro" HRTF virtual surround sound DSP. I game with headphones and I am a huge fan/advocate of HRTF based surround sound DSPs. SBX Pro is one of the best ones out there right now. And.. 2) For its ASIO driver for low-latency music production/virtual instrument playback capabilities (I use some DAWs and programs like Kontakt, UVI workstation, etc.)
MEMORY: 16GB of some G.Skill memory to handle some photo/video editing. Got it for a nice price ($109). It's blue, and stands out a bit from the rest of the parts, but I'm fine with it.
STORAGE: I grabbed a WD Blue 1TB for $55, and a Samsung EVO 250GB SSD for $150. One is for storage, the other is for OS and programs (I'll let you figure out which is which ;)
POWER SUPPLY: An XFX 650W "semi-modular" PSU that I got during Black Friday weekend for $40. After using it, I would definitely recommend the modular/semi-modular route, as it's nice not having to wrestle a bunch of cables while building.
CASE: I went with a Fractal Midi R2. I fell in love with this case when I first laid eyes on it. Very sleek and elegant looking, unlike most cases which look like rejected Michael Bay Transformers. I love the windowed side panel on it. The day I started shopping for cases, this was one of the first ones I ran into - and it was also on sale for $50, so I bought it right then. It was a very easy case to build in - well thought-out, nicely designed, and feels very high quality. I highly recommend it (or its sibling, the Fractal R4).
NZXT HUE: I got this purely for the bling. What's a windowed case with no case lighting?? I like the easy front access to the controls and the multiple modes on it.
The building process went pretty smoothly, and the only problem I ran into was one of the IO shield tabs getting bent the wrong way. Setting the CPU cooler on top of the chip+thermal compound is probably the trickiest part, so take your time with that.
Overall, it was fun picking out parts, customizing things, and putting the pieces together. The machine runs fast and quiet (much quieter than I was expecting), and every game I've tried has been buttery smooth. Also...it looks pretty damn sexy for a metal box full of metal. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
1) Have a large clean workspace for building. Clear off a large table area so that you have plenty of room to work and spread parts out if needed.
2) Use PLENTY of light. Bring in some extra lights temporarily while building, and use some kind of flexible gooseneck-type light that you can aim INSIDE the case while working on it. I started by using a flashlight to look inside the case, but half-way through I switched to a gooseneck lamp and it made a world of difference.
3) I'd recommend spending a little more to try and get a modular or semi-modular PSU if you can. I'm glad I did, as it wound up being easy to work with. It also looks nice and clean, instead of looking like a snake-pit of cables inside the case.
4) Get a case that you like. Unless your doing some kind of "maximum value budget build", I wouldn't worry about saving $10-20 by getting one of the lower end generic cases. Cases aren't that expensive in the grand scheme of things, so don't be afraid to get one of the mid-tier priced cases as they're often better designed on the inside (better cable grommets, airflow options, etc.) and look better on the outside. And your going to have to look at it for a while, so...
SOME ADDITIONAL BUILD PLANNING/MONEY SAVING TIPS:
If you want to save some money, instead of buying everything all-at-once spread out your part purchases over a short period in order to pick things up as they go on sale. Don't spread them out TOO far though, as you don't want to be stuck with an incompatible build and be outside of any return windows/rebate windows etc. Buying parts during holiday sales (Black Friday especially) helps out here, as you get more deals popping up closer together.
Try to research and plan your parts out in advance. That way you can be ready for hot deals when they pop up. Some deals go FAST, and you want to be ready to pounce on them as they come up - instead of scrambling to try and Google/research those on-sale-parts in realtime before the deal expires (happened to me a few times). Tom's Hardware's "Best [PART] of the Month" articles were very helpful for researching and picking out parts. They present components in very helpful tiers of price/performance. Also pay attention to some of the parts that other builders repeatedly buy, as there's probably a reason for that ;) <- Sorting by "most reviewed" helps reveal those parts.
Once you've decided on some things like your CPU and GPU, you can set up some price/deal alerts on the parts you want (e.g. "4770K", "GTX 770", "EVO 250GB", etc.). That way you can sit back and pick them off as they came up on sale. I set up some deal alerts on slickdeals. Also, DO check reddit's r/buildapcsales often, as there are some great deals on there. And, of course, DO use THIS site (PCpartpicker) to help track prices on your parts, check compatibilities, and just overall organize your build. PCpartpicker was immensely helpful in organizing and planning everything out.