Well, after working some overtime and taking advantage of a few deals, I was able to throw together my first fully DIY gaming machine. As a couch gamer, I was happy to be able to come up with something that fit nicely in my TV stand. The cube shape and the square grill on the front are why I refer to this machine as a "Gaming Subwoofer".
After a long hiatus, I decided to get back into PC gaming. I've spent the past few months gathering parts whenever I saw them go on sale and happened to have some extra cash. Some of the first few parts I acquired got to go on an experimental test drive in my transitional FrankenPC (see Revived from the PC Graveyard!). The SSD, GPU, and PSU were all transferred from that machine.
Here are the specs of this new machine:
*Case: Thermaltake Core v21
Browsing in Microcenter one day a few months back, I saw their selection of a cube cases and pretty much immediately fell in love with the whole concept. So I may have been putting the cart before the horse, but I decided on this case first, and then started figuring out what I could fit in it. Turns out this thing has incredible amount of space inside and can accommodate pretty much any parts I could think of. I love the customizable configuration and the amazingly low price. Rather than having true cable management, it has what I like to call a "cable dungeon", a compartment under the motherboard tray where cables can be wadded up and crammed mostly out of sight, but not really organized.
*CPU: Intel Core i5-4590
I was originally considering an AMD FX-8350, but the motherboard options in mATX for AMD were not really doing it for me. I was pleasantly surprised when I found this i5 for about the same price! It's been preforming solidly and keeping comfortable temps with the stock cooler and the airflow of the case. It's a locked CPU, so overclocking isn't an option, but on the plus side I won't have to upgrade the cooling down the road.
*Mobo: ASRock H97M Pro4 mATX
A good match for the i5-4590, and has more features, slots, and headers than I'll probably ever use. I don't really feel like to I had to make any sacrifices by going mATX rather than ATX.
*RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws, 2x4GB
I've never had RAM that came with metallic heatsink fins like this. It looks pretty cool (something I never thought I'd say about RAM) and the extra rigidity afforded my the metal makes it much easier to push the RAM down into the slots.
*GPU, PSU, and Storage:
These were all transferred from the FrankenPC, so see my write-up on it for details . I should mention that now that I have a CPU that doesn't bottleneck the GPU, I can really enjoy the performance of it. As a comparison, the FrankenPC got 24-30 FPS in Guild Wars 2 on low-medium 1280x720. The Subwoofer, however, gets 70-74 FPS on High 1920x1080.
So far I'm pretty happy with how this build is working out. I think the end result surpasses any Steam Machine or other pre-assembled couch gaming PC I could've gotten at this price point. I also have some room for upgrades down the road, but it'll probably be a while before that's necessary since I'm planning on mostly playing games that are a few years old to take advantage of sales and keep hardware costs low. Overall, it's been a long ride, but a pretty rewarding experience.
Update: In 2019, I upgraded this machine to an AMD Radeon RX 380 GPU and added two more sticks of RAM to bring the total up to 16 GB.