So I lost my PC-building virginity, and I'm very pleased with myself. I'm a Product Design student in the UK, and wanted to build a CAD and gaming machine after muddling along with just an iPad for a while.
Spent more money than I expected, spent much more time than I expected, but it's done now and I reckon I've got a very good deal in the most part. Also much better value for money and greater future-proof-ness than I'd have with a store-bought system, laptop, or mac. But you knew that--that's what this website's for!
CPU - Last one in stock, saved around £25. 8 virtual cores, which will speed up CAD and rendering no end.
COOLER - Highly recommended all over the interwebs, fair price too. Only just fits inside the case, around 3mm clearance ha.
MOBO - Loads of USB sockets, CrossFire and SLI support. Nice and shiny.
RAM - Struggled to choose between HyperX Beast, Sniper, Ripjaws X, and Vengeance Pro. Decided with the recommendation of a more experienced friend, and fair value.
STORAGE - SSD to store OS, programs and games; HDD for backup, photos, etc etc. Kingston are highly rated, and I splashed out a little on getting a reliable and well-regarded hard drive for obvious reasons.
GRAPHICS - Took a while to choose between HD7770 and GTX650, but much time on TomsHardware swayed me towards the Asus card. This is the dual-fan model and it looks really snazzy. Shame it has to go upside down then.
CASE - Comes with loads of features for the price, including water cooling support, three case fans, tool-less drive installation, plenty cable ties and screws, 2xUSB3.0's, fan speed controller AND a nice big window which constitutes the £8 upgrade from the basic Z12 model.
PSU - I'll be honest, I was getting a bit bored with choosing parts by this point, so I used the estimated wattage and upped it by around 30%, then chose the best-rated PSU and opted for semi-modular.
OPTICAL DRIVE - The one that everyone has. Nothing special, won't use it much except to load my old copy of Age of Empires II
OS - Don't like Win8, so obviously Win7 was the way to go. I also didn't like the idea of paying ~£100 for a non-physical item, so I found a slightly dodgy-looking site (they only sold copies of Windows OS and garden tools for some reason) where I paid £37 via PayPal for added security. Turns out they're legit (I think) and the OS install disk arrived within 48 hours.
MONITOR - Wanted a single monitor setup for now. 24" and >£130 were my limitations. Well endorsed, and very fast 2ms response time.
KEYBOARD - Seems you have to pay a premium for blinky lights, so avoided. 20 programmable keys, and comes with rubbery replacement keys for gaming. Shiny and black, matches the monitor. £18 sounds like a pretty fair deal.
MOUSE - Braided cable, 8 buttons, custom DPI, nice feel, and a nice feature where you can alter the weight.
I bought the motherboard and case first off eBuyer, then the processor and fan in a hurry when I realised they were both the last of their model in stock. As soon as I bought them, the prices jumped after restocking so I got a good deal.
Everything else, with the exception of the Windows disk, I got from Amazon with a free trial of Prime. Next day delivery for free, no automatic subscription after the trial, and free streaming during--yes please!
The lady at the university mailroom kept looking at me funny as I came and went--collecting my various boxes--and stopped bothering to ask for ID.
All in all, pretty glitch-free. Especially for my first build ever.
Points to note:
The Z12 front panel isn't that easy to remove, but alright if you have some pliers handy.
The supplied case fan at the back has a power cable which is hard to hide, so I didn't bother.
Sometimes you just have to guess which size screw to use as they are all of a similar diameter.
You will likely worry yourself to death about how to apply the thermal compound, even after consulting your old buddy, the internet. Opinions on this in particular vary more than political views, and there is no right or wrong answer. I was very pleased with my credit card application method (see photos).
The CPU cooler was a b*tch to screw in. Sitting on top of the CPU, I wasn't keen to just force it into place.
The cooler also blocks the RAM slot #4, but I'm not planning to use that just yet.
The various manuals weren't very clear at all about which RAM slots I should use when installing two sticks.
NOBODY TOLD ME to put in the I/O shield thing BEFORE installing the motherboard, RAM, graphics card, CPU and cooler! That all had to be unscrewed and manoeuvred so I could snap it in.
Cable management is not a fun job.
Electrical tape and cable ties are your friends.
Temperature ratings and benchmark results coming soon!
P.S; If anyone has a name for my new PC, please let me know and if I like it I'll send you some stickers, or a Twix or something. Leave a comment!