I've been playing console games all my life and after owning a PS3 since 2008, instead of upgrading to the PS4, I decided to build a relatively cheap gaming PC. Playing Lego as a kid is probably the closest I've ever come to building anything. Nevertheless, the process looked really cool and I wanted to try something new. The initial research was overwhelming (I can't just shove any CPU onto any motherboard? I have to know how much power my system uses? The CPU needs a cooler?)--all things that I never thought/knew about when buying a console or "building" a PC from Dell. Now that it's all built, I gotta say, the experience was really awesome and I learned a lot!
I didn't really have a budget for this build--I didn't want to my inexperienced hands to fry $2000 worth of parts but I wanted something with "reasonable" gaming performance so I don't go crawling back to PlayStation. In the end, I'm pretty satisfied with the $800 price tag for everything.
Case: I bought the BitFenix Prodigy ~2 weeks before any of my other parts. I just like how it looks. I just didn't realize how much it would limit my choice of motherboards. That might not have been a bad thing though. If I wasn't limited to mITX, I would've been completely lost from the beginning.
CPU/Motherboard: Since I don't plan on overclocking in the near future, I wanted to get an i5-4570. That, plus an H87 mobo, would've saved me $60-70. However, it was out of stock and $200 for the 4670k seemed like a pretty good deal, too. Plus, the H87 mobos stocked at MicroCenter didn't seem to have built-in WiFi, which is a must-have for me.
Memory: This one stick of 8GB was cheaper than 2x4GB. I always thought it was supposed to be the other way around. Perhaps (slightly) better performance with 2 running in parallel? It's not low-profile though. I hope that won't present a problem if I choose to install a liquid cooler later.
Storage: I wanted at least 1TB. As much as I would've preferred a small SSD for the OS, I didn't want to spend more than $100 on storage. This WD Black HDD seems pretty solid with good reviews. Startup and shutdown with Windows 8 are both fast and on par with my Macbook Air running OSX Lion (don't shoot me). I just forgot how noisy HDD's can be.
Video Card: I spent a disproportionate amount of time on this. Coming from consoles, I was hesistant to spend the same or even more money on just a video card than I would need to buy a PS3 or 360. Apples and oranges, I know, but the brain just doesn't care sometimes. Anyway, with that mentality and based on the tons of online GPU benchmarks and rankings I looked though, I essentially ruled out all NVIDIA cards and decided that the 7870 had a decent performance-to-price ratio, however nebulous that sounds. After awhile, I just had to pull the trigger since I can just look at the benchmarks forever. I haven't played any really demanding PC games yet (I'm starting with Portal 2 and The Stanley Parable). The most taxing I've tried is probably Tomb Raider, which runs 60+ min FPS on Ultra and 45 avg/35 min FPS on Ultimate (with the fancy hair sfx).
Power Supply: I actually ordered a Seasonic Gold PSU from Amazon since, despite never having heard of the brand, my research showed it had great reviews. I actually completed my build with it, finished installing the OS, but it pooped out on me while installing drivers! After that, the system would never stay on for longer than ~10 minutes. Sometimes it wouldn't even power on. Thinking it couldn't be my high-quality PSU, I thought I did something horribly wrong while installing the CPU and maybe it was overheating so I even reapplied thermal paste and reseated the cooler. Eventually, I wised up and purchased the Corsair to troubleshoot the PSU. Everything has been peachy since. Another plus: the Corsair is slightly smaller than the Seasonic, which helps significantly with this case. The Prodigy case has this stupid housing built around the PSU such that the cables need to make a sharp 90-degree turn before they can be connected. I think this is why they don't recommend modular PSU's with this case since the attachments effectively increase the size of the PSU, giving you less room to turn the cables.
Cable management: I tried my best with this. I didn't know that with other larger cases, you can route the cables behind the part that the mobo sits on? Those things look so clean that it doesn't even look like they have cables. Although I blame this case a little, I have to admit, I've seen photos of some ridiculously clean Prodigy setups. I guess you need buy or make your own sleeved cables?
Anyway, that's my long story. There was definitely frustration involved; at times, so much that I was tempted to crawl back to my professionally manufactured MacBook and PS3. But, I made it. And like I mentioned, I feel like I learned a lot and am definitely more prepared when I upgrade or start a new build.
Thanks for looking!