AKA: Phanteks Convection SmartOven, Tommy Boy, Mount Doom
This was my first PC build, and I think I hit all the usual points of building a PC except cutting my hand which almost happened. Currently I use this PC for gaming and school, but eventually I want to add a home theater quality screen and sound system and fix the cooling problem. I absolutely could not have gotten this to work without PCPartPicker, so thank you all so much for everything. In an attempt to pay it forward, I took a ton of pictures of my build experience. Hopefully someone will find it as useful as I did.
Because I wanted plenty of overhead for games, I started with a broad budget of $1000 to $1500, which as you all probably know was always going to be slightly over $1500. I tried to be smart and buy during Black Friday, which helped a lot. What got me was the GPU price explosion when RTX suddenly dropped in October. I also invested a little more in some quality fans which I don't regret.
CPU and Motherboard
After some obvious but effective advice from the forum, I started the plan with reading manufacturer reviews for motherboards. "Figure out what you want and find what has it." Obvious, but surprisingly effective. I finally settled on the Asus Z370-I, but it went out of stock. Rather than put off building and risk running out the return window, I spent a little more and bought the Asus ROG STRIX Z390-I. I went with the Intel Core i5-8600K for user-friendliness, versatility, and good value for performance. I could've saved a little by going with AMD, but as a first-time builder, I went with what I could find more information about.
I was tired of watching prices climb higher and higher, so I picked the Asus GeForce RTX 2070 purely for its cooling abilities which Asus claims, "improves cooling for Multi-Card configurations and for toaster ovens with limited airflow" (my emphasis). It gets hot while live-streaming but hasn't throttled yet.
Because I chose to build in a tiny box, my options for CPU coolers were severely limited. After calling or emailing most of the small-form-factor cooler manufacturers, I bought the Cryorig C7. I waited a few months before posting the build to see how it handled. It works adequately for now. The real problem is heat buildup in the case. With the GPU venting its heat out and two Noctua NF-A14s helping circulation, it should be fine, but I might experiment with the Noctua NF-FC1 controller or an AIO set to outtake in the future.
Memory and Storage
I went for realistic and reliable for RAM and storage. Black Friday gave me a good deal on both the beautiful Corsair Vengeance RGB 2 x 8 GB DDR4-3000 and the space-saving Western Digital Blue 1 TB M.2 SSD.
Case and Power Supply
Believe it or not, the plan began with a ATX-mid tower that supported all the cooling I could ever need. I switched to an ITX because I kept blowing the budget with overpowered components. How I forced myself to think small was to literally build small. And, it worked initially. The Phanteks ENTHOO EVOLV SHIFT Mini ITX Tower is stunningly beautiful, but it has some problems. Fortunately, I have small hands, good tools, and an unofficial background in cable management, so building in the tight space wasn't difficult. However, the case is tightly packed and limits airflow. When I add a second screen capable of using this GPU's power, I predict the heat buildup will only get worse. Like CPU coolers, there are only a few power supplies that fit this case. The Corsair SF 600 W 80+ Gold Certified SFX turned out to be my only DOA component, but I was able to RMA quickly.
I psyched myself out researching every little thing that could go wrong when building a PC. My advice for a first-time builder is to read your manuals and watch some videos on YouTube of speed building. My favorites are Gamers Nexus and JayzTwoCents. You won't be building as fast as they can, but it'll boost your confidence and help you realize that you don't need kid gloves or gram measurements of thermal paste. After getting over the fear of messing up, and an RMA, and fighting with GPU cables, watching everything power up was magic.