This was my first build. I started out by heavily researching the specifications of custom PC builder offerings and then finally decided to just order the parts myself.
I'm a web developer with a little background in multimedia and wanted a quiet machine that would allow me run all (18) applications in Adobe's Creative Suite 6 Master Collection with ease, including Premiere Pro. I was stunned at the high quality and packaging of the parts I ordered, as well as the attention being paid now by manufacturers to help keep PCs quiet.
Besides pcpartpicker, I relied heavily on guidance given online by two companies. Newegg has a series of three videos on Youtube on how to build a PC which I viewed extensively as I was building mine. The other company was custom pc-maker, Puget Systems, which has a "Serenity Pro" model that I used as the basis for my machine. They have published a number of articles about its components that I referred to many times. While it's true I saved about $1000 building it myself, on a strict cost-benefit basis, I would have been better off having them build the system, given all the hours I spent researching and putting it together. Comparing Puget's price against the big box makers revealed no cost difference at all, so if you're not an obsessive control freak that enjoys this stuff, I would have no trouble recommending them for your next PC.
The hardest part of the build was attaching the giant Noctua D15 CPU Cooler to the CPU. After sticking the thermal paste on to the Intel 4790K and placing the mounting kit on top of it, there are two screws which have to be "grabbed" under tension between the tall, delicate (and sharp) fins of the cooler. I appreciated the screw driver which Noctua included, but there is no way to generate the necessary downforce (felt like 40-50 lbs.) and get the screw to catch without a larger-handled screwdriver. Starting on one side of the CPU, I made a few revolutions of the screw, then after a few revolutions on the other side, the first side popped out (!) and I had to redo it. Not what you want happening around the delicate CPU when the thermal paste is starting to dry! Noctua's instructions gave no guidance at all around this issue. I hope they make it easier in the future.
One nice thing about the case is it comes with a 3-speed fan controller, if you plug the fans into the controller and not to the motherboard. However, after starting it up and seeing all the options available within the BIOS and within ASUS' AI Suite for setting up and controlling fan speeds, I decided to plug the fans into the board (1 front, 1 rear, 1 bottom, and 2 for the CPU Cooler). However, one problem remaining is that ASUS' software only works if you are set up as an administrator in Windows. It appears there may be a way to run as a standard (and safer) user in Windows and give elevated privileges to the ASUS programs.
After noticing an ever-so-small-but-noticeable noise generated by the stock chassis fans (Silent Series R2), I replaced them with two Noctua NF-A14 ULN fans which are very quiet, indeed. If I place my ear two inches behind the rear fan, I can hear the air moving through, but not the fan itself.
One of the main reason for getting the ZXR sound card was to allow the recording of an analog signal into the machine with a decent sound/noise ratio. I was a little disappointed there aren't more offerings out there for PCI sound cards. I liked my old Echo Mia card, but Echo doesn't make it anymore.
I still have to get a mouse, keyboard, two new monitors, as well as hook it up to my Mackie audio monitors, and place it all on a new desk. I hope to run some benchmarks and once I get comfortable knowing what is "normal", will try to overclock as well.