After I committed to selling my beloved 2011 27" iMac that I primarily used for photo/video editing, I knew I didn't want to leave Apple's OS X behind, but I also wanted a machine that had a clean look and possessed the raw power to last me another 5+ years of service.
I initially began looking at mATX platforms with the Z710 chipset, but had a difficult time finding all the features I wanted (Thunderbolt interfaces, x4 m.2 slot with NVMe support) without paying for extras like built-in WiFi, in a package that was somewhat supported amongst the Hackintosh community. I even picked up a Z170 board and i7-6700K for a couple weeks before deciding that an x99 platform would serve me better with its quad-channel RAM, extra PCI-e lanes, and 6+ core CPU support. Most of my editing work is done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, where some tasks are bound by the maximum clock speed of one or two cores, while other tasks benefit more by having more cores. Enter the i7-5820K.
With 6-cores, hyper-threading, and a naturally cool operating temperature, I found almost unanimous reports of users achieving 4.4Ghz or higher with all cores driven. Right now I'm running rock solid at 4.5Ghz on 1.275v. The Kraken X61 keeps the CPU below ~60 degrees during heavy rendering, and under 71 degrees during FPU intensive stress tests.
Status as of 8 July 2016: The only component left to purchase is custom cables from CableMods, although my EVGA 1070 SC and second 32GB RAM kit are still in shipping. I'll have photos posted as soon as those parts come in and get installed. Until then, I'm borrowing the EVGA GTX 970 SC+ from my HTPC for display output.
UPDATE - 16 Jul 2016 After another long weekend troubleshooting the installer, I FINALLY have OSX 10.10.5 (Yosemite) up and running on the machine! Graphics, CPU, and USB3 are working well, but she still needs some work to fix audio, iCloud, and iMessage functions. More to come!
UPDATE - 25 Oct 2016 After nearly 3 months in queue, I finally received my GTX 1080 through EVGA's Step-up program! New pics coming soon.
After initially purchasing a Skylake 6700K and Z170 motherboard, I realized that the 5820K on the x99 platform would give me extra cores for my editing work, and also allowing me to overclock quite a bit so I wouldn't be giving up (much) clock speed from the 6700K. I'm so glad I went this route, and have already realized the time I've saved when processing large batches of photos.
I already had the Kraken x31 on the CPU in my HTPC, so I pretty much knew what I was getting into with the x61. I like the functionality of the CAM software, although it can be buggy at times. It's getting better and maturing nicely with each update NZXT released. I really like the extra length rubber lines that come on NZXT's coolers. One of the 140mm fans that came with my cooler has a buzzing sound when pushed between 1900 and 2000 rpm, but I never really have a need to push the fans that high. If anything it will be my excuse to upgrade to Noctua fans in the future.
I did a lot of research before selecting an x99 motherboard. Asus seems to product top notch products, and don't strip off every useful feature for their "entry" level boards. This x99-A II had everything I was looking for, and supposedly should be compatible with Mac OS when I decide to load it on this machine. A nice clean black PCB and white LED highlights polish off an already good looking and feature packed board.
Not much to say here. I wanted DDR4 with a native 2400Mhz speed for interoperability with OSX. Other than that, color and value were the most important aspects. I don't particularly care to see the yellow-ish edges of the PCBs on this RAM, but the white heatsinks definitely look good, and at $125 for 32GB from a trusted OE supplier who manufactures their own chips, you can't really go wrong.
Picked this up to be my primary drive for OSX. With the same tech found in the 840 series, there's not much to complain about here, especially as prices keep dropping.
I've had my eye on these since they were first released and finally got to pull the trigger with this new build. It doesn't improve much on boot times since most of that time is spent in POST, but loading my heavy apps like Lightroom and Photoshop are nearly instant. Some quick benchmarks show the drive's sequential reads at over 2,400MB/s and sequential writes at over 1,500MB/s.
I use two of these drives in a RAID 0 configuration for storing games. They're not the fastest drives, but they perform well enough in a striped setup, and offer plenty of storage for an application where reliability isn't important but better than average speed is appreciated.
I use one of these drives as my bulk storage for photos, movies and downloads. For a 5,400rpm drive, it's pretty quick, and being a WD Red, I can count on it to be energy efficient and reliable. I even have 5 more of these same drives installed in my Drobo for backup purposes.
I love Noctua fans. It's difficult to objectively compare fans, but once you have them installed and running in your own rig, it becomes pretty easy to spot a quality part from a budget one. I used these to replace the NZXT fans that came on my X61 AIO cooler because the NZXT fans had a pretty good hum and even a bit of a rattle above 80% speed. I'm glad Noctua offered these industrial fans in black, and the optional white corner bumpers make them blend perfectly with my white and black build!
At full tilt, these fans easily move some air through the radiator, and the only audible sound is the white noise of air rushing out of the case. This is one of the few PC components where you can be sure you're getting a premium product for the price you pay.