This is the first build I've done since college - nearly 15 years ago. I've actually been using Macs exclusively for the longest time, including most recently a 27" iMac with a GTX 680MX and 3.4gHz i7. The problem was that I was gaming so much in Windows, I never booted back into OS X (which I still vastly prefer, even though Windows 10 is a MASSIVE improvement over 8.1). I decided that now was the time to just switch back to a custom build for gaming, and Mac for laptopping.
With all that in mind, I'm not a serious gamer. I tried to make this build budget-y without compromising too much. I wanted to be able to game at 1080p, 60fps for most games at high settings for the next few years. I mostly play Elite: Dangerous, so that was going to be my benchmark. On my iMac, I could play the game with consistently decent framerates at the display's native resolution (2560 x 1440) at medium settings (at best - some are low, some are off. Occasionally, framerates would drop or stutter - mostly on planets - and being in a station would cause the system fan to kick into annoyingly high gear).
I was able to get Windows 8.1 installed and upgraded to 10 after completing the build for the most part. I then installed Elite just to see what the game detected for optimal settings: Ultra across the board. Good enough! I played around with it just enough to see that, yes, it's smooth as butter no matter where I am.
I chose the GTX 970 despite misgivings due to its low power consumption and apparently quiet operation - those things held true. The fans are off unless playing a game, and when they're on, I can't hear them over the barely audible hiss of the CPU/case fans. My sole complaint is that when the card is under some load, I can hear an annoying hiss in my headphones when no audio is playing. I've confirmed the hiss is absent when the card isn't working hard. This is probably due to coil whine reported by others (which I can't actually perceive outside of the aforementioned headphone hiss).
I also chose the the EVGA GTX 970 SC because it was only $300 but more powerful than the reference card with OC headroom. I chose the i5 6600K for the same reason - I plan on OCing these in a year or two (or sooner) when I want a performance boost as games' requirements increase. I have not OC'd the RAM yet (which is rated for 3000mHz but runs at 2133mHz by the motherboard's default).
A word on the cooler: it's massive, and the instructions are frankly garbage. I only knew what to do by watching some videos. There are almost no words in the instructions; only rather vague pictures. They also do not reference socket 1151 - only 1150 (which is the same, but why expect people to know that). It also weighs a ton, but it doesn't quite block the RAM DIMMs and is whisper-quiet while cooling exceptionally well, as far as I can tell at this early stage.
I'm also impressed with the TP-Link wireless a/b/g/n card I bought. I downloaded Elite over Steam this morning at 12MB/sec. I have a high tier broadband connection, but that's probably double what I was getting over WiFi in my house before.
Last major hardware note: the EVGA 650W PSU I chose is fantastic. It just feels solidly built, and its fully modular cable design is lovely. I have loads of extra cables should I need them, but they stay in the box, because I don't! My only complaint is that the CPU power cable was almost too short to go through the case's cable management slots without impinging upon the RAM. Getting that plugged into the motherboard was one of the more frustrating parts of the build.
I haven't fiddled with the Gigabyte software - this motherboard is a "gaming" motherboard with a Z170 chipset, so it should be suitable for overclocking, and it has all the modern features I wanted, so it should be fine. Certainly no complaints thus far - the UEFI is so much better than the typical BIOS I have to mess with at work.
I'll add any other details as they come up!
Seems to cool my CPU pretty darn well, and it's whisper quiet. I subtracted a star because A) it's heavy as all get out, and B) I found it pretty tricky to get it on the CPU. The provided instructions didn't help much. When you're paranoid about screwing up and the instructions are lackluster (they called out the 1150 but not 1151 socket I was using - turns out the 1150 instructions work fine. Also, there weren't any words, just a mess of confusing pictures), the experience is less than great. Still, that's not enough to really detract from this item's overall quality.
We use hundreds of these at work, so I used one for this build. It's an SSD that isn't expensive but works SUPER well. What's not to like? My machine boots in seconds!
I was a little apprehensive about this case - it's not very new, I thought it'd be massive, and it's not very glamorous. Turns out, I didn't want glamorous, it doesn't matter that it isn't a newer design, and it's not super massive. It's exactly what it's billed to be.
I only have two complaints: I wish the bare metal in the case was painted black. I did not make a flashy build, but it just looks soooo much better black.
Second, there is a metal tab to delineate the inside edge of where the PSU should sit. It's just the sheet metal of the case bent up in a small rectangle. In my case, that wasn't bent at all perpendicular to the bottom of the case, so it angled inward; it required using pliers to straighten that before I could get the PSU in. Again, not a big deal.
What others said about half the vents not being filtered is true and strikes me as a bit silly, but I don't think it renders dust control "meaningless." The two main intake fans are filtered. The PSU intake (on the bottom of the case, no less, is filtered. That's pretty important and probably helps cut down on dust quite a bit.
Overall I'm super pleased! Nice and simple looking case that is entirely unoffensive.
Solid keyboard - like, literally solid. It's heavy and nicely constructed. The keys feel subtly textured. The clacking mechanical keys are kinda loud, but reassuring in a way. The backlight isn't obtrusive. Would buy again!