Having lived off laptops for seven years, a below-average HP desktop before that, and otherwise ok gaming consoles, I always wanted to experience building a PC instead of just buying one. I wanted a PC not only for gaming, but also for drawing, photo and video editing since that's something my wife's into. So, having just graduated community college with an AAS in computer programming and getting ready to continue on to a BAS, I decided to finally try my hand at joining the PC master race. My budget was around $1400, but I picked up some extras a little later on.
CPU: I don't have much experience with AMD, so for my first build, I just wanted something I'm used to. I wanted an i7 to handle any heavy work I could throw at it, but didn't want to splurge on the latest and greatest. This one seemed like a good compromise, being more recent but not blazing new.
CPU Cooler: After reading how bad it is to use the stock cooler, I was thinking of an AIO water cooler (like Corsair H110 or Kraken x61) but decided I didn't want to delve into water systems just yet, that and they're 2-3 times the cost of air coolers. I was going to use a Noctua NH-D14, but another user on the forums pointed me to this Phanteks one. I initially installed it up-down until I actually read some more about airflow, then got it situated correctly. Thankfully, it also comes with thermal paste, since I forgot to pick up a separate order of some. But it nicely keeps the CPU pretty chill.
Motherboard: Going with a slightly older i7, I needed a LGA1150 board. Reading reviews, this seemed like a pretty good one for the price. Amazon had some bad stories about needing to flash the BIOS on arrival, but mine from Newegg came in all up to date.
Memory: I wanted to start with a couple sticks of 8GB so I could later put in another couple 8GB without having to take out 4GB sticks. This brand was a little cheaper than the Crucial Ballistix Elite I was looking at.
Storage: I was going to start out simple with just a HDD. But reading more about the wonders of SSD, I took the forum user's advice and picked up a small one for the OS. I love it. I never knew Windows could load so fast. I like my HDD for how cheap it is (of course), but I find myself wanting to someday convert it all to SSD.
Video Card: Again, for my first build, I wanted something I'm used to. So I chose NVIDIA. I wanted something recent, but couldn't convince myself to break the bank for a GTX 980, so was looking at the 960. After forum's suggestion, and looking at reviews, it seemed like GTX 970 was a pretty great value (and ASUS STRIX possibly one of the best models, updated to MSI 100ME). Someday, it could be nice to SLI it with another 970, so I'll just have to save up. The card does sag a little on the motherboard, but from what I read, that's normal and nothing to worry about. Hope the internet is right!
Case: Was originally looking at Cooler Master Storm Stryker (White) ATX Full Tower Case, but it's a bit more expensive than I wanted. Thankfully, the forum helped point out this great Phanteks tower. Having never built a PC before, I'm used to the mid-size towers at work, school, and stores, so this was something else. But I really appreciate the thought and organization Phanteks put into this case. They made it relatively easy to get all the cords situated and neatly packed away, with lots of little options to go with it. 6 HDD trays? Going to have to RAID it someday.
Power Supply: I haven't read too much about what's good or bad about power supplies, so I was looking at general ratings and landed on EVGA 850W Gold 80+. Again, the forum helped point out this XFX one for half the price, and it works pretty well.
Optical Drive: I like my PCs to have a way to read media, and wanted to join the future where I could burn blu-rays if I wanted. This LG one had good ratings, so I picked it up. I forgot that the motherboard only came with 2 SATA cables, so I had to wait for another to come in. I also forgot that I need some sort of special software to read blu-rays. So hooking it up and finding Passkey Lite + CCCP, it works like a charm.
OS: I get Windows free from work and school, and I'm so used to it. I'm not learning Ubuntu anytime soon ;) But I really enjoy 8.1 and look forward to 10.
Wireless: Looked on Intel's site and found this thing for desktops. Comes with AC, Bluetooth, and WiDI, so I picked it up. It was easy to install to the motherboard, but needed to get updated drivers from Intel's site. Aside from that, WiDi was a headache to get it to work. After fiddling with driver updates and other stuff for a while, I finally got it to cast to my Fire TV Stick. But it sucks. It'll work ok for about 10 seconds then freeze for a couple minutes, then come back. Haven't figured out the problem yet, if it's that the Fire Stick sucks with Windows WiDi and I need a more dedicated device (like Roku 3 or Screenbeam Mini 2 or PTV), or if I'm doing something wrong Windows-side.
Monitor: Good sale on Newegg for 24". Not a whole lot of bells and whistles, but with DVI and HDMI, I'm set.
Case Fans: Eventually, I'd like to come back and build a second PC for myself so I can game with my wife more easily. I figured this first one will be hers, so I asked what color she'd like to see in the case. She said rainbow! I found some other rainbow ones on Amazon and Newegg, but they didn't seem to change color. Looking on Youtube, I came across these Coolmax Chameleons and thought they were perfect. These things are not seemingly sold anymore in many places. Some sites have 80mm ones, but I wanted the bigger 120mm ones. Finally, I found these on CableSalesUSA and immediately ordered. They look beautiful. They can't use the PWM without adapters, so for now they're just connected to the PSU.
Other: I'm glad all the instruction manuals worked out, happy I didn't short circuit the motherboard with static or by inserting pins with wrong polarity, and glad nothing's caught fire (yet)! I know that I need something to prop the case up off the carpet, so I'm looking into it. If anyone has suggestions for a small, stable stand that can withstand all the weight, I'm all eyes.
Great CPU with a lot of flexibility. It never skips a beat and always comes out on top.
Keeps my CPU nice and cool in mid-30 C's.
Lots of good options to play with. BIOS is so easy to use. Newegg nicely had it all up to date before shipping. Board is nicely organized, and instructions are easy to follow. Has room to expand your options and simply OC.
Cheap, fast DDR3. With 4 lanes on my motherboard, 2x8GB is perfect for upgrading with in the future.
Used for my OS, SSD is wonderful to have after coming off of HDDs. At 128GB, this is perfect for my Windows 8.1 OS with room to spare for programs. Though I keep games on an HDD until I can get a larger SSD.
Pretty standard 1TB drive. It works reliably enough, and loads up fast.
Love how it looks! It runs flawlessly.
Beautiful case with lots of options and great organization. Since it already comes with two fans, the airflow is pretty good out of the box. Phanteks makes it pretty easy to get things set up.
OEM drive comes with nothing, so need to pick up SATA separate. But works great! Also needs compatible software to play blu-rays.
Wireless Network Adapter
AC wifi and bluetooth work great. But widi is typically buggy. I hope someday widi/miracast can be as good as Airplay.
With VGA, DVI, and HDMI, and at 24" for $120, it's a deal that's hard to beat. And it tilts! No speakers though, not that I'd use them anyways.