I designed this computer to be my home computer for programming, game development, and gaming. I'm also looking forward to using it for audio mixing and any other needs I have for a workstation. The goal was to achieve a modestly powerful build on a budget.
The kind of applications I will be using are: Microsoft Visual Studio, Autodesk 3DS, Unreal Engine 4, and Steam. I want to be able to play new games as well as old, and additionally I will have needs for virtualization -- including running Linux -- so I will need a virtual machine capable of running an older version of Windows, either XP or Windows 98, in order to play legacy games, and also capable of running other OSes for development. Additionally, I'll be using the computer for Python and Java development, so I'll need Eclipse, too.
The target operating system is Windows 10. The most affordable way to buy Windows 10 Pro for an OEM build was a $79.99 licensed OEM Windows 8 Professional download install with a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. This involves downloading the disc image and burning a DVD.
Then, for virtual machines, I will be using VMWare Player, the unlicensed, free version, and Microsoft's HyperV. VMWare Player is better suited for gaming because it has graphics drivers available and the screen renders without a delay. Hyper-V might give better performance overall, so it's probably the best choice for our Debian install.
For gaming, the best choice on this budget (less than $1k) was the GeForce GTX 750. The card from PNY has dual fans, one gigabyte of video memory, and supports other applications like OpenCL and CUDA which I might use when programming or running software. It was on sale for $90. The card is powerful enough to play newer games, not necessarily at 4K resolutions, but on moderately high settings. It might not be powerful enough for VR applications, however.
The processor I picked out was originally the Intel Core i3-4170, a 3.7GHz two-core processor that was released early this year and represents one of the last Haswell CPU's and last LGA 1150 processors, as well as one of the best in its price range. That processor is extremely affordable at < $100 and scores very well on PCMark.
Instead, in order to future-proof the machine I decided to purchase the Intel Core i5 6600K, a new Skylake chip also released this year that has four cores and very good performance. At $229, this was more affordable (and more available) than the Skylake Core i7, and also has lower cooling and power requirements. All of these reasons point to it being a more rational purchase and investment.
For storage, the Samsung SM951 was the most affordable PCI-e M.2 flash drive, and 128 GB seemed sufficient for the operating system alone and vital software to provide optimal boot performance and optimal performance during computer usage. In the best possible case, this solid state drive provides consecutive read speeds of 2 GB/s, although this is probably not a tangible case.
For storage of my documents and files, I have a 1 TB Hitachi hard drive that is several years old. It would be worth upgrading this drive to something quieter.
I am also using an existing case, the Apevia X-Gear Green mid tower case that used to house my old computer.
The power supply that I have picked out is gold certified for efficiency and very quiet. With 450W peak power, this provides enough power for our system which will mainly be our CPU, GPU, heatsink and fans, and hard drive drawing power.
Finally, the system does not have any internal optical drives, but I did use an external DVD writer to install the operating system initially and a high speed Internet connection to download updates and software packages. The LCD monitor used with the computer is an ASUS VH236H 23" monitor, again another computer part that was used in a previous build.
The eventual cost of all of this was eventually between $900 and $1000, something feasible on a programmer's salary, and the computer performs quite well. Initially running off of only the M.2 flash drive, the computer booted to the desktop from a cold start in 7s. All of my applications work well, including Visual Studio which is also installed on the flash drive for best performance. With more flash storage, it might have been feasible to install our 3D graphics programs on there as well. In order to have enough space for Videos, Music, Pictures, and Documents, I've migrated the Users folder from the C: drive (M.2 Flash) to the D: drive (HDD) by using the Windows recovery tool on the OS installation disc and creating a hard link from C:\Users to the other drive.
In terms of raw processing power, the Intel Skylake Core-i5 has performance just shy of last year's Core i7-4790, another four core processor that happens to support hyperthreading. In some instances of gaming, the i5 might have better performance, but this is sort of an immaterial comparison.
The computer runs great and works well for game development and for playing games like Starcraft 2, Metal Gear Solid 5, Mortal Kombat X, and the Witcher 3.
Works wonderfully. Temperatures between 30 - 74° C.
Important to follow all installation instructions, and follow instructions for the LGA 1150 socket, even though this CPU is an LGA 1151 socket. Although I thought this heatsink and fan was heavy and awkward at first, it might be the lightest cooling solution outside of an AIO liquid cooler.
Great for my needs. It's quiet, low energy, efficient and high performing.
Completely silent. Cool. And efficient.