I'll put my tl;dr at the beginning:
tl;dr New computer to replace both my wife's laptop and my laptop (each 6-year-old macbook pros). Want this to last several years and to be used for Oculus Rift Gaming come next year. All prices are after tax and rebate. Will be playing Elite:Dangerous, Skyrim (lots of mods), Assassin's Creed, Age of Empires HD (nostalgia from my childhood), Star Wars: Battlefront, and a couple of other games.
Full Description So this story starts a little over a year ago when one of my friends showed me a game called Elite:Dangerous. Its an excellent space-flight sim and I got completely obsessed with it but didn't have a computer capable of running it. For over a year I've been learning about building my own PC and I even built my work computer (my other completed build) in June, but until now I've never had a real gaming PC.
About a month ago, my wife's computer crapped out and wouldn't show any of her photos anymore. We knew it was coming at some point but it still kinda sucked, so she gave me the approval to start buying parts for this new desktop that would become our home computer as well as my gaming computer. I started buying parts and looking for sales and over the course of about three weeks was able to pick up everything. I put it all together Wednesday night, overclocked the CPU Thursday night, and overclocked the GPU this morning, so I think it is finally ready to share.
This computer is definitely going to turn into my hobby. Since I built my work computer in June, I've been hooked. I'm already planning how to improve my cable management, what color custom cables I want, how to paint my parts to create a better theme, and what type of watercooling I eventually want to get into.
CPU: As I mentioned above, my wife and I intend for this computer to last us several years (5+). Originally we had thought about getting the i5-6600k, but we had a couple of reasons for dropping the extra $110 to get the i7-6700k. First, she wants to delve into content creation as a side project. Second, I might bring home some of my work to do on this computer. I'm a graduate student in Chemical Engineering and have recently been doing a lot of Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy and image deconvolution, really processor intensive stuff, so the extra horse-power would help with that. Third, although games right now don't use more than 4 cores, we want this computer to last several years, so who knows how many cores/threads will be standard in 3+ years time. Overclocking this CPU was great. I followed Overclock.net's Skylake guide and was able to get it to 4.7 GHz at 1.35 Volts stable with an overnight x264 benchmark (16 threads, normal priority) looped. It was pretty close to doing 4.8 GHz, but it needed a little more than 1.4 Votls, and I didn't want to go over 1.4 Volts at all. Got this through Microcenter cheap,
CoolerThe H100iGTX does a great job of keeping everything cool (21 idle and 66 load). The temps are probably helped somewhat by the cold Minnesota winters (my house is usually 19-20 ambient temp). However, this thing is not exactly quiet and I had a bunch of issues with the drivers for Corsair Link at first. I ended up finding a driver for it in my C:/Program Files/SiLabs folder (which I think is downloaded with the Corsair Link Software), but it took me a good hour of googling to figure that one out. Corsair Link as a program also isn't great, so I mostly stay away from that entirely. On the whole I would say it gets the job done but its not perfect.
Motherboard The Mobo in my work computer is an MSI Z97 Gaming 5, and although it gets the job done, I hate the Killer Networking in it. I've had so many issues with the drivers for that and using Windows10. So for this build I specifically wanted something with intel networking. This board fit the bill and it actually came down to about $135 at microcenter when paired with the CPU. I would say its pretty nice (especially for the price), but the Red LEDs are already starting to get to me, so I might have to turn those off.
RAM Found a good deal on a good kit through Newegg. Nothing special here
SSD Really wanted the M.2 Drive and definitely wanted a 500GB SSD so I could have the OS, all of our music, most of my wife's photos, and a couple of my games without worrying about size. The M.2 is nice for not requiring extra cables.
HDD I originally wasn't even going to include an HDD and just go with the 500GB SSD, but this was on sale for $60 at Microcenter when I bought my CPU and Mobo. I chose this over the cheaper Caviar Blue for the extra warranty. Performance doesn't mean much to me since I have the 500 GB SSD.
GPU This was a tough decision. The whole point of the gaming build was to play Oculus Rift (Specifically Elite:Dangerous), so I knew I needed a 970 or better. I chose NVIDIA specifically because AMD has had a lot of known driver issues with Elite:Dangerous (the game I want to play most), so I wanted something that would actually work for my situation. Then I decided I didn't want the Oculus Minimum specs, so I was deciding between the 980 and 980ti. I ended up going with this card because I found it at such a great price with a mousepad and Assassin's Creed included. I'm pretty happy with it so far. I will probably end up getting a new card in 2 or 3 years depending on the games I play and the price of new cards.
After a week or two with this card, it is excellent. It plays all of the games that I'm interested in at 60+ fps at Ultra settings (actually AC:Syndicate is only Very High settings, but I rarely play that). I was able to heavily mod Skyrim with the addition of an ENB (albeit a lighter ENB) and still get 50+ fps at 1440p. Would highly recommend this card for 1080p or 1440p gaming.
Case Since this computer is going to become my hobby and I really really want to get into watercooling (only limited by budget at the moment), I wanted a case that would support watercooling. The Define S has such good regards in that sense and looks pretty good, so I sprung for it. Cable management is actually pretty good as there's a lot of space behind the back panel for everything.
PSU In my office computer build I put in a CX 430M because I didn't know any better at the time, but I vowed not to do the same for this build. This PSU has such a good review on JonnyGuru and I found it for $60 after MIR and couldn't resist. It fits what I need perfectly, but probably won't allow me to do any SLI. The only problem I have with this PSU is that the VGA cables are each a 6+2pin daisy-chained to a 6-pin. My 980 requires 2x 8pins, so I'm currently using the adapter that came with my GPU to go from that daisy-chained 6-pin to an 8pin. Does anyone know if this is safe to do? Technically it seems fine as the PSU is completely capable of the wattage and amperage of my system, but I can use two different VGA cables (the 6+2pin from each) if this is unsafe or bad for the card.
OS Got this through my university (DreamSpark Account). Its actually an Education Edition which is built on the enterprise edition, but it works basically the same as the home or pro editions.
Wifi Adapter The house that my wife and I just bought doesn't have ANY ethernet jacks in it at all and the wiring is old enough that it doesn't support a stable powerline connection, which leaves only wireless for connectivity. However, we own a TP-Link Archer C7 1750AC and this intel card gets us 125 Mb/s download. We only pay for 105 Mb/s and although I know the 125 isn't realistic in real-world-scenarios it shows how well the adapter actually works. Always have full signal strength on my 5GHz band even though I'm on the other side of the house (and a different floor). The adapter isn't shown in the photos because I read reviews that you needed to install the software before the adapter itself. So I added it after getting Windows loaded.
Monitor With the purchase of a 980, I felt like I couldn't buy a 1080p monitor, so I got this instead. My wife had the requirement that it be less than 25" (weird, but whatever) and I wanted something that was 1440p and IPS. On PCPP, there are 4 monitors that fit that bill and this one (one of those four) went on sale for 25% off thru newegg. I snagged it just before they changed the price again (it was only active for about 3 hours). The stand on this monitor sucks, its super wobbly (but so is the table its on), but the screen itself is awesome and for $200 you have to compromise somewhere.
Keyboard+Mouse This is a placeholder until my wife and I can agree on which type of keyboard and mouse to get. We've both agreed to Cherry MX Browns, but the design is still up in the air.
Extras Got two free games with this build (GPU and M.2 drive), so I ended up giving my assassin's creed code to my friend and I'm going to use the bullet/blades code (Rainbow 6 or Assassin's Creed thru NVIDIA) for myself.
Thanks for reading, feel free to ask me any questions or leave feedback.
This CPU is excellent. It obviously does every task I give it very well. I was able to overclock it to 4.7 GHz @ 1.35 Volts with an overnight-stable stress test. I intend to use this processor for years to come, so I wanted the best that I could get right now (without going into X99).
This cooler works very well but it has a couple of issues. The pump is surprisingly loud and due to the way the pump operates, the quiet mode is actually more annoying than the performance mode due to the pitch of the noise it creates. I also had trouble getting corsair link to recognize this. It ended up being a driver issue, but there really should have been better instruction on how to install the software and get everything up and running.
I'm only taking off one star because despite the slightly annoying noise (not noticeable unless I listen for it) and the initial issues with the software, this cooler keeps my cpu at ~65 C even under full load at 1.35 volts.
So far, this board has been great. Aesthetics are not quite what I wanted as there's a lot of different blacks and grays and reds and whites, and I really want to figure out how to stop the "glowing" or "breathing" of the LEDs on it, but it performs excellent.
I haven't really used any of the built-in features, but I bought it for cheaper than the Z170-A, so I really can't complain. Love the I/O options on the back.
Ram is Ram is Ram. Haven't tried overclocking, although I'm sure I probably could based on other reviews. I'm actually not a fan of the heat spreader look, but it was the cheapest at the time.
This SSD is awesome. I know that the 850 can't take advantage of the full read/write speed of an M.2, but I just like the fact that it doesn't have any wires! My OS boots in seconds and Skyrim loads new regions in less time than I can read the little blurbs. Would highly recommend this, as 500GB is plenty of space for primary files, games, OS, etc. and it's getting pretty cheap.
I bought this over the Blue simply for the extended warranty. Not much else to say about it, since people either have one that fails or works, and mine is working.
This card is awesome. I originally was worried that I wouldn't be able to play Skyrim at 1440p with ENBs, but this card performs!! 50+ FPS in Skyrim with all my mods even outdoors and in cities, and all my other games are well over 60 fps @ 1440p. I was able to overclock it a little bit, even more than the factory settings without changing the power target or the voltage.
This is a pretty large case, which kinda sucks sitting on my desk, but I've really been wanting to get into watercooling and this case will provide that opportunity for me. I wish I had waited about a week though since it dropped in price.
Docking a star for the large footprint. I would've preferred something taller and not as long.
This PSU has such a good rating from the pros that I couldn't not get it. The only thing I wish they had done differently was make each of the VGA cables 2x 6+2 rather than 6+2 and 6pin. Oh well.
Wireless Network Adapter
This adapter is awesome. Gets me 120 Mb/s when I pay for 105Mb/s through my entire house (different floor, other side of the house). Ping is in the 30ms range, which is a little high, but I can live with that.
BTW, the bluetooth polarity on the cable seems to now be labeled correctly (something earlier reviews had said was an issue).
This monitor is beautiful. For an $200, a 1440p 60Hz IPS monitor? The only issue with it (and it is an issue) is that the stand sucks. Its very wobbly (even when I type) and there isn't really an option for VESA mounting, you have to jerry-rig it up for mounting. But for $200 where I grabbed it, its awesome.
I would hesitate to buy this at $340 (which is what it went up to after Newegg had a sale one it) due to the stand issues, but if you can find it for cheap, get it. The panel itself is awesome.
This is a placeholder KB/M, but it works fine, so I won't dock it any stars.