Upgrading from from a 5 year old rig with a i5-2500K and GTX560Ti, swapped to a GTX970 nearly a year ago. I didn't really build it myself, as I was waffling about in my inexperience while my dad helped clean up after my mess. Since then I've done a bit more research and earned my own money, so no help this time.
I wanted to go for something a little more high end as my last build was <$700 at the time( but ended up being more because I literally replaced everything except the CPU and case). However, being as cheap as I am, my goal was to build a high end rig as cheaply as possible. A very paradoxical goal and I admit I have clearly failed in keeping the cost down as much as I originally intended, but I definitely have skimped on the aesthetic portion of the build in favor of raw power and less burden on my college kid wallet.
CPU - After getting fed up with crappy laptop CPU's in college and feeling the age of my trust old Sandy Bridge I decided to go with a step above an i5 and go with an i7-6700K. Works great for games and render work loads, but not quite as friendly on the budget. However, this was something I was already dead set on getting. Overclocked to 4.6 GHz, ran solid after 12 hours of both AIDA64 and Prime95. Cinebench R15 Scores went from 900 to almost 1000 after OC. Haven't tried to push it further, and for now I don't intend to since it would probably result in minimal real performance gains
CPU Cooler- Cooler is the CM 212 EVO. Used it in the past, was cheap and did its job. It can be a bit tricky to install your first time around but afterwards its pretty easy. I originally wanted to go for an AIO cooler, but this was much cheaper. Runs cool enough for me on an overclock, although some people definitely prefer lower temps. Probably the ugliest thing in my build as the color doesn't match the black and red going on.
MOBO - Went with a motherboard I've never really seen anyone here use just because I saw it on sale for a pretty good price and has a lot of the features I was looking for. It has 3 m.2 slots, enough I/O, and I could overclock on it. My previous motherboard was an Asrock Z77 Pro-4, so I figured I could stick with Asrock again and go for a slightly nicer motherboard. Aesthetic isn't bad either.
RAM - Went with 32GB of RAM because some of my workloads could use a little bit more than 16GB(I blame my 50 tabs of Chrome I'm too lazy to close). I went with 2x16GB for future upgrades in case I ever needed more RAM. Really wanted to get some fast and shiny RAM but that wasn't very cost-friendly, especially for 16GB DIMMs and higher frequency. Dominator Platinums and TridentZ definitely look great but for the same config I could get double the amount of RAM at a lower frequency. I don't expect to really need the extra speed, so it shouldn't matter too much. Luckily DDR4 is cheap nowadays, and you can find deals pretty much every other day. Corsair Vengeance LPX just happened to pop up on sale when I was looking for RAM. Fit my motherboard's color, was slightly higher than base DDR4 frequencies, and was low profile. Good enough for me.
Storage - Current storage config is a myDigitalSSD Bulletproof 5 Eco 512GB SATA m.2 and 3TB Toshiba P300 7200 RPM HDD. Really like how m.2 saves on cables and space, but it is definitely a bit more expensive than regular 2.5" SSDs. I stuck with SATA-based m.2 because I would probably never notice the difference between it and NVMe, and NVMe would cost 3x as much. I went with the BP5e because it was the cheapest option for m.2 2280. As for hard drive storage, I originally had a Seagate Barracuda 3TB, but it was DOA. Luckily I found another sale on the 3TB Toshiba P300 for about the same price. HDD storage is dirt cheap if you don't use WD drives, and I was looking for plenty of storage. Planning to add more SSD storage later but that can take its time as I wait for the right price or my drives to fill up, whichever one happens first.
GPU - The graphics card was the last thing I got, and was a complete impulse buy as I originally intended to reuse my GTX 970. One day I just thought it would be pretty crazy if I got a 1080 for my new rig. Then 3 days of camping the 1080 trackers later I luckily managed to snag an Asus Strix off of Newegg. Unfortunately it's not the factory OC model but I'm just happy I got anything at all, because it sure felt like a paper launch. Was afraid that I might run into some of the QC issues that seemed to plague the first batch, but I guess they got it sorted before I got mine. Runs like a beast, boosts up to mid-1800MHz without touching any settings before it hits power limit. Definitely left a hole in my pocket, but I don't regret it. Probably could have saved a bit of money getting this later, but I guess this is what they call an early adopter's tax. Only had it for a day so I haven't had much time to play with it. So far ran Witcher 3 fully maxed settings, AA on and Hairworks set to Geralt only at 90-110 fps at 1080p, dipping to 80 occasionally. It did all of this at 67C and <50% fan speed. At the speed the fans were running, the RGB was more distracting than the fan noise.
PSU - I originally planned on going with a 600W 80+ Certified cheapo power supply that was only $30, but I decided that was a bit too sketchy for my build. Decided to go with a EVGA 550W 80+Gold because it would make a difference here in California as far as energy bill is concerned, and I am definitely not going to bother with the headache that is SLI. Also it was fully modular whereas the cheapo PSU was not. Kind of regret buying it, as 2 weeks later Amazon had the 650W model for $5 more. Just goes to show patience can save you a bit of money. A 550W PSU is more than enough, but I would probably be operating a bit more efficiently on the 650W. I was looking into getting custom sleeved cables but over $100 for a set is a bit steep for me.
Case - Not too crazy about the S340. I do think it's a good case, but it doesn't do it for me personally, besides the fact that it was cheap. Having used a $30 case (Thermaltake V3) in my previous build I can tell you the S340 is much better value for the money, but I wouldn't use it again. I'm not really a fan of the super boxy look, and the glossy finish on the front and sides is a major turn off as it attracts fingerprints like no other. It also scratches pretty easily. I think next time I'll go for a Define R5
Listed prices are for the tower only and are what I paid trying to pinch every single penny I could. The 1080 alone was almost half of the cost after factoring in tax and shipping. Nearly everything was bought over the course of ~2 weeks. All of the software/peripherals were leftovers from my previous build. Plan on eventually getting a nicer monitor, but right now you can't really get 4K + high refresh rates + G-sync, and nice monitors are damn expensive
TL;DR Tried to be cheap. Tossed that out the window with a 1080. Went as cheap as I could without being ghetto,so hopefully nothing will go wrong.
Edit: Bought a 27" QHD 144Hz G-Sync TN Panel Dell monitor. Would have liked 4K or IPS, but I cant really justify the extra several hundred dollars or potential QC issues that seem to be prevalent among high refresh rate IPS panels. Hopefully it gets here soon!