After deciding (and getting permission from my wife) I wanted some sort of gaming setup in the living room. I initially thought of buying a PS4 but the price of games and lack of upgradability got me thinking about building a specific gaming rig. I had built computers in the past but after moving to laptops and then becoming more Apple centric the last build was at least ten years ago. Obviously things have moved quite a bit since then so it was time for research.
The setup is attached to my AV setup (Sony STR DN1050) which in turn goes into my 32" HDTV. I didn't want anything too obtrusive or ugly in the living room so case choice was important to me. Originally I had intended to utilise a space on a shelving unit next to my TV and went for a Bitfenix Phenom M case as according to their website it had the perfect dimensions to fit. Unfortunately their website was wrong, something that I only found out after purchasing said case and discovering that it didn't fit on the shelf. That was annoying, but at least the site I purchased it from refunded me without any hassle. After more research I decided to go for the NZXT S340, as it is slim enough to sit behind our sofa. It also seemed to get really good reviews. I'm going to run through all my component choice in due course so more that case later.
The initial budget was meant to be the equivalent of a decent PS4 bundle, which is around 550€ over here in Germany (I'm a Brit living in Deutschland). Inevitably budget stretch crept in and I actually spent 887.32€, although 91.89€ of that was on the operating software. My wife wasn't so pleased about the budget creep! With the exception of the GPU all the components are brand new. I did decide to go to eBay for the GPU as I figured these are the most frequently upgraded component and therefore potential bargains are to be had. In retrospect I probably could have got more from eBay.
So, the components:
CPU: I wanted to get into the Intel CPU family so I have options for future upgrades. I'm not looking to overclock as this machine is meant to sit quietly behind the sofa just doing its job. I therefore went for what I think currently represents best value for money of the locked i5 CPUs. My last PC build was AMD (I can't remember the chip) but the performance of the i5 4460 is great, certainly no complaints from me.
Motherboard: I went with Micro ATX because I was originally planning to use the Bitfenx Phenom M case. As explained earlier I subsequently changed cases. I could have used a ATX motherboard in the NZXT S340 and probably would have if I had known I was using that case but I'd already ordered and received the Micro ATX motherboard before the mess up with the Bitfenix case. The chosen motherboard is nothing fancy but has more than enough SATA 6 and USB 3.0 connections for me.
Memory: Memory is so cheap now compared to when I last build a PC. I picked up two sticks of 4gb RAM with an acceptable CAS latency of 9 for a good price. Not much more to say on that, they slotted into the motherboard and worked.
Storage: I opted for the small SSD boot drive and large 7200rpm HD storage drive option. The SSD seems to run very well although after further research I wish I'd gone for an OCZ or Samsung 850 EVO. The 1TB 7200rpm HD is a bargain at 50.94€.
Video Card: This is my eBay purchase so I was naturally a little nervous about condition when it actually arrived. However I needn't have worried as it arrived in all its original packaging and looks brand new. This card is still around 330€ on Amazon.de so I'm pretty pleased with getting it for 172€. Compared to the GPU in my last PC build this thing is enormous but the build quality appears excellent. I'm still configuring Windows and installing stuff so haven't been able to properly test it on games yet but I'm sure it will be great for my needs.
Case: After the annoying issue with Bitfenix I went for the NZXT S340. It gets some great reviews and for the price looks really good. The clever plate to help hide connectors is so simple yet so effective and I love the simple, clean design. My only real criticisms of it would be the quality of the drive screws that comes with it, I though they were pretty poor and I still need to find some better ones to properly secure my SSD to the drive caddy.
Power Supply: I went for something reliable with enough power for my needs. It is not tier 1 but I'm not overclocking or pushing this machine hard. It is tier 2a so I think it represents great value and quality.
Operating System: Simple choice of Windows 8.1
Case Fan: I added one fan to help push some air into the case from the front. This fan, and the two that come standard in the NZXT case, is a three pin fan. My motherboard will take four pin fans to allow fan control but as I'm not overclocking or doing anything fancy I'm happy for them to just run on their three pin connections.
Custom: I bought a cheap USB external DVD drive. Drives appear to be disappearing from PCs but I thought it would be useful to have one I could plug in if ever needed (which I did for the operation system install)
I found the build process straightforward, building a PC is no more complicated than putting a Lego model together really. My anti-static safeguards consisted of grounding myself on a radiator every so often, nothing fancier than that and no damage to report. Once all plugged together I powered up and installed Windows 8.1.
I've updated my pictures. They're not bad but they're not great either, it is really difficult to take a good picture with the window panel on but trust me it looks good. My cable management is not the best, I used some zipties and these velcro straps that came with my PSU. The metal cutout thing on the case is really clever though and makes the visible part neat without any real hassle.
UPDATE: Now I've got everything loaded up and running how I want I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the results. The aim was always to build a gaming rig that was better than the current generation of consoles and I'm happy to say I've easily achieved that. It runs Assassins Creed Black Flag beautifully and Call of Duty Ghosts looks awesome. These are my stats according to userbenchmark - http://www.userbenchmark.com/UserRun/195120 and obviously there is room for future upgrades.
I only have one problem to resolve, a rattling fan on my GPU. The card works fine but when under heavy load the middle fan rattles and makes an awful sound. I'm in contact with Sapphire to see if they can do anything or help in anyway. Failing that I'm looking at sticking a NZXT Kraken G10 on the card and cool its chip with a closed watercooling system. The cost for that isn't too bad, plus it should be quieter and cooler than stock (even perfectly working stock).
12th April 2015 Edit:
In my quest to make this machine quieter and probably more because I like to tinker I've swapped the rear 120mm exhaust case fan (that came with the case) and the front 140mm intake case fan - https://de.pcpartpicker.com/part/bitfenix-case-fan-bffscf14025kkrp - that I added when first built to two Cooler Master Silencio FP 120 PWM case fans - http://eu.coolermaster.com/uk/cooling/case-fan/silencio-fp-120-pwm . These fans let me take advantage of the PWM features of my motherboard. I have a 140mm Be Quiet! Shadow Wings SW1 PWM - https://de.pcpartpicker.com/part/be-quiet-case-fan-bl031 - coming to replace the top 120mm exhaust (that also came with case). I still need to address my rattling fan on the R9 280X issue and hope to do that soon.
22nd November 2015 Edit:
After coming into a little cash I decided to do some upgrading to my build and to also move it from the living room into the office. I've upgraded to an R9 390 GPU, added a 144hz monitor and added a nice mechanical keyboard. I've also upgraded to Windows 10.
12th March 2019 Edit:
The machine still runs nicely enough but could do better. I have therefore made a few changes, namely upping the memory to 16gb and changing the GPU to a GTX 1660 Ti.