+ Total (New Zealand):
Moderate spec PC predominantly used as a home media centre, and occasional gaming rig. Excuse the picture quality as they were taken at night on my phone (only time the kids weren't around!).
Build the best PC I could for around $15-1600 NZD. Must handle desktop operations, and be able to run some games too. Suitable for future expansion and upgrades.
AMD vs Intel - nothing against AMD CPU'S, but I opted for an i5. An i3 may well have done the job for me, but i5 is minimum spec on a number of high end games. The i5-4460 was available for under $300, which was the maximum I was willing to pay.
H97 or Z97 - even though I had no intention of overclocking, I opted for the Z97 Sabertooth in case the need arises in the future. I don't regret the decision as the build quality is fantastic, plus everything works as advertised. I've found some of the features such as advanced fan control very useful.
Water or Air Cooling - I decided early on that water cooling would overkill for this rig. Deciding on which CPU cooler to get was an entirely different matter. I did look at units with 120mm fans, but didn't want to encounter any kind of clearance issues, both height and width. Opting for the Noctua was easy in the end, however 92mm units are certainly more scarce.
AMD vs NVIDIA - a more difficult decision for me, as I had no preconceived ideas what to go for. In the end, the GTX 750 triumphed due to price and low power consumption. Yet to test it out on any high end games, but I don't need 4K @ 60fps, and happy to run lower settings.
How the build went
Apart from tweaking, the whole thing went together in a couple of hours. The S340 and Sabertooth just made the whole process so easy. In fact, the hardest part for me was inserting the I/O plate! I just couldn't get enough purchase on the panel for it to 'pop' in. In fact, I probably got the Noctua installed in less time! However, brute force triumphed in the end! Connecting the SSD's and HDD to SATA and power wasn't without issue. Power cables, due to the reasons mentioned in the part review. SATA due to half the included cables with the mobo being 90 to 180. To be fair, that would suit the majority of users, but just not my build where 180 to 180 would have been a better fit. I did get the 90 ends into the mobo ports with a little bending of the cables. Hooking up the CPU cooler fan, and system fans was nice and easy. Again, this highlights the Sabertooth, and how what you need is just where you need it. One point to note with the S340, is that the top of the mobo sits very close to the pre installed roof exhaust fan. So much so that I had to bend the Noctua fan cable near on right angles, just to stop the cable fouling the fan. An alternative would be to install a thinner fan if my solution doesn't suit. I also rerouted the NZXT fans as highlighted in the part review. Cable management just happened with little effort, and just a bit of cable tying at the end just for aestetics. All other parts just slotted in as expected. I even managed to load up Windows from an external dvd drive, with only a couple of minor setbacks. Seems like the mobo gets a bit fussy what is plugged into the USB ports, and which ports they're plugged into.
Very happy with the end product. Reasonable spec, with scope to upgrade if and when required. The weak point I think everyone would agree is the GPU, however at the moment I'm happy with it. If my focus changes to hardcore gaming, then I can whip it out easily enough. All the other components will work with it fine. Overall enjoyed my first build, and itching to build another. Feel free to comment positive or otherwise, I can take it!
Cheapest i5 CPU I could find at the time. Not ran any high spec games yet, but it certainly does everything else without breaking a sweat so far. Couldn't ask for any more.
This little CPU Cooler is sensational. Fits the LGA1150 socket perfectly, and if you read the instructions, goes on in 5 mins max. Everything you need is there including a long reach screwdriver, thermal paste, another set of fan clips, low noise adaptor, and additional parts for other AMD and Intel sockets. The size and performance is perfect for someone who wants to step up from a stock cooler, or simply doesn't want a 120mm behemoth. I'd imagine it would fit most, if not all ITX cases. No RAM clearance issues at all due to the offset heatsink, and no height issues due to the 92mm heatsink/fan. In terms of noise, I just don't hear it at all. However I'm not overclocking, and my rig runs extremely cool. If you're not in love with the classic Noctua colors, then just switch the fan to another 92mm (Noctua make a nice black one). There is also the option of adding another fan in a push/pull configuration, but for my rig it really isn't required. Highly recommended.
Quality and convenience is how I would describe the Sabertooth Mk2. Every part of the mobo feels solid, like really solid. It's not cheap, but at least you can touch and see where the $ went. The other benefit of spending a bit more is getting all the ports/headers positioned exactly where you'd want them to be. Right angle SATA ports, fan headers in numerous locations, choice of USB2/3 connectors, to name a few. The only omission I can think of is M.2. However this is still in its infancy, and I'm more than happy with the boot up times from my SSD. As a beginner, I found the UEFI BIOS extremely easy to use. If you are a pro, then it would have everything you need.
As they say: 'RAM is RAM'. All I can say is about these is that they are compatible and overclocked to 1866 easily. Nice looking, might be a little tall if you have a large CPU Cooler.
Used for O/S and any critical system files. Fast and very well built.
Used for everything gaming. Seems as fast as the Kingston, but far less quality build. Bang for your buck, it fits the bill.
Used as an archive for non critical, seldom used files. Large capacity, and very quiet.
This GPU is compact, quiet, and doesn't require additional power. Feels solid, fitted easy, and recognised by the mobo with no fuss. The only connection I required was HDMI to connect to my TV. I would certainly consider another, better, EVGA GPU in the future.
With NZXT You know what you're getting. Great looking, well laid out cases. Although the S340 is their entry level, it doesn't feel like a budget case. Only cutback I can see is the flimsy PSU dust filter underneath the case, it really is appalling. I like the partition bar that hides the cables, and more convenient than feeding cables through small holes. One point to note is that the fans supplied with the case are connected to a Molex adaptor. I found that the fans were too loud connected that way. Therefore my solution was to disconnect the Molex, and use two 3 pin extension cables to reroute the fans to the fan headers at the bottom of the mobo. Now they both run very quietly, in fact the whole rig is almost silent. Final point I want to mention is cable management. Very easy to connect everything you need to, and hide anything you don't want to see. Even the way the PSU slides in and out means that you can run all the power cables through that opening, then slide the PSU in when you're done.
$180 of my budget was quite a lot for a PSU, however I do not regret purchasing this Corsair unit at all. I could easily have spent under half that, but to me cheap PSU's are a false economy. The highlights for me are the fully modular cables, which are all black and of the ribbon type. Very easily to manipulate around the case, and look the part too. I did find using the SATA cables a struggle, but this was due to the case having the SSD's side by side rather than in a traditional stack. To my knowledge, the fan never turns on so there is no noise at all. In my rig, I was able omit the GPU and Molex cables which resulted in a lot less cable clutter.
Really love these fans, which I use as front intake fans. I don't think I would like them if they had to work harder, as they would be too loud. Fortunately they are easy to tweak in the BIOS, and mine are probably running under half speed. Another point worth mentioning is the fixing system. I'm not a fan of the silicone stretchy type fasteners, and will likely change to screws when I get some.