Heather's Feedback:

I built my new computer back in April of this year and am still really proud of it. This was my second time building a gaming PC . . . I got the PC assembled and running in about an hour and a half. While I had a small amount of experience piecing together a PC I definitely had your How-To-Guides open on a nearby tablet. Tips on cable management definitely show through in this build and I used your recommended parts list . . . to look up components when making my selections.

The Build

Built: April 2015

As Heather makes clear above, she came to The Tech Buyer's Guru to learn how to take her PC building skills to the next level. Anyone can build a PC, but not everyone can make it look good. Heather's done just that with this high-end build, which despite being a few months old already is still cutting edge, and looks the part. She got some inspiration from our $2,000 Premium Gaming PC Build as of April 2015, but ultimately, this build is truly her own. She paired a powerful quad-core CPU with a potent graphics card, combined them with a number of parts from her previous build, and then expertly installed them in the sleek NZXT H440 case. Below you can see Heather's complete parts list.

Component List:

  1. CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K
  2. Motherboard: Asus Z97-Pro
  3. Video Card: Asus GeForce GTX 980 Strix 4GB
  4. Memory: Crucial 2x4GB DDR3-1600
  5. SSD: OCZ Arc 100 120GB
  6. Hard Drive: Western Digital 1TB
  7. Case: NZXT H440
  8. Power Supply: Raidmax 730W
  9. CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo
  10. Optical Drive: Samsung SE-218GN External DVD Burner
  11. Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit
  12. Mouse: Mionix Naos
  13. Monitor: Asus PB278Q

The Parts

Heather reused a hard drive and power supply, which were still working just fine, and then focused her budget on the parts that really matter: a top-end CPU and video card for performance, an SSD for operating system responsiveness, and a case that offers plenty of style! We're huge fans of being daring when it comes to cases, and NZXT has done just that with the H440. While we haven't reviewed it, we did publish a hands-on builder's guide using its smaller cousin, the S340, and came away really impressed. NZXT sees the future, and it's all about minimizing clutter on the inside while maximizing aesthetics on the outside. One of the things necessary to really get the exterior right is skipping out on the old-school optical drive bays that are found front-and-center on most cases. By doing so, NZXT provides a smooth look and an opportunity to get creative. Heather did just that, applying a custom decal to the case, and a matching one on the monitor to tie the ensemble together. Heather notes that they are the work of professional author and illustrator Ursula Vernon. Great stuff!

This was Heather's second foray into PC building, so she took the time (and had the patience!) to make this build look perfect. That means working hard to route cables, positioning them behind the motherboard tray and out of the main section of the case. Here's a tip she passed along on getting her older power supply to work just right in the NZXT H440 case:

The only hiccup I encountered was with the length of the motherboard 8-pin power connector. The one with the power supply was not long enough to reach the top corner of my case while still remaining hidden. I had to purchase an extension cable to make it all play nicely.

And then there's the small matter of actually booting up the system. You can painstakingly route every cable and affix every screw, but sometimes, even an expert builder can make one small error that will send chills down your spine when you press the power button. Alas, that may be just what Heather was feeling when she first went to turn on her system. Here's what she had to say about it:

A 'duh' moment did occur when I plugged my Displayport cable into the motherboard slot instead of my graphics card and couldn't figure out why my monitor wasn't working. 

Monitor

Take heart, Heather, you're not the only one to make this mistake, trust us on that! And by the way, she wasn't messing around with just any monitor, she went straight to the top with the Asus PB278Q, which has been the value-leader among high-end 2560x1440 IPS-type monitors for several years. She also sports a sweet-looking Mionix Naos mouse to provide a solid handle on her gaming experience.

In the end, she came up with a stylish and cost-effective PC that will have ample power for years to come. The CPU is really fast out of the box, the video card comes pre-overclocked (and like all 980 models has a lot of overclocking headroom, by the way), and the SSD ensures that the OS responds instantly. Note that the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo cooler that Heather used is a bargain-priced upgrade to the stock Intel cooler, and will definitely allow higher overclocks. Plus, it can be equipped with a second fan down the line to provide even better performance. 

One of the things you learn after building your own PC is that it's such a rewarding experience that you want to do it again and again. Here's what Heather had to say about that:

The only problem with building computers and continuing to keep up with the latest news is that I want to keep tinkering! Building only one rig every couple of years does not scratch that itch and the problem with using quality high end components is that they can remain relevant for a long time. Such is PC building.

We definitely feel the same way, but look at the bright side: when you build your own PC, you get to choose exactly what you want now... and later. You can upgrade, you can reuse, you can tinker and test, and in the end, you get a system that no one but you could create. In fact, here at TBG, we rarely build entire systems from a box full of new parts. We improve on previous builds by borrowing what worked and adding new gear to make the whole system better, and much more than the sum of its parts!

A computer can be the sort of commodity product that you buy off the shelf and treat like an appliance, or it can be something that you take pride in, that you share with others, and that you learn from. Heather obviously subscribes to the latter approach!