Well, it's been some months since I completed this build (late November, 2015). I realized I never officially 'completed' the build on PCPartsPicker, so here it is. I've been using it for Netflix, and some gaming (Mass Effect 3, Fallout 4, all graphics set at maximum, 1440p res.). Temperatures have been good. I haven't been checking FPS rates, just playing the games. Absolutely awesome. No cpu or gpu overclocking yet. It just isn't necessary. We'll see what happens with GTA-5, Crysis 3, WitcherWH.
This PC is overall phenomenally quiet, while still being fairly high performance. Under normal usage (web browsing, youtube, movies and TV), it is functionally SILENT. The Corsair PSU and EVGA video card typically remain in Fan/Off mode; the case fans and cpu cooler run at ~50% rpm. Under gaming load I can hear the fans come on, but it is very muted and not at all intrusive. Very satisfied.
Soon to come will be a Corsair K70 Cherry MX Brown keyboard, and NAS/external storage. Additional cooling/fans to be added as OC'ing requires it; stock fans work fine with current setup and heat.
edit: Apologies for the bad camera and pictures. For laughs I included a comparison photo of the Fractal Design R5 next to my old Antec P180/181, the original 'quiet' pc case. That thing is built like a Russian tank, and the R5 is quite flimsy in comparison. I'm going to keep it around if I can, maybe use it for a NAS if I can get new components cheap enough.
Intended for movies and TV (streaming, BluRay, stored media), music, gaming, and modest cpu/gpu overclocking. Most major pieces purchased at 15% to 20%+ discount.
CPU, 6600K Skylake: At this point, a Z97/Haswell based new-build makes little sense. Component prices are nearly comparable. You may save ~$80-$150 total, on DDR3, discounted K-CPUs and medium to high-end motherboards.
6600K vs 6700K: synthetic and 'real world' benchmarks consistently show minimal difference in performance between the two. Price difference will go to recovering the budget. If an 'i7' upgrade is needed, for 4K video or future hyperthreading games, Kaby Lake (Skylake-refresh) will be out soon. Kaby Lake is confirmed to be lga-1151 compatible. Cannonlake (10nm) will also be out about this time, probably non-1151 compatible.
CPU COOLER, Noctua NH-D15: What else can I say? Poop-brown and HUGE. Very quiet. Very effective. Be sure to verify RAM clearance before buying RAM and/or this cooler. RAM with large heat-sinks won't fit, on some MB.
MOTHERBOARD, Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7: The upper-tier Gigabyte Z170 motherboards (G1, GT, Gaming 7, and UD5-TH), along with 1 or 2 upper-tier Asus boards, are the ONLY motherboards currently available, certified to be HDMI-2.0 / HDCP-2.2 compatible. Hopefully future-proofing for 4K streaming and Bluray. The Gaming 7 offers other nice features like upgraded onboard audio, dedicated DAC/USB, good overclocking, and more. Horrible red-on-white colors clash with the poop-brown Noctua-D15 cooler. But it is a closed case. I broke the budget for this MB.
GPU, EVGA GTX980 Classified ACX: Got this on sale for $445 at NewEgg. One of the very few EVGA GTX980 cards with power-phase and voltage regulation sufficient for serious overclocking.
Right up to the end I was stuck on R9-390 vs GTX980 vs GTX980Ti. The R9-390 is MUCH cheaper than the R9-390X, GTX980, or GTX980Ti. Yet it has 8GB vram and, with the right graphics card, can be overclocked to match stock 390X /GTX980 performance. The R9-390X is already maxed out and there isn't much overclocking potential left; for this price-point one might want to pay the extra $100+ for a GTX980, which does have overclocking potential. So at the end I was focusing on GTX980 and GTX980Ti, when this EVGA unit went on sale. This particular card has premium pcb components, and beefed-up power-phase and voltage regulation. Several reviews and benchmarks indicate it may overclock close to stock 980Ti performance levels, albeit with only 4GB of vram. I broke the budget on this one, to get a significant potential overclock performance gain, versus the R9-390/390X. But I payed $200+ less than a 980Ti would have cost (at that time). If more performance is required, in the next 12-18 months 980Ti prices will come down.
In my opinion, the R9-390 absolutely is the budget price/performance king here. It will give phenomenal 1080i performance, and overclocked with 8GB vram it will give 'decent' 1440p performance. In my opinion, the R9-390 is at least a step above the GTX970 in 1440p performance. If one chooses this route, I would first recommend the Sapphire TriX-Nitro, with backplate, or secondly the Gigabyte or XFX- models. Sapphire is debatably the best on AMD cards these days, and reviews indicate they did an exceptionally good job with the 390/390X. Gigabyte and XFX -390 are both well constructed, good overclocking boards with good cooling, though neither is as quiet or as cool operating as the Sapphire.
CASE, Fractal Design Define R5: Requirement for a solid, well built case that is quiet, well-ventilated, and very functional. This was a VERY close contest between the Nanoxia DS1/DS2, and the R5. Both are constructed similarly, with similar functionality and aesthetics. In reviews and benchmarks the DS1 just barely beat the prior R4 in noise suppression, due to better/quieter fans. Fractal Design upgraded fans for the R5, which now barely beats the Nanoxia cases for noise suppression. Subjective observations on the web, from several people familiar with both say the Fractal Design R4/R5 are constructed a bit better, and are slightly more functional in small ways. Win goes to Fractal Design R5.
PSU, Corsair RM750i: Requirement for a psu which is quiet (FAN/ON mode), reliable, with high-quality power and voltage regulation. No SLI planned (gpu performance upgrade when necessary will procede from overclock/air, directly to a new higher performance single gpu). 600W to 650W would be adequate for this build. I went with 750W so that the psu will operate longer/quieter in FAN/OFF mode, at a lower temp, and for overclocking headroom. Also for future gpu upgrades.
My psu short-list was the EVGA Supernova G2/P2 series (10yr warranty), and Corsair RMi/HXi series (7yr warranty). The G2/P2 are not particularly quiet in FAN/ON mode. The Corsair RMi and HXi series psu's are some of the quietest FAN/ON psu's available; quieter in benchmarks than most self-proclaimed 'quiet' psu's. Corsair's line-up of psu's range from excellent (AX/AXi) to relatively crappy and unreliable (CX/CS). The new RMi-series is NOT part of the mediocre RM-series; it is an update of the excellent HXi-platform, in GOLD efficiency. Some have commented that it is actually better than the original/older HXi platform, disregarding efficiency. Both the RMi/HXi-series tend to have inflated list prices. They do go on sale frequently, along with rebates, discounted as much as 30%.
OS, Windows 7 Pro 64bit, OEM Builder DVD: I'm somewhat uncomfortable about Windows 10, regarding the extreme tracking and telemetry which is enabled by default, and the degree to which this tracking and telemetry can actually be disabled. Some reviewers/testers have already found that even when supposedly disabled, some form of telemetry/data transfer continues. Regardless, it is known that each Windows 10 OS has a unique identifier code visible online which cannot be disabled(?) I still have questions I need to answer for myself before switching over.
Windows 7 is going to be supported with security updates through the year 2020. So I'm going to keep it for a year or two, while the code geeks and paranoia freaks sort out the Windows 10 mess. I'm going to wait and see whether DirectX 12 is worth it, and whether Windows 10 can actually be locked down privacy-wise. I will be using the free upgrade to get a Windows 10 license and activation. I will then reinstall Win7. I may even setup a dual-boot option.
MONITOR, Crossover 2795QHD, $313: 27" @2560X1440 resolution, sharp and intense color AH-IPS panel (from LG), 6ms response time, low-input lag, overclocked to 95hz. Some have reported 110hz+, but typical 'easy' overclock is 95hz. This monitor was purchased from green_sum on Ebay. I've seen prices as low as $200 for "0-5 'bad' pixel" panels. I paid the additional for a "Perfect Pixel, 0-1 'bad' pixel" panel.
DON'T buy this monitor unless you actually understand what you are getting. RMAs overseas can be very expensive. There are potential compatibility issues, and some tweaking may be required for an overclock. Most have found it quick and easy for a stable 95hz overclock. Much information can be found at OVERCLOCK.NET, in the 'Official Crossover 2795QHD' thread, along with another thread dedicated to QNIX monitors. If you are considering these monitors I would strongly suggest you research and do your due-diligence before selecting a QNIX. They have used at least 3 different IPS panels in the last few months; some of the vendor provided specifications, and claims, found on NewEgg and elsewhere, are misleading, mismatched to the wrong model number, or simply false.
STORAGE, 1-250GB Samsung Evo SSD for the OS and some games; a 2TB WD-Red HDD for primary backup, and some media storage. Plans are for an all solid-state system, without hard drives. Hopefully prices will come down more on high capacity SSDs. Secondary backup and bulk storage will eventually be handled via NAS or external hard drive enclosure (USB 3.1/Thunderbolt). Still researching and finding out what I need to know.
SPEAKERS, Presonus Eris e4.5 Studio Monitors, 70Hz-20KHz, with selectable low-frequency cut-off: Don't need a full-blown 5.1/7.1 system at this point. These active speakers will do for now. I got these from the Presonus store on ebay. $100 Factory-Warrantied refurb ($200+, new). Sound great, much better and louder than I was expecting. Presonus is known for well made, durable equipment. A powered sub-woofer is in the works. Considering a Presonus Temblor-8 or Temblor-10 if I can get one for the right price. May end up with a 'budget' priced Dayton Audio Sub-1000.