After several months of research and lots of discussion with the ever-helpful folks on the PCPartPicker forums, I've finally finished my build. I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out.
I built my last computer in 2010. It served me very well for over five years, but wasn't quite keeping up with the newer games. I spend a decent amount of time on my computer and really want the experience to be as enjoyable as possible, so I decided on a significant upgrade. I was using my older machine as an HTPC hooked up to a 1080p 50" LED TV. It was fine to play games from the couch across the room, but I was noticing that it lacked the hard-to-define "immersion" factor that I think is important in many games. It also isn't great for daily reading tasks (or my eyes). So I wasn't just upgrading a computer, I wanted to completely overhaul the way I used it.
I was interested in 4k monitors when I first began looking into a new build. After some brief research, however, it became clear that the current crop of GPUs weren't quite up to the task. Crossfire/SLI suffers from scaling issues and questionable driver support, let alone the diminishing returns on price. I wanted a single-card build and started looking at resolutions that would fit the horsepower. 3440x1440 monitors quickly became the clear choice. In my reading, I noticed that many people found four things to be indispensable contributors to a great gaming experience: 1440p resolution, higher refresh rates, adaptive sync and 21:9 ultra-widescreens. The only monitor to offer all of these features was the X34. So, easy choice, huh? I decided to build everything else around the monitor.
I initially built around the G-Sync model because the 980ti cards were clearly superior to the AMD offering and the price difference between the X34 and the Freesync variant, the XR34, was only around $200-$300. That gap grew significantly as it came closer to Black Friday buy-time and the Acer forums were full of people with complaints about the X34 not being able to hit the promised 100hz refresh, not waking from sleep, arriving with dead pixels, etc. The XR34, by contrast, was released months before and seemed to have corrected most of its issues and now stood a full $500 cheaper. AMD's offerings also began to look more appealing as they overhauled their drivers and allowed voltage control on the Fiji cards. So, Team Red had me.
With the monitor chosen, I then had to choose from the AMD GPU lineup. To really power 3440x1440p at 75hz, I figured I would need the Fury X. Then the prices started dropping on the Fury and, with only a 5-8% performance difference, settled on the air-cooled Sapphire Tri-X. The other nail in the coffin was the peculiar design of the Sapphire Fury's PCB and backplate: the backplate only extended just over half the length of the card. The remaining length was an exposed heatsink with no back, which seemed absolutely ideal for the airflow configuration of the case I was head-over-heels for, the Inwin 901.
The 901 is an incredible case. It oozes luxury. It also carries a reputation for abysmal airflow. Many of the 901 builds I looked up suffered from high idle temperatures and dubious OC performance. The 901 owners thread on Overclock.net had a mix of very satisfied owners and those disappointed by the thermals. The thread was also invaluable as I came across a user who posted a picture confirming the fit of the extremely long Sapphire Tri-X, which PCPartpicker warned might not fit. My gamble was that the exposed heatsink sitting directly on top of the 901's intake fan would result in the GPU staying plenty cool and the air still being able to push upward to reach the CPU, where it would then be exhausted out the back. It wasn't until I saw Gonzo65's build with the 901 next to the XR34: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/4fTH99 that I was completely sold. His airflow solution seemed to work very well by incorporating oversized fans. He was extremely helpful when I reached out to him with questions and allayed many of my fears about the case.
Next, I had to choose between the 6700K and the 6600K. When I first started putting the build together, the price difference between them was only around $80. That grew significantly as Black Friday approached. For a gaming build, the 6600K seemed to make the most sense for the price, but then Fallout 4 was released and many users with the hyperthreaded i7s noticed a decent increase in framerates over i5 owners. Futureproofing and minimum framerates in mind, the i7 almost made sense. Looking into thermal performance, however, the i7 puts out quite a lot more heat than the i5. That, along with the large price jump, settled the issue for me.
For storage, I just took my 2tb HDD and 256 Vertex 4 SSD out of my old build. I plan to add an m.2 NVMe drive as soon as they drop a bit in price. EDIT: Two years later, I bought a 2tb 961 Pro! Wasn't fun to load Windows on it, but it's crazy fast.
The only other difficult decision I was facing was the selection of the motherboard. I'll say it: Skylake mITX selection SUCKS. There were only a handful of requirements I had: decent overclock performance (VRM count, quality), two case fan headers and an m.2 2280 socket. A reinforced PCIe slot, 3.1 c-type USB and Intel NICs were also strong factors. None of the currently available boards fit the bill. They were all over the map in their feature sets, all of them coming up short. The ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming was the best compromise, only missing the reinforced PCIe slot and 3.1 c-type (it has A-type). So far, I've been thrilled with the choice and found it to overclock easily. My only regret is that it has two or three red status LEDs that I can't turn off and may end up covering with tape or nail polish.
PSU, RAM, FANS
All other components were largely aesthetic or price-based decisions. The PSU was chosen by the inscrutable tier list from Tom's and wattage by an online calculator. The RAM I originally wanted to run around 3000, but the Avexir kit was priced so low and had these really gorgeous blue LEDs that have become the pulsing "heart" of the build (can't capture in photos well, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz-JZets-vo). I'm a Noctua "fan." There wasn't much debate as to what I was going to get. I had two fan headers, so I didn't need to match the two case fans for PWM control as Gonzo65 did. I knew I wanted a tower and not a low-profile cooler so I could channel air from the front/top of the case toward the back to exhaust. I debated between the NH-D9L and the NH-U9S towers, with the D9L winning out due to price and the metal fins covering most of the not-so-lovely Noctua-brand brown.
I chose the keyboard, mouse and headset all based on how they reviewed and fit the general aesthetics of the build. All three have been amazing so far and I absolutely recommend them. The Corsair K70, in particular, pairs very well with the XR34's lower aluminum bezel and blue LEDs.
This doesn't actually... work. I debated whether I should even bother with an ODD and thought it might come in handy. I'll troubleshoot it later when I reroute the cables and install the new m.2. Not sure what the issue is. No indication that it's getting any power from the EZ-plug thing in the bottom. Hate to waste the $20. Not the end of the world.
I also needed a new lamp, desk and desk chair to accommodate the large monitor. I'm a pretty tall guy with long legs, so I knew I wanted something that allowed me to stretch. The curved XR34 also lends itself very well to a corner desk. Staples had the best price and shipping for the Bush Stockport corner desk: http://www.staples.com/Bush-Stockport-Collection-Corner-Desk-Classic-Black/product_891501 . It's exactly what I was looking for. Wasn't hard to assemble, shipped very quickly and wasn't expensive at all. One of the cable management clips included with the 901 works surprisingly well as a headphone hangar (pictured). Not sure how long it'll last, but it beats paying $20 for an "official" hangar. This cheap lamp: http://www.amazon.com/MarsLG-Elegant-3-Level-Dimmable-2404WH/dp/B00CBA41RU/ref=pd_bia_nav_t_3 proved invaluable for lighting up the guts as I was building and looks pretty nice when placed behind the XR34. The chair is some $50 model I also bought from Staples. It works.
Some quirks: The GPU is huge and sags noticeably. I placed a cable endcap under the very edge of it (pictured). A more permanent solution will be found. There's quite a bit of pressure on it -- I doubt it'll move or get dislodged. ASUS made no claims about reinforcing the PCIe slot and I wanted to make sure the GPU doesn't sag too bad to avoid damaging the motherboard PCB. Oh, and I'm terrible at cable management and very lazy. Hence a happy accident when I went to put the 901's glass panels back on -- they didn't fit! I reversed them and now they fit, but stand off the case by 2mm (also pictured). This isn't how Inwin designed it and I haven't seen anyone else do this, but I actually think it looks pretty cool and might help with the thermals. Hurts the negative pressure situation and dust is a concern, though the 901 comes with a lovely black shroud. I place it over the case at night/when I'm away and the positive fan pressure should keep dust out while in use. If I were you, I'd just route the cables smarter. I didn't plug in the Inwin case logo LED. It's a nice white color, I just didn't care for it.
Performance: Here's my Fire Strike score: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/6729264 . The i5 is 4.7ghz Prime-stable for over 20 minutes (probably longer, but I didn't have time to keep it running). The Fury has been a big disappointment on the OC front, only able to push around 5% better than stock clocks. There are 8 hardware locked CUDA cores that I'll attempt to unlock at some point. I'm happy enough with the performance I'm seeing now. Battlefront (came free with the Fury) runs very smoothly at 3440x1440, 8xAA and all settings maxed (50-75 FPS). Fallout 4 is surprisingly smooth, settings maxed out, at a steady 75 FPS (I was expecting the worst). Star Citizen Arena Commander maxed out sometimes approached 30-40 FPS but generally plays around 50-60.
Need to give a huge shoutout to my PCPartPicker buddies, Nismo and mOCHU. We went back and forth for months on build ideas and suggestions. My build would look radically different (read: worse) without their help. Nismo also bought his XR34 and components around the same time I did and will assemble his soon. mOCHU is holding out for Pascal, so he's a lil jealous right now, but will show up next year to put this build to shame.
I also think Nextwarehouse.com deserves a big thanks. I ordered the XR34 from them due to the low price ($821), no tax and free shipping. They blew my mind by processing the order quickly and then shipped the massive monitor 2-day shipping... for free. Not sure how they made any money off that order, but I was beyond thrilled. I did not have any experience with an RMA as my monitor worked great out of the box, so I can't comment on their RMA customer support, which is certainly important to consider with the XR34. Still, I have to recommend them to anyone considering buying the monitor. I know I waffled back and forth on which vendor to buy from and would've liked to hear more owners' buying experiences.
As Gonzo65 was so friendly and helpful when I messaged him with questions about the 901 and XR34, I'd like to extend the same courtesy to anyone else looking to build with these components. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to drop me a line or post em in the comments. PCPartPicker has made building a PC vastly easier and much more enjoyable than ever. It's a community! Let's help each other out. :)