This was my first gaming build. I was looking for something small and inexpensive that I could build iteratively and upgrade as needed. I went with Intel because the CPU had on-board video that I could use to test the system before investing in a dedicated graphics card (though I've done that now), and because the single core performance is quite good. I went with the Z97 chipset to have some room to upgrade in the future, and for ease of overclocking.
I'm delighted to say that I just finished the final touches this weekend, including an R9 280 video card (manually overclocked), faster RAM, and a non-stock CPU cooler. Overall it was a success, and everything fits just fine on the micro-ATX motherboard. I was worried the CPU cooler wasn't going to fit, but it just barely makes it between the north bridge heatsink and the video card. The attached parts list represents the final build.
- Everything fits and stays relatively cool on the small, micro-ATX form factor board.
- The case is cheap and small, but feel surprisingly spacious inside and allows for plenty of air flow. I like that it doesn't come with a lot of embarrassing "bling" common to gaming cases.
- The MSI R9 280 (not the X version) gets regular, steep discounts on Newegg and makes for a solid card. A lot of thought went into this, and I'm happy with the choice; it's been able to handle just about anything I throw at it so far with ease. I was also able to overclock it to above the speeds the "X" version ships with, without paying extra for the factory to do it for me, and the temps stay relatively cool.
- As many have commented about the MSI R9 280, it can get fairly loud when the fans spin up. Not a huge concern for me as the machine sits in a closet behind my TV (which I use as a monitor).
- The large cooler makes it impossible to install a 3rd or 4th case fan. So far it hasn't proved necessary, however.
- If I wanted to add a 2nd video card (I sized the power supply to allow for this), I'd have to move the 2.5in HDD I have mounted on the bottom of the case to an adapter in a 3.5in slot, because the only 2.5in "slot" in the case consists of 4 screw holes on the bottom of the case. If you go with the suggested 3.5in HDD, however, this won't be a problem (I just had a spare 2.5in drive sitting around).
- Add an M.2 SSD (mounted on the motherboard) so I can get rid of the hard drive + associated cables altogether. My main drive for installed programs is mounted over iSCSI from a FreeNAS server, so I only need to put the bare essentials on the boot drive.