+ Total (United States):
Ultra-SFF 1440p rig for my personal usage (pending 1080Ti; 980 is on loan from a friend's old build). Overall satisfied - cable management was very difficult and Intel's stock cooler is even worse than I remember it, but it plays games very good and for that I'm happy. Digression on specific parts can be found in the reviews section.
(As always, I'm a system builder, not a photographer. If you need better and/or close up photos of any specific thing with which to plan your own build, shoot me a message and I'll be happy to oblige - after the many, many hours spent planning this thing, I understand how maddening it is to find a completed build that has just what you need but absolute dogshite photography.)
For gaming, the locked i7 is the SKU that most often goes ignored - those on a budget will often go for the i5 instead, and those buying overpowered hardware for the hell of it will find it all too easy to justify the upgrade to the unlocked SKU. However, I've found that an unlocked i5, a good cooler, and a good Z-series motherboard often costs pretty near the same as a locked i7 and a good H-series motherboard....so, it seemed like a little bit of a no brainer to get 200MHz less base, the same boost, and twice the threads for the same price.
It makes me a little butthurt to buy this almost directly prior to the Ryzen release, but I waited all the way through January and most of February and I got tired of waiting. Though it's far from a good value-for-money now, it's not suddenly rendered a bad CPU either, and it performs quite admirably in games and will undoubtedly serve me well for years to come, even with DX12 multi-threading over the horizon (which was a major reason why I bought it).
The reason I've docked a star (and I feel like I'm being generous not docking more) is the stock cooler. It's insanely noisy at load and very quick to rev up even when doing basic things like downloading Steam games, and yet even despite all the noise (plus extensive tweaking of fan profiles on my part) it can't manage to get the CPU much under 80C. No, it won't cause lasting damage to the CPU and no it's not technically not working, but especially with AMD's Wraith on the market I really feel like Intel needs to step it up here.
Kaby Lake features without the absurd Z-series Kaby Lake price. Has all the important features of a high-end Z270 board (ALC1220, Optane, 7-series processors) minus overclocking for a very agreeable price - and comes from a good brand to boot! While I try my best to not be biased on brands, Gigabyte mobos have always done the best for me - this one being no exception.
16GB of 2400MHz, CL15 DDR4 RAM for a reasonable price. Nothing to disagree with.
The main reason I bought this was because of the heatspreader - I've long held to the philosophy that heatspreaders are only for aesthetics and not worth spending much extra cash on, but after I saw how a bare-chip NVMe SSD actually performs (600p, with good airflow) I recognized the need for a heatsink. At the time of purchase, this was the same price as its more popular counterpart the 960 EVO, but it had a few things going for it - a heatspreader, a 5-year warranty and most importantly it was actually in stock. The rated speeds are significantly lower than the EVO's, but you can actually reproduce them under normal workloads - so in reality, except for highly specialized applications there's <200MB/s speed difference (according to such review sites as TechReport and TomsHardware).
LOUD. When spun up, it's noisier than an Intel stock cooler at full tilt - and what's worse, it started giving me the click of death and making even more exasperating noises TWO DAYS after being purchased. I've heard bad things about Toshiba HDDs before, but I thought I'd give them a try - not again. Returned it for a Seagate without thinking twice.
Audible when spun up, but still markedly better than the ****** Toshiba. Great price for 2TB and posts pretty good speeds for a mechanical (~125MB/s).
Old but gold. No backplate, but a sizable clock increase and good cooler - and still kicking like new almost two years after purchase! Capable of running most modern games at 1440p ~110FPS with medium settings across the board, which is pretty damn impressive.
A real design miracle. For $40, you get support for a 150mm PSU, 120mm water cooler, and 267mm GPU (potentially axial-cooled) - all at the same time! However, more amateur builders are definitely going to want to tune it down a bit - it's a case that requires significant effort when built right, and you have to try your build two or three times before you get truly good thermals and acoustics.
If you're air cooling, you're almost definitely gonna want to go with an SFX PSU and / or radial GPU - though it has ATX screw holes, SFX makes the building a million times easier and provides orders of magnitude more space for airflow. If you're watercooling, you could go ATX and point the fan down for a pseudo-exhaust - but otherwise, go SFX.
The GPU cooling itself is good - most of the left panel is ventilated, so the GPU can just directly pull its own fresh air, but if it's an axial GPU then it'll dump heated air right on your CPU and PSU, causing increased temperature and noise for both of those. With a large ATX PSU and competent water cooler you can make an axial GPU work, but if you're air cooling you'll likely want to go with a radial GPU to keep CPU temps in check.
Move over, Silverstone. I had the pleasure of building with an ST45SF-G (the direct competitor of this unit) about a year and a half ago, and while it was a good PSU it was strictly mediocre - decent regulation & ripple, decent acoustic profile, decent functionality but there was nothing it truly excelled in. This unit changes that.
It has voltage & ripple regulation to compete with the best ATX units (source: JonnyGuru), comes with a very healthy dosage of accessories AND even carries a zero fan mode - which doesn't work so well (fan tends to cycle on and off at low loads e.g. web browsing, and is pretty noisy at full pelt), but is still somewhat impressive for a unit of this size.
Exemplar of what a case fan should be. Silent at idle, lots of air moved at full speed, enough accessories to choke a horse and a six year warranty. Accessories include a PWM Y-cable, PWM extension cable, "LNA" (fancy term for a voltage throttler to reduce max speed), and four rubber knobs for "anti vibration" mounting (in addition to normal fan screws).
Can't get much better than this in the current monitor ecosystem. For less than $400 (occasionally hops to $430 or so, but just as frequently goes to $400 or under) you get 1440p, 165Hz, G-Sync, impressive color reproduction out of the box and Dell build quality. Many will rash on it for the small size, but it's only a benefit for me - I have a small desk so I couldn't fit one of those mondo 27" models, plus the high pixel density really brings out the 1440p quality in games. You also get an inbuilt USB hub (3 USB3, including one quick charge, plus 1 USB2) which is very handy for motherboards that are short on USB.
Impeccable sound quality (**** tinny "virtual 7.1" ********), built like a tank, and hits the rare comfort threshold of being able to wear indefinitely. Light on accessories, but that's why the "Core" version exists - if you need the extra accessories you can get the Cloud for $10 more.