Goals for The Project:
1) A technology lesson I wanted to teach my 9 year old son about what happens under the hood. He builds with Legos and plays Minecraft on his iPad mini. I want to spark his interest in learning about engineering and computer science. So we'll start with learning about the different components of a PC and then assemble/test it. He and I will use it to play educational games (math, typing, internet research), explore programming ( Mindstorms, Scratch, scripting), and of course play games that we will download from Steam.
2) First PC Build I have Apple in my blood (20+ years at Apple) and have a deep technology background. Yet I had never built a PC before until now.
My son and I both like to play computer games. My wife hates how much technology we have at home (iPhones, iPads, Macs, AppleTV, smart Appliances, web cams, Kindles) so I need a way to disguise my Father/Son time as "educational" and not "screen-time"
Not sure where this build will live - either in my son's room or the home office I share with my wife. Regardless, the build needs to be ultra quiet which is why I've gone the air-cooled route. We'll be using headphones when we play games. Still need to decide what keyboard to get - a good gaming keyboard with quiet keys. Not sure if that exists....
5) Fast & "future proof" I decided to go with Skylake as we will need to live (or upgrade) with this chipset & motherboard for a while. Wanted to have a fast enough system for 1080p games without being too expensive. Went with an xxxx K CPU so I could teach my son (and myself) about overclocking.
1) CPU & Motherboard
I wanted the latest Chipset hence the z170. I chose the ASUS z170 Pro Gaming board because I like high quality board, the ROG derived ASUS BIOS features for overclocking, fan control etc...without the cost of a ROG motherboard. We don't need a 6700k for gaming and got a great deal at Microcenter for the 6600k @ $220.
2) Video Card
Didn't need high end / expensive GPU (e.g. GTX 980 Ti). Instead wanted a great, mid-range GPU that was relatively low wattage, $300 or under, and would shine with games at 1080p resolutions. Could have gone with Radeon but decided to go with an Nvidia GTX 970. Choose the ASUS GTX 970 STRIX for it's price and good reviews for performance, heat, and noise.
3) CPU Cooler & Fans
Quiet is the word. I'm impressed with Noctua's cpu coolers & fans. With a nod to better atheistic, I've replaced the cooler fan and added case intake fans with Noctua's industrial fans. Pricey yes but great reviews. Grey instead of brown! I wanted the NH-D15s for it's thermo & noise performance but of course it doesn't fit the NZXT S340. So I opted for the low profile NH-C14s. I like the "engine" look it gives in the build while quietly keeping the cpu frosty. It certainly makes the build more unique compared to the more typical glowing water cooler look.
4) Memory & Storage
Fast and big enough for games. 8GB is all that is need for games. The red, low profile 2x4 GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR4 2400 is fast and inexpensive enough for our needs. We have a lot of macs which are used for photos, videos, and work so we don't need any HDD storage. This is our "project" computer. We want super fast boots (hence the M.2 drive as a boot drive - plus how cool is a plug-in M.2 drive!) The Samsung 2.5" SSD provides all the speed and storage we will need for our "educational" software...uhm yeah that's right... >Mom it's not a game it's a performance load test....
Quiet and reliable was the goal. Wanted some wattage head room before PSU fan needs to kick in. After reading numerous comments from a few of the more vocal PSU critics, I spent some time reading through the PSU explanations and review at http://www.jonnyguru.com. While I was tempted to pay extra for a Seasonic P2 660 PSU, I was impressed with jonnyguru's recent review for the EVGA G2 650 80+ Gold, modular PSU. Finding it priced for $69.99 at NewEgg after a $20 mail-in rebate was too good a deal to pass up.
Spent a lot of time thinking about cases - wanting something smallish and not too flashy so my wife won't complain while having clean compartments & cable management for good airflow and easy assembly for first time builders. I think the NZXT S340 is a great, good looking, inexpensive choice with a very clean design.
Wanted a good 1080p display with good user reviews for performance & quality. G-SYNC if possible. My local Micro-Center had a great deal for the ACER 24" XB240H @$350.
Most people don't add this to their part list. As we were not upgrading from any previous builds nor do we have an optical drive, I opted for purchasing the USB Flash-based Windows Home Full (non OEM) version @ $120. Sure I could have saved $20 or more with much more hassle installing Windows 10.