In my first build I had to learn everything as I went while also searching for sales. I wanted a powerful and quiet system and I didn't want to go over $1000 to get it. With that mandate I aggressively began searching various deal websites for sales and advice. After a week of successes and failures with price matching, coupon-ing, negotiating, and combining deals I had my parts on the way.
The final bill (after rebates come back):
$1006.86 + $39.36 shipping and taxes = $1046.22.
CPU: Staples price matched Microcenter even though I'm not near a Microcenter. Next best price of $230 is $40 savings.
CPU Cooler: NCIXUS sale. Next best price is $63 = $18 savings.
Thermal paste: the one thing I should have found cheaper. Oh well.
Motherboard: -$10 for Memorial day and a $30 rebate from the vendor who had it cheapest. $154.49 from next best = $24.50 savings.
RAM: -$30 for both pairs = -$60. Also -$15 savings on ($15 off $100 sale) = $75 savings. Usually 4 sticks of 4GB RAM of similar voltage and CAS would be $135 so I'm calling this $30 actual savings.
SSD: Amazon dropped this to an attractive $75 and I had a Staples ($30 off $80) coupon. They price matched to $75 then applied coupon = $45. $30 savings off next best.
GPU: Used off ebay. If it doesn't crap out it's a steal, as they're $270-$400 new. Lowest are about $200 used so this was $41 savings.
Case: Tiger Direct sale. $60. Next best is $99. $39 savings.
PSU: Newegg -$20 promo and then $-30 off $110 = $60. About $35 off next best.
Windows: Student edition discount. About $30 savings.
Fans from Noctua: when adding all six fans together about $36 savings over next best price.
Keyboard: Newegg open box. Normally about $70 = $21 savings.
By my calculations I got about $344.50 savings above next best possible price before tax and shipping. About $39.36 spent on shipping and tax. I should have signed up for shoprunner sooner - signed up on day 4. Still it saved me about $15 on shipping and would have saved me about $10 more. I was happy to see that PCPartsPicker values my system up around $1600 right now - makes the money paid feel like effort well spent.
I immediately fell in love with this case online and it looks even better in person. I had a G4 Mac for a long time and loved it and this case evokes fond memories with the handles on the ends. Building inside it was fairly challenging but I had an idea of where all the cables would go in the end and so they were pretty easy to tuck into their spaces during building. It didn't require any crazy amount of planning.
I'll eventually overclock this system and decided I could get away with the Noctua air cooler. It's one of the most impressive pieces of technology I've seen in a long time - I had it plugged into the mobo on the table to test it out and it was literally not audible from further than 1 foot. It didn't seem possible that it could be this quiet and, yet, I could put my hand behind the fans and feel a good amount of air being pushed. They do good work. It's not OC'd yet but the temperatures are very, very low even under load. If you're considering going this route I'd recommend it.
In the pictures you can the system slowly come together, fans going in, fans coming back out (oops), wires getting tied, wires getting tucked away, and finally an open-case glory shot and a few other glory shots in the daytime.
This thing looks amazing in the dark. The entire room is subtly lit green and blue. Sources of light are the keyboard, case LED, Motherboard LEDs, and 230mm fan LEDs. And it's quiet! I've been briefly worried a coupled times that the computer shut itself off while I was sleeping. But no - it's just quiet. Noctua fans are really something.
I learned a lot and feel like I got some good deals. This project was a ton of fun and made me interested in circuitry, lighting, fans, graphics cards, bitcoin mining, couponing, and improving my negotiation skills. Would do again. I look forward to fashioning some dust filters out of magnets and nylon and then overclocking it and running some benchmarks in the near future.