Read this. It took me over an hour’s worth of amphetamines to write it, and it’s so long that it exceeds the allowed word count per post, so I have to divide it into two posts.
1. Am I on the right track with this configuration, or am I way off? Overall, did I make wise choices in components? If not, where did I go wrong?
On the right track? In the loosest of terms, yes. You have configured a PC that will function and play games very well. Did you make wise choices? No, but that's why we are here. Where did you go wrong? Well, read on.
2. Did I choose a quality motherboard? Is there a better option? (Note: I went with the deluxe model because of it having 802.11ac Wi-Fi capability, although I may always use the ethernet port.)
You're dumping $120 too much into a motherboard. Why are you planning on gaming on a wireless connection using a stationary desktop machine with gigabit ethernet? Why do you think you need wireless AC? Do you frequently move tons of data across your network, with a dozen devices accessing it at one time while you stream an HD movie? Do you think it will somehow affect your internet connection?
That motherboard has more features than you need or understand. If you want wireless, get a PCI card or a USB adapter if you insist.
3. Regarding the CPU, how did I do? Should I have gone with a different CPU? Will a quad-core processor be more than sufficient (for now and the future)?
I have that CPU. I delidded it and have it in a custom loop. It performs very well. Don’t look at cores or clock speeds just as a determining factor. The i7’s hyperthreading allows it act as an 8-core CPU, executing two threads simultaneously while sharing the resources of one core. But it rapes AMD processors, even the ones with 8 physical cores. There is currently no AMD chip that competes with it (doesn’t mean AMD chips are bad, as they do have tremendous bang-for-buck.)
Do you live near a Microcenter or know someone who does? If not, you won't be paying $279.99 for it. That price is not an online price. Expect to pay more like $340-350 online.
Based on the rest of your build, I feel like you selected that CPU without understanding why, and unless you are doing a lot of CPU-intensive tasks besides gaming (video editing/encoding, 3d modeling, and so on), you probably don’t need that CPU. If you want it, you can get it. There’s no better CPU for that price, but you can put that money into better things, or just save it. If you were going to back off the processor, the AMD 8350 is a great choice. It’s not as good of a performer as the i5-4650k (sorry, but it’s not) or the 4770k of course, but it does offer a better bang for buck. And most importantly, it is far from being a bottleneck to your GPU and overall gaming performance. That’s the important part.
4. After thinking about it for a while, I've decided that I won't be overclocking my CPU immediately (is that a mistake?). With that being the case, would it still be a good idea to purchase a replacement CPU cooler or will the included Intel cooler be more than sufficient? If the former is the case, can you recommend one?
Learn the basics before you overclock. But even so, your motherboard (the one I choose for you) will have some basic auto-overclocking features that are noob friendly and require no tweaking on your part. Get a hyper 212+. Barely a drop in the bucket in your overall budget, and will perform far better than the stock cooler in either intel or AMD. Stock coolers are notorious for causing overheating and throttling during long gaming sessions, especially with the heat coming off your other components (video card) adding to the ambient temperature inside your case, stock coolers just suck. And even if you never get any shutdowns or throttling, you are shortening the life of your CPU by letting it sit at 80-90c while you game.
5. Does this video card make sense, when you consider my needs? (Note: I don't want to "cut costs" only to upgrade my video card a year later.)
That’s the current cream of the crop single-GPU card out right now, except for the $1,000 Titan. If I had to buy a new GPU today, I’d get the 780. But I’m gaming at 1440p. You, however, have selected two 1080p monitors.
I have questions for you:
1. You understand that you would really only be gaming on one monitor, right? I assume you selected the second one for productivity reasons (I have two monitors as well). If you’re interested in multiple monitor gaming, let me know. I’m going to assume you aren’t, though.
2. Are you aware of 1440p gaming and the Korean IPS/PLS monitors available on ebay for around $300?
3. Do you have desk space for a 27” monitor along with a secondary monitor for whatever you need it for? Who cares, make space for it.
If you are spending this kind of money on a gaming computer, the absolute stupidest thing you could do is use it for 1080p gaming. No other way to put it. You’re getting a 1440p monitor, or you’re lowering your hardware budget significantly.
6. As far as the power supply is concerned, I really don't know what I'm doing (imagine that). Can you recommend a power supply for this configuration? (Note: I don't want to go with the bare minimum for power, I would like some "headroom." I've seen the "estimated wattage" on pcpartpicker and I did a quick calculation using the eXtreme power supply calculator, but I want reassurance from actual human beings.)
I think head room is good for PSUs, too, as long as you aren’t spending a stupid amount of money for the extra wattage. There is a lot to be said about PSUs and selecting the right one. I’m planning to cover some of that in a guide I’m writing, but it’s too much to talk about here. So in the PC Partpicker link in my next post, I have selected a PSU for you. The one I have selected takes into account the following:
1. You one day decide to overclock your CPU and video card a little bit.
2. Capacitor aging, which reduces output by a small amount over a long period of frequent or continuous operation.
3. Adding an extra GTX 780 later down the road.
It’s more wattage than what you currently need, but a good power supply should last you through multiple upgrades and add-ons. This one will.
You can take my word for it and purchase that one, OR if someone suggests a cheaper bronze, silver, or gold PSU of similar wattage that’s made by Seasonic, XFX, OCZ, PCPnP, or Corsair. There might be other acceptable brands, but it doesn’t matter.
7. You may have noticed that I didn't include a sound card, is this a terrible, terrible mistake?
Nope, just fine. I have well over $2,000 in my tower alone, and I’m still using onboard sound. Unless you’re considering making a mini recording studio and layin down some tracks. And then you’ll need a pretty high-end low latency card and extremely quiet cooling in your case.
8. What else, if anything, should I do/purchase to keep the components cool? (I really don't have a firm grasp on what constitutes a proper cooling setup.)
A cookie-cutter “proper” cooling setup for a gaming midtower consists of the following:
1. An aftermarket CPU cooler such as the hyper 212+
2. At least one fan pulling in air from the front of your case (or side, if front isn’t possible)
3. At least one fan exhausting air out the back of your case
4. One fan exhausting air out the top of your case
That’s a good air cooling setup, but of course there’s always better for the more extreme overclockers or hobbyists.