I plan to build this new system for gaming. I will be playing mostly BF3, Diablo 3 and probably Skyrim. I'm having trouble picking out the best Mobo. I don't SLI or Xfire and I don't really add-on anything else like soundcards, so I'm wondering if I could save a few bucks and get an ATX board? I've also always used Nvidia GPU's, I think I tried AMD once and had a bad experience, but I'm open to suggestions on anything. My monitor is a 22" and native is around 1900x800 or the next one up.
I agree with the consensus to get a bigger GPU and smaller MB. My advice also if you're buying the Cooler Master Hyper 212 would be to purchase a second fan for it. Any 120mm fan will work when you install the included rails on it. With mine I just used an old Antec that I had lying around and the performance is very noticeable.
What I'd do would be to get a Gigabyte board (I've been using the GA-Z68XP-UD3P and loving it), and increase the GPU to a GTX 570 or maybe an AMD / ATI Radeon 6950.
On the Mobo situation, the Gigabyte board you said is a full size and is $10 more then the ASUS Micro I listed. They are also both the Z68 chipset(or are you saying the Gigabyte is a better board?). I think the only way to get cheaper would to go to a P67 chipset. Is that worth it?
I recently installed a 212 plus CPU cooler in my newly built rig. I'm actually looking for a better CPU cooler at this time and doing my research, as I'm not entirely pleased with the 212s performance. I mean it does cool the CPU, I won't say it doesn't because it does, but the overall quality is not to my liking.
Reasons why I don't advise the 212 plus:
1) i5 2500K at 3.3 (stock) under load provided 62C. I want to OC to 3.8 and that would make temperatures unacceptable to me.
2) The CPU cooling unit doesn't sit against the CPU firmly enough to my taste. Even with screws fastened to the rear plate to the max there is still room to wiggle the unit more than I'd like.
3) Screws provided to attack the cooling unit to the rear plate are very unique in structure and of poor quality. I'm talking basic metallurgy. With little force the screw snapped in 2 and I had to use pliars to remove both parts from either side of the motherboard and then had to ride around town for hours looking for a screw that would fit into the metal adapors that go between the screw and the rear plate.
I eventually found one and made a makeshift solution
4) It comes with only 1 fan and if you want to optimize performance you'd have to go find another fan.
I havent concluded my research so I cannot yet recommend an alternative, but I'm sure other more experienced people here can contribute more with that.
I may not represent the majority opinon, actually I have no idea what the majority opinion is, but I would suggest dropping the SSD (expensive), compromising with the case, dropping RAM to 8GB and spending the cash on a 2nd GPU for SLI/Crossfire.
I'd still happily drop RAM to 8GB, SSD and buy a second GPU. Infact I did exactly that and I'm wholeheartedly happy about my decision.
My brother has 2 SSDs and 16GB RAM and 1 GTX 560 Ti, I have 8GB of the same RAM, 0 SSDs and 2x HD 6950 and my PC completely outforms his in every single game, to the point where he is ordering the 2nd GPU.