Let's start with a picture:
Clicking on the picture will take you to the flickr page.
This machine is optimized for photo editing, although it would work for most other applications. It is very quiet. If there is any ambient noise the computer is inaudible. I can actually hear the faint hum of my Dell 2209WA monitor.
You can view my photography (may not be work safe at some companies) at:
Anyone could build this machine with no tools other than a screwdriver.
Case: Antec NSK3480, Tricool exhaust replaced with a Scythe S-Flex 800 RPM. The fan does not tick. The machine runs cooler without swapping the side panels
PSU: Earthwatts 380 (included with case), fan swapped for 1800 RPM Noctua NF-R8. At idle its dead quiet. Running Prime 95 it revs up to about as loud as the stock fan was at idle but with a somewhat higher frequency.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2. Reviewed favorably by Anandtech.
CPU: I5-750, overclocked to 3.6 ghz (180x20). The multiplier drops to 9 at idle and the voltage is 1.2 going flat out and about .85 at idle, per CPU-Z.
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus with Scythe 800 RPM Slipstream. Gigabyte's motherboard fan control requires a program that will trigger UAC every time you log on, so its not in use. CPU core temperature equals ambient at idle. Running linpack (Linex) the cores hit in a range of 67-71c for the most part. Prime 95 is about 6c lower.
Memory: 8 Gigs of G Skill F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ running at 1440 Mhz, 8-8-8-23. Socket 1156 mobo's are picky about the memory that gets put in them.
Drives: Two Samsung F3-HD502HJ. Its dual boot with one drive Windows 7 64-bit and the other OS X 10.6.4. Look to the second page of this thread for details on OS X. Optiarc DVD burner, with a rather clunky tray. The Samsung hard drives are unusually fast, quiet and vibration free. The stock silicone mounts in the NSK3480 are sufficient. An external USB drive is used for backups.
Video: BFG Geforce 9800GT Eco, with Accelero S1 Rev 2 in passive mode. Idles at 37C, 23C lower than the stock slot cooler. With Furmark it leveled out at 51c and stayed there. The stock cooler hit 78c after one minute and I did not wait to find out what would happen next.