PC Perspective Hardware LeaderboardSponsored by: Somebody
Updated December 17th, 2014:
Along with the PCPer HWLB its self, you can also head to the PCPer Hardware Leaderboard forum! This forum is where you can discuss my selections and offer your own suggestions. It is also the place for you to talk about the new system build you are working on even if it's NOT based on anything here.
Make sure that you take advantage of our new Amazon Affiliate program, it doesn't cost you a nickel and helps PCPer continue to bring you the latest in tech news.
Haswell-E has finally arrived to power our Dream System with the most powerful silicon on the planet, the i7-5960X. Of course that means the motherboard has to be swapped out which is why the ASUS X99-Deluxe with WiFi, BlueTooth, Thunderbolt, SEx and M.2 connectors as well as much more was chosen as the base of the system. The other big change is DDR-4, with the initial price so high and availability so low it is G.SKILL's 16GB DDR4-2400 which appears on the Leaderboard. Old favourites like the 1TB Samsung 850 Pro are still include, though if you can afford it the the RevoDrive 350 960GB PCIe SSD is faster and you will have the PCIe lanes to support it. While the new GTX 980 is a great card, the amazing price of XFX's Double Dissipation R9 290X means pick up two for roughly the same price of an overclocked GTX 980. The EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 Platinum PSU will ensure all your components are powered reliably.
The alternative Dream System is on hold until another Dual LGA2011 board becomes available.
The new High End system has been updated with Devils Canyon, the faster i7-4790K is paired with the inexpensive MSI Z97-Gaming 7 with an M.2 slot and and impressive array of features. The storage subsystem is upgrade to 3D with the introduction of the 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD. The High End system has the same card as the Dream, the XFX DoubleD R9 290X is a great card. At this point a discreet soundcard is a personal choice but if you are so inclined the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 can be purchased, otherwise knock $57 off the price.
Our Mid-Range System has moved to Haswell, with the unlocked i5-4690K on Gigabyte's GA-Z97X-UD3H Black Edition which is both versatile and inexpensive. The Tonga based R9 285X is a great card and will let you fully benefit from the new features in the Omega driver and Freesync displays when they hit the market. The Samsung 850 EVO is a great price for a 250GB model. This month your 8GB of DDR3-1600 comes from G.SKILL thanks to both tight timings and a great price. Corsair's solid Builder Series 500W PSU is one of the more reliable PSUs at that power level and remains for another month.
AMD's Kaveri A10-7700K is the a great processor for those on a budget and even if your budget is currently too tight for a discrete GPU you will still be able to game. Skipping the graphics card altogether makes even more sense than with Richland but if you want to try Hybrid Crossfire then you are looking at an R7-240 or R7-250. The new processor supports PCIe 3.0 which makes the Gigabyte GA-F2A88X-D3H a great choice as it offers both a good price and impressive versatility. 4GB of 1866MHz RAM from G.SKILL and a Builder Series PSU on special at $31 after MIR are both great for this system.
Once you have all your components you can always reference Ryan's videos covering the installation of the parts into the case as well as installing your OS and Steam so you can get right to gaming and surfing.
Haswell-E has finally arrived for those who need the most processing power they can get their mitts on. While the new CPU won't give you huge improvements in gaming it blows away its predecessors when it comes to encoding and applications which require serious processing. The 5960X sports 40 PCIe 3.0 lanes so you can use quite a few GPUs or PCIe SSDs simultaneously. Check Ryan's review here.
Pick the ASUS X-99 Deluxe to house your Haswell-E system, not just for the looks nor because Morry found a CMOS battery he liked but instead because of the amazing feature set. There is BlueTooth and dual band WiFi, 8-Channel ALC1150 codec, a pair of SEx connectors for 10Gbps assuming you don't take advantage of the M.2 sockets and so much more. You even get extra functionality out of the CPU socket to allow you to crank the power up higher than the competition.
At $570 the EVGA GTX 980 Superclocked ACX is a good deal if you are planning on picking up a G-SYNC display but the performance is only slightly better than the XFX Double D R9 290X that costs a lot less. For as long as the sale lasts the AMD product is a much better investment as you will get almost the exact same performance in most games. These two cards are only $150 more than a a single GTX 980.
Based both on current availability and a lack of evidence that the price of higher speed DDR4 is worth the investment it is the G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 DDR4 2400 16GB kit which gets approval for now. The timings of 15-15-15-35 are attractive when compared to faster DDR4, though not as tight as DDR3 of an equivalent speed. That isn't bad news, it just means an opportunity to tweak the frequency and timings!
The new Samsung 850 Pro is the fastest and most resilient SSD on the market but the price is far higher but the new 850 EVO is the better choice. The price is much better and the performance is every bit as good for gamers.
If you really want the best available speed then you need to spend more, but the OCZ RevoDrive 350 960GB PCIe SSD will beat any SATA drive on the market. It will set you back $1267 but you have to pay for the best.
If you feel that you have to have a sound card, perhaps one with changeable OPamps is a good idea as it will let you modify your systems sound in ways that onboard audio cannot. With 7.1 surround, SPDIF and RCA in along with a front panel connector the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 will give you a lot of options without requiring a huge investment. There is currently a $10 MIR you can take advantage of as well.
Not that long ago the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 Platinum Power Supply received the Editors Choice award from Lee and for good reason. 80PLUS Platinum, fully modular and with high end internals make this PSU reliable and attractive for a system requiring over a kilowatt of power. A 10 year warranty is a definite plus when you are spending this much on a PSU and this one is worth every penny.
The Devil's Canyon based i7-4970K has arrived and while it offers little incentive as an upgrade it is perfect to base a new system on. Running faster than its predecessor at 4GHz base and 4.4GHz boost you will be getting the best Haswell part Intel currently has on offer. It should also offer a bit more overclocking headroom thanks to the improved TIM.
To move to Z97 we are giving up on Thunderbolt but gaining M.2 which will allow you to exceed the speed allowed by SATA 6Gbs. As well you gain a KillerNIC and a seriously impressive onboard audio solution which Morry covered in his review. With a pair of PCIe 16x slots you have the ability to pick up a second GPU in the future, numerous USB and SATA ports and a nice clean design around the CPU socket which increases your choice of heatsink.
If you picked up a G-SYNC display already then the ASUS STRIXVGA GTX 970 @ $350 is a good deal. On the other hand the R9 290X is undisputably faster, FreeSync monitors will arrive soon and is almost exactly the same price. The XFX Double D R9 290X is overclocked, reasonably quiet and ships with the 'Gold' Tier of the Never Settle Forever.
Timings of 7-8-8-24 give G.SKILL's 2x4GB DDR3-1600 kit an edge over the competition and they are among the better values currently available on the volatile memory market. XMP support should help get your system up and configured in no time; then you can start overclocking.
The jump to the Samsung 850 is more than just a number change, it introduces 3D flash to the market. Al's testing shows it does not fragment as much as previous SSDs and the 10 year warranty is nice to see. The 850 EVO is another great choice if the shorter warranty doesn' worry you and it is a little less expensive at $140.
If you feel that you have to have a sound card, perhaps one with changeable OPamps is a good idea as it will let you modify your systems sound in ways that onboard audio cannot. With 7.1 surround, SPDIF and RCA in along with a front panel connector the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 will give you a lot of options without requiring a huge investment.
The Seasonic S21G 750 has a single 12V rail which can deliver up to 62A @ 744W, more than enough power for this system allowing the chance for a future upgrade without worrying about overtaxing your PSU. Lee gave it a Gold Award in his review, not only due to the PSU's soild performance but also because of the 5 year warranty.
The unlocked Haswell i5-4690K is a good base for a Mid Range PC and while the internal HD4600 GPU is a vast improvement over previous generations it is still not going to hold up to gaming duties; it will come in handy when you are working on your own media creation.
Building the mid-range system off of the new Z97 chipset only makes sense although perhaps not one of the flagship models. The Gigabyte Black Edition is one of the few lower end motherboards with two PCIe 3.0 slots to give your system more flexibility and it also includes both Sata Express and an M.2 port for 10Gbps storage. Gigabyte have packed a lot of features on this board.
The XFX Double D R9 285 costs a bit more than the MSI Gaming N760 TF but it means you get the benefit of AMD's new architecture, the most exciting is being able to use Virtual Super Resolution to upscale your monitor to 4K. Tonga compares favouraby to the GTX 760 in performance, the Never Settle: Space Edition is a good addition and TrueAudio and FreeSync seal the deal.
It looks like RAM prices are spiking again, though still a lot less than DDR4, DDR3 prices seem to have jumped $20 this month. Timings matter more than MHz, so at 8-8-8-24 the G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3-1600 kit are the pick this month. XMP support should help get your system up and configured in no time; then you can start overclocking.
If you really need a sound card for this build the ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 at $38 is a decent deal and offers you more options than onboard audio will. On the other hand except for certain tasks, audio hardware found on modern motherboards will provide satisfactory performance.
The Corsair Builder Series 500W PSU provides 38A on the 12V rail and has an 80 PLUS BRONZE Certification. This PSU which will handle either of the suggested GPUs and you also get a nice 3 year warranty, which is not bad for a 500W PSU. It is likely compatible with the new sleep states introduced by Haswell.
Kaveri has arrived with somewhat updated Steamroller cores and a very impressive upgrade to the graphics cores. It does drive the price of the CPU up somewhat but as it is capable of playing current title games at 1080p on low or medium settings, especially those which benefit from Mantle. You can get an idea of the performance to expect from Ryan's review of the slightly lower clocked A8-7600.
The Gigabyte GA-F2A88X-D3H has a PCIe 3.0 slot, which your new Kaveri processor now supports as well as a PCIe 2.0 4x slot, three 1x slots and even a pair of legacy PCI slots. It also has a wide variety of ports available and can handle multiple displays as long as you weren't planning on using them for high resolution gaming. For an HTPC you could consider the mATX GA-F2A88XM-D3H.
If you have to have a GPU in your Kaveri system the two smart choices are the R7 240 or R7 250 as they will allow hybrid CrossFire to function. That way you don't lose the investment you put into those 384 SIMDs. You can pick up a Powercooler R7 240 on Amazon or the more expensive R7 250 but the real deal is this XFX R7 240 at $50 after MIR which includes the Never Settle Space Edition.
For a pair of 2GB DIMMs G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB are a good deal at $40 and run at the newly supported frequency of 1866MHz. RAM prices are hard to predict but 4GB is truly the least amount you should consider picking up initially, as long as you are running a 64-bit OS installation you will benefit from more RAM. At timings of 9-10-9-28 you can take advantage of how mature DDR3 has become.
It would be possible to exchange this 1TB Seagate Barracuda for a $110 Crucial MX100 256GB SSD if storage space is not an issue. If you do need the storage space then the SATA 6Gbps Barracuda 1TB with 64MB cache is a great choice especially for media junkies.
With the 7.1 surround Realtek ALC892 audio chipset onboard you don't need to pick up a sound card, something that helps bring the price of the budget build down. The quality of sound reproduction is perfect for watching movies or listening to music and while it won't be terribly effective at sound editing, that really is not the purpose of this build.
This month on NewEgg is a sale on the modular Corsair CX430M, enough power for the Budget Build with the added bonus of less case clutter since you only need to plug in the cables you will be using. It has a single 6+2 PCIe power connector and enough power to handle to handle a GPU if you opt for discrete video.