PC Perspective Hardware LeaderboardSponsored by: Somebody
Updated January 18th, 2016:
Along with the PCPer HWLB itself, 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.
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Haswell-E remains the most powerful choice, the 40 PCIe lanes ensure that the Dream System retains 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 Evo are still included, though if have budget then go with the 1.2TB Intel 750 PCIe SSD. The GTX 980 Ti remains the fastest available card with the only thing better than a ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX is two of them in SLI. 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 Skylake, a nice mix of price and performance. We recommend investing in the i7-6700K but the i5 is almost as powerful if you are on a budget. The ASUS ASUS Z170-A brings many of the new features you expect to this motherboard while keeping the price well under $200, the 16GB of CORSAIR Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 also keeps with the theme of price conscious performance. The storage subsystem is upgrade to 3D with the introduction of the 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD. The High End system will use the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW+ ACX 2.0 thanks to the current deal on NewEgg and the impressive factory overclock. The R9 390 and 290X are still decent choices but at this time the price is just not right. A discreet soundcard is a personal choice but if you are so inclined the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 can be purchased, otherwise knock $50 off the price.
Our Mid-Range System is still Haswell, as the cost of Skylake is a bit high still. The unlocked i5-4690K will pair nicely with the ASUS Z97-Pro Gamer motherboard which leaves room for upgrading once your bank account regenerates. The Tonga based R9 380X is a great card and will let you fully benefit from the new features such as Virtual Super Resolution. 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 600W 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 $40 after MIR are both great for this system. It is also time to retire the spinning rust and replace it with the impressively fast and inexpensive Crucial BX100 SSD, if 250GB is too small you can still pick up a 1TB drive but you will enjoy the SSD far more.
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.
The fastest card around with the fastest factory overclock is currently the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX. Out of the box you have a 1317MHz GPU boost speed and 7.2GHz VRAM and with ASUS' Direct CU III you should be able to get higher than that. You have to pay for the best but if you want to game in 4K or higher a pair of 980 Ti's will get you there.
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 2666 32GB 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!
Amazon has them as well, though the price is currently higher.
The new Samsung 850 Pro is the fastest and most resilient SSD on the market but costs you an extra $100 making the 850 EVO 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. The Intel 750 1.2TB PCIe card is amazingly fast but at $1000 you will have to make sure you can afford it.
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.
Hello Skylake, nice to finally meet you. The i7-6700K comes to the High End machine at a bit over the MSRP due to availablity but it is a welcome addition. If the current price is daunting you could choose the $265 Core i5-6600K is a mite more affordable. As you can see in Ryan's full review, the new architecture shows noticeable improvements over Sandybridge.
Skylake motherboards can be expensive but the good news is that they don't have to be. Morry provided proof of that in his review of the ASUS Z170-A. Even with the reduced price, ASUS did not skimp on the features, from stable overclocking performance to a reasonably placed M.2 slot and even a a dedicated onboard water-pump header. This is a bargain ... which will help when it comes to buying DDR4.
The $300-$400 GPU segment is so incredibly close right now it is a toss up between the GTX 970, the R9 390 and the R9 290X. If you have a favourite brand that could be the final deciding factor when choosing your GPU. Based on current sales the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW+ ACX 2.0 is the way to go, a heavily overclocked GTX 970 at a great price.
With timings of 16-18-18-35 the 16GB of DDR-2666 from Corsair offer a great mix of price and performance. They may not glow or come with fans but this Corsair kit should ensure your memory subsystem stays stable whilst you are overclocking your CPU.
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 $148.
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 for a $44 investment after rebate.
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.
Skylake just has too many other associated costs for our Mid Range PC so we remain with the unlocked Haswell i5-4690K. The internal HD4600 GPU is a vast improvement over previous generations it is still not going to hold up to gaming duties without a discrete GPU to help it. The iGPU will come in handy when you are working on your own media creation.
One of the last Z97 boards Morry reviewed was the ASUS Z97-Pro Gamer and it picked up a Gold Award. You get a lot of high end features including an M.2 slot and a SEx port as well as two 16x PCIe slots. The overclocking potential of the board is significant making investing in that unlocked Haswell CPU worth it.
The XFX R9 380X DD XXX OC is a great card for 1080p gaming and as the original R9 380 is priced almost the same it makes sense to take advantage of the higher clock and increased stream processors. If you can't find one at the $230 price point but you can find a 4GB 380 or a GTX 960 on sale you can certainly consider it but you will be missing out on VSR and XFX's classic Double Dissipation cooler.
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.
The brand new Samsung 850 EVO certainly impressed Al and it will you as well. Incredibly fast and with a decent price the 250GB EVO drive will leave you with plenty of space after OS installations. If you have the extra money the 256GB 850 Pro is $120 and is faster, albeit not by a huge margin for normal usage scenarios.
If you really need a sound card for this build the ASUS Xonar DGX 5.1 at $20 after MIR 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 600W PSU is on special and with its longer cables and 40A on the single 12V rail it will handle either of the suggested GPUs on this build. While it is not modular you have to make some sacrifices and function should always trump form when you are purchasing a PSU.
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.
In order to benefit from AMD Dual Graphics you will want to look at pairing your A10-7700K with an R7 250 or R7 240. If you do want a discrete GPU to add to your Low End System, this Gigabyte UD2 R7 250 is nicely overclocked and will give your system a nice boost in performance. This R7 240 would drop the cost to $55 if you need to trim more money off.
With falling DDR3 prices it makes sense to up the system memory on the Low End System to 8GB. G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB DDR3-1600 offers decent timings and a great price. In fact at this price you could even think of picking up two kits and having 16GB of RAM!
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.