PC Perspective Hardware LeaderboardSponsored by: Somebody
Updated April 4th, 2016:
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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. DDR4's pricing continues to fall and G.SKILL's 16GB DDR4-2400 is nowhere near as expensive as it used to be. Samsung's M.2 version of the 950 Pro brings you NVMe and PCIe speeds at a reasonable price and is well worth the investment. For the GPU, the only thing better than one ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX is two of them in SLI, unless you strap on the VR goggles as multi-GPU support has a ways to go. 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 and is ready for VR, as well as high end displays. 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 takes advantage of the low price of the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD to leave a little more room for your GPU. In order to ensure you have a great experience when using VR goggles, the High End system will use MSI's GeForce GTX 980 Gaming 4GB as it offers better perfomance than a GTX970. The R9 390 is still a decent choice if you prefer AMD's offerings . 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 moves up to Skylake as the prices are much more reasonable, as well as allowing you to level up to VR. The i5-6500 comes in at a decent price and the Gigabyte H170-Gaming 3 offers you a lot more than you might expect from a motherboard which costs less than $100. The 250GB Samsung 850 EVO is a great price and should hold at least some of your game library. Moving to an H170 board means moving to DDR4, though you should notice it does not change the 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 DDR4 with higher frequencies and give you an opportunity to tweak the frequency and timings!
Amazon has them as well, though the price is currently higher.
Moving to an M.2 PCIe based NVMe makes sense now that there is competition in the market and Samsung's 950 Pro is a great example of that. Al's review found this to be the fastest consumer M.2 drive on the market so it should find a home in all new high end systems.
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.
If you are looking at ditching your monitor for VR goggles then the MSI GAMING GeForce GTX 980 is the card you should look towards. It's performance is noticably better than a 970, even an overclocked model and the price is not completely out of this world. With a 1317MHz boost clock and RAM a hair over 7GHz it will serve non-VR rigs as well. You can also choose to go with a XFX Double Dissipation R9 390X at $410 if you so wish.
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.
To bring the price down a hair without sacrificing performance, try the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD for your system. As Al's review has shown this drive performs very well for the price and we should be seeing a new version with 48 layer NAND in the very near future.
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.
VR support brings Skylake to the Mid-Range System, at just under $200 you can exceed the minimum specifications the Oculus tools looks for. A turbo frequency of 3.6 GHz, support for DDR4 and a LGA 1151 socket which means future upgrades are possible all make this a great choice for those aiming to spend around $1000 on a new rig.
For a mere $95 you can pick up the Gigabyte GA-H170-Gaming 3, giving you M.2 support along with LGA 1151 and DDR4 as well as SEx ports and a Killer NIC. The H170 series of board offer a lot of features you might not expect on a sub $100 motherboard and gives you a bit of future proofing as your budget recovers. The onboard sound is also of high enough quality you can skip the soundcard unless you have a good reason.
The GPU for the mid-range PC is a tough choice and will likely come down to personal preference or a timely sale. The R9 390 and GTX 970 will do an equal amount of damage to your wallet and the performance will be similar. They will both handle VR but for those considering using large desktops the extra GDDR on the 390 will offer a slight advantage. For those reasons and the slightly lower price the XFX DD R9 390 gets the nod.
With DDR4 hitting price parity with DDR3 the move to H170 will not hurt you as much as you think it will. Instead of 8GB of DDR3-1600 we recommend 8GB of DDR4-2133, it won't boost your performance noticeably but it will certainly work better on the Gigabyte board than DDR3 will. You can try to raise the clock speed or tighten the default timings of 15-15-15-35 if you want to eke out a bit more performance.
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.