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The Tech Report System Guide: July 2015 edition


It's all about the graphics cards, baby
— 3:45 PM on July 20, 2015

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Welcome to the latest edition of The Tech Report System Guide. Since we last surveyed the PC hardware landscape, AMD and Nvidia have both launched their latest salvos in the battle for high-end graphics card supremacy, and the results have been explosive. AMD has also refreshed its mainstream lineup with its Radeon 300-series graphics cards. With all that action happening, it's time for an updated System Guide.

The advent of Radeon 300-series graphics cards may soon mean that the attractive prices on many Radeon R9 290 and 290X cards will become a thing of the past. Going by the official lineup, the Radeon R9 390 now competes directly with the GeForce GTX 970 in the $330 to $350 range, and those cards are pretty closely matched on performance, too. We'll examine why you might choose one or the other in our recommendations.

If you're looking to live on the bleeding edge of graphics performance, Nvidia and AMD have both recently introduced new high-end graphics cards in the form of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti and the Radeon R9 Fury X. AMD also has an intriguing GeForce GTX 980 competitor in the form of the Radeon R9 Fury. We've reviewed them all, and we've picked our favorites among these contenders, as well.

We're also bringing back the Breadbox Mini-ITX system in this edition of the Guide. In a couple months or less, armies of students will be heading off to college, and we think many of the gamers among them will appreciate a light, compact, yet powerful PC.

Rules of the road
The System Guide is our list of recommended parts for building a new PC. If you've never built a PC before and want to, that's great. Just be sure to read through our guide to building a PC, or kick back and watch the handy video below, before proceeding.

In the following pages, we'll discuss our picks for the critical components that make up a PC, including processors, motherboards, memory, graphics cards, storage, cases, and power supplies. We've picked parts to fit budgets of all sizes, without compromising on quality or performance. Those picks are divided into three categories: budget, sweet spot, and high end.

Our budget picks will get you up and running with solid components that won't break the bank. Stepping up to our Sweet Spot parts gets you even more bang for your buck. At the high end, we've chosen parts that represent the pinnacle of performance, without falling into the trap of spending money for its own sake.

Each part will have a link to a TR review where possible. We also include a "notable needs" section for each item with any critical information that you need to know before putting together a parts list. Finally, we've put together some sample builds if you have no idea where to start.

The Tech Report System Guide is sponsored by Newegg. We'll be using links to their product pages throughout this guide. You can (and should!) support our work by purchasing the items we recommend using these links. A big thanks to Newegg for their continued support.

In the rare case that Newegg doesn't stock an item we want to recommend, we'll link to other retailers as needed. We also want to be clear that despite its sponsorship, Newegg has no editorial input on the items included in the System Guide: our picks are entirely our own.

If you like this article, don't miss the rest of our guide series: our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; our mobile staff picks, where we highlight our favorite devices for on-the-go computing; and our peripheral guide, where we pick the best monitors, mice, keyboards, and accessories to make your PC experience even better.