This spring and early summer have certainly been eventful. Over a few short months, we've seen the arrival of Intel's Haswell processors and AMD's Richland APUs. Not only that, but Nvidia has found the time to unleash three graphics cards as part of the new GeForce GTX 700 series.
That's a lot of fresh hardware. And it means the time is right for another TR system guide.
In this edition, we've updated our processor and graphics picks to take the new products into account. In some cases, that meant rethinking the purpose of our builds and reevaluating our priorities. In other instances, that meant keeping things as they were—because new isn't always better. We've also tweaked our memory and solid-state storage recommendations to adjust for pricing and availability shifts, which tend to happen awfully often these days.
Join us as we walk you through our four revamped builds: the Econobox, the Sweet Spot, the Editor's Choice, and the Double-Stuff Workstation. We've packed each one full of the finest hardware available at each price point. And, since we seem to have reached the end of this season's release marathon, these recommendations should stay relevant for a good few months.
At least, we hope so.
Rules and regulations
A short disclaimer: this is a component selection guide, not a PC assembly guide or a performance comparison. If you're seeking help with the business of putting components together, you'll want to have a look at our handy how-to build a PC article—and the accompanying video:
If you're after reviews and benchmarks, we suggest heading to our front page and starting from there.
Over the next few pages, you'll see us recommend and discuss components for four sample builds. Those builds have target budgets of about $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000. Within each budget, we will attempt to hit the sweet spot of performance and value while mentally juggling variables like benchmark data, our personal experiences, current availability and retail pricing, user reviews, warranty coverage, and the manufacturer's size and reputation. We'll try to avoid both overly cheap parts and needlessly expensive ones. We'll also favor components we know first-hand to be better than the alternatives.
Beyond a strenuous vetting process, we will also aim to produce balanced configurations. While it can be tempting to settle on a $50 motherboard or a no-name power supply just to make room for a faster CPU, such decisions are fraught with peril—and likely disappointment. Similarly, we will avoid favoring processor performance at the expense of graphics performance, or vice versa, keeping in mind that hardware enthusiasts who build their own PCs tend to be gamers, as well.
Now that we've addressed the how, let's talk about the where. See that "powered by Newegg.com" logo at the top of the page? Newegg sponsors our system guides, and more often than not, it will double as our source for component prices. However, Newegg has no input on our editorial content nor sway over our component selections. If we want to recommend something it doesn't carry, we'll do just that.
We think sourcing prices from a huge online retailer gives us more realistic figures, though—so much so that we quoted Newegg prices long before this guide got a sponsor. Dedicated price search engines can find better deals, but they often pull up unrealistically low prices from small and potentially unreliable e-tailers. If you're going to spend several hundred (or thousand) dollars on a PC, we think you'll be more comfortable doing so at a large e-tailer with a proven track record and a decent return policy. That vendor doesn't have to be as big as Newegg, but it probably shouldn't be as small as Joe Bob's Discount Computer Warehouse, either.