The Tech Report System Guide: September 2015 edition

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After a quiet couple of System Guides, big changes are coming to the desktop PC. A huge wave of Intel Skylake CPUs will hit the market soon, and with them comes a need for complementary motherboards, chipsets, memory, and storage. We’re here to chart a course through these unfamiliar waters for you.

The key word here is “soon.” Only two Skylake CPUs are widely available as we speak: the overclocking-friendly Core i5-6600K and Core i7-6700K. For the kinds of enthusiast PCs we tend to spec out in the System Guide, we think these chips will be the best options for muscular gaming PCs, but we’ll also examine some of Intel’s Skylake Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs so that folks with tighter budgets can get a good idea of what’s worth buying before those chips hit store shelves.

There’s still the Broadwell-based Core i7-5775C to consider, as well. On its face, this chip might not seem that interesting: its 65W TDP, 3.3GHz base clock, and 3.7GHz Turbo speed look a bit pedestrian next to top-end Haswell and Skylake CPUs. Run a game on this thing, though, and it tends to punch way above its weight class. That’s because it has 128MB of eDRAM on board, which doubles as a huge last-level cache. Games make good use of that extra cache capcity.

In previous System Guides, we lamented the Core i7-5775C’s scarcity and price mark-ups, but it seems like that tight supply situation may ease soon. Intel has told us to expect more Core i7-5775C stock “as Q3 progresses.” Even so, the 5775C will cost more than the Core i7-6700K, and it’s not as fast as the Skylake chip in some tasks, so builders will need to consider whether they’re building a truly gaming-centric system or a more all-purpose PC. We’ve drawn up a couple of suggested builds that take both sides of this coin into account.

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. Despite its sponsorship, Newegg has no input on the components 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.

 

CPUs

We’ll be blunt here: the name of the game in CPUs right now remains Intel. Dollar for dollar, and by almost any measure, the blue team’s processors are simply better than the AMD competition. Whatever your budget, we recommend that you build your PC around an Intel chip. That said, we continue to make exceptions for two of AMD’s processors: the A8-7600 and Athlon X4 860K. These sub-$100 CPUs might make sense for some systems.

Some builders may be tempted by AMD’s FX-series CPUs, like the FX-8350. These chips pack a lot of cores at high clock speeds, often at lower prices than Intel’s. We don’t recommend them, though. In lightly threaded workloads, which are the most common for desktop systems, the stronger per-thread performance of Intel CPUs gives them an undeniable advantage. Intel’s current processors also consume less power and throw off less heat than comparable AMD silicon.

Intel’s latest CPU architecture is called Skylake. Chips based on this 14-nm silicon offer small-but-welcome increases in performance pretty much across the board, and from what we’ve seen, there aren’t substantial premiums for choosing Skylake-compatible motherboards or memory, even now. Skylake’s platform improvements are also welcome: the highest-end Z170 chipset offers more PCI Express lanes for next-generation storage or high-speed I/O ports. Given these advantages, we’d generally recommend building around a Skylake processor if possible.

As we’ve mentioned, one non-Skylake chip worth considering for a certain kind of system builder is the Broadwell-derived Core i7-5775C. In our tests, we found this chip can deliver better gaming performance than even the top-of-the-line Skylake Core i7-6700K. If you’re looking for the absolute best gaming chip on the market and don’t mind giving up a small amount of performance in other tasks, the Core i7-5775C is an intriguing option. Just be ready to pay for the privilege. At least one retailer expects i7-5775Cs as soon as September 20, so we may finally see these chips on store shelves soon.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition $69.99 LGA1150 motherboard,

Z97 chipset for overclocking

Intel Core i3-6100 $117.00 LGA1151 motherboard
AMD Athlon X4 860K $74.99 Socket FM2+ motherboard
AMD A8-7600 $84.99 Socket FM2+ motherboard

The Pentium G3258, also known as the Anniversary Edition, is the first overclocking-friendly sub-$100 processor we’ve seen from Intel in years. It has only two cores, and it lacks both Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost, but we overclocked ours from 3.2GHz to 4.8GHz. At that frequency, the Pentium can keep up with more expensive quad-core chips in all but the most heavily multithreaded apps. It’s quite capable in games, too. At only $70, this chip is an outstanding value if you’re willing to turn up the clocks yourself.

As far as we can tell, Intel won’t be offering a Skylake equivalent for this chip. If you want to get your budget overclocking game on, the G3258 is still the way to go.

Unfortunately, some games, like Far Cry 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, have trouble starting on systems with dual-core, dual-thread CPUs like the Pentium. The limitation seems to be an artificial one, since unofficial workarounds exist for both games. Nonetheless, gamers looking for a no-hassle experience may prefer to spring for Intel’s Core i3-6100 or AMD’s Athlon X4 860K.

The Core i3-6100 is a great budget buy, provided you don’t intend to overclock. Its base clock speed is higher than the Pentium’s, at 3.7GHz, and it adds Hyper-Threading to the mix, which boosts performance in multithreaded tasks. It’ll also appear as a quad-core CPU to games that require one. Like the Pentium, the Core i3 is a good choice for non-gamers, too, since it has basic integrated graphics. This chip isn’t yet widely available in North America as of mid-September, though, so builders who fancy the i3-6100 will need to wait a little longer.

Over in the AMD aisle, we have two options.

Among AMD’s current APUs, the A8-7600 is probably the best bargain. It’s almost as fast as the more expensive A10-7800, and it has the same ability to lower its TDP to 45W when paired with the right motherboard. That thermal envelope is even lower than the Core i3-6100’s 47W rating. The A8-7600 also boasts faster integrated graphics than the Intel competition, too. If you’re building a system that needs a lot of graphics power and you don’t have room for a discrete graphics card, the A8-7600 might make sense.

The Athlon X4 860K is essentially a range-topping A10-7850K “Kaveri” APU with its integrated graphics disabled. Those looking for a budget overclocking build can take advantage of the 860K’s unlocked multiplier. This chip’s four integer cores should make it compatible with any recent game. The downside is that Kaveri chips are still handily outperformed by Intel CPUs, and I can personally attest that overclocking the A10-7850K doesn’t close the gap much.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Core i5-6600K $249.99 LGA1151 motherboard, Z170 chipset for overclocking,

aftermarket CPU cooler

Intel Core i7-6700K $369.99
Intel Core i7-5775C $377.00 LGA1150 motherboard,

Z97 chipset for overclocking

The Core i5-6600K and Core i7-6700K each have four fast Skylake cores, and the Hyper-Threaded i7-6700K can handle eight threads at once. These chips will provide brisk performance in both single-threaded tasks and multithreaded workloads without a hitch. They also have unlocked multipliers, so builders who want to squeeze out as much clock speed as their particular chip can provide will be able to probe those limits by overclocking.

Since these are “enthusiast CPUs,” however, Intel has seen fit to sell them as chips only—they don’t include a stock cooler. That means you’ll need to pick an air or liquid cooler from our selection later on in the guide in order to use these chips. Plan accordingly.

We’ve already sung enough praise about the quad-core, eight-thread Core i7-5775C, but it’s worth noting that this chip needs an H97 or Z97 motherboard with an LGA1150 socket. Those motherboards may also need a firmware update to be fully compatible with the i7-5775C, so be sure to check the support website for your mobo manufacturer of choice to see whether they’ve released an appropriate BIOS.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Intel Core i7-5820K $389.99 LGA2011-v3 motherboard,

quad-channel DDR4 memory kit,

discrete graphics, aftermarket cooler

Intel Core i7-5930K $579.99

Last summer, Intel unleashed the Core i7-5960X, its fastest desktop processor to date. That monster is based on Haswell-E silicon with eight cores, 16 threads, 20MB of L3 cache, a quad-channel DDR4 memory controller, and 40 PCI Express Gen3 lanes built right into the CPU die. This is the desktop cousin of Haswell-EP, Intel’s dual-socket Xeon server processor, and it performs accordingly—with an unlocked upper multiplier to boot.

Too bad it costs just over a thousand bucks.

For almost half the price, the Core i7-5930K serves up much of the same Haswell-E goodness. Yes, the cheaper chip has “only” six cores, 12 threads, and 15MB of L3 cache, but that still gives it a big leg up over Intel’s lesser quad-core parts. The i7-5930K also has higher stock clock speeds than the i7-5960X, which might translate into even better performance than the thousand-dollar beast in many workloads. Finally, because the i7-5930K is fully unlocked, you may be able to push it even higher by overclocking.

If you can’t swallow the Core i7-5930K’s cost but still want six Haswell cores in your system, we conditionally recommend the Core i7-5820K. This chip has 12 of its PCIe lanes lopped off, for a total of 28. We think Intel’s decision to cripple this processor in this fashion is unfortunate, because it removes one of the key advantages of “extreme” processors based on the X99 platform. Many folks who build systems based on these CPUs will want 16 lanes going to two different PCIe x16 slots for multi-GPU configs. With a 5820K installed, though, an X99 system can’t deliver. It effectively has no more PCIe bandwidth for SLI and CrossFire than a quad-core Skylake chip based on the much more affordable Z170 platform.

If you’re not using a lot of PCIe expansion cards, this limitation may not matter, but it’s something to note. The i7-5820K is still unlocked for easy overclocking, and its $390 price tag is pretty affordable for what it offers.

 

Motherboards

Buying a motherboard these days is pretty straightforward. There are only four major manufacturers from which to choose, and their offerings have very similar performance and peripheral connectivity at each price point. The main differences between competing boards lie with their Windows software, firmware, and overclocking tools.

  • Asus is the biggest of the four main motherboard makers. We think Asus boards have the best Windows software and the most intelligent and reliable auto-overclocking functionality. The company’s firmware interface doesn’t look as nice as Gigabyte’s, but it’s otherwise excellent—and it offers the best fan speed controls around. Some Asus motherboards ship with cushioned I/O shields and header adapters that make it much easier to connect finicky front-panel headers. Overall, an Asus board should offer the most polished experience of the lot.
  • Gigabyte has the best firmware UI of the bunch, though its auto-overclocking intelligence and Windows software aren’t quite up to par with Asus’. The firmware fan controls are getting dated, too, but Gigabyte’s latest Windows software largely makes up for that deficit. Some Gigabyte motherboards ship with cushioned I/O shields, but we haven’t seen any with header adapters. You’ll have to hook up front-panel wires to the circuit board the old-fashioned way.
  • MSI‘s motherboards are solid, as are the company’s firmware and software. The retooled fan controls in the firm’s 9-series firmware are particularly good, though the auto-overclocking intelligence remains fairly conservative and somewhat rudimentary. Instead of determining maximum clock speeds iteratively and assigning different multipliers based on the system load, MSI uses pre-baked profiles with a blanket multiplier for all loads.
  • ASRock generally aims its products at more value-conscious buyers. ASRock boards typically offer a great hardware spec for the money. In our experience, however, ASRock’s firmware interface isn’t terribly refined. Neither is the accompanying utility software. ASRock boards are appealing primarily for their budget price tags.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Gigabyte F2A88XM-D3H $69.99 AMD Socket FM2+ processor,

microATX or ATX case

MSI Z97M-G43 $106.99 Intel LGA1150 processor,

microATX or ATX case

Gigabyte GA-H170-Gaming 3 $114.99 Intel LGA1151 processor,

ATX case

Gigabyte’s F2A88XM-D3H is our pick if you’re building with an AMD CPU. This compact, straightforward board is based on the A88X chipset, which supports RAID arrays for SATA drives and configurable TDPs for certain processors, including the A8-7600. Gigabyte packs a decent set of features into this board’s compact microATX form factor, and the user reviews are largely positive.

If you’re considering a budget overclocking build based on Intel’s Pentium G3258, you’ll need a board with Intel’s Z97 chipset. We think MSI’s Z97M-G43 fits the bill. This microATX board offers niceties like optical S/PDIF audio output, an M.2 slot for SSDs, and two four-pin system fan headers—perfect for a microATX case.

Meanwhile, Gigabyte’s GA-H170-Gaming 3 is an appealing platform for non-overclocked Skylake builds. It offers dual M.2 slots and a premium Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, along with some features borrowed from Gigabyte’s fancier Z170 boards like reinforced PCIe slots.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1 $153.99 Intel LGA1150 processor,  ATX case
Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD3 $149.99 Intel LGA1151 processor, ATX case
Asus Z170 Pro Gaming $169.99

Adding a few bucks to the budget gets us into fancier Z97 and Z170 territory. Our favorite Z97 board for the Core i7-5775C is Asus’ Z97-A/USB 3.1, a feature-packed and reasonably priced mobo with next-generation USB 3.1 ports. The Z97-A/USB 3.1 is also equipped with M.2 and SATA Express storage connectors, dual-GPU support with an x8/x8-lane arrangement, and digital S/PDIF output with real-time DTS Connect encoding. Check out our review of the original USB 3.0 version for all the details.

For those eyeing Core i5-6600Ks or Core i7-6700K processors, we think Gigabyte’s GA-Z170X-UD3 is quite the compelling board. Gigabyte has ticked all the right boxes here: Intel Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.1 controllers, Realtek ALC1150 audio, and dual M.2 slots all make an appearance. A next-gen USB 3.1 Type-C port is ready to connect to compatible peripherals, as well. For $150, this could be all the motherboard most people need for a Skylake system.

Asus has a compelling Z170 lineup of its own, and we think the Z170 Pro Gaming is a good step up for those who want to avail themselves of Asus’ superior firmware fan controls and automatic overclocking logic. The Pro Gaming’s M.2 slot is well out of the way of its primary PCIe x16 slot, so toasty PCIe drives like Samsung’s SM951 might be less hot and bothered on this board, too. The Z170 Pro Gaming is pretty similar to the Z170-A that we reviewed and enjoyed, but it adds Realtek ALC1150 audio and a couple more ports to the rear I/O block while shedding legacy slots like PCI. Those are substantial upgrades for $170, or just a $6 premium or so versus the Z170-A.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Asus X99-A/USB 3.1 $259.99 Intel LGA2011-v3 processor, ATX case

Haswell-E processors won’t fit into LGA1150 or LGA1151 motherboards like the ones listed above. Instead, Haswell-E requires an LGA2011-v3 socket and DDR4 memory slots, features only available in boards powered by Intel’s new X99 chipset.

Our X99 favorite is the Asus X99-A/USB 3.1, an updated version of the TR Recommended X99-A. As its name implies, the USB 3.1 variant adds a couple of the next-generation USB ports to the rear I/O cluster. This board’s expansion options are plentiful otherwise, and our X99-A sample proved to be a capable overclocking platform for our Haswell-E CPU. We think this board is so good that there’s no need to spend hundreds more on fancier X99 options unless they have specific features you require.

Memory

With Skylake comes a need for DDR4 memory. We’re happy to report that DDR4 prices have come way down since Haswell-E systems first created a need for this next-generation RAM, and it’s only a bit more expensive to use DDR4 now versus a comparable amount of DDR3 memory.

Now that the difference between 4GB and 8GB kits is about $10, we can no longer recommend 4GB in good conscience except for bare-minimum budget systems. Most RAM makers aren’t even offering 4GB dual-channel DDR4 kits, anyway, so builders would be further hampering performance by choosing to save money in this area. Buy whatever 8GB kit of DDR3 or DDR4 DIMMs you can afford and thank us later.

Intel’s official spec for Skylake-compatible DDR4 RAM is DDR4-2133, but we’ve used significantly faster DIMMs like DDR4-3000 in our CPU and motherboard test rigs without issue. Given the small price premium and potential increases in bandwidth that faster DDR4 offers, we think it’s a worthy upgrade to get the speedier RAM if there’s room in the budget.

Sweet spot: Z97 and DDR3

Product Price
Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 $44.49
Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3-1600 $77.99
G.Skill Sniper 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3-1600 $169.99

If you’re building a system with a Core i7-5775C, you’ll need DDR3 memory. All of the kits above are from reputable manufacturers—just choose the capacity you’d like. 8GB should be adequate for most users, while heavy multitaskers and multimedia editors may want to consider a step up to 16GB or 32GB kits.

Sweet spot: H170, Z170, and X99

Product Price
HyperX Fury 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-2133 $59.99
Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-3000 $72.99
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-2133 $109.99
G.Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000 $129.99
HyperX Fury 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4-2133 $199.99

For H170, Z170, and X99-based systems, any of the above DDR4 kits should be a good bet, depending on the capacity and speed you can afford. We should note that it’s cheaper for X99 builders to double up on any of the above kits rather than buying a quad-channel kit—it seems like some RAM makers are price-gouging for the privilege of getting four DIMMs in a package rather than two. There’s no need to pay extra for that.

 

Graphics

After AMD’s introduction of the Radeon R9 Fury and Fury X, the graphics market has been a little quieter, but several new cards have debuted recently. AMD’s bite-sized Fury Nano is an interesting product. We have one in our labs for testing, but we don’t expect that its appeal will extend beyond the niche audience of Mini-ITX builders that AMD has defined for the card—especially not for its $650 suggested price. Nvidia has introduced a stronger budget contender in the form of the GeForce GTX 950, which replaces the evergreen GeForce GTX 750 Ti around the $150-$160 mark. The GTX 750 Ti is now available around a suggested price of $120, which is a pretty sweet deal for entry-level 1080p gaming.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Zotac GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB $119.99 N/A
MSI GeForce GTX 950 2GB $159.99

Accordingly, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti is our first pick. The Zotac card we’ve chosen is typical of the breed: it’s built on a stubby PCB with a single fan, and it doesn’t require any external power connectors to do its thing.

The GeForce GTX 950 represents a substantial step up from the GTX 750 Ti. It’s based on a slightly cut-down version of the GM206 GPU in the more expensive GTX 960, so it has considerably more theoretical performance than its predecessor by almost every measure. This card should let owners turn up graphics quality settings at 1080p without a hitch. The MSI card we’ve chosen has a nice twin-fan cooler that should be more than a match for the GTX 950’s GPU, and its single six-pin power connector will play well with modest PSUs.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
EVGA GeForce GTX 960 2GB $179.99 Dual PCIe power connectors
Sapphire Nitro Radeon R9 380 4GB $209.99

Our sweet-spot picks can run games at 1080p with high or maxed-out detail levels. They can also handle resolutions up to 2560×1440, though they may not deliver the smoothest possible experience there.

We think the GeForce GTX 960 remains the most compelling GPU in this price range. For just $180 or so, it performs about as well as the old GTX 770, which was priced at $250 before Nvidia discontinued it. On top of that, it’s a good deal more power-efficient than the competition. Our EVGA pick has a twin-fan cooler that’s both effective and quiet.

With AMD’s 300-series round of rebrands, the Radeon R9 285 has morphed into the Radeon R9 380. Since our last guide, 4GB versions of this card have fallen in price, to the point where they’re actually quite appealing. If you’re worried about future video RAM requirements—or FreeSync support—the Sapphire Radeon R9 380 we’ve chosen should be a good bet. It’s significantly cheaper than 4GB GTX 960s, and it’s got a slightly more powerful GPU than the Nvidia card.

If you’re considering the Radeon R9 380 or GTX 960, you might still find a Radeon R9 280X here and there for around the same price. While the 280X is the fastest of the three by a smidgen in raw FPS terms, it’s based on older hardware that lacks support for FreeSync and AMD’s TrueAudio DSP. If you really want an AMD card, we think you’ll be better off with the R9 380 over the long term.

High end

These cards should all produce silky-smooth frame rates at 2560×1440. The higher-end cards will also pave the way for gaming at 4K—and higher virtual resolutions (via the VSR and DSR features from the GPU makers) on systems with lower-res monitors.

Product Price Notable needs
EVGA GeForce GTX 970 $289.99 Dual PCIe power connectors
Gigabyte Radeon R9 390 $319.99
MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G $345.99
Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980 $509.99
Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury $569.99
Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury X $649.99
Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti $669.99

Radeon 300-series cards are on store shelves now, though older 200-series cards like the Radeon R9 290 and 290X may stick around for a little longer. If you can find one of those 200-series cards for a deep discount, they could still be good buys, but the Radeon R9 390 and 390X are here to stay. These cards offer twice the video memory of their predecessors, a whopping 8GB. Current games at common display resolutions don’t seem to benefit much from the extra RAM, though. Even so, the R9 390 is quite competitive with the GeForce GTX 970, at the expense of higher power consumption and more heat.

One interesting development in this segment of the market is the sudden appearance of stock-clocked GTX 970 cards like the EVGA model in the table above for just $290 or so. If this card sticks around at this price, it would make the GTX 970’s strong performance more accessible. Some judicious tweaking could even bring this card’s performance more in line with its factory-overclocked brethren, too. For the price, that’s a bet we’d be willing to take.

Speaking of factory-overclocked GTX 970s, the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G performs about on par with a Radeon R9 390 in our benchmarks while consuming much less power. Under load, it consumes 120W less than the R9 390. That means lower temperatures, lower noise levels, and potentially higher overclocking headroom. We were able to overclock this thing to the point that it outperformed a reference GeForce GTX 980. Pretty amazing for a $340 card. In fact, you don’t really need anything more unless you’re driving a 4K monitor or a multi-display setup for gaming.

At the high end of the market, AMD’s introduction of its brand-new Fiji GPU with high-bandwidth memory is still the biggest news we’ve had of late. This GPU and its memory subsystem represent substantial innovation, in contrast to the rebadged parts that make up most of the Radeon 300-series lineup.

The Radeon R9 Fury X is AMD’s top-of-the-line offering, complete with water cooling, while the vanilla R9 Fury is mildly cut down for about 100 bucks less. These cards perform somewhat worse in our advanced frame-time metrics than their GeForce competition, the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980, respectively. They’re also slightly more power-hungry, and in the case of the R9 Fury, more expensive than the competing GeForces. They’re still interesting products, but unfortunately, Fury cards are quite scarce at the moment.

Our pick for the GeForce GTX 980, Gigabyte’s G1 Gaming edition, is pretty straightforward. This card captured a TR Recommended award and remains a solid choice.

As for GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards, we think our Asus pick is a solid bet. Its huge triple-fan cooler and dizzying factory overclocks set it apart from other GTX 980 Ti offerings. If our card of choice is out of stock, Gigabyte’s G1 Gaming spin on the 980 Ti is a worthy alternative. It features some of the highest clock speeds available for this GPU at the cost of more noise under load and a higher price than our primary pick.

If you’re dead-set on a Radeon R9 Fury or Radeon R9 Fury X, your choices are pretty simple. In the case of the Fury X, all of AMD’s board partners are required to use the same reference cooler design and clocks, so the choice comes down to the board partner you’d like to, well, partner with. Sapphire is a major AMD board partner, and its Fury X retails for the same $649.99 as AMD’s suggested price, so we see no reason to look further.  Just be aware of the pump noise issue. Right now, there’s no way to be sure you’re not getting a Fury X card whose cooler whines.

In the Fury non-X department, Asus’ Strix R9 Fury comes with an awesomely large and quiet triple-fan cooler that makes short work of Fiji’s volcanism. 

 

Storage

For storage, we’ll be looking at three categories of devices: system drives, mass-storage drives, and optical drives. The idea is to buy the best combination of the three that you can afford, based on your individual needs. This time around, we’re also looking at a pair of PCIe drives, for those who need face-melting storage performance.

System drive

The system drive is where the operating system and most of your games and applications ought to reside. We’ve included a 1TB mechanical hard drive for budget builds where a two-drive config is usually out of the question, but the rest of our recommendations are solid-state drives. Budget buyers may not be able to afford an SSD, but everyone else should spring for one and grab an auxiliary mechanical drive for their mass-storage needs. Upgrading from a hard drive to solid-state storage probably offers the single most noticeable performance improvement of any component upgrade in a modern PC.

There are a few things to keep mind when shopping for an SSD. Currently, most mid-range and high-end drives offer similar overall performance. Pricing differences tend to have a bigger impact on which products deliver better value. (See our scatter plots.)

Drive capacity can affect performance, especially for smaller SSDs. Lower-capacity drives don’t have as many flash chips, so they can’t saturate all of their controllers’ memory channels. That dynamic usually translates into slower write speeds for smaller drives. For most older SSDs, write performance falls off appreciably in drives smaller than 240GB to 256GB. Newer drives with higher-density flash chips can require 480-512GB to deliver peak performance. Small SSDs are still much faster than mechanical hard drives, so we still recommend them to folks who can’t spring for larger ones.

If you’re concerned about the write endurance of SSDs, the final results of our SSD Endurance Experiment should put those worries to rest. Our test subjects handled hundreds of terabytes of writes at a minimum, while our champion, the Samsung 840 Pro, held up to an incredible 2.4 petabytes of writes before giving up the ghost. Most consumers will never come anywhere close to writing that much data.

The recommendations below are the most cost-effective options today, but they may not be the best values tomorrow. SSD prices fluctuate a fair bit. Shopping around for discounts is a good idea—just make sure to stick with trusted brands that have proven track records.

Product Price
WD Blue 1TB 7,200 RPM $52.99
OCZ Arc 100 120GB $59.99
Crucial BX100 250GB $84.99
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB $99.99
Samsung 850 EVO 500GB $179.99
Crucial BX100 1TB $339.99
Samsung 850 EVO 1TB $369.99

Can’t afford an SSD or auxiliary mechanical storage? Then the WD Blue 1TB will do just fine. It has a fast 7,200-RPM spindle speed, and its 1TB capacity is more than enough to handle both system and mass-storage needs.

We’re leaving a 120GB solid-state drive in our picks for now, but we really think you ought to consider a 240-256GB drive at minimum, especially if you plan to keep games on it. Modern titles can easily gobble 50GB to 60GB each, and it’s no fun to shuffle games on and off an SSD. If stepping up isn’t an option or your storage needs are modest, OCZ’s Arc 100 is a decent option—but seriously, get a 256GB-class drive.

The 250GB version of Crucial’s BX100 is our pick for that mid-range sweet spot. It’s aggressively priced, reasonably fast, and made by a company with a solid track record for reliability. Another option at this capacity is Samsung’s 850 EVO 250GB, which performs about as well as the BX100 but offers niceties like hardware-accelerated encryption that the Crucial drive lacks.

At the 480-512GB tier, the SSD market’s price fluctuations favor Samsung for now. The 500GB 850 EVO is a great performer, and its $180 price tag is reasonable for a drive of this caliber.

At the 1TB tier, Crucial’s BX100 represents a good, basic 1TB drive for $340 or so, while Samsung’s 850 EVO 1TB is more fully-featured for about $30 more. Along with AES encryption support, the Samsung drive offers excellent performance, a five-year warranty, and a high endurance rating. The Crucial drive doesn’t support hardware-accelerated encryption, and it’s only warranted for three years.

PCI Express SSDs

The Skylake platform is ready for blazing-fast PCIe storage, but there’s just one problem: nobody, save for Samsung and Intel, has shown up to the party yet.

Samsung’s SM951 PCIe SSD is the only M.2 PCIe 3.0 drive available on Newegg as of this writing. It’s lightning-quick, but it tends to throttle under sustained workloads without dedicated cooling. Thankfully, most desktop workloads are more intermittent in nature, but the SM951’s thermal-performance issues are a worry, especially for motherboards whose M.2 slots reside next to their main PCIe x16 slots. Putting the SM951 underneath a power-hungry GPU could degrade its performance.

Intel’s 750 Series solid-state drives, on the other hand, are monster performers descended from datacenter-class hardware. They leave the pokey SATA 6Gbps interface behind for four lanes of blazing-fast PCIe 3.0 connectivity, and they ditch the old AHCI protocol for NVM Express. The real challenge is finding desktop workloads that can take advantage of the performance on tap.

Product Price
Samsung SM951 256GB $219.99
Intel 750 Series SSD 400GB $389.99
Intel 750 Series SSD 1.2TB $1039.99

Compared to other consumer-grade PCIe drives, the 750 Series offers wicked-fast sequential speeds and substantially higher random I/O rates. You get robust power-loss protection, too, plus a five-year warranty and a high endurance rating. Just keep in mind that the add-in cards we’re recommending require full-sized expansion slots with Gen3 connectivity. Intel also makes a 2.5″ version with a cabled PCIe connection, but motherboards don’t support it natively yet.

Mass-storage drive

Since SSDs still aren’t capacious enough to take over all storage duties in a desktop PC, it’s a good idea to get a secondary drive for large video files, downloads, personal photos, and the like. In this role, a mechanical drive can be used either by itself or with a twin in a RAID 1 configuration, which will add a layer of fault tolerance. (Remember that RAID is not backup, though.)

Product Price
WD Green 4TB $134.99
WD Red 4TB $159.99
WD Black 4TB $199.99
WD Green 6TB $222.99

Based in part on Backblaze’s reliability studies, which showed higher failure rates for Seagate drives, we’re continuing to recommend Western Digital hard drives for this edition of the System Guide. Hitachi drives did even better than WD’s, according to Backblaze, but they seem to have poorer Newegg reviews, so we feel less confident about them.

There are other reasons to favor WD’s mechanical drives. The ones we’ve tested have been faster and quieter than their Seagate counterparts.

The 4TB WD Green and Red drives have spindle speeds around 5,400 RPM, which translates to slightly sluggish performance but good power efficiency, low noise levels, and affordable prices. Since we’re not recommending these drives for OS and application storage, their longer access times shouldn’t pose a problem. The Reds have some special sauce that makes them better-behaved with RAID controllers than the Greens, and they have longer warranty coverage, as well: three years instead of two.

We’ll throw in an honorable mention for Seagate’s Desktop HDD.15 4TB. It did almost as well as the WD Green 3TB in the Backblaze study—and it has slightly fewer one-star Newegg reviews than the Green 4TB. Keep in mind that the Desktop HDD.15 is louder and slower overall than the competing WD drives, however.

WD’s Black 4TB drive has a 7,200-RPM spindle speed and is tuned for high performance, at least by mechanical storage standards. It’s a better choice than the Green or HDD.15 for storage-intensive work that may exceed the bounds of reasonably priced SSDs. The Black is also quicker than what Seagate offers at this capacity.

Finally, we’ve included one 6TB drive: a WD Green model. Like other 6TB mechanical drives out today, this one costs more per gigabyte than comparable 4TB options, so we’d only recommend it for high-capacity systems or small-form-factor builds with limited expansion. WD also makes a 6TB Red drive with similar features as its 4TB counterpart.

Optical drives

Living without optical storage is easy today, thanks to the ubiquity of high-capacity USB thumb drives and high-speed Internet connections. Some people still like their DVD and Blu-ray discs, though, and we’re happy to oblige.

Product Price
Asus DRW-24B1ST DVD burner $19.99
Asus BW-12B1ST Blu-ray burner $74.99

Asus’ DRW-24B1ST DVD burner has been a staple of our System Guides for quite a while. It costs only 20 bucks, reads and burns both DVDs and CDs, and has a five-star average out of more than 5,000 reviews on Newegg. We feel pretty safe recommending it. On the Blu-ray front, we recommend the Asus BW-12B1ST, which provides adequate performance backed up by solid user reviews.

 

Cases

Choosing a case is a subjective endeavor. We’ve listed some of our favorites below, and we recommend them wholeheartedly. That said, we acknowledge that not everybody will like their look or design as much as we do. To be honest, we don’t mind folks following their hearts here, so long as they wind up buying something well-built from a manufacturer with a good reputation.

Buying a cheap, bare-bones case is one way to save a bit of cash, but it’s not a very good way to do it. Quality cases make the system assembly process much more straightforward, thanks to tool-less drive drays, cable-routing amenities, pre-mounted motherboard stand-offs, and well-finished edges that won’t draw blood. Quality cases tend to be quieter and to keep components cooler, as well. There’s a whole world of difference in usability between a crummy $25 enclosure and a decent $50 one.

Budget

Product Price Notable needs
Cooler Master N200 $49.99 microATX motherboard
Corsair Carbide Series 200R $69.99 N/A

Cooler Master’s N200 is a small and affordable case designed for microATX motherboards. It’s more compact than the microATX Obsidian Series 350D we recommend in our Sweet Spot section, which means it’s also a little more cramped inside. Nevertheless, the N200 is quite comfortable to work in, and its twin stock fans are a welcome feature in this price range.

Meanwhile, Corsair’s Carbide Series 200R has been our favorite budget ATX enclosure ever since we reviewed it a while back. The thing is loaded with enthusiast-friendly goodies, from ubiquitous thumbscrews to tool-free bays for optical, mechanical, and solid-state storage. There’s ample room for cable routing, too, and the stock fans are rather quiet. This is an ATX case that will accommodate any of the motherboards we recommended.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notable needs
Fractal Design Define S $89.99 N/A
Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 $89.99 microATX motherboard, fan splitter
Fractal Design Define R5 $109.99 N/A
Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 5 $139.99 N/A
Corsair Obsidian Series 750D $149.99 N/A

Bridging our budget and sweet spot picks is Fractal Design’s Define S, a TR Editor’s Choice award winner. This ATX mid-tower features a completely open main chamber that’s a pleasure to work in, and it’s nearly as quiet in operation as the more expensive Define R5. Builders should take note of its limited room for storage, however: there’s only room for three 3.5″ and two 2.5″ drives and no provisions at all for optical storage. If this case meets your needs, it’s hard to beat in this price range.

microATX builders should check out the TR Recommended Corsair Carbide Series Air 240, a cuboidal chassis with a dedicated chamber for the power supply, hard drives, and SSDs. Despite its small size, this case is a delight to build in, and its dual-chamber design helps it run cool and quiet. Like the rest of the Corsair cases in this section, the Air 240 also has more intake fans than exhausts. That means positive pressure inside, which should prevent dust from sneaking in through cracks and unfiltered vents. Just consider adding a fan splitter cable to your shopping cart—some smaller motherboards don’t have enough fan headers to manage the Air 240’s trio of stock spinners.

For builders who want a more premium ATX mid-tower, we recommend Fractal Design’s Define R5, which we graced with our TR Editor’s Choice award. This case doesn’t just look slick and stealthy; it’s also a pleasure to build in, and it has great noise-reduction features. Fractal Design offers the R5 in black (with or without a window), titanium (also windowed or non-windowed), and white (fenestrated and non-fenestrated, of course).

A new contender between the Define R5 and Corsair’s Obsidian 750D is Cooler Master’s MasterCase Pro 5. This TR Recommended case is built with a highly modular interior that can be endlessly reconfigured to suit the needs of almost any conceivable system, and its heavy-duty, all-steel construction and stealthy looks don’t hurt, either.

Between the arrival of the Define R5 and the MasterCase Pro 5, we’re no longer recommending Corsair’s Obsidian 450D at $129.99—it’s a nice case that’s been overshadowed by these newer designs. For $10 more, one can have the much more solid and versatile MasterCase Pro 5, and those on tighter budgets can get the Define R5.

Those competitors don’t dethrone Corsair’s Obsidian Series 750D, the luxury sedan of PC enclosures. This case is similar in design to the Obsidian 350D and 450D, but Corsair makes it big enough to accommodate E-ATX motherboards. The 750D is an extremely spacious case that’s an absolute delight to work in. It’s pretty darn quiet, too.

High end

Product Price Notable needs
Cooler Master Cosmos II $319.99 A forklift

At roughly 14″ x 28″ x 26″, the Cooler Master Cosmos II is humongous. At around $300, it’s also quite expensive. This thing is unarguably impressive, though, with even roomier innards than the 750D and all kinds of premium features, including gull-wing doors, sliding metal covers, and a compartmentalized internal layout. We didn’t give it an Editor’s Choice award by accident.

Power supplies

This should go without saying in this day and age, but we’ll say it anyway: buying a good power supply is a must.

Cheap PSUs can cause all kinds of problems, from poor stability to premature component failures. Also, many cheap units deceive with inflated wattage ratings. For example, a “500W” bargain-bin PSU might get half of its rating from the 5V rail, which is relatively unimportant, leaving only 250W for the 12V rail, which supplies most power-hungry components like the CPU and GPU. By contrast, quality PSUs derive most of their wattage ratings from the capacity of their 12V rails. That means an el-cheapo 500W unit could be less powerful in practice than a quality 350W PSU.

The power supplies we’ve singled out below are quality units from trustworthy manufacturers who offer at least three years of warranty coverage. Past editions of the System Guide have featured modular PSUs exclusively, but we’ve changed our thinking on that topic, at least at the budget level. Although modular cabling certainly helps to keep the inside of a PC less cluttered, the benefits are largely cosmetic. Folks without windowed cases may not need modular cables, and others may not be able to afford the perk.

At the same wattage, higher-quality PSUs with non-modular cables can often be had for only a little more money than lower-quality alternatives. While modular cabling is still a consideration, we’ve included some non-modular recommendations that trade convenience for better internal components and longer warranties.

We also tried to find PSUs with 80 Plus Bronze or better certification. 80 Plus Bronze guarantees efficiency of 82-85%, depending on the load. The higher a PSU’s efficiency, the less energy it turns into heat while converting AC to DC power, the easier it is to cool quietly. 80 Plus Bronze, Silver, or Gold units tend to have large, slow-spinning fans that are barely audible during normal use. They’ll save you a bit of money on your power bill over the long run, too.

Budget

Product Price Notes
Corsair CX430 $44.99 Non-modular, one 6+2-pin PCIe power connector
Corsair CX430M $49.99 Semi-modular, one 6+2-pin PCIe power connector
SeaSonic S12 II Bronze 430W $59.99 Non-modular, dual PCIe power connectors (1 6+2 pin, 1 six-pin)

Corsair’s CX430 and CX430M kick off our budget recommendations. They tick all of the right boxes for entry-level systems: 80 Plus Bronze certification, 120-mm fans, and three-year warranties. They only have one eight-pin PCIe power connector each, but that’s OK—even mid-range graphics cards like GeForce GTX 960 can often be powered with a single eight-pin connector.

For some reason, the inclusion of these PSUs in the System Guide bothers some people. We’ve made a sincere effort to figure out why, and we’ve come up empty-handed. The reviewers at JonnyGuru and Hardware Secrets both praise the CX430, and Legit Reviews likes the quality and performance of the CX430M. Ultimately, even if something was to go wrong with either of these PSUs, we’d rather buyers have the backing of Corsair’s service and support than be left in the cold with a cheap, no-name PSU of dubious quality.

If the CX430 family bothers you for some reason, SeaSonic’s S12 II 430W may be worth the step up. This PSU features Japanese capacitors throughout, and it has a pair of PCIe connectors—one six-pin, the other eight-pin. It also has a longer five-year warranty.

Sweet spot

Product Price Notes
EVGA Supernova G2 550W $89.99 Fully modular, dual 6+2-pin PCIe connectors,

semi-silent mode

Cooler Master V750 $109.99 Semi-modular, quad 6+2-pin PCIe connectors
EVGA Supernova G2 750W $129.99 Fully modular,

quad 6+2-pin PCIe connectors,

semi-silent mode

PSUs aspiring to the Sweet Spot need to do more than the basics. We demand semi-modular cabling here at the bare minimum. 80 Plus Gold efficiency ratings should ideally be on the table, as well, along with semi-silent fans that spin down completely under lighter loads.

EVGA has expanded its superb Supernova G2 range to include a 550W model, so we’re recommending that PSU for the first time. Like its bigger brothers, this is a fully-modular, 80 Plus Gold-certified unit. It’s so good, in fact, that the PSU reviewers over at JonnyGuru gave it a perfect score. Consider us sold. EVGA backs this unit with a seven-year warranty, too.

In the middle of our sweet spot lies Cooler Master’s V750. This semi-modular PSU provides a lot of power at 80 Plus Gold efficiency levels for a modest price. The V750 doesn’t stop its fan during low-load operation like some fancier PSUs, but we’ll accept that minor omission for the price. Scott has a V750 in the PSU bay of his new personal PC, and it’s quietly powering twin GTX 970s without complaint.

For those who want something a little fancier than the CM PSU above, EVGA’s Supernova G2 750W fits the bill. This 80 Plus Gold-certified unit features a fully modular design and a semi-silent fan mode. According to the reviewers at JonnyGuru, the Supernova G2’s power delivery is practically perfect. EVGA is so confident in the Supernova G2 that it backs the PSU with a 10-year warranty if users register with the company, but beware: without registration, the warranty coverage is only three years.

High end

Product Price Notes
EVGA Supernova G2 850W $144.99 Fully modular,

quad 6+2-pin PCIe connectors,

semi-silent mode

For systems where 750W isn’t enough power, EVGA’s Supernova G2 850W unit is just as good as the 750W version above, but with extra wattage for multi-GPU configurations. If you’re thinking about multiple GeForce GTX 980 Ti or Radeon R9 Fury X cards, this is your PSU.

 

Miscellaneous

Need a fancy CPU cooler or a sound card? You’ve come to the right place. This is where we talk about components that, while not always strictly necessary, can improve a build in very real ways.

Aftermarket CPU coolers

Since Intel’s Core i5-6600K and Core i7-6700K don’t ship with stock coolers, you’ll want to pick one from our selections below. Haswell-E builders will need to pick out a cooler, as well. Be careful to note your case’s maximum CPU cooler height before buying one of these, as tall tower heatsinks need a lot of space.

The coolers listed below are all more powerful and quieter than the stock Intel solutions. The more affordable ones are conventional, tower-style designs with large fans, while the higher-priced Corsair H-series and Cooler Master Nepton units are closed-loop liquid coolers that can be mounted against a case’s exhaust vents.

Product Price
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $34.99
Phanteks PH-TC12DX $49.99
Cooler Master Hyper D92 $44.99
Corsair H60 $67.99
Cooler Master Nepton 120XL $89.99
Cooler Master Nepton 240M $109.99

As far as entry-level coolers go, it doesn’t get much better than Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo. This is a very popular choice with over 6,000 five-star reviews at Newegg.

A more effective option for those looking to overclock might be Phanteks’ PH-TC12DX, which comes with twin fans. The reviewers at TechPowerUp found that the TC12DX has substantial cooling power for its size—it held an overclocked Sandy Bridge-E chip to just 65° C under a Prime95 load. It also tops out at just 47 dBA with its fans spinning at maximum speed. Those are quite respectable numbers for this cooler’s $50 price tag.

For cases that can’t swallow the Hyper 212 Evo or the PH-TC12DX, consider the Cooler Master Hyper D92. It’s much quieter under load than the boxed heatsink that ships with Intel CPUs, and its 5.5″ (140 mm) height works well with many microATX and some Mini-ITX cases.

For builds where more extreme overclocking is in the cards, we think liquid coolers are the best bet. These coolers are entirely self-contained and require no special setup. You simply mount them against a case’s exhaust vent with the fan blowing through the radiator fins, and the closed-loop liquid cooling system takes care of everything. Corsair’s H60 is a good candidate for small cases that can only accomodate a slim radiator with one fan.

For beefier builds, we’re fans of Cooler Master’s Nepton 120XL and Nepton 240M all-in-one liquid coolers. The Nepton 120XL has a thick 120-mm radiator paired with two push-pull fans, while the 240M sports a humongous 240-mm heat exchanger. Both of these coolers feature Cooler Master’s quiet Silencio FP 120-mm fans, and they both use the same pump head and mounting system. Pick whichever one fits your case of choice.

All of these liquid coolers take next to no space around the CPU socket, since their radiators mount to the case wall. For that reason, they’re ideal for something like a Haswell-E system packed with tall memory modules. In fact, we very much recommend liquid cooling for any Haswell-E build, given how crowded the area around the socket tends to be.

Sound cards

A lot of folks are perfectly content with their motherboard’s integrated audio these days. However, each time we conduct blind listening tests, even low-end discrete sound cards wind up sounding noticeably better than integrated audio. That’s with a pair of lowly Sennheiser HD 555 headphones, too, not some kind of insane audiophile setup. If you’re using halfway decent analog headphones or speakers, a sound card is a worthwhile purchase.

It’s fine to stick with motherboard audio if you use digital speakers or USB headphones, since those handle the analog-to-digital conversion themselves. That said, even with digital speakers, the sound cards we recommend below will do things that typical onboard audio cannot, such as surround sound virtualization and real-time Dolby multi-channel encoding.

Product Price
Asus Xonar DSX $53.99
Asus Xonar DX $74.99

The Xonar DSX and Xonar DX can both drive analog headphones or 7.1-channel speaker setups (either analog or digital). In our blind listening tests performed with analog headphones, these two cards sounded very similar. The DSX is the more affordable of the two, but the DX gets you Dolby Headphone virtualization in exchange for a small price premium.

 

Sample builds

By now, you should have the info you need to configure your own build based on your needs. If you would rather just grab a complete shopping list and buy stuff, though, we’re more than happy to help. Here are four complete parts lists that represent various takes on the gaming PC formula, from least to most expensive.

Budget build: the G3258 Special

  Component Price
Processor Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition $69.99
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $30.99
Motherboard MSI Z97M-G43 $104.99
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 $44.49
Graphics EVGA GeForce GTX 960 $179.99
Storage Crucial BX100 250GB $84.99
WD Blue 1TB $52.99
Enclosure Cooler Master N200 $49.99
PSU Seasonic S12II 430W $59.99
Total   $648.42

This build is the budget gaming and overclocking machine we’ve been alluding to throughout the System Guide. Honestly, this might be as much gaming PC as most people will ever need. Just look at the specs: we get fast solid-state storage, a GeForce GTX 960, 8GB of RAM, and a CPU that can punch far above its weight class with some judicious overclocking. That’s truly incredible value in a machine that costs less than $700.

We understand that every dollar matters in this price range. If an SSD isn’t in the budget, it’s perfectly OK to drop down to the WD Blue 1TB hard drive for storage.

The Sweet Spot

  Component Price
Processor Intel Core i5-6600K $249.99
Cooler Phanteks PH-TC12DX $49.99
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD3 $149.99
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-3000 $64.99
Graphics EVGA GeForce GTX 970 $289.99
Storage Samsung 850 EVO 500GB $179.99
WD Green 2TB $78.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define S $89.99
PSU EVGA Supernova G2 550W $89.99
Total   $1,243.91

Our Sweet Spot build is packed with even more goodness, including beefier overclocking-friendly parts. An unlocked Core i5-6600K CPU  could have some extra performance waiting to be unleashed. The DDR4-3000 memory kit should provide ample memory bandwidth, too.

We’re including 2TB of bulk storage and a 500GB SSD in the Sweet Spot this time around. With the growing size of games these days, 250GB SSDs are looking a little small, and we think most people will appreciate the ability to keep more games and other files on fast solid-state storage.

With the rise of cloud-based services like CrashPlan, Steam, and Netflix, we also think gaming-focused builds can do without optical drives. Windows comes on USB sticks these days, so it doesn’t make sense to blow $20 on a traditional DVD burner. That money can be put to better use elsewhere.

The 99th-percentile frame time master: The Broadwell Brawler

  Component Price
Processor Intel Core i5-5775C $377.00
Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $30.99
Motherboard Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1 $153.99
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 $74.99
Graphics Asus Strix GeForce GTX 980 Ti $669.99
Storage Samsung 850 EVO 500GB $179.99
WD Red 4TB $154.99
Asus BW-12B1ST Blu-ray burner $74.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R5 $109.99
PSU Cooler Master V750 $109.99
Total   $1,936.91

Those of you who aren’t gamers first and foremost should avert your eyes now, because the Broadwell Brawler may not make a lot of sense to the general PC-building public. This build is meant to take full advantage of Intel’s Core i7-5775C processor and its buttery-smooth frame times (at least, when it becomes available for purchase). The i7-5775C rides alongside the smoothest graphics card in the land, as interpreted by Asus: Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 Ti. No, this is not a cheap machine, but you won’t find a smoother gaming experience anywhere.

We’ve paired the Core i7-5775C and GTX 980 Ti with Asus’ Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard, Fractal Design’s excellent Define R5 case, and Cooler Master’s potent V750 PSU. Since we’re already so far overboard, we’ve pulled out the stops completely and added Asus’ Xonar DSX sound card and a Blu-ray drive, along with 500GB of solid-state storage and WD’s Red 4TB hard drive.

High-end build: The Maxwellator XXL

  Component Price
Processor Core i7-5930K $579.99
Cooler Cooler Master Nepton 240M $109.99
Motherboard Asus X99-A/USB 3.1 $249.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000 $129.99
G.Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000 $129.99
Graphics Asus Strix GeForce GTX 980 Ti $669.99
Storage Samsung 850 EVO 500GB $179.99
WD Red 4TB $154.99
WD Red 4TB $154.99
Asus BW-12B1ST Blu-ray burner $74.99
Sound card Asus Xonar DX $74.99
Enclosure Corsair Obsidian Series 750D $149.99
PSU EVGA Supernova G2 850W $144.99
Total   $2,804.87

With six cores, 12 threads, 32GB of RAM, and a super-quiet Asus GeForce GTX 980 Ti primed for 4K goodness, this iteration of the Maxwellator XXL tops out our recommendations. The Core i7-5930K packs a mean punch, and there’s a boatload of unused expansion slots on tap. This system should be fairly quiet, too, despite its ample horsepower. That’s thanks to our liquid cooler, Corsair case, and 80 Plus Gold power supply, not to mention the powerful yet power-efficient GPU. Just because a system is fast doesn’t mean it should be used with earmuffs.

 

The operating system
Windows 10 is here, and most of the TR staff has upgraded to Microsoft’s latest OS. We’ve all been pleased with the experience so far. If you skipped Windows 8.1 because of its mish-mash of touch and desktop design principles, we think you’ll appreciate Windows 10. The reworked UI combines the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The Start menu returns, along with new features like Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant, virtual desktops, and an overhauled browser called Edge. None of these changes are earth-shattering, but the overall package is polished and stable. There’s no reason to choose the long-in-the-tooth Windows 7 or the muddled Windows 8.1 any longer.

Windows comes in a wide range of versions, but most builders reading this should choose the retail version of Windows 10 Home, which comes on a USB drive with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for $120. Due to a change in licensing terms, it’s no longer kosher to purchase an OEM copy of Windows for your own PC to save a few bucks, and the retail version of Windows comes with a couple of perks like license transfer rights that the OEM version doesn’t. If you suspect that you might need some of the features in Windows 10 Pro, you should check out Microsoft’s comparison page for confirmation and purchase accordingly.

What’s next

In the next few months, we don’t expect any earth-shattering shifts in the PC market for the vast majority of builders, especially after the Skylake desktop CPU lineup is fully fleshed out. Perhaps the biggest shoe that’s yet to drop is Oculus’ Rift VR headset, which is supposed to arrive some time during the first quarter of 2016. The minimum system requirements for the Rift shouldn’t be that hard to meet if you have one of our recent builds based on GTX 970 or Radeon R9 290-class cards. We’ll be keeping an eye on the needs of the Rift as it draws closer to release.

Otherwise, we expect a pretty quiet fourth quarter of the year. We do hope Intel makes good on its promise to make its Broadwell desktop CPUs more widely available, but beyond that, most of the biggest developments that are likely to occur in 2015 for PC builders have already taken place. That’s good news, since it means readers of the System Guide can buy parts and build machines without worrying too much about what’s to come.

Conclusions

With that, we wrap up this edition of the System Guide. If one of our parts picks helped you solve a head-scratcher, or you’re cribbing one of our sample builds for your own use, please become a TR subscriber if you haven’t already. Your support helps us to continue the in-depth research and reviews that make guides like this one possible.

Have fun building your new PC. We’re confident it’ll turn out great.

Comments closed
    • volnaiskra
    • 4 years ago

    Good guide. I particularly found the SSD section useful.

    But I have to say, I find it odd that you insist on a decent quality case (because it makes the building process easier)and then flip 180 and recommend a non-modular power supply.

    The lopsided bird’s nest of cables that come with those things make building a PC a nightmare. Especially for the average budget-conscious builder, who has a cramped case and needs only about 20% of those cables.

    • Kharnellius
    • 4 years ago

    Looking at these 3 currently. The first two were in this guide but I was wondering about the MX200 that appears to have faster R/W speeds for basically the same price. Is there something I am missing or is there a reason to stay away from the MX200 vs the BX100?

    [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submit=Property&N=100008120%20600038510%20600038519%20600038506%20600038492%20600038491%20600038502&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&CompareItemList=636%7C20-148-946%5E20-148-946%2C20-148-949%5E20-148-949%2C9SIA2W02DV8166%5E9SIA2W02DV8166&percm=20-148-946%3A%24%24%24%24%24%24%24%3B20-148-949%3A%24%24%24%24%24%24%24%3B9SIA2W02DV8166%3A%24%24%24%24%24%24%24[/url<]

    • pandemonium
    • 4 years ago

    CPU Coolers: Swiftech’s are still the best water coolers on the market in both efficacy and noise; the 220 and 240. Corsair’s and CoolerMasters are decent, but simply don’t compete on all performance levels except initial cost.

    • madpacket
    • 4 years ago

    With the amount of integration on motherboards and the number of ITX cases that can accept full size cards these standard systems guides are getting old. It’s time to shift gears and focus on what people want (small, quiet and extremely capable gaming systems).

    When you start seeing gaudy looking ATX sized cases with a half dozen 120mm fans running full tilt and 5 empty 5 1/4 inch bays, as well as 5+ empty expansion slots you know it’s time to move on.

    The only place ATX or mATX belongs is in the most strict budget build systems. Time to do something different TR!

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      Mini-ITX requires some compromises. Micro-ATX is where it’s at.
      There are no good mini-ITX LGA2011-V3 motherboards at Newegg. Mini-ITX LGA1151 motherboards are much more expensive than similar micro-ATX motherboards.

        • Mr Bill
        • 4 years ago

        Yikes! Pricy. There are a few on Amazon. This one has DisplayPort but only 2 DIMMS.
        [url=http://www.amazon.com/EVGA-Stinger-LGA-1151-Motherboard-111-SS-E172-KR/dp/B013ALA61S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1442975358&sr=8-2&keywords=Mini-ITX+LGA1151<]EVGA-Stinger-LGA-1151[/url<]

      • MEATLOAF2
      • 4 years ago

      Space isn’t an issue for me, so I couldn’t care less about anything smaller than a standard ATX sized case (for my main rig) unless it’s cheaper, without any compromises. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean louder, and not ever needing to worry about expansion space is nice, even if I never use it.

      Also, 5.25″ bays are still useful, I have two, using one for the disc drive (I do use it occasionally), and I’m considering getting an adapter and sticking my storage drive in there so I can pull out the drive cage and free up airflow. I need all the flow I can get to keep my OC’d 290 from melting everything around it. 🙂

      • volnaiskra
      • 4 years ago

      Not really accurate. Smaller generally means louder.

      I just got a massive tower case myself, primarily for the sake of noise reduction. All those large, thick panels help absorb the noise, and the spaciousness helps keep temperatures (and, subsequently, noise) down.

      I’ve got 3 GPUs, a slightly overclocked CPU, and 6 fans (undervolted) in there, and it is almost completely silent. I’m sitting next to it, yet can barely hear anything. I doubt I could achieve that with an ITX!

      • Shoki
      • 4 years ago

      Yes! I want a guide for a system that holds a full size gaming graphics card and an ssd. The smaller the better.

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    moved

    • TheJack
    • 4 years ago

    I think calling Asrock simply a budget board is unfair. I am an Asrock fanboy and Gigabyte hater. Gigabyte has bad Bioses with compatibility issues. Painful experiences. Asrock boards are solid and eat any hardware you throw at them. ok. said it.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      It depends more on pricing tiers if anything else. There are budget-minded boards from every major vendor as well as premium tier boards.

      In my experience, the low-end boards and high-end boards with fancy bleeding-edge features tend to be the units that suffer from stupid issues. The no-sense, standard-tier boards seem to the units that avoid most of the headaches.

        • Airmantharp
        • 4 years ago

        Yup. Kind of like cars, or anything else complex…

        • TheJack
        • 4 years ago

        Quite right.

      • f0d
      • 4 years ago

      i am a fanboy of no brand or company and i have had exactly the opposite issues with asrock

      one day i will try them again but ever since i had a p45 and p55 mobo go bonkers because of the bios multiple times and no matter how many times i sent it back the issue was never fixed (the bios would keep getting corrupted and died)
      these 2
      [url<]http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/P45XE/[/url<] [url<]http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/P55DE%20Pro/[/url<] i personally have had zero issues with msi gigabyte and asus so i will stick with them until i get an issue

        • TheJack
        • 4 years ago

        You are making a solid point. I am speechless.

          • f0d
          • 4 years ago

          i think we all have our experiences with hardware that lingers with us and influences our decisions when buying hardware

          its like how there are many people around that wont buy ocz ssd’s anymore because of the trouble the sandforce drives gave them or how people wont trust TLC samsung drives because of the issues they had

          asrock might be better now (my issues was a fair few years ago) but until i run out of other manufacturers that have an almost perfect track record theres no point risking it imo

      • MEATLOAF2
      • 4 years ago

      I’ve had two Asrock motherboards I think, and have had no problems whatsoever with them. One was extremely cheap, the other slightly less cheap. Not sure about their more expensive stuff, but their less flashy boards seems pretty solid to me.

      I still see Asrock as a sort of budget brand, in terms of image, as opposed to Asus or Gigabyte.. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I always go for the no frills boards, and Asrock is one of the few I consider when shopping around.

      • volnaiskra
      • 4 years ago

      I guess it depends on the luck of the draw, to some extent.

      I’ve had two Asrock boards, and they’ve had so many problems it’s ridiculous. From USB peripherals only powering on a third of the time (had to buy a COM2 keypad just so I could get into UEFI) to the board being unable to tell two SSDs of the same make and model apart (made it highly problematic to put the OS on one of them, since BIOS couldn’t tell it apart from the non-OS one). My latest Asrock mobo died after only a couple of years. Tech support was inept too.

      Those two boards turned me off Asrock for ever. It’s the only PC hardware brand I actually despise, and I doubt I’ll ever buy another Asrock product as long as I live. They sure seem like 4th place budget boards to me.

      But statistically, my two boards don’t mean much. Maybe I just got unlucky twice. There are probably many others out there who have had just as many problems with the other brands’ boards. Like you and Gigabyte.

      But opinions usually get made on subjective experience, not statistical fact. 😉

    • timon37
    • 4 years ago

    “Oi! Why you no say GNU/Linux?”

    No seriously though, I’m not asking for much, just something like:
    “Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try Linux. It’s free.”
    😉

    • ish718
    • 4 years ago

    I think the AMD FX-8350 for $169.99 fits in nicely between the budget and the sweet spot CPUs…

      • geekl33tgamer
      • 4 years ago

      …just no.

        • ish718
        • 4 years ago

        Why not? You get 8 cores for $169.99. I know they’re not 8 Intel cores but you still get decent performance and multitasking capability. I might not satisfy the needs of you gaming nerds but it’s still good.

        Besides, over 2000 positive reviewers on newegg seem to think otherwise…

          • geekl33tgamer
          • 4 years ago

          Go look over my old forum threads titled “Piledriver Beast” from August to December 2014. There’s hundreds of reasons contained within on why it’s a very, very bad idea all round.

          And to top it all off, a Haswell i3’s dual cores destroy the FX-8350’s 8 cores from my testing, and fares even worse if you throw crossfire 290X’s into the mix. It’s also over 4 years old at this moment in time, with motherboard chipsets than can be traced all the way back to the 790FX of 2007.

          A all new performance AMD processor can’t come fast enough.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      I propose a [i<]détente[/i<]: I won't jump all over the AMD fan base for saying that you should wait for Zen if the same people won't run around pretending that Piledozer is anything other than a running gag at this point.

      • Milo Burke
      • 4 years ago

      What’s that, I hear? Someone is in need of some back-of-the-envelope math to clear this up?

      [b<]LOOK EVERYONE, IT'S BACK-OF-THE-ENVELOPE MAN! Come to save the day![/b<] - The AMD FX-8350 is $170, and Passmark gives it a single-threaded score of 1,506 and a multi-threaded score of 8,977. - The slightly cheaper Intel i3-4340 sells for $160 and scores 2,075 for single-, and 5,216 for multi-. - The slightly more expensive Intel i5-4430 sells for $185 and scores 1,826 for single-, and 6,263 for multi-. - And the notably more expensive Intel i5-6600k sells for $250 and scores 2,132 for single-, and 7,920 for multi-. [b<]Now for the envelope math:[/b<] - i3-4340 is 6% cheaper, and is 38% faster for single-threaded and 42% slower for multi-threaded. - i5-4430 is 9% more expensive, and is 22% faster for single- and 32% slower for multi-. - i5-6600k is 47% more expensive, and is 41% faster for single- and 12% slower for multi-. [b<]Conclusion:[/b<] Intel's superior instructions-per-clock make it the undeniable choice for anyone interested in in gaming or general use computing. However, AMD has a significant price/performance advantage if your workload is heavily multi-threaded, such as for video and audio editing. Intel can certainly match the multi-threaded performance higher up the chain, but at a much higher cost: making low power, cool-running, quiet CPUs a premium feature.

        • Milo Burke
        • 4 years ago

        Wherever a co-worker is trying to prove a point with no reasonable evidence. [i<]I'll be there.[/i<] Wherever a CEO is making a press release. [i<]I'll be there.[/i<] Wherever an engineer is drunk in a bar, trying to impress someone. [u<][i<]I'll be there.[/i<][/u<] No need to thank me. 'Cuz I'm [b<]Back of the Envelope Man[/b<].

    • grazapin
    • 4 years ago

    It doesn’t seem fair to say that the 4GB R9 380 is “significantly cheaper than 4GB GTX 960s.” I would’ve skipped right over this statement had I not just ordered a 4GB GTX 960 the other day (to put in my HTPC with a 400W power supply) and it’s $200 after rebate. Checked Newegg for the 4GB versions of both cards and they’re evenly spread over the $190-$240 range.

      • atari030
      • 4 years ago

      Probably all a matter of timing when the piece was written….prices in that area have been fluctuating a lot recently (and with holiday sales). I picked up the XFX R9 380 4GB for $199, no rebates involved, not long ago.

    • NeelyCam
    • 4 years ago

    The cases are too small.

      • Freon
      • 4 years ago

      Let me help you: Air 540! 🙂

      There’s a lot of personal choice on cases, I think they’ve put some reasonable recommendations up there for various price points. I helped a friend build in a Define R5, very nice, and the Define S review TR did seemed to show a very nice case for those not concerned with getting an optical drive. I really like it’s layout and design.

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      I agree, but unfortunately the Cosmos II is about as large as you can get at the moment.

        • f0d
        • 4 years ago

        huh?!?!?
        there are plenty of larger cases

        like my thermaltake x9 for example, i recently upgraded from a 900d to an x9 because the 900d was too small

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      They are perfectly fine for the overwhelming majority of the users out there.

      The era of big desktop towers is coming to an end. They are going to be anachronistic as “Big Iron” mainframes of yesterday.

        • NeelyCam
        • 4 years ago

        I guess my sarcasm wasn’t obvious enough..

          • Krogoth
          • 4 years ago

          You need more practice.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            Krogoth is unimpressed.

            • geekl33tgamer
            • 4 years ago

            What’s new? 😉

    • bfar
    • 4 years ago

    In the UK, a 6700k based system currently costs exactly the same as a 5820k setup. A lot of users on forums are recommending folks to go with the 6-core x99 platform for tower based systems. Is it the same on your side of the water, and what are people’s thoughts?

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      CPU’s are about the same in price however the motherboards are typically more expensive for the 2011 systems. As far as use cases goes, I guess it really depends on what you use your system for. If you are a gamer that is not going for a huge multi-graphic card setup, there is little advantage for going with a 2011 system. It will just chew more power and the extra cores won’t do much good. If you are power user that uses applications that can take advantage of the extra cores (virtualization, multimedia content creation, analytics, etc) then that 2011 system becomes more compelling option.

        • bfar
        • 4 years ago

        My thoughts exactly, it’s more than most of us need.

        However, lets say the price tag is similar. Lets also assume we’re a willing to do a little overclocking, and that we can show some indifference to the electricity bill… are those two additional physical cores perhaps too much of a bonus to pass up? Even gamers do other stuff with their PCs. It’s part of the attraction of the platform.

      • Freon
      • 4 years ago

      The rip-off price (~$500-550 vs the MSRP of 350) of the 6700K right now is close to the 5830K (40 lane 6 core), but the X99 motherboards are still a good $50-75 extra over a Z170. A run-of-the-mill $150-160 Z170 board comes with an awful lot of feature for the price. Often the Z97/X99 boards tack on many third party controllers to match those specs.

        • bfar
        • 4 years ago

        Generally that’s the case, but in the UK, right now you can get a 5820k with a Gigabyte X99-SLI and 16GBs of 2400 DDR4 for the exact same price as a 6700k with an Asus z170 A and 16GB of ram. Would it make you think twice?

          • Freon
          • 4 years ago

          Only thing it makes me think is “wait.”

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 4 years ago

            Either Intel is still having trouble ramping up production at 14 nm, or else they are intentionally withholding these chips from the market to try to move more of their old inventory (as they did with the previous generation).

      • Flapdrol
      • 4 years ago

      At stock a 6700K system will probably be faster for gaming.

      Both overclocked the 5820K will win, should top out at a few 100 MHz under the 6700K’s max clocks, but it has twice the cache, which helps with per-core performance. And while games usually don’t scale well over 3 or 4 cores, they do scale somewhat.

      If you run your systems overclocked you might as well spend the 100,- extra on x99. Or get the skylake i5 if you want to spend your money more sensibly.

      • llisandro
      • 4 years ago

      I was also wondering the same thing. I don’t think it makes sense unless you really need more than 20 lanes or are doing a lot of rendering. 6700K dominates in single-threaded and is actually pretty close to the 5820K in a lot of multi-threaded benchmarks. Time-between upgrades is getting longer and longer, I’d personally rather go with the newer chipset.

      [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/bench/product/1320?vs=1543[/url<]

        • Airmantharp
        • 4 years ago

        Overclocking. This ain’t hard. I’d take the extra two cores, but I do ‘content creation’ in addition to gaming, and adding cores is the only real way to increase performance these days.

          • llisandro
          • 4 years ago

          They’re both K parts, yeah it is easy, and I’d say they overclock comparably, right? My point is more that 6-Core Haswells are in no man’s land. I agree with the posts above that platform cost is gonna be more to get a comparable 2011v3 board, and you might need a new heatsink if you don’t already have one with a 2011 bracket. Content creation is only faster when you go up to 4K, and it’s only 7% faster (13% on 5930K). But platform cost is going to be at least$ 50 more (+13%), probably at least $100 more (25%) for a system that is slower in most things (single and poorly threaded things) and only marginally faster in things that are efficiently multithreaded. I’d wait for skylake-E if you want more cores, I’d rather get the newer chipset. If you make money rendering,haswell E doesn’t make sense to me outside of the 5960.

          Edit: or put another way, IMO the price delta in going to LGA-2011v3 is probably better spent on things that give you more noticeable improvements: better GPU or bigger SSD. So, if you game [i<]at all [/i<] I'd think long and hard before picking a 5820K over a 6700K. edit2: typoze- iOS9 KB hates me

            • Airmantharp
            • 4 years ago

            ‘Content creation is only faster when you go up to 4k’

            I stopped here. Content creation at any level today will take every last bit of CPU power you have to throw at it, then ask for more.

            • llisandro
            • 4 years ago

            I stand corrected- the overclock helps more than i had thought it would. Here’s a better BD: 5820K is 10% faster at stock, but jumps to 20% OCed.

            [url<]http://www.kitguru.net/components/cpu/luke-hill/intel-core-i7-6700k-i5-6600k-skylake-cpu-review/5/[/url<]

            • Krogoth
            • 4 years ago

            It can become a point of diminishing returns depending on the source material.

            Sure that are fancy 3D CGI animations where having more GPU and CPU power always helps to cut down time. Encoding and adding simple effect doesn’t require an insane of CPU and GPU power. It just cuts down processing time, but a modern CPU/GPU desktop systems can handle silly Youtube-tier stuff (720p) several times the rate of real-time. Unless, time is $$$$ and you are doing content creation for a living. A simple hobbyist can by with a modest build.

            Admittingly, I haven’t done anything with encoding and processing since Athlon 64 were the hot-dog. The benchmarks for such real-world tests on modern platforms is kinda scarce. Modern CPUs have gotten a lot faster in the content creation environment since Athlon 64 and Pentium-4 era.

            • Airmantharp
            • 4 years ago

            I agree that a hobbyist absolutely can get by with a modest build- I certainly have!

            But I’ve also considered doing it more seriously, and having done run-throughs to see what that’s like, I’d take as much CPU power as I could get. A few hundred dollars (total platform cost) for a few more cores, which could boost processing speed by ~50% (less if scaling is imperfect, more if it is given that OS and other stuff take up part of a core).

    • w76
    • 4 years ago

    I now have my Sky Lake shopping list ready for Black Friday and random lightening deals for the next couple months, with a helping hand from other gerbils pointing out some SFF options. Thank you, TR!

    • TheRealSintel
    • 4 years ago

    Does the recent Intel bios tweak of skylake not level the playing field with broadwell?

    • HERETIC
    • 4 years ago

    Absolutely NAILED IT on the sweet spot-I usually find something I would definitely change-but
    this time so minor hardly worth a mention-perhaps Ram.
    Excellent PSU-Nice case.
    Spot on combo of i5-6600K with a 970-(STILL waiting for your review on i5-6600K )
    Right storage.

    Couple points on the rest-
    Could mention the CM 212s little brothers in the budget cooling-TX3 and 103-both smaller
    as they use 90cm fans-the 103 has a good mounting while the TX3 has the universally hated
    Intel push pins.
    And through expensive I’m surprised Noctua didn’t get a mention-They are considered the
    Rolls Royce of air coolers-Quality build-Quiet-Seem to last forever (multiple builds) and even
    send you new brackets when new sockets come out……………….

    • guardianl
    • 4 years ago

    The EVO 212 cooler is ridiculously good for the $$$, it’s like the only value cooler anyone ever recommends 🙂

    Regarding the H60 cooler recommendations. There are air coolers that perform better than the H60 (better than the H80i in fact…) *and* are quieter at the same price. Worth considering…

    [url=http://www.amazon.com/Noctua-NH-U12-Sockets-Heatpipe-Cooling/dp/B00C9EYVGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442460766&sr=8-1&keywords=U12S<]Noctua-NH-U12S[/url<] [url=http://www.anandtech.com/show/6916/cooler-master-seidon-240m-and-12-more-coolers-the-retest-and-megaroundup/7<]Some benchmarks showing the U12S outperforming the H80i mostly[/url<] No pump noise, no leaks, no need to have a case with compatible mounting for the radiator etc. I picked the U12S because it doesn't block RAM/pci-e and is pretty small, so I don't believe there are any real drawbacks.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      How high is the risk of leaks these days?

      I can see the logic of putting a CLC into a mini-ITX build that needs to be portable (no risk of heatsink damaging things in a flight, for example), so liquid cooling may have advantages in some cases.

        • Airmantharp
        • 4 years ago

        It also lets you get the heat *out* of the case, instead of just spreading it around.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 4 years ago

          Well, the Hyper 212 in my case is pointed straight upwards towards a 200mm exhaust fan, so I don’t think much of it gets spread around…

        • auxy
        • 4 years ago

        My CLC failed, but it didn’t leak. Pumps are less reliable and less replaceable than fans 10/10 times. No more CLCs for me or mine!

          • Ninjitsu
          • 4 years ago

          Thanks for the info!

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 4 years ago

          One of my Corsair H70 units suffered a pump failure after just a few months of operation. The other one is still going strong five years later.

          It’s been decades since I had an air cooler fail. An Alpha 6035 half-melted after its fan died.

          • Milo Burke
          • 4 years ago

          Useful, thank you!

      • Freon
      • 4 years ago

      I really don’t recommend any single fan radiators. You’re right, there are some air coolers that do better on temp/noise envelope, and even usually for less money. H80i seems at best a break even. H60 is just bad.

      Water doesn’t seem to make sense to me until you step up to the 240 or 280mm varieties, where they start to eclipse even the biggest and baddest air coolers (i.e. D14, D15) on temp/noise envelope, though the still typically cost more. I dropped $130 for a Kraken X61 (280mm), but it does a great job on noise and temp for my super power hungry Bloomfield CPU.

    • Shambles
    • 4 years ago

    As someone who just had their MSI motherboard light on fire after being 3 months out of warranty all I have to say is Boo MSI boo! The MOSFETs on my 5 year old ideapad with a discrete GPU have resisted combustion, certainly a well ventilated desktop should be able to do the same.

    /anecdote

    • geekl33tgamer
    • 4 years ago

    As the 5775C is rarer than rocking horse dodo, why not make a recommendation to purchase the i5/i7 Devil’s Canyon CPU’s to use with that platform instead? It’s not like the i7-4790K is actually any slower, but it is a lot cheaper and still in stock.

    Heck, it can even show up the Skylake i7 in most test cases as the faster DDR4 doesn’t seem to do much. The current wave of CPU’s are a bit “meh” personally, sorry.

      • nanoflower
      • 4 years ago

      I can sort of see why they included the 5775C if it is really going to be available in the US in quantity in a week. Right now the Devil’s Canyon processors are the way to go since a Broadwell desktop CPU will cost a 100-200 premium but that’s people reselling processors from overseas. Hopefully once there is local stock available that price will come down.

      • NeelyCam
      • 4 years ago

      Just saw this in the news:

      [url<]http://www.itworld.com/article/2984695/hardware/intel-kills-a-top-of-the-line-processor.html[/url<]

        • K-L-Waster
        • 4 years ago

        Eeechh…

        “So that means fewer CPUs per wafer, which translates into less money made per wafer, and that’s gold in semiconductor manufacturing. Then add on the eDRAM to increase the cost and potentially lower yields and Broadwell-C becomes a pricey chip. Then you have to add in the fact that it does outperform the new chip, which Intel wants to sell. So you have a combination of increased cost, lower yield and potential product cannibalization. I can see why it was killed.”

        So long 5775C – we hardly knew ye….

          • Freon
          • 4 years ago

          Meanwhile Skylake is quite a bit smaller than Haswell (122mm^2 vs. ~177?), but they charge just as much or a bit more.

        • geekl33tgamer
        • 4 years ago

        That’s a shame if true. The author claims Intel cancelled it, but TR say they were told supplies will increase Q4?

        I guess we will see, but it would not shock me if it was cancelled. RIP 5775C.

          • NeelyCam
          • 4 years ago

          Anandtech says Intel denied the cancellation:

          [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/9639/the-death-of-intels-broadwell-is-greatly-exaggerated-socketed-broadwell-continues[/url<]

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        You may want to edit this to reflect the news from AT (I know you’ve posted it below, but might as well make an edit here too I suppose).

      • nm28
      • 4 years ago

      Yet, nobody give a reasonable and solid answer why we should prefer the i7-5775C on the i7-4790K.

      Still i don’t understand why Jeff and the Tech Report staff chose the i7-5775C over the i7-4790K?

        • Firestarter
        • 4 years ago

        better performance in games: [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/skylake/value-gaming.gif[/url<] That is what most of us do with our computer isn't it? If not, there are plenty of other options that might be a better fit.

          • geekl33tgamer
          • 4 years ago

          Overclock the 4790K to just 4.4Ghz and watch it erode any performance gain the 5775C has.

          Oh, but you can overclock the 5775C too I hear you say. That’s all well and good, but the 5775C stops at around 4.2Ghz. With little effort, 4790K’s get to 4.7Ghz and many can reach close to 5Ghz.

          Wonder how the performance picture looks of you have a OC 5775C and an OC 4790K? I suspect the latter would slightly edge it because it can clock a lot higher to cancel out the big cache advantage of Broadwell.

          All bets are off if you wanted to compare TDP and temps, Broadwell will win that. Depends what matters most to people I guess.

      • nm28
      • 4 years ago

      “Make no mistake, the Core i7 5775C is a terrific processor and the first ever 14nm desktop CPU. It however is only viable for those that require fast IGP performance, other then that for PC gamers and desktop users have very little to gain aside from slightly better power consumption. The Core i7 4770/4790(K) series are a more suitable alternative when it comes to performance and overclocking.”

      “My personal advice to you is that if you MUST go with a new Z97 platform right now, the 4790K Devils Canyon processor is the best combo to get.”

      This is a fair the best answer you can get,

      Read here: [url<]http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/core_i7_5775c_processor_review_desktop_broadwell,1.html[/url<]

        • D@ Br@b($)!
        • 4 years ago

        +1 for linking to GURU3D (Y)

    • Noinoi
    • 4 years ago

    Skylake existing and showing up in this month’s System Guide makes me sort of wish I had waited a bit longer to build a system. On the other hand, the i5-4590 is still likely more than enough for, well, just about everyone that don’t overclock.

    Makes me wonder if Skylake processors getting more common might make Haswell parts go cheaper, or if they might be phased out instead.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    The tiers haven’t really changed that much.

    Skylake was just a bump in platform support. Fury line did little to affect the high-end GPU market.

    Desktop Broadwell chips are a getting little too much hype. It isn’t that much faster than Skylake where its L4 cache helps and I doubt supplies are going to last. You really cannot go wrong with either choice.

    • johnrreagan
    • 4 years ago

    There is a typo on page 2. The table for “Sweet Spot” CPUs has “i5-6700K, should be “i7-6700K”

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 4 years ago

      Corrected, thanks.

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 4 years ago

    Thanks for the guide, it’s always a fun read even if I’m not going to be upgrading anything until Pascal hits the streets… and even then I may need to pull the trigger on a 30inch 21:9 1440p Gsync monitor before I can justify making any changes to my 3570K/GTX 760 rig. Guess I’ll see how Battlefront runs.

      • ljaszcza
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I am running a Dell 30″ from 2007 with a 3570k/780gtx.

      I suppose a Gsync monitor will be in order but I hate to participate in/reward proprietary lock-ins like that. Unless there is a real good technical reason for them. It’s one of the reasons I went from being a Sony fan to just one aging Playstation in the house.

      Still, I remain confused whether freesync really does what it should and whether it introduces problems (ghosting, wasn’t it?)

      Anyone out there pick up a good 30″ or so monitor and want to tell us about it? Any recent practical experience with freesync/Gsync?

      Edit: I just found a nice recent review at Tom’s [url<]http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-freesync-versus-nvidia-g-sync-reader-event,4246.html[/url<] Hmm, Nvidia seems to have a better product but paying a $200 royalty to Nvidia on top of a $300-$600 card and getting locked in to Nvidia sticks in my craw. It's the principle of the thing. Drat.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 4 years ago

        My UltraSharp 3007WFP still looks great. If I had to buy a new monitor today, I’d consider the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236466<]$580[/url<] Asus MG279Q, reviewed [url=https://techreport.com/review/28767/video-review-asus-mg279q-freesync-monitor<]here[/url<] and [url=http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/asus_mg279q.htm<]here[/url<].

        • Airmantharp
        • 4 years ago

        I can’t say that I appreciate the lock-in, but until AMD’s technology (well, VESA’s?) is adjudicated to be as effective as G-Sync (not, ‘it’s also an improvement but not sure how they stack up’), and AMD’s driver support guy gets some help, I’ll prefer an Nvidia GPU and G-Sync solution.

        Which puts me in the same 21:9 1440p curved IPS G-Sync crowd as many gamers.

    • brunoventura22
    • 4 years ago

    On the first table after the “sweet spot” title its written “intel core i5-6700k”

    • K-L-Waster
    • 4 years ago

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before: in the Case and Power Supply sections, adding a Small Form Factor recommendation would be welcome.

    I know, some readers don’t give a blankety blank blank blank about SFF. But others care about it quite a bit. Adding coverage for them (without removing the excellent full size coverage you already provide, of course) would be a great addition.

      • Shambles
      • 4 years ago

      That section would simply say:

      NCase M1

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      We do have a forum for SFF:
      [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=22[/url<] I believe that micro-ATX is the best form factor for most enthusiast PCs. [quote="Commenting about micro-ATX LGA1151 motherboards, I"<] [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157642<]$90[/url<] ASRock H170M Pro4S [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157637<]$103[/url<] ASRock Z170M Pro4S [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130877<]$120[/url<] MSI Z170M Mortar [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813132573<]$130[/url<] Asus Z170M-Plus [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128844<]$150[/url<] Gigabyte GA-Z170MX-Gaming 5 [/quote<] Each of these LGA1151 motherboards has four DIMM slots, M.2 PCIe, four PCIe slots and zero legacy PCI slots. The mini-ITX choices for LGA1151 are still rather limited.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        Two ITX boards from ASRock at $128 and $184 respectively.

        [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157651[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157650[/url<]

        • K-L-Waster
        • 4 years ago

        Oh I know, and I’ve used it to help pick parts for my HTPC. It’s a great resource.

        At the same time, a section in the system guide where we could benefit from the experience of Scott & the TR gang would be useful.

          • DragonDaddyBear
          • 4 years ago

          I asked for it in person at the 2014 BBQ and was told it’s just not simple enough, that TR is for everyday people. I say hogwash. The cases CAN be cramped but it’s no different than an ATX build. Suggest a beginner and expert case option and be done with it.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<] that TR is for everyday people. I say hogwash. [/quote<] Given all the noise about 4K, I agree. :p

            • K-L-Waster
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]...TR is for everyday people.[/quote<] Some everyday people have space constraints. And as Cyril pointed out, most ATX cases end up containing a lot of empty air.

        • Mr Bill
        • 4 years ago

        $101 Gigabyte (GA-F2A88X-UP4)
        I’d like to seen an mITX build with a motherboard board that has all the connections. Something with DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, USB3, eSATA, SATA 6GB/s, and 4 memory slots. For example. Gigabyte AMD FM2+/FM2 A88X DDR3 2133 DisplayPort HDMI Dual-link DVI ATX Motherboard (GA-F2A88X-UP4)
        [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Gigabyte-DisplayPort-Dual-link-Motherboard-GA-F2A88X-UP4/dp/B00FBCCKIW[/url<]

    • Welch
    • 4 years ago

    Jeff – Anyone complaining about the Corsair CX430/M recommendation either had a bad experience that is contrary to most or they are just plain haters.

    I’ve probably built more systems for offices using the CX430/M power supplies than anyone else on the forums (going out on a limb here). Out of all of the builds I’ve done only 1 had an issue which was the fan controller just had the fan running at full blast right out of the box. Amazon swapped it out and it has been running great. Not a single freaking issue with any of the others, some of which have been running for well over 2-3 years, some almost 24/7.

    With 60-70 of these units out in the wild, if I was going to have an issue with them you’d imagine I’d have seen at least a few by now. I can’t say the same for other brands that I’ve seen other shops use in the past *Stares at Coolmax and Antec*. Antec used to be really good, not sure how they are doing now because I stopped using them.

    As for the sweet spot I’d also throw in the HX650/750. Not sure about pricing as of late but I was able to get the 650/750 for around $119 pretty consistently not long ago. There is the RM as well but it uses a lesser fan design, otherwise great for middle of the road gaming rigs and a bit cheaper as a sub $100 PSU.

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, forum posts seem to suggest you deal with 2-3x the volume that I do, but I can attest that around 50-100 of our builds have been using either CX430 or CX500 PSUs and not a single one was bad.

      We switched to either Seasonic or CS-series at least a couple of years ago for better quality and efficiency. Jonnyguru took a CX430 apart and noted lesser-quality caps but still a reasonable brand – just Chinese instead of Japanese. If Jonnyguru gives it a 9, it’s no dog and 0/100 failures is actually better than the CS-series, which have required a couple of RMA’s already.

      Statistics/shmatistics though. Even a sample size of 100 isn’t enough to be significant when RMA rates are lower than 3%.

        • nanoflower
        • 4 years ago

        Keep in mind that review from Jonnyguru looks to be from 2011. Corsair is known to switch manufacturers and keep the product name the same and manufacturers will also change up components. So that 9 may not apply to a product 4 years later.

        • Welch
        • 4 years ago

        Seasonic supplies are also generally very rock solid, I’ve just always seen then being much more than the CX430. I’ve used a few CX500’s but recall reading some odd things about them back in the day that had me leery of them. The 430 is usually used on builds with an i3, 2x4gb RAM, IGP and an SSD maybe sometimes an optical drive if the customer needs it… So pretty low powered almost to the point where the 430 is “overkill” for it. If it were an OEM they would put a 250-300w supply in it with little to no protection circuitry and a weak 12v rail.

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]I've probably built more systems for offices using the CX430/M power supplies than anyone else on the forums (going out on a limb here). [/quote<] I'll take that bet. 130 systems three years ago for one computer lab and they do have a high failure rate.

        • HERETIC
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve almost given up trying to understand why people SKIMP on their PSU.
        This site being one of if not THE best tech site-And very knowledgeable readers-Still some
        think this way…..
        The difference between a OK/good PSU and a very good PSU can be $20-$30
        When your spending between $700 and $2k it’s negligible………..
        Examples.
        Corsair CX430M-$50 ok-PSU—–Seasonic G-360 $60-Great PSU.
        Corsair CX500m-$65 ok-PSU——EVGA Supernova G2-550W-$90-Great PSU.

        PSU is the most important part of any build………………………………………………..

          • Noinoi
          • 4 years ago

          Personally I would put stock on reviews that perform extensive testing of PSU capabilities and do a disassembly so that we can take a look at the components within.

          The Corsair CX series might not be the best PSUs you can buy on quality, but they all appear to be more than good enough, per Tech Report’s linked reviews.

          Where I live, the other PSUs you have mentioned, for example, aren’t readily available, so I’m actually fine with the CX series existing, since people should still be able to get a decent unit instead of something worse.

          I actually use a CX600M myself, and my desktop is a happy camper. If budget is a concern I would probably stop short of the CX series and not go anything worse than that.

            • HERETIC
            • 4 years ago

            “Personally I would put stock on reviews that perform extensive testing of PSU capabilities and do a disassembly so that we can take a look at the components within.”

            Agree 100% on that with one exclusion-Sites can get sent a “Golden Sample” that don’t truly
            represent what you get in retail.

            Then the observations from Welch and Deanjo add to give a clearer picture……………………
            And sometimes it’s not the actual review that gives you a general picture-Was just reading a
            review on a Enermax PSU-Part of the conclusion-
            Build Quality (20% of the final score) – it’s not often we can look at a CWT built unit and find no flaws at all, but that’s what happened today. 10
            That was a $200 PSU-PSU are built to a price-CWT is the manufacturer for most of Corsairs PSU
            including the cheap CX series……………………………………………..

            Where I live, the other PSUs you have mentioned, for example, aren’t readily available,

            This is where you have to do your research-Seasonic G series is available in many different
            forms under different brands-Antec TPC series-Antec Edge series-XFX are all Seasonic.-Cyonic-
            Some Cooler Master and more……………………………………………………………………..
            The EVGA G2 is a relatively new Superflower design………………………………….
            I don’t have them locally available yet either………………

            • Noinoi
            • 4 years ago

            Mmm hmm. It’s extremely hard to work around that, though, when the platform you want isn’t even available as an OEM rebrand or something like that, hence the note about availability. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have, and for that, yeah, I’m very OK with the CX series, at least the ones with Japanese primaries.

            Again, at some point, “good enough” really does mean good enough. I’d happy spend a bit more effort and money on getting a PSU if I am able to do so, but that doesn’t mean CX should be avoided.

            • Welch
            • 4 years ago

            I’d go a step further to say that “good enough” and “does the job” are two different things. I feel the CX430 is the perfect power supply to do the job when I’m building a simply i3, 8gb RAM with IGP and a SSD/HDD.

            As much as I’d love to throw some crazy overkill parts into a machine, the fact is that 90% of my customers don’t need or want a Porsche to get to and from work, they want/need a Subaru. (If you disagree with the analogy then your missing the greater point lol)

            Have to stay in a budget, most people are going to spend more for these custom builds over the cheapo Dell/HP offerings and they will get a greater value/quality from the build.

            • HERETIC
            • 4 years ago

            Little bit of a overstatement-
            “As much as I’d love to throw some crazy overkill parts into a machine, the fact is that 90% of my customers don’t need or want a Porsche to get to and from work, they want/need a Subaru.”

            Seasonic G360 is $10 more than the Corsair.

            ” perfect power supply to do the job when I’m building a simply i3, 8gb RAM with IGP and a SSD/HDD.”
            Couldn’t think of anything more perfect than Seasonic G360 for that build………………

            • Welch
            • 4 years ago

            Not overstated, I’m talking about my basic office build. An OEM would never allot near the same quality of a CX430 for their basic office systems. I’m all ears about the Seasonic though… Yes $10 more isn’t a big deal and I’ll admit could easily be fit into the build price, but what incentive over the CX430?

            With the 430 you have a little more headroom in the event that you need/want to add a video card later, not to say the 360 couldn’t, I see it has a very strong 12v rail for a supply of its power rating.

            It is a Gold rating vs Corsair’s bronze, which means very little to most businesses. Then again Corsair actually took a lower cert on some of their PSUs because the numbers were too close and they didn’t want to be cannon fodder for almost fudging the numbers, an honest manufacturer for once, so I wonder if the CX430 really isn’t rated higher than Bronze for what it is worth.

            I see the G360 shows 150,000 MTBF vs the Corsairs CX430 100,000 hours MTBF. Many forum posts here on TR have seriously brought into question the practice of even stating a MTBF. For the sake of argument though, I’ll give that one to the G360.

            The CX430 will actually turn off its 120mm fan in the event that it is not needed, I’d imagine this helps with fan life. The G360 is a range of 500-1900 RPM, so it doesn’t shut off.

            The G360 has a 5 year warranty vs Corsair’s 3 year warranty, which I have to say is very nice to see… Only I haven’t had to deal with Seasonic’s warranty department and in the last 10 years or so I’ve dealt with Corsair’s 2 maybe 3 times (mostly headsets) and they are insanely helpful. They don’t question things, if it is in the warranty date they typically send you a new unit and I’ve rarely been asked to return items. Just down right top notch. Ohh and they speak English.

            I guess I can fully see your suggestion for the G360, but still even if they were the same price, why change something that has been working for awesome to something unknown, and not as readily available. As a matter of fact the Amazon listing for the G360 is currently $75.95, a far cry from a $10 difference compared to the CX430 at $44 on Amazon. Newegg doesn’t even have the G360 at all, but they have the CX430 for $44.99 plus a 10% off…

            This is why I stick with the CX430, and it’s reliability track record in the machines I’ve built.

            • Deanjo
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]Personally I would put stock on reviews that perform extensive testing of PSU capabilities and do a disassembly so that we can take a look at the components within.[/quote<] Those are fine but they still don't testify to the long term reliability of the units.

        • Welch
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve probably got more than 70 if I were to count, but yeah… at 130 you probably have me beat :D.

        So in that computer lab, what sort of hardware were you powering, what cases and are these 24/7 machines?

          • Deanjo
          • 4 years ago

          Well to put it more accurately, they were systems built for classrooms for one of the school boards that my buddy got the contract for to refresh their systems and I helped him out in the evenings building them. They were nothing spectacular, IB i3’s , 8 gigs of Kingston value ram, 128 Gig SSD, a corporate stable Asus MB and some cheap no name cases, a mixture of CX430/M’s, 400 watt Sparklepower’s and some Seasonics sourced from multiple vendors. In total there were about 480 machines on that deployment, all set to start up at 6 am and shutdown at 5 pm M-F, off on weekends and two months during the summer. Out of all the machines that were deployed, only the Corsairs have given issues with the power supplies dying (excluding 1 bad Sparkle). He’s got a stack of about 45 dead ones that he has replaced since that deployment (with Sparkles or Seasonics).

          I’ve also used them in other smaller builds for friends and family, I personally have had to replace 5 from those systems.

          These systems are not heavy load systems, they are just your run of the mill, surf the web, do some coding, write your book report machines.

        • Krogoth
        • 4 years ago

        Bad capacitors is what usually kills PSUs. The plague of sub-par capacitors isn’t quite over yet.

          • Deanjo
          • 4 years ago

          I wouldn’t say that is still necessarily the case. Most of the failed power supplies that I have taken apart in recent years have suffered from a multitude of failures from diode failures, subpar high tolerance resistors, coil shorts and a lot of cold solder joints in addition to see cap failures as well.

          The “bad formula” caps have been out of the system for a fairly long time. Not saying there isn’t subpar caps out there, because there certainly is, but it isn’t from the same reasons as the bad cap plague at the turn of the century.

        • anotherengineer
        • 4 years ago

        Uh Oh, that scares me, I put a CX430 in my moms pc about 3 years ago to replace the 380W? antec psu that came in sonata.

      • HERETIC
      • 4 years ago

      ” Antec used to be really good, not sure how they are doing now because I stopped using them.”

      Antec much like Corsair use a variety of manufacturers-Covering PSU from excellent all the way
      down to barely acceptable.
      Corsair top end uses Flextronics and Seasonic and they are excellent power supplies.Mostly CWT in the midrange and Greatwall in their low end-CWT also produces some low end stuff.

      Antec HCG is basically Seasonic S12 series-Very good PSU.
      Their TPC and EDGE series are also Seasonic-based on G series-Very good PSU.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      One thing, CX series seems to be good till 30*C intake air for max efficiency (read that on a graph displayed on Corsiar’s site), so I’m not sure if it’s a great idea to use it as a top mounted supply.

        • Welch
        • 4 years ago

        Hmmm, interesting… Every last single CX430 I’ve installed has been in a bottom mount case. For these office machines I also typically face the fan UP inside the case.

        Deanjo, were your cases top mounted, fan facing in or out, just curious.

        That number of CX430’s bad just seems odd as HELL…. I mean REALLLLLLLY odd. With the number of machines out there, based on your stats I should be seeing at least a few of them going bad. I can’t help but think it is either environmental, or you got in on a very bad batch of those supplies.

        What did Corsair have to say about them? Regardless if the supplies were out of warranty by a little bit, I’m curious to see what they have to say about it.

          • Deanjo
          • 4 years ago

          Bottom mount, fan to the outside of the case. If the CX 430 is that sensitive to mounting and orientation, it is a flawed design. As far as it being a “bad batch” extremely unlikely as they were sourced from many vendors. As far as environmental goes, can’t attribute it to that either as the cases are all on top of desktops with ample clearance to allow proper airflow in a climate controlled environment that is kept steady at room temp.

          Corsair just offered to RMA the dead supplies (they also did not honor the $10 rebate that was on them at the time because of the quantities). RMAing however would be cost prohibitive because of the time and shipping costs involved only to possibly getting refurbished units back in exchange. Cheap power supplies are like a cheap refillable lighter, it is usually cheapest to just throw them out when they die.

            • HERETIC
            • 4 years ago

            I think your last sentence puts it in a nutshell.
            But the different experience between you and Welch is interesting.
            My few cents worth (slightly bias)
            Corsair low end PSU can sometimes be had for as low as $20 with rebates.
            Take out profit-packaging-transport from China-your left with a $10 PSU.
            $10 does not allow quality or slightly over-spec’d components.

            CWT does not have the quality production in it’s cheap models that it has
            in it’s high end units(probably different factories)
            Just reading a review on a Enermax PSU-Part of the conclusion-
            Build Quality (20% of the final score) – it’s not often we can look at a CWT built unit and find no flaws at all, but that’s what happened today. 10

            So things like power grid(voltage-spikes-close to heavy industry)Temp range,can easily be the
            difference when you have cheap PSU components and poor assembly/QC…………

            To conclude.
            There are much worse PSU out there.
            PSU is the most important part of any build-If it don’t play nice it can fry everything……………….

            Edit-there were also 4 different models of that 430 PSU

    • yuhong
    • 4 years ago

    I think you should be suggesting DDR3L kits not DDR3 kits these days if possible.

      • travbrad
      • 4 years ago

      I assume you are recommending that for longevity reasons but even with Skylake there are very few boards with DDR3L slots. On Newegg 3 out of the 52 Z170 mobos have DDR3 slots. By the next generation of CPUs DDR3 will probably be gone entirely.

      Whether you use DDR3 or DDR3L for your current built it almost certainly won’t work in your next build.

        • yuhong
        • 4 years ago

        Even with Broadwell it reduces power consumption anyway.

          • travbrad
          • 4 years ago

          You are really concerned with the power consumption of your memory on a desktop system?

          I suppose Broadwell does “require” DDR3L, but everyone seems to say it works fine with normal DDR3 anyway.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah it’s worth noting that technically the 5775c requires DDR3L (relevant to the 99th percentile build), although I’ve never had a problem running with regular 1.5V DDR3.

        • DrDominodog51
        • 4 years ago

        Broadwell requires DDR3L @ 1.5 v according to the ark page which brings the question to mind why they would call it DDR3L

          • Welch
          • 4 years ago

          Errr…. DDR3L (Low Voltage). Was “low voltage” at some point 1.5v and the standard in DDR3 higher (1.65v)? So DDR3L on the ARK is still showing 1.5v being low even though its standard now and 1.35v is low?

          Odd round about explanation, but perhaps this is why. I mean Intel has failed to update ARK in the past /shrug.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            ARK used to show 1.35v, and some other sites also reported Broadwell using DDR3L but it seems everyone tested with 1.5v.

            And I suppose they just corrected the voltage on ARK without bothering to change the DDR3L to DDR3 (someone forgot to change it I suppose).

    • DrDominodog51
    • 4 years ago

    Thanks for including a section on PCIe drives.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Does desktop Broadwell require DDR3L?

      I thought it was Skylake that required it in the few motherboards that preserve DDR3 interfaces.

      [EDIT: I was attacked by ninjas!]

        • DrDominodog51
        • 4 years ago

        I was wrong. So Broadwell requires DDR3l @1.5V(aka normal ddr3 memory)

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      PCIe SSD cards don’t really make much sense outside of a prosumer and power user setting though.

      They are spiritual successors to 15K RPM SCSI HDD of the old days.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      SSDs should move to the M.2 2280 form factor to save space and materials. We don’t need the 2½” x 4″ plastic box.

      For better performance, I wish that more SSDs were available with PCIe+NVMe instead of SATA+AHCI.

      Unfortunately, these drives currently carry a [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100008120%20600488413%208000%204814%20600171532%20600521287&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=30<]price premium[/url<] over the similar models sold in the competitive 2½" SATA SSD market.

    • superjawes
    • 4 years ago

    You know, the High-End Graphics section seems a bit crowded considering the options and $380 price swing. Perhaps it would be better to split off a 1440p bracket. The GTX 970 and R9 390 are your 1440p options, and anything higher than that can stick in the “high end” category.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      I’d suggest that the 970/390/290 fall under the “silky smooth frames at 1080p” bracket, others can be the high-end 1440p category.

    • llisandro
    • 4 years ago

    So, Asus’s only Z170 board with Alpine Ridge is the H170-PRO? (ROG series seems to be all Asmedia)

    I don’t really care about Thunderbolt that much, but I was hoping to buy a board with Intel Alpine Ridge instead of the Asmedia USB 3.1 chipset after headaches with Asmedia’s 3.0 chipset on my LGA1155 system. Looks like only Gigabyte is offering a decent array of boards with Alpine Ridge on Z170 so far- has anyone seen a list summarizing this?

    Looks like GA-Z170MX-Gaming 5 might be my best bet so far (I’m looking to go mATX)!

    • sweatshopking
    • 4 years ago

    While it’s totally theoretical at this stage, the performance of GCN looks compelling with DX 12.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      [url=https://youtu.be/qmjOd9Dlr34?t=16s<]Trolololololahhhhhh lalalahhhh la la laah laah laah laaaah.[/url<]

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 years ago

        you know me too well.

      • nanoflower
      • 4 years ago

      Is it 40% better than the performance of GCN with DX11?

        • Welch
        • 4 years ago

        Of course! All performance increases are 40% here at AMD!

    • Mr Bill
    • 4 years ago

    I suggest mentioning an upgrade to the Samsung 850 Pro to avoid the EVO bricking problems. Or has that been solved?

      • DancinJack
      • 4 years ago

      I don’t think the 850 EVO has ever been implicated?

        • Freon
        • 4 years ago

        It hasn’t, but I think it also took over a year before anyone noticed on the 840 EVO since it seems to be age (of a given byte of data) related.

      • southrncomfortjm
      • 4 years ago

      I’m over Samsung SSDs since I’m still pretty sure I’m not getting full performance out of my 840 and 840 EVO.

        • D@ Br@b($)!
        • 4 years ago

        Still happy with my two 830’s Pro raid0

        • Mr Bill
        • 4 years ago

        I have 128GB 830, 256GB 840, and 512GB 850 Pro’s are going strong with no issues.

          • southrncomfortjm
          • 4 years ago

          Great, good for you guys. I’m less impressed and am moving on.

            • D@ Br@b($)!
            • 4 years ago

            I am happy as long as they keep spinning, and will reconsider when they die…..

            • southrncomfortjm
            • 4 years ago

            SSDs don’t spin.

            • EndlessWaves
            • 4 years ago

            Only their manufacturers do.

            • southrncomfortjm
            • 4 years ago

            Zing!

            • D@ Br@b($)!
            • 4 years ago

            LOLed 😉

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, as a 840 owner I’m sort of done with Samsung for now. Intel/Crucial/OCZ-Toshiba/Corsair/Kingston for now. I guess Plextor is okay too but I’m not sure what the warranty scene is in India.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]How to survive in a post-Skylake world[/quote<] In a world where Skylake processors are only available in annoying combo packages on Newegg*, one man will find a way to overclock an Ivy Bridge i3 and save us all! * [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117559&cm_re=6700K-_-19-117-559-_-Product[/url<]

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