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The Tech Report System Guide: September 2015 edition

How to survive in a post-Skylake world

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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.