The operating system
If you're building a gaming PC, we think you'll be happiest with Microsoft Windows. 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 10 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.
On June 29, AMD's first Polaris graphics cards should hit the scene. We'll be publishing a rapid update to the System Guide once we know how the performance of those cards shakes out. If you're building a more midrange system, you'll want to wait for that update.
Now that Pascal has launched at the high end of the graphics market, we're curious to see what Nvidia's entry-level and mid-range product strategy will be with its new chips. The rumor mill is rather quiet about hypothetical GeForce GTX 1050s or GTX 1060s, so we have no guidance to offer there.
The rumor mill does have some things to say about CPUs, though. Late this year, Intel's Kaby Lake CPUs may hit the market. Shadowy sources suggest these refined 14-nm parts will have native USB 3.1 support and improved onboard graphics. Kaby Lake chips might drop into the same LGA 1151 socket as Skylake parts, but Intel may also release a new 200-series platform to go with these chips, so it's unclear whether they'll work with existing motherboards. Given the pace of improvement in Intel CPUs over the past handful of generations, we don't expect Kaby Lake to be earth-shattering, but we're always happy to be surprised.
The rumor mill further suggests that AMD's Zen consumer parts, code-named Summit Ridge, might also arrive late this year. They'll need motherboards with a new AM4 socket and (presumably) new chipsets, so the AMD faithful should probably prepare to build new systems from the ground up if Zen parts prove competitive. AMD has shown Zen silicon in operation, and it's indicated that Summit Ridge CPUs will offer up to eight cores and sixteen threads. If Zen delivers, we're cautiously optimistic for some renewed competition in the CPU space from the red team.
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. Be sure to purchase any of our picks using the links to Newegg throughout this guide, too.
Have fun putting together your new PC—we're sure it'll turn out great.
84 comments — Last by reynolm at 1:25 AM on 07/15/16
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