Welcome to the February 2017 edition of The Tech Report System Guide. Since our last Guide, Intel released its Kaby Lake CPUs, and we dutifully reviewed them. Kaby parts make good replacements for the Skylake family before them, even if the generational improvement can be charitably described as "minor." We've also seen AMD teasing more information about the performance of its Ryzen CPUs, which should be hitting stores not too long from now. Our stable of CPU recommendations is still all-Intel, but there's some hope that Ryzen may shake things up a little soon.
In the graphics card arena, there's no sign of a cease-fire in the price war between AMD and Nvidia. Graphics cards in the sub-$250 range keep dropping in price, so much so that I've taken to calling early 2017 a golden age for cash-strapped gamers everywhere. Just to give you a rough idea, nearly every card cheaper than an RX 480 8GB can be had for under $200. That means you can get a graphics card capable of driving most games at 2560x1440 with ease for only a couple Benjamins these days. If that doesn't classify as "affordable gaming," we don't know what does. Regret buying that PS4 Pro yet?
As for the remaining components that make up a PC, there hasn't been much in the way of new releases. Prices for memory appear to have more-or-less stabilized after the massive climb late last year, offering some breathing room for those looking to build machines with 32GB or even 64GB of RAM. Prices for speedy 3000 MT/s and 3200 MT/s RAM are sticking fairly close to those of 2400 MT/s modules, too. That's led us to recommend the faster memory where we can, especially after our Kaby Lake review revealed that some workloads may be amenable to faster RAM speeds.
In the SSD front, prices have risen a little, particularly for the 500GB class of drives. While we don't know exactly what's causing this, our best guess is that users are moving onto 500GB as a baseline capacity, and the usual supply-and-demand market rule is reflecting that. Having said that, prices for Samsung's 960 EVO drives have dropped a little, a move that was likely prompted by Intel's aggressive pricing of its 600p SSDs. We expect the solid-state price wars to heat up on the NVMe front in the coming months.
The Tech Report System Guide is sponsored by Newegg. We'll be using links to the site's 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 cases 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.
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. We'll also make a note of good choices for those readers who are looking to get in to a VR ready system.
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.
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.