The Tech Report System Guide: winter 2017 edition

Welcome to TR’s Winter 2017 System Guide. This release marks a major change in the format of our long-running system-building advice. See, our old guides were getting too long and unwieldy to be useful to the average builder who just wants to know what to purchase when they start shopping for a new build. As a result, we’re trying something new and going back to our roots in this edition. We’re hoping to keep it simple and stick to advice about complete builds only, rather than producing an exhaustive survey of the state of the enthusiast PC. We’ll add commentary where it’s justified, but we think this pared-down format should be a lot easier to follow for folks looking for advice.

The rules of the road for the System Guide aren’t changing, though. We’ve tried to create builds across a wide range of price points with parts that provide the best performance possible for the money. We don’t just ferret out the cheapest components possible or compromise configurations to hit arbitrary price points. Indeed, these are the systems we’d build for ourselves, given the money. From our cheapest build to our most expensive (or the second-most expensive, at least), you can rest easy knowing that we’ve done the hard work of balancing the need for performance against the curve of diminishing returns.

The lay of the land

Since our last System Guide, prices for most hardware parts have remained stubbornly steady, and in some cases have risen significantly. RAM is now at least 25% more expensive than it used to be of late, and certain kits have become far more expensive than that. SSD prices have remained high, too. That’s because demand for RAM and NAND chips is high right now in markets that aren’t related to the good old PC. Some component manufacturers have promised increased production of those chips to cope with the demand, but for now, system builders are paying the price in memory and flash storage.

The rest of the components for a common build are priced roughly the same, counteracting the usual “PC parts get cheaper all the time” narrative. Overall, this situation hurt our more affordable builds more than most, since that’s where a price increase in a single component has a disproportionate effect on the power we can pack into a given build.

It’s not all bad news, though. Some mid-range and high-end builds can reap the benefits of Intel’s recently-introduced eighth-generation Coffee Lake Core CPUs and their increased core counts, all in the same price ranges as their predecessors. For that reason, the big battles right now are in the $900-to-$2000 builds where options for processors are aplenty.

While AMD currently has a competitive selection of processors more or less across the board, pricing for the red team’s graphics cards isn’t quite so appetizing. Radeon RX 500-series cards in general are still more expensive than we’d like, and Radeon RX Vega cards are out of stock or way overpriced at retail when they’re available at all. In contrast, Nvidia’s Pascal family of cards has generally been in stock at sane prices up and down the stack. Our graphics card picks reflect this situation.

Rules of engagement

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 and builds to fit budgets of all sizes, without compromising on quality or performance.

Our budget builds will get you up and running with solid components that won’t break the bank. Stepping up to our sweet spot builds 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.

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.

 

Sample builds—budget to mid-range

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. We have parts lists that span a range of budget options. We did our best effort to present balanced rigs at various price points, but the whole point of building a PC is that you can customize it as you see fit. Feel free to swap parts around as needed to fit your budget and performance needs.

Econobox

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Pentium G4620 $91.99
Cooler Intel stock cooler

 
Motherboard MSI B250 Pro-VDH $64.99
Memory G. Skill Aegis 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4-2400 $94.99
Graphics MSI GeForce GT 1030 2GH LP OC $71.99
Storage WD Blue 1TB 7200 RPM $49.00
Enclosure Thermaltake Versa H15 $34.19
PSU Seasonic S12II 430B $39.99
Total   $448.94

The Econobox offers a stepping stone into the world of a balanced desktop PC. The Intel Pentium G4620 offers plenty of general-purpose processing power for a mere $92, thanks to its swiftly-clocked two cores and four threads. That processor plays along with a Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 graphics card. Despite its sub-$100 price, this card should still be capable of playing games like Minecraft, Rocket League, and Dota 2 at reasonable frame rates with plenty of eye candy. While this card won’t dazzle you with fantastic visuals or furious frame rates in the latest AAA titles, it can offer at least a playable experience on a number of them, provided you keep graphics options and resolutions modest. Our MSI pick is fanless for quiet operation, too.

In case the 1TB hard drive in this build feels too pokey for your tastes, you can always pair it or swap it with a Crucial MX300 275 GB SSD for $90 or so (an extra outlay of $40). If you’re wondering why we’re not recommending Optane Memory for this build, the reason is simple: it’s not cost-effective. Intel’s requirements for Optane mean that we’d have to use the Core i3-7100 or Core i3-8100 (around $120), plus at least a 16 GB Optane Memory device ($50). That’s a lot of cash when you can just buy an SSD. Should Intel ease its policy on what systems can use Optane, we’ll gladly revisit this particular topic.

Econobox Plus

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Ryzen 3 1300X $129.99
Cooler AMD Wraith Stealth cooler

 
Motherboard ASRock AB350M Pro4 $74.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V (2x4GB) DDR4-2666 $103.99
Graphics Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti $162.99
Storage WD Blue 250 GB SSD $84.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Core 1100 $46.99
PSU Seasonic S12II 430B $39.99
Total   $638.93

Here’s a budget-conscious machine that’s not quite as trimmed-down as the regular Econobox. The choice of CPU for this build is AMD’s Ryzen 3 1300X. While we could pick the Intel Core i3-8100 for this spot, prices for an accompanying Z370 motherboard start at around $120, compared to $60 for basic Ryzen mobos. The Ryzen 3 1300X is somewhat beefier than the Pentium G4620 in the build above, particularly in multi-threaded tasks and games that can make good use of four CPU cores. The unlocked multiplier and nice stock CPU cooler of the Ryzen 3 1300X mean enthusiasts can have a go at boosting its performance through tweaking, too.

The graphics card choice for the Econobox Plus steps up to the evergreen GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, a card that’s quite good for its $160-odd price bracket. It should let you play most AAA titles at 1920×1080 with relatively high detal settings. Finally, the WD Blue 250 GB SSD will give you snappy system responsiveness. If that capacity is a little too tight, you can upgrade to a Crucial MX300 525 GB for another $60 or so, or add in the WD Blue 1TB hard drive from the Econobox for bulk storage.

Middle Ground

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Core i3-8100 $129.99
Cooler Intel stock cooler

 
Motherboard Gigabyte Z370 HD3 $124.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V (2x4GB) DDR4-3200 $108.99
Graphics EVGA GTX 1060 6 GB ACX 2.0 SC $274.99
Storage Crucial MX300 525 GB $149.54
Toshiba P300 3 TB $74.17
Enclosure NZXT S340 $69.99
PSU Seasonic S12II 430B $39.99
Total   $969.96

The Middle Ground is where we get our first jolt of Coffee Lake. We picked out the Intel Core i3-8100 CPU, a fantastic all-rounder that’s more than suited to the task of feeding our GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB graphics card. (If you’re wondering about the Radeon RX 580 8 GB as an alternative, those cards start at around $300 thanks to mining-mad pricing). The combo is powerful enough for 60-FPS-or-better gaming at 1920×1080. Some AAA titles should also play easily at 2560×1440 on this box, too.

A Crucial MX300 525 GB solid-state drive has more than enough room for a handful of top-tier games, and those that don’t fit can easily go in the Toshiba P300 3 TB hard drive that we’ve paired with it. The NZXT S340 case we picked is a cut above the more affordable choices in the cheaper builds, too.

Sweet Spot

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Ryzen 5 1600 $199.99
Cooler AMD Wraith Spire cooler

 
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-AB350 Gaming 3 $109.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V (2x4GB) DDR4-3200 $201.99
Graphics Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Ti WF $449.99
Storage Crucial MX300 525 GB $149.54
Toshiba P300 3 TB $74.17
Enclosure Fractal Design Define C $89.99
PSU Seasonic Focus Plus 650 $79.90
Total   $1,362.84

This is probably the system with the best overall value in this System Guide. For this build, we’re going with AMD’s six-core, twelve-thread Ryzen 5 1600 processor. Its 3.6 GHz turbo clock is a healthy figure for the Zen architecture, and budding overclockers can get more juice out of it using the excellent Wraith Spire cooler that’s included in the box. Intel’s Core i5-8400 offers performance on par with, if not better than, the Ryzen 5 1600, but that processor is hard to find in stock right now, and we don’t think pairing a locked CPU with a relatively expensive Z370 motherboard makes a lot of sense at this price.

The Ryzen 5 1600 powers the excellent GeForce GTX 1070 Ti. This card wasn’t the best value when it originally arrived, but it’s a pretty good choice now. GTX 1070s are no cheaper, GTX 1080s are substantially more expensive, and Radeon RX Vega 56 cards are basically unavailable, making the GTX 1070 Ti the best value in high-end gaming at the moment. This combination of CPU and graphics card ought to be good for smooth and fluid running in the vast majority of games at 2560×1440 with high detail levels. We also step up to 16 GB of RAM to give productivity work some more breathing room. The Fractal Design Define C case is one of our favorites, and it’s pretty compact considering it can take in ATX motherboards. A Gold-rated Seasonic Focus Plus 650 W power supply caps off the build.

 

Sample builds—high-end and beyond

Whereas the builds on the previous page are particularly considerate of budget restrictions, in this section we’ll be taking a look at builds that climb higher up the performance ladder. Despite that objective, we’re not going to recommend any particular parts with big price tags just for the sake of having the best hardware around—well, save for the very last build, that is.

Sweeter Spot

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Intel Core i5-8600K $299.99
Cooler Noctua NH-D15S $79.90
Motherboard Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 $199.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V (2×8 GB) DDR4-3200 $201.99
Graphics Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Ti WF $449.99
Storage Crucial MX300 525 GB $149.54
Toshiba P300 3 TB $74.17
Enclosure Fractal Design Define C $89.99
PSU Seasonic Focus Plus 650 $79.90
Total   $1,623.73

The GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is a potent card, but keeping it well fed can be a tough job. That’s why we’re stepping up to an Intel Core i5-8600K, a processor that should help keep frame times low and ensure an easy, smooth ride through nearly every title out there when high framerates matter. The i5-8600K has six Coffee Lake cores, six threads, and a very healthy Turbo clock speed of 4.3 GHz. Its unlocked multiplier lets enthusiasts push clocks even higher, too. At $300, you’ll have a hard time finding an enthusiast CPU that’s better balanced.

This build is otherwise similar to the Sweet Spot, save for a couple touches. The accompanying motherboard has a beefy VRM to support Coffee Lake overclocking efforts, while the super-quiet Noctua NH-D15S heatsink should keep both noise and CPU temperatures under control.

Grand Experiment

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Intel Core i7-8700K $404.99
Cooler Corsair Hydro H115i $139.99
Motherboard Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 $219.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V (2×8 GB) DDR4-3200 $201.99
Graphics Aorus GeForce GTX 1080 $549.99
Storage Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB $245.00
Western Digital Blue 4 TB $107.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define C $89.99
PSU Corsair RM850x $119.99
Total   $2,062.92

The centerpiece here is the Intel Core i7-8700K—my favorite CPU at the moment. Six Coffee Lake cores, twelve threads, and clocks high enough to challenge the one atop the Abraj Al-Bait make this chip the enthusiast CPU to beat at the moment. In our review, we found this processor flawless when it comes to performance in both games and productivity applications. Granted, the $400 asking price is most of our Econobox alone, but every dollar is worth it.

The GeForce GTX 1080 is a perfect pairing for this CPU, and we’d advise the better-off to spend the extra dosh on a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti if they can. The performance boost is worth the outlay if you can do it, and it’s also the only card capable of playing most games smoothly at 4K right now. We also went with a Samsung 960 EVO NVMe SSD for a storage performance boost, too. Since this CPU runs a little toasty at stock speeds and can prove a bear to cool effectively when overclocked, we decided to go with the Corsair Hydro H115i closed-loop liquid cooler for this build. Fractal Design’s Define C can handle these hot parts without a hitch.

Work & Play

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Intel Core i7-7820X $499.99
Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S36 $119.99
Motherboard  Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 7 $399.99
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX

32 GB (4×8 GB) DDR4-3200

$384.99
Graphics Aorus GeForce GTX 1080 $569.99
Storage Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB $472.55
HGST NAS 6 TB hard drive $174.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R5 $99.99
PSU Corsair RM850x $119.99
Total   $2,832.47

Let’s say you want a workstation-class build with serious computing punch, but you don’t want to go as far as burning a grand on a CPU alone. The centerpiece in this build is Intel’s Core i7-7820X. We took a long, hard look at this CPU during our reviews of Ryzen Threadripper and Skylake-X chips, and we came away impressed with just how well-rounded it is. It gnaws at the heels of the more expensive Ryzen Threadripper 1920X for $200 less, and that is, indeed, something to write home about. Despite some mild weirdness with 99th-percentile frame times, the Core i7-7820X still offers a high-end gaming experience in CPU-bound titles, and it’ll let the Aorus GeForce GTX 1080 we’ve chosen stretch its wings.

During work hours, the Work & Play will excel at compiling code, rendering 3D models, and music production. This box will be more than up to those tasks without going too much overboard, by our reckoning. That all-rounder CPU is complemented nicely by Aorus’ X299 Gaming 7 motherboard and a hefty 32GB chunk of DDR4-3200 RAM. If you do want more Intel CPU power than the i7-7820X provides, the 10-core Core i9-7900X will drop right into this build. The i9-7900X can game, stream, and crunch numbers with the best of them, but the X299 platform’s lack of ECC RAM support makes it tough to recommend as an entry-level workstation. For that, we turn to the Serious Business.

Serious Business

The build above is strong enough for most tasks, but if you’re doing really heavy-duty work that requires lots of cores and threads or ECC RAM, you’ll want to step up to the Serious Business. Fair warning: if you’re wondering why you’d need so many cores, this machine is not for you. Only the most power-hungry need apply, and that means people who will be doing 3D rendering, CAD, lots of compiling, and so on. Those people that will, in fact, work on those tasks are probably frothing at the mouth already, calculating their ROI after buying this machine… or both.

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X $899.99
Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S36 $119.99
Motherboard Gigabyte X399 Aorus Gaming 7 $389.99
Memory G.Skill TridentZ 32 GB (4×8 GB) DDR4-3200 $438.99
Graphics EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 iCX $784.00
Storage Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB $472.55
HGST NAS 6 TB hard drive $174.99
HGST NAS 6 TB hard drive $174.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R5 $99.99
PSU Seasonic Prime Ultra Platinum 1000W $209.99
Total   $3,764.48

The mighty Ryzen Threadripper 1950X got an Editor’s Choice award when we reviewed it for its combination of sheer performance and unbridled platform capabilities The humongous 1950X offers 16 cores and 32 threads clocked at a maximum of 4 GHz. That’s probably enough computing horsepower to run a small city, and yet here it sits under a massive heatspreader. X399 motherboards can tap 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 expansion direct from this CPU, too. While the Threadripper 1950X currently goes for $900, that’s $100 less than its suggested price, and we were already impressed with this chip’s value at its full price.

We’ve slapped 32 GB of fast RAM into this system, and the Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB is now complemented by a pair of big honkin’ HGST Deskstar NAS 6 TB drives. Those HGST drives are fast, but some will prefer quieter options, even if performance takes a bit of a hit. For those folks, we suggest the Western Digital Red 6TB spinners as alternatives at roughly the same price. They’re quiet and still more than fast enough for most needs.

Fractal Design’s massive Celsius S36 closed-loop cooler, the amazing Fractal Design Define R5 case, a Seasonic Prime Ultra 1000W power supply, and the nearly-world-beating GeForce GTX 1080 Ti top off this beastly build.

No Holds Barred

Where our last few builds focus on the best bang for the buck, the No Holds Barred is not about that. Instead, this system is for the most demanding compute tasks around, whether those reside on the CPU or the graphics card. This system also gives demanding users a way to connect to every high-speed storage device or peripheral under the sun, whether over Thunderbolt 3 or 802.11ad. From CPU to storage, this box is the most capable and cutting-edge desktop PC that we could make using enthusiast-friendly parts. If you want to knock yourself out with dual-socket server motherboards and other exotica, feel free, but this is meant to be our vision of the highest-performance enthusiast PC around, not something that needs its own rack to run.

  Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Intel Core i9-7960X $1,689.99
Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S36 $119.99
Motherboard Asus Prime X299-Deluxe $479.99
Memory G.Skill TridentZ 64 GB (4×16 GB) DDR4-3200 $824.99
Graphics Nvidia Titan V

$2,999.00  Nvidia shop
Storage Intel Optane SSD 900P 480 GB $599.99
Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB $472.55
HGST NAS 6 TB hard drive $174.99
HGST NAS 6 TB hard drive $174.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R5 $99.99
PSU Seasonic Prime Platinum 1200W $249.99
Total   $7,896.46

 

The face-melting computing power in this build starts with Intel’s Core i9-7960X. This 16-core, 32-thread CPU might have the same core and thread count as AMD’s much less expensive Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, but its Skylake Server cores can clock higher—and do more per clock cycle—than the Threadripper’s can. That’s especially evident in the Core i9-7960X’s dual AVX-512 units per core, a capability that may be of interest to HPC and scientific-computing developers. Intel’s own Xeon W CPUs turn on ECC RAM support for better workstation cred, but those processors and the motherboards to support them simply aren’t available to consumers yet. Folks with even more money can consider Intel’s own Core i9-7980XE, but we didn’t find many situations that could take advantage of that chip’s extra cores to justify its $300 higher price tag in our testing.

For GPU-computing workloads like deep-learning training, there simply isn’t a more powerful platform than Nvidia’s Titan V and its Volta V100 GPU. This beast of a compute accelerator offers the same bounty of compute resources that Nvidia’s Tesla V100 server cards do, including half-rate double-precision support and an array of dedicated “tensor cores” for matrix-multiplication-heavy AI work. 12 GB of HBM2 RAM on a 3072-bit bus offers 652.8 GB/s of theoretical bandwidth to those operations. Yes, this card is $3000, but it’s worth considering that the Tesla V100 is at least $8000 on its own if you can find one outside of a GPU compute server. The Titan V is an exceedingly poor value for a gaming card, and the No Holds Barred is not a gaming PC, but folks with more money than sense will find that this is the highest-performing gaming card on the planet, too.

For primary storage, the No Holds Barred turns to Intel’s cutting-edge Optane SSD 900P 480 GB SSD. This PCIe add-in board and its healthy serving of 3D Xpoint NVRAM offer the lowest (and most consistent) access latencies around, and Optane’s insane QD1 performance means that even lightly-threaded storage tasks will smoke like nothing else on this SSD. Not everything can fit into the Optane SSD 900P’s capacity, though, and if you have large data sets or need to keep monster video files handy for editing, the Samsung 960 EVO 1TB is a fine intermediate storage layer before one needs to drop back to our twin HGST 6TB drives.

We pair these ultra-rarefied components with Asus’ excellent Prime X299-Deluxe motherboard. This mobo comes bursting with pack-ins like a Thunderbolt 3 card, dual Wi-Fi antennas for 802.11ac and 802.11ad connectivity, and much, much more. A 360-mm liquid cooler, 64 GB of fast RAM, and a high-quality case and PSU round out this monster desktop.

 

Operating system

If you’re building a gaming PC and need an operating system for it, we think you’ll be happiest with Windows. 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. 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.

If you’re wondering about previous versions of Windows, they’re really long in the tooth now. The ill-informed might ascribe some sort of technical superiority to Windows 7 at this stage, but it’s hard to even install that aging OS on modern hardware. Aside from that, many manufacturers are dropping or have dropped support for older operating systems altogether, making anything other than the current version of Windows a dead end for updates and support. If you want to take advantage of the latest DirectX 12 titles that we’ve been hearing so much about, Windows 10 is a must.

What’s next

The recent launch of the Volta-powered Nvidia Titan V graphics card has led to more than a bit of speculation that the company could have a range of graphics cards based on the new architecture ready to go. By our reckoning, though, that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Silicon is neither designed or manufactured with the same speed that a Rimac Concept One wins a drag race, and the Pascal architecture remains widely available and as competitive as anything else out there. CES is just around the corner, though, and if we see news of next-generation Nvidia graphics cards anywhere, that venue is as good as any.

In the CPU aisle, Intel released its eighth-gen Core desktop CPUs not too long ago, so we figure that the next generation of the company’s desktop CPUs remains a long way off. Heck, the Coffee Lake lineup’s not even complete yet (there are only half a dozen models available), and the company’s having trouble keeping them in stock to begin with. If you’re building around an Intel CPU, Coffee Lake chips and their accompanying motherboards are safe bets.

Things are a little more interesting in AMD’s corner, but don’t hold off on building a new Ryzen PC just yet. There have been some mutterings that Ryzen 2 CPUs could be coming in the next few months, but we don’t have any definite info on those chips’ ETAs just yet. AMD might also talk up its latest products at CES, but we haven’t heard anything so definite that we’d advise against building a new AMD-powered PC today.

And on that note, it’s a wrap, folks. 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. Be sure to purchase any of our picks using the links peppered throughout this guide, too. Your support helps us to continue the in-depth research and reviews that make guides like this one possible. Have fun building your new system—we’re sure it’ll turn out great.

Comments closed
    • rinshun
    • 1 year ago

    Please, go back to the old format

    I wanted some options for PSU because I can’t find the famous seasonic 430 here in Brazil,

    • The Muppet King
    • 2 years ago

    Please can we have the old format back. It’s much more useful to see the options for a particular item slot side by side so we can compare them.

    • Welch
    • 2 years ago

    Ram prices on the Sweet Spot are broken and showna 2×8. 16GBkit.

    Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V (2x4GB) DDR4-3200 $201.99

    Thought something looked wrong about 8GB running 200. I know prices for RAM were crazy but….

    • Ninjitsu
    • 2 years ago

    May I suggest keeping the lists per category, if not the write ups? I usually never really looked at or linked others to the sample builds, just the part categories and explanations.

    So in that respect, this guide is much less useful for me.

    • BeowulfSchaeffer
    • 2 years ago

    “If you’re building a gaming PC and need an operating system for it, we think you’ll be happiest with Windows.”

    Probably sound advice for most gamers, but I thought this was a guide for everyone. A shout out to Linux would have been nice, especially if someone is building a box to do everyday tasks.

    I run Win10 at work, but Linux (Mint) as my primary OS at home for everything I do, with a separate SSD to boot into Win7 when I need it, which is 2 or 3 times a year. If by the time support for Win7 ends I haven’t completely replaced my occasional need for Windows, I might have to buy 10, or whatever replaces it at that point.

      • travbrad
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t think recommending linux to people who don’t fully know what they are doing is “sound advice” though. Yes it’s much more user friendly than it has ever been, but there are still a lot of differences that would catch people out. People freaked out over Windows Vista and Windows 8, which are much more similar to Windows XP/7/10 than any distro of linux is. New iOS updates frequently confuse the crap out of people too.

      There are still a lot of programs that aren’t available for linux either. There are virtually always equivalent (sometimes even “better”) programs but again that isn’t something most people are going to be thrilled about finding and learning how to use. Most people don’t get satisfaction from fiddling and figuring out nerdy ‘puter stuff.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        To that end, I just picked out a Dell Outlet Inspiron desktop for my dad, who was happy running an Athlon II X2 system from around the time Win7 launched. He’s having a hard enough time finding his way around Windows 10 (the integrated graphics of the old system prevented him from getting a free upgrade), and I can’t imagine what would it would have been like had I jammed Linux down his throat.

        BTW if you need an Econobox, a system with a Core i3-7100, 8GB of DDR4 2133, and a 1TB 7200-RPM hard drive was only $359. Add a GTX 1050Ti with no 6-pin connector to that thing and get a nicer econobox gaming PC than TR built for $520, Windows 10 included.

          • BeowulfSchaeffer
          • 2 years ago

          I would point out that the Win10 interface is not intuitive. Depending on your setup, the tablet interface is built like a game of “Memory” so you have to memorize where something is rather than having a logical file structure. Giving it to your father was not kind. There are linux interfaces which mimic Win7, or even Win98, which may have been a better fit unless your dad is a gamer.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      The fact that it’s a guide for everyone is exactly why there’s no Linux shout-out. If you’re building a big-bucks PC and the primary use case for all the power is gaming, why would you hamstring it with Linux? Yes, Linux is getting a lot of games. Almost all of them run fine on Intel HD graphics. All the big, complex 3D titles need Windows and that’s not going to change soon.

      Linux Evangelicals can still download and runt heir favorite distro and play The Binding of Isaac or the latest retro-chic Kickstarter release.

        • BeowulfSchaeffer
        • 2 years ago

        The last game I ran on Linux was “Wasteland II”, which ran fine for me.

      • rudimentary_lathe
      • 2 years ago

      I work with Linux servers on a regular basis, and have experimented with Linux as my primary desktop from time to time. I still don’t think it’s ready for prime-time as a primary desktop OS for most people. There is still a lot of software that won’t run on Linux, including Itunes and many games. And the games that do run on Linux don’t run as well (e.g. lower FPS).

      Linux is a great choice for people with a limited budget, that don’t do much more than surf the web and do basic office stuff, and/or that need something lightweight for older hardware. Pretty much everyone else will be inconvenienced in one way or another. And I say that as a Linux fan.

    • Wonders
    • 2 years ago

    I love the new guide format. This is the most fun I’ve had reading a TR System Guide in a long while (I never benefited from the previous format, and sorely missed the older “classic” format — until now). A big part of the fun is that very different build concepts can be explored each quarter, even if the hardware landscape hasn’t changed much.

    HOWEVER – There is absolutely a place for the “exhaustive survey of the state of the enthusiast PC”. In truth, I believe that’s more practical than the System Guide, but not much fun to see cranked out quarterly (a frequency that is fairly arbitrary). Instead, it might be more fun to see the exhaustive survey page refreshed following the less frequent generational shifts in hardware.

    • HERETIC
    • 2 years ago

    Hey Bruno,
    You really nailed it!!!!!
    Changes I’d make are so small,almost not worth mentioning.

    The WD 250GB SSD is not a particularly good SSD-Would replace with WD 3D 250
    or Samsung Evo 250 or Crucial 275GB.
    Would replace the WD and Toshiba spinning rust with Hitachi.

    Wishing everyone a happy and safe Xmas……………

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Thanks! 🙂

    • Stochastic
    • 2 years ago

    RAM prices and the possibility of Ryzen 2 being really good for the money are keeping me from building a new system. The 8700K is very tempting, though. Here’s hoping PCs become more affordable in 2018.

    • dragontamer5788
    • 2 years ago

    Hmm, with the Crucial MX500 out, I’d be hard-pressed to keep recommending the MX300. True, the MX500 is only available in 1TB flavors, but that’s a lot of capacity at a good price.

    It might be worth considering an NVMe SSD like the Samsung 960 Evo for a main-drive, the and the MX500 1TB for “bulk storage”. Especially on the higher-end builds. It depends on the needs of the user of course, but I personally would prefer a cheap TLC SSD for bulk storage over a Hard Drive for anything video-game related.

    5TB+ Hard Drives are available for people who truly need bulk-storage, but the higher-end builds should be using Storage Spaces and ganging them up in pairs or more. [url=https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12438/windows-10-storage-spaces<]5TB x2 Mirrored Storage Spaces [/url<] is way cheaper than most people would expect, and the reliability of mirrored spaces is exponentially better than a single drive. Workstation-class storage demands workstation-class reliability. So 2x Hard Drives (or higher-levels of reliability / Parity Drives) + Storage spaces needs to be mentioned. --------- In essence, the Samsung 960 EVO 1 TB costs $450 right now. If you instead had a Samsung 960 EVO 256gb for $130 + [url=https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-MX500-NAND-SATA-Internal/dp/B077SF8KMG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513893849&sr=8-1&keywords=Crucial+MX500<]1TB MX500 for $260[/url<], you're only spending $390 and you're gonna get really close to the high-end performance anyway.

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      Parity Storage Spaces is not a good experience and not getting better. Please don’t recommend that to anyone.

        • dragontamer5788
        • 2 years ago

        I admit that I’ve only used mirrored setups so far, and I haven’t tried Parity myself yet.

        What were your issues with Parity Storage Spaces? I’d like to know for… well… my own sake. Since I was planning on experimenting with that feature eventually.

          • morphine
          • 2 years ago

          Parity Storage Spaces are incredibly, terribly slow to the point of being useless. I’m talking 3-5 MB/s on test VM with an SSD behind it.

          I have no idea how it’s possible that it’s so slow but I too doubted what everyone was saying until I did it myself.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            The best hardware can manage maybe 25 to 30 MB/s. That’s with 8 or more disks cranking away. MS has managed to create a pretty terrible copy on write erasure coding (aka parity) system. It’s mind boggling how slow it is compared to any other software based parity striping style storage. I wouldn’t be shocked if it boils down to other companies or individuals will not license patents required to make a good implementation so MS sticks with something they’ve cooked up just to have something to offer.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            And just to be clear, that’s write performance. Reading gets the level of performance anyone would expect. Archival is pretty much it’s only use.

    • RickyTick
    • 2 years ago

    The TR “How to Build a PC” video guide is one of the best on YouTube, but it’s over 5 years old.

    The fundamentals are the same, but it would be nice to see an updated version.

    • isaacg
    • 2 years ago

    Typo in the Sweet Spot, should be 2x8gb: G. Skill Ripjaws V (2x4GB)

    • JoeKiller
    • 2 years ago

    Two points. First I think it is fine to have a short and sweet building guide. If I want to pour over choices I’ll go to your reviews.

    Second, it would be nice to see the Media PC make a comeback on the recommendation list.

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      Do people still really build them though? nVidia Shield (or even Roku’s for something even simpler) are just too cheap compared to building a HTPC. It made more sense for me anyway. It runs Kodi and Plex just fine, plus lets you stream any game from the beefy PC in the other room. 10 foot interfaces goes a long way toward making so many other options better than a HTPC these days.

        • brucek2
        • 2 years ago

        I gave up on my windows HTPC boxes. My biggest objection was the overly obtrusive updates and administration. It might be OK if you ran them 24/7, but for me, where I might power them on just a few times a month, it felt like too often I was waiting on updates, being prompted about updates, being asked to reboot, having to use the mouse and keyboard to configure or recover from something, or feeling sluggishness as background updates processed. Even simple stuff like needing to alt+tab just to get Kodi back to the foreground because some other process promoted itself to the front.

        Better to go with an appliance that is designed from the beginning to not mess up the user experience that way.

          • cygnus1
          • 2 years ago

          All of that you mentioned weighs heavily on the WAF, so I was by far not the only one annoyed by the all of that too. So yeah, that’s pretty much the same reason I stopped with the HTPCs as well. I even kept mine on 24/7, but KB/mouse in the living room is just a non-starter any more.

            • AutoAym
            • 2 years ago

            I tried the HTPC route repeatedly, but could never crack my own threshold for UX, much less the WAF. Eventually, she laid out a really elegant challenge for me regarding tech in the house:
            – I can do/install whatever I want
            BUT
            – I can NEVER introduce complexity to her UX
            So now I have an Xbox One connected to the living room TV and everyone’s happy.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Those are good rules, and it’s why we just have an Apple TV for streaming Netflix/Hulu/Amazon.

            • JoeKiller
            • 2 years ago

            I agree the updates are a pain and frankly it’s probably a pipedream of the htpc.

            My hang up currently is that I like streaming media but when I “pay” for a series of movie it can still get culled from their catalog. I wonder what dedicated devices can stream from a central server in the house or from the web with my 1Gbps line.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            Plex has come along way on the client apps. I made the switch a few months ago from a Kodi setup I built. It was setup with a central mysql based library and all the clients were sync’d up. Plex just has too many good features to not be using it. Especially if you have a solid upspeed internet connection like you do. Being able to access my personal library from anywhere is pretty damn awesome. And they have a Plex app for just about every platform you can imagine.

            • AutoAym
            • 2 years ago

            And now Kodi is available/has come home to the Xbox as a UWP app as well, for the ‘roll-your-own’ types, IIRC.

            • cygnus1
            • 2 years ago

            Kodi is a great media player. But honestly, I’m pretty sure the majority of their remaining users are all streaming video pirates. After using Kodi for years (I only switched away after 17.x), I gotta say Plex just has it beat for in-home playing of locally stored files. If you like to stream shows and are ok dealing with the nightmare of keeping up with and running Kodi “builds” to get all the plugins setup for that, more power to you. Kodi just has no good native way to synchronize multiple clients other than running a dedicated MySQL database somewhere along with a “master” Kodi instance that can manage the library updates.

    • tsk
    • 2 years ago

    I think this new format is much more useful than the old one for the people that actually need them. Frequent TR readers will probably miss the old just for the good read.

      • Khali
      • 2 years ago

      Actually its not a new format, its the old one that got replaced by the one that clustered all the same type of components into one section. Never understood why they changed it in the first place.

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    I don’t mind the new/old guide. I felt like the previous style was a bit of a copy-paste-fest.

    I do have a couple suggestions for improvement:
    1) Add/retain peripherals category. ie, Monitors are a more complex buy these days.
    2) Provide links to TR reviews if available. This way the guide can act as a quick link pointing readers to the specific reviews that concern the parts they’re buying.

      • tay
      • 2 years ago

      I know this has a ton of likes already but I want to add that I really like all these suggestions!

      Even a separate monitor buyers guide would be cool. It’s pretty hard to shop for them to be honest.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 2 years ago

        For gaming? Consider the Nixeus NX-EDG27.

    • Vigil80
    • 2 years ago

    I too enjoyed the previous survey of the state of the enthusiast PC. 🙂

      • DPete27
      • 2 years ago

      We’re overdue for an update to the TR Hardware Survey.

    • Concupiscence
    • 2 years ago

    “What’s next” has an incomplete paragraph. To wit, “Heck, the Coffee Lake lineup’s not even complete yet (there are only half a dozen models available), and the company’s having trouble keeping them in stock to begin with. If you’re” trails off. Guide looks fine overall, thanks for your hard work.

    edit: Just realized I bought the Sweet Spot’s GTX 1070 Ti [i<]two days ago[/i<], and on checking Newegg the price has jumped considerably. Yay, I dodged the Christmas panic tax!

    • AutoAym
    • 2 years ago

    I feel like this guide was a deliberate counter to the Charlie Foxtrot that was the recent [url=https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/12/ars-system-guide-december-2017/<] Ars System Guide[/url<]. I don't mind the format change, but I do think there's a balance to be had between old and new styles. Agree that the older TR guides were getting... hefty. 🙂

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      That thing was comedy gold, that’s for sure.

        • AutoAym
        • 2 years ago

        I think what pushed it into full absurdist territory for me was just how defensive [i<]everyone[/i<] on the Ars side got over it and they just wouldn't back down and take the mulligan.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          It’s gotta be REALLY bad before site staff can admit it was a mistake, like that OfficeMax editorial with the asshole editor who was so proud of being rude to people.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 2 years ago

            oh, I must of missed that, got a link? I used to work for Officemax….blech

            EDIT: Found it. Man, that was painful to read.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Sometimes a really bad opinion will [url=https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkravets/<]impact your career[/url<] (note the "previous"), even if the op-ed stays active on the site.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 2 years ago

            I couldn’t find anything about Ars actually distancing themselves from that either. Wow.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            There’s a thread on the feedback forums. Now locked once people realized the guy had been removed. Just a couple of staff acknowledged it.

            • rudimentary_lathe
            • 2 years ago

            Wow, he really got fired over that? Holy cow. I agree it was remarkably tone-deaf and reflected poorly on him, but still didn’t seem like a fireable offense.

      • paulWTAMU
      • 2 years ago

      That was a cluster of amazing proportions. eez.

      I like the new format for these TBH.

      • Prototyped
      • 2 years ago

      Same author did the homebrew router ars-ticle as well. That was also one big WTF. Basically Ars has, for a decade, been useless for computer hardware advice. It’s all Apple-, mobile- and politics-tastic now.

        • AutoAym
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, I remember Jim’s article on that as well. He’s… How I can put this? He’s got some pretty firm biases that he can’t (or won’t) acknowledge and it ends up really informing his opinions and writing style.

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      Oh dear lord. [i<]The battlestation[/i<] touted as a gamer's box? $3,136 and they paired a Freesync screen with a geforce, whilst managing to provide only a vanilla 1070 to power a 144Hz 1440p screen! What are they smoking? 🙂

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    The first table (Econobox) lists the graphics card as a GTX 1070, rather than the 1030.

    I also liked the longer format, but it was more for the purpose of having stuff to read rather than looking for advice.

    My only complaint is that you could keep the Econobox under $500 and still have a GTX 1050 at least. The GT 1030 is faster than integrated graphics, but it’s just bad value for the money. I explored the sub-$100 territory deeply in early November, and prices haven’t changed.

    If you guys think this is rough, you should read the Ars system guide posted last week. That was written by someone who clearly didn’t know what they were doing. 😆

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 2 years ago

      I, too, was disappointed to see the GeForce GT1030 2GB recommended for the Econobox. It’s just not worth wasting $72 on something that doesn’t play games worth a darn. The $140 GeForce GTX1050Ti 4GB is more than twice as good.

        • Concupiscence
        • 2 years ago

        If you’ve got little money and the choice is between integrated graphics or a card that nips at the heels of a GTX 750 Ti, the 1030 isn’t bad at the price. I love my GTX 1050 Ti too, but some people have to make do.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 2 years ago

          Skip one new game purchase to be able to afford a graphics card that provides a much better gaming experience. If you don’t care that much about the quality of the gaming experience, then the integrated Intel 630 graphics are free.

        • Nestea_Zen
        • 2 years ago

        Why are you guys raving about the Ti? Is there something I dont know? 1050/ti perform the same.
        I guess it’s the memory difference. 2 vs 4 GB. Not sure such a card needs 4 GB but ok

    • |FN|Steel
    • 2 years ago

    I’m trying hard to figure out who your target audience is here. Yes, I know you claim it’s the average builder who just wants to know what to buy, but you already had a section for that.

    I’ve used your guides and articles for nearly 15 years to make informed decisions on what I’m buying and why. Not just for new builds, but for upgrades and replacement parts. Now if I need a replacement PSU, I don’t have a handy table of your recommended PSUs at each level, but have to kinda figure out where you’re going and maybe I’ll get lucky enough for you to have discussed reasoning.

    Dislike.

    • Yan
    • 2 years ago

    I don’t like this new format, and I especially disagree that the guides were “too long and unwieldy”, at least for the kind of users who would read Tech Report. 🙁

    Edit: This new (or old) format is probably a lot less work for you, and that’s a valid consideration, but then I don’t think it was necessary to make a new guide four days before Christmas. Perhaps four weeks before Christmas, but not four days.

      • drfish
      • 2 years ago

      FWIW, the [url=https://techreport.com/review/32919/the-tech-report-2017-christmas-gift-guide<]gift guide[/url<] was a few weeks ago. I don't think the system guide has much to do with the holidays, just the general time of the year.

        • morphine
        • 2 years ago

        Correct, there’s nothing fishy with the timing.

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