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The Tech Report System Guide: January 2019 edition

Bruno Ferreira
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Welcome to TR’s January 2019 System Guide. This is where the TR staff picks out the créme de la créme of hardware components fit for the most price-effective builds around. We’ve tried to create builds across a wide range of price points with parts that provide the best performance possible for the money. However, 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.

Where we’re at

In the previous instance of our System Guide, there was much rejoicing in the fact that solid-state drives and RAM prices had come down from the stratosphere down to attainable atmospheric levels. We’re more than happy to report that the trend has continued in the intervening months, and that both of those types of components can be had for prices that could comparatively be called “dirt-cheap,” particularly in the case of SSDs. Processors from the AMD team have also been quite aggressively priced lately, particularly in the up-to-$300 arena, making them good fodder for a handful of our builds.

In turn, these price drops mean one single thing: Every single one of our builds hits harder and is better, faster, and stronger at its appointed tasks than ever before. Generally speaking, the savings in SSDs and RAM let us pick higher-end gear pretty much across the board, and our sub-$2000 builds particularly benefit from that. Those with a need (or just a penchant) for high-end-desktop (HEDT) machines brimming with gobs of CPU cores and memory will find they too have quite a few options these days—maybe too many, even. Workstation aficionados currently have valid CPU choices from either camp, with chip prices ranging from roughly $500 up to $2000. That’s a wide price bracket, and within it lie a handful of performance tiers ranging from high-end to god-like.

A while back, we said that the time was nigh to be a PC builder again after the mercy killing of the cryptocurrency bubble, and presently, and indeed, here we are. However, the glass-half-empty folks might point out the valid complaint that the good times could be even better if graphics card pricing hadn’t more or less stagnated after the crypto fad died. AMD’s lack of competitive options in the high-end graphics arena has been a sore point for a while now, and it’s no coincidence that Nvidia’s recently released GeForce RTX cards come in at a pretty penny. Sure, the RTXes do deliver potent performance, but those expecting a newer generation of cards to double the price-to-performance ratio (or close enough) of the extant models were quite disappointed.

However, there’s no arguing the RTX cards’ pixel-pushing prowess. The 2000-series cards generally slot into our builds as direct upgrades to the outgoing models, meaning the RTX 2080 is roughly equivalent to yesteryear’s GTX 1080 Ti, the RTX 2070 generally matches a GTX 1080, and so on. The mighty RTX 2080 Ti, as you’d imagine, is in a new performance tier of its own—but it dang well should, as it currently commands a price of no less than around $1300. The just-released RTX 2060 presents particularly good value, though, seeing as it nips at the heels of the RTX 2070 above it. In addition, the new cards’ ray-tracing and deep-learning super-sampling (DLSS) smarts are rather impressive, though the number of released games with support for either tech is so far rather small. Having said that, ray-tracing makes for impressive visuals in Battlefield V, and DLSS can enable smooth 4K gameplay in Final Fantasy XV, so there’s no denying the technologies’ potential in future games.

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. We’re only considering new-in-box parts, too.

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.

Although we include dedicated graphics cards in nearly all our selections with the assumption that the builder has an interest in gaming, that might not be the case. In that situation, it’s easy enough to remove the card from the components list or replace it with a low-end model for basic video outputs in builds whose CPU doesn’t include an integrated graphics processor. Intel builders will reliably get an IGP, while Ryzen owners need to bring their own graphics card, unless they’re using the Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G.

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 Ryzen 5 2400G $154.99
Cooler

AMD Wraith Spire (included)

Motherboard Gigabyte B450M DS3H $72.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V 8 GB (2x4GB) DDR4-3200 $76.99
Graphics

Radeon Vega 11 IGP

Storage Crucial MX500 500 GB $67.99
Enclosure Cooler Master N200 $44.56
PSU Seasonic S12II 520 W $46.71
Total $464.23

The Econobox offers a stepping stone into the world of a balanced desktop PC. Last year’s arrival of AMD’s Vega-infused Ryzen APUs ensured that buyers perusing the low end of the CPU market are now spoiled for choice. Ryzen APUs include four Zen cores and a pretty competent IGP that can offer most of the performance of a low-end GeForce GT 1030. That’s a recipe for success if we ever saw one, and the choices for our most affordable build reflect that.

The Ryzen 5 2400G we have in this machine packs enough general-purpose processing punch to handily beat the Core i3-8100 in most day-to-day tasks, and its Vega graphics processor should handle light gaming with aplomb. Games like Minecraft, Rocket League, and Dota 2 as good examples of what you can expect to easily play on the Ryzen 5 2400G. Just don’t expect 1920×1080 gaming in AAA titles or too much graphical detail. The included AMD Wraith Spire cooler is plenty adequate for cooling this chip, and you can expect the fan atop it to be pretty quiet most of the time.

Although this build’s main components are roughly the same as in the previous System Guide, the drop in SSD pricing means we can upgrade the unit in this build to Crucial’s MX500 500-GB drive. Suffice to say that half a terabyte of sweet, speedy NAND storage on a budget machine was nothing but a pipe dream not that long ago. It’s always easy to add a hard drive if you need for more storage, too.

Econobox Gamer

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Ryzen 5 2600 $164.99
Cooler

AMD Wraith Spire (included)

Motherboard Gigabyte B450M DS3H $72.99
Memory G. Skill Ripjaws V 8 GB (2x4GB) DDR4-3200 $76.99
Graphics Gigabyte RX 570 4 GB $149.99
Storage Crucial MX500 500 GB $67.99
Enclosure Cooler Master N200 $44.56
PSU Seasonic S12II 520 W $46.71
Total $624.22

Here’s a take on the Econobox that’s still affordable but has a little added oomph to make it a bit more suitable for moderate gaming. The choice of CPU for this build is AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600. This chip’s price of late is just way too good to pass up, and we made it this build’s cornerstone. Its six cores and 12 threads make it by far the finest choice for both gaming and productivity in its price bracket.

Last time around, we went with Intel’s Core i3-8100 and a GeForce GT 1030, but the price shifts since then mean that it now makes more sense to spend a few bucks more to bring in Gigabyte’s RX 570 4 GB to play with our Ryzen 5 2600. This combo is more than capable of handling most heavy-hitting titles at 1920×1080 with high detail levels and smooth frame rates, and should acquit itself well enough at 2560×1440 on some games, so long as you don’t go overboard on the image quality settings. If you can swing an extra $50 or so, however, the Radeon RX 580 8 GB is a very worthwhile upgrade.

Much like with the standard Econobox, we went with 500 GB of SSD storage, which should be more than enough room for a meaty collection of games. We figure that this build in particular punches far above its weight class, and its $630-or-so price belies its capabilities for smooth, high visual-quality gaming at moderate resolutions. If you were looking for a modest machine that can leave consoles in the dust, this one is it.

Middle Ground

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Ryzen 5 2600X $219.99
Cooler

AMD Wraith Spire (included)

Motherboard Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro WiFi $119.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 $129.99
Graphics

Sapphire Radeon Nitro+ RX 590 8 GB

$259.99
Storage Crucial MX500 500 GB M.2 $67.99
Seagate Barracuda 3 TB $84.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define C $86.99
PSU Seasonic S12II 520 W $46.71
Total $1,016.64

If the Econobox Gamer above marks the first few steps into high-performance machines, then the Middle Ground is the proverbial jog. We picked out the AMD Ryzen 5 2600X, a fantastic all-rounder that’s more than suited to the task of feeding our Sapphire Radeon Nitro+ RX 590 8 GB graphics card. The combo is powerful enough for 60 FPS or better gaming at 1920×1080 with detail levels turned up. A number of AAA titles should also play easily at 2560×1440 with the visuals turned up on this box, too. As a bonus, the 2600X will prove equally competent at productivity tasks.

Given the affordable price of RAM these days, this build uses 16 GB, an amount that ensures smooth Windows sailing by letting the operating system (and some games) keep most of the data cached in memory. We picked out an appropriate mid-range mobo, the Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro Wifi. This board includes Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2. It has a souped-up Realtek ALC1220-VB chip handling audio duties, and additional accoutrements include an integrated I/O shield and two M.2 PCIe x4 slots.

Over in the storage department, a Crucial MX500 500-GB SSD has more than enough room for a handful of top-tier games, and those that don’t fit can easily go in the Seagate Barracuda 7200-RPM 3-TB hard drive that we’ve paired with it. The Fractal Design Define C case is one of our top picks, and it’s rather compact considering it can handle ATX motherboards.

Sweet Spot

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Ryzen 5 2700X $304.79
Cooler

Noctua NH-U14S

$63.75
Motherboard Gigabyte X470 Aorus Ultra Gaming $119.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 $129.99
Graphics Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2060 $369.99
Storage Samsung 970 EVO 500 GB $127.93
Toshiba X300 4 TB $118.95
Enclosure Fractal Design Define C $86.99
PSU EVGA SuperNova 650 G3 $79.99
Total $1,402.37

We called the Sweet Spot the build with the best value, and thanks to price shifts, the current version is better than it’s ever been. The major upgrades in the latest iteration are the Ryzen 7 2700X processor and the first appearance of the letters “RTX” in a build, in the form of the GeForce RTX 2060. The processor’s eight cores, 16 threads, and 4.3-GHz boost clock are a potent concoction, and the super-quiet Noctua NH-U14S cooler should let the chip run at its top speed bin more often than not.

The GeForce RTX 2060 is our current pick for this build’s price bracket. After some deliberation, we elected to go with it over the RTX 2070, seeing as the bigger card’s $500 price simply doesn’t have quite the same value appeal. This combination of CPU and graphics card ought to be good for smooth and fluid gameplay in the vast majority of titles at 2560×1440 with high detail levels. You can even probably partake in high refresh-rate (over 60 FPS) gaming at that resolution if you keep the image quality sliders in check, too. Those who want a little more graphics horsepower can spend the extra $150 for the RTX 2070. It’s not a bad choice by any stretch, and it does have 8 GB onboard for any gigantic texture packs.

Over in the storage section, we step up the SSD to Samsung’s 970 EVO NVMe unit, which is one of the fastest ones you can get under $150 with a capacity of 500 GB. A 4-TB hard drive stands ready to stash any data that doesn’t fit in that precious NAND space, and an 80 Plus Gold-rated EVGA SuperNova 650 G3 PSU caps off the build.

 

Sample builds: high-end and beyond

Whereas the builds on the previous page are particularly considerate of budget restrictions, the options in this section loosen the purse strings a bit to buy more performance. Even so, we’re not recommending 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.

AMD and Intel both have widely expanded their ranges of high-end desktop and workstation CPUs, and there’s a veritable cornucopia of choices available for these types of machines. We’ve elected a few choices for our intended performance tiers, but we always encourage folks playing in this arena to check out our processor reviews for a full understanding of which chip best suits their specific usage patterns.

The Hybrid

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Intel Core i9-9900K $529.99
Cooler Corsair H115i Pro RGB $129.99
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra $239.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 $129.99
Graphics EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Black $699.99
Storage Samsung 970 EVO 500 GB $127.93
Toshiba X300 4 TB $118.95
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R6 $135.50
PSU Corsair RM 850x $119.99
Total $2,232.32

The Hybrid is our take on a powerful machine that can be present in two universes at the same time—that is, high refresh-rate gaming and productivity. The title of the build and the concept are inspired by the performance of two of Intel’s ninth-generation CPUs, the Core i9-9900K and the Core i9-9700K. This is the best box for pitch-perfect high refresh-rate gaming at 2560×1440, where per-core performance and low memory latencies rule. Only gamers after a frame rate higher than 120 FPS need apply. 

Neither CPU is what you’d call affordable, but they’re best described as having next to no weak points in terms of performance. Both pieces of silicon deliver eight Coffee Lake Refresh cores and positively stratospheric clocks. We chose the the 9900K for this build because it rolls with a 5.0-GHz turbo and 16 threads, enabling it to trade punches with chips twice its price in productivity tasks, all while delivering the lowest frame times ever to grace the TR labs. It’s worth driving the point home that there’s no single weak spot in this CPU’s performance envelope—it’s just that balanced.

The 9700K is almost its equal in gaming. Its lack of Hyper Threading means it plays second fiddle to the bigger chip in productivity tasks, although it still lives in “holy Moore, this thing is fast” territory. It’s worth noting that if all you ever care about is extra-smooth gaming, then the Core i9-9700K is just about the perfect choice, and it slots right into this build.

We paired the processor with the mighty GeForce RTX 2080. That’s the rough equivalent of yesteryear’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, meaning you’ll get an extra fluid 2560×1440 experience and 60 FPS at 4K more often than not—particularly if the game you’re playing can make use of the RTX card’s DLSS smarts.

We also went with a Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD for a storage performance boost. Because 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 H115i Pro RGBi closed-loop liquid cooler for this build. The accompanying Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra motherboard has a beefy VRM adorned with heatpipes to support potential overclocking efforts, and Fractal Design’s Define R6 can handle these hot parts without a hitch thanks to its roomy interior and cooling accoutrements.

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 one of the following machines. Fair warning, though: From this point onward, if you’re wondering why you’d need so many cores, let it be clear that these builds are 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 such a machine… or both.

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Threadripper 1950X $589.99
Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S36 $114.83
Motherboard Aorus X399 Gaming 7 $367.63
Memory G.Skill Trident Z RGB 32 GB (4×8 GB) DDR4-3200 $289.99
Graphics EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Black $699.99
Storage Samsung 970 EVO 1 TB $247.99
Western Digital Red 4 TB $124.99
Western Digital Red 4 TB $124.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R6 $135.50
PSU Corsair RM 850x $119.99
Total $2,803.91

Let’s say you want a workstation-class build with serious computing punch, but you don’t want to burn a grand on a CPU alone. Enter the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. We gave it an Editor’s Choice award for its combination of sheer performance and unbridled platform capabilities, and although it’s technically been superseded by the 2950X, store prices for the older chip hover around $590 at the time of writing. The Threadripper 2950X might be faster, sure, but it also costs around $880, and the improvement over its predecessor doesn’t quite justify the price delta at this point in time.

Anyway, 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 single massive heat spreader. X399 motherboards can tap 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 expansion direct from this CPU, too.

We’ve slapped 32 GB of fast quad-channel RAM into this system, and the Samsung 970 EVO 1 TB is now complemented by a pair of big honkin’ Western Digital Red 4 TB NAS drives. Those drives are pretty quiet but spin at 5400 RPM instead of the usual 7200 RPM. Should you care more about speed than noise, you’ll likely prefer HGST’s Deskstar NAS offerings. I own both types of drives, and I have nothing but good things to say about both. 

Fractal Design’s massive Celsius S36 closed-loop cooler, the amazing Fractal Design Define R6 case, a Corsair RM 850x power supply, and the nearly-world-beating EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Black top off this beastly build.

Really Serious Business

Component Price Buy (prices may vary)
Processor Core i9-9940X $1,399.99
Cooler Fractal Design Celsius S36 $114.83
Motherboard Asus Prime X299 Deluxe-II $499.99
Memory G.Skill Trident Z RGB 64 GB (4×16 GB) DDR4-3200 $529.99
Graphics EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Black $699.99
Storage Samsung 970 EVO 1 TB $247.99
Western Digital Red 6 TB $194.99
Western Digital Red 6 TB $194.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R6 $135.50
PSU Corsair HX1200i $149.97
Total $4,168.23

For our next workstation tier, we elected to go with the Core i9-9940X. You’ve probably read about the big honcho Core i9-9980XE, and the basic description of the 9940X is that it’s fairly similar to its boss, save that it makes do with fewer cores and less cache. The main specs consist of 14 Skylake-X Refresh cores, 28 threads, a 4.4-GHz turbo, and a total of 19.25 MB of L3 cache. The performance profile of Skylake-X Refresh is that it’s consistent across pretty much all tasks. We went with the Core i9-9940X over the similarly priced Threadripper 2970WX for that exact reason in this build, although we’re glad to point out that it’s a fairly close call, and that 3D rendering pros might prefer the AMD chip.

The Editor’s Choice-winning Asus Prime X299-Deluxe II is as pitch-perfect an X299 board as you’re likely to find, too. It has particularly effective heatsinks sitting atop a heavy-duty VRM, as well as Thunderbolt 3 ports and 5-Gb Ethernet, among other niceties. The asking price is sizable, but so is the features list, and we think this board makes the best use of the 44 lanes of PCIe connectivity from the Core i9-9940X. We expect that professionals who need a machine of this caliber will use heavy-duty applications and large data sets, and that’s why there’s 64 GB of fast, quad-channel RAM on tap.

No Holds Barred

Where our previous few builds focus on the best bang for the buck, the No Holds Barred is not about that. It’s for the most demanding compute tasks around, whether those reside on the CPU or the graphics card. This system also gives power users a way to connect to every high-speed storage device or peripheral under the sun. 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 i9-9980XE $1,999.99
Cooler Corsair H150i Pro RGB $159.99
Motherboard Asus Prime X299 Deluxe-II $499.99
Memory G.Skill Trident Z RGB 64 GB (4×16 GB) DDR4-3200 $529.99
Graphics

Nvidia Titan RTX

$2,499.00  Nvidia shop
Storage Intel Optane SSD 905P 960 GB $1,204.00
WD Red  8 TB hard drive $249.99
WD Red  8 TB hard drive $249.99
Enclosure Fractal Design Define R6 $135.50
PSU Corsair HX1200i $149.97
Total $7,678.41

Ah, speak its name thrice, and it appears: The face-melting computing power in this build starts with Intel’s Core i9-9980XE. Underneath this chip’s heatspreader, there are 18 Skylake-X Refresh cores and 36 threads ticking away at up to 4.4 GHz. It’s a fitting centerpiece for this build. Whereas before we would probably stop short of using the highest-end processor in the lineup, we’re fairly comfortable with that choice this time around because the Core i9-9980XE actually presents a decent value proposition, provided you can make use of its potential. And if you can’t, well, this really isn’t the build for you.

For GPU computing workloads like deep-learning training, there simply isn’t a more powerful platform than Nvidia’s Titan RTX and its fully-enabled Turing TU102 GPU. This beast of a compute accelerator offers 576 tensor cores and has a nifty trick up its proverbial sleeve: full-rate FP32 accumulation operations. Coupled with a gigantic 24-GB chunk GDDR6 at 14 GT/s, this card probably makes deep-learning and HPC folks drool copiously. Sure, the card goes for two grand and then some, but just like with the processor in this build, the ROI should actually be decent if you can put all that silicon to work.

Just in case you’re building a gaming PC and you’re eyeing this build, let us stop you right there. The Titan RTX is a poor value for gaming, and the No Holds Barred is not a gaming PC. If you have more money than sense, though, carry on—you’ll find that the Titan RTX is nevertheless the highest-performing gaming card on the planet.

For primary storage, the No Holds Barred turns to Intel’s cutting-edge Optane SSD 905P 960-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 905P’s capacity, though, and if you have large data sets or need to keep monster video files handy for editing, you can rely on the twin Western Digital Red 8-TB drives.

Once again, we pair these ultra-rarefied components with Asus’s Prime X299 Deluxe-II. This mobo comes bursting with the goods like Thunderbolt 3 ports, Wi-Fi radios, gigabit Ethernet ports for networking 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. Furthermore, many manufacturers are dropping, or have dropped, driver support for older operating systems altogether. Last but perhaps most importantly, Windows 7 is a security dead end anyway because it has less than one year of support left.

What’s next

If you’ve been following the CES news, then you’re probably already aware that AMD’s prepping its third-generation Ryzen and Epyc processors. The Ryzen offerings in particular are likely to find their way into mass-market systems and therefore into our builds. Those with existing Ryzen systems can look forward for an upgrade, too, as the company says the new chips will fit right into existing Socket AM4 boards. The problem is, although rumors about AMD’s latest consumer CPUs have been floating for weeks now, the company says it expects them out in stores this summer. That could mean June as well as it could mean September, and the chips aren’t likely to arrive in time for the next System Guide. We wager they’ll fit right into some of our builds when they do, though.

Things aren’t quite so rosy for the Radeon Technologies Group. While the RX 500-series cards present a strong value proposition in the $100-$200 price bracket, gamers looking for performance beyond that of the RX 580 will be checking out Nvidia’s offerings instead. Radeon RX Vega cards have historically been a pretty hard sell versus the similarly priced competition, and the recent release of Nvidia’s RTX line coupled with the green team’s recently enabled support of FreeSync (also known as VESA Adaptive Sync) further complicate matters for AMD, seeing as suddenly there’s one less reason to grab a Radeon over a GeForce.

The red team recently fired a salvo in the form of the Radeon VII, but that card is coming in February. Its purported performance level, at least at a first glance, doesn’t set our hearts aflutter considering the $699 asking price. As always, though, we’ll reserve judgment once the reviews come in and store prices settle, and nothing would please us more than seeing refreshed competition in the high-end graphics arena.

Intel isn’t sitting idly by, though. Although there’s no shortage of internet doomsayers predicting the downfall of the blue team thanks to its troubles surrounding smaller fabrication processes, the reality is that Intel seems to be selling most every desktop chip it can produce, as evidenced by their stubbornly high prices. The company just announced another six 9th-gen processors, too, and Sunny Cove chips are set to arrive late this year, potentially packing an IPC boost and souped-up integrated graphics. All things considered, and as far as System Guides are concerned, Intel seems to be a fine enough position, even if we did pick Ryzen processors across our low-end and mid-range builds thanks to their aggressive pricing.

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.

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