A Hard Decision
Who will win and what will lose.
Welcome to our second annual (only chumps say first annual… crap) Best Hardware of the Year awards. This is where we argue the order of candidates in several categories on the podcast and, some time later, compile the results into an article. The majority of these select the best hardware of its grouping but some look at the more general trends of our industry.
As an aside, Google Monocle will win Best Hardware Ever 2014, 2015, and 2017. It will fail to be the best of all time for 2016, however.
If you would like to see the discussion as it unfolded then you should definitely watch Episode 282 recorded January 2nd, 2014. You do not even need to navigate away because we left it tantalizingly embed below this paragraph. You know you want to enrich the next two hours of your life. Click it. Click it a few times if you have click to enable plugins active in your browser. You can stop clicking when you see the polygons dance. You will know it when you see it.
The categories were arranged as follows:
- Best Graphics Card of 2013
- Best CPU of 2013
- Best Storage of 2013
- Best Case of 2013
- Best Motherboard of 2013
- Best Price Drop of 2013
- Best Mobile Device of 2013
- Best Trend of 2013
- Worst Trend of 2013
Each of the winners will be given our "Editor's Choice" award regardless of its actual badge in any review we conducted of it. This is because the product is the choice of our editors for this year even if it is not an "Editor's Choice". It may have not even been reviewed by us at all.
Also, the criteria for winning each category is left as vague as possible for maximum interpretation.
Best Graphics Card of 2013
Winner: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Runner Up: R9 290 with Non-Reference Cooling Solution
Let us start with the most concise, epic controversy. The Hawaii GPU is an amazing chip at an amazing price point with a bad reference design. As Josh stated, if the AIB partners had designs ready (and readily available) this year then the discussion would be much different. As it stands, however, the GK110-based GeForce GTX 780 is available at an acceptable price considering what you get and thus gets our vote.
Best CPU of 2013
Winner: Intel Bay Trail SoC
Runner Up: Apple A7 SoC
While we will dive into trends later, an obvious one over the last couple of years is mobile innovation. We should soon see a return of research and development mind-share to the desktop and workstation platforms but, for now, the drive is to get cost and power consumption down at the low end. Intel has a competitive product with Bay Trail and its Silvermont architecture. They still lack enough design wins to threaten its ARM competitors but the product itself is nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering the compatibility with both Android and the full x86 Windows catalog.
Best Storage of 2013
Winner: Samsung 840 EVO
Runner Up: Western Digital Black 2
The Black 2 gets a nod because of its unique dual-drive design but was not capable of overthrowing the Samsung 840 EVO. The TLC-based solid state drive is a beast considering its capacity and cost. A terabyte of high-performance SSD storage can sometimes be purchased for well under $600 USD.
Best Case of 2013
Winner: Corsair Carbide Air 540
Or whatever case best suits your needs
This is about the most "personal preference" category that we have. If you are building a computer then you need to consider where it is going and how frequently you will be inside it. We chose the Corsair Carbide Air 540 because it has great "fit and finish".
Best Motherboard of 2013
Winner: ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
Runner Up: Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X
Other Runner Up: About 65 Other Boards
Will Brighten Your Day: ECS Anti-Dust Shield
This category comes very close. With essentially six hosts, especially since none of them were Morry, we had quite some difficulty. We liked the Maximus VI Extreme, the G1.Sniper, and watching some guy dump white powder on a CPU fan.
Best Price Drop of 2013
Winner: 4K Panels
Runner Up: Graphics Cards (AMD R9 280X Most Noticeable)
At the start of the year, 4K panels were comparable in price to a decent new car. Currently, you can pick up a 39-inch one for under $500 USD if you do not mind being limited to 30 Hz input. The ASUS PQ321Q sits in the middle order of magnitude. From five digits to the low four or three digits? That is significant enough to win.
Best Mobile Device of 2013
Winner: ASUS Transformer Book T100
Runner Up: Google Nexus 7 (2013)
The ASUS Transformer Book T100 was not initially on our list of products. That simple mistake demonstrates how successful ASUS was when designing its device. It does not want to fall in either category, tablet or laptop, and it succeeded.
Best Trend of 2013
Winner: x86 Consoles
Runner Up: Small Computers
Other Runner Up: High DPI Displays
Gone are the days where the consoles bleed money to reinvent every wheel they can. The last console generation might have broken even for the manufacturer even with all of the license fees they impose on everyone. This generation, they admit they are slice of the PC market with an accompanying ecosystem. We also hope that, in turn, less entities will be hostile to our platform and treat it like a first-class citizen.
Worst Trend of 2013
Winner: GPU Shortage Because of Coin Mining
Let us face it, it is too late to get rich from mining fresh Bitcoins. Not only is the complexity and payoff getting too troublesome but also many are using dedicated and custom-designed circuits for maximum performance at a minimum power draw. The way to get rich with GPUs is, as a reseller, to inflate prices on the poor suckers who think that an R9 290X will explode their bank account. Stop it and take a few seconds to smell the poop. Microphone… dropped.
Thank you, again, for putting up with us for almost two hours. At this point we would like to ask our readers for their commentary on our choices and their own stances.
Happy New Year, everybody!