Build and Upgrade Components
Our staff picks their favorite build components and accessories
Spring is in the air! And while many traditionally use this season for cleaning out their homes, what could be the point of reclaiming all of that space besides filling it up again with new PC hardware and accessories? If you answered, "there is no point, other than what you just said," then you're absolutely right. Spring a great time to procrastinate about housework and build up a sweet new gaming PC (what else would you really want to use that tax return for?), so our staff has listed their favorite PC hardware right now, from build components to accessories, to make your life easier. (Let's make this season far more exciting than taking out the trash and filing taxes!)
While our venerable Hardware Leaderboard has been serving the PC community for many years, it's still worth listing some of our favorite PC hardware for builds at different price points here.
Processors – the heart of the system.
No doubt about it, AMD's Ryzen CPU launch has been the biggest news of the year so far for PC enthusiasts, and while the 6 and 4-core variants are right around the corner the 8-core R7 processors are still a great choice if you have the budget for a $300+ CPU. To that end, we really like the value proposition of the Ryzen R7 1700, which offers much of the performance of its more expensive siblings for a really compelling price, and can potentially be overclocked to match the higher-clocked members of the Ryzen lineup, though moving up to either the R7 1700X or R7 1800X will net you higher clocks (without increasing voltage and power draw) out of the box.
Really, any of these processors are going to provide a great overall PC experience with incredible multi-threaded performance for your dollar in many applications, and they can of course handle any game you throw at them – with optimizations already appearing to make them even better for gaming.
Don't forget about Intel, which has some really compelling options starting even at the very low end (Pentium G4560, when you can find one in stock near its ~$60 MSRP), thanks to their newest Kaby Lake CPUs. The high-end option from Intel's 7th-gen Core lineup is the Core i7-7700K (currently $345 on Amazon), which provides very fast gaming performance and plenty of power if you don't need as many cores as the R7 1700 (or Intel's high-end LGA-2011 parts). Core i5 processors provide a much more cost-effective way to power a gaming system, and an i5-7500 is nearly $150 less than the Core i7 while providing excellent performance if you don't need an unlocked multiplier or those additional threads.
Graphics Cards – Pew Pew Pew
If processors are the heart of your new PC, then a graphics cards is the muscle. Obviously gaming isn't the only thing you are going to do with this new machine, but it will likely be the most taxing from a compute requirement. The current king of the hill for gamers is NVIDIA's GeForce GT 1080 Ti, and though it will cost ~$700, you will be able to power any resolution and any quality setting combination including 4K and HDR!
For those of you with more mild tastes in GPUs (or slightly slimmer wallets) then you have plenty of additional options. With a price drop to $499, the GeForce GTX 1080 is a great "reasonable" high end graphics card, with the GeForce GTX 1060 taking the claim to NVIDIA's best 1080p gaming solution.
There is no denying that AMD is need of a refresh on the GPU side of things if it hopes to compete with NVIDIA across the entire family, but the current RX 480 does compete very well against the GTX 1060. Do keep in mind that the rumors are swirling about the RX 500-series as well, so if AMD is on your radar, you might want to hold off a week or two!
Motherboards – It's what everything plugs into!
Ok, so you probably already have one of these if you have a PC. In fact, I know you do. Still, new CPUs mean new motherboards, and there hasn't been a more anticipated launch than AMD's Ryzen – and associated motherboards – in quite some time. Here things hit a snag in the beginning, with limited availability for many popular models, and firmware that needed tweaking. Now the second wave of X370 motherboards are here, along with fresh stock of the previously-impossible-to-find boards.
Naturally, Intel CPUs need motherboards too. The latest Kaby Lake processors need 200-series boards, with the Z270 at the top of the heap and generally offering the most features (and that overclocking support we crave).
Memory – More relevant than ever!
While every system needs RAM, for the past few years the benefits of fast memory was mostly lost on gaming unless you were running an APU – until now! Ryzen REALLY LIKES fast memory, but finding compatible sticks that will clock as high as advertised requires careful adherence to the vendor-provided lists for your AM4 motherboard. But you really can't go wrong with one of the most compatible brands, with Corsair's Dominator Platinum sticks on many qualified vendor lists (QVL) with models like the CMD16GX4M4B3000C15, which offers premium ICs and speeds up to 3000 MHz (2933 MHz with Ryzen).
If you are looking for memory a little more on the budget side, but still high speed for Ryzen, check out the lower priced DDR4 options below.