We're working our way through all of the major system components and peripherals, hopefully providing easy-to-use buyer's guides for the best components of 2014. Our most recent buyer's guides covered top-performing gaming video cards, mechanical keyboards, and gaming laptops.
This next guide focuses on the best Intel & AMD gaming CPUs on the market, ranging from ultra-budget (~$100) options to high-end semi-production solutions (~$300). Consider following our gaming motherboard buyer's guide to accompany any CPU purchases.
In doing so, we put together a PC that is great for streaming videos, games, and even playing less intensive games like League of Legends, Minecraft, Path of Exile, and DOTA2. This PC should not be considered a viable option if you're looking to play games like Far Cry 4 (benchmark) and Assassin's Creed Unity (benchmark). If you're looking to build the best general purpose streaming PC for the lowest price, this $299 gaming HTPC build is perfect for you.
Having completed our mechanical keyboard & gaming motherboard buyer's guides, we're now moving on to the gaming world's most critical component: Video cards. This video card buyer's guide looks at the best GPUs for gaming at various budgets, starting at $100 and rising up to the $600 flagships. Then again, you could build the $300 ultra-budget APU-powered machine we posted.
AMD and nVidia have recently been embattled in price wars, most clearly highlighted by the GTX 760's price-drop to $200 and the R9 270's drop to $135, both powerful GPUs that launched at significantly higher price points. This price war has influenced several other graphics solutions currently on the market, ensuring a prime buying period for those building new PCs.
Telltale Games has a recent history of expanding existing games, film, and comic book franchises into episodic adventure games. The San Francisco studio has taken its formula from The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us and applied it to the Borderlands first-person-shooter series, spawning “Tales from the Borderlands” (TftB).
I had played part of Episode 1: Zero Sum at PAX Prime last August and enjoyed Telltale’s blend of original storywriting and comedic references to 2K’s IP. Tales from the Borderlands certainly gives us a break from the run-shoot-loot formula from 2k’s games, which we had gotten tired of with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
And that price-tag includes the operating system. CyberPower is selling its Fang Mini R9 SE complete gaming system for $99, a box partnered with Gigabyte that resembles the Brix. The Fang Mini (product page) ships equipped with an R9 M275X 2GB GPU, A8-5557M quad-core CPU, Windows 8.1, and a 120GB SSD. This small form factor gaming box normally retails at nearly $1000, but will be marked down to $250 with $150 of rebates, landing it at $99. The unit is being offered as a “door-buster” pre-Black Friday sale in limited quantity. 300 units will be available, starting at 6PM (1800) EST today, 11/26.
The unit is capable of driving medium graphics in larger AAA games, but needs a serious RAM upgrade. We'd recommend a minimum 4GB kit of SO-DIMM DDR3L RAM, like this Kingston 1x4GB DDR3L 1600MHz kit for $70.
Graphics card manufacturer VisionTek has been in the business for a long time now – nearly 25 years – and has been a long-time exclusive AMD board partner. The group just recently announced plans to sell off old AMD hardware for $1-$3, ranging from AGP units and Radeon 2000 cards up through relatively recent Radeon 5000 cards.