After seeing a 750W PSU coupled with a Core i5 and GTX 960 for the thousandth time, inspiration struck to compile one of our most ambitious benchmarks to-date. This analysis compares watt consumption across various GPUs, CPUs, and complete system configurations, resulting in a loose template answering the question of “how many watts do I need?”
It all feeds into one of the most common PC building mistakes: going overkill on power supplies, often buying larger PSUs for sake of certainty or under the pretense of “room to upgrade.” This is a fine pretense, but is often done to the extreme. The fact of the matter is that most mid-range gaming PC builds can run on 450-600W PSUs, depending on the GPU, with a good deal of them landing ideal wattage around the 500-550W range. Buying a power supply that more closely fits the usage curve of a system will improve power efficiency, reduce build cost, reduce cost-to-run, and allow builders to buy PSUs that put the cost toward more relevant features than just wattage – like efficiency, protections, PFC, and so forth. Think of this as redistributing the cost of purchase; it's not always that simple, but we'd generally rather have increased efficiency ratings and power protections than more watts. It all depends on the build, of course, and that's what we're dissecting here.
Let's first talk power supply basics: How PSUs rails are divided, voltage ripple, how many watts are required, and power efficiency, then we'll dive into individual component power consumption benchmarks. We've tested the majority of the current nVidia and AMD GPU lineups for power consumption, the AMD & Intel CPU watt draw, and templated system power consumption. Our system templates were built in a fashion that should fall within range of reasonable configurations for “real” builders, and will help in determining how many watts you need for common go-to builds.
AMD issued a statement moments ago pertaining to the Radeon Software (see also: Radeon Settings, Crimson, former Catalyst) fan speed configuration causing GPU overheating issues. Some users have reported GPU death resultant of excessive thermals, which correlate with inadequately low fan speeds for the current heat generation.
In the calm between the storms – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – a few hangers-on have remained on sale through the weekend. Granted, “sale” is almost meaningless at this point; there's a near-perpetual discount on PC hardware through various vendors, but that's good news for system builders. This weekend, we found a 960GB SSD for $270 (or $200 via Newegg), 500GB SSD for $140, Corsair 200R for $46, and Logitech G910 for $160.
I'll be honest: This post started, as most site updates do, under the pretense of running behind on other, deeper content. We've got some charts-heavy benchmarks lined-up through the week, not the least of which includes tomorrow's exhaustive wattage consumption analysis. This stuff takes time to do.
But we do at least one “state of the site” style update each year. We're due for another. These have, for years, served as a means to thank our readers and staff, to highlight accomplishments and things we've learned, and to publicize some of our loose plans for the coming year.
Following months of nonstop, long-form content – and subsequent imperialistic takeover of additional rooms as lab or studio space – we have seen a ~143% growth in annual pageviews. From January 2015 through now, the end of November, we're sitting at just under 7,000,000 pageviews. Last year's same-period pageview count was around 3,000,000 at this time (still a tremendous feat to a small outlet like ours). Our YouTube subscriber base has grown from around 8,000 subscribers to ~22,000 subscribers (same period, year-to-year). By the way, you should subscribe if you haven't. Views-wise, we're looking at a growth (total views for the period) of nearly 100% year-over-year.
If our recent Star Wars Battlefront CPU benchmark is anything to go by, the days of dual-threaded CPUs appear to be numbered when it comes to gaming. The G3258 – a $60 powerhouse in its own right – is now encountering limitations to the extent of inability to play some games without hacks. We've found the Core i3 to be consistently performant and, although it's not on our current bench, the Athlon X4 860K seems to be the only reasonable option in the sub-$100 price-point at this time. This was preceded by the 760K, another popular chip, both of which took the same approach: Take an APU and disable the IGP, then just sell it as a CPU.
This guide rounds-up the best gaming CPUs on sale for Black Friday, ranging from $70 to $300 at the high-end. The CPUs here are built for different tasks, but will play LOL, DOTA2, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Battlefront, Fallout 4, Black Ops III, and other games to varying degrees. See what we have to say below before buying.
We've opted to exclude the X99 CPUs from this list, under the premise that these are primarily meant for production and enthusiast rigs. If you are interested in such a CPU, the i7-5930K is currently selling for $460.
This article specifically looks at single-GPU solutions to gaming at various price-points. We scale our GPU search from $100 to $600, covering PC builders across budget, mid-range, and high-end configurations. We've had extensive hands-on testing with the cards below, a fact accentuated by the burst of game launches in the past few weeks. Most of these cards have been tested in Battlefront, Fallout 4, AC Syndicate, Black Ops III, and the year's earlier titles, like The Witcher 3 and GTA V.
Black Friday starting to hit full swing, we found some of the best graphics cards of the year on sale for – in some cases – significant discount. The GTX 970 at $290, R9 380 at $143, and GTX 980 at $400 are just a few of the finds below.
We just leveraged the season's sales to restock GN's lab with test equipment – mostly SSDs and CPUs – and took the opportunity to throw together a budget gaming PC. The goal was to create a truly down-the-center machine, capable of playing most modern games at high settings with an FPS target of 60+ (at 1080p). A few outliers exist that would stress this system beyond its limits, like Assassin's Creed Syndicate, but the rest of the season's titles are mostly within reason. Fallout 4 is playable on the GTX 950 (at higher settings now, with optimization patches), as are Battlefront (tested) and Black Ops 3 (tested). We've also recently shown the i3 CPUs to retain fiercely competitive market positioning at ultra/1080p settings.
Intel's new i3-6100 Skylake CPU is currently the only available i3 SKU (i3-6300 ships in December), but at $130, it's also the cheapest Skylake SKU. This budget gaming PC build uses an i3-6100 and GTX 950 to play games at under $500, including Battlefront, Black Ops 3, and Fallout 4. Fallout 4, surprisingly, will be the most abusive of the lot – but it's fully playable on this setup at a mix of medium/high settings.
Some PC parts -- CPUs and GPUs -- have tangible benefits: x FPS gained, double-precision performance increased, loading times halved, or similar. Other parts, like PSUs and motherboards, may not have as obvious of advantages. These components are necessary and important parts of a PC, and choosing well enables everything else in the system. For those confused or simply wanting a guide, we occasionally create lists of components – like motherboards – for different needs.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, we thought it might be helpful to come up with a gaming motherboard buyer’s guide for overclocking and non-overclocking boards. Anyone curious about the specific differences between the Skylake chipsets, check out our coverage here.
This is the Intel-only version of our guide. Another motherboards guide will look separately at AMD's FM2+ motherboards.
Every PC component contributes to the gaming or working experience. A mouse, keyboard, GPU, CPU, RAM, and monitor all fuse to create the total user experience, but they’re all fairly stable and easy to understand.
Monitors can be tricky. Their specs often include lesser-known terms like “response time,” “input lag,” and “contrast ratio,” not to mention the various panel types behind the display. For those mystified by these specs, or those simply wanting a handy guide to monitor sales during Black Friday & Cyber Monday, we’ve compiled a list of G-Sync, FreeSync, and general use 1080p, 1440p, and 4K monitors.
This list details the best monitors for gaming at budget, mid-range, and high-end prices, scaling all the way up to 144Hz. We’ve got a few “general use” monitors in here for those just seeking 1080p functionality without the flair.
Software doesn't normally warrant a standalone review on this site; we'll review the hardware and, as an accompaniment, talk about the software's ability to adequately enable that hardware. AMD's newest “Radeon Settings – Crimson Edition” (introduced here) supersedes its long-standing Catalyst Control Center, which has been retired from service. Radeon Settings, which we'll interchangeably refer to as “Crimson,” is a complete overhaul of the AMD control interface. This, we think, warrants more of an in-depth tear-down than a simple news post.
There shouldn't be major performance updates included in the preview package we were provided; at least, not any more than what we've found in 15.11.1 benchmarking. This is largely an interface improvement, moving to a minimalistic UI – the trend of late – and attempting to improve ease-of-use for anyone with AMD Radeon hardware.