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.
Forthcoming team shooter Overwatch is Blizzard's first new IP in years, fusing familiar FPS and team-based elements with MOBA-like playable characters. That, at its core, is what we'd call a “team shooter,” a genre that's been popularized most recently by Team Fortress 2.
The game is still going through closed beta testing, with select Battle.net accounts receiving invites to play-test the game over a few weekends. This weekend's test was, according to Overwatch PR Manager Steven Khoo, an attempt at learning “how Overwatch runs on your system” and a reach-out for “technical feedback.” We figured we'd throw ten video cards at the game and see how it does.
Overwatch isn't particularly GPU intensive, but it does make use of some advanced shadow and reflection techniques that can impact FPS. We performed some initial settings analysis – shown further down – to determine top-level performance impact on a per-setting basis. This is the basis of our eventual graphics optimization guide (see: Black Ops equivalent), something we'll finalize at the game's launch. For now, the goal was to provide a foundation upon which to base our GPU test methodology with Overwatch. This graphics card benchmark looks at the best GPUs for Overwatch (beta), testing 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions across “Epic” and “Ultra” settings.
Winter is coming – and so is Black Friday, as “Black November” before it. And “Black February” (anyone remember that?). Look, the point is that this holiday – Black Friday, that is, not Thanksgiving – has expanded without hesitance. Current sales include Intel CPUs (like the 4790K), GTX 960 discounts to below $200, an NZXT Phantom, and a Samsung display.
Battlefront is one of the best-optimized games right now, strictly looking at the graphics-versus-framerate output across multiple GPUs. The game fronts brilliant shading, lighting, and post-FX, leveraging what appears to be some form of PBR (though we're not positive) to create a more realistic aesthetic without hammering draw calls and polys.
That was all tested on an X99 platform, though, so we figured it'd be worth a look at Battlefront's fluidity across our (still limited) CPU suite. We benchmarked Battlefront with the Intel lineup (G3258 to i7) and some of AMD's FX CPUs, including one APU + dGPU combination. Anything not present here means one of two things: We either don't have it or it is presently being used for another benchmark, which accounts for quite a few CPUs, given game launch season.