Hardware Guides

AMD's APUs have proliferated with ferocity over the past year or so; now making up about 75% of the company's total chip sales, AMD seems to be investing more seriously in what was previously considered a niche market. We don't suspect just APU sales could support a monolithic company like AMD (at least, not in its current form), but the recent launch of the PS4 and impending promise of an AMD APU-driven Steam Box and Xbox could mean good things for the company.


We were told at CES by AMD representatives that Steam Box would be operating on A6 and A8 APUs and the PS4 has been officially stated to include a semi-custom Jaguar 8-core APU (heavily INT-optimized with a large-width FPU); the Trinity APUs run a bit too hot for console purposes, making Jaguar a reasonable choice for what have effectively become living room PCs. Let's start this PS4 hardware specs analysis with the APU—Jaguar—and the PS4's top-level specs. We'll then talk about what implications these have on PC gaming and console gaming.

Update: See the CES 2014 edition of this article here.

Update: Our new Buyer's Guide for gaming cases was recently posted. Check out both guides for the biggest case selection range.

CES 2013 was a killer show for enthusiast and mid-range system builders, and with all of the great new content we've posted in the past week, we decided it's time to write a round-up. This post looks at all of the best gaming PC cases due for release in 2013, as revealed at CES. For those looking for advice on how to choose the best computer case for your needs, view our "How to Choose a Gaming Case" article.


We'll specifically look at mid-tower and full-tower cases here, but a post (by popular request) covering mini-ITX and mATX HTPC-grade cases will follow. Let's get to the products and photos!

For most of you out there, the primary goal of building a custom gaming PC is related to performance: benchmarking, overclocking, gaming, and hardware enthusiasm are all aspects of this. As we discussed in our recent post about how CPU coolers work, more performance generates more heat, requiring hardware manufacturers to invest in better cooling technology.


The major downside to high-end, no-limits cooling is increased noise, but you can overcome loud fans and get the same, if not better cooling performance by considering incremental and optimized upgrades to your cooling setup. Given the right tools, it's not too hard to reduce the noise of your screaming rig to a low hum that you won't even hear when gaming.

This silent gaming PC guide will cover quiet case fans, bearing types, quiet CPU coolers, GPU cooling upgrades, and tips on how to make your PC less noisy. We will not be covering open loop liquid cooling (custom liquid loops) in this article due to its complexity -- that's best left for a future guide.

Hey everyone -- thought I'd do something a bit different. Rather than write a lengthy, highly-researched article (like the recent CPU cooler analysis and Star Citizen posts), I figured I'd take some time to share my upcoming project with you all.

I'm working on building my own mini-gaming HTPC that will serve as a DVR and console replacement; the primary objective is to consolidate the mess of boxes presently in the living room. The GN team is working to write a comprehensive guide on the subject of building a custom DVR / HTPC, but in order to do so, we must first make the journey ourselves. I'll be logging all of my progress regularly in quick updates, and once we've got all the kinks worked out, we'll post the full guide with all the necessary resources to do this yourselves. My hope is to save you all the challenges I will inevitably face by uncovering them myself.


SSDs are a hot item right now. In our interview with Star Citizen's Chris Roberts, we were told that he sees SSD and multicore utilization coming to the forefront for PC-exclusive games, and it makes sense. Not only will an SSD decrease the load times and increase fluidity of experience for games that stream data (heavily dominated by 4K I/O transactions streamed to memory), they also significantly decrease boot time and make for a more responsive OS.

This Holiday / Xmas SSD Buyer's Guide lists the best SSDs of 2012 (and the hangers-on from 2011) that we've worked with; the drives below have been picked for high-end enthusiast users, everyday / gaming users, and budget users.


We briefly covered CPU cooler engineering in our Tuniq Tower 120 review, and in continuing that topic, this post will discuss various cooler designs that pervade the market and which are best for you.

Picking the best CPU cooler / heatsink for your gaming rig is important if you're planning to keep things quiet or overclock your system; we'll cover noise level, cooling efficiency, and top-level thermal dissipation strategies for aftermarket coolers in this article.


In addition to our own research and benchmarking, we reached out to Edmund Li of Zalman for help understanding some cooler design elements, so a big thanks to him for his time and knowledge. Let's cover how a heatsink works before anything else.

From conception of design, to development, to evilly-scheming robots that (for now...) mount chips to PCBs, the process behind solid-state drive advancements can be months in the making. The controller alone can take a year (or more, in some cases) to finalize, and even then, it has to ship to manufacturers, get soldered to boards, and be tested, all prior to your consumption.

In this feature, we'll walk through the development of an SSD and its controller and explain how SSDs are made. Each major step of the process will be broken-down into core tasks and includes insight from industry experts. We also have some cool photos of SSD production facilities, found below.


There's a bit of a trick to everything with computers. Things are relatively straight-forward in the assembly process, but as with any trade skill, we begin to pick up small tweaks and expeditious build methodologies that can aid in the overall process. The same goes with thermal compound / thermalpaste: It's easy to apply, but doing so correctly takes learning from someone else.

In this quick-reference guide, we'll provide a video tutorial of how to clean a CPU of thermalpaste and how to apply new thermal compound, but additionally, we'll cover how thermalpaste works and why it's recommended.


Before all else, here's the video guide for thermalpaste removal and application:

It's easy to get caught-up in the over-promotion of each generation's flagship hardware; as CPUs, chipsets, and GPUs iterate, there's a very predictable pattern of what will become the newest object of infatuation. To industry outsiders and novice/intermediate system builders, the i5-2500k might have seemed required for gaming rigs, given the amount of coverage and recommendations it received. The same goes for the previous Z68 chipset and current Z77 chipset, and on the AMD side, we see the 990FX recommended in far too many builds. These are undoubtedly powerful options with great life in them yet, and for enthusiasts, almost necessary. But for gaming? That's debatable.


This article will cover the differences between Intel and AMD chipsets (Z77, Z75, H77, etc), their naming conventions, and chipset functionality. Hopefully this information will aid in your decision of whether or not the premiere products are necessary.

The goal here is to provide enough knowledge and insight so that you can apply these points to future purchases. This generation's hardware won't be around forever, so I've specifically written the article to include analytical methods that will help you ascertain benefits of each new gen.

Let's start at the top: What chipsets do.

Systems die. They get old, run slow, are plagued with dust-invoked disease, and are inevitably retired. It's not always necessary to retire a gaming rig, though, despite being a fun excuse to play with new components; given a strong enough core, it's often easy to troubleshoot bottlenecks and replace the limiting hardware, potentially luring out another year or two of use.


Ignoring OS bloat and software failures that amount over years, as long as interfaces remain relatively unchanged, hardware swapping is the cheapest way to extend the life of your PC. This guide will explore what should be upgraded first and how to troubleshoot PC performance, bottlenecks, gaming and professional applications, and general testing techniques.

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