The holiday season is upon us. In due time, the Steam Holiday/Winter sale will be flowing like a river, and many users will be preparing their wallets for the impending profligacy. As Newegg, Amazon, and other retailers usually offer sales of their own, other users may be eyeing core component upgrades or new systems entirely. That said, we’ve attempted to take some of the legwork out of putting together a mid-level gaming machine that is comprised mostly of hardware currently on sale, or discounted through current rebates. Admittedly, that narrows options; however, we’ve still come up with very capable and modern build without becoming lusus naturae.
This rig will be a sub-$700 system focused on gaming at the respectable, and still most popular, 1080p. If by chance you are needing more horsepower for, say, the 1440p domain, check out another recent build guide of ours. As an aside, we’ve selected mATX hardware housed in an mATX chassis; something that will please space mindful users wanting a build with a minimal footprint. Before getting into it, I’ll preface with this: more ardent enthusiasts might balk at the presence of a core i3, specifically the i3-6100, but keep in mind that this is a value-oriented build, and the i3-6100 fills the space well. We’ll discuss this a bit more below.
Per the usual format, we will list an OS in the below DIY build list as an optional purchase in addition to an optional, but advised, SSD. Also below, find our tutorial on building a gaming PC or check out our more in depth article.
This gaming PC build is priced below $700 (though may be below $600, if the sales are still active), and is targeted at high graphics settings with a 1080p monitor.
As the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals start to wind down, we will begin to take a look at some games that are among the most popular on Steam. Some of these games were greatly reduced on the Autumn Sale, and while that sale has ended, Steam usually hosts a Winter Sale -- that’ll be coming up shortly.
For today, we’ve got a list of some of our top PC games for 2016 (including previous releases and sales). All the below games are available on Steam. This year's game releases felt a little lighter in the AAA category versus last year; at least, when considering last year offered GTA V and The Witcher 3 in rapid succession, but active sales have revived last year's titles alongside a couple major indie hits for 2016.
Here is the shortlist:
Following suit with the rest of our Black Friday coverage, including Best SSDs and power supplies, we’ve next rounded-up a few honorable mentions in the motherboard department. We're specifically looking at Intel boards today, as deals on AMD boards seemed a bit scarce this year. With the looming obsolescence of the AM3/AM3+ socket, we elected to not include those boards. You’ll notice that, save for sharing a common thread in socket type (all supporting Intel’s latest Skylake processors), these picks vary quite a bit. Be assured though, these boards all have a place. Whether it’s a minimalist, no-frills gaming machine for medium to high settings or a high-end, performance-minded overclocker, there’s a board here for it.
This list comprises the best gaming Intel motherboards for Cyber Monday (and onward), including Z170, B150, H110, and other motherboards.
The Z170 boards in this list are of proven quality, and do come recommended; however, it is worth mentioning that Z170 is not tantamount to "better." A poorly designed Z170 board is not inherently superior than a well-constructed B150 or H1xx, even at a comparable price. There's more to it than the chipset. If you are curious as to what the differences are between Intel's Skylake chipsets, view this H110, H170, & Z170 guide.
This year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday sales continue, allowing us to compile a list of PC accessories that are aimed at giving your system a boost in aesthetics. Most our guides thus far have been focused on the performance aspect, like our “Best SSDs of 2016” guide, our guide to mechanical keyboards, to 1440p monitors, and recent two PC builds. We’ve also got some coverage of the best PSUs currently on sale, if that’s interesting.
But today, we’re here for visuals. RGB lighting products and sleeved cables are a common trend in the market in 2016 for those looking to improve their setups looks. This year, RGB has gotten big enough that only the craze for tempered glass rivals its popularity; there are RGB fans, mouse pads, controllers, and peripherals of all sorts.
Here’s the shortlist:
We've been following sales closely for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and following our "Best GPUs Under $200" guide, we figured it'd be good to revisit gaming's third favorite component: SSDs.
Solid-state drives have become remarkably affordable over the past few years. When we posted our first SSD architecture discussion piece, back in 2014, SSDs of 240-256GB capacities were easily between $100 and $200, depending on drive. Large capacity SSDs (480GB+) were not really affordable for most users. With this year's sales, we're seeing SSDs in excess of 500GB capacity available for nearly $100. Huge change, considering they were easily 3x that price just a few years ago.
Here's the shortlist of the best SSD sales for Black Friday, particularly focused on gaming:
Some PC parts garner a lot more attention than others: CPUs, GPUs, and SSDs have clear, exciting advancements and benefits that can be directly felt by the user. Some components, like PSUs, don’t get the same amount of coverage or excitement.
Nonetheless, power supplies are a vital part of a PC and a good PSU choice can last throughout multiple PCs, whereas a bad PSU choice could lead to strange issues and can even break other components. In anticipation of the holiday season coming up, we’ve once again compiled a list of ranked PSUs at different price points.
This is GN’s list of best power supplies for gaming PCs in 2016, ranging $45 to $300. Note that some of these power supplies will be on sale during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so keep an eye on anything that looks appealing for your PC build.
With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and generally the winter holidays coming up, there’s bound to be a lot of sales and (likely) last minute shopping for gifts. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best mechanical gaming keyboards at various price points that we at GN have reviewed and recommended for both gaming and general use.
These keyboards go from basic budget keyboards to high-end RGB gaming keyboards, all of which are mechanical. Besides, there’s not much in the way of membrane keyboards lately -- the Logitech G213 and Corsair K55 pretty much round those out.
Here’s the shortlist:
So begin our buyer's guides for the season. The first of our Black Friday & holiday buyer's guides is focusing on the top video cards under $200, highlighting ideal graphics cards for 1080p gaming. We've reviewed each of the GPUs used in these video cards, and are able to use that benchmark data to determine top performers for the dollar.
This generation's releases offer, in order of ascending MSRP, the RX 460 ($100), GTX 1050 ($110), GTX 1050 Ti ($140), RX 470 ($170), RX 480 4GB ($200), and GTX 1060 3GB ($200). A few active sales offer rebates and discounts that drop a few noteworthy cards, like the 4GB RX 480 and 3GB GTX 1060, down to below MSRP. The same is true for at least one RX 470.
As we've drawn a clear price line between each of the major GPUs that presently exists in this segment, we're making it a point to specifically highlight cards that are discounted or higher performance per dollar. This is a quick reference guide for graphics cards under $200; for the full details and all the caveats, always refer back to our reviews.
For years, the de facto standard for PC gaming and consoles was 1920x1080 – even if consoles occasionally struggled to reach it. 1080p monitors have been the only practical choice for gaming for years now, but viability of 1440p-ready hardware for mid-range gaming PCs means that the market for 1440p monitors has become more competitive. Similarly, the 4K monitor market is also getting fairly competitive, but unfortunately mid-range (and even higher-end) GPUs still struggle to run at 4K in many modern games.
While 4K becomes more attainable for the average consumers, 2560x1440 monitors fit the needs of many gamers who want higher resolution than 1080p while still desiring to render – and show – 120+ FPS. With this in mind, we’ve created this buyer’s guide for the best 1440p gaming monitors presently on the market, particularly when accounting for price, high refresh rate, or panel type. Since the primary use case for the monitors in this guide is gaming, we have primarily included G-Sync (covered here) and FreeSync (covered here and here) compatible monitors for users with nVidia and AMD GPUs, respectively.
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.
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