Search: Advanced search
Browse by category:
The 15 highest-performing PC components you can buy today
The best gear money can buy
One of the PC’s greatest strengths is its extreme flexibility. There’s a vast selection of hardware out there, of all different shapes and sizes and makes and models—so much so that even if your budget’s not a concern, buyer’s paralysis very well could be.
Fear not, fellow enthusiast. We’ve got your back. These are the 15 highest-performing PC components you can buy today. We’ve even done the homework to ensure they all work fine together if you’re looking to really splurge. (If, on the other hand, your means are a bit more modest, be sure to check out our guide to 10 killer PC upgrades that are shockingly cheap.)
The heart of a PC is its processor. And when it comes to consumer PCs—business and data-center rigs are a whole ‘nother beast—there’s never been a CPU as potent as Intel’s beastly Core i7-6950X ($1,650 on Amazon), the first 10-core enthusiast processor.
The flagship Broadwell-E CPU is an utter monster. The chip’s 3.5GHz maximum clock speed may not be as fast as Skylake’s premiere models, but those 10 cores also support Hyper-Threading, giving you 20 usable threads for extreme tasks that chew through multiple processes. Those cores are bolstered by intriguing new features for enthusiasts like Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 and per-clock overclocking. The Core i7-6950X is easily Intel’s most powerful consumer chip ever, by a long shot—and it’s priced like it.
If you don’t need quite that much performance but still want to enjoy the benefits of Intel’s latest Extreme Edition platform, consider the 6-core Core i7-6850K ($610 on Amazon) or 8-core Core i7-6900K ($1,090 on Amazon). Neither is cheap, but they cost a lot less than the Broadwell-E flagship while still offering top-notch performance, the same features as the 10-core chip, and a full 40 PCIe lanes.
With your processor picked out, you know what type of motherboard to buy. The Broadwell-E chips use the X99 chipset and LGA2011 socket, and when it comes to that combo, the Asus X99 Deluxe-II ($419 on Amazon) is the cream of the crop—though you once again pay for its potency.
The X99 Deluxe-II comes loaded with virtually every feature you could ask for: exotic U.2 and M.2 storage slots, USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, eight memory slots for overclocked quad-channel DDR4 3333MHz memory, reinforced PCIe slots capable of handling the biggest and baddest graphics cards, a custom-designed socket with extra pins for enhanced overclocking—deep breath—and much, much more.
The original, largely similar Asus X99 Deluxe powers our dedicated graphics card testing system and we adore it. Competitive X99 motherboards like the MSI X99 SLI Plus ($230 on Newegg) can definitely be found for less (though you may need to update the BIOS to support Broadwell-E), but this roundup’s all about highlighting the very best.
Intel’s X99 platform broke down the 64GB limit for RAM. So why not bask in the face-melting glory by snapping up an extremely future-proof 128GB kit of Corsair Dominator Platinum memory ($1,066.68 on Amazon) and create some of the most epic RAM disks the world has ever seen?
Granted, that price could be a drawback, as could the fact that there are very few legitimate reasons to load up your PC with that much RAM. Heck, it’s such a rarely used piece of kit that it takes Amazon one to two months to ship it out.
The more realistic (but still damned gratuitous) 64GB Corsair Dominator Platinum kit ($470 on Amazon) ships ASAP and is probably a better buy for even a price-is-no-object PC. That said, 64GB still stretches the boundaries of what’s needed today. If you want to pick up a lower-capacity kit, just make sure it’s DDR4 memory, not the older DDR3—X99 motherboards are cutting-edge, remember.
The obvious choice here is the “Price is no object” pick in our best graphics cards buying guide. If you demand the pinnacle of PC gaming performance no matter the cost, the ridonkulously powerful Nvidia Titan X Pascal ($1,200 on Nvidia.com) is your card.
Reviews say this is the first and only graphics card capable of hitting 60fps regularly at 4K resolution with all the bells and whistles enabled. This beast is so badass, when we tested a Falcon Northwest system with two Titan X Pascals in SLI we had to employ a rare 5K display to truly test its mettle. It delivers 60 to 70 percent higher frame rates than the original Titan X. Nothing else has ever come close to this level of performance.
If you don’t need quite that level of performance, the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW ($680 on Amazon) costs far less, but still outpunches the first-gen Titan X by roughly 30 percent. EVGA’s version runs cool and quiet, with an overclock that delivers higher performance than reference models. It’s potent enough to deliver a no-compromises gameplay experience at very high frame rates at 1440p resolution, or a damned-good 4K experience if you dial down the eye candy to High settings—especially when paired with a G-Sync monitor.
Segue! If you’re going to drop big bucks on a take-no-prisoners graphics card, you’re going to want a high-end display to go with it. We don’t officially review monitors, so these picks are a mix of personal experience, user reviews, spec sheet parsing, and guidance from the display geeks at MonitorNerds.com.
Monitors come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. We prefer the wide viewing angles and bright colors of IPS displays to the very slightly faster response times of TN panels, so that’s what all these recommendations consist of.
First, a trio of Nvidia G-Sync monitors, which smooth out stuttering and eliminate tearing during gameplay. For ultra-high resolutions, the Acer Predator XB271HK bmiprz ($869 on Amazon) tops out at 60Hz, as going beyond that refresh rate is pointless at 4K with today’s technology. If you prefer your action faster—and more encompassing—the 3440x1440 resolution Asus ROG SWIFT PG348Q ($1,233 on Amazon) mixes an ultra-wide display with 100Hz frame rates. If pure speed is more your fancy, you’ll need to drop the overall resolution to snag a 144Hz monitor like the 27-inch, 2560x1440 Acer XB270HU bprz ($750 on Amazon).
Gaming not your thing? Professional photo-editing displays with true 10-bit color and 99-plus percent Adobe RGB accuracy can get really pricey. The 4K display the experts at 144HzMonitors.com recommends, the NEC PA322UHD, costs a staggering $2,892 at Amazon.
Storage likewise comes in a variety of options. PCWorld hardware guru Gordon Mah Ung recommended these shining stars.
If you’re looking for sheer volume, a pair of recent releases have you more than covered. The 4TB Samsung 850 EVO ($1396 on Amazon) and 10TB Seagate BarraCuda Pro ($580 on Amazon) are the largest ever consumer solid-state and traditional hard drives, respectively. Samsung’s SSD is obviously faster, but it costs much, much more, and the BarraCuda Pro’s 7,200rpm platters deliver surprisingly great access speeds for a mechanical hard drive.
But forget capacity. What if pure speed is your primary goal? In exchange for some space, you can bask in the blistering transfer rates of an M.2 PCI-e NVMe SSD (whew, those acronyms). The trade-off is worthwhile: The 512GB Samsung 950 Pro ($318 on Amazon) is easily one of the fastest drives ever created, hitting read speeds up to 2Gbps. That’s nuts. Make this your boot drive and never worry about lag again. Be warned though: Performance may vary when you’re moving between capacities for the drive.
With the marvelous power efficiency of modern Intel processors and Nvidia graphics cards, most single-GPU systems probably don’t need more than a 600-watt power supply. But this list is all about the best of the best—and investing in a beefier power supply is a good idea if you want to use multiple graphics cards or ensure room for expansion in the future.
The Corsair AX1500i ($410 on Amazon) is essentially a power supply paragon. This fully modular PSU is rated for 80 Plus Titanium efficiency and tremendous load regulation across all rails thanks to a cutting-edge digital control system. Tom’s Hardware and Jonny Guru both give the supply flawless ratings, and we use (and love) its similarly potent sibling, the Corsair AX1200i ($311 on Amazon), in PCWorld’s own dedicated graphics card test system.
Beyond the hardware already discussed, we start to fall into the subjective range. Buying a keyboard, mouse, headset, or case relies heavily on personal preference. But let’s take a stab at some picks, eh?
Mechanical keyboards are objectively superior to all other forms, and the Corsair K95 RGB ($190 on Amazon) is one of the best around, with RGB backlighting, aircraft-grade aluminum construction, Cherry MX switches, and the ability to program a macro on any key. “The best” keyboard is a hotly contested subject among enthusiasts, but that’s a damned fine one that earned an Editors’ Choice nod at PCMag. I use (and love) its more affordable Corsair K70 sibling ($130 on Amazon) myself.
Our resident mouse expert adores his Logitech G502 Proteus Core ($95 on Amazon), but again, mouse preference is highly subjective. We’ve rounded up the best gaming mice if you want to explore your options.
And cases? Now you’re really getting into an area of personal choice. But if price is no object and you want to astound your friends and family, the massive In Win H tower ($2,400 on Newegg) mechanically opens up to reveal its interior, like a mixture between a Transformer and opening flower petals. It’s awe-inspiring the first time you see one in action. The price tag may give you chest pains, but hey, you didn’t read this article to find the best price-to-performance options out there.
If you’re looking for something more understated but still top-of-the-line, consider the Corsair Obsidian 900D ($337 on Amazon). This is essentially a more spacious version of the Obsidian 750D ($150 on Amazon) used for PCWorld’s own GPU testing system, and won HardOCP’s coveted Gold Award for being “the rare case that can actually be everything to everyone.”