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Intel Core i7-6700K $329

The Core i7-6700K is Intel's latest "Skylake" flagship processor. It replaces the hugely successful i7-4790K and takes the crown as the fastest mainstream consumer CPU available. Comparing performance and specs between the 4790K and 6700K shows that the configuration is largely unchanged (same base clocks, cores, threads) but the improved manufacturing process (14nm) brings a small reduction in TDP and a performance improvement of 8%; almost exactly the same jump as between the Ivy Bridge 3770K and Haswell 4770K. Owners of any unlocked-K Intel CPU from Sandy Bridge or onwards still have no real reason to upgrade as the performance improvements are largely academic but the i7-6700K will be the CPU of choice for the vast majority of top end PC builds in 2015. [Aug '15 CPUPro]

Intel Core i5-6600K $238

The Intel Core i5-6600K is based on the new "Skylake" 14nm manufacturing process. Sporting 4 physical cores with base/turbo clocks of 3.5/3.9 GHz the 6600K and its predecessor, the 4690K share the same basic configuration and disappointingly, offer similar performance. Comparing the 6600K and 6700K shows that the 6700K has faster multi and single core performance. The improved multi core performance is due to Hyperthreading which is the key differentiator for the i7-6700K. The gap in single core performance can largely be eliminated by overclocking the i5-6600K so although the stock effective speed is significantly higher on the 6700K, this gap diminishes significantly when both processors are overclocked. At a 30% discount, the 6600K is the better value gaming CPU. [Aug '15 CPUPro]

Nvidia GTX 1060-6GB $255

The GTX 1060 is Nvidia’s third 16 nm Pascal based GPU. It follows last month’s release of the higher end GTX 1070 and 1080. The 1060 has a TDP of 120 Watts and its aftermarket variants are available right away alongside the reference Founders edition. Comparing the GTX 1060 and 970 shows that although the 1060 leads by 12% it is also currently more expensive. Nvidia rushed the release of the GTX 1060 to help retain market share that may otherwise have gone to AMD’s new Polaris based RX 480. Comparing the RX 480 and GTX 1060 shows that for pre DX12 games the 1060 edges ahead by 12%. Due to better hardware compatibility, the RX 480 is able to match the 1060 in DX12 games but this will remain a corner case until most games are optimized for DX12 (likely to take several years). The 1060 has the potential to become a hugely successful card, but that all depends on where prices settle. [Jul '16 GPUPro]

AMD RX 470 $175

The RX 470 is the second Polaris based 14 nm graphics card released by AMD this year. The 470 follows hot on the heels of the hugely successful (though still mostly unavailable) RX 480. Based on specs the RX 470 has approximately 10% less processing horsepower than the RX 480. Looking at provisional average benchmarks (we only three samples of the RX 470 at this time) of the RX 480 and RX 470 shows that the performance gap is just a few percent. This performance gap will likely widen as we get a more representative number of samples of the RX 470 but the fact that custom design 470s are already available will likely keep the gap between the 480 less than 10%, at least until custom 480s make it to market. The list prices of both the 4GB RX 480 and RX 470 cards are within 20 USD of each other so AMD have basically re-released the 480 at a slightly reduced price with slightly reduced specs, strange but true! [Aug '16 GPUPro]

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $124

The 256GB Samsung 850 Pro is the fastest consumer SSD we have seen to date. Thanks to Samsung's new 3D V-NAND the 850 Pro has lower power consumption and better performance, albeit marginally, than both the 840 Evo and 840 Pro. Looking at the benchmark figures for the 840 and 850 Pros shows that the effective performance improvement is 10% whereas the 850 Pro beats the 840 Evo by 16%. These drives effectively saturate SATA 3.0 making it difficult to distinguish between them in day-to-day use. At current prices the 850 Pro is prohibitively expensive, prices need to drop by 15% before it approaches the 840 Pro from a value perspective. Samsung may release a value orientated 850 Evo soon, but for now "most" users are better off with the 840 Pro. [Oct '14 SSDrivePro]

Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $82

The 250GB Samsung 850 Evo has a similar architecture to its hugely successful predecessor, the 840 Evo. Both drives are TLC based but the 850 uses 3D V-NAND as opposed to regular NAND. Both drives also feature a Turbowrite cache (TWC) which buffers up to 3GB of writes. The TWC enables high burst write speeds but when the cache exhausts write speeds drop to 300 MB/s. Comparing the 850 and 840 Evos shows that effective speed, has improved by 11% and the warranty has been extended from three to five years but prices are also up by 11%. The 850 Evo does put in superb benchmarks (second only to the 850 Pro) but these are only valid within the TWC. At current price levels the 850 Evo struggles to compete with the value leaders[Dec '14 SSDrivePro]

WD Black 1TB (2013) $60

This is the most recent version (2013 FZEX) of Western Digital's best performing consumer storage drive, its predecessor was the WD1002FAEX which is now four years old. With average sequential read/write speeds of 150 MB/s this version outperforms its predecessor by a whopping 50%. Small file random 4K speeds have remained broadly unchanged with average read/write rates of 0.9/2.19 MB/s. Overall the 2013 WD Black has a very good performance profile and it also represents reasonable value for money, at least in the 1TB category. There are some good alternatives to the 2013 Black including the 2012 Blue. Looking at the 2013 Black vs 2012 Blue shows that both drives have similar performance. Power consumption (6.8/6.1 Watts active/idle) and noise levels (29.5 dBA) are also identical making it a tough call between the two. There is however, as always, better value amongst the larger capacities. [Feb '14 HDrivePro]

Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 1TB $43

The 1TB Barracuda 7200.14 boasts impressive peak sequential read/write Lab speeds of 195/193 MB/s. These best case burst speeds indicate what the Barracuda is capable of under Lab perfect test conditions. Our real world benchmarks have been sourced from hundreds of users and give a better sense of how well this drive actually performs on a day to day basis. The 1TB 7200.14 has an average UBM sequential read/write speed of 147 MB/s, which is a superb result, especially for a budget drive. With 4K random read/write speeds of 0.77/1.53 MB/s small file performance is also respectable making the 1TB Barracuda a very good all round performer. In terms of value for money the relatively small 1TB drive is not as good value as its larger 3TB sibling but in the 1 TB category this is one of the best value for money drives available. [Jan '14 HDrivePro]

Mushkin Ventura Ultra USB 3.0 60GB $71

The Mushkin Ventura Ultra USB 3.0 has a Sandforce controller coupled with MLC NAND. This combination produces mediocre results for an SSD but for a USB flash drive its small file 4K performance is staggering. Comparing the Ventura Ultra and Sandisk Extreme shows that for small file IO the Ventura is around 200% faster than the Extreme. The Extreme has faster peak write speeds but overall the Ultra leads by a whopping 72%. The Ultra is a great choice for hosting Operating Systems or for use as boot media (check mobo. compat.) where its small file performance and low access times will reduce load times by orders of magnitude. Thanks to its exceptionally reasonable pricing, the Ultra topples the Extreme as my top USB pick for both value for money AND overall performance. [May '14 USBFlashPro]

SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 16GB $16

The benchmark scores for the SanDisk Extreme were stunning. Until now every flash drive we have tested has shown a serious weakness in the area of 4K random writes. The SanDisk Extreme achieved a 4K random write speed of 2.1 MB/s which was over three times faster than the best of the rest, unfortunately we were unable to get consistent measurements but 2.1 MB/s was towards at the lower end of the range (10.8 MB/s - 1.71 MB/s) we observed. We suspect the inconsistency relates to the way the controller batches page cleanup. The other benchmark observations were all consistent and to date this drive has the highest sequential read we have seen on a 16GB flash drive. The SanDisk Extreme has not been released in the UK. Our test unit had to be shipped from Hong Kong where we were able to purchase it at at an extremely reasonable price. We will update the price if/when the drive becomes officially available in the UK ... [Jul '12 USBFlashPro]
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The Best.
Intel Core i7-6700K $329Nvidia GTX 970 $275Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $82
Intel Core i5-6600K $238Nvidia GTX 1070 $380Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $124
Intel Core i7-4790K $328AMD RX 480 $220Samsung 850 Evo 500GB $154
Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 1TB $43Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000 C15 2x8GB $89SanDisk Extreme 64GB $28
WD Blue 1TB (2012) $47G.SKILL Trident Z DDR4 3200 C16 2x8GB $111SanDisk Extreme 32GB $20
WD Black 1TB (2013) $60HyperX Fury DDR4 2133 C14 2x8GB $97SanDisk Extreme 16GB $16
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