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Intel Core i7-7700K $330

The Core i7-7700K is Intel’s flagship Kaby Lake based CPU which is reported to have the same IPC as its predecessor, Skylake. Comparing the 7700K and 6700K shows that both average effective speed and peak overclocked speed are up by 7%. Most of the increase in average effective speed is explained by the 5% boost in base clocks from 4.0 to 4.2 GHz. The improved peak lab speed is attributable to a combination of better overclocking capacity and improvements in Intel’s speedshift technology which make the 7700K slightly more responsive. Kaby Lake also has marginally better HD 630 integrated graphics. The i7-7700K is priced similarly to the i7-6700K so for top end gaming and workstation builds, the 7700K is the clear choice for 2017. AMD’s Ryzen architecture is due for release later this year so things could change at that time. [Jan '17 CPUPro]

Intel Core i5-7600K $230

The i5-7600K targets high end gamers, it sits just behind the flagship i7-7700K in Intel’s Kaby Lake lineup. The 7600K will likely be the most popular gaming CPU of 2017 (some competition from AMD’s upcoming Zen/Ryzen CPUs, would be very welcome). Comparing the 7600K and 6600K shows that the two processors are very closely matched and comparing the 7600K vs the hyper-threaded 7700K highlights the relative strength of the 7700K for workstation performance. There are no significant architectural differences between Kaby Lake and Skylake so, when fully overclocked, the two generations should perform similarly but Kaby Lake offers faster base clocks, improved speed shift technology which helps CPU responsiveness, and better integrated graphics[Jan '17 CPUPro]

Nvidia GTX 1060-6GB $250

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 $165

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 $120

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 $98

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) $75

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 $45

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 $18

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 $330Nvidia GTX 1070 $376Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $98
Intel Core i5-6600K $220AMD RX 480 $190Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $120
Intel Core i7-4790K $339Nvidia GTX 1060-6GB $250Samsung 850 Evo 500GB $150
Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 1TB $45Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000 C15 2x8GB $112SanDisk Extreme 64GB $28
WD Black 6TB (2015) $270G.SKILL Trident Z DDR4 3200 C14 4x16GB $545SanDisk Extreme 32GB $23
WD Blue 1TB (2012) $50G.SKILL Trident Z DDR4 3200 C16 2x8GB $110SanDisk Extreme 16GB $18
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