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Intel Core i7-6700K $320

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 $220

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]

AMD RX 480 $250

The RX 480 is the first graphics card to feature AMD’s new 14nm Polaris architecture. The card is due for release on June 29 (in four days time). We don’t have all the details yet but the RX 480 is rumoured to have an MSRP of $199 and it will likely perform on a par with the Nvidia GTX 970. At present we only have one benchmark so although the performance figures are provisional the RX 480 and GTX 970 do appear to be closely matched. If further tests validate these results and the cards retail at the MSRP of $199, then the new RX 480 will effectively improve graphics card price/performance ratios by a whopping 23%, something that has not happened since the release of the Maxwell based Nvidia GTX 970 nearly two years ago. In addition better price/performance for the current generation of games, the RX 480 also offers relatively strong DX12 support which provides better future proofing than Nvida’s Maxwell (970/980/980 Ti) cards. [Jun '16 GPUPro]

Nvidia GTX 1070 $415

The GTX 1070 is Nvidia’s second graphics card (1080 was the first) to feature the new 16 nm Pascal architecture. As a result of the die shrink from 28 to 16 nm, Pascal based cards are more energy efficient than their predecessors. The GTX 1070 is rated at just 150 Watts. In terms of performance the gap between the flagship 1080 and 1070 averages 25%. Both GPUs have 8GB of DDR5 and although they share the same processing core (GP104), the 1070 has 25% of its resources disabled. Comparing performance between the 1070 and legendary GTX 970 shows that the newer 1070 wins by a whopping 50%. The GTX 1070 has only just hit the market so, at least for the time being, prices are significantly over the Founders Edition MSRP of $450 but Nvidia have stated that they expect third party cards to sell from $379 at which time the 1070 will likely dominate as the value for money leader[Jun '16 GPUPro]

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $125

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 $89

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) $74

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 $50

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 $69

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 $320Nvidia GTX 970 $265Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $89
Intel Core i5-6600K $220AMD R9 390 $284Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $125
Intel Core i7-4790K $320Nvidia GTX 980 Ti $430Samsung 850 Evo 500GB $150
Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 1TB $50HyperX Fury DDR4 2133 C14 2x8GB $78SanDisk Extreme 32GB $20
WD Blue 1TB (2012) $49Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000 C15 2x8GB $80SanDisk Extreme 64GB $29
WD Black 1TB (2013) $74G.SKILL Trident Z DDR4 3200 C16 2x8GB $90SanDisk Extreme 16GB $16
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