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Intel Core i7-6700K $367

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 $260

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 980 Ti $660

The new GTX 980 Ti shares the same board as the more expensive Titan-X but with various restrictions including a reduced number of CUDA cores (3072 to 2816, -8.3%). Although the 980 Ti has the same 384-bit memory bandwidth as the Titan-X it only has 6GB of GDDR5 vs. 12GB in the Titan-X. So far we only have one user benchmark from a pre-release unit of the GTX 980 Ti so the following benchmarks are provisional. Comparing the Titan-X and 980 Ti shows that the Ti only lags by around 8%, which is in line with the CUDA core counts on the two cards. On the other hand comparing the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti shows that the Ti is around 16% faster. We don't have reliable prices for the GTX 980 Ti yet so a precise value rating isn't possible but as a card aimed at resolutions greater than 1080p it will struggle to match the GTX 970 for the vast majority of users. [May '15 GPUPro]

Nvidia GTX 970 $320

The Nvidia GTX 970 is a game changer in terms of performance per watt and value for money. The GTX 970 is based on Nvidia's ground-breaking Maxwell architecture which delivers considerable clock for clock performance gains over Kepler, its predecessor. Comparing the GTX 970 and 780 Ti shows that the two cards offer comparable performance yet the new GTX 970 costs nearly half as much! Unsurprisingly Nvidia are discontinuing the 780 Ti as it's now largely redundant. These price to performance gains typically occur once or twice a decade and although the new Maxwell architecture will improve down the line with the release of the Ti/Titan versions, at the moment the 970 offers the best value for money on the market by miles. Since this summary was originally written AMD have slashed prices and older Nvidia models (780/780 Ti/770) have also been hugely discounted. See the latest value for money rankings here[Jul '15 GPUPro]

Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $128

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 performance 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%. All of these drives effectively saturate SATA 3.0 making it near impossible to distinguish between them in day-to-day use. At current prices the 256GB 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 $85

The 250GB Samsung 850 Evo has a similar architecture to its older, and hugely successful 840 sibling. Both drives utilize TLC NAND and both sport a high speed Turbowrite cache (TWC) which buffers up to 3GB of writes. The TWC enables high burst write speeds but when the cache exhausts 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 250GB 850 Evo does put in superb benchmarks (second only to the 850 Pro) but these are only valid within the TWC. Users looking for more consistent performance should look elsewhere. At current price levels the 850 Evo struggles to compete with the value leaders[Dec '14 SSDrivePro]

WD Black 1TB (2013) $68

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 $46

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 $51

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 i7-4790K $308Nvidia GTX 970 $320Samsung 850 Pro 256GB $128Barracuda 7200.14 1TB $46SanDisk Extreme 64GB $35
Intel Core i5-4690K $230Nvidia GTX 980 Ti $660Samsung 850 Evo 250GB $85WD Black 1TB (2013) $68SanDisk Extreme 16GB $16
Intel Core i7-6700K $367AMD R9 390 $320Samsung 850 Evo 120GB $64Seagate Desktop SSHD 2TB $90Ultra Fit 32GB $11
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