PC Master Race: The Best Gaming Rigs Right Now

PC Master Race: The Best Gaming Rigs Right Now

Your “next-gen” console can’t do this

Sad but true: Sony and Microsoft’s so-called next-generation gaming consoles don’t seem very next-gen at all, with a slew of top games locked at 30 fps and still struggling to hit even 1080p resolutions. Even entry-level PC graphics cards can pull that off, years ago. Some developers seem to also be pretending that there is firepower in these consoles.

But I’m not here to harsh on consoles. Instead, I’m celebrating just how good we PC enthusiasts have it, basking in glorious, face-melting excess that’s possible only on PCs: Breaking benchmarks with AMD and Nvidia’s top graphics cards, building audacious rigs, and showcasing graphically beautiful—and PC-punishing—games.

There’s truly never been a better time to be a PC gamer. Buckle up.

Graphics card extravaganza

But first, I wanted to lay an age-old question to rest: Team Red or Team Green? I explored AMD and Nvidia’s most powerful single-GPU cards—the GeForce GTX 980 and 970, and AMD’s Radeon R9 290X and R9 290.

Alas, the results are mixed. Nvidia’s new GeForce cards prevail in both performance and power efficiency, but AMD’s Radeons offer better bang for buck and compelling extras—like the performance-boosting Mantle technology and a few free games.

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AMD’s premier graphics card plummets to $300

The cost of Radeon R9 290X graphics cards plummeted even further, with some models dropping as low as $300—an insanely compelling sticker price.

To put that in perspective, the R9 290X (as viewed below)—easily one of the most powerful graphics cards available today—was selling for $500 just a month ago, prior to the GTX 980 launch. And even at the lower prices, Radeon R9 290X cards are still eligible for AMD’s Never Settle game bundles. I can’t remember a flagship graphics card ever selling for such a low price.

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Building with only the best

With the graphics-card supremacy question semi-satisfactorily settled, I explored what contains the best single components money can buy. Nvidia’s GTX 980 won the graphics card slugfest, and I paired that beating heart with the best set of computing brains available today: the Core i7-5960X “Haswell-E,” Intel’s first eight-core desktop CPU and an all-around beast.The Haswell-E platform supports bleeding-edge DDR4 memory.

Pure, face-melting PC gaming power

How do you follow that up? Simple: by building a rig designed purely around sheer gaming firepower. A blistering build is centered around the Core i7-4790K, a “Devil’s Canyon” enthusiast chip that holds the crown as Intel’s single fastest-clocked processor ever. Completing the tag-team is AMD’s ludicrous Radeon R9 295X2, a gaming monster powered by not one, but two high-end “Hawaii” graphics processors.

This rig roars. Just how fast is it? You’ll have to read the full build guide for those details.

A desktop GPU for laptops

Alienware relaunched its iconic Area 51 desktop this week in a funky triangular new form factor—but the more interesting news was the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, basically a PCIe x4 slot in a box with an integrated 460W power supply. This bad boy’s whole reason for existence is to house a desktop graphics card that can supercharge your Alienware 13 laptop via a (ewwww) proprietary connector.

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Yes, it sucks that the Alienware Graphics Amplifier won’t work with any laptop. But unlike previous attempts at “graphics box” accessories, this one’s not vaporware—it’s shipping now for $300. And the idea is just so cool.

Gorgeous, graphically punishing games

With graphical firepower this overwhelming at your fingertips, there’s only one thing left to do: Play some games! Stay tuned and follow this blog to find out which games will push your graphics card to its fullest potential. You’re in for some delicious eye candy that living room consoles will never, ever be able to touch.