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Benefits and Disadvantages of Dual Graphics Cards - Is It Worth It?

In many instances, two is better than one, and that’s no different for PCs. Some techies believe that having dual graphics cards is just as essential as several core processors. While reputable brands like NVIDIA and AMD provide options for running multiple cards, is it something you should factor into your gaming experience? Can a single card get the job done? Read on to find the answer to these valid questions, and more.

What Are the Requirements?

To use dual graphics cards, your PC requires NVIDIA or AMD technology that ties the cards to generate a single output. The graphics solution for NVIDIA is SLI, whereas that of AMD is CrossFire. For each, your PC must have a compatible motherboard with the required PCI Express graphics slots.

As a tip to discover whether or not a given motherboard supports more than one card, head over to its official product page and keenly go through the specs. Alternatively, you can keep an eye out for the SLI or crossfire symbol that the motherboard was packaged in.

These graphics cards also need a PC case that’s big enough to accommodate the additional hardware and a power supply. Moreover, they must be connected via a bridge connector that may be included with the motherboard or GPU. Lastly, the Crossfire or SLI feature must be activated in the GPU driver control panel.

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What Are the Benefits?

We’ve rounded up some of the perks that stem from using dual graphics cards.

  • Increased gaming performance: When at least two cards render the same 3D visuals, computer games run at higher resolutions with extra filters and greater frame rates. It’s this superior capacity that boosts the graphics quality in most games.
  • Higher resolutions: It’s no secret that single graphics cards of excellent quality can effortlessly handle games with up to 1080p resolutions. But, what you’re getting with more than one card is a higher resolution, thereby ushering in the possibility of utilizing newer technology. For instance, 4K displays that offer four times the resolution.
  • Facilitates upgrades: Using a CrossFire or SLI-compatible motherboard ushers in PC upgrades down the line without replacing the existing graphics card. You have free rein to throw a second card in the mix for enhanced performance without getting rid of the first one. Given that manufacturers typically upgrade these cards every 18 months, finding a compatible card after a two-year window can be an uphill battle.
  • Multiple monitor support: Dual graphics cards allow you to connect to multiple monitors concurrently. While this is not a necessity, it can enhance the gaming experience for some players.

What Is the Flipside?

While dual graphics cards have their perks, it’s a double-edged sword because there’s a flipside to them, as discussed below.

  • High running cost: Top of the range graphics dual cards cost at least $500. But, reputable brands like NVIDIA offer lower-priced options with dual capability. So, techies can spend the same amount of cash for a single card with superior performance to the lower-priced GPUs.
  • Compatibility issues: Not all games are compatible with more than one card. And, some graphics engines don’t mesh well with dual cards. Consequently, some games may exhibit decreased performance. In other instances, shuttering occurs, which makes the game look choppy.
  • Significant power consumption: Dual graphics cards are power-hungry to the point that they can double the amount of energy needed to run them in tandem. For instance, one high-end card may need a 600-watt power supply for proper functioning, whereas two of these cards may need 1000 watts. Furthermore, most PCs for home use aren’t equipped to deal with high-wattage. So, it’s essential to check your system’s power supply wattage to determine whether or not it’s compatible with multiple cards.
  • Performance: The efficacy of a dual-card environment varies based on a computer’s other components. Even with two of the most powerful cards, a low-end processor can throttle the amount of data that a PC supplies to the graphics cards. Therefore, they’re only suitable for top of the range computers.

So What are the Best Graphics Cards to Buy?

You can take your pick from any of the reviewed products below.

1. ASUS GeForce RTX 2070

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It’s powered by NVIDIA Turing that packs 1845 MHz Boost Clock, 8GB GDDR6 memory, and 2560 CUDA Cores. Supporting up to four monitors with one 2.0 HDMI port and three display outputs, the GeForce RTX 2070 is a killer card for the money. It offers IP5X dust-resistance and boosts airflow through the heat-sink courtesy of the three Axial-Tech fans. The backplate designed from sturdy aluminum keeps trace damage and PCB flex at bay.

2. EVGA GeForce GTX 1060

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Packed with innovative technologies, the GTX 1060 is the perfect option for the latest high-end games. Courtesy of NVIDIA Pascal, this product provides unmatched performance that paves the way for virtual reality (VR) and more. It also features the state-of-the-art ACX cooling technology that constitutes double ball bearings, swept fan blades, and a low power motor. Collectively, they provide increased airflow with reduced power, thus channeling more power to the GPU.

The GTX 1060 is compatible with systems that have a minimum power supply of 400 watts and operate on Windows 7, 8, and 10 (64/32-bit). Armed with a three-year warranty, Real Base Clock of 1607 MHz, and GDDR5 6144 MB memory, users get value for their money.

3. Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660

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With an array of cool features, the GTX 1660 stands out from the rest. For instance, it has a powerful photo mode feature that allows users to capture top-grade photos (HDR, Stereo, and 360-degree) of their games and share their excellent gaming experiences.

Courtesy of the dedicated hardware encoder, you’re assured of 15% better efficiency over older graphics card models. The GTX 1660 also optimized for Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), which ushers in topnotch live streaming on various platforms such as YouTube.

Armed with multiple outputs, the silent and efficient Wind-force 2X cooling system, 6GB memory, and an AORUS engine, you’ll be blown away by the overall performance. While the GTX 1660 shoots up to 144 FPS on games such as Destiny 2, it may not be compatible with games that need a stronger card.

To Wrap Up

For average computer users, dual graphics cards are not necessary. They only come in handy for those that stand to gain from an optimized 3D performance. But, if you decide to go down this route, then you must also be ready to shell out extra bucks for the appropriate motherboard. Ultimately, the ball is in your court. So, weigh the pros and cons and check out our reviewed products to permit an informed decision.


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Choosing the Best Power Supply Brand 2020 - The Best PSUs You Can Buy Today

When setting up a workstation, a power supply unit (PSU) should be one of the first things you consider installing. That's mostly because this component has to supply your computer's internal circuitry with the exact or almost exact voltage at the right wattage for everything to work properly. Computer processors and memories are sensitive that way. So choosing the best power supply brand is not a luxury but more of a necessity.

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Power Supply Brand

For a long time, the common notion has been that buying a PSU with a higher total wattage is the best way to get better performance. The truth is that huge PSUs with something like 1800W are very useful when it comes to running computers that have multiple drives and that perform the graphics-intensive application. The problem is that they are often quite expensive.

Most computers don't need that much power because they don't often run at full capacity anyway. For the most part, if you are running a PC that has mid-level processors, graphics cards and RAM, you probably won't need a PSU that has more than 600W. You can find out just how much you need by using online PSU power calculators.

That being said, here are some tips on what to look out for when shopping for the best power supply brand:

  • Look at the efficiency ratings: As a rule of thumb, highly efficient PSUs often have more effective components, thus making them consume less energy while producing less heat. This makes them much cheaper to operate. Look for PSUs that have an "80 Plus" certification signifying that they are at least 80% efficient.
  • Go for larger models: While they might be a little bulky, large PSUs have better cooling management and often run on advanced internal components making them more reliable.
  • Buy from a trusted brand: This should be a rule of thumb with every piece of machinery you buy. While this statement isn't a condemnation on lesser-known brands, the simple fact is that trusted brands tend to take their "household name status" more seriously. This means that they will go above and beyond to stand up to the test, and even when their components fail, as some inevitably will, these brands have better warranty terms and more robust customer service systems in place. This will greatly reduce your level of frustration and even save you from cutting your losses and running.

Now that you know what to pay close attention to, let's take a quick look at some of the best power supply units in the market today:

EVGA SuperNOVA P2: The Best Fully Modular PSU

evga supernova p2

The EVGA SuperNOVA P2 has 1000W, is fully modular, and has an 80 Plus certification, which puts it up there with the best of them. Being a fully modular PSU, this unit allows you to route only the cables that you need to use, thus creating less clutter by offering you better cable management opportunities.

Coming to you with a 10-year warranty, this machine is not only efficient but is also quite reliable. With that kind of wattage, it can power most PCs and even some heavy-duty gaming systems.

Pros:

  • It is very quiet
  • It can power most PCs
  • It is fully modular
  • It has a 10-year warranty

Cons:

  • While quiet and efficient, it does have a strange fan profile

Verdict: If you want something powerful enough to power a gaming system as well as most PCs, then this is the PSU for you. With the 10-year warranty and a reasonable enough price, the EVGA SuperNOVA P2 is an excellent buy.

Corsair RM750: The Best Low-Profile PSU

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As a brand, Corsair has a long history of making wonderful PSUs. The Corsair RM750, in particular, stands out because it has that highly welcome combination of having high-end features while remaining quite affordable. This PSU has 750W and is 80 Plus Gold Certified. It can deliver up to 92% energy efficiency, which makes it one of the cheapest PSUs to operate.

Equipped with fully modular cabling, a very quiet fan, high-quality capacitors, and a highly efficient "standby support" (can have the unit up and running in under five seconds from standby). Even when fully loaded, this unit is highly energy efficient.

Pros:

  • It has a low-profile, which saves space
  • Has high levels of energy efficiency
  • Has advanced standby support

Cons:

  • Only has a 5-year warranty which is half of what most competitors offer

Verdict: The beauty of buying this PSU is that it comes from a highly respected brand name that offers some legendary technical support should you need it. Once you buy this PSU, not only will you have an excellent machine, but you will also have lifetime access to that support.

Seasonic Prime Ultra 1300w: The Best High-End PSU

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The Seasonic Prime Ultra 1300w is truly a high-end PSU by any standard. For starters, it's a 1300W machine, which makes it powerful enough to power pretty much any PC and gaming unit that you may have. It also has an 80 Plus Gold Certification and the capability to run at up to 87% efficiency at full load (it runs at 90% efficiency when at 50% of the load).

The company has also handed over some of the fan control to you the user with their Premium Hybrid Fan Control system. This allows you to lower the overall fan noise to almost negligible levels. This is the right choice for high-performance systems thanks to its stability. It has full modular cabling and comes with a 12-year warranty, which shows you just how much faith the brand has in this product.

Pros:

  • It offers full modular cabling
  • It has an 80 Plus Gold Certification and can run at 87% efficiency when on 100% load and 97% efficiency when at 50% load
  • Comes with a 12-year warranty
  • It offers state-of-the-art fan control which makes it very quiet

Cons:

  • It might be too much for regular PCs

Verdict: If you are looking for a PSU that can run high-performance systems, then this is the right choice. Not only is it efficient, but it's also highly stable and even has a 12-year warranty.

FSP Dagger 550w: The Best Mini PSU

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With 550W, the FSP Dagger 550w isn't as powerful as the other PSUs on this list, but as mentioned earlier, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you don't need all that power, then buying a PSU of lower wattage might be the smart move to make financially.

This PSU has an 80 Plus Gold Certification and typically runs at 90% efficiency on almost all load levels. It has excellent modular cabling, is not very loud, and costs considerably less than the other options on this list.

Pros:

  • It is affordable
  • It is quite efficient with up to 90% efficiency on most load levels
  • It's small enough to save you a lot of space

Cons:

  • Only has a 3-year warranty

Verdict: If you are looking for something that works well, is efficient, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg, this is it.

These are some of the best power supply units in the market today. They all offer modular cabling, which is perfect for those who don't like clutter; they are all very efficient machines which save you money, and some of them offer decade long (even more) warranties, which shows you how much faith the brands have in their product. The best part is that they are mostly within reasonable price points.


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Upgrading Graphics Card – The Idiot's Guide to Buying a Graphics Card

There’s always a newer version of powerful apps and software, as well as exciting games, coming out almost yearly. But if your PC’s frame rate is slow, you'll have a less-than-pleasant experience using these high-resolution apps and games. If your screen stutters or if you experience screen lag and sometimes switch to using medium or low graphic settings to keep your PC running, then it is time to upgrade your graphics card.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy a smooth screen experience. And if your PC is giving you a “slideshow” instead of a smooth experience, you don’t have to be a tech wiz to upgrade your graphics card. This guide is written for you if you need to buy or upgrade a graphics card for your PC, but you don’t know a thing about graphic cards.

By the way, many people don’t know a great deal about graphic cards, so you are not alone. By the end of this guide, you will be able to determine precisely what graphics card is best for your PC and also learn the process of actually upgrading graphics card all in three simple steps. Spoiler alert: the process of upgrading a graphics card is not as daunting as it seems!

First things first; let’s go over the very basics of your PC. Don’t worry; we’re not delving into any details that are unnecessary for upgrading graphic cards. When you are familiar with the basic structure of your PC, you’ll discover that you can easily upgrade many components yourself.

Step 1: PC Basics

  • PC Case: This is the aluminum or steel frame that houses the various hardware components of your computer. Depending on the design of your PC case, you can open the case from one or both sides and slide off the side panel or even remove the entire case. You need to open the case to access the different hardware components inside. But before doing so, make sure to shut down your computer and disconnect every cable attached to it.

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  • Components: The components of your computer may not be exactly like the ones you've seen elsewhere, but certain essential components are common to all computers. These are:
      1. Motherboard
      2. RAM modules – Random Access Memory modules
      3. CPU – Central Processing Unit
      4. Graphics Card
      5. Storage Devices – SSD (Solid State Drives) or HDD (Hard Disk Drives)
      6. Cables
      7. Power Supply Unit

Compatibility

Now that you are familiar with the inside of your PC, it is time to know what graphics card is compatible with your system.

Every component inside the PC case is directly or indirectly connected to the motherboard. In most cases, graphics cards are plugged into the motherboard through a PCI-Express slot (you’ll see this mostly written as PCI-e). You should look out for the longest PCI-e slot on the motherboard with connectors popping out at the rear of the PC case. It is an x16 slot. In many cases, that’s where the graphics card goes.

Now go ahead and take a look inside your PC case. Remember to power off before opening the case. Can you locate the PCI-e slot? Check to see if it is a smaller slot meant for an x4 or lesser card. Unless you have a very old PC, it should come with a motherboard equipped with at least one PCI-e slot. Anything less might not give you the smooth gaming experience or higher performance you are looking for.

If you have determined that your motherboard has a compatible slot for a modern graphics card, then go ahead to the next step.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Graphics Card

Choosing a good card now means that you don’t have to upgrade your graphics card for a couple more years to come. But what is the right graphics card for your PC? There’s a bunch of graphics cards out there, and getting into the argument of which is better will do you no good.

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To save you the stress of debating which product is best, simply go through some online reviews of the primary graphics card (AMD and Nvidia). Doing this should help you decide which card to buy. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that the card you are choosing can run your games or programs smoothly. You can also test a card’s performance (benchmark) on many tech websites before making a purchase.

Budget Considerations

Perhaps one of the most important deciding factors in upgrading graphics card is your budget. How much you are willing to spend will determine the type of card you can buy and install. Generally, the higher the cost of the card, the more powerful it is. However, before buying a high-end graphics card, make sure that your processor can handle it. You shouldn’t buy a graphics card simply because you can afford it. For example, if you are looking to buy a graphics card in the range of $500 and above, your PC should have at least an overclocked Core i5 processor or a Core i7 processor.

Keep in mind also that it doesn’t make economic sense for the cost of upgrading your graphics card to be more than the worth of your entire PC. If you run a really old PC, perhaps a full system upgrade would be a better option.

Best Time to Buy

You don’t want to buy a card just before a new GPU launches. That’s about the worst time to purchase a new graphic card. Your best bet would be to make your purchase a short while (usually a few months) after a new GPU launches. This gives enough time for relative stability in stock and availability of the product.

Step 3: Installing

The most challenging part of upgrading your graphics card is deciding which card to buy and how much to spend on it. Now that you've gone past that, here comes the easiest part – the physical installation of the card. But before you plug your new graphics card into the PCI-e slot, get the following handy.

Tools

  • A set of screwdrivers. You’re going to need them for screwing and unscrewing – nothing complex, though. A Philips screwdriver is a great choice, but there’s no reason to split hairs if you don’t have it. Just use any good screwdriver.
  • A brush or vacuum cleaner. You will need them to get rid of dust from inside your PC. Of course, this is optional, but you might as well clean inside your PC since it is likely that you have been using it for several months or years now without cleaning inside.

Dust will certainly accumulate inside your PC after a long time, and not cleaning it can lead to performance issues and other problems. However, be careful not to hit or cause any damage to the components while cleaning and don’t clean it just yet. Simply get a brush or vacuum cleaner handy.

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Uninstall Drivers

It is now time to uninstall the programs (drivers) for your old graphics card. I would recommend using the free version of the Display Driver Uninstaller. Regardless of whether your old card was AMD or Nvidia, the Display Driver Uninstaller will remove the drivers completely. In some cases, using the AMD or Nvidia driver can leave behind some registry settings and files after uninstalling the drivers. But you can go ahead and use any uninstaller of your choice.

Once you are done uninstalling the drivers, shut down your computer and unplug the power cord. If your PC has a manual power switch (usually located at the back of the case), flip that off too. Now place your PC on a large-enough table and remove the case using a screwdriver if necessary. If there’s dust in there, it is time to clean it up.

Old Card Out… New Card In

Besides being plugged into the motherboard, in most cases, your graphics card is also secured with screws at the back of your PC case. Locate and unscrew the screws holding the card in place. Now disconnect the power connectors from the old graphics card.

Can you guess where your new card should go? In the slot where you just removed the old card, of course! Slide the new card into the empty PCI-e slot friendly and easy. Gently press it into the slot until it you hear it click into place. Now secure it with the screw from the old graphics card and then reconnect the 6-pin or 8-pin power connector from the power unit.

Always remember that when you are physically upgrading graphics card (or any other hardware component for that matter), excessive force is not necessary. The components are designed to fit in only one way, so there is no reason to force a piece of computer hardware into place. If it doesn't fit in easily, even when you apply slight pressure, you are probably plugging it the wrong way.

Booting Up

Piece back your PC so you can test your new card. Remember to reconnect all the cables you disconnected earlier and connect your monitor to the new graphics card. It is okay to hold off replacing the side panel of your PC case the first time you piece everything back together. This will save you the stress of having to start all over again to take apart your PC in case something doesn’t go right.

It will also let you see whether or not the fans of the graphics card spin as you power up your PC. Plug in all the peripherals and start your PC. It should start normally and load your operating system. If it doesn't start as it normally would, turn off your PC and make sure all connections are correctly in place.

Install Drivers

Finally, you need to download the latest drivers for your new graphics card. This is not a hard thing to do. Simply visit the website of your card's manufacturer, and you will find a download link for the latest drivers. Usually, the correct drivers for your card will be detected automatically. All you need to do is click install and wait for a few minutes while the drivers do their thing.

There you have it. Upgrading a graphics card is as simple as following these three steps. Now go ahead and load your favorite programs or games and enjoy a smooth experience!


Best Pre-Built Streaming PCs Under $1000

Best Pre-Built Streaming PC's Under $1000

If you’re looking to start getting into streaming, the first question on your mind is probably if your computer can handle it. Twitch and Mixer watchers have grown accustom to high resolution high FPS streams from top streamers.

When just starting out, you likely can’t afford seperate gaming and streaming PCs, each with a 2080Ti. Here’s our top 5 favorite pre-built computers for streaming, all under $1000.

Two Important Aspects for Streaming

1. CPU:

While a number of different parts are needed to make a solid gaming PC, the specs needed for the best streaming PC under $1000 are slightly more specific. Perhaps the most important part is a quality CPU, with Twitch recommending an Intel Core i5-4670 processor (or AMD equivalent) as a bare minimum for streaming. For streaming, the CPU will have to handle running both the game you are playing and the background streaming software at the same time. This means the CPU will often have a greater impact on your stream quality than your GPU. 

2. Internet Speed: 

The most expensive PC build will fail to offer an acceptable stream if you skimp on your internet speed. Twitch’s Broadcasting Guidelines suggest around 4,500-6,000 kilobits per second to stream 1080p at 60fps, and 3,500-5000kbps for 1080p at 30fps. Measured in upload speed, you should shoot for at least 3MB per second to deliver a quality stream to your audience. For the best results, a wired ethernet connection is prefered to a wifi connection.

Our Top Recommendations for Streaming PCs Under $1000

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

1. iBUYPOWER Element 9260 - Premium option

  • CPU: Intel i7-9700F 3.0Ghz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • Ram: 16Gb DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SSD, 1TB HDD

In a market saturated with DIY PC builds, the iBUYPOWER Element 9260 shows just how competitive pre-builds can be. With the Element 9260s i7-9700F being one of the best CPUs on the market for the price, this build will have every bit of power you need to run a quality stream without any slowdown issues. If you’re still feeling hesitant on the i7-9700F, the CPU can be boosted to a whopping 4.7GHz in the BIOS. Coupled with NVIDIA’s GTX 1660Ti, the Element 9260 can crush any triple AAA title with ease at 1080p. Upon testing, the build performed admirably even at 1440p, something many of the more budget pre-builds struggled with.

In terms of memory, the Element 9260 holds a comfortable 240GB SSD and 1TB HDD. We found that 240GB of SSD was more than enough space to store our operating system as well as a few of our favorite games. All of this alongside a healthy 16GB of RAM storage. With storage being one of the first parts that PC companies will skimp on to cut costs for pre-builds, we felt the storage space of the Element 9260 was more than sufficient for all our gaming and streaming needs.

In addition to these top-tier specs for a sub $1000 build, the Element 9260 also comes with a host of additional offerings, including pre-installed RGB fans, a PSU shroud for cable management, a tempered glass case, and even a keyboard and mouse included with the PC. 

2. SkyTech Archangel - Budget Option

  • CPU: Ryzen 1200 3.1GHz Quad-Core
  • GPU:  GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
  • Ram: 8Gb DDR4 2400
  • Storage: 1TB HDD

If the Element 9260 showcases everything possible in a sub $1000 build, SkyTech’s Archangel desktop PC build proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune for a solid streaming PC. With its futuristic, Sci-fi esque design, the Archangel continues to be a real head-turner when it comes to PC aesthetics. This large tower features a black set of tapering lazy-black covers to contrast its white case, all accented with a striking pair of LED angel eyes shining through the black panels. The case also features a portion of tempered glass along the side, allowing owners a view of the internals inside the case. 

(Note: We found the case to be quite large compared to others on our list, so desktop users without a lot of space may find it difficult to fit the Archangel on their desk). 

When it comes to streaming power, the Archangel puts out some surprising benchmarks given the price point. The Archangel’s Ryzen 1200 CPU straddles a middle ground between an i5 and i7 in terms of CPU power. We found the GPU to provide a similar middle of the road experience, with a solid performance at 1080p but notable slow down at higher resolutions. 

Our biggest complaint is the build’s lack of a SSD, though given the price point we felt this was preferable to a cut in performance to the CPU or GPU. SkyTechs inclusion of a keyboard and mouse was a nice touch to offset the lack of an SSD, though any serious gamers will eventually want to upgrade from the stock kbm combo included within the build. 

3. HP Pavilion i5-9400F

  • CPU: Intel i5-9400F 2.9GHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • Ram: 16Gb DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD

With HPs prevalence in laptops and work desktops, it’s no surprise to see them entering the PC gaming market. While we’re not convinced they’re about to corner the market on gaming desktops, the HP Pavilion i5-9400 offers a nice compromise between price and performance. While we can’t recommend this HP if your goal is turning up the graphics to ultra with 4k resolution on the newest 2020 AAA title, the i5-9400F has enough power to play and stream many less graphically-demanding scenarios without hiccups. With a max CPU output of 4.1GHz when boosted through the BIOS, we still felt the HP deserved a place on our list for best streaming builds under $1000. 

Boasting several features lacking in the other builds on our list, the HP Pavilion i5-9400F comes with 5.1 surround sound enabled, making it an ideal setup for anyone planning on using their PC for home entertainment purposes. It also comes with a USB-C slot, something notably missing on the other builds, making it slightly more “future-proof” as more and more PC and phone manufacturers switch to USB-C for charging and data transfer. The build also comes with a keyboard and mouse combo.

*Note: Due to the HP’s small size, we were unable to find space within the case for upgrading parts. This means the PC’s specs are more or less locked at their current benchmarks without room for future upgrades.*

4. CYBERPOWERPC Xtreme VR

  • CPU: Intel i5-9400F 2.9GHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • Ram: 8Gb DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SSD, 1TB HDD

While all of the previous builds have fallen across a wide spectrum of gaming and streaming benchmarks, the CYBERPOWER PC Xtreme VR adds a new element unique to the list. VR specialization. Able to run most games at very respectable graphical settings, the Xtreme VR is a strong contender for any streamers interested in VR games. With the i5-9400F being one of the most widely available CPUs on the market, we’re confident that the Xtreme VR won’t struggle under the load of a dozen chrome tabs while Hulu streams videos in the background. 

Beyond its VR capabilities, the Xtreme VR features a tempered glass case, a beautiful set of built-in RGB lights, and a large case spacious enough to easily allow for future upgrades. Given that one of our complaints for the build is lack of RAM space, the possibility of a future upgrade to the RAM is a nice consolation. 

5. SkyTech Blaze II

  • CPU: Ryzen 5 2600 6-Core 3.4GHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • Ram: 8Gb DDR4
  • Storage: 500GB SSD

While the SkyTech Archangel took the spot for best budget streaming build, the SkyTech Blaze II features a number of big improvements to justify the price jump from its budget counterpart. With a powerful CPU capable of being boosted to 3.9GHz, the Blaze II can handle the full gamut of streaming needs with its Ryzen 5 2600 6-Core processor. The Blaze II also represents a significant graphical upgrade from the Archangel. As a reference, you can play Far Cry 5 with 93FPS at 1080p with the Blaze II, while the Archangel came in at around 45fps at 1080p. The Blaze II even handled many games at 1440p without dropping many frames, something we couldn’t achieve with our budget picks. 

*Note: While you can achieve relatively high graphical benchmarks in our games, there is a significant increase in noise from the fans to compensate for the additional load on the PC*

Regarding aesthetics, the Blaze II comes in a steel case with tempered glass with RGB internals and professional cable management, making this subtly attractive build an easy contender for a great streaming prebuild. 

Conclusion: 

For the best streaming PC under $1000, you’ll have to make some decisions about which PC components you’re willing to compromise on in order to maximize your PC’s performance. In order to have full streaming capability at a 1080p minimum, these decisions will inevitably come in the form of reduced storage space, the need to buy quality peripherals separately, or an inability to upgrade the existing build due to space restrictions. Ultimately, the best PC pre-build for you will depend on the types of games you wish to play and any intended uses for the PC outside of streaming. If nothing but the best will handle your future streaming intentions, then the iBUYPOWER Element 9260 distinguished itself as the best, full-featured streaming build under $1000. For anyone on a strict budget, the Skytech Archangel served admirably as an entry-level streaming prebuild at a great price. For any streamers envisioning a VR focus to their stream, the CYBERPOWERPC Xtreme VR is our obvious choice. 


What Is a Good Ghz? How to Choose the Best CPU in 2020

What Is a Good Ghz? Choosing the Best CPU in 2020

It’s widely known that the single most expensive component is the graphics card, and many gamers and streamers spend copious amounts of time researching the best graphics load-outs. Less significantly well researched and relatively unknown is the what and how behind CPU terms.

The CPU is a component that breaks the usual “bigger is better” trend that shopper brains like. Instead, you have to compare generations with architecture and in the matter of what is a good GHz, the downside of heat accrual.

Every year new chips hit the market with tweaks in the sizes, speeds, and reliability. Most of this means only gradients to the public but takes some serious engineering on the back end.

If you want to make an informed choice when it comes to your next CPU, keep reading.

Understanding CPU Terms

To get a proper grasp of what’s going on with a system, it’s good to start with the key terms.

Socket Type

Have you ever purchased a CPU motherboard combo deal out of fear of getting mismatched components? No? You only did it for the savings?

Not every CPU fits in the same motherboard. The socket type tells you what generation of processor is will fit. Typically this is constrained by the dimensions of the chip and the arrangement of pins.

The two most common socket types currently are the Intel LGA 1151 and the AMD AM4.

Your motherboard choice also determines your RAM choices.

Generation

Much like the generations of cell phone technology, the terminology isn’t strictly relevant to major updates or changes. For the most part, generation refers to changes in underlying architecture, how the chip is laid out and configurations of memory modules and instructions.

Higher generations don’t always boost performance but provide a larger overhead for other components to use.

For Intel users, your basement is the 7th gen and your newer purchases should aim for 9th gen. For AMD Ryzen users, look for 2nd or 3rd generation, though announcements on the 4th generation are expected before 2020.

3, 5, 7?

Also, the number 9 is showing up more in these lists, but you get the idea. Both Intel and AMD use these numbers to indicate families of processors.

The 3 line offers basic performance for workstations. The 5 sees a lot of mixed and gaming use. The 7s end up in high-end machines and the 9s aren’t worth it unless you happen to be doing your own rendering or asset creation.

Depending on the generation, power consumption, and speed not every 3 is worse than every 5 and so on.

Cores and Threads

The more cores a CPU offers, the more it can do. The doing is performed by threads which always come in pairs with the cores.

More cores and more threads generally mean more tasks can be handled simultaneously, but an Intel 1151 CPU with 4.1 GHz speed and 4 cores will do a small set of tasks faster than a 2.3 GHz 6 core processor.

Base Clock

Which takes us to the basic clock and the speeds it runs at (before all that spiffy overclocking). The base clock represents the idle speed in billions of pulses per second (GHz).

The higher the base clock, the more power draw and the hotter the chip gets. No getting around it, it’s a basic principle of conductance.

What is a Good GHz?

There’s a direct translation between a boost in GHz and a boost in the performance of CPU-intensive processes.

The number of GHz doubling on the same number of cores would mean roughly twice the speed. There are a few other aspects that will push those numbers up and down, including the frequency of RAM but generally, the math holds.

It gets more challenging when you factor in other cores. A 2.0 GHz 6 core CPU versus a 3.0 GHz 4 core CPU isn’t a level field. Even assuming they are both running a single task, depending on the architecture and processing allocation, they may handle things differently.

That said, it’s better to go with a higher GHz as long as your cooling can handle it. The power consumption of a 2.0 GHz chip versus a 4.0 GHz chip of the same cores also doubles.

Overclocking

The ratio between the base clock and the boost clock or overclock is not the same from chip to chip. This also comes down to the architecture and how well the voltage travels through a chip.

You may find it easier to overhead a chip on one motherboard over another. While some types of overclocking are fairly basic, there’s a reason that the process voids warranties and isn’t recommended for everyone. That reason has nothing to do with making sentient machines and everything to do with frying chips. It takes a lot of tweaking to do right.

Cost Concerns

The best way to evaluate the difference in GHz to your needs is to start with a baseline chip that meets the minimum recommendations on a game or program. From there, calculate the difference in price to the next chip up in the same family.

If the GHz goes up by more than the cost, that’s going to give you the best value hardware. If you are paying 20% more for a chip that is 5% faster, you are doing yourself a disservice.

CPU by Slot

For those running an overpowered AMD TR4 motherboard, get yourself a Threadripper 2950X and enjoy having more power than you know what to do with at the third-highest base clock of any chip out there.

For anyone looking to run a serious gaming rig, the AMD AM4 slot Ryzen 7 3700x brings the right number of cores and a 3.7 GHz base clock to you.

For an Intel purist, the LGA 1151 socket Core i7 9700k gives you that 3.7 GHz base and some extra headroom for content creation.

For those looking to do content creation and rendering of their own graphics and assets, the LGA 2066 socket Core 19-7900x gives you a solid 3.3 GHz base for the 10 core chip.

Build Right

Nowhere else in a build or a streaming setup do you have to make as many tight choices as with the CPU. While you can watch a dozen benchmark videos and read a lot of reviews, the real answer lies in what you use it for and what annoys you about computers.

When it comes to what is a good GHz if you hate noise and don’t mind slow processing the answer is a 2.8 GHz base. If you love speed and wear a headset anyway, shoot for that 4.6 GHz and higher sweet spot.

Once you know the speed of the processor you want, it’s time to decide between AMD & Intel.


AMD vs. Nvidia — Which Is the Better Graphics Card Option?

AMD vs. Nvidia — Which Is the Better Graphics Card Option?

Looking to buy your first graphics card?

Graphics cards are among the most vital parts of PC building. Building a gaming PC without one will only result in a giant paper weight that can’t even run minecraft.

When deciding which graphics card to buy, you will find yourself confronted with 2 choices. You can either go with AMD or with Nvidia.

Choosing between AMD vs. Nvidia is a choice that most people have trouble with. This is because they don’t understand what a graphics card does. This can happen to you, too, if you know nothing about these two brands.

Read below to learn which graphics card is the best option for you. We’ll compare each of them in the factors that matter the most.

1. Hardware

Nvidia comes on top because of the quality of their hardware.

Their cards don’t overheat as much as AMD’s do. They also consume less power, leading to a more efficient graphics card.

They also have a slimmer design compared to AMD graphics cards. This isn’t much of a factor, but the design choice may matter when installing the card into your PC.

Nvidia has the technological edge over AMD in every factor.

You shouldn’t disregard AMD graphics cards yet, though. They have a better memory bandwidth on their low-cost cards compared to the ones Nvidia sells at the same value. While they still overheat and consume more power than Nvidia cards, know that the gap between the two companies is getting smaller every year.

AMD got a big leap in their sales when they introduced the 7-nanometer workstation graphics card, the first-ever of its kind.

2. Software

Despite the large gap they have with their hardware, both brands are at a tie with their software.

Both brands do their due diligence in giving people their money’s worth. They both have proper drivers and user interfaces that fit the bill at which they’re sold.

Nvidia has a slight lead in their drivers, though. They have better consistency and are more stable overall. This will help keep your hardware updated and your PC visuals optimized.

AMD isn’t that far behind, though. Nvidia only has a slight lead because of their reputation.

Other than that, though, Nvidia has nothing else going on for their software.

This is clear in their user interfaces. Nvidia’s interface looks outdated compared to the clean, modern interface that AMD has. This makes the AMD control panel easier to understand for people who aren’t familiar with it.

Nvidia’s interface looks complicated. This is because of all the drop-down tabs it has that makes navigation difficult. You won’t know what you’re doing unless you have experience handling their software.

3. Performance and Prices

Choosing between AMD vs. Nvidia comes down to the graphics cards’ performance.

The performances of the brands are both affected by the price of the graphics card. This sets a clear divide that tells us which brand is better at what price.

For products at the low end of the spectrum, you can find AMD cards to be better. As mentioned above, their products are seeing a great increase in efficiency and reliability. You’ll be able to see this improvement in their cheaper products.

Nvidia also has products that perform like AMD’s graphics cards. Though they cost much more than the latter does. It’s often AMD that makes you feel you’ve spent your money in the best way possible for cheaper graphics cards.

This makes AMD a more viable option when you’re planning to have a multiple display setup. Monitors need little to be appealing to your eyes. They only need a good enough graphics card to display sharper images and colors.

With mid-range graphics cards, though, Nvidia will favor you more than AMD.

Nvidia has a better understanding of high-end processors and GPUs. AMD may cost less and offer the same specs, but their graphics cards will heat and burn out faster.

It makes Nvidia the only option when you’re running a high-end setup for your PC. They’ll cost you more, but you can expect their products to keep up with how you use them.

4. Features

Both brands have unique features for their graphics cards.

They also have the same features but with different names for each brand. Take the Nvidia CUDA cores and AMD stream processors as an example.

Both are GPUs that perform the same function. They have no notable differences in performance when they’re running their basic functions. Nvidia has better software optimization, though, with the Nvidia PhysX and Nvidia HairWorks available at the user’s discretion.

Both brands also have recording features. They function the same way but with small differences. Nvidia’s Shadowplay offers better video quality.

AMD’s ReLive is better for streaming, though. It faces fewer crashes when you’re streaming and it doesn’t interfere with as many applications. Consider getting a capture card if you want to use these features.

They also have their replacements for vertical synchronization. This is the feature that prevents screen tearing when you’re running applications in full screen. Both features that each company offer have a lot of positives including having no input-lag and increased screen refresh rates.

A notable advantage that Nvidia has is its upcoming 5G integration.

This will put Nvidia back on top if they will release it soon. This will mean that Nvidia’s support will have better connectivity with their customers should they have any problem with the software.

Choose Between AMD vs. Nvidia Today

Picking between AMD vs. Nvidia is a difficult choice if you don’t know what you’re getting.

Choose the right graphics card for your setup with the help of our guide! Make the right choice and optimize your PC today!

After you’ve chosen your graphics card, you’ll be faced with another key decision: an AMD or Intel processor.


AMD vs Intel Values Compared: Which Processor Is Better for 2020?

AMD vs Intel Values Compared: Which Processor Is Better for 2020?

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, around 80 percent of gaming PCs run Intel CPUs. For years, Intel and Nvidia were the way to go. But now, with the new Ryzen 3000-series CPUs, people are starting to question Intel’s value.

Going into 2020, you’d be right to wonder which CPU truly offers the best value. For the first time in years, AMD is outselling Intel CPUs. The Ryzen 5 3600 alone is selling more than the entire line of Intel CPUs.

Is now the right time to make the jump? In this article, we’re going to compare AMD and Intel value and let you know which CPU belongs in your new machine.

Ready to find out which CPU should be part of your streaming equipment? Then read on!

Intel vs AMD: Price and Power

Speaking generally, AMD offers superb power to those on a budget.

The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X undercuts Intel’s value dramatically. The AMD processor offers twice as many processing threads and the MSRP cost is $50 less than its competitor, the i7-9700K.

If you need to use your processor for CPU intensive activities like rendering, AMD CPUs generally offer far more cores than Intel. The 12-core AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is available for just $499 MSRP, yet it competes with Intel’s $1199 i9-9920X.

If you’re after budget power, AMD will typically beat Intel on value. However, there are some exceptions.

Single-Core Performance

In terms of single-core performance, Intel stomps AMD. This isn’t an issue for a lot of applications, but there will be some which will run better on Intel than AMD.

If single-core power is a top priority of yours, the i9-9900K will smash an AMD Threadripper 2970WX.

Graphics

Pitting integrated graphics against a dedicated GPU would have gotten you laughed out of the room in the past. For example, if you were to look at Intel HD Graphics vs Nvidia GPUs, the GPUs would have humiliated them.

Perhaps not for much longer.

Intel value is up with Ice Lake. These processors, which are designed for ultrabooks, offer integrated graphics on par with a low/medium-spec graphics card. For example, if you want to play Fortnite, you can!

AMD Ryzen CPUs have been offering a decent graphical solution for budget gamers, but Intel could have them beaten soon. This is particularly the case with all Intel CPUs featuring onboard graphics, while only certain AMD CPUs do.

Overclocking Capabilities

One of my best gaming PCs ran an i5-3750K, overclocked to 4.5 GHz. Back then, AMD wasn’t even in the running. Today, AMD tends to offer better value to overclockers.

You can overclock a whole host of AMD CPUs. Only select Intel CPUs (those whose model numbers end in a K) can be overclocked.

It’s true that Intel CPUs can usually run faster with their Turbo Boost technology, however. The i9-9900K can go up to 5 GHz from a base speed of 3.6, compared to the Ryzen 7 3800’s max speed of 4.5 GHz from a base of 3.9.

If you’re looking for a great budget gaming solution, which you can overclock to your heart’s content, AMD is the company for you. They are dominating the overclocking market and crushing Intel’s value.

True Value: AMD and the Decline of Intel Value

If value is important to you, AMD is the clear winner here.

Sure, Intel’s value is better for single-core performance but AMD’s included goodies just help edge it out.

For example, if you buy a Ryzen 3 3200G, you also get a 1200 MHz Vega GPU. This APU is cooled by a Wraith Stealth cooler. Go for the Ryzen 5 3400G and you get a Wraith Spire cooler.

The Wraith coolers are fantastic value and far better than most stock heatsinks. You don’t get anything like as good a heatsink on Intel CPUs.

They are a better proposition for gamers too. The number of cores on some of the Ryzen CPUs is insane and will help you hit high framerates in any game you care to name. The clock speeds may not be as high, but you’ll barely notice.

Hardware Compatibility

One area where AMD does come a cropper is with hardware compatibility. Due to Intel’s market dominance, AMD motherboards and heatsinks can be tricky to find.

Some heatsinks will require you to purchase an AM4 bracket to fit them to a Ryzen. A lot of motherboards will not fit AM4 chipsets at all. You’re going to have to shop around if you want to find top quality tech components that are compatible with AMD.

The Verdict

AMD used to be something of a laughing stock. Not anymore. Today, their combination of sheer value has smashed Intel’s value as a gaming CPU into the dust.

They are powerful, cheap, and feature enough cores for anything you could care to do. If you’re building a new gaming PC, there is no alternative: the Ryzen is where it’s at.

AMD and Intel FAQs

We’ve reached a verdict, but we’re sure you have questions. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the most common ones.

I’m Not Comfortable Overclocking: Which is Better Value?

If you don’t want to overclock your CPU, Intel CPUs are not worth it. AMD CPUs offer a lower price point and sufficient power for your needs.

Is AMD Better for Streaming?

This is a definite yes. If you’re going to be streaming, AMD’s increased number of cores will help you multitask more efficiently.

Can I Pair an AMD CPU and an Nvidia GPU?

Your computer’s CPU and GPU run independently of each other. There is no need to run an AMD CPU with a Radeon GPU.

Final Thoughts

Intel’s value is under severe attack by AMD, and that’s a fantastic thing. Competition is good for business, and we, as consumers, can get a far better deal.

For those looking to build a futureproofed computer, AMD is the answer. It may run slightly slower in terms of single-core performance, but that’s not going to trouble many. We wholeheartedly recommend grabbing an AMD chip for your new build.


Best Graphics Cards for 2020. Plus How Long Do Graphic Cards Last?

Best Graphics Cards for 2020. Plus How Long Do Graphic Cards Last?

With the cryptocurrency mining rig shortage of 2017 fading into rearview, it’s no longer a blood-letting to purchase a graphics card. The downside of this boom in availability is now you have to make a real decision on what card to slot into your rig.

Adding to this difficulty is the question, “how long do graphics cards last?” Should you ride how a sub-par card for a price drop or upgrade now. Buyers remorse and the grass is always greener hit hard with every decrease you push in quality settings.

Graphic card choice also suffers from what is good enough to what is worth it for the near future. Especially as AMD and Nvidia fight to achieve that coveted real-time ray tracing power.

This guide offers some nuts and bolts advice on how to choose a card and what to look for in performance and longevity. If you want the TLDR, our overall choice for perfomance is the RTX 2080TI.

Jump to Graphics Card Recommendations →

Jump to Graphics Card Life Expectancy →

Breaking Down GPU by Features

One of the easiest mistakes in buying a graphics card is to just grab something because it’s expensive. The idea that high price means high performance has its roots, but it misses the point of every other thing component you put in a gaming rig.

You want components that provide the performance you need, and that work well together. Rig building is every bit as much about nuance and knowledge as souping-up a car. Balance and knowledge are key.

Know what you want in each of these areas to pick up a GPU that will deliver without breaking the rest of your build.

Ray Tracing

Many cards claim to have the ability to perform real-time ray tracing. Outside of the newer RTX cards and the AMD Navi, what you get is upscaled rasterization. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with rasterization for another couple of years as long as the specs let you hit your target quality.

Video Memory Type

The first place to think about longevity, in particular, is with the VRAM. Your GTX 1000 line uses DDR5, the pinch point for that aforementioned mining snafu. The newer RTX cards are looking at GDDR6 or going into the HBM2 realm with Navi and 7nm Vega 2.

The thing to be concerned about is the speed of your processor and how it handles RAM. Running a GTX 2080 through an i5th gen or lower chip will bottleneck your performance severely.

Display Ports

The next most common error in purchasing a top of the line card is not accounting for the display ports. Most new GPU support display input or HDMI. It’s getting harder to find a card with DVI-D and almost nothing covers VGA.

An adapter will at least let you use an older monitor, but you lose a lot of quality in doing so.

Size

The card needs to fit in your case, not break the slot off your board, and not ram into your fans. Measure your case and pay attention to the height and length of any new card to avoid this embarrassing error.

Heat and Noise

Water cooling GPUs is still a newer thing, it saves you some noise but tests are iffy on if it saves you much in the way of centigrade. Blower-style cards have some great temp control but are not the option for an on top of the desk rig.

Remember that coil whine, while annoying, isn’t detrimental to your card and can happen to any card of any manufacture.

Best in Power

 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

To get the best in 4k ready, UWHD performance for the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 or next evolution in CoD you need a serious card.

This means you are looking to pick up an Nvidia 2080 Super or the RTX 2080 Ti. If you are an AMD fan or are interested to see how well the Radeon RX 5700 XT stacks up, the answer is a bit murky. The next line of AMD CPUs will play nicer with the Radeon cards and are outpacing their Intel counterparts.

If you are pushing for extra power for streaming, consider swapping to a second PC setup with a better capture card to bridge performance gaps.

Best in Price

 

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For the budget-minded shopper, the GTX 1660 Super ($300 range) and the Radeon RX 590 ($200) will get you to a 1080p experience fast.

For a bit more you can look for the RX 5500 early in 2020 which also upgrades to DDR6 VRAM.

Best for Space

 

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If you have a micro ATX build that needs a GPU to fit in a small form case, the GTX 1650 comes in a variety of smaller units. Though if you are going really small, the RX 570 has a few manufacturers that come in under 11 by 8.

For a budget card for a small case, the GTX 1050 Ti has a few low-profile options that make for a solid travel machine.

How Long Do Graphics Cards Last?

Obviously, in asking this question you are asking about a full-load and at 8+ hours a day. If you game once a week on Sunday to get to and from church, then you have no business buying your own components, j/k.

The thing is, a card will last you longer than you care for it to last. Even at full load, a GPU has a five-year lifecycle. That’s before the heat starts to get to it and it starts to suffer from decreases in performance. Fans or other cooling may give out sooner, depending on friction and vibrations.

A five-year-old card still functions perfectly well. And you might have fun pulling some old GT750s out of some rig somewhere bought used, but that card isn’t going to run a 3D FPS in 2020.

Sadly, three years is the most you can expect to get out of a card to maintain enough power to run a newer game at even medium settings.

Build Yours

That should do you on an upload of information for selecting your next best GPU for an upgrade or new build. Since the GPU still costs almost half of a solid gaming build budget, asking how long do graphics cards last remains an important question.

For more reviews or information on the builds used by your favorite streamers, check out our knowledge base on the PC specs of top Mixer and top Twitch streamers.