It's back! And this time for real. Our once-monthly Hardware Buyer's Guide returns today on a new, (roughly) quarterly schedule. Back in the day, our recommendations would rarely change month to month, until a major launch forced a rethink across the board. However, there's usually at least one or two launches that shake the market up within a given quarter, so each buyer's guide should now be both relevant to the latest tech but also different to the guide that came before it.
Shamefully, it's been over three years since our last Hardware Buyer's Guide, so recommendations have been built from scratch to take account of the many CPUs, graphics cards and other components that have launched since then. We'll not waste many more words on preamble, but for those new to the guide, we'll first give an overview of how it works.
One thing we're very keen to get is your feedback; not just on the component selections but also on the format and how we can make this guide better suited to your needs, be it in terms of layout, the budgets we're aiming for or anything else that comes to mind. We only request that you be realistic in your feedback – there simply isn't time to suggest dozens of systems for multiple niche usage scenarios and the primary focus here is always going to be on gaming.
How the PC Hardware Buyer's Guide Works
We've specced up four full systems targeting users with different needs and budgets. For each one, we list the components, the rough/average price you should expect to pay for them individually (you may be able to find components for less by shopping around) and an overall total price indicating the budget for that particular PC. Prices, of course, are subject to fluctuations (especially at the moment for anyone in the UK), so we don't keep the guides updated with live pricing information. However, the overall budgets are far enough apart that you'll be able to gauge the most suitable system for you.
A run-down of the systems is as follows:
Affordable All-Rounder – A very budget-conscious system that'll still be responsive, powerful enough for everyday tasks and have plenty of 1080p gaming potential as well as a solid upgrade path.
Enthusiast Gamer – A system designed to offer excellent bang for buck, not just right now but for a good few years to come. This will be a suitable PC for heavy multi-taskers and gamers looking to game comfortably at 1080p or even 1440p with maximum or close to maximum settings. It'll also be capable of powering virtual reality headsets.
Premium Player – A system for those who want the latest and greatest kit to deliver a premium 4K or VR gaming experience. It's less budget-conscious than the rest, but we're not looking to waste money on unnecessary extravagance.
Pocket Rocket – Who needs a massive tower PC these days anyway? Here's a system for small form factor fans out there featuring mini-ITX hardware that delivers epic performance in a tiny footprint.
As ever, it's important to note that the buyer's guide isn't something designed to be taken as gospel. Firstly, we strive to only include hardware that we've personally reviewed or at least had hands-on experience with, as we wouldn't want to recommend anything we can't vouch for ourselves. In the event of an exception to this, we'll always make clear the reasoning behind our choices, and rest assured that our reasoning is based on years of experience with all manner of brands and components. Also, it's not only designed for those looking to build entire systems; even if you just want to upgrade your system in one or two key areas, there's plenty of information to help you pick the best choice, including possible alternative selections if you have slightly different needs.