The BEST (& Worst!) PC Hardware Of 2019!
Eber: Well hello good people, Eber here from Hardware Canucks, and Mike is a cause here too this time. Today we are going to be discussing the best and worst PC hardware of 2019. How was 2019 for you Mike, was it better this year compared to last year in terms of PC hardware?
Mike: From a PC hardware perspective – because I do a lot of the benchmarking – I think it was a great year. It was the year that AMD came back and really just put the screws to Intel, and Intel had absolutely nothing to respond with. By the way, I did want to mention something very quickly. We haven’t reviewed every single item that’s on the table or that we’re going to feature within this article, but we have used every single one of them extensively either in builds or personal systems. So I think that gives us a little bit of a different perspective.
Mike: Let’s start with the first thing for the component that had the biggest impact on me, and that is 3rd gen ThreadRipper. yes, Zen 2 has been rolling out throughout the course of the year, but I’m going to say exactly what I said in our review, and that is ThreadRipper 3 was the icing on AMD’s Zen 2 cake. It offers amazing performance, Intel doesn’t have anything that they can respond with for the foreseeable future. It offers high IPC, high clock speeds, everything that AMD needed to be completely dominant in the consumer CPU market.
Eber: Yeah, it was just amazing to see the performance, especially what they were able to do with the 3960X compared to the previous generation WX series chips. There is a massive leap in productivity and benchmarks and all that kind of stuff. I’m still blown away by the performance of it. It’s crazy.
Mike: I think that’s another thing that we should bring up too. Last year when the WX series was around, they had some issues due to Windows, but now Windows to a certain extent has improved itself, and AMD has also improved their own architecture, so both the OS and the CPUs are talking to each other better and the result is just amazing.
Eber: My first pick for the best PC hardware in 2019 actually once again goes to AMD because they have been killing it this year. It’s the Ryzen 3000 series, the whole processor family. I’m going to start with budget-end stuff, the 3600 and 3600X, and what they were able to offer, and then we have kind of slowly moved into the 3900X, which was a 12-core processor that blew my mind. And of course we have to talk about the Ryzen 9 3950X, because 16 cores, 32 threads, it’s the first AM4 processor with that many cores. And I personally built myself an ITX rig and it’s flying, like performance is just off the charts. It’s crazy. I can’t believe how AMD was able to cram all that power into a fairly power efficient package, and the temperatures were mind blowing too.
Mike: Yeah, and I think one of the biggest things for AMD is how they are able to preempt what Intel was doing with their own HEDT processors. I mean the Core i9-10980XE wasn’t a bad processor by any stretch of the imagination. It was just thoroughly outgunned by something that was less expensive, on a cheaper platform, and to a certain extent on a better platform too then Intel’s own high-end desktop platform.
Mike: Next is something that might not necessarily the best piece of hardware in the world, but it’s more a representation of what a company can do when they just throw everything at the wall, including the kitchen sink. This right here is the GIGABYTE TRX40 Aorus Xtreme, and it’s a super-high-end ThreadRipper motherboard. It’s a huge XL-ATX motherboard and it is just balls to the wall crazy. Now what I wanted to show you, first of all, is the fact that they actually properly spaced their PCIe Gen4 slots. There’s enough room for four double-slot graphics cards without too much of a problem. And not only that, but every single one of the connectors is at a right angle on the side. Yes, that’s going to take up a ton of space in your case, but if it’s XL-ATX you know what you’re getting into. The other thing that comes with this motherboard is this large add-in card, and no it’s a not a graphics card, but it’s actually built better than most graphics cards. What it is is a PCIe Gen4 x16 card that holds four PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs. It is absolutely nuts and we are going to be posting a video about this very, very soon.
Eber: My second pick for the best PC hardware is actually a memory kit from Corsair, it’s the Dominator Platinum RGB. It’s the one that was released this year, the all matte black version. It comes with the Capellix LEDs that look gorgeous, they are probably the most talked about part of my new ITX build. I love those RAM sticks, the finish, the performance, I mean the fact that you can get a 32GB kit or even a 64GB kit and get it as far as DDR4-3600 is really Impressive. Overall, a fantastic kit, highly recommended for someone who’s looking to build a kickass gaming PC.
Mike: And like a lot of these things it’s not the cheapest, but it really made an impression on us and I think that’s the important thing here.
Mike: Speaking of something not being the cheapest but at the same time providing good value, I want it to talk very quickly about one of my other picks which is the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and to another extent the GTX 1660 Super. Neither of those is the cheapest GPU that NVIDIA has, but at the same time when the GTX 1660 Ti first came out the Bang for the Buck it provided was excellent, especially in a market or at least an NVIDIA product stack that was dominated by overpriced RTX cards with features that a lot of people just weren’t going to use. Then the GTX 1660 Super came out and it provided about the same amount of performance as the Ti, but at a lower price point. I think it’s at about $250 right now. For me when it comes to building an affordable gaming PC, something that’s under $1,000, or in this case maybe even under $750, maximizing GPU performance is the way to go and these allow you to do it without completely breaking the bank.
Eber: I think it was also the time when NVIDIA’s NVENC technology became a big thing, where if you’re a streamer and you had a GTX 1660 Ti and you would actually be perfectly fine gaming and streaming at the same time even if you didn’t have a particularly modern or powerful processor. It was really cool to see that come into action.
Eber: My third pick for the best PC hardware of 2019 goes to an NVMe drive. It’s the Sabrent 1TB Gen4 NVMe drive that is actually in my current workstation PC. This drive is crazy. I ran a CrystalDiskMark benchmark this morning and the read speeds were 5GB per second read and 4.3GB per second write speeds as you can see by this screenshot. It is wicked fast, pretty sure it’s faster than what’s available on the new Mac Pro. It also comes with an additional accessory and that’s the heatsink. It looks like a CPU cooler, but if you think of the analogy, it comes with copper heat pipes, it’s got an aluminium heatsink, this is the craziest and the most unique and innovative piece of tech or engineering that I have ever seen for an SSD.
Mike: My last award for best hardware isn’t really an award at all, it’s more like that kid in class who gets a participation award for showing up and for just completing the test. That recognition goes to the AMD Radeon RX 5700 series. They were certainly not the best out there, and they aren’t the flagship GPUs a lot of AMD fans were hoping for, but they provided a glimpse into what Navi can provide or what it should provide as it cascades down through the lineup. Now that gives me a lot of hope, but at the same time limitations with the 7nm manufacturing process and how quickly they could get out chips really put a damper for me on that launch. There was a lot of potential, but AMD just missed the final landing on.
Mike: Now with with that transition of the participation award, let’s go towards some of the hardware that we didn’t quite appreciate this year. And let’s be honest here, this was a great year for hardware, and we didn’t review a ton of items, but these are more things that we found could use some improvement or just came out at the wrong price or at the wrong time or just with like a weird set of features. I’m going to let Eber kick this one off.
Eber: My first pick for the worst hardware of 2019 is Ryzen 3000 in the notebook space. I remember taking a look at the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G GA502DU. It came with a Ryzen 5 3750H it was a four core/eight thread processor, but it just couldn’t deliver compared to what Intel had to offer in the notebook space. On the positive side, these CPUs were actually power efficient, the battery life I was able to get with that notebook was a lot higher compared to some of the notebooks from Intel, so I guess that’s a good thing, but performance just really wasn’t that great.
Mike: I think that also shows that Intel has been focusing so much on their mobile and notebook side. AMD usually cascades down their architectures after the desktop side, whereas Intel does it completely differently. Now. Zen 2 I think has amazing potential on the notebook side, and I think both of us can’t wait to see that.
Eber: Yeah, I can’t wait to see it.
Mike: Now I get to throw someone else under the bus, and we will back up the bus over this one. This right here is the i9-9900KS and for me this is probably the most pointless processor that came across my desk this year. The reason for that is that we’ve got a pretty good i9-9900K and it boost to some extremely high clock speeds on a normal basis. This processor could not keep up with that at its default settings and it couldn’t overclock as far as our i9-9900K either. So for me this was almost Intel being the AMD of two years ago, just launching a processor in a desperate attempt to remain in the news cycle. And to me that is the worst possible way to approach a product.
Eber: All right, so my pick for the worst PC hardware of 2019 is – and I’m pretty sure you probably know it – it’s Intel’s Ice Lake processors. Let’s kick things off with the naming strategy. It is absolutely the worst possible implementation from Intel and we are throwing them under the bus again. They just didn’t deliver the performance that they needed to on some of these notebooks. I think a great example of that would be the Razer Blade 13 Stealth with the GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU. Razer really wasn’t transparent about the TDP on the Ice Lake processor on that laptop, but at the end of the day it just didn’t deliver, at least compare to what Whiskey Laked had to offer. So yeah, it’s just a complete no-go and I think they could do a little better.
Mike: I probably going to have to challenge Eber a little bit on that one. We just recently uploaded a video of pairing up Ice Lake with an external GPU dock and Ice Lake overperformed above and beyond my expectations. Obviously that is in a very narrow area of people who are going to buy a thin-and-light notebook and then hook that up for an external GPU dock. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Eber: It just doesn’t make any sense because you know have Whiskey Lake, Comet Lake, Ice Lake, if people are shopping for a notebook they wouldn’t even know what the difference is between a Comet Lake processor and an Ice Lake processor. This is an average person that we’re talking about, not tech enthusiasts like ourselves.
Mike: I’m going to transition back to AMD, because we have to remember that in 2019 AMD also launched a little GPU called the Radeon VII. I think the Radeon VII is comparable to the i9-9900KS in a lot of ways. It was launched in order for them to stay in the news cycle, test something out, when everybody was talking about NVIDIA, NVIDIA, NVIDIA. I can’t say that it’s the worst GPU for everybody, because for people who are using compute it ended up being an amazing solution Bang for Buck. However, at the same time, on the gaming side, it was only supported for a little while before they discontinued it like six months later. But to a certain extent that was understandable because here came Navi, which ended up beating it like a lazy donkey, but this still remains a very valid solution for people who need compute, but unfortunately it was marketed to gamers where it wasn’t a gaming card. Maybe that’s my problem with it.
Mike: I think I’m going to double down on that too, and bring the new Radeon RX 5500 XT into the equation. I’m so sorry AMD to be ragging on you about this one, but this goes to prove that there aren’t a lot of bad products there’s just bad pricing. I think what AMD brought it out at such a time when Navi is still in short supply, so they have to charge a little bit of a premium for it. The only thing is with the RX 580 still on the market – and they still haven’t been able sell through the stocks of that card – well you have an 8GB card that’s more affordable and more capable than the RX 5500 XT. And yes, we still haven’t reviewed it because we’re still waiting for an 8GB card, but from what I’ve seen so far it’s just not a great solution. And unfortunately Navi hasn’t been able to roll out at the speed or at the price that we were hoping it to be. So here’s hoping that in 2020 we see a real top to bottom Navi lineup at really competitive prices. Hopefully by that point they will have sold through their old GPUs too too.
Eber: Well that pretty much wraps up our best and worst PC hardware for 2019. Let us know what you think, do you agree with our picks or not? I’m also curious to know if we’ve missed anything.
Mike: Yeah, and speaking of missing, in 2020 Hardware Canucks is gonna be going a lot further back to our roots and covering a lot more PC hardware. This year we were little bit slim on that side, but we’re going to be really picking it up in 2020, and hopefully our top picks for 2020 are going to be a lot wider than this. We wish you Happy Holidays and see you all again in 2020!