A few weeks ago we put together a list of what we felt were the worst CPU and GPU purchases of 2017, and boy did that stir up some discussion. Still overall many of you really seemed to enjoy the exchange and requested a best of version, so here we are, our best CPU and GPU purchases of 2017. So let’s get into it...
Best Value Desktop CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600
No surprises here, the Ryzen 5 1600 is without question this year's best value desktop processor. AMD slapped their most affordable 6-core/12-thread CPU with an MSRP of $220, though you’ll rarely have to pay more than $200 these days for one.
The R5 1600 is a real all rounder, there’s no game it can’t deliver perfectly smooth performance in and we expect it to be good for many years to come, many many years.
Then when it comes time to get serious, nothing holds a candle to the R5 1600 at this price point. It blasts through workloads with impressive efficiency and you’re looking at paying almost twice as much from Intel for similar productivity performance.
To further sweeten the deal, AMD threw in a decent box cooler and offered overclocking support on sub-$100 B350 motherboards making for an extremely cost effective combo. The only buzzkill this year has been the cost of DDR4, but that affects all platforms and with the R5 1600 so cheap many have taken the hit on memory pricing.
Best Workstation CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1700
As good as the R5 1600 is for productivity workloads, the Ryzen 7 1700 is even better, packing 33% more cores and threads. In terms of value it’s not as good because you’re paying $100 more (50%), but with time being money and all, you know, the premium is worth it.
In late 2017 Ryzen 7 might be a lot less impactful than it was back in March but it still deserves to make our list. When it landed all those months ago, consumers seeking an 8-core/16-thread CPU were faced with paying $1000 for the Core i7-6900K, so it is important to look back to see what we’ve come from.
The R7 1700 can now be purchased for about $300 (or $240 right now thanks to Black Friday) and as a result the expensive 6900K had to be retired. Now we have the Core i7-7820X for a more affordable $600, though we’d argue that the Ryzen 7 1700 is still a much better value product.
Again the Ryzen 7 can be paired with relatively inexpensive motherboards, even a nice X370 board can be had for as little as $130. Meanwhile the cheapest X299 boards come in at around $200. So for those who have a lot of work to get done but don’t want to spend big to get it done, the Ryzen 7’s been the answer to their prayers.
Best HEDT CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
Rounding out our AMD appreciation is the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, for just shy of $1000 you get 16-cores/32-threads. Now remember at the start of 2017 an 8-core CPU would set you back $1000, and 10 cores was just scary. The Core i7-6950X commanded an asking price of $1750, today though, Intel cries itself to bed remembering the good times.
A grand now lands you twice as many cores and threads when compared to where the year began. Knowing that Threadripper was coming, Intel rushed the X299 platform so they could strike first. The only problem is that their 16-core/32-thread beast will set you back $1,700. Even though it's faster than the 1950X, you still have to spend $1200 - $1400 on the 12 or 14-core models to get 1950X-like performance.
There are certainly a number of pros and cons to the Threadripper platform, but we feel it provides consumers with the most bang for their buck and it’s where we’d invest our money if we were after a high-end workstation.
Best Budget CPU: Intel Pentium G4560
Let us point out first that due to the way things have gone in the second half of the year, this is a sketchy pick. Unfortunately the once great value Pentium G4560 is no longer, at least in most regions, due to pricing. So while aforementioned AMD processors totally deserve to make this list, this one is a bit iffy.
The G4560 which we commonly referred to as the only Kaby Lake CPU worth buying, burst onto the scene in January. We reviewed the hell out of it and awarded it. In fact, we were so obsessed with the value of this Pentium that a lot of readers who tend to side with the red variety CPUs, were getting a bit upset. Still we didn’t care, how could you not love what the G4560 offered?
Prior to its release, a dual-core Hyper-Threading enabled Intel CPU cost at least twice as much. So at a mere $64 the G4560 was a steal and nothing could touch it in terms of value. It was so good that it wiped out the rest of Intel’s brand new Kaby Lake Pentium and Core i3 lineup.
Eventually Intel caught wind of this (and despite denying it) started to ‘limit’ supply mid-way through the year. Cryptocurrency miners were blamed for the shortage, but even today Intel seems in no hurry to offer the G4560 for $64 again.
Today bargain hunters will find the G4560 at a less desirable asking price of $80, and in our opinion you’re better off getting a Ryzen 3 1200 at that price. The final nail in the G4560’s coffin was the arrival of the Core i3-8100 which is essentially a Core i5-7400 for 35% off. Of course, we still need affordable 300-series motherboards, but the writing's on the wall.
For $64 the G4560 is still a good buy, if you can find one. Stick it on a $50 H110 board and you have a killer combo for a smidgen over $100. Considering you can’t even get a Z370 board for that price, the combo would still have merit despite the lack of an upgrade path.
Outright Best Desktop CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K
Out of stock, out of stock, and out of stock. Those are the words of just about every would be Core i7-8700K owner has been faced with for the past month. It’s been a frustrating situation which has lead some to overpay to get one.
So why is this on our list of best CPU purchases? Good question! I guess I’m just hoping that by next month these issues will be corrected. Intel is working to bring additional facilities online to improve Coffee Lake supply, so hopefully we'll see the result of this shortly.
Supply issues aside, the Core i7-8700K is the best mainstream desktop CPU in existence today, especially if you're a gamer seeing no compromise type performance. The Ryzen 5 1600 or even Ryzen 7 1700 might be better value options for those using mid-range to high-end gaming hardware, but for those with a GTX 1080 Ti seeking maximum frame rates, the 8700K will deliver, soon when it’s in stock.
Best GPU Series: GeForce 10 Series
The best GPU purchases of 2017... we admit having written the title for this section in the word processor while we sat staring at the screen for about 10 minutes.
Had this been 2016 we might have said something along the lines of... “the Radeon RX 470 was an exceptional sub-$200 buy, while the RX 480 offered competitive mid-range performance with a nice big 8GB frame buffer, and then talked about how the GTX 1070 and 1080 offered unchallenged high-end performance.”
However 2017 has been less eventful on the graphics front. The Radeon RX 500 series was mostly a rebadge job. Vega was, well Vega is still promising, but like so many of AMD products it will likely become an amazing second hand deal in a few years time. Vega 56 is competitive and would have probably made the list, had custom board partner cards been available.
So with nothing from AMD hitting home this year, the GeForce 10 series remain some of the best buys in 2017. The GTX 1070 Ti is another solid product that offers strong value for overclockers, though it’s also a product we didn’t really need.
The GPU of 2017 was the mighty GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It might cost $700 and we could certainly sit around complaining about GPU prices all day, but that doesn’t change that it’s a beast. Vega might become the superior GPU in years to come, we don’t really know, but what we do know is that right now the GTX 1080 Ti is the king.
So it was a bit of a wash. AMD won out on the CPU front, while Nvidia won the GPU war this year. Had AMD been able to mass produce Vega earlier and enable board partner cards to be created, things might look a bit different. However we must recognize that HBM2 supply was the key issue here.
Likewise, had Intel been able to ramp up the supply of Coffee Lake CPUs sooner and offer their budget chipset range, Ryzen would be on a tighter spot. Feel free to let us know what are your top CPU and GPU picks of 2017.