As the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals start to wind down, we will begin to take a look at some games that are among the most popular on Steam. Some of these games were greatly reduced on the Autumn Sale, and while that sale has ended, Steam usually hosts a Winter Sale -- that’ll be coming up shortly.
For today, we’ve got a list of some of our top PC games for 2016 (including previous releases and sales). All the below games are available on Steam. This year's game releases felt a little lighter in the AAA category versus last year; at least, when considering last year offered GTA V and The Witcher 3 in rapid succession, but active sales have revived last year's titles alongside a couple major indie hits for 2016.
Here is the shortlist:
Withstanding the circumspect of PC players, Watch Dogs 2 has seemingly launched without a hitch. Mostly, anyway. The usual PC congregations of Steam and Reddit have been mostly devoid of the day one despair that is PC gaming in 2016, partially indicative that Watch Dogs 2 actually runs on a variety of hardware. Not easily, mind you, but it runs. What is more, we recently published our own benchmarks of the game using an assortment of 11 GPUs, from the 1050 & 460 to the 1080. Having found the game playable, albeit demanding, across multiple video cards, we’ll look at a build aimed at outputting reasonably fluid performance at elevated settings, but without going too far over $1000.
This gaming PC build will focus on running Watch Dogs 2 with the “Very High” preset at a resolution of 1080p, with a sustained 60 FPS average.
As an aside, the build will also place a slight emphasis on overclocking with air cooling, while exhibiting very low system noise. We’re also built to be multi-GPU ready, despite the presence of a GTX 1060 (no SLI support for 1060s). This is to ensure that, should you decide to change the video card setup down the road, the rest of the system will permit the change.
Ask GN is a little bit more personable than our usual reporting, given the nature of the Q&A style of content. Taking that as an opportunity to update everyone on our server migration, we’ve finally moved; it was a success. The new server has been operational for a few days now, and it’s faster, more stable (seriously – 0 downtime, whereas the other began crashing every few hours), and will soon™ be home to an updated front-end for the website. We will be rolling-out small changes over the next few weeks, and those will eventually lead to a full refresh.
Anyway, Ask GN was the original topic. We’re on episode 36, and this week addresses questions of DirectX 12 scalability, GameWorks & GPUOpen efforts, electrostatic discharge and management of ESD, and more.
There are two ends to a power supply cable: The device-side and the PSU-side. The device-side of all PC cables is standardized. ATX 24-pin, EPS12V, PCI-e to the GPU, SATA—the wiring is known, and it doesn't change. What isn't standardized, however, is the layout of the PSU-side modular cable headers. Some vendors might use 6-pin connectors for their PSU-side peripheral headers (identical to what's found on PCI-e cables, because it saves cost), others will opt instead for a wide-format pin-out for the same. Another still could use a bulky 9-pin block for universal connectivity, like some of EVGA's power supplies.
What can't be done, though, is mixing cables between all these units. Or at least, it shouldn't be done. Mixing cables between power supplies can kill them or kill attached components. Not always, but it can -- and when the wiring crosses in exactly the wrong way, the failure will be spectacular. Like ESD, just because you've gotten away with mixing cables doesn't mean you always will. Electricity is not a mystery; we know well how it works, and crossing the wrong wires will damage components.
Ubisoft's newest dystopian efforts start strong with allusions to modern-day challenges pertaining to privacy and "cyber warfare," working to build-up our character as a counter-culture hacker. And, as with Ubisoft's other AAA titles, the game builds this world with high-resolution textures, geometrically complex and dense objects, taxing shadow/lighting systems, and an emphasis on graphics quality.
Watch Dogs 2 is a demanding title to run on modern hardware. We spent the first 1-2 hours of our time in Watch Dogs 2 simply studying the impact of various settings on performance, further studying locales and their performance hits. Areas with grass and foliage, we found, most heavily hit framerate. Nightfall or dark rain play a role in FPS hits, too, particularly when running high reflection qualities and headlight shadows.
We look at performance of 11 GPUs in this Watch Dogs 2 video card benchmark, including the RX 480 vs. GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1080, RX 470, R9 Fury X, and more.
Following suit with the rest of our Black Friday coverage, including Best SSDs and power supplies, we’ve next rounded-up a few honorable mentions in the motherboard department. We're specifically looking at Intel boards today, as deals on AMD boards seemed a bit scarce this year. With the looming obsolescence of the AM3/AM3+ socket, we elected to not include those boards. You’ll notice that, save for sharing a common thread in socket type (all supporting Intel’s latest Skylake processors), these picks vary quite a bit. Be assured though, these boards all have a place. Whether it’s a minimalist, no-frills gaming machine for medium to high settings or a high-end, performance-minded overclocker, there’s a board here for it.
This list comprises the best gaming Intel motherboards for Cyber Monday (and onward), including Z170, B150, H110, and other motherboards.
The Z170 boards in this list are of proven quality, and do come recommended; however, it is worth mentioning that Z170 is not tantamount to "better." A poorly designed Z170 board is not inherently superior than a well-constructed B150 or H1xx, even at a comparable price. There's more to it than the chipset. If you are curious as to what the differences are between Intel's Skylake chipsets, view this H110, H170, & Z170 guide.
Regular visitors to the site may have noticed that we've been experiencing intermittent downtime for about a week. Following an (unrequested) update to the software stack at our server provider, we've been dropping connection at least once every few hours for about 10-15 minutes at a time. This was out of our control, and after fighting with the host over a resolution, we've decided to build a new server ground-up.
I'll be able to share more details about this soon, but it's looking promising so far. The new server should be faster, no longer drop connection, and will improve our ability to add website functionality in the future. We've been on unmanaged hosting since 2012, which means that we've basically got a remote box that is accessed through shell/putty, then updated entirely through an equivalent to command prompt (for Linux access).
This year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday sales continue, allowing us to compile a list of PC accessories that are aimed at giving your system a boost in aesthetics. Most our guides thus far have been focused on the performance aspect, like our “Best SSDs of 2016” guide, our guide to mechanical keyboards, to 1440p monitors, and recent two PC builds. We’ve also got some coverage of the best PSUs currently on sale, if that’s interesting.
But today, we’re here for visuals. RGB lighting products and sleeved cables are a common trend in the market in 2016 for those looking to improve their setups looks. This year, RGB has gotten big enough that only the craze for tempered glass rivals its popularity; there are RGB fans, mouse pads, controllers, and peripherals of all sorts.
Here’s the shortlist:
We've been following sales closely for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and following our "Best GPUs Under $200" guide, we figured it'd be good to revisit gaming's third favorite component: SSDs.
Solid-state drives have become remarkably affordable over the past few years. When we posted our first SSD architecture discussion piece, back in 2014, SSDs of 240-256GB capacities were easily between $100 and $200, depending on drive. Large capacity SSDs (480GB+) were not really affordable for most users. With this year's sales, we're seeing SSDs in excess of 500GB capacity available for nearly $100. Huge change, considering they were easily 3x that price just a few years ago.
Here's the shortlist of the best SSD sales for Black Friday, particularly focused on gaming:
With the gaming community migrating towards 1440p as the new resolution sweet spot, and the booming prominence of UltraWide 21:9 displays, we’ve set forth to outline a build guide that caters to both these trends in equal parts. UltraWides eschew the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio in favor of a more horizontal 21:9 aspect ratio, providing additional screen real-estate without consuming all the physical desk space. You can read more on that, alongside some UltraWide benchmarks, over here. As is the norm with PC gaming, UltraWide support deviates across titles, with games scaling differently. To help determine how your game of choice will fare in an UltraWide environment, view this list provided by wsgf.org.
The increased pixel density and pixel throughput at 3440×1440 means a capable GPU is required; especially so if hoping to approach the 60 FPS gold standard. The GTX 1070 specified below is a formidable choice for driving an UltraWide at such resolutions, and fits well given the budget. This build is also able to pull double duty of sorts, as a workstation for light content creation, video editing/rendering, or game streaming. As such, we’ve selected the unlocked i7-6700K featuring Intel’s Skylake architecture, coupled with a 16GB kit of DDR4 memory. The Z170 chipset will serve as our building platform and rounds out the focal points of this build.
This 21:9 gaming PC build is ready for games like Watch Dogs 2, Battlefield 1 at Ultra settings, and can handle YouTube content creation or Twitch streaming. The DIY build list is below, along with a tutorial for how to build a gaming PC.