The has been a rather bumper year for tech releases, with a bunch of new graphics card, loads of motherboards, and more processors chucked out into the market than there have been RGB LEDs dumped onto hardware in the name of gaming. And, while they can’t all be instant classics, there have been some standout releases this year, here are our favourites.
Check out our hardware guides for the best PC gear to buy right now.
Graphics card of the year
Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
The green team were always going to finish the year on top of the graphics card Christmas tree, even before they fired the final shot of 2017 with their Titan V sporting the new Nvidia Volta architecture. Once the final performance of the gaming-focused AMD Vega was shown to struggle against the GTX 1080 this Ti version had this award in the bag.
It was released in March, distilling the full-fat Titan X down into a more affordable desktop form, but with just a touch more gaming power. Despite the fact that it cost a hefty $699 at launch it still felt like a bargain as it offered the 4K power of the Titan X for almost half the price.
Read the full Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti review.
Gaming CPU of the year
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
The graphics side of the AMD renaissance has been a bit of a disappointment, but they have really shaken things up in the processor world. With the launch of the AMD Ryzen chips they caught Intel on the back foot, forcing them to rethink their 2017 plans, and the Ryzen 5 1600X is our favourite of the red team’s CPUs.
It’s not the fastest, the one with the most cores, or even the cheapest, but it still captured our imagination for delivering unprecedented levels of computational grunt at the ~$200 price point, and gaming performance that put it mighty close to Intel’s more expensive parts.
Read the full AMD Ryzen 5 1600X review.
Gaming laptop of the year
Gigabyte Aero 15
There have been some rather stunning gaming laptops unleashed this year, though not necessarily stunning for the right reasons. When I first laid eyes on the curved, 21-inch Acer 21X it was hard not to simply regard it as a ludicrous monstrosity. And the gorgeous Asus Zephyrus was almost the perfect gaming laptop… where it not for the fact that it couldn’t really function as a LAPtop.
But Gigabyte’s Aero 15 has been tugging on our heartstrings since we first had a play with one in Taipei in the summer. It’s a slimline notebook that packs a Core i7 CPU and 6GB GTX 1060 into its svelte frame and manages to get a 15-inch screen into what was a 14-inch chassis. It’s that almost edge-to-edge panel which marks the Aero 15 out and is the reason I’d seriously consider scraping together the two grand the machine costs. There’s even a GTX 1070 Max Q version now using the same chassis too…
Read the full Gigabyte Aero 15 review.
Gaming PC of the year
Anything in the InWin WinBot chassis
Literally any PC shipped to us in the WinBot case would get the win in this category. We’ve yet to see any system integrator take the leap of faith required to jam a new PC into this essentially demo-only case, so we’re just living in hope at this point.
The WinBot first popped up on stage at Computex, and looks like some retro futurist overdosed on the Fallout soundtrack and had Barbarella and Forbidden Planet on repeat in the background.
Most unnecessary use of RGB of the year
Razer Base Station Chroma
When the RGB LED-ridden mousepad was launched, we thought that was the gaming peripheral market hitting peak luminance. Not so, a mousepad that needed firmware updates was at least still useful, a headset stand with an RGB band in its base, however, really isn’t. But of course, it’s for gamers, and so there has to be some sparkly rainbow lighting included somewhere. But hey, at least it’s got a USB hub.
We were this close to giving the award to Creative’s SoundBlasterX AE-5. After all, why does a sound card need RGB LEDs, or an RGB controller? But they bundle a little LED strip in the box so you can make your PC way faster, so we had to forgive them.
Best new hardware of the year
Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2 wrist rest
No, not the actual keyboard itself, though it is a fine gaming board, we’re actually talking about the beautifully padded wrist rest that comes with it. It’s the most wonderful new piece of tech we’ve had in the office this year, saving your wrists the pain and ignominy of RSI, and making it feel like you’re typing on air.
Sometimes the best tech is the most simple, and this has pleased us more than almost anything we’ve tested this year. Fingers crossed it gets mercilessly copied throughout 2018 so everyone can have a plush little cushion floating in front of their keyboard.
Most papery launch of the year
Intel Coffee Lake and AMD RX Vega
It’s a two-way tie when it comes to the award for the company least likely to be able to furnish you with actual product on launch. Of course, both AMD and Intel had graphics cards and CPUs to sell when they released their new designs, but in such limited volumes that they effectively became paper launches.
The gaming AMD Vega cards came first, selling out in a matter of hours, resulting in price hikes across most retailers as stock ran dry. Then we heard noises that the initial pricing was a special deal arranged by AMD and it all got super messy. Thankfully the cards didn’t perform up to the level we’d hoped, which meant no one really missed out.
The Intel Coffee Lake CPUs followed, to great reviews, but with retailers around the world often being able to count stock on one hand, barely anybody has been able to get an 8th Gen chip into machine.
Stock of both is slowly hitting normal levels, but it will still be a while before pricing does.
Hardware victims of the year
We’ve had a bumper crop of new processors and new chipsets released throughout 2017, which has made covering PC tech rather more exciting than in previous years. Sadly it’s meant there have also been some rather overworked motherboard manufacturers.
You might, quite rightly, suggest that with the promise of a whole lot of extra sales being generated by some new platforms they should be pleased. But after Ryzen launched Intel pulled in the release date of every subsequent CPU they were planning. That in turn meant all the motherboard manufacturers had to get a host of new boards ready months earlier than scheduled. Testing and validation times were shortened to meet the demand, and the mobo makers got all the blame for any chips not playing nicely with the new processor designs.
Some boards had early BIOS problems that meant unsuspecting processors got fried the instant they were turned on, and with 4,094 more pins in the high-end AMD socket than they’ve ever had to manage before manufacturing the X399 mobos was a trial.
But they were at least partially architects of their own demise, especially when it came to Ryzen. We heard from a certain manufacturer that the early Ryzen engineering samples were so bad they hardly bothered to get any X370 boards made for launch at all – ever wonder why it was hard to find an AM4 motherboard when Ryzen released? That’s why. They then had to quickly tool-up and get their factories churning out AM4 boards as quickly as they could.
PC tech company of the year
The winner of this award was never really in doubt. They have shaken up the PC tech world more than any other company has in a generation. AMD have managed to complete an unprecedented release schedule in 2017, on both the CPU and graphics fronts. No one else has even attempted such a thing.
Not only have they launched a brand new CPU architecture, on a new process node, they’ve also spun it out onto a successful line of server parts and a set of high-end desktop chips that have undercut and outperformed Intel’s finest. Then they’ve released a range of refreshed 500-series GPUs and launched a whole new graphics architecture in both desktop and professional form. I’m out of breath just typing all that.
Maybe their graphics output has been a little disappointing, and maybe their processors don’t have the raw gaming chops of the Intel competition, but that hardly matters. They didn’t have to beat Intel with this year’s releases, they just had to be competitive, which they most certainly are now.
AMD’s efforts this year has seemingly completely destabilised Intel. They might claim to the contrary, but it’s obvious the extra high core-count Skylake-X launched after the initial 10-core release were as a result of Threadripper, and the need to bring Coffee Lake out so early has to be down to Ryzen. Hell, Intel rendered at least three of their X299 chips obsolete when Coffee Lake dropped early.
So congratulations to AMD, you’ve had a hell of a year. Now let’s see if you can follow it up with 2018’s difficult second album…