The GAMING Gear You Need NOW More Than Ever

Hey, if you're going to have to stay home, you might as well have as much fun as possible.
28 April 2020

(image: Aftershock Vapor 15 Pro)

In its 11th year, the annual HWM + HardwareZone.com Tech Awards has honoured tech brands in Singapore such as the gaming products featured below.

And because The Finder is lucky enough to have a hook up on the 2020 winners, you do, too. (Check out its games of the year while you’re at it.) Now, we’ll let the HWM team take it away!

From Hardware Zone…

Gaming is a huge deal these days and just about everyone is a gamer. On the one hand, you have hardcore gamers with cutting-edge PCs, extra-light mice and the reflexes of a cat; and on the other hand, you have your casual gamers who are content to lazily tap away on their phones or tablets.

Regardless of what kind of games you play or what device you play them on, gaming has become a huge part of a lot of people’s lives. To help you get the most out of your gaming sessions, these are the award categories that the editors have assessed for this segment to play your favourite games on:

  • Best Graphics Card
  • Best Desktop CPU
  • Best Motherboard
  • Best Gaming Notebook
  • Best Wi-Fi 6 Router
  • Game of the Year

Read on and find out who the winners are in each category! We begin with what’s arguably the most important component in every gaming PC – the graphics card.

Best Graphics Card

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 Super is very, very fast, but if you’re looking to take things up a notch with factory overclocks and custom cooling solutions, there are plenty of cards out there vying for your money. This means cards that are slightly faster and cooler, complete with fancy add-ons like RGB lighting and even extra fan headers. Clock speeds don’t matter that much though, and all the cards produce near-identical results in games. Instead, things like thermal performance and design matter more.

To make the cut for this year’s awards, the cards must be at least high-end representatives of their respective brand line-ups, given that it’s not always possible to obtain the flagship model for review locally.

Nominees:

  • ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080S A8G Gaming
  • EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Super XC Ultra, Overclocked
  • GALAX GeForce RTX 2080 Super EX 1-click OC
  • Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming OC
  • MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming X Trio
  • Palit GeForce RTX 2080 Super White GameRock
  • Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Super Triple Fan

And the winner is…

(image: ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming Advanced)

The ASUS card ultimately came ahead because of its strong performance in areas that really matter, such as cooling. Cooling is the one area where there’s an obvious and measurable difference between the cards, so ASUS scores big points here. On top of that, it comes with several value-added features to help it stand out, such as additional RGB and fan headers. The card also features a BIOS switch to change fan profiles and a toggle button to instantly switch off its LEDs. Overclocking performance may be lacklustre, but no one else did well either, and it seems unfair to assign too much weight to overclocking performance given the possible variances between samples. The biggest drawback is its price. At S$1,499, it’s significantly more expensive than even the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming X Trio, which costs S$1,288. Still, the fact remains that this is the best performing card in this shootout and the one with the richest feature set.

Best Desktop CPU

For this year’s awards, we’re pitting high-end chips in the mainstream segment from both companies against each other.

AMD continues to go from strength to strength with its Ryzen processors, and its third-generation Ryzen chips are no different. They continue to work on the series’ traditional areas of weaknesses, such as 1080p gaming performance, while extending its lead in multi-threaded performance with a mainstream 12-core processor with the Ryzen 9 3900X. Meanwhile, Intel is looking to solidify its advantage in terms of single-threaded performance with the release of the special edition octa-core Core i9-9900KS, which boosts to 5.0GHz on all cores. If you’re in the market for a desktop CPU today, you’ll have plenty of good options from both camps to pick from, which is more than could be said just a few years ago.

While AMD has an even higher-tier Ryzen 9 chip, the Ryzen 9 3950X, it is more of a creator’s workhorse CPU with 16 cores and has more in common with a Threadripper class product for professional consumers. You can imagine a big leap in price as well, and as such, we’re not considering this model in this face-off.

Nominees:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Intel Core i9-9900KS

And the winner is…

(image: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X)

The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X delivers in all the key areas, serving up excellent multi-threaded performance and very respectable gaming numbers. In games, the AMD chip still lags behind at 1080p, but that difference soon becomes inconsequential as you ramp up the resolution to 1440p and 4K. Single-threaded performance isn’t that far behind the Intel Core i9-9900KS either, while it remains miles ahead in terms of heavily threaded workloads. Granted, we’re comparing a 12-core chip against an 8-core one, but these are both high-end chips from their respective brands, and the Core i9-9900KS is currently Intel’s top mainstream offering. They’re both technically mainstream chips, and AMD simply offers more in terms of multi-threaded performance for this market segment.

Whichever way you cut it, the Ryzen 9 3900X is the more compelling option. And when you take into consideration its price, which sits at US$499 to Intel’s US$599, the choice becomes pretty clear. What’s more, the Core i9-9900KS is really just a top-binned Core i9-9900K, so it doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table.

Best Motherboard

AMD launched its X570 chipset alongside its new Ryzen 3000 chips, and it offers some fairly compelling new features, most notably support for the next-generation PCIe 4.0 standard. Your graphics card may not be able to saturate a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot yet, but there are already storage devices that can benefit from PCIe 4.0. Manufacturers have dressed up the new chipset with a bunch of new designs and additions as well, and the flagship X570 motherboards we’re looking at here are among some of the best-looking boards around. Some of them have customisable OLED displays and bundled expansion cards, but they’re all bristling with a wide array of connectivity options that should make most folks quite happy.

To make the cut for this shootout, the motherboard has to be the flagship representative of their respective brands’ X570 line-up locally.

Nominees:

  • ASRock X570 Taichi
  • ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula
  • Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme
  • MSI MEG X570 Godlike

And the winner is…

(image: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme)

The Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme is quite clearly a cut above the rest here, boasting premium features like a true 16-phase VRM design, onboard 10G Ethernet, and passive cooling for the PCH that does away with noise entirely. The VRM implementation and passive chipset cooling are things that no other X570 board has, so the Aorus Xtreme is entirely unique in this respect.

The MSI board is too pricey, while the ASUS motherboard lacks meaningful differentiation from the Hero (Wi-Fi). The ASRock board is a decent alternative if you’re on a tighter budget, but it doesn’t really compare in terms of usability and features. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula or MSI MEG X570 Godlike though. The ASUS board will still serve you well if you want to try liquid-cooling your VRM and prize bells-and-whistles like the configurable OLED display. Similarly, the Godlike motherboard places a strong focus on aesthetics and will be a good fit for someone who can utilize its bundled 10G and M.2 expansion cards.

But if you’re just looking for a solid board that will give you the most utility, there’s no beating the overall proposition of the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme.

Best Gaming Notebook

15.6-inch gaming laptops sit in something of a sweet spot today, both portable and powerful enough to run most modern games at 1080p. NVIDIA’s Max-Q technology has also helped pave the way for a new breed of slim and light gaming notebooks, redefining conventional expectations of what a gaming laptop is. Finally, you could get a laptop that combined both portability and performance, effectively getting the best of both worlds. Today, there are plenty of gaming laptops that let you comfortably take them out with you, and they are almost the norm now rather than the exception.

To make the cut this year, the laptop must be the flagship 15.6-inch model from their respective brands. But because it wasn’t always possible to get the same configuration from every model, some laptops like the HP Omen 15 were reviewed with the GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q instead of the 2070 Max-Q. Others, like the Aorus 15 XA, are also not available with a Max-Q configuration, so we reviewed them with the GeForce RTX 2070 instead.

Nominees:

  • Acer Predator Triton 500
  • Aftershock Vapor 15 Pro
  • Alienware m15 R2
  • Aorus 15 XA
  • ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502
  • HP Omen 15
  • Lenovo Legion Y740
  • Razer Blade 15

And the winner is…

(image: Aftershock Vapor 15 Pro)

It’s amazing how much has been packed into this laptop without driving up the price. At S$2,799, the Aftershock Vapor 15 Pro makes hardly any sacrifices and is fully capable of competing toe-to-toe with laptops that cost nearly a thousand dollars more. If you liked the Razer Blade 15 but thought it too pricey, the Vapor 15 Pro will make you very, very happy. The two laptops look really similar, and the Vapor 15 Pro even offers additional features like a mechanical keyboard and SD card reader. It also has slightly better port placement with the Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI ports located at the rear. More importantly, it’s a lot lighter, weighing just 1.87kg to the Blade’s 2.15kg.

In a nutshell, the Vapor 15 Pro is light, has a long-lasting 94Wh battery, and is affordable. It will take any modern game you throw at it, and it’ll do so without outputting a ton of heat and noise. As a result, it handily beats the rest of the competition and is quite simply the best gaming notebook you can get today.

Best Wi-Fi 6 Router

Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax, as it is also known, is the next big thing in networking. It improves overall networking performance in two ways. The first is by increasing data transfer rates by increasing the maximum amount of data that can be carried by each stream. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it enables routers and compatible devices to communicate with each other simultaneously – something that cannot be done using Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) technology.

To make the cut for this year’s awards, the router must have been released in 2019 and it must be a tri-band AX-11000 class router.

Nominees:

  • ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
  • Netgear Nighthawk AX12 (RAX200)
  • TP-Link Archer AX11000

And the winner is…

(image: ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000)

The ASUS ROG GT-AX11000 is the winner of this category for its blend of performance, features, and price. As you can see from the snapshot of results compiled below, it may not be the outright performance champion, but its data transfer speeds, both download and upload, were still very decent across all ranges. To better understand the test results, the test routers are planted in the living room, while the compatible Wi-Fi 6 capable notebook was used as the client device to test the file transfer throughput at different locations within a typical apartment.

What’s most impressive about the ROG GT-11AX11000 router is its suite of features. Gamers can look forward to features like Game Radar and data prioritization, whereas other features like DFS (dynamic frequency selection), real-time traffic monitor, and remote management via the ASUS Router app, makes it easy for users to manage and optimise their connection. Parents will also be happy to know that the ROG GT-AX11000 has robust parental control settings.

And while the ROG GT-AX11000 is a pricey router, we feel that it’s reasonably-priced when compared to its rivals. All in all, it’s comfortably the best tri-band AX11000-class Wi-Fi 6 router you can buy today.

Game of the Year

Putting together a list of the best games of the year is always an incredibly difficult task. So many video games arrive every year in many different genres and platforms – and most turn out to be great in their own ways and 2019 was no exception.

There were many, many games we loved playing in 2019. To find our game of the year, we went through every possible criteria – gameplay, visual fidelity, audio design and most importantly, the fun factor.

Having to cut the list down to just five nominees was extremely difficult, as there were many, many more fantastic games in 2019. Out of these five incredible nominees however, one game stood above the rest and delivered a gaming experience like no other.

Nominees:

  • Borderlands 3
  • Devil May Cry 5
  • Resident Evil 2 Remake
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms

And the winner is…

(image: from Software)

Most gamers would have a screen-smashing, controller-tossing relationship with this title, just like they would for Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Yet, while I find myself part of this demographic, I have to admit there’s just something about From Software’s gritty, Japanese-inspired adventure that keeps me coming back for more (deaths). Is it the stunning, graceful beauty of the landscapes? The unrestrictive sandbox nature of the gameplay? Or is it something even more primal yet; the simple satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with beating a difficult opponent?

Perhaps it’s all three, but there’s no doubt that Sekiro is an amazing game through and through because of it. Try (and die) as you might, it’s certainly a marvellous throwback to a time when we gamers were really “in it to win it”, so to speak.

For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References below.

References

Text adapted from HardwareZone, February 2020

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