GEAR of the YEAR
Maximum PC|Holiday 2021
IT FEELS LIKE only yesterday we were gearing up for last year’s Gear of the Year awards. That prestigious moment where we gather our thoughts on the very best hardware that has been launched in the last year (or at least the gear we’ve had the opportunity to test) and give you our picks for where you should invest your money. It has certainly been an interesting year, that’s for sure, and jam-packed with a ton of new releases. Last time around, we were still reeling from the first year of the pandemic, the world of computing had just arrived at a rather abrupt silicon shortage, and Nvidia had just launched its latest and greatest 3000-series GPUs as well. Life was, fair to say, a little odd. And, arguably, it still is.
THE MAXIMUM PC TEAM
OCULUS QUEST 2 SPECIAL MENTION

VR has had a bit of a bumpy ride since its conception, but Oculus seems to be starting to get all the pieces just right, especially with its latest headset, the Quest 2.

This $300 budget VR headset packs in a ton of tech, including refresh rates up to 120Hz, a resolution of 1832x1920 per eye, WiFi 6 connectivity (including complete wireless connectivity with your PC), some impressive controllers, 64GB of storage, 6GB of memory, a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 CPU, and it also manages an incredible three-hour battery life.

Easy to set up and easy to configure, if you’re thinking about trying out VR for the first time, there’s no better place to start than with the Quest 2. The only downside? Well, you need a Facebook account to use it.

• Reviewed: Maximum PC, July 2021

However, a lot has changed since then. Most notably, we’ve had to rework our list this time around. Over the past 11 issues, not a single graphics card has scored higher than an 8. With the prices sky-high and supply still at an all-time low, we couldn’t justify including any from either Nvidia or AMD this time.

As always, there’s a lot of kit out there and companies that we haven’t included this time around. That’s not to say that they haven’t produced some exceptional products, just that, well, we only have limited space in this old magazine of ours and, sadly, some parts just didn’t make the cut.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get stuck into our favorite gear of the year, shall we? –THE MAXIMUM PC TEAM

Oculus Quest 2 Get the best seat in the house to live concerts, groundbreaking films, exclusive events and more. Shop Now

AMD RYZEN 7 5700G

Another year rolls around, and AMD is still the absolute king of the hill when it comes to processor releases. This time though, it’s not the debut of its 5000-series chips, but the much-awaited 5000-series APUs instead. Yep, the 5700G is the perfect high-end processor for those only after an integrated experience.

With strong single-core performance, exceptional integrated graphics prowess for older titles and esports, and an affordable $360 price tag, it’s a chip that really does stand out from the pack. Even better, compared to the 3000-series APUs the 5700G has a full complement of PCIe 3.0 lanes too, so if you do want to add a discrete GPU later down the line, you won’t be punished for it.

The only downside is that there’s no PCIe 4.0 support, so you’ll be missing out on those super high-speed PCIe drive transfer speeds. That’s a small price to pay if you need an iGPU baked-in like this.

Reviewed: Maximum PC, November 2021

AMD Ryzen 7 5700G Desktop Processor Play top games in smooth 1080p with 8 cores, 16 threads, boost clocks of up to 4.6GHz, 20MB of total cache, and 8 Graphics Compute Units at up to 2.0GHz. Shop Now

SABRENT ROCKET 4 PLUS 2TB M.2 PCIE 4.0 SSD

There have been a few significant step changes over the years when it comes to storage speeds. The first was the move to SATA hard drives, the second was the introduction of the humble SSD, the third was the introduction of PCIe 3.0 drives, and lastly, of course, the move to 4.0.

On first pass-though, those 4.0 drives of yore were somewhat underwhelming. Although faster than their predecessors, it certainly wasn’t enough to saturate the bandwidth.

That’s something Sabrent corrected with its second-generation Rocket 4 Plus. The 2TB version we tested packed in some of the highest numbers we’ve ever seen (and even since), with sequential write speeds topping out at 6,836 MB/s, that’s 1,700 MB/s faster than Samsung’s legendary 980 Pro. Just an awesome drive, and well worth it if you can get a hold of one for your next productivity rig.

Reviewed: Maximum PC, March 2021

Sabrent 2TB Rocket 4 PLUS Internal SSD Delivers all the advantages of flash disk technology with PCIe Gen4.0 x4 interface. Shop Now

SK HYNIX GOLD P31 1TB

For those of us not yet on the heady heights of a PCIe 4.0 system, this pick might just fix that storage itch of yours. Yep, it’s a particularly juicy M.2 SSD from SK Hynix. The Gold P31 1TB comes in at a reasonable budget price of $135 but packs some impressive figures.

Not only does it top out the sequentials for the specification, but its random 4K read and write speeds also come exceedingly close to the likes of the Samsung 980 Pro, with a difference of less than 10 percent in some cases.

A smart pairing of TLC and SLC NAND flash, combined with 1GB of DDR4, really breaks the mold with this thing and allows it to hit those performance figures where it absolutely matters. SK Hynix has also included a five-year warranty and rates this SSD capable of enduring up to 750TBW over its lifetime too. Neat!

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