Well 2017 has certainly been a crazy year. Right at the start of the year I set new goals to increase the number of articles I published without lowering the quality. I did that after seeing that in 2016 I had published 80 articles, down from 92 in 2015. Well I ran the numbers and I can say that I beat that handily. In fact, I was keeping track and beat that around the middle of the year. I had a total of 117 articles, even with the last 3 months not publishing much. Sorry about that by the way. We bought a new house and with that I had to pack up both our house and our business. Then post move it took forever to get unpacked and get things setup and I’ve been busy with projects around the house. I do have a lot in the works for articles and a lot to catch up on so hopefully in 2018 we can get that rolling. You can also expect to see a lot of home automation stuff in the coming year as well as I work on making this place our own.
Anyhow, the reason we are here today is to look back at 2017 and revisiting all of the Editors Choice award winners to see if they still deserve the award. I’m also going to talk about products that almost or should have won and then look back over past years to see if any of them are in use still as well.
Title: A look back at 2017’s award winners
Written by: Wes Compton
Asus Crosshair VI Hero
Well, one of the biggest launches of 2017 was Ryzen and with that, we finally had a new chipset from AMD with new hardware. Well, it just happened that the Asus Crosshair VI Hero that Asus sent out at launch also ended up being an amazing board. For me, I loved the number of USB ports it had, but it was also quick to get BIOS updates (something that ended up being extremely important with this launch) and had solid performance. So would I still give it the same award today? Yes, I would. I’m not using it in a build around the office like most of the other products that get the EC award. But that is only because this board is exclusively what I test Ryzen platform stuff on, so it is used on our testbench all of the time. If not for that I would have used it in our Carmine build for sure!
Asus Strix GTX 1080 11Gbps
With the Asus Strix GTX 1080 11Gbps model, the plan from the beginning was to use it in our Iris build assuming the performance was as good as expected. Other than the fan noise being a little loud all of the other performance factors were still good. The Vega launch had the potential to spoil these top end cards but with it falling flat and also being impossible to find this is still a good direction to look when picking a video card. The 1080 11Gbps is great but it does fall in a weird area in the market to me though. If you are gaming at 4k you really need the Ti and 1080p don’t really need this much power. It is a solid card for 1440p and for VR though. Frankly, the Strix cards in general seem to find a nice mix of performance and aesthetics in all of the GPU models, if given the choice this is most likely where I would lean with a few exceptions. But given that this is in my wife’s PC right now, I don’t see it going away anytime soon and for good reason.
Asus Strix Z270i Gaming
This is another component used in our Iris build but I had the chance to check out a few Z270 ITX boards. The Gigabyte Gaming 5 was a great board but the Strix had all of the same features, better software, and a more neutral theme that will look good in any build. Not to mention the Gigabyte board actually just randomly fell apart on me when I went to use it. I think the only board that can compete with this one in the Z270 chipset is the Impact. Sadly though Z270 as a whole is basically DOA with its short lifespan and with the new Intel CPUs gaining additional cores. So yes this one is still in use but I would recommend the Z370 Strix board if you still need ITX with Intel.
Thermaltake Core P1
I don’t know if I’m the only one to see it but it seems like every single case on the market these days is going for the same exact look. They all have the same style as a few of the NZXT cases with hidden PSUs taking up most of the case and tempered glass from In Win being the other styling feature. I was really excited to see that for ITX Thermaltake brought out the Core P1, a case that is nothing like the rest of the market. No one is trying to duplicate this look either and that seems crazy to me given how popular it has been in the water cooling crowd. Well after our review the P1 made it into our Iris build and you can expect more coverage on that soon. It's also still a great pickup. Hopefully, Thermaltake also brings out their curved glass replacement that the larger Core cases now have.
SteelSeries Arctis 7
Wow, I finally did it, after spending years looking for a wireless headset that I liked the Arctis 7 managed to stay on my desk after my review. I wish it had the swappable batteries of their old wireless headset but it is extremely comfortable and the sound quality on both the microphone and speakers were great. I don’t use them every day but all of the other headsets on my desk are now gone, a huge accomplishment. I have a few wireless options that I want to check out in 2018 but I don’t see these going anywhere soon.
Autonomous DIY SmartDesk Business Edition
So the idea of a sit-stand desk isn’t new this year but one of the big names in the market is Autonomous and I had the chance to check out what they were all about. I went with the Business Edition DIY kit because I already had a desktop that I liked and I needed the additional weight capacity with my monitor setup. Having the ability to press a button and change the height of my desk was great when I wanted to stand or even when I wanted to drop the desk down a little to kick my feet up. Its been a good portion of the year and I’m still rocking the same setup. Looking back I don’t think I’ve sued the standing part as much as I should, but I do adjust the desk multiple times a day. Even just when sitting I can set the level to match my armrests when gaming or writing or higher when I'm watching TV. Anyhow, I would still recommend the same Ikea top and Autonomous stand that I’m running. Hopefully, in 2018, I continue to put it to use as much as I do now!
SteelSeries Sensei 310
For years now I’ve been going back to the original Sensei and the Sensei RAW after reviewing other mice. They weren’t perfect but I loved the shape, I only wished they had an updated sensor. Well, SteelSeries introduced a redesigned Sensei this year and surprisingly I really liked it. I even put up my original Sensei after the review. Sadly after a while, I dug it back out. I still really like the direction they went with the Sensei 310 but the silicon grip on the side was just too greasy for me. A small adjustment there and I would be happy to go back, or you know they could just put the same sensor in the already amazing original Sensei.
Prusa i3 MK2S Kit
My experimentation with 3d printing continued in 2017 and with that, I took a look at the Prusa i3 MK2S kit. With all of my experience with Delta printers, I couldn’t wait to check out a Cartesian printer, especially one as highly recommended as the Prusa. Well no surprise here, it ended up being a great printer. I felt it had a little room to improve on the software side but I did keep it in my workspace after my review. With the move I haven’t had the chance to get my maker space set back up just yet, but the Prusa is at the top of my list to get set back up and it is my go-to when I need something simple printed. Prusa did introduce the MK3 recently though so if you are looking at a Prusa printer I would consider the newer model as they did a lot of changes on it.
Coulda, Shoulda, and Almost Did
In the past, it has seemed like I was giving out too many Editors Choice awards but this year I only gave out 7. I think there may have been a few more if not for taking a good portion of the last two months off but even with just the reviews published there were a few products that were really close to getting the award and looking back there were a few that should have gotten one but didn’t. So let's take a look and see what came in close. This first group is the “Maybe they should have” group.
Sound BlasterX Katana
So the Sound BlasterX Katana wasn’t the best performing speaker setup that I’ve ever tested. My own X7 configuration is much better, but for a small footprint, all in one don’t call it a soundbar setup it did extremely well. My wife loved it and we tested it on her desk from the start. After our move, I ended up liking how simple her setup was that I got a second Katana for our living room. We enjoy playing Rock Band from time to time and even though we upgraded our TV I needed a little more kick. A dedicated living room soundbar would have been a better pick if I needed pure volume, but the Katana was small and fit what we needed. With all of that, looking back this would have been a great candidate for the award.
TP-Link LB120 WiFi LED Bulb
So this is the product that started my weird obsession with home automation. With just one bulb I could only do so much but I have been added a few new bulbs, trying products from different companies and I’ve learned to appreciate the LB120 even more. The main reason that TP-Link bulbs have become my go-to when suggesting controllable bulbs is their WiFi integration. On one hand it does clog up your WiFi a little with a lot of devices, but on the other hand, you can avoid having to get and use a hub. If you are buying a lot of bulbs right out of the hole a hub isn’t a big cost, but if you are just testing the waters or just need a few bulbs this ends up saving you a lot of money, not to mention in some cases WiFi has a bigger reach. So the LB120 itself didn’t win an Editors Choice award, but I would have given one to some of TP-Links other lower cost bulbs. RGB is awesome, but only useful in some situations.
Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
At the end of the year, it was really the GTX 1080 Ti that came out on top of the 2017 GPU wars. Unlike on the CPU side of things, Nvidia continued to improve even without competition in the high-end market so when AMD introduced Vega it just wasn’t enough to compete with the Ti in most situations.
So this is the big one right? Looking back AMD pulled off something amazing with Ryzen. They took back a big chunk of market share an even caused the big bag Intel to scramble and introduce 6 core on their mainstream lineup. But in the case with all four of our Ryzen articles, at the time of launch Ryzen was a little unfinished and had issues in games and especially with memory. It is still sensitive to memory, but things are MUCH better now. If those changes would have been in effect at the time of launch I would have given out a few Editors Choice awards. I don’t think AMD is too upset at the lack of that award though, or maybe they were, we didn’t end up with Threadripper lol. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2018 though, can they really shake things up even more?
Almost Made it
So if those maybe should have gotten awards, what came in close? Well there were a few
Asus ROG Rampage VI Apex
Honestly, this might be my favorite board that I took a look at all year. Asus did a great job stepping out of the box with the Apex. Literally, it's not a standard rectangle motherboard, they changed the shape. It is packed full of features and just about anything you could ever ask for connection options. Given that I’m planning on upgrading our Crush build to X299 this would have been my go-to board if it would have fit in our BH-7, but the wide form factor was a little too big sadly.
WD My Passport SSD
With the WD My Passport SSD, this is another one that got our Top Honors award initially. I really didn’t have anything bad to say about the drive. The only thing keeping it from an Editors Choice award is me not really needing to use a portable drive around the office. The performance of the drive was amazing and I dig its styling as well. But with a hardwired network and everything stored on the network, it is very rare that I need to put anything on USB to transfer between PCs. I keep a drive with my laptop when I’m on the go but the Sandisk I just covered actually fits that better with its more durable “extreme” construction.
Primochill Praxis Wetbench
The Primochill Wetbench is one of the coolest looking open benches on the market. Its angled design showcases your build and of course, it is set up perfectly for an open-air water cooling setup. I was most interested in this as a good platform for one of our test benches and I have been using it for that. Beyond little acrylic being a little sharp when you pick it up by the handles. My other issue was with its overall size. For a tradeshow showcase of hardware this is a perfect setup, but for my specific use case, the larger size just gets in the way. I still use it, but when compared to my other testbench, I do wish it didn’t take up so much room.
Past award winners
We might as well also look back through past recaps and see what is still in use today. All of these award winners deserve a new gold Editors Choice away for making it a year or more, typically in that time something new and better comes out and they are replaced. So let's take a quick look back.
Swiftech H220 X2 Prestige
So the original H220 was nice but ended up having some issues. But the H220 X2 Prestige, on the other hand, has been awesome. In our D-Frame build, I have cut into the loop a few times. I originally shortened the lines, then later I refreshed it with pastel coolant. After that, I added the Titan X into the loop and to help support that I upgraded the fans. Its been working great with the exception of an issue with the PWM controller and fans just recently. I’m planning on fixing that and flushing the loop so we can get even more life out of the setup going into 2018.
Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L
What can I say about these? The MasterKeys Pro was what caused me to finally go RGB and I’ve moved all of our keyboards over to it. I run the L’s on my wife's PC and my own. Then I use the S’s for other PCs around the house when they don’t need a number pad. I’ve even got one with a crazy keycap set on it that is going to (eventually) be featured on the shelving in our office. They have been rock solid and exactly what I like.
Nvidia GTX 1080 Founders Edition
The GTX 1080 Ti is the big dog, but before that came out I went with two 1080’s in our Crush build. I end went through the trouble of custom painting them to match the build. It came out amazing, check that out HERE. So while I would prefer to be running the Ti, the GTX 1080’s have been great and get daily use. I wonder if I will still be running them in 2019?
Vortex Pok3r RGB
I have a thing for tiny keyboards on everything except my main PC where I need a full number pad. The Pok3r is my favorite of all of them. You get RGB lighting, a compact footprint, and it doesn’t require any software. The build quality is also top notch. I have different Poker models with both my wife and I’s LAN rigs and then I use the Pok3r RGB with our test benches to save space on my desk.
SeeMeCNC Rostock MAX v3
When I need to print anything large, this is my go-to 3d printer and I honestly have no idea just how many roles of filament that I’ve gone through at this point. I had a blast building it and I don’t think you can get close to the quality and capacity that it offers. SeeMeCNC does have a few new printers coming up though, including a new one with an even larger capacity and an all-metal construction. 2018 looks like it will be a big year for them!
Caselabs Bullet BH7
Well, this is a no-brainer right. Our last Case Labs build was around for years, in fact, it's sitting behind me right now in the office because you just can’t kill these cases. The BH7 was used in our Crush build and with updates already planned I don’t see this bright orange case going anywhere anytime soon. The only downside is the limitations to its cooling, but they recently replaced the BH7 with the BH8 that fixes that issue so I would still recommend it be on your short list of cases.
Sound Blaster X7
Out of everything from 2015 things have thinned out a lot and the Sound Blaster X7 is the only thing left. I don’t see this one going anywhere anytime soon unless Sound Blaster brings out an updated version. There just isn’t anything that can compare for PC audio without completely getting into home audio equipment. The X7 is a great DAC, has a powerful AMP inside, and offers a few on desk connection options for headphones. Combine it with a good set of bookshelf speakers and a powered sub and you are set.
In Win D-Frame Mini
I mentioned our D-Frame build in the 2016 hardware with Swiftech’s water cooling. Well obviously if I’m using that the case is still around as well. I’ve had issues with one of the feet coming off after someone pulled one off at a LAN. But beyond that, it is still unique, even with everyone jumping into the tempered glass market. In-Win does have a new 2.0 version of the full sized case, hopefully, that will mean a new Mini version in the future. Stick with a similar design but make the feet easy to swap out along with a few color options to swap too and I would be lined up to get another.
Asus Maximus VII Impact
Same reason as above, this board is a little-dated chipset wise but it was the first Impact board and it showed that with risers you can pack great audio, lots of fan connections, and ATX level power into the ITX form factor.
None of the award winners from 2013 are still in use around the office. Being 4+ years old the base hardware is out of date and everything else has seen big improvements over the last few years.
SteelSeries Sensei [RAW]
So for 2012, we have this one holdout still in use. It actually made it into the warehouse for a while after the Sensei 310 launch but after a while, I just had to go back. SteelSeries if you are reading this, please consider bringing this back out with a new sensor. Also please dig through your desk drawers, if you don’t have any plans for a new Sensei, I’m going to need more for my stash as backups!