The ball has dropped, celebrations have ended, and most people are enjoying the day before jumping back to the grind tomorrow to really get the new year rolling. Yup, its 2020 and 2019 is behind us. Every year I sit down and look back at the previous year in reviews to see how I did for the year. 2019, for example, I only published 58 articles which was by far my lowest ever. This year I did better with a total of 72 but that is still lower than in the past, so my goal for 2020 is to improve on that number. I’m also hoping to include more side projects but hardware wise it doesn’t look like the CPU and GPU launches are going to slow down and CES next week should start to give us an indication of how other launches will be this year.
Anyhow the main point for this article is to take a look back at the coverage from this year, specifically the winners of Editors Choice awards. I give those out to products that will find heavy personal use. In other words, no matter the pros or cons I might have if I think I will still use the product when I have access to almost any option it says a lot about a product. But today I look back and see if those that did get the award ended up panning out after using them for a while. In addition, I look back to products that I am still using from past years as well and I take a look through this year's coverage to see if there was anything that I missed and should have been given the Editors Choice award.
A look back at 2019’s Winners
WD Black SN750 1TB
I started the year off with Western Digitals' introduction of the WD Black SN750. This was the non-heatsink model, the heatsink version came later in the year. I was impressed with the performance and the pricing of the SN750 was in line where it should be. The introduction of PCIe 4/0 drives took away some of the excitement for this drive, but even at the end of the year its performance still holds up and would still be on my recommended list.
Raijintek Ophion Evo
The Ophion Evo ended up being an interesting case option this year. It offered a similar layout to a few of the community designed cases while being significantly cheaper than most of those options. It also added tempered glass on both sides and the Evo option allowed enough room to fit a 240mm radiator for much better cooling. I built a system in the Ophion Evo and it ended up being my wife's PC all year at LANs including last night at a New Years' Eve LAN. The glass makes it a little harder to transport, but it allows people to check out the Asus AIO with its integrated OLED screen which has gotten a lot of attention at events. The case wasn’t perfect but I have been really happy with it.
Dr Zaber Sentry 2.0
The new review after the Ophion Evo was another SFF case that I loved as well. The Sentry 2.0 was the new variation on the Dr Zaber Sentry that I had been wanting to check out for a while. The thin console-style form factor for the Sentry 2.0 is great. I built in the case with the intention of it being our VR PC and that may still be the case eventually, but I have been using it as my LAN PC all year. Its thin form factor is easy to carry and takes up almost no space on the table. Having the GPU up above the motherboard means better cooling. I just need to find a good ITX GPU option so I can eventually switch to water cooling to improve CPU cooling performance and to keep the noise down more.
WD Black SN750 w/Heatsink
Having the WD Black SN750 with the heatsink on this list again is a little repetitive. I loved the SN750 itself and adding that amazing looking EK designed heatsink only improved on things. In my testing, I was able to show that the cooler can be a benefit in some situations. I liked them so much in fact that most of our test benches have switched to them. That said the SN750 and the SN750 with the heatsink really should be one award but the coverage was split up due to the heatsink model coming out later.
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
Well, once again this year AMD has impressed. With the early Ryzen 9 3900X launch, I was really impressed with the performance. Late in the year, they did step things up even more with the 3950X and their Threadripper 3 launch. But the 3900X is still the best high-end option for gamers in my opinion, though the 3600 may be the better overall buy. Because of this, I have been using the 3900X in our GPU and storage test bench. Driver issues have still been a problem from time to time and could be improved, but the system is fast!
Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero WiFi
The ROG Crosshair VIII Hero WiFi is the X570 board that ended up being picked for our test system because it was the best X570 board to come in for the year. I do have the X570 Impact that might be even better, but that coverage is coming for 2020. Asus has kept up with BIOS updates well and the Crosshair VIII is packed with features like the 2.5G NIC, what more is there to ask for. (other than a cheaper price).
Cooler Master MM710
Cooler Master isn’t anywhere close to being the first company with a mouse filled with holes or one that is focused on being ultra-lightweight. But they ended up making something special in my opinion with the MM710 because they integrated the PTFE gliders and the perfect cord into a mainstream mouse. Most importantly though, at less than $50 it is a great deal. I liked this one so much that I had to get two more to pack in our LAN bags. I can’t imagine we stop using them anytime soon unless it is for the MM711 to add a little RGB lighting into the mix.
iBUYPOWER Snowblind Element
The Snowblind case in our third case this year which is very unusual. But its also the only case with an LCD screen built into the side panel window. This is a system I have been wanting to get out to a few LANs as well because everyone who comes over wants to check it out. iBUYPOWER had a few amazing deals on the case at the end of the year as well, hopefully, a few of you took advantage and picked one up. Its an older NZXT case which isn’t all that spectacular, but until any other case has a side panel screen like this (other than their other Snowblind case), it will be special.
Cooler Master MM711
The MM711 is basically the MM710 which won its own Editors Choice award only Cooler Master added RGB lighting. My love for the MM710 carried over here and I haven’t put the MM711 up as my main mouse. The 710 and 711 with their soft and flexible cord are the only wired mice that haven’t caused me trouble on my always a messy desk, which is why I normally stick with a wireless mouse (the G Pro Wireless to be specific).
Elgato Stream Deck XL
The Stream Deck XL may have only been published this December, but long before then I started using the streaming aid and after our coverage, I didn’t stop. When time allows I have been slipping in some gaming and streaming most times. The Stream Deck XL, as I put it in my review, doesn’t make you a pro streamer. But it sure makes you feel like you are. Hopefully going into 2020 I find even more use for it and given Elgato’s constant software improvements I’m sure I will.
2019 Coulda, Shoulda, and Almost Did
Antlion Audio ModMic Wireless
THE name in attachable wired microphones, Antion Audio changed things up with the addition of a wireless version of their always popular ModMic. Wireless made the ModMic much simpler to use but I did come out of the review with a few areas where I thought a second version in the future could improve. The only reason I haven’t been using the ModMic wireless daily is because I need to actually break down and invest in an even better pair of headphones.
Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset
The Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset is without a doubt the best headset I tested all year. Performance is amazing both on the microphone and headphone sides and they are comfortable. They also actually implemented software features that I might care to use. The only reason they didn’t win out on an editor's choice award was because I have been happy with the Arctis Pro Wireless headset I was already using and I didn’t have any plans to go back to being attached by a wire. But that doesn’t take anything away from the G Pro X, but hopefully in 2020 Logitech brings out a wireless version with swappable batteries and I will switch right away!
AMD Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT
AMD’s Navi launch brought AMD back into the picture with mid to high-end performance and had pricing significantly better than Nvidia as well. The only thing keeping the reference designs from winning out was their heat and noise. Aftermarket cards did fix that later but also add a lot more in pricing and a few have their own heat or noise issues as well. Most importantly though, I think there are driver or firmware issues still holding things back. Even as recently as last week I have still run into issues when manually setting fan speeds which was an issue I complained about at the launch and getting consistent results is still a big issue across all of Navi. Requiring lots of retesting as well, at least on our X570 test bench. I suspect 2020 is going to be the year of Navi though. AMD does a great job of constantly trying to improve on issues, as seen with past drivers and with the Ryzen launch as well.
SteelSeries Sensei Ten
The Sensei Ten from SteelSeries is exactly what lots of people, including myself, have been asking for from SteelSeries for years now. Just getting a proper sensor and keeping the exact shape that everyone loves would have gotten an Editors Choice award any other year. But this year everyone has stepped up their game and now what would have been an instant replacement of any mouse on my desk now feels a little heavy and the rubber finish is a concern considering the Sensei Raw that has been in my LAN bag up until this year when the coating just all at once turned into a gooey mess. Still, the Sensei Ten is a great mouse, but a perfect example of an “almost did” or a “coulda” if it came out a year ago.
Jaybird Vista Wireless Earbuds
The Jaybird Vistas impressed me with their performance and won our Top Honors award. The only thing keeping them from an Editors Choice award was me not really using earbuds in general except when mowing the yard. With me testing them late in the year they just didn’t see much use post review, but I suspect unless something even better comes along before the spring that they will get heavy use once the weather warms up.
Past Winners that are still in use
Winning the award this year is great, but managing to stick around for years after that when new products are always coming out is even more impressive. So here I am looking back through past winners to see what is still around.
Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
Wow, we made it completely through 2019 and with all of the GPU launches still nothing knocked the 2080 Ti off of its perch. I still use this all of the time in my main system and it is still a monster.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless
Good audio quality, a solid microphone, and most importantly for me swappable batteries. I always forget to charge my headset so having a fully charged battery always ready is really the only way to go for me and the Arctis Pro Wireless, while expensive, is still the only option that provides that!
Logitech PowerPlay Wireless Charging
The PowerPlay wasn’t perfect when it launched. It was a little oddly shaped for my desk and was thick causing the hard mouse pad to cut into my wrist. But even with all of that I still use it daily. I just love not having to worry about changing my G Pro Wireless and this is the only way to make that happen.
There still aren’t a lot of other options similar to the Protect right now that could integrate with our smart home products. So even though I’m not happy with Google changing Nest and dropping a lot of their integrations I was still considering picking up another protect for our basement even.
Asus Strix GTX 1080 11Gbps
So the first three products here are all for the same project build. They all went in our Iris build. Which reminds me, I need to do an update. The GTX 1080 11Gbps and really any of the 1080 or 1080 Ti cards have all aged extremely well. Because of the mining craze, these cards had a longer lift in general, but even now that the RTX cards have been launched the GTX 1080, especially this card from Asus is well sought after and for good reason. Performance is still amazing and this card has a clean look and great cooling where some of the cards like from MSI stuck with their bright red trim.
Asus Strix Z270i Gaming
Now the Z270 platform as a whole didn’t age as well. It was replaced quickly by Z370 and that was replaced quickly by Z390 but really those new boards haven’t really changed much from Z270, just the chipset itself and a few small aesthetic changes to make it look like a new board. So the Iris build with its 7700K may look out of date with it being three generations old. But this is still a solid platform.
Thermaltake Core P1
The foundation of our Iris build was all around the Core P1. I spotted it when Thermaltake introduced it and hounded them to work with them on it. It was the perfect case for our Iris build because the goal was to show off crazy colors with its water cooling loop and RGB lighting and it did just that and is still running strong. I have to clean the dust out of it from time to time, but with the open design that is easy as well.
Autonomous DIY SmartDesk Business Edition
Sit or stand, if I had to only pick one I would never go with a standing desk. But being able to switch between both has been great for me. Especially with a job that has me sitting far too long every day. The Autonomous DIY SmartDesk Business Edition has been running rock solid for almost two years now and even handled our move well. In fact, I was able to compact it down to a smaller size for the move so it would take up less room in the truck. It isn’t really any different than the multitude of sit-stand powered desks on the market with the exception of its weight capacity. Because of that, it has done well while lifting up my four 24 inch monitor setup and solid wood desktop. Not to mention handling me leaning on it when it is in stand mode.
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. I really thought Cooler Master was going to replace the Pok3r in our LAN bags this year with their new 60% boards but I just don’t like the flat chicklet style keycaps that they went with.
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.
The D-Frame Mini which I have been using hasn’t gotten any use this year with the new SFF cases like the Sentry 2.0 replacing it means there isn’t anything left from the 2014 year.
2013 and 2012
Both lost their last winners last year