What a year 2022 has been for hardware. After a pandemic-induced drought, the skies finally rained incredible launches upon parched enthusiasts. Whether a holdout for a new processor or graphics card, or an eager fan of portable PC gaming, your patience was richly rewarded.
Want to know what set off the fireworks? Continue reading for a recap of the results, along with the arguments that set Gordon and especially Brad off. (Sorry, boss.) For the full discussion, check out the video embedded below. Also, keep in mind that these picks are simply the favorites as nominated and voted on in live combat debate by the members of our Full Nerd podcast, which focuses on deeply geeky enthusiast-level tech. Be sure to check out our separate roundup of the best PC hardware and software of 2022 for PCWorld’s wider list of champions, as well as our roundup of the best work-from-home tech of 2022.
Both Intel and AMD launched heavy hitters this year, with 13th-generation Raptor Lake and Ryzen 7000 blowing past their predecessors on benchmark charts. With how much raw power they offer, you’d think that the top dog Core i9-13900K would have been a shoo-in for this pick. Gordon, our resident CPU reviewer, certainly did.
Unfortunately for Gordon, democracy prevailed. The rest of the crew much preferred the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, AMD’s superb bookend to the AM4 era. Given the 5800X3D’s current street prices, the majority felt this chip offers excellent performance in the areas most people care about—gaming and streaming—while also showcasing AMD’s impressive new V-Cache tech. It also didn’t hurt that this ultra-powerful CPU can slip into your existing motherboard as a fairly easy and low-cost upgrade.
One big thing that came out of this discussion: Each person defining what makes a product a favorite of the year, rather than the best (a shift in theme for these 2022 Nerdies). This becomes very relevant in the next topic, GPUs.
Poor Brad. On the one hand, 2022 saw the launch of new graphics cards, saving him from yet another year of enduring a win for integrated graphics as our GPU pick. However, on the other hand, he had to spend a lot of effort for the majority to agree on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 as the favorite.
Despite clear evidence of the 4090’s futuristically fast performance, Adam and Keith countered hard with Intel’s new Arc graphics cards as their favorite of the year—despite the A770 and A750 showing up to the table with issues (like drivers). The pair defended Intel passionately, touting the effort (and the attention paid to the mid-range) as worthy of favorite status. Perhaps not best, but favorite.
Let’s just say the conversation got downright emotional fast, lasting nearly twice as long as the CPU discussion and reaching an intense fever point before Adam and Keith finally cracked. (At Alaina’s instigation.) In the end, the GeForce RTX 4090’s face-melting speed and unlocking of all-new gaming experiences—no-compromises ray tracing and 120Hz+ 4K gaming, along with the introduction of AI-powered DLSS Frame Generation—earned this brutal graphics card a hard-won crown. It’s a beast for content creation, too.
Like 2021, a ton of great new cases came available in 2022—and at all sizes. Whether you wanted something small and modular like the Phanteks Evolv Shift XT, a tidy case that supports optical drives like the Fractal Design Pop Mini Air, or a pretty yet meaty box like the Lian Li Lancool III, everyone got something novel and new.
But none were as fresh as the Fractal Design North, a mid-tower airflow case with typical proportions but an original take on a slatted front panel. Rather than plastic or metal, Fractal used wood, with your choice of stain colors. It’ll blend in with most of today’s current home decor, too, given how popular mid-century modern is right now. The Fractal Design North also offers excellent airflow, cooling performance, and buildability. That’s a word, right?
Our only complaint? There’s not a smaller mini-ITX version available. Yet. (Ahem.)
Accessories are defined as items that add value or utility, or enhance the appearance of the primary item. Which means you can count a lot of things that aren’t just keyboards, mice, headphones, and the like. For example: The Steam Deck. Actually, not just for example, given that we picked it as our favorite PC accessory.
Yes, it is a computer unto itself. But for how it’s used in the real world—as a complement rather than replacement for a gaming rig—it’s more an accessory than an independent device, allowing you to continue your games away from your desk (or your home all together). Adam and Keith couldn’t stop speaking enthusiastically about their Steam Decks, and even those of us without one plan to eventually rectify that. Valve actually managed to make a portable gaming handheld a reality, and Linux gaming a reality, all for under $400. Bravo.
Choosing a laptop (much like a computer case) often boils down to your needs and personal taste. Which makes picking a consensus favorite difficult.
But Asus’s improvements to its Zephyrus G14 (plus a hefty assist from AMD’s excellent Ryzen 6900HS and Radeon RX 6800S) helped the company win this category twice with the same model. (Well, technically, the 2020 and 2022 models.) It’s fast, powerful, lightweight, and even sports a futuristic mini-LED display on its exterior for showing notifications, battery life info, music visualizations, and more. At $2,500, this version of the ROG Zephyrus G14 isn’t cheap, but you get a lot in this 3.8-lb notebook. And it’s a fun machine. Seriously, look at that AniME Matrix display on its lid!
These days, you can buy plenty of fantastic products that not only support your favorite creators, but pay homage to your interests in just the right ways, too. It’s not all t-shirts and mugs, either: Take for example the ratcheting screwdriver from the Linus Tech Tips store or GamersNexus’ perennially popular mod mat.
But for this year, nostalgia won our hearts (and our dollars). Over on the store for Paul’s Hardware, you can find majestic 8-bit renditions of PCs and PC parts. T-shirt, hoodie, or mug—it doesn’t matter which version you choose. We just love how it merges our modern lives with the familiar things of our youth.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article listed 3D V-Cache as the winner of this category. This was a mistake and not the accidental reveal of an alternate timeline where Brad and Alaina’s favorite got its due. We regret the error.
For unlocking the shackles on PC gaming and making it possible to play your huge Steam backlog anywhere, the Steam Deck won our Best Accessory award this year. But its sheer existence is also of note: As the culmination of a decade of work, it finally gave life to the dream of playing games on a console-sized PC that remained a PC. If you want to play games outside your Steam library, you can.
Moreover, powering that accomplishment is an amazing technological trick—seamless integration of Proton, the software layer that allows Steam Deck owners to play Windows games on Linux. And amazingly, Valve priced the whole package in the same range as an actual console. Whether the Steam Deck ultimately boosts Linux gaming across the board remains to be seen, but for simply being here on this earth, the Steam Deck nabbed the majority vote and cinched a win.
Worst trend: Pricing
We mean pricing on new hardware launched in 2022, but really, it’s the cost of everything in 2022. MSRPs keep rising.
Unlike 2021, when prices ballooned due to mining, scalping, logistics woes, and general shortages on goods we all wanted, this year we had to stomach higher list prices for new launches. Of course, not all hardware bloated in price and dropped in value, but GPUs like the $1,200 RTX 4080 and the impending $899 Radeon RX 7900 XT sure feel overpriced relative to their specs. AMD’s Ryzen 7000 processors already received heavy criticism for their perceived high cost. Are we entitled to fast hardware at loss-leader prices? No. But it feels like the insanity will never end.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering software, PC building, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.