The Full Nerd awards: Our favorite PC hardware of 2020
In this episode of The Full Nerd, we crown the best PC hardware and software of 2020.
The Full Nerd
By PCWorld staff, PCWorld
It’s that time of year once again. In this episode of the Full Nerd, Gordon Mah Ung, Brad Chacos, Alaina Yee, Adam Patrick Murray, and you—the live Full Nerd audience—engage in fierce debate (and occasional swooning) to crown the best PC hardware of 2020. And what a year it’s been for PC hardware, even though much of the most impressive new gear remains impossible to acquire.
These aren’t PCWorld’s formal picks—they’re the opinions of the Full Nerd podcast gang alone. We didn’t hold staff-wide meetings or create elaborate Excel spreadsheets full of information about every gizmo we’ve reviewed. Instead, each member of the Full Nerd crew brings a single nominee for each category. Then the group argues, pleads, and deals until we reach a consensus victor. If we can’t determine a winner for a category via majority vote, we ask the live viewing audience to help break the tie. You helped select a champion in not one, but two categories this year. (Subscribe to our YouTube channel if you want to catch us live in the future.)
But the spectacular PC hardware and software nominees are the real stars here. The joy of this award show lies in passionate debate, in the group discussion—in the journey. You can witness it all in the video embedded above. You can also watch The Full Nerd episode 162 on YouTube or listen to it on Soundcloud if you prefer the audio alone.
If you want to know our favorites without sitting through the full show, here’s a list of the winners. But the best part of this episode is all the arguing and cajoling, so tune into the full thing if you can! Doing so will clue you in to the complete list of nominees—this was a banner year for PC hardware. And once again, note that this is the Full Nerd gang’s favorite hardware—not the entire PCWorld staff’s best-of picks. Hearty congratulations to the winners and nominees alike.
Best CPU of 2020: AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors, for toppling Intel’s desktop dominance for the first time in a long time. AMD has been building steam for a while now and started firing on all cylinders in 2020.
Best graphics card of 2020: Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, a virtually flawless 1440p graphics card. It’s the only next-gen graphics card without any significant compromises for what it’s trying to do.
Best case of 2020: Cooler Master MasterBox NR200, a very affordable and compact case that’s not too small. It looks great, has enough space to fit your needs, and makes small form factor builds a lot more accessible than they used to be.
Best accessory of 2020: Lian Li Uni Fan SL120, a modular, interlocking fan that can be linked up and run off a single set of cables (one fan, one RGB). The system not only reduces cable clutter, but it saves time spent on determining the cleanest routing for as many as 8 cables when using RGB fans. They’re so popular they’re hard to get right now—something you don’t hear very often about case fans.
Best laptop of 2020: The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. “To give you an idea of just how impressive this 3.5-pound, Ryzen 4000-based laptop is, you’re talking about a weight class that typically gives you lower-power CPUs and GPUs,” we said in our review. “Yet the G14 can hang in CPU performance with laptops that weight 10 pounds.” It’s significantly more affordable than those heavier systems, too.
Best game of 2020: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, a breathtaking technical marvel that models the entire world, complete with real-time weather sucked in from Microsoft’s Azure service. Flying into the eye of a real-life hurricane feels amazing, and Flight Simulator provides a great excuse to blow the dust off your HOTAS flight stick.
Best innovation of 2020: Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0. DLSS taps the dedicated tensor cores inside Nvidia’s RTX GPUs, using their machine learning chops to boost frames rates and increase the resolution you’re able to play at—a key complement to ray tracing, but a wonderful advantage in any game that supports it. DLSS 1.0 didn’t look great, but the wholly new DLSS 2.0 implementation quells pretty much every complaint about the first version, with much faster performance and vastly improved visuals. It can even make your games look better than native rendering in the right circumstances.
Worst trend of 2020: Toilet paper launches, which isn’t quite the same as a normal paper launch. You can’t buy many of the hottest new PC products of 2020 for the same reason you couldn’t buy toilet paper for a big chunk of the year. Manufacturers are cranking hardware out as fast as they can, but the demand is just crushing. Most people hoping to upgrade their graphics cards for Cyberpunk 2077 had their dreams crushed too, all because of toilet paper launches. Hopefully 2021 fixes the problem.