After years of shortages and product delays, the PC industry slammed on the gas pedal in 2022, unleashing bleeding-edge hardware at a truly frenetic pace.
A wave of long-lasting, heavy-hitting laptops started the year with a bang. Then the battle turned to desktops, where Intel, Nvidia, and AMD rolled out new generations of processors and graphics cards alike, bolstered by delightful advances in SSDs and new monitors that push pixels harder than ever before. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
We tested some truly impressive hardware this year—but you’ll only find the absolute greatest on this list. And that’s not all: Our top picks include the best software available, because what you use all that computing power for is just as vital.
For this list, we asked PCWorld’s tech experts to share their favorite picks in their areas of expertise. Without further ado, this is the best PC hardware and software of 2022 and 2023. Yes, we’re looking forward to next year, because until even newer products begin launching in 2023, many of the champions on this list will remain very relevant for months to come. We’ve also rounded up our favorite work-from-home tech of 2022 if you’re interested in a more productivity-focused look at the year’s best options, while our Full Nerd podcast selected beloved enthusiast gear of their own.
Best thin-and-light laptop: Dell XPS 13 Plus
If you’re on the hunt for a truly spectacular ultraportable, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is the laptop to target. It’s featherlight at under three pounds, the 13.4-inch 3456×2160 OLED display is a real sight to behold, and the Intel Core i7-1280P CPU delivers leading-edge performance. That’s the full package right there. It has enough oomph to whiz through photo editing work as well as day-to-day tasks like browsing the web and checking e-mail. And the hidden haptic trackpad—a unique design choice that’s different from previous iterations—helps the Dell XPS 13 Plus look truly sophisticated. You really can’t go wrong here. —Ashley Biancuzzo
Best graphics card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090
It’ll cost you a small fortune to get your hands on one, but the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 deserves the highest accolades possible. Nvidia’s 40-series flagship is blow-your-hair-back-and-melt-your-face fast—so fast, it unlocks experiences never before possible.
With the RTX 4090—and only the RTX 4090—you can max out a 4K, 144Hz monitor with all the eye candy turned on in your games. You can play the most strenuous ray traced games without even bothering to flip DLSS on—but you should, because DLSS delivers a massive speed boost with few visual compromises. DLSS 3’s new Frame Generation feature taps into AI to double frame rates in compatible games for unparalleled visual smoothness. And content creators will adore the RTX 4090’s 24GB of mega-fast VRAM and juggernaut productivity chops.
Yes, the GeForce RTX 4090 costs $1,600. But this GPU is worth every penny. It’s so fast that AMD’s flagship Radeon RX 7900 XTX isn’t even trying to compete at its level. This may be my favorite graphics card I’ve ever tested in all my years at PCWorld.
Best high-end CPU: Intel Core i9-13900K
AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 7950X may have landed the first blow in this new CPU generation, and it’s a mighty foe indeed—but Intel’s 24-core Core i9-13900K is better. The last-gen Core i9-12900K already impressed, but Intel managed to cram twice as many efficiency-focused “E” cores into the new chip, while simultaneously cranking clock speeds to blistering new 5.8GHz levels. As a result, the Core i9-13900K holds the performance crown in gaming and single-threaded performance, while speeding through heavily multi-core tasks at a 40 percent faster clip than before. Hot damn.
Tipping the scales even further in Intel’s favor, the Core i9-13900K also enjoys robust software support for its onboard media engine (helpful for content creators!) and somehow costs less than its Ryzen rival. Adding insult to injury, Intel’s 13th-gen Core CPUs also support cheaper DDR4 memory when using select motherboards, unlike AMD, which mandates DDR5 with Ryzen 7000. Faster, cheaper, and better software support? The Intel Core i9-13900K is absolutely the best CPU of this new generation. —Brad Chacos
Best SSD: Adata Legend 960
Sure, some rival PCIe 4.0 SSDs edge out the Adata Legend 960 in raw benchmark performance—but only by the slimmest of margins. Yet somehow, Adata managed to price the Legend 960 at substantially less than the bleeding-edge competition, at just $120 for 1TB or $220 for 2TB capacities, while also tossing an optional heat sink in the box and offering a surprisingly substantial warranty and TBW rating. Our reviewer summed it up perfectly: “The Adata Legend 960 is a top-performing NVMe SSD at a mid- to lower-tier price. What’s not to like about that?” —Brad Chacos
Best antivirus: Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton 360 Deluxe may not be the most new or exciting, but the well-established security software continues to reign supreme at the top of our list for the best antivirus for Windows. With recent feature updates such as Dark Web Monitoring and VPN access, it has made itself the security suite to beat. The price of $105 for a year subscription, while not insignificant, isn’t likely to break the bank either.
Norton also includes a ton of extras in its antivirus suite including file cleanup, startup manager, and options for gamer specific features as well. Last but not least, Norton 360 Deluxe is one of the least obtrusive or annoying antivirus programs we’ve tested—no unnecessary pop-ups or notifications in sight. For the piece of mind and full feature set that Norton provides, we think it represents excellent value and top of the line protection. —Sam Singleton
Best gaming laptop: Razer Blade 17
The Razer Blade 17 (2022) delivers serious gaming power. Thanks to the Intel Core i7-12800H CPU and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU inside, this laptop can chew right through most games on ultra settings without breaking a sweat. It also features a drop dead gorgeous 240Hz panel, which deserves its own call-out, complete with Nvidia G-Sync support to eliminate any screen tearing by matching the display’s frame rate to the GPU’s. And did we mention the drool-worthy aesthetic design? This laptop will definitely provide the ultimate gaming experience. —Ashley Biancuzzo
Best monitor: Asus ProArt PA348CGV
When it comes to all-around monitor greatness, it’s hard to beat the Asus ProArt PA348CGV. The ultrawide 34-inch, 3440×1440 IPS panel is targeted at professionals, and as such it offers incredible color accuracy and a wide color gamut, as well as extensive customization options.
The monitor stand is simple, but solid, with good connectivity options, including four video inputs and a USB hub, the full complement of ergonomic adjustments, and built-in speakers. That alone would make it worth its $729 price.
But what makes this monitor particularly outstanding, is that it matches its pro-graphics chops with gaming capabilities in the form of a 2mm response time, 120Hz refresh rate, and official support for AMD’s FreeSync. We can’t think of another monitor this satisfyingly versatile. —Katherine Stevenson
Best gaming headset: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
“Make me a gaming headset that does everything” must have been the design brief behind the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. This top-notch gaming headset offers the most compelling blend of comfort, style, and functionality I’ve experienced in 2022. The headset’s snugness comes courtesy of a multipronged ComfortMAX system consisting of height adjustable sides, a central flexible tension band, and rotating earcups that provide your head with ample room to move. These features sit alongside plush leatherette ear coverings, and exceptionally stylish gun metal earcup covers that ooze high-end style.
The Nova Pro Wireless also goes the extra mile with connectivity, sporting dual wireless (2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) functionality, as well as wired connectivity— the latter for Hi-Res 96KHz/24-Bit audio. The dual wireless capability not only allows you to access your audio untethered but also lets you simultaneously take calls, listen to music or chat whilst gaming – a real treat for multitaskers. Plus, the headset comes with a convenient base controller that lets you switch between your PC and Xbox One and Xbox X/S at the switch of a button.
When it comes to the all-important audio performance, the Nova Pro Wireless nails it. The headset always sounding fantastic, with Active Noise Cancellation, a rich and warm audio profile and a sizeable bass presence that never disappoints. On top of all that, the headset benefits from SteelSeries’ excellent GG software app, which you can use to personalize your gaming audio exactly how you like it. – Dominic Bayley
Best VPN: ExpressVPN
It isn’t easy to select the best overall VPN. There are a ton of contributing factors to consider such as privacy, user interface, server spread, and speed. While before it was common to sacrifice some of these features to gain others, that is no longer the case.
ExpressVPN has it all, easily making it our top choice for best VPN. Not only is it one of the fastest VPNs we have ever tested, but it has plenty of country locations to choose from, it’s very easy to use, and it offers wide device support. ExpressVPN also regularly has third-party auditors review their services in order to reinforce their privacy credentials. Currently there aren’t any other VPNs out there offering the same level of features and value as ExpressVPN. —Sam Singleton
Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a fantastic convertible laptop for work or play. You can prop it up like a tent for watching movies or rotate the screen around and use it like a handheld tablet. The laptop itself weighs just a little over three pounds, making a perfectly capable travel companion. It also has a colorful 2256×1504 touch-enabled display, all-day battery life, and a wide array of ports. The build is surprisingly robust as well. If you don’t need Windows, the Spin 713 is a great everyday laptop. —Ashley Biancuzzo
Best keyboard: Keychron Q5
One keyboard stood out for both quality and value this year: the Keychron Q5. That isn’t to say that it’s cheap — it starts at $175, and it’s a little over $200 fully loaded. (Which is still cheaper than many “gaming” designs!) But that gets you an incredible amount of features and so much quality you’ll find it hard to go back to a “normal” board.
Full aluminum construction, high-quality switches, excellent keycaps, and a foam gasket mount make the keyboard feel incredible right out of the box. Hot-swap switches and VIA programming make customization easy and inviting. And the thing’s so solid you could use it as an anchor.
You can extend this recommendation to Keychron’s entire Q series, which all use the same design for a variety of layouts. Check out the Keychron Q8 and Q10, if you want to combine these features with some subtle ergonomics. —Michael Crider
Best game streaming service: Nvidia GeForce Now
No graphics card? No problem. Folks blessed with good Internet have an abundance of game streaming services to choose from these days, but for PC gamers specifically, Nvidia’s GeForce Now is the best of the bunch.
While you do have to purchase many of the games that you can play on this service—GFN hooks into your existing PC store accounts, like Steam, instead of providing a library of “free” games like Xbox Cloud Gaming (or Netflix)—GeForce Now brings some of the best visual quality, a massive game compatibility list, and a free membership plan option. With that in mind, there’s literally no reason not to jump in and at least try out some free games like Fortnite or League of Legends to see if it works for you. And if you do dig it (or can’t find an affordable GPU),the top-tier RTX 3080 offering brings the might of that kick-ass graphics card to bear, complete with ray traced visuals, support for higher resolutions at faster speeds, and priority server access. —Brad Chacos
Best budget SSD: Crucial P3
If you don’t move massive amounts of ultra-large files, you probably don’t need to splurge on a pricey cutting-edge PCIe 4.0 SSD—a standard PCIe 3.0 drive will do you just fine. The best bargain we’ve reviewed this year? The Crucial P3. It offers excellent everyday storage performance for gaming, content creation, and more, and better yet, it’s one of the first fast NVMe drives to drop under 10 cents per gig—you can pick up a 500GB model for $43, while a 1TB version costs a paltry $74 at press time. The Crucial P3 offers a whole lot of fast storage for a very compelling price. —Brad Chacos
Best mainstream CPU: Intel Core i5-13600K
This year, not one but two fantastic mainstream processors launched, with both the Intel Core i5-13600K and AMD Ryzen 5 7600X posting ridiculous numbers. But as impressive as AMD’s latest is, Intel edges it out with faster gaming performance and cheaper compatible hardware. For PC builders on a budget, it’s hard to beat Intel’s wider selection of affordable motherboards, especially when they support inexpensive DDR4 memory. Intel’s Core i5-13600K earns our easily recommendation for PC gamers who don’t have an infinite budget. —Alaina Yee
Best password manager: Lastpass
If you’re not already using a password manager, you should be. Create long, random passwords becomes a snap, with the hard work of remembering them left to the service. You could use your phone or browser’s built-in manager, but upgrading to LastPass supercharges the features you get. Its $36-per-year paid plan is worth the cost—and among the most affordable options out there.
Simply install its browser plugin and/or mobile app for a combination password generator, password vault, and form filler. It works across all devices, so moving between your PC, phone, and tablet should be seamless. You can store other info too, like credit card info or general notes. LastPass’s premium features also include file uploads up to 1GB, secure password sharing, emergency access for trusted contacts, and more. With its user-friendly interface tying everything together, managing your digital life is so much easier and more secure. —Alaina Yee
Best gaming monitor: Alienware AW3423DW
If you take your PC gaming seriously, you want a display that elevates the experience with excellent color and contrast, superior motion performance, and an ultrawide screen expanse that fully immerses you in the action. Alienware’s AW3423DW checks all those boxes, and then some.
It all starts with the cutting-edge OLED panel using Quantum Dot technology (a first of its kind),which gives the 34-inch, 3440×1440 display some key advantages over its IPS counterparts: backlight-free deep, inky blanks alongside the panel’s rich color reproduction, and near-instant pixel response times (aided by a refresh rate up to 175Hz).
And while the curved monitor surpasses the competition in gaming, its 1800R radius is still serviceable for non-gaming use. Combine that with a stand that offers height, tilt, and swivel adjustments, an attractive and sturdy design, and a fair price for its premium feature set, and you can see why our reviewer proclaimed: “The Alienware AW3423DW makes every other 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor obsolete.” —Katherine Stevenson
Best PDF editor: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
Who else could it be but the OG PDF editor? Adobe Acrobat Pro DC has been, and continues to be, the undisputed king of PDF Editors. Its combination of features for editing, creating, reviewing, and security are the industry standard and what most of its competitors can only attempt to emulate.
In the latest version, they redesigned the interface to make it easier to navigate the robust toolset. Additionally they added a cloud subscription option and a mobile app for both iOS and Android—both great services for individuals and small businesses. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a subscription-based service, meaning that you will always have access to the latest version and don’t have to buy new software every year. —Sam Singleton
Best Thunderbolt dock: Kensington SD5500T Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Docking Station
Our pick for the best Thunderbolt dock of 2022 is the Kensington SD5500T Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Docking Station, and here’s why: smart compromises. One of the complaints readers have is that Thunderbolt docks are useful, but they’re so damn expensive, pushing north of $300. Kensington’s SD5000T (a slightly cheaper clone of the IOGear Thunderbolt 3 Dock Pro) is about $215 at press time. Price matters.
The advantage of a newer, more expensive Thunderbolt 4 dock isn’t bandwidth, but stricter compatibility restrictions. In this case, we haven’t had any issues with this Thunderbolt 3 dock at all. You might notice that our pick only includes a pair of DisplayPort options for external monitor connectivity — while we appreciate more flexibility, all but bargain-basement monitors now include DisplayPort ports. With a smart mix of ports and 60W of laptop charging power, we think this is the best Thunderbolt dock for the largest audience right now. —Mark Hachman
Best budget monitor: NZXT Canvas 27Q
You can find a decent monitor for less than NZXT Canvas 27Q, but a recent $70 price drop makes this already impressive debut display an even better value. As with our other monitor picks, the 27Q can meet the demands of work and play.
The 27-inch, 2560×1440 IPS panel has a 165Hz refresh rate and support for adaptive sync with both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. Motion clarity in games is good at default settings, and can be further enhanced with an “MPRT” backlight-strobing mode.
For content creation tasks, you’ll find that the 27Q delivers great image quality and a wide color gamut that’s impressive for the price. It’s also unique in offering black or white color options, which can be mixed and matched between the panel itself and the stand (sold separately for $40). —Katherine Stevenson
Best gaming mouse: HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless
I keep returning to this esports-friendly 2.4GHz wireless mouse for its mix of lightweight handling, comfort, precision, and predictability in a range of different games. Under the hood, it’s powered by a 16,000 DPI Pixart PAW3335 sensor. You’d be forgiven for thinking is a little underpowered compared to some 20,000 to 30,000 DPI sensors on the market, but it’s not, providing an extremely fast 1000Hz (1ms) polling rate, and proving quick and responsive in fps games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The switches are nice and clicky, the mouse is rated for a long 100-hour battery, and the unusual honeycomb design feels both lightweight and responsive in your hand. It’s a great gaming mouse, full stop, but the price makes it even better: The HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless costs just $60 in an era where top-notch gaming mice go for $100 or more. You can’t go wrong. —Dominic Bayley
Best Windows backup software: R-Drive Image 7
Always a favorite of ours here at PCWorld, R-Drive Image is a consistently solid Windows backup software. But it wasn’t until the latest version 7 was released that it jumped ahead to take our top spot.
It not only consumes pleasantly few system resources, but it’s ultra-reliable when creating backup images of partitions and disks. The latest version improves upon this with a more modern, user-friendly interface and adds a welcomed partition management as well as new file and folder backup systems. It has practically made itself a one-stop solution for backing up on Windows. At less than $50 for a license, it’s quite affordable as well and is a no-brainer for people looking for reliable backup software. —Sam Singleton
Best online backup service: iDrive Online Cloud Backup
When you are paying for an online backup service, you want it to be comprehensive and versatile. Out of all the best online backup services we have tested, none are more complete or feature-rich than iDrive Online Cloud Backup. It has you covered with online, local, sync, and snapshots. They will even ship you backup drives with your stored data for quick recovery if something were to happen to your data locally.
iDrive also has a simple and easy to use interface that allows you to backup your important data with a minimum of fuss. Additionally, all of their most advanced features are included in their basic service level making it a better value than it appears to be at first glance. It is a one-stop shop and likely to be the only online backup service you will ever need. —Sam Singleton
Best dash cam: Cobra SC 400D
The Cobra SC 400D is a superb product. Day or night, front or back views, it’s got you covered with best-in-class video captures.
The quality of the device itself is top-notch. The main unit has a solid heft and uses a semi-permanent mount with a built-in GPS unit. On the back is a 3-inch color touchscreen that’s easy to use; voice control is also an option.
Being a premium product, it has all the bells and whistles: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, mapping, an SD card, and 3.5mm jack for an optional $80 1080p, 120-degree FOV interior camera. But the real stars of the show are the incredibly clear and detailed 4K, 140-degree FOV front captures and 1080p, 120-degree FOV rear captures. As our reviewer described it: “The Cobra SC 400D is experientially one of the nicest dash cams I’ve ever tested.” —Katherine Stevenson
Best remote desktop software: TeamViewer or RemotePC by iDrive
This year’s best remote desktop software is a toss-up between the free to use TeamViewer and the premium RemotePC by iDrive. TeamViewer is our choice for individuals because it is extremely easy to use, comes with just about every remote-desktop software extra you will ever need, and is free to use for personal/occasional use. It also doesn’t require installation making it perfect for the casual user.
RemotePC by iDrive on the other hand is a premium service that is a great choice for businesses—especially those with mixed operating systems. RemotePC edges out the competition by offering a full feature-set including servers for all major desktop OSes, multi-monitor support, drag-and-drop file transfers, screen recording, whiteboard, remote sound and printing, among others. And it provides all of this at a more affordable rate than most other services. —Sam Singleton
Best USB-C hub: Yeolibo 9-in-1 USB-C Hub (RU9A)
USB-C hubs should be cheap and flexible, and this dongle has both in spades. At just a hair over $20, this hub offers a variety of USB Type A and USB-C ports, plus a microSD and SD slot for transferring photos. It’s also rated for up to 100W of input power, so you can connect your USB-C laptop charger to this hub, and from there to your PC.
Let’s face it: buying technology can be expensive. But a USB-C hub like this is a necessity priced like an afterthought, and for this reason it earns our endorsement. —Mark Hachman
Editor’s note: This article originally published on November 4, but was updated December 13 to include the RTX 4090 as the best GPU and link to our other year-end awards.
…. to be continued
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