2023 Australian PC Awards winners: the best of the best in PC

Australian PC Awards 2023
(Image credit: Future)

Welcome to a particularly interesting edition of the Australian PC Awards. Unlike most years in tech which are clean, tidy periods where everything runs smoothly and we all buy loads of nice new things, 2022 turned that upside down with one drama after another, all in a market where actual products you could buy were scarce, expensive, or delayed.

This is not to say the actual products were duds – au contraire – the tail end of 2022 in particular saw a spectacular period of new GPUs and CPUs, along with exciting new motherboard platforms. DDR5 got its act together and became good while affordable laptops leapt into new realms of low power and high performance. We even saw some standout new techs that blew us away, like QD-OLED monitors.

The editorial teams at TechRadar, APC, PC Gamer and PC PowerPlay thoroughly enjoyed compiling these finalists, and then selecting the winners. It was a fascinating year with tech highs and lows. The highs certainly weren’t in short supply... it’s just that the lows exceeded the expected quota by an alarming amount.

But we've selected our winners and they are clear to us as the best of the best. Read on and see what got the big gongs. Maybe you agree, maybe you have differing opinions. In either case that’s all good; 2022 was a confusing year, but thanks to these 2023 Australian PC Awards the cream has been separated and all the good stuff properly rewarded.

Words by Ben Mansill, Joel Burgess and Chris Szewczyk.

The APCA 2023 sponsors

(Image credit: Future)

APCA 2023 MOBO

(Image credit: Future)

We were really spoiled for choice when it came to motherboards in 2022. Both AMD and Intel released new platforms meaning we had a huge variety of boards to choose from.

In September, AMD released its AM5 platform, which added support for DDR5 memory. High end X670E boards were joined by X670, B650E and B650 boards. Four chipsets? Actually, they all use the same chip. It's just that the X series uses two of them, while the B series uses one. AMD says it intends to support AM5 for several years to come. If it has a long life like AM4 did, then you can expect to be able to upgrade to a Zen 5 or Zen 6 processor with just a BIOS flash.

Just a month later, Intel released its 13th Generation CPU range accompanied by Z790 motherboards. Z790 is more or less an evolution over Z690 with a better I/O thanks to the inclusion of more PCIe 4.0 lanes. This means Z790 boards typically have improved support for high bandwidth devices and controllers, including things like more PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots or things like USB 4 or Thunderbolt 4 controllers.

Sadly, motherboards were not immune from the all too well-known effects of inflation and wider tech industry woes. That meant high quality motherboards were expensive. They still are. It wasn't long ago that an AU$500 motherboard was regarded as ultra-premium. Now, AU$500 is considered mid-range.

But if you are prepared to pay, at least you can expect a high-quality product. Things like the power delivery, cooling, USB port count and speeds and support for faster M.2 drives mean you'll have a motherboard that will happily power a system for many years to come, no matter what you use a PC for.

Best Motherboard Maker

Gigabyte Aorus

Gigabyte Aorus
Gigabyte's Aorus boards usually impress us with their quality feature sets, good value for money and cooling potential. 

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Value Motherboard

MSI B660M Mortar Max Wifi  

MSI B660M Mortar Max Wifi  
This is a very good motherboard anyway, but its ability to overclock a locked 12th Gen processor reminds us of the days of overclocking budget CPUs to high end performance levels. That's real value.

• Read the full Tom's Hardware review

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Premium Motherboard

Gigabyte X670 Aorus Elite AX

Gigabyte X670 Aorus Elite AX
The X670 Aorus Elite AX stands out with its excellent design and feature set. It offers everything you should realistically need without the exorbitant price of the flagship tier boards.

Read the full Tom's Hardware review

Highly Commended

All Finalists

APCA 2023 Graphics cards

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to graphics cards, 2022 was very much a tale of two halves. The first part of the year was dominated by the influence of crypto mining, COVID fallout and ongoing geopolitical concerns. That meant GPU pricing was simply ridiculous.

Once Ethereum shifted away from GPU mining, things slowly returned to normal. Stocks consistently appeared on shelves, prices dropped and PC gaming came back from its perilous position.

With mining in the rear view mirror, the latter part of 2022 was genuinely exciting thanks to the release of Nvidia's RTX 40 series and later on, AMD's RX 7900 series. Intel's long gestating Arc cards also made their debut, though they didn't have the impact Intel would have hoped for.

The RTX 4090 was unveiled in September. It retained peak mining era pricing, but if you were prepared to pay, you were rewarded with the highest performing GPU ever made. The RTX 4080 followed, and though it's an excellent GPU, its popularity suffered as a result of its high price.

The end of the year saw the release of AMD's RX 7900 series. While the 7900 XTX couldn't knock the 4090 off of its perch, RX 7900s are still competitive options with both introducing chiplet technology to consumer GPUs for the first time.

If 2022 was the year of high prices and high end cards, 2023 is looking better, with both companies (and perhaps Intel too) set to release compelling mainstream options.

Best Graphics Card Maker

MSI

MSI
MSI consistently produces high quality graphics cards that offer an excellent blend of build quality, cooling ability, and low noise levels without charging the Earth. 

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Value Graphics Card

MSI GeForce RTX 3050 Gaming X

MSI GeForce RTX 3050 Gaming X
The MSI GeForce RTX 3050 Gaming X stood out in a very tough market thanks to its excellent cooling and good value for money.

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Premium Graphics Card

Asus ROG Strix RTX 4090 OC Edition
Best Premium Graph...

Asus ROG Strix RTX 4090 OC Edition
If you want the best, and don't mind paying, then there's only one choice: The RTX 4090. Asus took a great GPU and made it better.

Highly Commended

All Finalists

APCA 2023 CPU

(Image credit: Future)

2022 was a huge year for CPU releases. The start of the year was dominated by the release of Intel's mainstream 12th Generation range including the excellent Core i5 12400. AMD also fleshed out its Zen 3 range, with more affordable Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. All of these CPUs were welcome at a time when value for money was becoming a difficult thing to find.

One of the highlights of the year, if not the last decade, was the release of the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Its stacked cache is very much cutting-edge technology. This CPU with its 96MB of L3 cache offered gamers in particular a very compelling upgrade option. Chip stacking is a big part of AMD and Intel's future plans.

These were impressive and highly recommended CPUs, but the big headlines were reserved for the September launch of AMD's Ryzen 7000 series CPUs, and just a month later, Intel's 13th Generation CPUs.

Both can be considered an evolution over their predecessors, delivering generally better performance and/or power efficiency. Intel increased core counts across the range, negating the advantage AMD held for many years.

It wasn't all cheers and high fives though. Both companies generally increased their power consumption levels at each product tier which means there's a need for very good cooling to tame the faster chips from both AMD and Intel.

Best Value CPU

Intel Core i5-12400F

Intel Core i5-12400F
The Core i5 12400 really punches above its weight, delivering excellent performance at a genuinely budget price.

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Mid-range CPU

Intel Core i5-13600K

Intel Core i5-13600K 
The i5 13600K is a stellar CPU. It's an excellent choice for gaming, productivity or general use, without needing too much power or requiring expensive cooling. 

• Read the full PC Gamer review

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Premium CPU

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X  
The 7950X narrowly takes out the win thanks to its excellent all round performance, doing so without letting go of power efficiency. 

• Read the full PC Gamer review

Highly Commended

All Finalists

APCA storage

(Image credit: Future)

If 2022 was a big year for PC component releases, the storage industry wasn't so exciting. That's not to say PC storage isn’t faster and more affordable at each capacity, it's just that there wasn't a product or release that didn’t feel like an evolution of something that came before. The best drives in 2022 weren't necessarily the fastest ones, but rather the ones that offered a good balance of speed, capacity and value for money.

PCIe 4.0 drives saturated the market and more or less hit their performance ceiling, at least in terms of sequential transfer speeds. With lots of competing brands, a high speed M.2 drive became more affordable than ever – a win for consumers.

PCIe 3.0 M.2 drives became relegated to budget status. As they approached price parity with SATA drives, they became very good options for things like bulk media storage or for storing space hogging game libraries.

Speaking of SATA, the humble hard drive isn’t going away any time soon. Large mechanical drives are still much cheaper per gigabyte than flash solutions and they remain highly relevant.

We expected PCIe 5.0 SSDs to launch in 2022, but sadly they were nowhere to be found.

Best Internal Storage Maker

WD

WD
Western Digital introduced some excellent SSDs that offered great value for money – something we can all appreciate – while losing little performance to much more expensive drives.

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best External Storage Maker

Samsung

Samsung
The field was flooded by fast external and portable storage devices, but Samsung shone the brightest, as exemplified by the T7 Shield, which packs USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 NVMe performance into a very rugged enclosure with great security features.

Highly Commended

All Finalists

APCA 2023 systems

(Image credit: Future)

2022 was the year of systems defying size expectations and breaking norms. Whether it was Apple releasing a MacBook Air that’s more expensive than a number of MacBook Pro devices, or Razer’s Blade 15 with a 3080 Ti that’s thinner and lighter than a LG Gram 16 2-in-1 and MacBook Pro 16, today’s engineering is shrinking powerful components into unbelievably compact packages. 

The fourth generation of NVMe PCIe SSDs ushered in practical read speeds over 7,000MB/s and write speeds of more than 5,000MB/s. Rates that almost seem more like RAM transfer speeds than something that you’d use to retrieve Word and OS files. 

We saw a handful of OLED screens on approachably priced Ultrabooks and many of the players at the top end are introducing novel features like integrated glass trackpads, displays on the outside of laptops, laptop screens that hinge like drawing tables, and others that have a whole second screen emerging from the keyboard. 

We reviewed laptops you have to assemble yourself from the ground up, and others that you have to tear down to the most granular level to work out how they function. 

Professional gamers can now expect their portable rig to offer 360Hz displays, while recreational gamers can indulge in HDR games at high refresh rates on 1440P or even 4K screens if they don’t mind paying for it. 

GPUs were a bit of a minefield again this year, with TDP wattage and thermal dissipation capabilities impacting performance significantly more than the label on the tin. Even then wattage didn’t translate perfectly into performance either, so it’s more critical than ever to read a review of the laptop you want to buy to understand its performance. 

Intel’s 12th Gen laptop processors shifted to a high core count dual-performance-and-efficiency core array structure that dramatically improved performance across the board, Apple tweaked its original processor with new memory bandwidth and AI capabilities in the M2 and Nvidia introduced Optimus to greatly improve the experience of trying to optimise battery life and performance on gaming laptops. 

Best Value Laptop or 2-in-1

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
Offering enough power to smoothly run Windows 11 in a sleek touchscreen laptop with current networking and connectivity specs for $1k is a pretty great deal.   

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Premium Laptop or 2-in-1

Apple MacBook Air 2022 (M2)

Apple MacBook Air 2022 (M2)
Solid M2 performance improvements, a sleek design overhaul, brighter and larger screen, returned Magsafe charger, and an unmatched battery life, all at a reasonable price. 

Highly Commended

All Finalists

Best Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade 15

Razer Blade 15
As thin as the LG Gram 16-inch 2-in-1 and 100g lighter than a MacBook Air 16, it even includes an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti.


Highly Commended

All Finalists