PC Hardware Considerations

2 min read

There’s a constant feeling of “should I wait?” when making big purchases. It’s universal: Camera & photography equipment, cars, and even gaming PCs.

PC components are on a rapid cadence and year-to-year advancements can sometimes yield upwards of 20% gains in gaming performance. To this end, feeling a sense of delayed urgency is normal – a desire to buy, but an uncertainty of the market. Here’s the thing: don’t wait.

You’ll be waiting forever. If you’re building a gaming PC – not something for some specific task that might require new hardware – it’s generally safe to just go. Waiting makes sense when there’s something within a month or two of launch, but longer than that does start getting inconvenient. At some point, you’ve got to pull the trigger on that shopping cart; otherwise, you’ll be waiting forever. You can use this waiting period to do some “deal-hunting” online, buying individual parts as they go on sale. Power supplies, cases, and coolers often feature large discounts, whereas CPUs and video cards very rarely go on sale (though GPU prices do drop with new GPU launches, CPUs remain fairly stagnant). We’d suggest checking the /r/buildapcsales subreddit for deals.

WHAT ARE SOME HARDWARE CONSIDERATIONS YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT BEFORE BUILDING A PC?

Consideration #1 – Graphics Card Roadmaps

Launch season changes, but new GPUs tend to launch whenever the companies can push them out. For example, the GTX 980 shipped in October of 2014, but the GTX 1080 shipped in May of 2016. There’s no set pattern to this.

This is because the technology that powers graphics cards is changing fast. Broadwell-E is more-or-less here, Pascal just announced its flagship and mid-range replacers, and Polaris looks very promising. Zen is still some ways out. This, of course, changes every month – so the best way to stay up-to-date on new releases is to look for “roadmaps.”

A product roadmap is what companies will use to illustrate their expectations for the future. They’re normally fairly accurate. Running a quick web search for “AMD GPU roadmap,” “NVIDIA roadmap,” or “Intel roadmap” will assist in determining if there are any major releases for the year. From there, we’d suggest perusing some popular tech media websites for release timelines. It’s likely that these editors have a good idea of when products are likely to ship, and they’re often able to reveal some limited amount of that information.

Consideration #2 = Deprecated PC Hardware

Watch out for deprecated products when shopping for a PC build. It’s common for retailers allowing third-party vendors for old components to get listed, particularly as newer products begin emerging. You’ve also got to watch out for aging standards and interfaces, which get replaced every few years by something faster and newer (or, sometimes, smaller).

Storage interfaces are among the most commonly updated – USB, for instance, sees changes every couple years. USB3.1 offers 10Gbps speeds over USB3’s ~4.8Gbps, but is not available on every motherboard. Most motherboard manufacturers have slowly rolled-out revisions to existing products lines, thereby including the new USB3.1 standard; still, you’ve got to check for it in the specs.

As for waiting, though, don’t wait too long on buying – it’s easy to “wait” forever in this industry, as there’s always something better around the corner. If something’s really that close to launch, a brief waiting period may be worthwhile. But not if things are months and months away.

CONSIDERATIONS ARE NOT DEAL-BREAKERS FOR BUILDING A PC

Just because one piece of hardware isn’t right for your PC doesn’t mean you can’t build it. In fact, it usually means you have a lot more options and that is always a good thing. The important thing is to know what it is you’re building and what you need to build it. – Steve Burke, GamersNexus

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