The PC gaming/building/tweaking/buying thread [Possibly image heavy]


#122

E: I’m happy that my thread is useful again :relaxed:

I don’t live in the US so I couldn’t specifically recommend any brands, but given RAM and graphics card prices these days buying prebuilt isn’t such a bad idea.

Yes, building is fun, and yes the commonly held belief is that it’s cheaper (it usually is!). But the market circumstances right now are pretty unique. OEMs (in this case makers of prebuilt PCs) usually have long-term contracts with parts manufacturers that guarantee stable prices over several years, so you can find prebuilt computers with high-end parts for much less than it would cost you to buy those parts individually.

Maybe try looking at stuff from Dell or HP, but case maker NZXT also has a very user-friendly configurator with parts at close to MSRP. Select your parts (or select the games you want to play and the quality you’re looking for and they’ll suggest parts), budget, and they’ll build you a computer.

E2: things to look for if you want to futureproof:

Ryzen 1600/2600 or better/Intel 8400 or better
16gb of RAM
GeForce 1060 or better


#123

Even with pre-builts, I think it’s not great because some of those inflated prices have caused knock-on increases (or at least prices that have refused to decrease over time for the same spec tier) you pay when buying anything in stock. Some of the worst of the RAM price increases are now starting to come back down, while GPUs continue to be pretty all over the place (but at least we are now at a point where stock exists and it’s not more expensive than the launch prices from 2017, or even 2016).

In terms of future-proofing, now isn’t a bad time for a CPU. AMD are extremely competitive with two gens of Ryzen out (the second being an incremental refresh more interesting for build-your-own due to bundling ok coolers with every model) and Intel have been forced to respond with 50% more cores in their mainstream desktop models (looking like it’ll be 100% more cores than a couple of years ago by the end of this year - some suggest soon so maybe a Summer refresh). The Intel single-core performance (and being the established platform everyone optimises for) means they’re generally a bit ahead in games but it’s far from definitive (and tweaking a single setting can flip who leads) and only AMD will sell you a cheaper 8-core/16-thread option and an outright budget 6-core/12-thread model (which have certain future-proof benefits running code when more engines are better at balancing loads on all cores). I’d definitely note that Intel 7x00 model CPUs with 4 cores are a bad buy (find at least an i5 or i7 8x00 with 6 cores if you’re not buying a Ryzen 5 or 7).

With RAM being relatively expensive right now (and console ports still building around at most 8GB for the game and even then no console uses that on the CPU end because they really want most to be VRAM for textures and frame buffers - consoles only having one pool for both) then 16GB is fine right now (and should give a couple of empty slots to upgrade in 2 years). One thing to check for a pre-built: two sticks - RAM today with these mainstream CPUs work on a pair of channels so you need at least two sticks of RAM for the full bandwidth.

For gaming, I’m doing quite ok with a 4K system and a GTX 1070 I got in 2016 (didn’t realise it at the time but buying at release turned out to be a very good move as crypto-nonsense has really messed with prices since then). Before that I was going after 1080p with a GTX 760 (which is no longer going to cut it, looking at various minimum specs being announced). This is extremely a case of “buy as much as you can get away with up to a point”. Over a certain point you’re paying a lot more for slight increases in performance, under a certain point then you’re getting a lot less performance for every dollar you don’t spend. See which companies have good prices, warranties, options, and availability (and even sales going on) and then see what’s available in terms of GPUs. Everything is kinda expecting a refresh (possibly delayed by crypto stuff meaning everyone punted their releases back) so now isn’t a great time to buy. But also everything is quite fast, it’s just not as cheap as it should be. AMD have ok mainstream models in the RX570/580 but note that these are a year old and they are basically warmed-over refreshes of the 470/480 they released two years ago. Meanwhile the sorta-equivalent GTX 1060 is basically unchanged from release two years ago except a mid-cycle VRAM speed boost (prices have not come down nearly as much as you’d expect because crypto have been eating stock for the last year). Above those cards you have a pick of AMD Vega 56/64 or nVidia 1070/1070 Ti/1080/1080Ti (the first three of those being all slightly different revisions of basically the same thing while the 1080 Ti was a monster when it came out in early 2017 and is still a monster today). They can quickly become expensive (so check reviews/benchmark comparison stuff for how much more you’re planning to spend vs what you expect to see in games).

I think most people now expect nVidia to release their 11 Series stuff in October (Computex is in 2 weeks so who knows! Maybe an announcement is very soon?) but maybe it happens sooner. AMD currently say not to expect new GPUs in 2018 (they may release new model numbers but they’ll be rebadging previous chips for OEMs who want to sell new numbers each year even if they’re the same actual chips as last year). As nVidia already sell the fastest GPUs, it seems like they’re not being forced to release anything new (despite most of these 10 Series cards being 2016 releases) but hopefully they aren’t also waiting until 2019 because scientific users have been buying completely new GPU designs for a while. We’ve even seen nVidia talking about Volta-only gaming uses at GDC despite none of the consumer GPUs being Volta models right now. Weird crypto-times.

I’d also think about storage. Right now you can buy unthinkably fast SSDs (sometimes saturating a 4x PCI-E 3.0 link so basically quarter of the max speed that the GPU uses to load all those textures to the VRAM) which has significant benefits for loading times in well-optimised games. But that’s not cheap and fast M.2 (the name of the fast connector) drives often ask “how small can I get away with?” We’re talking $100 at retail for 250GB, $200 for 500GB so that’s not an insignificant part of the total cost of a new system. And a single game can be over 100GB so you’ll want a second (slow traditional multi-TB) drive for media and backups of the games you’re not currently playing. I think it’s very worth it to put Windows 10 system files and a few games you’re currently playing onto a fast M.2 drive for the removal of that bottleneck, especially now Steam makes it extremely easy to shuffle installs around multiple drives. That might be something which is easier to buy after-market (and ensuring you get a properly fast drive) rather than taking the risk with whatever OEM options you’re being sold (eg Samsung make different drives for OEM vs retail and some are good but if you don’t know the exact model then sometimes you get something that’s far from cutting edge performance). Just grab the 2TB platter with the PC then plug in an SSD (assuming they give you a motherboard with an M.2 slot for it).


#124

This is great advice. If you’re looking at prebuilt, take care to add up the cost of the parts and check that against individual MSRPs.

GPUs have become more affordable in the last month than they’ve been in a long time, and the higher-end Geforce 10-series are still a good buy I think. It might make some sense to hold off until the new cards are announced (hopefully in the next few months), but they might cause prices to rise again if they’re good for crypto. Don’t go with AMD GPUs right now, the architecture is getting old and/or they’re still overpriced because of the mining craze.

The big issue with RAM right now is that the demand is huge. Solid-state memory is used in smartphones, consoles, SSDs (this explains why the price decrease everyone was predicting a couple years ago never happened), etc., and there seems to be evidence that after years of competition driving prices down, the three remaining big RAM manufacturers have entered into some sort of agreement (there’s even a class-action being prepared accusing them of price-fixing). To give people an idea of this: RAM prices in 2016 were basically half of what they are now.

An SSD is a must, but if you don’t want to spend too much and if it’s just for gaming a SATA drive is fine. I have a 500Gb SATA SSD for Windows and my current main games, the rest is on regular mechanical drives. You can find 480-512Gb SATA SSDs for around $110-130 now, so those are totally worth it.

Also @Shivoa I love your av ^^


#125

I’d say AMD’s recent GCN revisions are ok. Yes, it’s more GCN but something like Vega is extremely good GCN (if your PC builder can find stock) and even the most expensive gaming GeForce card doesn’t offer Rapid Packed Maths (which should get some adoption with developers using on the PS4 Pro and hopefully porting those FP16 shaders to their PC releases). Those GCN updates have started to deal with the chasm to nVidia’s high efficiency (nVidia pioneering some hidden tiled-rendering under the hood) and pushed to get onto the same tier in terms of memory compression tech and they price their releases to be competitive (even if you’re going to see them run hotter).

Basically that saves the (not Vega-level advanced) RX570/580 cards - if you can find them cheap then they’re competitive and if you’re looking at pre-built then if they’re being offered at all it should be reasonably priced (even at retail then they’re a lot like the 1070 price curve I linked above with months of completely out of stock direct from big retailers like Amazon basically being fixed now and prices being no worse than their launch period - certainly not in the worst times).

I’m happy to say that I’ve been extremely satisfied with GeForce both hardware and software for quite some time (some hate GeForce Experience, I find it’s a good tool for picking initial settings for 60fps and extremely good for capturing footage with a quality way beyond the integrated console versions). But I don’t think people who go for AMD GPUs are making a mistake (especially if AMD don’t release any new chips in 2018 like a cheap smaller Vega or Vega7nm/Navi).

Agreed on the value of S-ATA SSDs being ok. I’ve got some old Samsung 830/840 drives that work perfectly well for games. At half the price for 500GB, it’s hard to ignore the value (and more than a couple of games don’t even saturate the S-ATA connection due to how their loading works and what part is not just directing GBs of textures from the HDD to the GPU’s VRAM). But also a tiny part of me is looking at cheaper extreme-performance M.2 drives (eg Samsung EVO) hitting 900MB/s to 1600MB/s in real-world testing and knowing that a 6Gbps cable means you’ll never get more than 500MB/s from even a perfect S-ATA SSD (and realistically we’re looking at much more like 300MB/s on those same benchmarks).

In the name of future-proofing advice, if we think of a future game loading by pumping 6GB of data to the GPU (not totally outlandish if you’ve got 8GB of VRAM) and a cache of another 10GB to the system RAM (again, we’re saying 16GB needed for gaming today and space for more RAM later so at some point we’re suggesting the game may need to put a lot of data into the memory and probably from the HDD). That’s 10-18 seconds on an M.2 drive (based on practical speed tests) and almost a minute on a S-ATA drive. One of the things I like about playing games on PC vs my PS4 is I can basically eliminate any minute long loading screen. The M.2 drive benchmarks indicate that even if games grow to completely consume all the memory in this new gaming system, as long as they code it to stream the data optimally, there will continue to never be a minute of looking at a load screen when I want to be playing.

It’s not the end of the world, but I do like to minimise these gaps. To make the numbers more than seconds: Hey do you want to literally spend 2 hours looking at loading screens because if you visited every shrine in BotW exactly once then that’s exactly what you did. A minute load (or even 30 seconds in and then again out) isn’t enough time to do something else but also two hours is not nothing in total. I feel it extremely frustrating slack time because that’s not even “read something on your phone” time.

Edit: Oh, and thanks. Avi is from Lumberjanes.


#126

I know ^^

And everything you say makes sense, especially as you seem to be a dev and have a lot of in-depth insight into these things. As a consumer, and replying specifically to @quartermoose who’s looking more specifically into mid-range gaming performance that’s slightly futureproof, I’m more inclined to go with what has the best real-world gaming price/performance ratio currently, hence my earlier reply.

Thanks very much for the expertise though, there are a lot of really interesting things going on on the dev side these days :slight_smile:


#127

Hey @quartermoose, I checked a few articles for people talking about prebuilts and while I can’t speak to like the brands or specific machines, I think something like this would be a really good point of comparison for price and specs to look at: https://www.amazon.com/HP-Pavilion-580-023w-i5-7400-Graphics/dp/B077S27YLP

An i5, a 1060 and 8GB of RAM for $700 ought to be quite decent for mid-ranged gaming and should beat prebuilt prices once you add everything else together, according to PCpartpicker. If you were going to go closer to $800-900 a 1060 6GB and 16GB RAM would also be nice for price-to-performance, but prices seem to jump straight up to a $1k at the least before ever getting to something like that in which case the previously recommended NZXT BLD program might be fitting. Beyond that I’d just look for brands that are established for the sake of a functional warranty.


#128

Right now, building a PC is, generally, prohibitively expensive. You might see a 1070 for $400 here or there recently, but don’t count on it. Surprisingly often, prebuilts are cheaper part-for-part than a custom build made of the exact same components, and as such I would recommend that right now. A friend picked up a prebuilt with a 1060 6GB for ~$800 a few months ago. I’d recommend keeping an eye on sites like SlickDeals that track deals, and jump on one that people are impressed by (SlickDeals is a forum, so people have a lot to say about any given deal).

Lastly, when looking at video cards, I would recommend avoiding any card with less than 4GB onboard memory. They often perform significantly worse than cards with more memory, and would almost certainly necessitate an upgrade years sooner than a card with more onboard memory. Worth keeping in mind that the extra $100 for the 6GB over the 3GB would, if possible, be a wise investment. Good luck!


#129

We’re in a weird place right now where prebuilt makes sense, but part prices have gone down enough recently that it’s worth comparing closely and keeping an eye out for deals.

Here’s what you could get for $1K as of a couple weeks ago for example:


#130

I got a prebuilt to use as my streaming PC. Was $600 at microcenter for a Ryzen 1700 desktop, 16gb ram, 1TB HDD, RX 550. I was considering building but the forgot how stressful the whole process can actually be, and with current prices it just didn’t make sense.

Happy with both the prebuilt and my x299 build, and should continue to be for a very long time!


#131

That’s an excellent deal! Consider upgrading the graphics card at some point and putting in an SSD, but you’re good to go for a few years.


#132

Thinking of building/buying a PC but I’m never sure enough to go through with it. https://pcpartpicker.com/guide/cTTwrH/modest-intel-gaming-build
The above build seems great for the price (I mainly would use it for Fortnite and to try the indies and the occasional AAA) but I have never actually thought far enough ahead to the part where I will have to BUILD it…

Are pre-builts upgradeable like a custum-build?


#133

Generally yes, but I’ve found a lot of the bigger companies (HP, ASUS, MSI) tend to put a lot of money into fancy cases that aren’t nearly as nice to build in as some other choices. I would be wary of something like that if your intent is to upgrade in the future. But, I honestly don’t think assembling a PC is particularly hard these days, and if you have any experience putting together model kits or lego, you shouldn’t let that intimidate you.


#134

I certainly intend to upgrade the GPU and probably SSD in a year or two so I suppose that’s a sort of dealbreaker.

What are your thoughts on the build I linked? I feel as though the prices there for the 1060 6GB and processor are really good when compared to similarly priced pre-built (all of which had the 1060 3GB which I want to avoid).

I would love to order the parts tonight and get the build started ASAP so I have it in time to use for my comp sci midterm. :weary:


#135

I don’t know about other people, but I would recommend building your own over getting something pre-built. It will allow you more flexibility with the components and budget, also there’s the satisfaction from building it yourself.

I built my first PC about a year ago, after being on the fence for a really long time about if I should go through with it. Once I bit the bullet and went through with it I found the assembly process to be really easy if you follow the instructions and take your time. It took me 3-4 hours to get it all assembled and running. There are plenty of guides, videos, and forums/communities if you get stuck or want to double check a step before you do something. If you haven’t seen it before, the Build A PC subreddit is full of great info and helpful advice.

Also, if you live near a Micro Center go in and check if they have all the components you would need and compare prices, sometimes you can find things on sale there, and they might price match.


#136

I think it looks solid and a very good gaming PC for a good number of years. The price seems extremely good, but that might just be that it’s almost twice the price in Canadian dollars and I’m jealous, lol.

I don’t really like the case? I think the front intake is a little too choked to not have a top or bottom intake fan, but otherwise it’s a solid start. An i5 with a 1060 is really more than enough to get really good 1080p gaming, which unless you’re really set on VR or 4k, is probably gonna be the standard for a long while now.


#137

At this very moment in time, I would wait two days and then figure out when to check the prices again on these 8th gen Intel parts. There’s also a bit of shortage pressure on Intel CPU prices right now (although maybe less of an immediate concern for gaming-ready parts) so having a new set of models might help relieve that pressure. The $200-300 GPU area could also find itself having a slight price correction in a few days also (but this is rumour not confirmed and likely a smaller revision).


#138

Looks very solid, and right now the prices on RAM, SSDs and graphics cards have stabilized enough that I think it’s once again better to go with your own build.

The only issue is that the CPU seems to be out of stock in many places. Have you considered Ryzen? It’s not that much worse for gaming and a much better bang for your buck in other areas.

I’ll echo the suggestions made in previous posts, and if you’re having trouble with your build then you can always ask for help over here :slight_smile:

E: oh and maybe consider another case. Consensus seems to indicate it’s not great to build with, especially due to limited space for cable management. I know it’s tempting to get an inexpensive case, but I can tell you from experience it’s not worth the hassle, especially for a first build. Maybe spring for a Corsair Carbide 88R or a Fractal if budget allows.


#139

This whole time I thought the price of that build included that CPU LOL :upside_down_face:

I have been messing around sort of came up with this through suggestions and what’s actually in stock. It is really hard to do the damn thing though because I always feel like as soon as I commit to a build I’ll realize I could have saved 40 bucks here, put it there, and got way better performance but I supposed I can always upgrade later.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: AMD - Ryzen 5 2600 3.4GHz 6-Core Processor ($189.89 @ OutletPC)
Motherboard: MSI - B450M PRO-VDH Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard ($69.99 @ B&H)
Memory: Team - Vulcan 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3000 Memory ($70.98 @ Newegg)
Storage: Kingston - A400 240GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate - Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($58.89 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: EVGA - GeForce GTX 1060 6GB 6GB GAMING Video Card ($238.00 @ B&H)
Case: NZXT - S340 (White) ATX Mid Tower Case ($70.46 @ Newegg Business)
Power Supply: *Corsair - TXM Gold 550W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($55.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $794.19
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
*Lowest price parts chosen from parametric criteria
Generated by PCPartPicker 2018-10-08 11:41 EDT-0400


#140

The top tip for gaming is GPU rules all. We’re currently looking at consoles with tablet-class CPUs that ensure that as long as you’ve got threads to throw at it, the newer engines designed for AAA consoles (and multi-threaded rendering calls using the new APIs) can sing. I’ve recently moved to a Ryzen 7 after holding onto an i5-2500K for a very long time (buy smart, use until the thing dies of old age) and looking at those recent MS games like Gears 4 and FH4 which benchmark with GPU and CPU timers - I’ve got 144Hz covered with all the sliders up. The next consoles are presumably going to push the CPU somewhat as part of what they bring to the table (if they go with AMD again, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Zen CCXs from those Ryzens come to console, underclocked to keep within thermal limits while diverting most power to the GPU block).

There will always be something you could tweak but generally you’re looking at choosing between a few really strong options (and a load of combinations to avoid that are less ideal).

Looking at that list, I’d probably focus on SSDs that slot into the M.2 space on the motherboard as there are now some affordable options there that are also really fast. Unless you need TBs of storage for DVD/Bluray rips or a huge music collection (or archiving photo RAWs etc) then I’d maybe say to look towards pooling cash towards a single 500GB stick (the mainstream high-end like a WD Black 3D or Samsung 960/970 EVO 500GB are under $200) and if that’s too much then you can drop to $100 and get a good 500GB S-ATA SSD (discussed in this review conclusion).

If the price isn’t too much (the SRP is only $30 different), a 2600X comes with a nicer cooler and a bit of extra speed running stock (which a lot of these Ryzen 2000s are good at doing because they’re aggressively clocked out of the box to dynamically overclock under load up towards the limits of the cooler). Again, small tweaks and neither are a bad choice.

Amazon (and PCPartPicker lists quite a few alternatives) seems to have RX580 8GBs in stock for around $200 which might be an alternative to nVidia. Both good cards, some slightly different relative weakness/strengths in different tasks. But if AMD are releasing RX680s soon, it might be we see something with a 1060 price tag that’s been designed to beat the 1060 consistently or even 580s get even cheaper to clean out the remaining stock and so becomes a significant way of saving.

I expect you’ll probably want a RAM upgrade at some point for this system (16GB is currently the recommended and eventually with new consoles we might get games that care about 32GB in 3 years) as prices continue to fall on DDR4. Also I’d expect the core system to be going strong in 3 years but you’d maybe put a $250-300 budget aside for a GPU upgrade at that point to refresh the system (maybe you’ll have a 4K screen then or want to push those sliders up in the new generation of games ported from new consoles).


#141

Greatly appreciate the detailed post. Sorry to be a bother, but would you mind throwing the parts you mentioned onto a PCPP list so I can see them visually? Everything you are saying sounds good, but I don’t want to goof something up hahaha.

As far as the SSD, my fiancé is actually a professional photographer so she generally takes up a TON of storage with her work.