If you want to know what graphics card you should buy or what's the best CPU for your new rig, we've already got you covered. Today we're discussing something else. Welcome to our second annual hall of hardware shame, where we list what we feel were the worst CPU and GPU purchases of 2018. Some of these products should have never existed, others are just a bit pointless or made promises they did not fulfill.
The list is not as extensive as you might imagine (shorter than last year's), and in most cases we were able to warn you when the products launched and we reviewed them, so that's the good news. As for the bad...
Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 DDR4
No messing around, this was the worst graphics product released this year. Around July we got our hands on a DDR4 version of the GeForce GT 1030, and boy what a heap of garbage that thing was. It’s one thing to release a really bad product that you try and flog off, but it’s a completely different one to pull a bait-and-switch on your customers.
We were surprised more outlets didn’t make a fuss about this. For those who missed the drama, Nvidia released the GT 1030 in May 2017 and it was a rather weak entry-level offering, but it was good enough to play titles such as Rocket League, Fortnite and CS:GO at 1080p, for example.
Put in other words, if you’re a parent who isn’t massively into computers and you want to buy something affordable for little Joe to play Fortnite with his buddies, then a $70 GT 1030 will fit the bill nicely.
Problem is, if you bought your GPU after March 2018, you could have ended up with a GT 1030 that will average less than 40 fps in Fornite instead of one that is supposed to average 66 fps... both have the same name, look the same, and sell for the same price.
Nvidia quietly introduced this GT 1030 DDR4 version that offers 65% less bandwidth than the original GDDR5 model. That is 16.8 GB/s of bandwidth down from 48 GB/s. Unless you knew what to look out for, you’d be none the wiser and even tech savvy users got caught out as they didn’t even know there were two models that were so different, yet were named the same.
AMD Radeon RX 580 "2048SP"
From one disgusting anti-consumer act to the next, AMD also played dirty in 2018. Hard to argue which was worse, Nvidia’s GT 1030 or AMD’s RX 580 that’s really an RX 570. In a rare move that we feel has no justification, AMD took the RX 570 and rebranded it as the "RX 580 2048SP." At least they slightly changed the name, nevertheless the product name very much suggests to buyers that it’s an RX 580 and might not be any different to any other RX 580. Maybe the seller just added "2048SP" to make it sound more fancy, right?
But how many buyers even know what 2048SP means? And how many know that the RX 580 is meant to have 2304 Stream Processors? Now, you could argue that these models are only being sold in China. But why would you? Last I checked Chinese consumers are people, too (ouch!). Also, if you hope on eBay and search for new RX 580s, on the first page you will be met with chinese 2048SP models at around the same price as the fully fledged 2304SP boards.
With that, we strongly feel AMD needs to be called out on this one and hopefully we won’t see this kind of maneuver again. But we did say that after they accidently called the RX 460 an RX 560... maybe AMD can work out their naming schemes in 2019.
Intel Skylake-X Refresh
Next up we have the Intel Skylake-X Refresh, one of the biggest snooze-fests of 2018. Earlier in the year during Computex, the battle of the cores was in full swing, but while Intel was in fantasy land with their 5 GHz 28-core chiller, AMD was showing off a real product that they released a few months later.
We still haven’t received the 28-core monstrosity from Intel that requires a completely different socket and likely a motherboard that costs more than an RTX graphics card, so I guess we’ve got that to look forward to.
What we did get was a range of new 9th-gen high-end desktop processors. Apparently they’re so good Intel was able to skip the 8th-gen models. Only problem is, they aren’t that good, and they don’t even deserve 8th-gen branding. These are just the same old 7th gen Skylake-X parts but with a soldered TIM that actually manages to make them worse.
The $1980 Core i9-9980XE, for example, runs so hot when overclocked that it can’t actually be overclocked as far as a delided 7980XE. And you can’t delid the 9980XE without destroying it. So this means enthusiasts are better off buying the older 7980XE and doing what enthusiasts have been doing to Intel CPUs for years now.
That aside, the biggest issue is the pricing. Intel’s still in la la land when it comes to pricing and anyone willing to evaluate their options will seriously question why they would spend so much more on a Skylake-X Refresh CPU when they have arguably better options from AMD available for less.
Right now the Threadripper 2950X costs $900 and the 1950X costs $600. Meanwhile Intel’s 16-core/32-thread 9960X costs $1685. In short, Intel recycled their CPUs and pricing from 2017, that weren't that competitive in the first place, in my opinon. These new Skylake-X Refresh parts are pointless and a bad buy.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 & 2080
We suspect the vast majority of you will agree with our previous nominations, but this one will be very divided, especially put in such bad company. So let us clarify a few things first. At the MSRP that a few models are selling at, the RTX 2070 & 2080 are not bad buys. Certainly not the most exciting products to be released this year, but for the most part they’re a little faster than the outgoing Pascal parts and are now available at the same price.
Two-plus years later, that’s not exactly progress. But with AMD nowhere to be seen, it’s hard to bash Nvidia for giving us almost nothing extra. Frankly, we would have been just as happy if Nvidia went on selling Pascal at a slightly discounted price.
The problem was with Nvidia's sales pitch as the new RTX GPUs arrived with the promise of phenomenal ray traced graphics and big performance gains with DLSS. So initially these GPUs were sold over MSRP in pre-order, while GTX 1080s were dropping in price, some as low as $430. So if you paid $600 for an RTX 2070 you were massively overpaying for GTX 1080-like performance.
Both ray tracing and DLSS are underwhelming at the moment. The RTX 2070 is barely powerful enough to showcase real-time RTX effects and even the 2080 Ti is challenged by them. Yes, Battlefield V performance has been greatly improved, but they also had to downgrade the game's graphics to enable those gains and let’s not forget the support list of (future) games is not very extensive.
Ray tracing in an optional feature, you don’t have to use it, but this was the key selling point of the new RTX series. Without it, you basically have a fat Pascal GPU. And yes, ray tracing is the future of gaming and computer graphics, but sadly it is not the present, so why pay for it?
It's been an exciting 2018 in the PC hardware space, so let's close on a somewhat more positive note...
Although a few early adopters and those seeking bragging rights got a little burnt, there’s been some great value options as well. AMD almost got away with a clean rap sheet in 2018. Their heavily discounted Ryzen processors along with RX 580 and 570 (the real RX 580 and 570) were big hits this year. And of course, the Threadripper deals.
We’re sure some will disagree about calling the RTX 2070 & 2080 into question, but our point has been made. We were tempted to include the 2080 Ti Founders Edition due to the failure complaints, but it appears the situation has been handled, and even though our sample size is only a few cards, your chances of getting a dud are pretty low going by reports.
It has to be said, the 2080 Ti is a beast and enables an amazing 4K gaming experience never seen before. There’s now the Titan RTX, too, which is probably the worst value GPU you can buy, but we haven’t fully seen what it's capable of yet so we'll hold off from commenting further.
What probably should have made the list were a number of Z390 motherboards, in particular the budget models. We thought the entire point of the Z390 chipset was to signify that boards using it were 9900K ready and optimised for the 8-core CPU. In other words they had a capable VRM with adequate cooling. With the exception of Gigabyte, this wasn’t the case and all other brands just rehashed their entry-level Z370 boards and improved margins. We saw horrible VRM throttling on all budget Z390 boards from MSI, Asrock and Asus, rendering them useless for the 8-core processor.
Intel’s Core i9-9900K is a terrible value, but also a very powerful CPU. The 95-watt TDP spec has caused problems and the Principled Technologies report was a dirty pre-order tactic that we don’t want to see repeated. All that said, the 9900K is still a beast and technically a better/faster CPU than the Ryzen 7 2700X.