What a difference a year makes. It was about this time last year that we discussed why building a gaming PC was a bad idea, but thankfully a lot has changed since. You may recall, DDR4 memory and graphics card prices were through the roof a year ago. GPU availability was quite poor and on top of all that, we were at the end of a few product cycles.
From AMD we were expecting their 2nd-gen Ryzen CPUs, which didn't necessarily translate into big improvements but they drove down pricing of 1st gen parts. Then for entry-level gaming, we were a month away from 'Raven Ridge', AMD’s Zen based APUs. At a point when getting your hands on a discrete GPU was costly and difficult, the promise of decent integrated graphics couldn’t have come at a better time.
Then on the other side of the fence, we had Intel and their yet to be fully released Coffee Lake series, along with supporting chipsets. For budget gamers, the Core i3-8100 was a great value proposition that was missing equally affordable motherboards. We knew makers were preparing B360, H310 and H370 motherboards at the time, we just didn’t know that they would mostly end up being a waste of time.
Fast forward a year, what’s changed?
Memory prices have dropped significantly, something we monitored and predicted could happen by early 2019. A year ago the cheapest 16GB DDR4 kit we could find was $170. Today we’re almost at half that figure.
For example, G.Skill's popular Ripjaws V 16GB DDR4-3000 kit used to cost $110 back in January 2017, however after prices continued to rise throughout 2017 and peaked by November, we entered 2018 with the same memory kit costing $200. For much of 2018 pricing held steady at $180 and didn’t start to fall until August. Today we’re back down to $110-120, which is great, but we also don’t expect DDR4 prices to fall much further from here.
It’s fair to say demand from cryptocurrency miners has died off now, too, and graphics card supply and pricing began to fall quite sharply last August. We've been monitoring this progress and are happy to report GPUs are all back to normal.
Take the Radeon RX 570 for example, our favorite budget GPU right now. Its $170 MSRP was effective upon release in April 2017, then only two months later prices began to increase hitting $190, then $210 and by September it was selling everywhere for at least $250, though most outlets were unable to provide stock. By January 2018 the cheapest RX 570 was nearly $300, an insane 70% price hike that went on until hitting $400 at its peak. By June availability and pricing started to improve, though gamers were still faced with ridiculous asking prices. You know things have been bad when a $290 RX 570 seems like a good deal.
As things eventually normalized, gamers rejoiced at the opportunity of buying one or even two-year old technology at its intended release price. These past holidays saw the RX 570 selling for as little as $130 which is incredible. Today you can expect to pay around $150 which is still a great deal for a GPU that can tear through all the latest titles using high quality settings at 1080p.
|GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||$ 140||$ 190||$ 170||$ 170||$ 160|
|GeForce GTX 1060 3GB||$ 200||$ 230||$ 230||$ 220||$ 200|
|GeForce GTX 1060 6GB||$ 250||$ 300||$ 290||$ 250||$ 245|
|GeForce GTX 1070||$ 380||$ 470||$ 400||$ 380||$ 340|
|GeForce GTX 1070 Ti||$ 450||$ 500||$ 450||$ 390||$ 450|
|GeForce GTX 1080||$ 500||$ 550||$ 500||$ 450||N/A|
|GeForce GTX 1080 Ti||$ 700||$ 900||$ 720||$ 700||N/A|
|GeForce RTX 2070||$ 500||N/A||N/A||$ 550||$ 530|
|GeForce RTX 2080||$ 700||N/A||N/A||$ 790||$ 700|
|GeForce RTX 2080 Ti||$ 1,000||N/A||N/A||$ 1,200||$ 1,400|
|Radeon RX 560 16CU||$ 100||$ 140||$ 150||$ 140||$ 135|
|Radeon RX 570||$ 170||$ 260||$ 240||$ 160||$ 150|
|Radeon RX 580 8GB||$ 230||$ 300||$ 270||$ 240||$ 190|
|Radeon RX 590||$ 280||N/A||N/A||N/A||$ 280|
|Radeon RX Vega 56||$ 400||$ 600||$ 480||$ 400||$ 380|
|Radeon RX Vega 64||$ 500||$ 700||$ 580||$ 480||$ 420|
For now, this is about as good as graphics card pricing is going to get. It won’t be until AMD unleash Navi later in the year that we might see improved performance at these price points, and frankly if you need an upgrade now we wouldn’t bother holding out. Nvidia’s 2050 will be out soon but don’t expect that to hold a candle to the price vs. performance ratio of the RX 570.
On the CPU front, it will depend on which way you want to go.
Some Intel CPUs are still a little overpriced but not by much, and it will depend on the model. For example, our favorite gaming CPU, the Core i7-8700K is selling at its intended $350 MSRP and that gets you excellent out of the box performance, good overclockability and power consumption for a CPU running at over 4GHz by default. Most other CPUs such as the Core i5-8400 or Core i3-8100 are ~$10-20 over the MSRP, which is not a big deal. If you want to go Intel this shouldn’t stop you.
For budget conscious shoppers, the 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 5 2600 offers a ton of value at $165 and right now you get a free copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Pair that with a $150 RX 570, $100 worth of DDR4 memory and you have an exceptionally good 1080p gaming machine on your hands. In fact, Tim recently built such a machine and thinks it’s brilliant... and this is a man who often games with an RTX 2080 Ti on a $2,000 4K 144Hz HDR display. You know Tim.
You could certainly argue that it would be better to wait for AMD to release their Zen 2 based processors as the 7nm Ryzen 3000 series should be mighty impressive. But keep in mind you could be waiting four-plus months for those parts and even longer than that before sub-$200 models arrive to market.
Of course, if you can wait feel free to do so, but in this game there is always something new right around the corner and we feel you can’t go wrong with what’s available right now. One way to measure the value of a PC is by what it enables, and right now affordable CPUs and GPUs enable a seriously fun gaming experience.
There’s also the second-hand market, which we took an in-depth look at recently and right now it's possible to score a GeForce 10 cards, Vega and RX 400/500 GPUs for a steal.
So if you’ve been holding out, we recommend you no longer rob yourself of all that potential fun.
- 8GB DDR4 RAM: Corsair, G.Skill, Kingston, Patriot
- 16GB DDR4 RAM: Corsair, G.Skill, Kingston, Patriot
- 32GB DDR4 RAM: Corsair, G.Skill, Crucial, Ballistix
- Radeon RX 570 on Amazon, Newegg
- Radeon RX 580 on Amazon, Newegg
- GeForce GTX 1060 on Amazon, Newegg
- GeForce GTX 1070 Ti on Amazon, Newegg
- GeForce RTX 2070 on Amazon, Newegg
- GeForce RTX 2080 on Amazon
- Intel Core i9-9900K on Amazon, Newegg
- Intel Core i7-9700K on Amazon, Newegg
- Intel Core i7-8700K on Amazon, Newegg
- Intel Core i5-8400 on Amazon, Newegg
- AMD Ryzen 5 2600 on Amazon, Newegg
- AMD Ryzen 7 2700X on Amazon, Newegg