The PC upgrade gamble - the gaming parts to pull the trigger on and those to wait for | PCGamesN

The PC upgrade gamble - the gaming parts to pull the trigger on and those to wait for

GPU Teardown

Happy new year! No doubt you have promised yourself you’ll go to the gym more in 2018 as part of your new year’s resolution, and that’s great. But, when that inevitably fizzles out (if it doesn’t then good on you), then you need to know which PC parts are going to get a significant upgrade soon and which you can spend that monthly gym levy on right now.

Don’t have a pair of gaming cans? Here are the best gaming headsets on the market.

2018 is promising to be another stellar year for tech, following on from the unprecedented shake-up of 2017. AMD rocked the foundations of the age-old Intel institution at the start of the year with their Ryzen processors, and Intel finally ditched the four-core standard for mainstream chips in response… and that barely even sums up the processor world of the last year.

The graphics world has seen a potential new contender, as stalwart AMD graphics chief, Raja Koduri, jumped ship to head Intel’s newly-formed graphics division. Not to mention the handfuls of accessories, peripherals, and monitors that will be released post-CES in January and throughout the year.

The snowball of tech kicked off from last year is only gaining momentum as it tumbles down Mt. Moore’s Law and into the new year. So here’s what upgrades you should hold out for, and a few that you can pray for, in 2018.

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Processors

AMD Ryzen 3 performance

The CPU world has been gearing up for the second round of the titanic fight between AMD and Intel in the first half of 2018. AMD are prepping their second generation Ryzen chips, and Intel are looking to continue their elongated Coffee Lake launch with a slew of new processors and chipsets.

A recently leaked roadmap implies that second generation Ryzen, codename Pinnacle Ridge, will be on the shelves at the end of Q1 and through Q2. This launch will likely entail a staggered launch, similar to the one we saw for Ryzen’s initial launch early 2017. These processors are not a huge change of architecture, and so will likely not see much in the way of IPC increases. What we can expect, however, are some higher-clocked processors with greater power efficiency, and continued support for the AM4 platform.

These are likely going to launch at the same price tiers of the first generation Ryzen products, and this makes them one hell of a proposition for gamers. Ryzen processors did drop massively in price around Black Friday, but now that those sales are over, you are likely better off waiting to see what Ryzen second generation has in store.

It’s not all about AMD, however. Intel have been knocking gaming performance out of the park with their Coffee Lake processors. The only problem so far is their end-of-year launch in 2017 was as flimsy as a sheet of A2 oven-proof paper. The i5 8400 is an incredible gaming chip, but it’s been incredibly tough to track them down.

Intel Coffee Lake Z370 chipset

Intel are looking to complete their Coffee Lake lineup with the full complement of chipsets and processors for budget and mainstream users between March and April of 2018, and we hope the delay between launch will ease the supply chain issues as a result of their accelerated launch schedule. Prices seem to be dropping toward MSRP as we speak, and this trend should continue through the second half of 2018.

The first half of 2018 is a hotbed of potential processor activity - although 2017 wasn’t so bad either. With core counts on the rise for the first time in many years, we’ve finally got some competition back in the market, much to the consumer’s benefit. If Ryzen prices drop again to Black Friday prices before the second generation, it may be well worth the investment, especially with AMD’s AM4 support until 2020 offering an branching upgrade path down the line.

If you want to take the Intel road, however, you may be better off waiting until prices stop fluctuating, and stock returns to normal before picking up the latest Coffee Lake chip. Especially if you don’t wish to spend the extra cash on a Z370 enthusiast motherboard before the remaining mainstream and budget chipsets arrive on the shelves.

Should you buy now or wait? Personally, I’d wait.

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Graphics cards

Nvidia notebook GPUs

AMD tried to one-two punch their competition throughout 2017, and while one blow certainly landed, the other was deflected rather nonchalantly by Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti. It seemed that AMD’s RX Vega wasn’t quite ready for deployment, and this led to all kinds of issues soon after launch. Fear not, trusty AMD fans! Supposedly, the 12nm refresh that is gracing CPUs will also be making its way into our GPUs too, although the details are a little fuzzy so far.

Of course, it would be amiss not to talk about the main event for graphics cards expected in 2018. After all, 85% of you gamers are kitted out with Nvidia tech, according to the Steam Hardware Survey for November 2017 - and those numbers are growing in Nvidia’s favour.

Nvidia’s Volta GPUs are sure to launch within the first half of 2018. We are placing our bets on sometime near the GPU Technology Conference and Game Developers Conference - both in March. But, should you wait for the latest tech?

The Volta architecture has been available for quite some time, albeit in the professional and enterprise markets. The Titan V recently launched ahead of the desktop range, although was a departure from the usual exceedingly high-end gaming Titans of the past, and a move into the professional market alongside a brand-new $3,000 price tag.

AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 specs

Gamer variants of the Volta tech are still yet to be seen, although Nvidia do like to play their cards close to the chest. The Titan V improves on the GTX 1080 Ti by around 30% in early benchmarks, although their GeForce cousins variants should see some considerable changes to the genetic makeup of these chips, with the A.I. Tensor cores being the first to go on the gamer-focused cards.

Unfortunately for gamers (but great for graphics card manufacturers), cryptocurrency doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The sudden pop of Bitcoin’s inflating balloon may lend to a surge of new currencies and a wave of homebrew mining rigs coming back into fashion, or if it doesn’t pop, the interest in mining will grow exponentially. It really is a lose/lose situation. This could lead to yet even more GPU shortages in 2018 - no doubt lending to AMD’s ever-decreasing share in Steam Hardware Survey results as miners snap their computational-capable cards up.

What all this means is that a GTX 1070 will hit your bank account to near-enough the same tune as it would have on day one of launch, well over a year ago. The same goes for the entire GeForce range, and most of AMD’s graphics cards, too. GPUs have found new life for cryptocurrency mining, and this has kept prices consistent all year round.

You won’t be getting more for your money by grabbing a graphics card before the latest generation drops, and you’re likely best off by simply hunkering down and waiting for the improved performance of Volta or Vega refresh. Unless Nvidia increase prices for their equivalent GeForce cards by 300%, as we saw with the Titan V… surely not, right?

Should you buy now or wait? Wait - just a little longer.

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Solid state drives

Corsair Force Series MP500 SSD

SSDs have been under some pricing constraints in 2017, leading to higher pricing at the checkout for those speedy NAND flash chips. Trendfocus, a data market research company, report an increase in pricing of over 36% since the start of 2017, and prices haven’t subsided massively since this unwieldy spike in demand and slow transition from 2D to 3D NAND designs left the market a little worse for wear.

It’s not all bad news, however. The same report suspects pricing will come crashing back down in 2018. Multiple manufacturers are looking to increase NAND chip production through 2018 to meet burgeoning demand, including Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron, and Toshiba.

Toshiba’s memory chip business, however, was sold to a Bain Capital-led consortium in September, aiming to complete the sale by March 2018 - much to the bane of cooperators Western Digital. Members of the group include iPhone manufacturers Apple, and lumbering tech behemoth Dell, so SSD’s for PC builders may still be a little hard to come by as these NAND chips get scooped up for the mobile phone and OEM markets. The same goes for Samsung’s NAND production, too. Kingston and Seagate are also part of the group, however, so there may be some glimmer of hope for us builders yet.

Should you buy now or wait? Buy now - unless you are exceptionally patient.

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Memory

Memory

I’m afraid there is no silver lining in the dark skies of DRAM, as bouldering hailstones and lightning strike all unaware PC builders below. Prices have skyrocketed beyond belief for those little slivers of speedy short-term memory in your motherboard, and prices won’t be dropping anytime soon. Memory pricing is in a sad state of affairs.

Memory prices have risen by 85 to 100% in the past year, and while capacity is sure to increase, demand is multiplying even quicker - lending to the undersupply issue persisting and a scarcity of cheap DRAM chips.

Unfortunately, the big DRAM manufacturers have been enjoying high profit margins due to the shortages, and this hasn’t lit much of a fire beneath them to increase DRAM manufacturing capacity. According to DRAMexchange, new fabs won’t be fully-functional until at least 2019, and with demand facing surefire increases, production power will surely be swallowed up swiftly as it enters the fray. This all leads the end-user at the mercy of a similar pricing debacle to the one they face today. Everything’s terrible.

Samsung are attempting to alleviate some fabrication issues, though. By repurposing some of their 2D NAND fabs to produce precious DRAM modules. We’s going to keepses these chips for us. Yes, just for us, my precious. Ahem. Sorry. Samsung will probably keep these DRAM chips for their hundreds of millions of phones. Tough luck.

Should you buy now or wait? You may be waiting for prices to drop for quite some time. Buy now, if you can afford it.

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Monitors

Samsung CHG90 FreeSync 2 monitor

One year ago, in a little town called Las Vegas, a bunch of tech companies got together at CES to show off their latest products. One of the most anticipated events last year was the arrival of HDR to the PC monitor world.

Specifically, Nvidia had been working on High Dynamic Range G-Sync capable panels, promising some incredible specs at 4K and 144Hz. Sounds great? Sure, the only issue is the panels never arrived.

AU Optronics are responsible for getting these quantum-dot-equipped, retina-burning monitors to the manufacturers - such as AOC, Asus, and Acer - who then fit them into their stylish shells. These manufacturers haven’t been shy of showing off these monitor designs all year, either. They’ve made appearances at CES, Computex, and E3 throughout the year - despite AOC implying the panels only made it to production in December 2017.

We can expect to see far more of these monitors than we already have at CES, 2018. Samsung and LG are both moving into the bright lights of HDR monitors also, with Samsung’s ultrawide CHG90 marking the first screen to get the DisplayHDR standard certification. The panels should finally make it to ready-to-ship products during the first quarter of 2018, just in time for Nvidia’s Volta, perhaps?

If you are looking to pick up the very best in gaming monitors, it may be worth the wait. Otherwise, mainstream and budget monitors are unlikely to see any wild design changes anytime soon. Still, it may be worth waiting until post-CES, regardless.

Should you buy now or wait? Wait - at least until CES is over.

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But if your PC build is complete...

NVIDIA Shield

If you are happy with your PC itself - and if you followed our stellar hardware guides, and why wouldn’t you be? - then you probably won’t be looking to cram much more into your rig in the new year. However, there are still a few superficial purchases that we loved during 2017, which still retain all their value as the new year arrives.

It’s going to be mighty tough for anyone in the peripheral market to top the mighty HyperX Cloud Alpha headset, so there’s no point waiting to see what’s coming out in 2018 because with those cans you’ll have the best gaming headset around.

The latest Nvidia Shield is a fantastic bit of kit to have around the house, especially if your PC is a hunkering immobile behemoth. Linked up to your big ol’ desktop upstairs it’s essentially a silent living room PC able to make the most of your new 4K TV. It does cost more than Valve’s Steam Link equivalent, but for your money you get near lag-free performance, a quality controller, and 4K capability.

Oculus Touch

The Oculus Rift is another office-favourite, especially for gaming laptop owners with little to no upgrade path. While the HTC Vive is also wildly fun, and has the immersive spatial room capability and superior tracking, the £400/$379 - or less - Rift is an incredible proposition for any gamer with the excess graphical power that grants them to delve into virtual worlds. It’s also a far easier proposition to set up than the Vive. So if you’ve got yourself a powerful gaming laptop then it’s a fantastic upgrade that delivers VR wherever you go.

2018 is shaping up to be another spectacular year in tech, aside from the DRAM issue. Nevertheless, the prospects that are within grasp are already drool-inducing for tech heads - so long as the silicon-pocalypse doesn’t hit and cause all semiconductor prices to rocket into the stratosphere like Elon Musk’s aptly-named BFR. We’re not panicking. Why are you panicking?

Subnautica
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Jezcentral avatar
Jezcentral Avatar
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1 Week ago

So.... I'm not going to be getting any new PC parts until 2019, then? :(

1