It’s that time of year again when deal shoppers take to the stores and try to snag a bargain buy. As online shopping continues to increase, brick and mortar stores are starting their Black Friday sales weeks earlier in hopes to win back sales. With Amazon, Newegg, Frys, B&H, and Jet you won’t have to shoulder your way to a checkout line, nor will you have to do all your shopping in one day as online sales continue into the holidays. I’ve found that between this time and Christmas, many people are deciding to build a computer for themselves or a loved one. Last year, I put together this buying guide, which serves mainly as a list of things to take note of when shopping, but also as a component shopping quick guide. Building off of that, I’d like to discuss some points that are especially relevant to buying computer parts at this point in time.
These things are getting quite powerful, and they are also the highest cost part in most builds. You have two options when it comes to brand: AMD or Nvidia. The latter has been gaining in popularity, slowly gobbling up the market share that was (for a long time) 50/50. While Nvidia has been releasing their cards at extremely competitive price points, AMD still has some good buys (RX 470). It is important to know that performance isn’t entirely determined by hardware. Each company has to support their hardware with drivers, and update them with optimizations to meet the demands of the latest and greatest software. So if a given graphics card has the best cost/performance ratio right now, that’s not necessarily going to be the case 1, 2, or even 5 years from now (your PC parts will last this long). When it comes to long term driver support, AMD is known for better optimizations.
Someone created a few basic graphs to help illustrate price vs performance:
Numbers taken from here. Some things to note: while a lot of the 2GB cards offer drastically higher performance to cost ratio, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should get it. If you want to run more demanding games or software, your’re better off spending a little more on a GPU even if that means cutting back on other parts. Another way to look at it is to compare costs with the overall price in mind, instead of comparing the flat cost of one GPU vs another. That way, comparing spending $100 dollars more overall ($650 build becomes $750 = 15.3% increase in cost) will be a more realistic comparison to a, say, 20% increase in graphics performance. The computer operates as a whole, so the cost should be evaluated as such. The best deals on GPUs tend to come from sites like NewEgg, but you might have to do a mail in rebate or count a free game (Watchdogs, Civilization VI) as a discount.
Solid State Drives (SSD)
The time has finally come where SSDs are being sold in storage sizes that are adequate for personal use (~500 GB). Years ago, it was more common for people to purchase a 60 GB SSD to install their operating system onto, and buy a hard disk drive as well to store bulky media files. Come the awaited sales, it will be the first time you’ll be able to buy a usable volume of storage without breaking the bank (this, and this). Take a look at this price history graph for the 500GB 850 Evo from PCPer to get a feel for how much prices are falling.
There are already deals on SSDs that dip into $0.15/GB, like this 750 GB Crucial MX300 which was in stock for $120 for a few hours. This is a good deal no doubt, the deals will most likely continue through Cyber Monday and perhaps into the Christmas holiday. The longer you wait, the better chance you have of finding the best deal. BUT you don’t want to be waiting forever, so spending more than 1-2 weeks shopping something out might not be the best time investment for some. It’s up to you when to pull the trigger.
Brands that are reliably good:
Brands to be wary of:
Hard Disk Drives
Not everybody has a need for terabytes of storage, but some people are finding a reason to have so much. Another popular thing to do with extra storage is to build a NAS machine, or network attached storage machine. This is like a NAS enclosure, except it’s done with a desktop computer or server and can transcode and stream media much more effectively. Your old computer can even be turned into a NAS machine for free. Just like SSDs, bulky NAS drives (hard drives engineered for 24/7 use) can be had for very little. With this Frys deal you can get 5 TB HGST drives for $99 (though you need an email promo code and have to pick up in store).
There haven’t been many massive deals for the other components yet – RAM, CPU coolers, cases, etc. Logitech Proteus mice are selling like hotcakes at many of these sites (between $25-$40) and Logitech is always a solid choice for accessories and speakers. There have been some good deals on CPUs as well, with some i5’s selling in the $160-$175 range (in store, though). 8GB of RAM is almost always available for $40 if you want Crucial Ballistix. Otherwise, consider newer/faster RAM sticks for the same price a good deal. For the most part, the big ticket items like CPUs/GPUs and SSDs will take center stage. Update on monitor deals:
- 1440p high refresh rate 24″ Dell display (code: Turkey10)
- $169.99 24″ Acer monitor 120-144hz refresh (Freesync)
- $150 1080p Acer monitor 144hz
Now is a good time to buy a large SSD. There are tons of great GPUs to choose from, buy the one that meets your usage demands. You might have to go in store to Microcenter/Frys for a good deal on a CPU. Wait on deals for RAM, cases, motherboards. I didn’t cover it, but now is a good time to shop for monitors as well (check /r/buildapcsales).