This is the worst time to build a PC in almost 8 years

you can finally build a pc now, and thank goodness for that. It’s only been two years since the pandemic sent the computer industry into a tailspin and the GPU Shortage made building a new desktop computer prohibitively expensive. We can all share a collective sigh of relief, but only because you can building a pc now doesn’t mean you should.

A plethora of next-generation improvements are lined up before the end of the year, and if you build a computer now, you could get stuck in a machine that’s expensive to upgrade, underperformance, and incompatible with standards like DDR5 which we only see once (perhaps twice) in ten years. We haven’t been in a similar situation in almost eight years, but the good news is that it shouldn’t be this way for long.

We’ve been here before

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti ARMOR 11G OC review
Bill Robertson/Digital Trends

High graphics card prices have been the only limiting factor in building a new PC in recent years. CPUs and RAM saw a brief spike, but let’s face it — an extra $50 here or there wasn’t the deciding factor for most would-be PC builders. Graphics Card prices have come down and chances are they will get even cheaper.

I previously wrote about how next-gen GPU prices will fall to crypto, and that’s still true. It just doesn’t look like crypto is going to see a big boom anytime soon. Show recent reports GPU Prices Crash Along With Ethereum – the main cause of the GPU shortage – and week after week I saw better and better deals on brand new graphics cards.

If you build a PC now, you’re almost guaranteed to get a worse value.

We’ve been here before, around mid-2018. After the GPU shortage in late 2017, Nvidia and AMD left are on a huge stock of GPUs that weren’t in demand, and we’re seeing a recurrence of that now. AMD, Apple and Nvidia Just Canceled GPU Orders with their supplier at the end of June, illustrating the balance between supply and demand that will be implemented next year.

Sounds like a good time to buy, right? Not quite. Building a PC now is almost guaranteed to get worse value than waiting until later in the year, especially as next-gen components loom on the horizon and push last-gen prices down.

Triple blow for the next generation

Intel Alder Lake box with DDR5 memory.

Nvidia is working on its RTX 40 Series Graphics Cardsand AMD has the RX 7000 teed up – both are expected to launch later this year. It’s tried-and-true advice: don’t build a new PC if the next-gen options are just months away. But this year we have a triple whammy with PC components.

Before we get next-gen GPUs, we’ll probably see AMD’s Ryzen 7000 and Intel’s Raptor Lake Processors† Not only will these platforms offer the typical performance gains we see every generation, but they will also come with platform features not readily available right now (DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 main among them).

This is especially a problem if you want an AMD processor at the heart of your system. AMD has supported its AM4 socket for every Ryzen generation so far, but Ryzen 7000 is the first time we see a departure with its AM5 socket.

Sadly, it’s been eight years since the stars aligned like this — when Intel first introduced DDR4 on its Haswell-E platform. Since then, it’s been relatively smooth for PC upgrades, and it looks like it will be from the second half of 2022. AMD has confirmed it will keep AM5 as long as AM4, and Intel has said Raptor Lake will support the LGA1700 socket that current Alder Lake processors use.

Someone who opens AMD's AM5 socket.
MSI/Tom’s Hardware

Power can be an issue if you’re building a new PC now too. Rumors have it that Nvidia’s RTX 40 series graphics cards carry huge power requirements† Even if you build with one of the best power supplies now it can fall short if you want to throw a new GPU in your build down the line.

While it’s impossible to truly “future-proof” a PC, building a new computer now can be pushing yourself into a corner. You sit on a high-performance PC for about six months before it is overcome by next-gen components — next-gen components set to support standards that outlast a single CPU or GPU generation.

Time flies when you’re (not) having fun

Woman wearing coronavirus mask on Beijing subway
Artyom Ivanov / Getty Images

I don’t think anyone will agree that the past two years have been a blur, but that’s especially true for loyal PC enthusiasts. With parts shortages, skyrocketing prices and a pandemic that has made a powerful PC all the more attractive, even normal can seem great.

But it’s important to remember how far we are from the launch of the current generation of parts, where we would normally expect prices to drop. Even without taking into account the unique situation in which PC components find themselves, you are almost certain that you will now spend more on building a PC than you would with the same build in three months. We kept seeing GPU Pricing drop, DDR4 RAM gets cheaper as DDR5 prices are getting more competitiveand current generation CPUs, even though it’s on offerdon’t suddenly become more expensive.

It’s rare for so many factors to change between generations, and that makes it a uniquely bad time to build a PC. Assuming we don’t have another pandemic and crypto remains relatively low, waiting a few months to build a PC will be cheaper and ensure you have a computer that is compatible with the latest hardware. And if we find ourselves in a 2020 situation again, a new PC is probably the least of our worries.

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