Should you currently buy a PC or wait until better hardware is available on the market? We’ve been looking for clues.
It is never the right time to buy a PC
An old wisdom says that there is no right time to buy new hardware or a new PC. Either the components are far too expensive because they have only just been launched, or it is already the next generation, next innovation or simply a better product on the way. This almost always makes it difficult to choose the right components and not to regret it. There is no real sweet spot for buying a processor, graphics card or other components. However, you should still know the most important trends and major changes in architecture or technology in order not to make an absolute mistake. We have therefore tried to gather all the new technology and new products that will soon be on the market.
When are DDR5 and PCIe 4.0 coming?
Let’s start with actual technical innovations that do not specifically affect the manufacturers. This refers to standards that do their job platform-independently. With computers, that’s actually just two that are really interesting: DDR5 and PCIe 4.0.
DDR5 memory has already been standardized and under discussion for some time, but currently there is no concrete data as to when the new RAM architecture should also come to the mainstream. In 2017 the development started, in 2018 the release by the JEDEC should already take place, which also defines the standard. Now we have 2019 and DDR5 is not yet in sight. However, the time is now set for 2019. The memory manufacturers are also doing a lot of research on DDR5. SK Hynix recently announced that it had developed a DDR5-5200 memory chip with 16 gigabyte capacity. In general, DDR5 should become significantly faster again. Standard modules should be as fast as DDR4-4400. However, it will take even longer for them to reach the mainstream. Both Intel and AMD are planning for the upcoming Ryzen 3000, Epyc 2 and Ice Lake platforms with DDR4. Maybe there will be the first server hardware working with DDR5 in 2019.
The situation is different with PCIe 4.0. The interface replaces the well-known PCIe 3.0 interface and doubles the transfer speed while retaining the same pins. The first platforms with PCIe 4.0 have already been implemented, for example Power9 from IBM. But PCIe 4.0 will soon be mainstream as well. AMD supports PCIe 4.0 starting with Zen 2 and thus starting with the server platform Epyc 2 alias Rome and also with Ryzen 3000 for private users. Both platforms will be launched in the middle of the year. AMD’s Vega 20 GPUs also already run on PCIe 4.0, although the Radeon VII still does without it. Whether Intel also supports PCIe 4.0 with Ice Lake at the end of 2019 is still unknown.
Processors and motherboards coming in 2019
With processors, the decision is much more difficult. The market is currently in a rather difficult situation. The second Ryzen generation has been on the market for almost a year. The successor Ryzen 3000 is already in sight and should be launched in the middle of the year. At Intel, we are right in the middle of the product cycle. The ninth generation of Core i processors called Coffee Lake Refresh has been on the market since autumn and is slowly reaching bearable prices. The HEDT series Skylake-X Refresh has also been on the market since autumn and is normally updated with the mainstream generation.
So what we should be reaching for at the moment is a question that is difficult to answer. Ryzen 3000 is said to launched in the middle of the year. With the new generation comes not only the 7nm structure width, but also more cores and clock speed and other innovations. PCIe 4.0 is built into the new motherboards. With up to 16 cores, the difference to Ryzen 3000 with a maximum of 8 cores is very considerable. However, there is one advantage: the new generation is also compatible with the old AM4 platform. Mainboards can therefore continue to be used, as long as new features such as PCIe 4.0 can be dispensed with.
Those who tend towards Intel can currently (almost) without hesitation resort to i9-9900K and Co. There will be no update from the company until Christmas 2019 as the 10nm processors alias Ice Lake continue to cause problems. It remains to be seen whether Ice Lake will be launched on the market in 2019 – but it will be a long time before then. The only downer: the new generation will also require new motherboards, since Intel usually only makes two generations compatible with each other.
Prices will also not change much at the moment. If Intel has overcome the 14nm bottleneck, the prices could still fall a bit. At present, they are rather at the MSRP price level. The i9-9900K costs in the best case a good $510, the i7-9700K is available for $420. The i5-9600K is definitely more recommendable for gaming, as it is already available from a good $270. At AMD, prices are currently also very close to the MSRP. But due to the upcoming introduction of Ryzen 3000 they could soon move downwards. The Ryzen 7 2700X is currently available for $309, the very popular Ryzen 5 2600 and 2600X models even cheaper. The 2600 is available from $150, while the 2600X costs only $200.
Graphics cards: Is it worth waiting for AMD Navi?
The graphics card market is probably the most difficult to evaluate at the moment. Nvidia launched the new Turing generation in August last year. The price of this is now also dropping somewhat. The cheapest model of the RTX 2080 Ti is available for $1,070 (US only). Before that, at best, $1,200 had to be paid. The reason for the high prices is the lack of competition from AMD. The models RX 570, RX 580 and RX 590 are only suitable for the mid-range market. The new Radeon VII is supposed to compete with the RTX 2080, but has its advantages in the compute area and doesn’t really come close to the RTX 2080 in gaming. But what has always made AMD strong are mainstream graphics cards. And that’s where Navi hits the spot.
The new generation of AMD’s graphics cards is called Navi. It is already based on the 7nm process and can therefore be designed much faster. According to a big leak in December, AMD is currently planning three models: the RX 3080, the RX 3070 and the RX 3060. The top model RX 3080 is supposed to be on a par with the RTX 2070, but above all it will be a big hit in price. According to the leak from AdoredTV, the graphics card costs only 249 US dollars. Also the RX 3070 and 3060 should be interesting for the mainstream, since they compete against the RTX 2060 and the planned GTX 1660 Ti, but cost only 199 and 129 US dollars respectively. The question, however, is: when will the miracle graphics cards even come onto the market? It is said that the time has come in the third quarter of 2019. However, a recent report speaks of a delay to October 2019 and thus the fourth quarter.
Whether it is worth waiting is therefore still uncertain. Especially the leaked performance is currently still implausible. In any case, Nvidia already has products on the market. And for the upper middle class, the RTX 2060 is particularly interesting, which is available from $349, but can also perform at the level of the GTX 1080. If you need performance beyond the RTX 2070, you can’t get past Nvidia anyway. Waiting for Navi or even Intel Xe doesn’t help. The only alternative at the moment are the RX Vega graphics cards, which are getting cheaper and cheaper and are therefore always worth a look
Memory: RAM and SSDs are becoming cheaper and cheaper
At least in one area things are getting better and better at the moment: memory. Due to the increased production of the largest memory manufacturers Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix, the price of SSDs and RAM is currently falling significantly. The cheapest DDR4-3000-Kit with 16 Gigabyte capacity currently comes from G.Skill and costs less than $90. Just over a year ago, at least 140 bucks had to be paid for similar storage facilities. The price of SSDs is also falling significantly. Thus, popular models such as the Samsung 860 Evo or Crucial MX500 with 500 gigabyte capacity only cost $78 (Samsung) or $68 (Crucial). The M.2 variants are also no more expensive than the conventional 2,5″ counterparts. NVMe SSDs are also becoming cheaper. The popular Samsung 970 Evo 500 Gigabyte costs only $120. A year ago you had to pay about $200 for the predecessor 960 Evo.
It is currently difficult to predict whether prices will continue to fall. The demand for flash memory and DRAM will not collapse, but memory manufacturers are producing more and more. We may not have reached the end of the line yet, but a sudden rise in prices is not foreseeable for a long time. Innovations in this field are also not yet in sight. DDR5 for the consumer area will probably not come until next year and faster or better memory architectures can also be integrated continuously via already existing interfaces.
Conclusion: what to wait for and where to get in?
As already described in the article’s introduction, there is in fact never the right time to buy a computer or individual hardware parts. The situation is a bit tricky at the moment, but we can still make a few recommendations.
Those who are currently looking for processors to game with will not be able to get past Intel. If the pressure isn’t too high, you can wait for the start of Ryzen 3000. This either results in a better product or at least a price drop for the other processors. Away from gaming, you should definitely wait for the Ryzen 3000 launch. The new generation brings not only up to 16 cores, but also PCIe 4.0.
It’s a little more difficult with the graphics cards. Rayracing, which is still in its childhood stages, is not really innovative yet. In the high-end range, however, there is currently no alternative for the RTX 2080 Ti, and even the Radeon VII doesn’t really compete with the RTX 2080. Not much will happen in this area in the near future. Only the prices of the Turing graphics cards will drop a little lower. In the middle class area things look a bit different. In the third (or fourth) quarter, AMD Navi will be launched on the market and could mix up Nvidia’s portfolio again. But if you can’t wait until then, the RTX 2060 is the perfect choice for you.
The only easy answer can be given for the memory department. SSDs and RAM are cheaper than they have been for a long time, so you can upgrade or buy them almost without hesitation. Prices will not fall much in the near future and will remain constant. Great innovations are not to be expected in the near future. DDR5 for the consumer area is still going on and relatively little is happening with the memory category.