When you invest in a $400 console, you know exactly what you’re getting. It comes with everything you need to have a great experience and it’s up to developers to leverage the set in stone hardware to bring gamers those great experiences. PC gaming is a completely different beast. Sure, you can buy a pre-built PC, but unlike on consoles that have fixed specs, PC’s don’t and that pre-built desktop or laptop doesn’t change that fact. Developers won’t target any one specific setup, instead trying to hit as many variations as possible. Kind of like a jack of all trades, master of none. Depending on the game, your PC’s specs might work or they might work. They might completely surpass the games recommended hardware, or just barely hit the minimum specs, and even then neither of those are actually guaranteed to run the game as intended because PC optimization is a bitch thanks to so many different hardware configurations.
Now, when it comes to building a PC, there are two main parts that you’ll find yourself debating over: The GPU(AMD or NVIDIA) and CPU(AMD or Intel). When it comes to stuff like the RAM, power supply, and hard drive you can just pick something and throw it in, they aren’t really all that expensive. The monitor might bump the cost a bit, but usually you can find a good one for a decent price. That is, unless you’re shooting for both G-Sync and HDR, in which case you’re looking at a price tag that will match the final price of your custom PC build most likely. It’s the GPU and the CPU that will make up a good chunk of spending, and it can be difficult to decide on which way to go.
That’s the dilemma I now find myself in. My DIY desktop, which cost me around $1200 to build, is going on 4 years old. Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you’ve gone with customizing/tweaking your rig, that might seem like nothing to you. You might have a part in there that’s 10 years old and still works great(somehow). I’m currently running an Intel Core i7-3770 which gives me a pretty decent framerate that often tops 60fps and rendering speeds aren’t too shabby, but with the introduction of AMD’s Ryzen CPU’s and soon Intel’s Coffee Lake, I can’t help, but feel like my CPU, which is technically 5 years old, isn’t going to do so hot on newer games going forward. However, I can’t just take my CPU out and slot a new one into my motherboard. My mobo doesn’t have the current socket for newer CPU’s, and as a result, if I want to replace the CPU, I have to tear out the motherboard as well and replace that. HOWEVER, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a motherboard that supports both AMD and Intel. Maybe I just haven’t been looking hard enough, but I haven’t seen one, and so before I can get a new motherboard I have to decide what CPU to go with, and while this time last year I would have said “Intel, hands down, no contest.” I can’t say that with a straight face anymore. Ryzen is great for gaming and likely to be what the actual next generation of home consoles uses. And when compared to Intel’s recent CPU’s, I’d certainly be inclined to go with Ryzen, but Intel’s Coffee Lake has me sitting on a fence. Their CPU’s have never let me down and the bump to 6 cores instead of 4 cores for the i5 and i7 has me intrigued. Digital Foundry put out a decent video on the subject.
And so when it comes to CPU’s, I’m at a crossroads and can’t decide which way to go. Not only that, but with more refined models likely to hit store shelves early to mid next year, it’s tempting to also try and wait for those. It’s a vicious cycle that you might find yourself in. You either take the leap on the current products, or try and wait for the next set for improvements(And then you might end up waiting for the models after that, and the ones after that, and the ones after that, etc.). And once you’ve selected your CPU, you might end up locked in to generation until you replace your motherboard again.
As for GPU’s, that one ends up being less of a problem for me. AMD’s Vega GPU’s are promising, but NVIDIA has always been about sheer power. And while AMD users don’t have access to NVIDIA Gameworks features(Or maybe they do, but if that’s the case I doubt they work very well.), NVIDIA users can use AMD’s unique features with no strings attached(Except Freesync. NVIDIA GPU’s don’t work with Freesync, they instead need G-Sync which needs to be built into the monitor and adds about $400 to the price of the monitor if not more.). On top of that, NVIDIA is getting to release their next major series. While Pascal is certainly better than Maxwell, Pascal is really just a Maxwell refresh, a half step. Volta, the next series from NVIDIA is supposed to be the major leap up from Maxwell, and the mere thought of the 1180/1180Ti and Titan V with GDDR6 VRAM makes me salivate. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. I’ll still give Ryzen a fair look, but at the moment I’m likely to go with NVIDIA’s Volta when it hits shelves.
However, the point I’m trying to make is that AMD is starting to put up a real fight against its two largest competitors. And while I may have originally had my next build set in stone for when I have the funds, I’ve begun to question if I should switch sides on either the CPU or GPU fronts, or even both. That’s something I wouldn’t have done before, but AMD is now on the table, and being the indecisive person that I can be, I kind of preferred when it was one-sided.