TO THE WINDOW

TO THE WALL

PC COMPONENT PRICES

SPRING 2020

IS THAT A FAN?

OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME

LAST GEN ASUS ROG STRIX BUILD FOR 2020

SPRING 2020

If you've been following computer part prices over the last few months then you've probably noticed the outlook doesn't look good. The virus has now spread across the globe and while China, the epicenter of the outbreak, has reported seeing a significant decrease in cases recently; America and Western Europe are seeing an increase and the fear of more reported cases has caused public concern that we are about to enter a state of doomsday. Pirates and greedy third-party sellers seeing the increase in reported cases and its impact on the worldwide economy are starting to profiteer.

 

So what does all this have to do with gaming and tech? Well...everything. If you haven't heard by now the public health crisis has led many factories in China to close temporarily causing a cascade effect all the way up the supply chain of the global economy. With new computer parts and component production halted, demand for existing inventory has skyrocketed causing some sellers to try to capitalize on this high demand. Fears of a global shortage have forced large retailers like Amazon and Newegg to pull PC parts off the shelf in order to stabilize prices and prevent price gauging and hoarding. Many tech influencers and YouTube pundits have already reported that prices have risen significantly amongst third party sellers. Unfortunately, it doesn't look good for builders and is likely they will have to wait a considerable amount of time for production to return to peak capacity and for major retailers to get their shelves restocked before prices will stabilize. Even if factories do come back online I imagine they will not be running at full capacity while the contagion continues to spread in the West and it is likely prices will not return to a normal state until economies stabilize.

 

Prior to the economy taking a downturn, I was considering waiting for the new Gen 3 CPUs to drop before purchasing Gen 2 parts for our next build with the expectation that the price would drop on these older parts. I have been targeting the Ryzen 2700x for some time and saw the processor selling on Amazon for as low as $150.00 in mid February but by the end of February had risen to as high as $300.00. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I found the CPU for $230.00 and decided to buy it jaded of course knowing that I could have gotten it before the price increased had I decided to buy a month earlier. Several days after making my purchase from Amazon, I received a notification from Newegg that they just received the 2700x in stock and were offering it at the more typical price of $170.00. As you can imagine, this stock did not last long and were gone faster than rims on a Honda Civic. Since then, the price has risen back up to $270.00. The fluctuating price seems to be synonymous with all gaming desktop CPUs on the market currently. However, I was surprised that the cost of gaming motherboards, RAM, and power supplies have not fluctuated nearly as much indicating that there is still a healthy volume of existing inventory for those products but you can expect those prices to rise eventually over time as inventory becomes scarce.

 

In summary, if you absolutely need to build a computer now you should experience normal to slightly above normal prices for just about everything except CPUs. If you are purchasing a CPU but can't find one available from your big-box retailer, you may want to consider waiting and make sure you sign-up to be auto notified when the part becomes available. Be ready to act immediatly as it is likely big-box retailers are controlling their inventory and there will be a lot of competition for the same part. Realize that if you decide to buy a CPU from a third-party retailer, as I did, it is likely you will be purchasing at inflated prices.

I recently decided to pull the trigger on our second high-performance gaming PC build and if you haven't been hiding under a rock for the last few months, or happen to have read our last article, you'll know that I probably picked the worst time to build. Unfortunately, if you're a heavy PC user like me, sometimes the timing can't be helped and you have to do the best you can to mitigate the expense of buying parts at inflated prices. Since I've already opened up that assortment of problems in our last article I thought I'd talk about the build itself because I just happen to be sitting on a case that purchased over a year ago and is still in the box. This case was featured heavily by tech Youtubers at the time it was released but it was Wendell from LVL1 Techs that got me really thinking about building a high-performance gaming and productivity pc in this case. The build has to be open-air, low maintenance, and be able to stay running for long periods and this case helps to check those boxes. The case I'm referring to is the Antec Torque. It's okay if you're not familiar with this case because all you have to think about is the Apple Mac Pro...now think of its exact polar opposite and you have the Torque. It's a racecar, meets industrial design, of a case with a precision cut, aircraft grade aluminum, chassis that screams PC master race.

 

It might be a good time to discuss exactly why someone would spend a good percentage of the total budget on the case instead of throwing all that money towards performance. Well, the simple answer is that typically from a owner's perspective, the case is the first thing you see and the last thing you replace. When your motherboard goes into the case, the case becomes an extension of that motherboard and not just something to cover bad cable management. Strict builders on a budget will want to put more towards components rather than the case but if you are a buyer, you'll want to consider that you will be stuck with this "box" for quite some time, possibly years. Having a case that can endure while looking good at the same time may be unavoidable to your bottom line. With the benefit of hindsight, I would recommend that if you want to build a more practical high-performance gaming pc, slash workstation, now, just buy a third-party Mac Pro case for PCs.

 

For this build, I decided to go with the AMD Ryzen lineup of desktop-class processors again but I'm sticking with a 2nd generation processor for maximum compatibility and less headache. By now, Ryzen Gen 3 is in full effect and I could have easily matched a Gen 3 with a Gen 3 motherboard like an X570 but opted instead for Asus' ROG Strix X470 Gaming F for its all-purpose nature, high performance, and of course the most important feature - RGB. The reason I did not choose a Gen 3 processor has nothing do with the collection of CPUs but the current generation motherboards designed for it. Ryzen Gen 3 released in mid 2019 and enthusiasts were mostly apathetic with a slight undertone of worry as next generation motherboards rolled out featuring an active heat sink over the PCH (Platform Controller Hub). If you're not vaguely familiar with what that is, that's okay, just consider a very small, semi-fragile fan, spinning millimeters away from very important electrical components and failure of the heat sink could damage your board permanently. This active heat sink may indeed be necessary for current designs but I see it as another point of failure, long term monitoring, and something I can do without if I can get close to the same performance overall of a Ryzen Gen 3 motherboard with a Ryzen Gen 2 chipset.

 

Anyways, stay tuned because parts are on the way. This build won't win any awards but I think my girlfriend is going to love it and should certainly get the job done for the least amount of money possible today.

   

LET THE

GAMES BEGIN

XBOX SERIES X AND SONY PS5 AT A GLANCE

SPRING 2020

 

On March 18th, 2020 Sony released their anticipated "deep dive" video on the Playstation 5, Sony's next generation gaming console. Since its reveal last April, many reviewers and influencers have been clamoring for a performance comparison with the Xbox Series X, which released its spec sheet several days prior. While Sony did follow suit in this regard, what they didn't do is realease pictures of the internal components. With the Series X, Microsoft took a much more PC-centric tact to marketing by having pictures of the internal components and talked about each component's features on their website. Conversely, Sony in its hour long slide-show presentation did not show a single image of the chassis or the internals electing instead to demonstrate performance with charts and graphs and not any actual game play or live benchmarking. This lack of transparency doesn't mean that the Playstation 5 is somehow inferior or lacking, it's just unhelpful to Sony's case about the performance of the Playstation 5 that is expecting to stay on top of Microsoft's Xbox Series X as the premier selling gaming console.

 

We are entering into a world where consoles are starting to rival PCs in performance...on paper. As a PC builder and user of consoles, I know of at least one common law that governs performance across both platforms and that's heat. Appropriate to the principal of diminishing returns due to thermal throttling it's possible that in reality those performance benchmarks mentioned in the "deep dive," would skew. Thermal throttling is a state that your computer's components undergo when it has reached its temperature threshold. Once the temperature reaches a threshold, the computer's cooling solutions will begin to work harder to dispel the heat until its component's temperature is brought down to a nominal level. What also happens is that the component itself stops operating at full-speed, hence a throttle back of performance. It is possible to eliminate this throttle-back if the cooling solution is enough to do the job on its own however, the solution tends to be non-traditional. Traditional CPU and GPU cooling solutions involve a fin-stack or heat pipes made of aluminum or copper attached to a cooling fan that drives heat away. Non-traditional cooling involves liquid coolant or water, or in the case of the Xbox Series X, a vapor-chamber cooler - a combination of both traditional and non-tradional methods. Suffice to say, vapor-chamber technology inside the Series X means a more robust cooling solution that should keep thermal throttling to a minimum or eliminated altogether. It means that the beastly 8-core, 16 thread, custom AMD Ryzen processor and custom Series X graphics will sustain their maximum frequencies without any performance loss.

 

Unfortunately, we don't know the cooling solutions utilized in the Sony Playstation 5 but they are using a very similar AMD Ryzen processor. Even if the new Playstation does not have a sophisticated cooling solution, it has to at least, work well enough to sustain its maximum core frequencies. Whatever Sony ultimately puts out to market remains unknown in my opinion and only real world thermal testing will tell how closely the two consoles will align with each other on performance. Interestingly, cost may be the great equalizer here for Sony since some in the tech-sphere have opinionated that the Xbox Series X will be a very costly product due to its component specifications, possibly even going beyond the price of the Playstation 5. Whatever the opening price, both consoles have taken a giant leap forward in terms of progress and there's no doubt both console makers are responding to customer demands for a console to rival, or even beat, what a gaming PC can do for the same price. Both consoles are set to drop later this year.

 
 

2019