Guru3D Winter 2019 PC Buyers Guide
It has been some time since the last version of this guide, and that has been down entirely to a temporary leave of absence at Guru3D due to a career change from this editor. I am, however, back… and, my my, it has been a very busy period, hasn’t it? In the months since the last version of this build guide was released, the PC hardware space has been absolutely awash with new releases. Some major, others… less major. June saw the long-anticipated release of Zen 2, AMD’s TSMC 7nm based processors that offer increased clock speeds, significant improvements to Instructions Per Clock (IPC), and support for faster memory. The release was somewhat fraught with BIOS issues (some of which carry on to this day, and I will cover this later), but things have somewhat stabilized. AMD, on a bit of a roll, then launched ‘Navi,’ not the world’s first 7nm based GPU (that honor goes to Radeon Instinct ‘MI’ cards, and the now EOL Radeon VII), but arguably the first regularly affordable one. We got two SKUs, the RX 5700 and RX 5700XT and soon 5500 XT. All in all, Navi’s launch was a success, offering an approach to 2070 Super level performance for an MSRP of approximately 100 USD less. Not bad.
What of Super, though? Super was Nvidia’s somewhat unexpected answer to Radeon’s Navi GPUs. These are, effectively, ‘suped’ up (hence the name) versions of already existing Turing based GPUs. We got ‘Super’ SKUs of the RTX 2060, 2070, and 2080, with each offering relatively incremental performance improvements over the non-upgraded variant of the card. For the record, and henceforth, I will simply use ‘S’ on the end of a regular Turing SKU to denote which version of the card I am referring to.
Anything from Intel? Well, actually… no. Aside from a potentially very confusing (and, I would argue, poorly named) product stack in Ice Lake and Comet Lake, Intel has little on the horizon for regular desktop users in 2020. For HEDT users, however, there is something. Cascade Lake-X is… well, put lightly, even with the massive price cuts afforded to said line-up over Skylake-X, Cascade Lake-X is more of the same. It is, sadly, a letdown. It offers 4 more PCIe lanes (still Gen 3), up to 18 cores, and some inbuilt mitigations for some security vulnerabilities raised on previous-generation chips. Other than that, the top of the line 10980XE is regularly beaten by AMD’s cheaper 16 core 3950X, albeit the latter is on a consumer platform with dual-channel memory and 24 PCIe lanes (Gen 4, though).
Finally, and related to the above… Threadripper 3000, anyone? You’ve all read the reviews by now. It’s fast. It’s pricey. But it is very, very good. If you can find one, and have the pockets, and need one, then buy one. Zen 2 was a huge leap forward for AMD’s Zen architecture, and adding that level of uplift to 32 core processors is pretty mind-blowing.
It has, therefore, been a fairly busy few months for the hardware space. In all honesty, even if I had been still active with Guru3D, I would have found it very hard to write a version of this guide that I would have been happy with. Now, thankfully, we have some breathing space. This guide will follow, for the most part, exactly the same format as the last one, as I think that was a bit of a hit.
I would, normally, insert a large section at the bottom of this introduction explaining just how we do things in this guide. For the sake of brevity (and, if I am honest, time), I will not be doing so this time around. If you wish to go check out why we do what we do, then please go read the intro of a previous version of this article. To keep things succinct, though, I will say this:
- The Guru3D buyers/build guide is focused on gaming
- For those interested, there will be a separate section on HEDT build considerations, and your options in that segment.
- We are seeking price vs. performance in all builds, save for the ‘overkill’ system, where budget and common sense go out of the window.
If you disagree with me, that is your prerogative. I expect some of those reading this definitely will, and that is ok. However, to those even moderately aware of goings on at this moment in time, I think you probably know what the mention of ‘price vs. performance’ is going to mean? If you don’t, small hint, expect to see a fair bit of ‘Team Red’.
Finally, please note that this guide will focus mainly on parts costs in the United States. Depending on your residency, this could only minorly (or majorly) affect your considerations for pricing and – therefore – what you can realistically expect to achieve with ‘X’ budget in your wallet.
With that, we will move onto the first of our builds.