Why you should not build a PC now (Q1 2018)

Building a PC is something really special, the joy of researching for the ideal parts, comparing the prices, getting the best deals for each part, and even collecting them piecemeal, is something you cannot experience when buying a pre-built PC. But it breaks my heart as I am about to tell you, why you should not build a PC now.

The tech savvy among you, will be aware of the happenings in the PC market. For those unaware, allow us to explain.

You may have noticed when you browse on Amazon, Newegg, etc, the prices of PC components such as the RAM have been increasing rapidly over the past year. What is the reason for high RAM prices? Basically, the reason is shortage in supply. When the demand is high, there is always a shortage in supply. And when there is a lot of supply, the demand will be less. Economics students may know this theory well.

RAM prices are sky-high:

Since smartphones with 4GB RAM or higher like 6GB and even 8GB were launched, the prices of PC memory modules began to shoot up. RAM manufacturers like Samsung, Hynix, etc cannot keep up with the demand. So, there is short supply of RAM. And retailers naturally, in order to make best profits, charge a premium on their inventory.

Why you should not build a PC now

I bought an 8GB RAM stick for Rs. 4,000 ($62) in January 2017 and the same now costs Rs. 7,000 (about $102) or more. Most RAM prices have nearly doubled over the year, and it is unlikely that the prices will drop anytime soon. You could buy used RAM, but those may not have warranty support. So I’d say skip used ones, and just wait for a sale to buy new RAM at a discounted price.

Graphics card prices are insane:

This is one of the reasons how Crypto Mining has affected gamers. Basically people who want to earn cryptocurrency, are building new PCs solely for the purpose of mining the coins. Such PCs are called Crypto Mining Builds or Crypto Mining Rigs. What does this have to with graphics card prices? To tell you that, we need to explain how a CPU and GPU work.

A CPU (your PC’s processor) is the brain of the computer, and it is what tells the computer’s components what to do, from clicking a mouse or typing on your keyboard, to running Windows, execute programs, etc. Everything depends on the CPU.

The GPU (Graphics Card) powers your display, and is also used to compute graphics elements in games. Most modern big name games require a GPU to work at best performance, or even to play on the lowest settings. The difference in the computing methods of the CPU and GPU is what is important. A CPU’s architecture does not allow it to execute more instructions than a GPU can. So, a GPU is more efficient in crypto mining.

The more GPUs a PC has, the better it can mine cryptocurrency. Therein lies the problem, for gamers. Cryptocurrency miners have no concern about the effect they are causing on other users. In their greed, they buy multiple GPUs for earning more money. This causes a supply shortage in GPUs, and you know what happens. Retailers began charging more and more for the GPUs, to the point that graphics card prices have doubled over the past year.

Why you should not build a PC now

Why you should not build a PC now

A graphics card which was available for Rs. 8,000 on sale (Rs. 10,000 normally) now costs Rs. 16,000. In terms of US Dollars, that is a jump from $125 to $250. Insane right? Graphics card chip maker, NVidia has slammed crypto miners, and has asked retail stores not to sell more  than one GPU to a buyer. This rule is not strict, so not all stores follow this.

When will RAM and graphics card prices drop?

Cryptocurrency prices are not going down any soon. So don’t expect RAM and graphics card prices to drop in the near future. The only way these issues will be solved is when the supply of the products increases. This depends on manufacturers, who need to produce more products, and this in turn needs investment in new factories. So, this is a really complicated issue.

Wait for prices to stabilize, at least a bit. According to report by Reuters, prices of high-end flash memory chips, which are used in mobile devices, dropped by 5% at the end of 2017. Analysts predict that this trend will continue, and this could result in cheaper RAM.

Ryzen vs Intel: A minor issue

If you are building an Intel PC, you can make do without a graphics card, as the CPU has a built-in albeit weak GPU, aka on-board graphics. AMD’s Ryzen CPUs do not have on-board graphics. Don’t get me wrong, Ryzen is amazing and I have an Intel i5-7500 PC and a Ryzen 3 1200 PC. I’m just saying, if you go for Ryzen you need to buy a graphics card, and that is not an ideal thing, given the current market situation. If you are okay with not having a graphics card, opting for Intel is the only choice at the moment.

Note: Ryzen CPUs with Radeon Vega on-board graphics are new, and were not taken into consideration for this article.

Ashwin Karthik