The PC Master Race internet subculture has long proclaimed the superiority of PCs compared to Macs and game consoles based on the pillars of price and customizability. You can build a viable and affordable workstation, even on budget, and customize the hardware to better suit your needs and likes. Not to mention, it’s satisfying.
Even Superman built his own super PC. But while Henry Cavill can spec up his build with the latest generation components, things are different for the average PC enthusiast. Prices have skyrocketed.
Back in 2018 you could build a beast of a workstation with about $1,500. Now, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4090 GPU alone costs $2,500. Getting a first-rate PC in 2024 just isn’t worth the price tag anymore.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a New PC in 2024
In 2024, a new PC isn’t a value investment anymore. If you scope out the PC market, you’ll find bumps and challenges at every corner. Post-pandemic inflation, rising production costs, and supply chain issues are just a few reasons why you should likely hold onto your money.
This might seem like advice you’d receive for just about anything lately, so let’s take a more in-depth look at PCs specifically.
- New Tech Isn’t Automatically Better Tech
Year after year, we see people criticizing Apple for putting out more or less the same technology in their flagship iPhones — and asking a king’s ransom for it. PCs aren’t a different story, just less talked about.
This is because our technology has mostly peaked for now, with new releases offering minimal improvements compared to the last two decades.
Moore’s Law’s dead. And the ability for Moore’s Law to deliver twice the performance at the same cost, or at the same performance, half the cost, every year and a half, is over. It’s completely over, and so the idea that a chip is going to go down in cost over time, unfortunately, is a story of the past.Jensen Huang, Nvidia CEO
For context, Moore’s Law is an idea based on historical trends, and it was coined by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. It sees PC performance doubling every couple of years while the components necessary for this performance output falls in price.
For example, most PC parts from 2019-2022 can still run new-released video games like Elden Ring in 2K with 60 frames per second (FPS). There’s no reason to spend over $1,000 for a slight improvement you might only notice on grass texture… unless you really like grass and have money to burn.
- Future-Proofing Is Becoming Impossible
A huge advantage for PCs used to be future-proofing. The concept behind future-proofing is easy: you buy a beefy PC now that’ll still be able to run programs just as smoothly and efficiently in a few years. Ideally it would also be compatible with new technologies without upgraded replacements.
Future-proofing depends highly on your needs. If you’re just browsing online, and occasionally watching Netflix, chances are your PC is good to go for more than 3-4 years. There’s no point in buying the new generation PC parts for Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, and YouTube videos, although I hear Chrome can be quite memory-hungry.
High-performance gaming, video rendering, developing, and similar activities require more computational power and faster processing. Future-proofing would see that the parts you buy now are high-end enough to secure your needs for a few years.
That said, it’s hard to predict future performance requirements and innovation. Now, with technological advancements happening faster than ever, future-proofing seems impossible. It might even become obsolete in the future, as more and more cloud-based services emerge.
- PC Parts Are Still Overpriced
Good motherboards, processors, power supply units, and graphics cards are still incredibly expensive parts. And the newer generation PC parts are too pricey for most of us. This is because these components are in short supply but in great demand in various tech industries.
Not to mention there’s a worldwide chip shortage going on around that affects most PC components – or was, depending on who you talk to. If you factor in taxes, shipping fees, and rising production costs, it’s clear that PCs are getting more expensive by the year. 2024 won’t be the year that breaks this trend.
- New Generation Technology Attracts Scalpers
Scalpers are people who take advantage of consumers’ high demand. They buy up a large inventory, preventing others from getting the product directly from retailers, only to later resell at a hugely-inflated price. We’ve seen this happen time and time again during the Covid-19 pandemic. Panic buying led to scalpers reselling basic hygiene products like toilet paper, hand sanitizers, and Clorox.
While price gouging essential goods during times of crisis is illegal in some places, most tech goods aren’t considered essential. We’ve clearly seen this with the release of the latest generation consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The PlayStation 5 was especially problematic. It launched in limited numbers because of component shortages, so scalpers made it impossible for PlayStation fans to get a console from a legitimate source for months.
Scalpers often get their grubby hands on the newest PC parts as soon as they launch. They resell in-demand parts like GPUs for a markup of up to 200%. If you purchase from a scalper, you’re overpaying for your PC.
What Is Going on With PC Part Prices?
The Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, and it was just the start. With everyone cooped up inside, demand for consumer electronics skyrocketed. Businesses, schools, universities, and healthcare went digital, and the market wasn’t ready to supply.
A lot of manufacturers had to close down permanently or temporarily during lockdown, and this led to a chip shortage. The demand for semiconductor chips translated into major price increases and scalping that affected a lot of industries, including appliances, automobiles, video game consoles, and virtually all computer components.
Let’s look at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), who is responsible for producing more than half of all semiconductors in the world.
TSMC had it rough during the Covid-19 pandemic. The manufacturer grouped employees into smaller teams to minimize infection risks. Non-essential vendors were restricted from entering the premises, and production operated at a 50% room capacity.
Even worse, Taiwan itself had to deal with the most disastrous drought in 57 years in 2021, so the government cut water supply to TSMC by 15%. The manufacturer had enough reserves to prevent completely halting production but it still couldn’t catch a break. A failure at the Hsinta coal and gas power plant also left TSMC dealing with power issues during that time.
A year later, in 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine which caused unease among Taiwanese citizens who feared China would attempt a similar move. Investors were concerned too. TSMC pooled effort and resources to solidify its status as the leading semiconductor supplier. The company invested $100 billion to combat the challenges it faced these past two years.
TSMC increased its profits by 23.93% in 2022. Now, US president Joe Biden has promised efforts to stimulate domestic chip production and reduce dependency on Taiwan and China. So far, more than 35 US tech companies pledged almost $200 billion to these efforts. It remains to be seen how this approach will impact semiconductor prices in the long run.
For PCs specifically, the tipping point was the supply of graphics processing units (GPUs). Seeing as GPUs are a critical component in rendering PC game graphics, gamers regularly try to upgrade theirs to meet the demand of today’s graphic-intensive games. They’re also used in crypto mining, which further drove up demand.
GPUs and Crypto – Strange Bedfellows
Crypto mining requires sophisticated hardware to solve extremely complex computational math problems to generate cryptocurrency. GPUs are extremely effective at optimizing this process, known as hashing. In 2021, Ethereum miners alone spent over USD$15 billion on GPUs.
The problem is that crypto miners bought stock up so quickly it drove prices up. This is a trend that started in 2018 and hasn’t abated much since. People, especially gamers, blamed miners for causing Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080’s launch price of $599 to balloon up to $900+ in less than two weeks.
This demand significantly drove up GPU prices until Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) miners became a popular hardware for proof-of-work blockchains again. The fact that the crypto world experienced a brutal fall in 2022 also contributed to decreased GPU demand.
When Bitcoin falls below its $20,000 mark, mining becomes significantly less profitable. Despite this, the PC market didn’t revert to former prices. This is likely because of changes in production and fabrication, as well as due to global inflation.
High Prices Are Here to Stay
Many have heavily criticized Nvidia for the price increases. Alongside AMD, they’re two of the biggest players in the industry. Both companies announced a shift towards denser silicon as the primary reason for increased prices since these smaller, denser nodes cost more to produce.
Production costs in China also rose after the Covid-19 pandemic, not to mention the US-China trade war, and this bumps up the prices you see.
This highlights a markup of 53% for the starting price between the GTX 1080 and RTX 4080.
Gamers often consider AMD graphics cards the cheaper option but it does come with some trade-offs. AMD GPUs don’t perform as well for 3D rendering software, and the company drops support for older GPU models faster than Nvidia.
Market fluctuations are usually semi-predictable but also extremely faceted and prone to quick changes based on outside factors. For example, in a research note, the IDC predicts a rough market for 2023 due to “worsening macroeconomic conditions.” This is driven by lower household income, high inflation, and less demand for remote work.
What that means is, while lower demand might bring down the price of computer parts somewhat, inflation still keeps prices prohibitively high for the average consumer. While the IDC predicts overall consumer market contractions, it doesn’t expect a downturn in the premium ends of the market, which means prices likely won’t come down until 2024. And when they do, odds are that fewer people will be able to afford them anyways.
2024 seems far away though. What should you do if you really want a PC now?
When Is the Best Time to Buy a PC in 2024… If You Absolutely Have To
It’s true sometimes you have no choice but to buy. If your PC is too old to keep up with new software, a part broke down, or you’ve just decided to switch from console to a gaming PC, you need to find the best time to buy a PC in 2024.
We’ve monitored industry trends and price fluctuations to gain some insights into what we can expect from computer part prices in 2024 and beyond. To put things into perspective, let’s take 10 PC parts and compare their prices throughout the past couple of years.
The prices seem all over the place as suppliers deal with inflation, shortage, and inventory control. This volatility made a lot of consumers unhappy for buying overpriced PC parts, and having them go on sale the next month.
Let’s unclutter the data, and highlight some of the best prices.
Based on this, we can notice a pattern. December clearly takes the cake for best prices. Realistically, this has to do with the end-of-year inventory stock. December marks the end of the fiscal year for the majority of companies, so it makes sense that most retailers offer discounts in the form of holiday sales. This is usually followed by a price increase during spring.
Around August and September seems to be the second best time to buy due to lower prices, and there could be a few reasons for this. Tech companies usually release new products during the fall season, which means older products become cheaper as people start saving up for the new goodies.
Around the same period, retailers and shops prepare for shopping seasons like Black Friday, which might explain the changes in price. That said, some stores manipulate prices before Black Friday to create fake discounts.
Throughout the prices we tracked, we noticed considerable fluctuations.
Take the RX 5700 XT, for example, which had a staggering 536% markup in May 2021 despite its $399 launch price. Unfortunately, you can expect most parts to go up in price after launch when demand is at its highest.
Overall, it’s best to keep an eye out for the parts you want, and monitor their prices over at least two quarters. The end of the year, mainly December, is the best time to buy PC parts but keep an eye out for those fake holiday discounts. Around August and September you’ll also likely to find good deals, at least for parts that aren’t freshly released.
Other Tips for Buying PC Components
- Know Where to Spend Your Money
You can buy PC parts second-hand and save money but think it through and don’t take people’s word at face value. PC cases, RAM, monitors, and keyboards are generally safe to buy second-hand. You’ll also notice any defects quite quickly so you can avoid scammers.
GPUs and motherboards are two parts that you shouldn’t buy second-hand unless you absolutely know what you’re doing and who you’re buying from. Critical components like capacitors and transistors could be worn out, and you likely won’t notice until you’re running your PC. If you end up with a mining GPU or one that’s been overclocked, you might find that it won’t work for more than a year.
- Know Where You Can Find Better Deals
Sometimes the most obvious PC parts sellers, like Amazon, don’t offer the best deal. Huge warehouses translate to bigger inventory and bigger storage space. This means they aren’t incentivized to sell quickly to make room for newer products.
Brick and mortar stores are usually quicker to offer discounts because they don’t have the space to store as much inventory, so don’t be afraid to check local retailers. Earlier this year, I snatched a replacement AM4 motherboard for 15% less by checking out computer parts shops in my city before placing an order on the online marketplace I regularly use.
- Don’t Buy Unnecessary Parts
It might sound obvious, but if you’re a beginner you can easily fall for the more is best gimmick. Do you really need an optical disk drive? It was traditionally a must for PCs but nowadays we download most things online.
Unless you’re editing video files or streaming on Twitch, you don’t really need 64 GB RAM either. 16 GB RAM is enough for most video games, and it won’t affect performance. Think about how you’ll actually use the PC, check the hardware requirements of those activities, and then you’ll get a better idea of which parts you need to spend more on to fill those needs.
Unless you fill up all your RAM slots, you can always add more later. Get an affordable 2×8 GB RAM kit and you’ll still have two more slots if you find that you really need more.
- If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Use your best judgment when searching for PC parts. Any offers you find should still be somewhat similar to the actual price. $40 for a motherboard seems like a steal because it’s a scam.
GPUs cost five times less on Wish? That’s because it’s likely a cheap knock-off. Look at popular YouTuber Linus Tech Tips when he built a PC only using Wish parts. The thing overheated in minutes.
PC Building Going Popular: Celebrities Into PC Building
Building your own setup isn’t something exclusive to tech gurus or hardware engineers anymore. The practice went from niche hobby to seeping into the mainstream, and now celebrities help shed a spotlight on the practice.
With access to resources and creativity being the limit, celebrities have some of the most impressive builds we’ve seen.
Cool as they may be, all these builds are pricey. Most of us don’t make Superman money, so we need to be more frugal with our PCs.
Some of these celebrities also landed in hot water for hiring people or companies to build their PCs instead of taking matters into their own hands. To some tech enthusiasts, this is like buying a pre-built PC from retailers.
Is It Better to Build or Buy Your PC?
This is one of the biggest debates online, especially among PC gamers. There are pros and cons to both sides. It’s best to weigh your options.
Building Your Own PC
Building your own PC is one of the most satisfying things you can do, but is it the right option for you?
|Pros of Building Your Own PC
|Cons of Building Your Own PC
|✅ You Decide the Cost. If you’re on a budget, building your own PC can help you save money. You have more control over the parts you buy, and can even buy some second-hand if you find a good deal.
|❌ You Need to Know What You’re Doing. PC building takes a bit more knowledge than just slapping a bunch of parts together and calling it a day. You can encounter challenges that might require more than the average tech knowledge.
|✅ You Know Your System. What better way to know the ins and outs of your PC unless you build it yourself? If something goes wrong, you won’t have to sit through tech support figuring out the problem.
|❌ It Takes a Longer Time. It takes longer to get all the parts and components you need, and build the PC you want than ordering a finished product.
|✅ You Can Customize Your Rig. You can choose parts and designs to suit your needs and preferences.
|❌ A Lot of Things Can Go Wrong. Using the wrong power cable will fry your HDDs, while a subpar or inappropriate power cord can be a fire hazard. One wrong move can permanently damage your CPU – break a couple of those delicate pins and it’s ready to recycle. Using too much (or too little) thermal paste can overheat your CPU.
You also need a decent understanding of electrostatic discharge principles to build a good PC.
Just buying the PC parts and building your own setup comes with a lot of freedom and options, so it’s worth investing the time and effort to learn. If you’re inexperienced, it might take some trial and error before you get it right.
You’ll also need to play it smart if you want to save some money on your build. Post Malone has a $6400 rig that might be out of your budget but you can build a good PC without a twelve carat toothache.
Now let’s see the other side of the coin.
Buying Your PC
Just like people buy phones and laptops, people buy pre-built PCs too. They’re not all bad, and sometimes you can get fantastic discounts that you’d never benefit from if you got the part on your own.
|Pros of Buying a Pre-Built PC
|Cons of Buying a Pre-Built PC
|✅ You Buy a Finished Product. It’s convenient and easy to have the PC you want ready to roll out of the box. You don’t need to worry about which parts work with what.
|❌ You’re Likely to Pay More. Keep in mind that you’re also paying for someone’s labor. The cost depends whether you buy a finished product from the retailer, or pay a company to assemble it for you.
|✅ You Have Warranty. Buying a PC from retailers comes with a warranty. Not all PC parts sellers are authorized resellers which can cause issues with warranties, and second-hand parts don’t have this option.
|❌ You Won’t Pick Out Specific Components. If you’re looking for a specific combination of parts, you’re unlikely to get it out of the box.
|✅ You Can Test the Performance. You can find reliable reviews for your specific PC. PC parts have reviews but you’re unlikely to find them configured to your exact build.
|❌ You Can’t Ensure You Have the Best Components. Even if you purchase the newest PC model, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get the best components. Pre-builds offer sellers more corners to cut (if they’re inclined), so always read the fine print.
Buying your own PC is fast, convenient, and easy. You don’t need to worry about motherboards and GPUs and power supplies. That said, you don’t really have much option for customization beside what retailers can offer. In case something goes wrong, you won’t be able to troubleshoot yourself without risking your warranty.
The best of both worlds might be having someone knowledgeable help build your PC for you. If you have a friend you can trust with expensive PC parts, you’re in luck. If not, you can always find companies that specialize in PC building. They can even offer advice on what parts you should buy based on your wants and needs.
Actress Felicia Day hired PowerGPU to build her rig. Based on her Twitch streams, I’d say that investment was well-worth it.
Finally, as a member of the PC Master Race group, don’t forget to haze console fans by saying how your (2x-30x worth) rig is better than their console. It’s a sacred custom.
Don’t Rush To Buy And Always Take Care of Your Rig
Whether you want to level up your setup or you want to show your PC some love by upgrading hardware, make sure you’re not breaking the bank for it. Newly released PC components are still on the pricier side after financial uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic and the chip supply shortage. Value deals are harder to come by than they used to.
Your best bet for buying PC parts is December. That’s the time retailers and suppliers decrease the price for most PC parts. If you’re impatient until the holidays, don’t worry! Around August and September prices also go down significantly. Keep your eyes peeled for offers around these periods, and save buck when upgrading!
No matter if you buy or build your PC, the important thing is to take good care of it. This means both the hardware and software.
It’s important to use a sturdy protective case, and use padding when moving to prevent bumps and hits. Regularly dust your PC and your peripherals including keyboard and mouse. Organizing cords is boring but will make your life so much easier in the long run. Not to mention it’ll look so much better.
On the software side, regular updates go a long way. Make a habit of regularly deleting junk and temporary files, and run antivirus scans to keep malware and viruses at bay. Get a VPN for PC to enhance your online security and anonymity.
Lastly, always practice good cyber hygiene to protect your system from digital threats. Don’t reuse passwords, use multi-factor authentication (MFA), and avoid downloading files from unknown sources. Never post your personal or financial information online, and never click on suspicious links from people you don’t know.