Looking for Advice on PC Hardware

Hey guys, my current PC is 8 years old, and it’s time for me to buy a new one. Technology has obviously changed a lot in that time, so I was hoping that any PC experts could chime in with some tips for me. I plan to spend as much as I need to before I run into obviously diminishing returns – I’m thinking that’ll be around Β£2,000, which I think is similar to $2,300 after factoring in sales tax. I’ll mainly be using this PC for programming/animation/indie game dev, and VR games. I’m still researching, but here’s my thoughts so far:

CPU: I currently have an i5-3570K, and it looks like any mid-range CPU I get today should be a decent upgrade. I’m concerned that a lot of my software might not take full advantage of all the CPU cores. But if it’s worth it, I’m prepared to go all out on an overclocked i9 with liquid cooling.

The slowest task for me is compiling game code/assets – Adobe Flash uses all 4 of my CPU cores to do this, but only at around 30-60% each. Does that mean something else is the bottleneck? My CPU never seems to reach max usage unless multiple apps are running. I’m not sure what to make of this.

SSD: Looks like the new PCIe SSDs are WAY faster than the SATA ones from a few years ago. I’ll be getting enough space to put all of my work and applications on one of those 3,500Mbps PCIe SSDs.

RAM: I’m currently on 16GB, and I’ve rarely come close to using all of it. But maybe I’ll add some more so I’m future-proof. From what I understand, RAM speeds haven’t changed much over the years?

GPU: My current Radeon HD 6870 card barely runs Doom 2016 at minimum settings, so that’s definitely the part most in need of an upgrade. I won’t be doing a lot of AAA gaming, and I’m not too picky about playing games on max settings, BUT I would like to buy a Valve Index and play a bunch of VR stuff, so maybe it’s worth spending a bit more. It looks like there’s a lot of brands and options here… and it’s kind of overwhelming. The PC I was looking at has a 8GB EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER. Something like that? Gamers will tell me I should spend as much as I can afford… but that sounds like overkill.

The most I’ve ever spent on a PC is Β£1,000, and it’s always felt like a worthwhile purchase (especially if it serves me for 8 years). So I’m sure I’ll be impressed no matter what I go with.

Here’s what I’ve been considering. Thoughts?

15 thoughts on “Looking for Advice on PC Hardware

  1. po.Opbear the IT (forum) nerd

    Heyho,
    the price is outrageous, whats up the the prices in the UK, holy doge! Anyway, you should use a price comparison engine like skinflint and order from one of the bigger, trusted shops with a good reputation, might save ya some bucks.

    Did you already order a system? Pikos system is solid, the advice here is generally sound, I am surprised, kudos to the helpers and your fans. Still, you should read the tests and articles on major tech sites and ask a tech site forum, getting advice from other places usually yields meh results at best.

    @Eleventeen :
    Sadly, the 9900k does not support Quad Channel, the memory controller has a Dual Channel interface
    To easily stock up on RAM later 2x8GB or better 2x16GB would be the better choice to keep 2 slots free for the future.

    >The slowest task for me is compiling game code/assets – Adobe Flash uses all 4 of my CPU cores to do this, but only at around 30-60% each. Does that mean something else is the bottleneck? My CPU never seems to reach max usage unless multiple apps are running. I’m not sure what to make of this.
    Read up on system monitoring tools to find a potential bottleneck, some sites have guides, even a guide focused on gaming might be useful if it explains how to use those tools. Also: read up what the software supports or is capable of, see also the dedicated forums.
    Basic stuff: Taskmanager :3 Sysinternals Suite (Process Explorer)

    >SSD
    Depending on the amount of Data you have: Don’t be a cheapskate here – HDDs are ULTRA slow. While one big file might transfer with 100-200 or so Megabytes per second from an HDD, a SATA-SSD might be not much faster with 500+ Megabytes per second, but a shit ton of small files and the spinning magnet/ic disc and reading arm cannot keep up with hundreds of requests per second, suddenly the SSD is 100 or 1000 times faster. Yeah, latency and throughput of an HDD are a joke compared to an SSD, loading times eeeaaasily get cut by 75%.
    Current game I play with a slow Laptop HDD -> 60s – 90s till I am ready to crush the content (caused by several loading screens and Gigabytes of data)
    My desktop with an SSD: below 15s total time to load
    Startup is also 2-3 times faster with an SSD.

    Get one (or two or 3…) with enough space for your work stuff, your games and potentially other stuff which needs to be crunched or rendered etc. At the very least a 1 – 2 TB SATA(@M.2)-SSD or 1-2TB NVMe(@M.2)-SSD + 1-2TB SATA(@M.2)-SSD — HDDs are slow, they might be good enough to store some rarely used stuff, good enough for BackUps or if you have the time to load stuff from them but I advice against using them unless its one of your several external BackUps. We call HDDs here data graves. πŸ˜‰
    To meme a bit: It is 2020 and HDDs in consumer PCs and such should be purged, they are still the BackUp media of choice for the average consumer including me.
    See tests πŸ™‚
    Also: Current AAA – titles need roughly 100GB of space.

    >RAM
    At the very least 16GB for the average gaming PC now, get more if you want to heavily multitask and do some other stuff, at least 32GB. Current games easily exceed 8GB, see tests. Everything goes to %$Β§! once the RAM is full, only more RAM can help once that happens, although I have to admit that SSDs mitigate that problem by a lot, was painful to reach 100% RAM usage with HDDs…

    >…RAM speeds haven’t changed much over the years?
    What do you mean? RAM got much faster! Easily 2-3 times over the last decade, the latency is still the same (in time, only higher in clocks, see Wikipedia) –> data can be transported 2-3 times faster, even faster with Quad/X Channel and higher clocks and so on… Just look at the clocks to see how much the speed has changed.

    >GPU
    VR, 4K and so on needs lots of power, the gamers are right – BUT: Cards are expensive, might be smarter to invest half the money into a card and change to another one in 3-5 years for the other half of the money (see 5700xt/2070s vs 2080s/2080ti dilemma, see prices, see performance)
    Current High End cards can hardly handle high resolutions + max settings and so on, but that’s why software and games have settings and suddenly you are able to run most games with decent settings. The most important part in a gaming PC is the GPU after the PSU. πŸ˜‰
    If you really want and have the money: get a fat card – I for one refuse to pay so much for a “pixel canon”.
    See tests to gauge the performance, a 2080ti can’t even handle Red Dead Redemption 2 in 4k high@60FPS, see Nvidia (=they recommend mid-high for 60FPS)… Either lower settings or less money in your wallet left, make your choice. πŸ˜‰

    What I would recommend:
    Ryzen 3700x or bigger
    -> good price for the performance, roughly on par with the 9900k for 200 or so bucks less, 10% slower in games unless the card limits in 4k and such, in fact even the only slightly more expensive 9700k is faster in games but has only 8 threads with 8 cores which makes this one slower once you use software which heavily uses lots of threads
    The 3800x is a bad choice, like 100MHz faster and costs a bunch more but basically the same as the 3700x, unneeded CPU from a consumer PoW, makes sense for AMD to offer something which gets bought, the bigger (and smaller) AMD CPUs are fine if you can find a use for all the cores and threads, otherwise a waste of money. The 9900k should cost roughly the same as the 3900x bombard…

    450 or so chipset mainboard – cheaper than 570 mainboards
    I prefer lots of USB 3.x ports, the 570 chipset provides PCIe4 which might press out some %, mostly relevant for Highend cards yet to come, 4xx mainboards and such may need a BIOS Update if they aren’t shipped with one ready for Ryzen 3xxx. (you can always ask the shop)

    AiO water coolers are meh. You get roughly the same performance for less dosh with a potent air cooler and a “mid tier” Ryzen 3600/3700x does not even need a cooler for more than 50 bucks.

    Chosen RAM is okay, you could try to get (slightly) faster RAM but it is imo not worth the hassle.
    SSD: One of the faster NVMe ones which is not &%$!, see internet to get best bang for the buck – by internet I mean a major IT-board from your country, they know local prices and so on. SATA (or SATA@M.2) -> Crucial MX500 or similar with 1-2TB or more capacity, don’t get a DRAM-less one, they have their issues… See internet.

    also: 5 Year Old Builds a PC -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr3MgKkS314
    BUT: You are earning money with your machine by making games and such, a PC with 24h replacement/pickup service might be smarter in your case, who knows. See big brands and local shops and so on for more info. :3

    kind and best regards

    Reply
    1. po.Opbear

      Ohh and about OC:
      Intel CPUs can run at higher all core clocks, easily over 5GHz with an Aio or proper water cooler but it is hardly worth it, you win like 4-500MHz all core clock, that is basically nothing and the power consumption goes up and you need a fat Aio or “real” water cooling setup, results in less than 10% performance gain, waste of money and time imo.
      AMDs are almost at max, forget OC there. Basically OC with these fat CPUs is dead, used to be great 10 or 15 years ago with a i5 2500k +1GHz or more from like 3.3GHz base clock or even more nuts with an Intel Core 6600g from 2.4GHz to roughly 4GHz, now that was nuts! And worth it.

      Reply
  2. Catscarlet

    My opinion:

    CPU:
    Try the newest i7 CPU, but not the version with K or F. Mine is i7-4790K, very similar to your old one. I often get 100% on all of 8 threads and make 101℃(Need to open window to make it 8.5℃ inside). There is no need to overclock the CPU bcuz it’s already too powerful to handle. Not recommend F because it’s not much different on price but very useful when you hanve Graphic Card trouble.

    MEM:
    16GB MEM is baseline. 32GB is good.

    Graphic Card:
    I will never recommend 1070, 2070 or such thing. Try 2060 for a cheaper price, or try 2080 for better performance and long-life. (You can even use it when you build another computer after another 5 years and it will still perform good)

    Mother Board:
    Mine is Z87x and I’m having regret on it. Z means a lot, but if you can’t buy two pieces of Graphic Cards, then don’t bother.
    My first Graphic Card is 1080. I thought I would buy another Graphic Card to improve performance in future, but when I have extra money for it, 1080 was already off the market, and not worth to buy any longer. My another PCI-E will always empty.
    Also about overclock.
    So recommend others but not Z.
    And not ATX is possible(Will explain in Case phase below)

    SSD and HDD
    There is not many choices for SSD. Just buy 256GB or more, and choose good brand, like Intel.
    HHD, I recommend 3TB and only 3TB. It’s the largest pmr hard disk. (Google PMR and SMR for more informance please,. It’s important)

    Case
    Mine is Full tower, also regret it.
    I have 3 HDDs in my case and it’s bad.
    I travel a lot. I mailed my desktop many times and the case is broken. It is too large, no, TOO HUGE.
    I was going to buy a new small one, and found out there isn’t many case for ATX, and most of them can’t hold more than 2 HDDs.
    So just buy a small case, largest HDD with best performance, a small Mother Board.

    Buy the way. You can’t install Win7 on 6th/7th CPU. Don’t think about it, too much trouble. If you are going to use Win10 (I think you will, because you use Adobe software a lot), I don’t know much about it.
    But if you are going to try Linux, I will tell you, there is not much trouble on desktop but you need to study a lot about Linux.

    Reply
  3. Piko

    Hi,

    So I’m dabbling in computer parts every now and then, and I have a couple of thoughts about your build:

    Unless you specifically need 32GB for software that makes use of it, stick to 16GB. People overestimate how much RAM you need nowadays. 4GB might be enough only for non-demanding tasks, but 8GB is a very comfortable value, and 16GB makes you forget there’s something called “RAM” to worry a about.
    Moreover, putting 2x8GB RAM sticks means there will still be two free slots in your motherboard, so if you ever needed it in the future, you can easily add two more sticks, without throwing the ones you already have away. But in 99% cases, you won’t need to do it anyway.

    RTX 2070S is a great choice. It’s a very powerful card even for VR, and although there are even more powerful options up there, you hit diminishing results going above. I’d go for this, even though it will be excessive for most indie games played on a FullHD monitor.

    Intel core i9 9900K isn’t really as much of a hot deal as it seems to be, it costs a lot of extra bucks for not that much power. I feel like it’s very excessive – and if I was you, I would choose something like Ryzen 3600 or 3700X instead, which will be more than ideal for your GPU and compilations, while costing significantly less.

    HDD hard drive is a relic of the past and I wouldn’t recommend buying it even for storing data you don’t check often. SSD’s are barely more expensive nowadays and the difference they make is huge. Personally, I’d get the money saved on CPU and RAM and buy a 2TB SSD instead, getting rid of HDD’s completely. It’s effect in making the computer work better will be a lot more visible than with, for example, an i9 + HDD drive.

    If I was you, I would go for something like this:
    https://i.imgur.com/LahM6Hl.png

    And if it was possible, I would ask their support if you can get either of SSD’s below instead, because they are excellent and cost quite a bit less, but I couldn’t find them in PC configuration menu:

    https://www.scan.co.uk/products/19tb-corsair-mp510-m2-2280-pcie-30-x4-nvme-13-ssd3480mb-s-read2700mb-s-write-485k-530k-iops
    https://www.scan.co.uk/products/2tb-pny-xlr8-cs3030-m2-2280-pcie-30-x4-nvme-ssd-3d-tlc-nand-3500mb-s-read-3000mb-s-write

    Such setup should easily last for 5-10 years, while satisfying even the most demanding people up there.

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Matt Roszak Post author

      Thanks for the tips.
      Ditching the HDD is a good idea – I’ll get that Samsung EVO instead.
      I’m considering the Ryzen 3900X with 16GB of 3600Mhz RAM. It’s probably overkill, but I can afford it and I’d like to treat myself for once. πŸ˜›

      Reply
    2. Eleventeen

      And also if they allow it, don’t pay the full system integrator price for windows 10 (It’s usually a rip off at over $100)
      Microsoft actually gives it away for free to most of the world, or sells very very cheap keys to many countries. US/UK/Canada can actually still upgrade for free from Win7 too (tho its annoying). And you can buy those legit cheap keys too – they aren’t region locked or anything.

      Here it is for $16:
      https://www.cdkoffers.com/microsoft-windows-10-pro-oem-cd-key-global.html

      (And don’t worry it’s a legit site featured on guru3d.com – very excellent hardware site I owe much of my hardware knowledge too)

      Plus you get the pro version instead of the crappier home version (And your using it for pro work, so makes sense) . In general I don’t think you’ll need any of the pro version features, but Pro actually lets you disable more stuff a lot easier for better performance then home (Biggest thing I hate about home version is the lack of local group policy editing which lets you disable/tweak a lot more on your system for better performance).

      Reply
      1. Matt Roszak Post author

        Oh, I wish I knew about that a bit earlier – I’ve already ordered it.
        Windows Pro sounds interesting. I’ll have to see if it’s not too late to upgrade.

        Reply
  4. TheEpicCowOfLife

    This really looks like i’m paid to write this comment, but this is genuinely my opinion as I have been looking for an upgrade for a while, and have spent a lot of time comparing intel and AMD.

    For your CPU, for the sole reason of having better performance/price, I’d suggest you take a look at AMD’s Ryzen lineup. One downside to ryzen is that their single thread performance is still behind Intel’s best-of-the-best, but not by much. The ryzen 9 3900 seems to be a similar price to the I9, but has 12 cores compared to 8, with similar per-thread performance. Not everything you do will be able to take advantage of the extra cores though, but modern game engines (which i’m assuming you will have to switch to when flash dies) should be able to see a noticeable boost.

    Your use case is vastly different from mine, but the way I see it, AMD’s ryzen is less money for more performance when compared to intel.

    Reply
  5. Eleventeen

    Looks good but ya a couple improvements:
    4TB mechanical HDD doesn’t cost any more than 2TB these days. Buy one on amazon instead if that integrated you want to use charges much more for them.
    Likewise you should double your NVME SSD size, 970 EVO is good, but get at least 1TB, it’s not quite double the price and the extra storage youll want.

    If your willing to wait a bit, 10th gen intel processors are supposed to be out any day now (They were released in november, but like all things intel there are big delays/shortages.) Core i9-10900 won’t be a mega jump over the 9900, but worthwhile since it won’t really cost much more, if at all.

    32gb of ram is still overkill in 2020 for your requirements. 2x8gb won’t have any performance impact (you still want 2 sticks for dual channel). Well, if you do like to have 100+ chrome tabs open like me, and run a ton of extension, i guess it is possible to use over 16gb, but still a challenge. (But thats just how chrome is designed, a quick kill tabs to the right clears up tons of memory anyways)
    Better yet, you should go 4x4GB as i checked your board does have 4 slots and that CPU supports quad channel memory. In gaming it’s mostly proven to have barely 1-5% performance improvement, but in your professional work/compiling it might lead to even larger gains in the ~10% region. Though finding high speed 4b sticks can be a bit more challenging, so if it fits the budget, 4x8GB works and is a better option then 2x16gb.

    2070 SUPER is a good choice for what your doing. Personally run a 2060 SUPER even though on all previous generations I ran a xxx70 series. Mainly because they’ve finally gotten fast enough to basically run everything top settings even at the x60 SUPER level. But I haven’t tried VR And it is a lot more demanding so yea stick with the 2070.

    If you want this PC to last 8 years again too without much maintenance, consider actually downgrading to air cooling. As nice as those AIO liquid coolers are, they still are pretty much guaranteed to fail in ~3-5 years if you use your PC often. If your good enough to remember to replace it in ~3 year, liquid cooling is good. Personally wouldn’t overclock a rig for profession use though unless you have a backup nearby ready.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    That build seems solid, it’s right at the point where upgrades will cost much more. I will also back up the comment about sticking with 16GB of RAM for now. If rarely max it out even now, the extra 16GB will do nothing. Unless you plan to take up video editing or something else that requires a lot of RAM, 16GB is plenty. As far as I’m aware, ram usage hasn’t gone up over the years for the purposes you listed and won’t significantly go up in the foreseeable future.

    In the case you do need to upgrade later on, you simply just buy another 16GB of the same model of ram (should be similar priced or cheaper buying yourself) and pop it into the slot.

    Reply
    1. Matt Roszak Post author

      Thanks! I’m considering maybe getting faster RAM or more SSD space instead of that extra 16GB of RAM. You’re right – I probably won’t need it.

      Reply
  7. Kusanagi

    You’re gonna have a war monster with such a setup you plan on getting. Not much more i could suggest. You may have to add another cooler when summer hits to be sure to avoid overheating. Just keep that point in check.
    Otherwise, pretty much the one setup i would by myself if i could afford it

    Reply
  8. Dragonite

    Not sure what else you’re looking at besides the Vengeance, but

    re: CPU, compiling code is where mine hits the end of its line too. I’ve got an i5-7400 and it’s honestly fine for most things, but it only has four cores so depending on what I’m working on the whole computer might be nigh unusable for 15-30 minutes. I’ve heard a nice big CPU cache is good for that too.

    re: RAM, in my experience that’s about the easiest part of the computer to upgrade so unless you need the extra 16 GB now I’d probably stick with what you have now and upgrade it later if the need arises. (I don’t think there’s been any remarkable speed improvements in it recently either; who knows, maybe there’ll be a breakthrough of some sort in the 2020s).

    re: graphics, I don’t really know a lot about the requirements for VR but I guess if your goal is to future-proof a little an RTX is probably ideal? I haven’t found anything out right now that isn’t at least functional on my 1060, but since when have games ever held back if there’s graphics hardware available to run them on?

    Reply

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