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Upgrading your gaming PC: prices for graphics cards are falling, CPUs are becoming more expensive Techstage compares current prices for PC hardware and shows the best offers. GPUs are particularly worthwhile in August, while other components pick up again. 4:00 p.m. tech stage

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We check the offers for PC hardware. GPU prices will fall in August, but we would wait for other components.

Update August 2022 : Since the last update from May 2022, the market has turned slightly. In short: CPUs are slightly increasing in price, mainboards remain stable, RAM (particularly DDR5) and PCIe 4×4 NVMe SSDs are falling slightly. This also applies to graphics cards. So if you buy new hardware now, you should compare it carefully and consider which components it should be.

The great thing about a computer is that you can swap out components with a little tinkering. This not only ensures that your own gaming computer stays up to date, in many cases you save a lot of money compared to buying a finished PC or even a gaming notebook. Hardware upgrades are easy in most cases. Open, unscrew, reconnect, then and it’s good. If not, then numerous tips will help, for example here with our colleagues at c’t. The only important thing is that you check before you buy whether the new components fit together, for example CPUs and mainboard sockets. You should also update the BIOS and chipset of the mainboard before installing a new component – new features or better compatibility are often added later via software.

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Unfortunately, there are currently massive price fluctuations for the different components. Storage such as NVMe SSDs is becoming cheaper and cheaper, while graphics cards currently cost far too much – if they are available at all. TechStage therefore takes a look at the most important components for an upgrade and says where it is currently worth striking.

AMD fans should currently wait. Because with the Zen 4 platform, a completely new architecture is coming, whose CPUs Ryzen 7000 and Ryzen 8000 are based on 5 nm. This promises significantly faster processors (hot online: AMD Ryzen 7000 and 8000: Zen 4 brings 10 percent IPC plus, Zen 5 from 2024 ). The new Ryzen CPUs should come in the second half of the year, it should probably be in the fall. This should also be the end of the AM4 chipset, AMD fell behind Intel a bit in terms of features.

The second reason why you shouldn’t upgrade at the moment is the prices. Because a look at the price trends for three and six months shows that the current Ryzen CPUs have become significantly more expensive on average.

Recommendation: wait. Because even if you don’t want to upgrade to a Zen 4 Ryzen, the market launch should significantly reduce the prices of the predecessor.

AMD mainboard: PCI Express 4.0 belongs on the board
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When it comes to the motherboard, you really have to pay attention to two things at the moment: Is the current CPU generation supported by AMD & Intel – and does it have PCIe 4.0? This transmission standard is becoming increasingly important for graphics cards and M.2 SSDs.

The problem here is the calm before the storm. With the new Zen 4, AMD should have new mainboard specifications, and the faithful AM4 will then be history.

Anyone who buys an AMD CPU from the Zen 3 generation should opt for a board with an X570 or B550 chipset. Both bring at least one x16 PCIe slot based on PCIe 4.0, which is intended for the new graphics cards. We show more details on the current AMD chipsets, also for older CPUs, in the Mainboard guide: Motherboards for AMD CPUs . The good news: Both chipsets are mostly backwards compatible with older AM4 socket CPUs, but it’s worth taking a look at the manufacturer’s website in advance and checking the CPU compatibility.

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Recommendation : If you still have an AM4 CPU, you can probably use it in a new mainboard. You may have to run a BIOS update. Prices have been rising again recently. It is important when upgrading that you can use PCIe 4.0 for GPU and NVMe SSDs, then you can enjoy it for a long time.

Intel Alder Lake: Core Gen 12 prices are rising

Intel’s Alder Lake, the current platform around the twelfth generation of Core i processors, is going up in the 3-month trend. This not only applies to the processors, but also to the associated mainboards and, even more importantly, the DDR5 RAM.

The processors have become more expensive across the board. A clear example is the Intel Core i5-12400F. It “only” comes with performance cores. If you are looking for a CPU for gaming, you are not wrong. You got the CPU in May for around 180 euros, currently you pay 196 euros.

The price increase also applies to the faster variants, such as the Core i7 or Core i9, which are leveling off at their price level.

 

Intel mainboards with Socket 1700: DDR4 RAM or DDR5? The main thing is PCIe 5.0

With Alder Lake, Intel relies on the 1700 socket. This primarily means that you need a new mainboard. The three exciting chipsets for this are the Z690, the H670 and the B660. Low prices are currently available for mainboards with the Z690 and B660.

feature Z690 H670 B660
P&E Core & BCLK Overclocking
Memory overclocking
System Memory Channels Supported 2 2 2
DMI 4.0 lines 8th 8th 4
Chipset PCIe 4.0 lanes up to 12 up to 12 up to 6
Chipset PCIe 3.0 lanes up to 16 up to 12 up to 8
SATA 3.0 lanes up to 8 up to 8 4
Maximum USB ports 14 14 12
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20G) 4 2 2
USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10G) 10 4 4
USB 3.2 Gen 1×2 (5G) 10 8th 6
Integrated Wifi 6E

Our recommendation would be a mainboard based on the Z690 or B660. These are currently the high-end model, vendors are packing the motherboards full of features. There are devices with PCI Express 5.0 under 200 euros. So you are not only well equipped for the current generation of high-end graphics cards – but also for the next ones. The PCIe 5.0 raises the maximum data rate to up to 64 GB/s in the x16 lanes. There are also up to two slots for fast PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs. More on this in the heise+ guide In the test: Z690 mainboards for powerful Intel processors of the Core i-12000 series .

Especially because the prices for the fast PCIe 4×4 M.2 SSDs are falling, a fast mainboard is worth it. So it doesn’t hurt if you have multiple slots for M.2 SSDs that are connected via PCIe 4.0.

 

In addition to a new socket, there is a new main memory. DDR5 RAM was ready for the market at the end of 2021, since then the first bars have landed at retailers and the initially high prices have fallen. The problem with this: DDR5 is not compatible with DDR4. So if you buy a new motherboard now, you have to decide on a type of memory. To make it short: If you really want to max out your Alder Lake CPU, you actually need DDR5. If you use a mid-range CPU, such as the Core i5 12400F, you can also use DDR4.

The older RAM currently has the advantage that the platform is mature and the manufacturers spend their time fine-tuning. This currently leads to better latencies with DDR4 – the main memory is also significantly cheaper than DDR5 kits of the same size. DDR5, on the other hand, is still in its infancy and is already achieving significantly higher data throughput. This will continue to change in the future if the chip shortage doesn’t put a spanner in the works. The manufacturer Micron, for example, warns that DDR5 RAM will still be scarce in 2022 – and therefore expensive. Luckily we don’t see that in August either, prices have been falling over the last three or six months.

Anyone who buys a kit with 16 GB of DDR5 RAM currently pays less than 80 euros. Yes, DDR4 RAM is significantly cheaper, but it’s not like DDR5 is completely overpriced.

DDR4 RAM continues to fall in price. Compared to last year, however, the cost of DDR4 has fallen, especially when you look at the prices for 16GB and 32GB kits. In short, the 16 GB kits (2 x 8 GB) are available for less than 50 euros, and the 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) kits cost less than 95 euros. Both kit sizes have become cheaper since the last check in May 2022.

We recommend at least 16 GB, especially AAA games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Microsoft Flight Simulator (guide) take everything they can get. If the mainboard has two slots for RAM, you should go straight to 32 GB. How exactly the different RAM configurations behave, what role the timings play and why you should definitely use dual-channel is shown in our RAM guide: clock, dual-channel and the best size – when a RAM upgrade is worthwhile .

Hard drives: goodbye SATA SSD, the future (and present) belongs to NVMe

Flash-based storage should be in every modern PC – because SSDs are just so much faster than classic hard drives. But the era of SATA SSDs is slowly coming to an end. Since last year, the once again significantly faster NVMe storage devices have fallen massively in price. You can get 500 GB NVMes for less than 45 euros, for the TB you pay around 75 euros. Your advantage: since they are connected directly to the mainboard’s PCIe bus, the limitation of the SATA connection is eliminated. In practice, this means significantly higher data rates, at least under certain conditions. Even the slowest NVMe is superior to any SATA SSD. Most current mainboards offer at least one NVMe connection.

Meanwhile, the even faster NVMe SSDs based on PCI Express 4.0 are falling in price. Especially if you have a new mainboard with the right M.2 interface, you can get the most out of it. However, even a “normal” NVMe is worth the upgrade. If in doubt, we would rather recommend more space than higher speed. We show how well the individual M.2 storage systems perform in the NVMe leaderboard: Fast SSDs for PC and PS5 in the test . We sent 16 M.2 NVMes through the benchmark there.

Classic mechanical hard drives score primarily because of their size. There is currently no other memory that offers such a favorable price-per-GB ratio.

Recommendation : If you now need a new mass storage device, you should use an NVMe SSD if possible. In terms of price per TB, these are now on par with or even below SATA SSDs, but are significantly faster. We show more measurements in the article NVMe is becoming cheap: simply retrofit fast storage . There we compare onboard connectors and adapter cards and show how to migrate Windows to an NVMe for free and without data loss.

Incidentally, you can easily operate a PCIe 4×4 M.2 SSD in a slower connection. For the size of the data storage, we would immediately recommend 1 TB, which gives you the best price-performance ratio.

Graphics card prices are driven up by several factors. First, there are problems with chip production, which is accompanied by a lack of chips for the GPUs. In addition, there are still problems in logistics, global trade has not recovered from the corona lockdowns for a long time. Quarantines in central trading hubs such as Shanghai are causing massive delays.

But when new GPUs arrive, the crypto miners strike. Because of the massive price gains of digital currencies such as Ethereum and Co., many hope for quick money. Nvidia counteracted this with special versions of the graphics cards, but that didn’t help much – although the group apparently benefited well from the crypto customers. So good that a fine from the US Securities and Exchange Commission was due ( heise online – Concealed GeForce sales to crypto miners: Nvidia pays millions in fines ).

AMD and Nvidia also launched additional types of graphics cards, some of which are based on souped-up older or mobile chips. However, cards like the RTX 3050 were not really convincing, they were slower (and more expensive) than a three-year-old RTX 2060 in the test by colleagues from heise online ( heise online: three gamer graphics cards with GeForce RTX 3050 ). The situation is similar with the AMD RX 6600 graphics cards. They are available, but those who want to play higher resolutions than Full HD will not be happy. This is also because the performance with ray tracing drops significantly. Still, AMD’s new features like FSR and Super Resolution 2.0 are slowly catching up to Nvida’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS 2.0).

What about the really good cards? Something is finally happening. Because the very good RTX 3080 are finally falling in price. Instead of over 1000 euros, prices are around 800 euros, the current average. That’s still way up, but at least there’s a downward trend. Our tip, the RTX 3060 Ti , falls from a price range of over 800 euros to a much more manageable 500 euros.

The situation is similar at AMD. The very good cards with chipsets such as RX 6700 XT or RX 6800 XT are analogous to the Nvidia graphics cards. Here, too, the price curves are clearly pointing downwards, albeit slowly. So one can be cautiously optimistic.

Recommendation : If you can wait, you should save up for a current card. Because the RTX 3000 series and the RX 6000 series, at least from the RTX 3060 Ti or RX 6700 XT, are simply many times more powerful than their predecessors. The market is also thinning out as fewer and fewer last-generation cards are still available. Patience continues to be good currency for GPU buyers. While the next generation of Nvidia cards has been announced, another big sell-off is expected before then – and whether the RTX.4000 series is that much better remains to be seen. Unfortunately, Intel doesn’t seem to be off to a good start with its ARC GPUs, which are still plagued by driver problems. One should wait here.

There’s a reason crypto miners prefer consumer-grade graphics cards over dedicated mining systems. As soon as mining for Ethereum and Co is no longer worthwhile, you can sell these cards used and get a large part of the investment back. What does this mean for customers? Can a graphics card “go bad” after it’s been computing cryptocurrency for three, six, or 12 months?

We have looked at current and historical debates on the subject and can clearly say: It depends. In fact, it’s not that easy to say. First of all, graphics cards are not cars or coffee machines, there are hardly any mechanical parts. There’s nothing wrong with used graphics cards, even if they had to work in a mining farm. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying:

  1. Price : A used graphics card should be bought well below the original recommended price. The recommended price is expressly not the street price. A used card should sell for less than the MSRP. Because you lose the guarantee in the used market and cannot be sure how well the card was treated.
  2. Technical failure of the cooling : We come straight to the component that is most likely to be defective: the fan or fans on the card. They are the only mechanical components, when used in a mining farm, the fans run constantly at full load. This can attack the ball bearings, causing the fans to run less smoothly and cooling performance to deteriorate. The good news: fans are easy to change. Either by replacing the entire heatsink with an alternative fan or water cooling, or by replacing the fan itself. Spare parts are available on Ebay, Amazonand co for little money. You should also replace the thermal paste between the GPU and the fan at the same time. It is best to remove them with a little rubbing alcohol, then you can stick on new pads or (a little) press on thermal paste from the tube.
  3. Security when buying : Anyone who buys online must be careful. You should avoid paying in advance. The chance that the money is gone is just too big. Paypal and Ebay’s buyer protection can help, although not always. The opening of the package should ideally be documented with a video, if you simply get a stone or just the package. Commercial sellers (with an imprint and an address that you have briefly checked in Google Maps) should be preferred to private sales – even if this is probably hardly possible in the used sector.
  4. Customized firmware : Unfortunately, we cannot check whether the card’s firmware has been manipulated before purchasing. Therefore, after installation and successful start, you should check the graphics card BIOS with Windows tools such as the device manager and a program such as CPU-Z. The respective driver should match the device, the BIOS can be checked on the TechPowerUp website , for example , even if not all BIOS versions are stored there.

After the purchase, you should first check the card visually and clean the fan, compressed air is sufficient here. It is important to take a look at the capacitors. These usually look like small tubes, if they are swollen, they are likely to be defective. If the card is obviously in order, you can install it. Don’t forget, the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 in particular require a relatively large amount of power, so the power supply must have enough power.

If the first start is successful and the card is recognized, you should first import the current drivers from the manufacturer’s website. A burn-in test is then worthwhile. The graphics card is heavily loaded, but no graphics errors or warnings should appear. We recommend the free benchmark MSI Kombustor for this . We use this in our graphics card comparison to measure the temperature and fan noise after 15 minutes of full load. Normally, the graphics card should be able to handle this well, especially the temperature should drop quickly as soon as the benchmark ends. FYI: An RTX 3080 can easily reach 80 degrees in the benchmark.

We also found a very descriptive video on the web about what can happen if a graphics card has been used for mining for a long time. In the video, the makers compare two RTX 2080 Ti, one was bought new, one was used for mining for a year and a half.

 

img 630d92d55f6ca

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First of all, you can see a clear difference in the average frames per second. But it gets exciting when you look at the top line with the temperature. The mininig GPU is significantly hotter there, which has a direct effect on a lower clock rate – and thus pulls the FPS down. This point runs through all tests and underlines our impression that fans and thermal paste suffer from long-term cryptomining. It’s a good thing that, as mentioned above, this can be fixed relatively easily.

So, can you buy a used graphics card from a bitcoin mining farm? If you stick to the tips above, don’t pay in advance and are willing to replace the fans if necessary, you can strike – if the price is right. We would advise against a used RTX 30XX with TI addition. If it ends up cheaply on the used market, it could be that a prospective miner wanted to flash the firmware and the plan went wrong.

We have created a search filter for Ebay that includes the current graphics cards and the exciting predecessor models. In fact, there are some good deals to be had just for the RTX 20XX series. With a little caution you can score well.

The power supply provides the necessary power for all components. This is particularly relevant when you upgrade the CPU or graphics cards. It’s worth checking the power supply before upgrading. The current graphics cards are power hungry, the manufacturers recommend power supplies with 600, 650 or even 750 watts. However, very large safety margins are planned, and you can probably get by with significantly less. An important point is the CPU, AMD processors and Intel products have significantly different requirements.

A good way is the tool of the Extreme Outervision overclockers. It is well thought out, easy to understand and takes into account all components in the PC when calculating the performance. If you want to double-check the information, you can use the Be Quiet tool .

We recommend two things when buying: A buffer of around 50W to 100W is never wrong. You should also make sure that you get a power supply with 80 Plus certification. These have a certified efficiency of over 80 percent. As always, it’s not that simple though, after all there’s 80 Plus Standard, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Titanium and Platinum. The rule of thumb is: the more valuable the metal, the better the efficiency. The consortium behind 80 Plus explains it in this table:

certificate 10% load 20% load 50% load 100% load
80 plus standard 82% 85% 82%
80 Plus Bronze 85% 88% 85%
80 Plus Silver 87% 90% 87%
80 plus gold 90% 92% 89%
80 Plus Platinum 92% 94% 90%
80 Plus titanium 90% 94% 96% 94%

Recommendation : We recommend an 80 Plus Silver or Gold power supply for all PC screwdrivers, these should meet most requirements and provide high efficiency at a reasonable price. However, you only have to touch the power supply when it is significantly below the required performance specification or when the system is unstable – for example, because the power supply is overheating. You can actually buy power supplies at any time, they are only subject to fluctuations when there are promotion days.

Housing: only with front USB-C!

Changing the case might be a daunting prospect for many. Eventually you have to remove all the components, reroute the cables and put everything back together. So why a change? Ventilation could be a reason. Newer cases usually do without the space for optical drives on the front and instead install two or three additional fans that suck in cool air from the front. Another good reason is to install an (all-in-one) water cooling system to keep the CPU or graphics card cool even in summer temperatures.

Another reason for the change is the connections on the front. USB-C, for example, is now part of everyday life for many; in addition to a connection on the back, most mainboards have suitable connectors with which a USB-C connection on the front of the housing can be connected. And then of course there is the design. When selecting the new case, you should otherwise only pay attention to the form factor of the mainboard.

In the guide, we show how the cases differ in concrete terms : A good PC case should be able to do this . There we compared three current midi towers from different price ranges and show what you can expect for your money.

Recommendation : Cases are not subject to major price fluctuations, here you can access or wait until your favorite model is cheaper in a special offer. But if you are already upgrading, then it should at least be a case with USB-C on the front. And anyone who invests more than 1000 euros in a graphics card should perhaps consider staging it more with a vertical installation.

Let’s move away from the internal components and towards the monitor. Unlike TVs for consoles, there is a huge selection for gamers here. It depends on your own preferences and the performance of the graphics card. Three things should fit together: resolution, refresh rate and design.

In our buying guide for gaming monitors: displays for gaming , we mainly focus on the first two points. If the graphics card is strong enough, you should slowly consider increasing the refresh rate to either 75 Hz, 144 Hz or even 240 Hz. This ensures a very chic and fluid image structure and prevents the ugly screen tearing.

Alternatively, you can consider jumping to a higher resolution. Basically, you should now be playing with at least 1920 x 1080 pixels. If you want more space, you can switch to 2560 x 1440 pixels (WQHD) or even 3840 x 2160 pixels (UHD). Or you use a different screen diagonal. With 3440 x 1440 pixels (Ultra Wide QHD), the image remains the same height, but becomes wider on the left and right. This is especially fun if you use a curved monitor. Then the immersion increases noticeably, as we show in the article Curved Gaming Monitor: Then curved screens are worthwhile . However, it is always important that the graphics card can keep up with the size and depth of detail of the image to be displayed.

Recommendation : Monitors hardly fluctuate in price, apart from sales campaigns. Here you can wait and see if the device or device class of your choice is cheap.

Most PC gamers are also hobbyists who know their system and upgrade it when there is a bottleneck. At the moment, the new graphics cards are tempting (which actually deliver great performance). It also makes sense to install a fast NVMe and move Windows to it and give the system a little more RAM at the same time.

If you also want to upgrade to an RTX 3080 or a comparable graphics card from AMD, you should consider upgrading the CPU and the mainboard. The new graphics card generation can not only use PCI Express 4.0, in older systems the processor can also be a bottleneck. We had to painfully see this ourselves when testing the RTX 3090. Our test system from 2018 with Core i5 8400 is too slow for the card to fully perform. Accordingly, an upgrade of the CPU and mainboard should perhaps be preferred, because at least with Intel systems you can currently get good prices.

We show more about gaming PCs in the gaming theme world . There you can find our big list of the best graphics cards , our purchase advice for keyboards or an overview of gaming headphones that can also be used on smartphones .

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