Sorry for the rather crappy title, I couldn't come up with something that would get my point across about the subject matter, and why it mattered at all.
I'm probably going to be wrong about some things since I'm far from an expert on this stuff, but I've been price watching PC parts for a weeks now and I've come across a few things that I think will alter the landscape on -at least- the AMD build Alex wrote about
. Mostly I'm just looking to give folks a heads up on some things I've noticed in the last few months.
Hard drives prices are through the roof
The 500gb hard drive on all of these builds, as of Nov 19, 2011, is listed at over $100 at most retailers, online or otherwise, when not even 3 months ago they were anywhere from $40-$60. In many cases HDD's aren't available or are going out of stock, all together. So beware this, because this could push the price of your build. (I know Alex mentioned this, and why in his post)
If your using PCPartPicker
to help keep track of your list and savings you'll find one exactly as Alex listed at Office Depot for $60, however PCPartPicker tends to be flaky with updates (since prices rise and fall like crazy, but even in recent weeks they've gotten MUCH better) and I have a hard time believing that Office Depots supply is still this intact after the crazy price jump and shortages. So be prepared for them not to have it if you go that route.
The AMD FX (AKA Bulldozer, AKA AM3+) chipsets has been released
This only means good things for your wallet. You can get the quad-core FX set for $120, and if you look around there's a promo code you can use till Monday Nov, 21 to knock off $15 from that price on Newegg, thats THIS monday, so act fast! (I can't find the code otherwise I'd share it, I thought I saved it in my email somewhere -I'm sorry!). Alex's AMD build on his post has the older quad 995 black 3.2ghz, which is a few dollars more (as of his post) and only slightly less powerful - Which leads me to the question: Why not go for the newer chip?
The price jumps a bit when you move up to the 6 but I think it's still better then most Intel chipsets (in price, at least) and a better bang for your buck compared to the older 6-cores that are sitting at least $20 more.
The 8-cores are even more, but hey, it 8cores! If you like the idea of that, and being in on the ground floor on it, then you probably won't care too much about the price (the first tier of the 8's, that clocks at 3.1ghz, sits at about $210 on Newegg and I can't seem to find the highest tier). I've even read some people speculating that the 3.6ghz set could be overclocked to 1ghz higher then the base setting, which sounds pretty amazing if your willing to do it.
Watch your motherboard
The FX chips seem great for the price, however if your going to take the recommendation I have to warn people of something I've come across in my motherboard research. ASRock motherboards seem to offer the most bang for buck when it comes to AM3+ sockets right now, if your willing to stay at the 970 northbridge and not jump to the newer 990 one right away. BUT, there's been a lot of claims that the BIOS packed with the boards aren't capable of reading the FX chipsets, and need an update before they will. And to do that it seems like you need an older, compatible, AMD chipset to plug in just long enough to get the update -and if this is a first build, or just a first AMD build, your likely not to have that set of chips lying about, effectively making your build a bust till you get your hands on one.
I'm not sure if there's been an update or change to this, I haven't seen anyone say anything about a change as of the time I'm writing this, so it was something that completely made me rethink my choices in motherboards for this build. Since its my first build in a VERY long time I decided it might be best not to get that far just to be disappointed that I needed an older chip to get a BIOS upgrade -and it would have been ridiculous to spend the extra money to do so.
Also I don't totally know if any other companies have had this issue, just because I haven't come across it in reviews yet doesn't mean it hasn't.
If ASRock HAS made a change however, one of their boards would have been my first -possibly only- choice for a cheap but effective setup with a lot of features (possibly more then I'd even need or use). Even their cheapest board to support this chipset allows up to 32gigs of ram, as if anyone would ever need that much memory any time soon -but at least you'll have plenty of room for expansion in that area.
Oh, and when your looking make sure you get one with at least a AM3/AM3+ socket, if your going to use an FX set. It'd be a terrible thing to get everything together just to realize your board didn't support the chips in the first place.
Prices, in general, are going crazy
Like I said earlier about the understandable flakiness of PCPartPicker, the price of components rise and fall faster then the sun, the tides, or Spencer Pratt's star power (as if he even had any). I hate to say (and to criticize) that Alex might have been better off not putting prices in at all unless he was to put a generalized price range, because aside from the pretty much set-in-stone-at-the-moment prices of the FX chips (and possibly all chipsets in general), everything else is bouncing around in price like a kid on a 2 liter of Redbull and Pixie Sticks.
And manic pricing it might not be what your thinking; that the holiday season means price wars. It's hard to deny it doesn't have at least something to do with it, however I've been at price watching for this build since early July. I had to stop because I had to help arrange my moms funeral, then go to a wedding , both of which were across the country, and when I came back to it in early to mid September, the price increases, for whatever reason, were insane.
Builds I had saved that were around $700 - $800 had jumped to about $950 - $1100. And it had gotten to the point as recently as late October, where I began to think this could possibly be the worst time to try to build a PC altogether.
Then the FX chips came to the forefront, which helped out a bit (since I'm building this AMD due to my budget, any way), and the holiday sales have helped immensely in the last few weeks. Problem is that the Holidays will fade away and the next real good shot -that I could tell- for decent pricing might be around graduation/back to school time next summer -which is probably why my builds starting in July were so reasonable in the first place. So to wait past the new year might mean a death sentence to your budgeting plans.
Since price point is something people were/would be reading Alex's article for in the first place, it seems important to keep in mind that nothing is set in stone when it comes to PC components, and they may make multiple price changes within the same day. To sum this part up: It might not be a good time to wait for the next best price -it may not come for a while.
Overall, like Alex said about his builds, there's going to be high and low points to everything I said, and even absolutely nothing Alex or I have said is set in stone. I don't disagree with Alex's builds, they look pretty great, and even if they didn't it'd just be a difference of opinion/needs. I'm just hoping my observations of the market right now helps someone who is looking to build a PC right now, because it can get pretty frustrating if you go at it alone.
(Little side note: I had pictures for this post, but when I previewed the post they all brew up to ridiculous proportions. I downsized them and replaced them but they still blew up, so I decided to omit them all together. The one time I attempt to take the time to put pics in to make things more interesting, lol.)