Honestly it’s pretty great to be a gamer in 2019. We can see a lot of exciting things starting to happen on the hardware side of things like ray-tracing, 1440p/4k resolution standards, and workstation grade setups at mid-range price points. Even if you still game in 1080p, it’s very easy and accessible to enjoy ultra settings and high frame rates if you have hardware from 2017 or newer. If you jumped on the recent hype train of new AMD hardware and/or the Nvidia Super series, then you can certainly attest to this. The future of tech is always full of great things, but I think we are on the verge right now of a tremendous shift in hardware capabilities, and I want to stop you from buying anything until fall 2020! At least, maybe I can prevent you from buying a GPU right now.
Many people argue that Nvidia’s Geforce 20-series was an unimpressive and overpriced product lineup that only happened because AMD couldn’t even compete. Look at the Super lineup today though, and we see the benefits of a competitive AMD. Prices have been slashed and performance has been stepped up, all to the benefit of us, the consumers.
AMD has made a tremendous recovery in the tech industry since Lisa Su became CEO several years ago, and we have just seen the fruits of her guidance really begin to payoff in the market. The company is no longer the little brother of Intel or Nvidia, and there is some fierce competition going on again. In fact, AMD owes a lot of their success to better processor lithography than the competition. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then let’s just start with the principle that smaller is better. The size of transistor nodes on chips have a direct correlation with raw compute power and power efficiency.
So why is it so important to AMD now?
The 7nm process is new and finally affordable enough for mass production. AMD is also the first company with pc hardware to market that uses 7nm sized die (compared to Nvidia’s 12nm on Turing and Intel’s 14nm on 9th generation processors). While 7nm on Zen 2 and rDNA have given AMD an edge in the current generation, Nvidia and Intel have historically sported better architecture and both have confirmed that they have their own 7nm lithography coming soon. Rumor and information from stockholder briefings suggest that Intel will have their 10nm processors on the market in 2020 and 7nm by 2021. Nvidia is expected to launch a new 7nm lineup in the fall of 2020 based upon their new Ampere architecture. The competition may remain fierce for years to come though, because AMD just confirmed that they have already completed their newest Zen 3 CPU architecture to match Intel and Nvidia. Their announcement also claimed Zen 3 products could hit the market by 2021 and that a high-end lineup of “Nvidia killer” GPU’s are due by spring 2020. Things are moving really fast right now in the tech industry and 2020 is going to get CRAZY with all the CPU and GPU competition going on.
If I haven’t sold you yet on news and talk of competition, maybe some price points will. I had a custom pc built for me in 2017 so that I could multitask the Adobe suite, Unreal Engine, and game in 4k. I chose to get my build from CyberpowerPC, though I only mention them for price reference purposes. I don’t endorse them and don’t have an opinion about who to buy builds or individual parts from. Here’s my point of reference:
My 2017 High-End Build
(MSRP ~$1890 PC + $850 GSync monitor )
Geforce EVGA 1080 Hybrid FTW
16gbs DDR4 RAM
ASUS TUF Z270 MARK 2 ATX
120gb SSD (for the OS and core apps), 2tb SATA HDD (for games and storage)
ASUS RoG 27” 4k/60 GSYNC
I’m extremely happy with it so far, but I can already see it becoming outdated and by next year there will be no debate that I can be outclassed by significantly cheaper hardware. To prove my point, let’s breakdown how much it would cost for a better setup in 2019 for less money.
2019 High-End AMD Build
(MSRP ~$1305 PC + $350-449 Freesync Monitor)
AMD Ryzen 3600x
AMD Rx 5700 XT
16gbs DDR4 RAM
ASROCK X570 PHANTOM GAMING 4 ATX
1TB Intel 660P M.2 NVME SSD + 2TB SATA HDD
Acer CB281HK 28” Freesync $350 or LG 27UD68-P 27” Freesync $449
Anyone looking to do a new build could ditch Intel/Nvidia and go with an AMD system sporting the 3600x Ryzen 3 CPU and 5700xt GPU to get much better multi-thread processing than me and a slightly higher fps average on most games. I was also able to take advantage of a promo code and include a hefty storage upgrade for just a little more dough. This is a good entry level 4k setup, and look at how low the price is compared to what I paid! There are a few differences between the systems though, so let’s compare the details.
There are certain advantages to going with Intel and Nvidia if price is not a concern. AMD has suffered from driver issues that cause strange problems in game performance, while Intel and Nvidia have always been more consistent. AMD is getting better every year, but it’s good to keep in mind that issues will arise from time to time. Nvidia has also separated themselves from the competition by implementing premium graphics features like ray tracing, HBAO+, DLSS, Hairworks, Soft Shadows, and more. Some of these are pretty cool, but they are also resource intensive and may just seem like “bells and whistles” to a lot of gamers, because game engines still look fantastic no matter the brand right now. Players just have to pick and choose how price, frame rate, and fidelity appeal to them.
Monitors can be a bit of a sticking point for some though, because companies like Acer and Asus offer a wide variety of fantastic options for Nvidia G-sync right now, but can be lacking with their Freesync options. I would expect this to change in the coming year(s) since AMD is performing so well right now though. There are still plenty of good Freesync monitors out there anyways, especially compared to 2017 when I bought mine. I saw my same monitor being sold for $650 ($200 less than what I paid) at Microcenter earlier this year.
I also purchased a premium overclocked and water-cooled card from EVGA so my setup would be more quiet, cool, and see slightly better performance. The 5700XT in the AMD setup that I arranged for this article just features the reference model, but there will be water-cooled solutions coming soon from AMD’s partners if that’s your preference too.
While 2019 is a great year for buying hardware, 2020 and 2021 are going to be better. 7nm is finally coming to market and competition hasn’t been this good in many years. It’s also less clear when tech will graduate to 6nm or 5nm due to research still being done and costs remaining high. Technology will always continue to advance, but 7nm will be a great threshold for affordable workstations and 1440p/4k gaming. Exclusive SSD storage should also be more attainable and will be a great compliment to high resolution gaming in the future. If you can’t stand it any longer and want to upgrade to a solid midrange setup, go for it. Just don’t jump for the high-end stuff now or you will be kicking yourself for the performance that you could have had 1 year later.