April 1, 2023

I asked around ZDNet to get a feel for what most folks consider “too expensive” when it comes to gaming computers. The general consensus was that if you spend anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000, you’ll get a really great configuration that will last you for at least 5-6 years, but that anything over $3,000 is going to be a waste of money. It all depends on what components you want, and building a bit of an anticipatory cushion in your budget for the seemingly constantly rising prices of GPUs thanks to crypto mining and the chip shortage. If you’re ok with mid-tier or slightly older GPUs and CPUs, you can save a bit of money on either a pre-built tower or building your own rig. But if you absolutely have to have the latest and greatest stuff, you’re going to have to be willing to dig deep. 

That being said, when it comes to graphics cards, paying more isn’t always the best option. Yes, a GeForce RTX 3090 is one of the best-of-the-best when it comes to GPUs, but do you really need one? 

The short answer is: no. 

You don’t really need an RTX 30 series card or Intel Xeon and AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to get the most out of your games. The biggest difference between an RTX 3050 and a 3090 is VRAM capacity; the higher the VRAM capacity, the faster your card can render assets. Faster rendering gives you higher frame rates, which is good for keeping playback silky smooth, but it’s not a gold standard for gaming. Especially if you aren’t trying to be a content creator and just want to enjoy your games. The only reason to drop almost $1,500 on a GPU alone is if you want to future-proof your build. Higher VRAM, more cores, and faster graphics processing means that you’ll be able to keep up with the latest releases for quite awhile, even as native 4K resolution becomes more mainstream (and maybe even when we start to see the first 8K games, but we’ll all have to wait and see). But if you aren’t planning on 1) becoming a streamer or content creator or 2) trying to keep up with the latest and greatest triple-A titles, there is absolutely no reason to spend a ton of cash on any gaming PC.

And just because you have a big, fancy, expensive CPU, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any better than a Ryzen 3 5000 or Intel Core i3. Not to sound like a broken record, but if you aren’t going to do content creation, having a bonkers fast CPU isn’t going to give you any more benefit than a mid-tier or upper mid-tier option. A more powerful CPU, or a dual-CPU build, means you can support more system memory, but be honest with yourself: when are you actually ever going to need 256GB of RAM? Or 40TB+ of storage? Never, that’s when. I bet you’ve got a 2TB storage drive that you’ve never gotten close to running out of space on. A build with 16GB of RAM, a decent Intel or AMD CPU, and maybe 4TB, max, of storage is going to suit you just fine for years to come even as game downloads stay consistently around 100GB.

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