Dead Computer Whenever someone would ask me if they should buy a pre-built computer or build one themselves, I would generally suggest that they take the time to build their own. Building your own system can give you a lot of freedom and it will allow you to set up the exact build you want and, until somewhat recently, you’d save a decent amount of money in the process. After all, manufacturers of these systems, including custom-built gaming setups, were charging a premium for the work they put into building these systems on your behalf.

Now, though, things are different. The recent cryptocurrency craze has created a demand for high-end PC components, including high-speed RAM, solid state hard-drives, and the most critical component: graphics cards. These days it’s pretty hard to find these components at their suggested retail price, and while some manufacturers guarantee MSRP through direct-to-consumer purchases, supply is in high demand and most aren’t able to keep up with consumer interest.

Even if you don’t keep up with these digital currencies, you’ve likely heard about BitCoin and Etherium at some point. These are digital, largely-unregulated currencies that are used as a decentralized medium of exchange and secured through cryptography (what a mouth full, right?). To oversimplify it a bit, in order to create a decentralized currency structure, transactions are done through blockchain, which results in essentially a public transfer database of interconnected systems all around the world. While computers are working to secure these transactions, they can also use some of their downtime to “mine” for new currency (something I’m not going to get into as it’s a bit complicated).

The important thing to know about these currencies and how they are affecting the hardware market is that they are very GPU intensive, particularly, those tasks that make the use of solid midrange to high-end graphics cards that can be overclocked and have a decent amount of video memory. A miner will usually have several of these graphics cards working in tandem to increase their overall production. It’s worth noting, though, that low end and enthusiast cards are not affected quite as much due to either being insufficiently powered or having a cost that won’t justify the final output.

Lately, though, there’s also been a shortage of memory that has affected the cost of solid-state drives and RAM. This isn’t simply due to miners, but rather the sheer volume of devices that make use of the same types of memory solutions (think iPads, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and more!). However, this shortage when coupled with a demand for high-speed memory from miners simply makes good deals on RAM and drives that much harder to track down.

While it looks like the cryptocurrency market may be on a downward trend, it’s hard to say when things will finally settle down. Thankfully, though, there are a few good options if you are looking to buy a decent gaming PC (or laptop) setup without breaking the bank entirely.

Desktop Machine
Premium Pre-Built & Custom PCs:

I’ve personally had a very good experience with CyberPowerPC and their sister brand, iBuyPower, which produce very well-designed (and sleek looking) computers at a very reasonable price. What’s interesting is that these companies offer both pre-built systems you can buy at places like Best Buy, Amazon, and NewEgg, while also offering a very robust customized builder on their websites. The system building tool will allow you to build the exact system you want, although the large number of options available may scare a few folks off. Thankfully, for those individuals, there’s still a large selection of systems that they’ve put together on all parts of the price and performance spectrum.

Other brands like Alienware, HP Omen, and MSI also offer a wide variety of pre-built and customized systems to fit your needs too.

Another option that’s worth considering is to buy a pre-built system that has most of the specs you want in your ideal computer, but then upgrade one or two components yourself (such as adding a bit more RAM, for example). This has the benefit of not having to go through a lengthy (and more expensive) customized order process but still letting you get the ideal system that you want at a reasonable cost. Also, these builders take pride in their clean and sexy design, saving you the trouble of hassles like cable management and proper system cooling.

Gaming Laptop
Gaming Laptops:

Gaming laptops are pretty neat because they give you a fairly robust PC gaming and multimedia experience that you can take with you wherever you go. The issue over the years has generally been that these are much larger than your typical laptop, often being teased as being giant lap warmers. This is because any serious gaming laptop will generally make use of desktop-grade components, meaning that they take up more internal space and generate a lot more heat than the lower-power mobile variants. However, things have improved a lot over the last couple of years and there are some fairly powerful, low profile systems out there for you to look into.

It’s worth keeping in mind that gaming laptops come with a bit of a premium when compared to desktop systems because of the costs associated with shrinking these components into a smaller environment, keeping power draw and system temperatures down, and the fact that they also have to include a built-in display (in many cases a very high-quality one at that!). However, if you are someone that might want to enjoy your PC gaming experience on-the-go, and would end up buying a laptop in addition to a desktop, this might well be worth it for you. You’ll always have the option to “dock” your laptop to a monitor or TV at home, using a traditional keyboard and mouse, and then being able to easily undock it, pack it up, and take it with you wherever you go.

Like with desktops, there are a ton of brands out there that offer pre-built or customized solutions for you. HP Omen is a brand I’ve had experience with that offers a pretty solid set-up for the money, but I’ve also really enjoyed some Dell and Acer gaming-focused laptops I’ve owned in the past. How high you would want to go in terms of specs on a laptop would depend on your needs and how often you will be docking it as opposed to using the built-in display (a 1440p or 4K display, for example, will require a lot more horsepower to drive versus the 1080p displays that many laptops have).

Right now, though, we are in kind of a transitional period when it comes to hardware cycles. NVIDIA’s 10-series GPUs have been on the market since May of 2016, and yet as of this article, no formal announcement has been made of whenever their replacement might be coming. With AMD’s Radeon cards, the mainstream RX 500 series has been out for a year now (and the 500 series itself is a refresh of the RX 400 series!) with no formal announcement of a replacement. AMD offers RX Vega cards on the higher end, but these cards are scarce, and unfortunately, don’t keep up with the more premium offerings that NVIDIA has at its disposal.

For CPUs, the 8th generation Intel processors have been out since October, 2017, and a new 9th generation (with a higher core count) is due out later this year. AMD, on the other hand, just put out their new Ryzen 7 2000 series processors, so those looking for a different option might find something useful there. Still, no one wants to get stuck in a waiting cycle, always waiting for what’s just around the corner, so if you absolutely have to have a new PC or laptop today you will have several good options at your disposal.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the topic. So please stay tuned for more crafty content coming your way, care of Jessica's Journey, as written by Joypad Jess from NerdyButFlirty.com.

THE DEATH OF DIY COMPUTING THE DEATH OF DIY COMPUTING Reviewed by David Andrews on April 23, 2018 Rating: 5

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