Why you should (almost) never buy top-end components
Buying the best isn’t always a good idea
PC gamers typically lust after the latest high-end CPU, a feature rich motherboard, and the most powerful graphics card. While having one (or all) of these is great, I wouldn’t spend my own money on any of it – here’s why.
Price vs. performance ratio is typically poor
Getting your money’s worth is important, and that almost never happens with top of the range components. Take a look at the Intel’s current extreme edition processor, the Core i7 3960x. It retailes locally for over R10,000, nearly twice as much as one model down, the Core i7 3930k.
Similarly, the Nvidia GTX680 is nearly a third more expensive than one model down, the GTX670, without being close to 30 percent faster across the board.
The same also rings true for RAM, and SSD’s, with high-end components not offering enough of a performance increase to justify their increase in price.
High-end technology typically drops in value quite dramatically after purchase, especially when there is a lot of competition in the market. SSD’s are a good example of this – with 256GB drives now costing a third of what they did 4 years ago, as well as being much faster and more reliable.
Overkill doesn’t always improve longevity
Top-end components don’t always last longer than slightly lower-end components, especially when these are only a few percent faster than the next level down.
The other thing to consider is the technology supported by a graphics card. What is the point of a GTX680 lasting you for the next three years, if it doesn’t support a DirectX standard introduced a year after your purchase?
By the same token, how will an extreme edition processor help if it doesn’t support a vital instruction set that saves you time working in Photoshop?
Features you won’t use?
High-end components will often offer features that gamers will never use. The Asus Republic of Gamers series of motherboards is a good example, as it offers a range of voltage monitoring and adjusting options for extreme overclockers. While these motherboards are great if you’re going to stick a golden CPU under liquid nitrogen, they don’t really improve performance enough at stock frequencies or low overclocks to justify their cost.
Similarly, why do you need 4 x full speed PCIe 16X slots which support CrossfireX and SLI if you never intend on using these technologies?
When should you?
There are a few occasions where buying top-end components are a good idea. These components don’t typically influence the overall performance of your system, but rather support the more vital components.
PC cases are a good example of this, with high-end units typically offering features that won’t be replaced by new technology standards any time soon.
Another good example is power supplies. These are totally vital to the running of a system, but once you reach a certain power and quality level there is no reason to upgrade. The Corsair HX1000 is a good example of a very old power supply which offers enough of everything to power mid- to high-end systems for 5 or more years.
Top-end components are great; they push the boundaries and offer the best performance currently available. While this is great for overclockers and hardware enthusiasts, regular gamers don’t need this sort of performance.
Save your money, buy more games.