Christmas 2015: What PC Hardware to Buy Now

SSD prices have steadily been falling.

SSD prices have steadily been falling.

Aside from Black Friday, Christmas and the holiday season is typically the next best time of year to buy PC hardware. Between Christmas sales and retailers selling off end-of-year loss leaders, there are ample opportunities to score on upgrades or new builds.

With that in mind, we want to provide some insight on what’s a good purchase for Christmas 2015, and what you should hold off on purchasing.

Good buys right now

Intel’s Haswell CPUs: With the release of Skylake CPUs this past summer, the Haswell generation of Intel CPUs has seen some decent price drops and discounts. You can find great CPUs from the Haswell generation that nearly match the performance of Skylake CPUs, but for quite a bit cheaper. The i5-4690K ($230) can almost rival the i5-6600K ($300), while the i7-4790K ($330) gives the i7-6700K ($420) a run for its money. (Of course, Haswell still uses DDR3 RAM, while Skylake is more future-proof with DDR4. But you probably won’t notice a real-world differencebetween using DDR3 RAM and the current line of DDR4 RAM.)

SSDs: Storage prices historically fall over time, and SSD prices fell quite a bit in 2015. You can now find 120 GB drives like the SanDisk SSD Plus selling for as little as $40, making SSDs a no-brainer purchase for even the lowest budget builds. With 500 GB models of the SanDisk Ultra II and Samsung 850 EVO selling for $140-150, it also makes sense to upgrade your laptop’s storage to an SSD if you’re still using a clunky old hard drive.

AMD 200-series GPUs: AMD’s 300-series of GPUs has been out since the summer, but they’re only a small upgrade from the 200 series. In fact, their graphical processing horsepower is essentially identical. But right now you can find the 200-series equivalents for considerably less money than the 300-series. The R9 280x, R9 290, and R9 290X can all be found on discount right now as they’re slowly phased out. These are still great graphics cards.

GPUs in general: One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “Should I buy a graphics card now, or wait until the next generation?” Assuming there aren’t delays, we still have until at least summer 2016 for new graphics cards to hit the market with NVIDIA’s Pascal, and AMD’s Arctic Islands will hopefully come out before the end of the year. That’s a long time to wait for a new graphics card if you’re due for an upgrade. GPU prices are reasonable right now, with some great cards available for the price. There will always be a new generation of graphics cards on the horizon, so our advice is to buy now if it’s upgrade time.

DDR4 RAM: Prices for DDR4 are finally coming down into reasonable territory. In fact, they’ve already dropped by 40 percent in the last six months. They should no longer be a hurdle if you’re looking to upgrade to a new chipset.

1440p and 4K screens: High-resolution screens are usually one of those luxury items reserved for the most hardcore PC gearheads. But some high-res monitors have fallen into seriously affordable territory. You can get a good 1440p monitor for as low as $250 (the Acer G257HU), and a 4K screen for $520 (the Dell P2715Q).

What to wait on

Skylake CPUs: The prices of these CPUs are not reasonable right now in relation to Haswell CPUs that are nearly just as good.

What about Pascal and Arctic Islands? Should I wait for those?

As mentioned above, the upcoming generations of GPUs from NVIDIA (Pascal) and AMD (Arctic Islands) are still a ways away. We’ll see Pascal in summer 2016 at the earliest, and AMD is hoping to release Arctic Islands before the end of 2016. If you’re hurting for a new graphics card, don’t wait around. There will always be a new generation on the way, so we recommend upgrading whenever you feel it’s necessary.

With that advice, we at Logical Increments wish you a wonderful holiday season. May your CPUs stay cool and your CUDA cores busy. Let us know if you have any more holiday-related advice in the comments.