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Ars Technica System Guide, “GPUs Are Economical Again” Edition

Aurich Lawson

It’s been a long time putting together a desktop PC-building guide, partly because trying to fight your way through bots and scalpers to pay double the retail price for a graphics card was a miserable experience. Which we would not like to give to anyone.

But even 2022 has made most things More Expensive, PC builders are in luck. The CPU and motherboard are in stock and easy to buy, DDR4 memory is really cheap, and you can go online at Amazon, Best Buy, or Newegg and find virtual shelves full of GPUs at prices that are still somewhat inflated. Happened, must have seemed miraculous six months ago.

Overall PC demand is expected to drop significantly in the coming months, but if you’ve been waiting patiently to build your first desktop or replace an existing build, it’s probably the best to build PCs from mid-2020. there is time.

To help anyone looking for system-building advice, we’ve put together four sample builds focused on getting the most performance for your money. These will not be flashy, high-end rigs, and you should consider them as a starting point. As we explain why we chose the components we did, you can decide for yourself whether you need to make changes to suit your needs. We may have separate guides focused on smaller Mini ITX builds and higher-end PCs later on.

A Note on Component Selection

Part of the fun of building a PC is making it look like something. We’ve selected cases that will physically fit the motherboard and other parts we’re recommending, which we think will be a good stylistic fit for each system. But there are many cases, and our choice will not be the only option available.

Same goes for the power supply. We’re mostly recommending EVGA models with 80 Plus Gold efficiency certification or better because we’ve had great experiences with them in our builds and those we’ve put together for friends or acquaintances. But if you know enough of a favorite brand, then by all means, go with the one that works for you. Same goes for RAM – we’ll recommend specific capacities and speeds and use brands that have worked well for us in the past, but that doesn’t mean they’re better than many other RAM kits with equivalent specs .

Lastly, we will not include the cost of a Windows license in our cost estimates. You can pay several different prices for Windows—$139 for an official retail license from Microsoft, $120 for an “OEM” license for system builders, or for product keys from gray market product key resale sites. Anywhere between $15 and $40. If you have a product key for Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7, you may be able to install and activate Windows 11 without paying anything extra because Microsoft has offered that key after Windows 10’s free upgrade period. The option is never ruled out. We will leave that decision to you.

We also didn’t price most peripherals like webcams, monitors, keyboards, or mice, because we’re assuming that most people will reuse what they already have or buy those components separately.

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