Should You Build a PC in 2020?

Computer components arranged on a desk.
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No one wants to build a new PC if, in a month or so, some super-awesome component is going to roll out, or prices are going to drop significantly. So, is 2020 a good time? Yes, but waiting until October is a good idea—especially for AMD fans.

October Is AMD Month

Three diagonal ads announcing Zen 3, and RDNA 2 CPUs and graphics cards.
AMD

On Oct. 8, 2020, AMD is introducing the Zen 3 processor architecture, the successor to its current Ryzen 3000 chips based on Zen 2. We don’t yet know the release date, but AMD CEO, Lisa Su, said on Twitter “it’s going to be an exciting fall.” This suggests an October or November release.

Given AMD’s recent history, these are likely to be solid processors. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to wait for the reviews on launch day before committing to a new CPU. Bargain hunters, however, should be on the lookout for deals on older Ryzen CPUs between now and the end of the year.

AMD also has some news about its next-generation graphics cards (dubbed RX 6000) dropping October 28. The new AMD GPUs are based on the company’s Big Navi (also known as RDNA2) architecture. It’s unknown when these cards will roll out.

They should offer features like real-time ray tracing, and variable-rate and mesh shading, all of which are expected in the upcoming next-generation consoles. General performance improvements should also be on the agenda.

Again, it’s wise to wait for the reviews before committing to a new GPU. You should also be able to get deals on older AMD and Nvidia cards.

Nvidia RTX 30 Series Cards Are Coming Before Big Navi

A black and silver RTX 3090 graphics card.
NVIDIA

Before AMD even talks about its upcoming RX 6000 cards, Nvidia will already be selling its latest GPU dynamos. Nvidia recently announced new GeForce RTX 30 Series graphics cards, including the RTX 3070, 3080, 3090, with release dates in September and October 2020.

These graphics cards won’t be cheap, but they’re expected to offer far better performance. The hardware features include GDDR6X graphics memory on the two higher-tier cards, as well as tools for optimizing system latency.

Anyone who’s looking for an awesome gaming machine should take a serious look at these cards. If you don’t have the cash right now, though, the new cards should also create some good deals on older gear in the coming months.

Intel CPUs Are Good and Still Recent

An Intel 10th generation blue processor package.
Intel

Intel’s 10th generation (Comet Lake-S) desktop CPUs are still pretty new. Released in the spring of 2020, they were also, generally, well received. If you’re going with a standard Intel desktop CPU, now is as good a time as any to buy.

Even if you’re building a gaming PC, you should be just fine with one of these CPUs. If you’re looking to future-proof, though, the Ryzen 3000, or upcoming Zen 3 CPU will be the better bet. This is mostly due to AMD’s transition to PCIe 4.0, which, presumably, Zen 3, will support just as Ryzen 3000 does.

Intel decided not to jump on the PCIe 4.0 bandwagon with its 10th generation chips. Some Comet Lake-S Z490 motherboards are billed as PCIe 4.0-ready, however, in anticipation of future support from Intel.

Comet Lake-S is a refinement of Skylake, as all Core desktop chips have been for years now. Intel’s next round of Core CPUs are expected to be based on Rocket Lake, and they’ll reportedly hit in late 2020 or early 2021.

These should be Intel’s first Core desktop CPU lineup in years that won’t be related to Skylake, although, they’ll use the same 14nm process as their predecessors. Rumor has it Rocket Lake will support PCIe 4.0 and use the same socket type (LGA 1200) as Comet Lake-S.

Here’s the thing, though: No one knows how Rocket Lake will compare to Comet Lake-S. Intel has worked on Skylake refinements for years, but will the new CPU platform be as smooth? Only time will tell.

Intel watchers also seem more interested in Alder Lake, which isn’t expected until the second half of 2021. Alder Lake is a 10nm chip that employs a hybrid design. Golden Cove and Gracemont cores work together, similar to ARM’s big.LITTLE approach. In 2022 (or later), Intel should introduce 7nm Meteor Lake chips, which could be even better.

We could go on, but the question is, should you wait or just buy Comet Lake-S now? At this point, we’re unsure what’s worth waiting for, but we do know Comet Lake-S is solid and available right now.

Future Intel CPUs are unknown and, probably, far enough away that we wouldn’t bet on waiting on anything other than AMD, since it has concrete announcement dates. If Comet Lake-S suits your needs, there’s no reason to wait at all!

Anyone who wants to build a high-powered workstation (without getting into Xeons, which we won’t cover here) will also do just fine with Intel’s Cascade-Lake-based X CPUs or AMD’s latest Zen 2 Threadrippers.

RELATED: Intel’s 10th Gen CPUs: What’s New, and Why It Matters

Other Components

RGB LEDs inside a PC case.
Alberto Garcia Guillen/Shutterstock

So, what about everything else? RAM finally dropped to reasonable prices this year, and those mid-year component shortages seem to be correcting themselves. Bargain hunters might find that some B550 models and other AMD-based motherboards are out of stock, but, generally, most components are available.

There’ve also been some good sales in recent months on M.2 NVMe drives, so keep your eyes peeled for bargains. We advise looking for sales on most components right now, and don’t forget there are also many you can also reuse. For example, if you have an older PC with good DDR4 RAM or a high-quality PSU, then reuse might be a good plan.


Building a new PC can be a welcome distraction, and it’s as good a time as any to grab your components. The only exception would be if you’re interested in AMD (wait until October) or just can’t stomach another Intel CPU that’s, yet again, a refinement of Skylake.

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