Monday, January 29th 2018

Lesson from the Crypto/DRAM Plagues: Build Future-Proof

As someone who does not mine crypto-currency, loves fast computers, and gaming on them, I find the current crypto-currency mining craze using graphics cards nothing short of a plague. It's like war broke out, and your government took away all the things you love from the market. All difficult times teach valuable lessons, and in this case, it is "Save up and build future-proof."

When NVIDIA launched its "Pascal" GPU architecture way back in Summer 2016, and AMD followed up, as a user of 2x GeForce GTX 970 SLI, I did not feel the need to upgrade anything, and planned to skip the Pascal/Polaris/Vega generation, and only upgrade when "Volta" or "Navi" offered something interesting. My pair of GTX 970 cards are backed by a Core i7-4770K processor, and 16 GB of dual-channel DDR3-1866 memory, both of which were considered high-end when I bought them, around 2014-15.

Throughout 2016, my GTX 970 pair ate AAA titles for breakfast. With NVIDIA investing on advancing SLI with the new SLI-HB, and DirectX 12 promising a mixed multi-GPU utopia, I had calculated a rather rosy future for my cards (at least to the point where NVIDIA would keep adding SLI profiles for newer games for my cards to chew through). What I didn't see coming was the inflection point between the decline of multi-GPU and crypto-plague eating away availability of high-end graphics cards at sane prices. That is where we are today.

I would still like to think that my machine is better off than that of someone whose purchase decisions in 2014-15 were guided purely by the pursuit of the "price-performance sweetspot." A machine with a single GTX 970, a $150-ish Core i3 processor, and 8 GB of memory, would find it rather difficult to play today's AAA titles at recommended settings. To play them at 1080p, you would have to water down quite some eye-candy, and in some cases, even use fallbacks to older API versions (DirectX 11) on some games, for playable frame-rates. In a parallel universe without the crypto-plague, a $300-ish investment on a sweetspot graphics card such as the GTX 1070 would be a quick-fix to the problem.

There is still hope that some day graphics card prices will come down, that repeated crypto-exchange heists and growing difficulty levels will make it unviable for just anyone and their dog with a graphics card to mine coins; and NVIDIA and AMD launch new-generation GPUs at sane prices. Save up for that day. Save big, for when that day comes, build future-proof.

You may not have to aim for an HEDT (high-end desktop) build with some high core-count processor, quad-channel memory, and oodles of connectivity; but the fastest mainstream-desktop processor (which is where the Core i7-8700K and the Ryzen 7 1800X stand today), should do. Pair that with an amount of memory that's at least half of what the processor's memory controller supports. My Core i7-4770K, for example, supports a maximum of 32 GB of memory. I paired it with 16 GB of it. 16 GB is just a quarter of what today's i7-8700K and 1800X support.

With multi-GPU showing no signs of a revival, your next graphics card purchase should ideally be the SKU that's just a notch below your preferred GPU manufacturer's halo product (which are often overpriced). The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, is an example of one such SKU. Such a card will give you future-proofing for at least 3 years, and game-developers will point to such SKUs in their recommended system requirements lists for the foreseeable 5 years.

DRAM prices continue to torment gaming PC builders, with memory prices seeing triple-digit inflation over what they should be (a 32 GB dual-channel DDR4 memory kit, which should have ideally been priced around $200, is going for $500 these days). While DRAM prices are hot, NAND flash prices aren't. Solid-state drives, which still majorly implement NAND flash (with 3D Xpoint still in its infancy), are the cheapest they've ever been, with price-per-gigabyte dipping below the $0.25-mark for the first time. The world's largest NAND flash memory makers also happen to be the world's largest DRAM makers, so I wouldn't count on SSDs being forever cheap. I would buy the largest capacity SSD with $0.25-ish price-per-GB while I still can.

There may yet be a future for DIY gaming PCs, provided you buy components that are sanely priced right now, and save up for future-proof components as their prices sober up. Sweetspot products turn bitter sooner than you think.
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26 Comments on Lesson from the Crypto/DRAM Plagues: Build Future-Proof

#1
Nephilim666
I built future proof in 2012, with Sandy Bridge.
One upgrade in that time on the GPU.
So what should I do now that I'm ready for an upgrade?
I think the lesson you are suggesting relies on lucky timing.
Posted on Reply
#2
RejZoR
Growing crypto difficulties mean jack s**t. They'll just make up some new one and everything starts from scratch again and the difficult one will just get abandoned. It's how it's been happening till now and it won't change in the future since everyone wants easy money...
Posted on Reply
#3
Rehmanpa
Good point on the SSD drives. One day I'm hoping that the prices of ram and gpus will fall but Idk when/if they will at this rate.
Posted on Reply
#4
dj-electric
"Nephilim666 said:
I built future proof in 2012, with Sandy Bridge.
One upgrade in that time on the GPU.
So what should I do now that I'm ready for an upgrade?
I think the lesson you are suggesting relies on lucky timing.
That's absolutely right. Although sometimes you can smell the price increases coming. I did, thats how i got my GTX 1080 for 430$ right before prices started surging. I knew what was coming pretty much since radeon cards started running out.

That took being in the know. Same with DRAM. The nand market showed predictions of being more expensive each coming quarter so...
Posted on Reply
#5
R-T-B
"RejZoR said:
Growing crypto difficulties mean jack s**t. They'll just make up some new one and everything starts from scratch again and the difficult one will just get abandoned. It's how it's been happening till now and it won't change in the future since everyone wants easy money...
There's still a fixed amount of investor money to sellout to in the main currencies, so yes, diffilculty is relevant.
Posted on Reply
#6
HZCH
If you had told me even 1 month ago a gtx1080ti for less than 800 dollars is indeed future-proofing...
I have a friend eho wants to build his first budget gaming PC, this shortage is making him miss the train to #PCMR land
Posted on Reply
#7
Mysteoa
"HZCH said:
If you had told me even 1 month ago a gtx1080ti for less than 1264,00 лв. (800 dollars) is indeed future-proofing...
I have a friend eho wants to build his first budget gaming PC, this shortage is making him miss the train to #PCMR land
There are some stores that will sell you a video card close to msrp if you build a whole system. I know that Micro Center is on of them.
Posted on Reply
#8
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
@btarunr Ah, the power of hindsight. I figured that my 1080 would be enough for the next couple of years without paying the £200+ premium for a 1080 Ti. I even found some really cheap ones (still more than the 1080) and passed on them in the wait for Volta. If I'd had any idea that this would happen, I'd have bought the Ti.
Posted on Reply
#9
nemesis.ie
@btarunr Calling blockchain stuff a "plague" is a bit OTT. You'd be better off calling capitalism that, it would be more accurate as the high prices seems to be mostly retailers upping the price because they can. The end customer's use of the item should not be an issue.
Posted on Reply
#10
Fabio
"nemesis.ie said:
@btarunr Calling blockchain stuff a "plague" is a bit OTT. You'd be better off calling capitalism that, it would be more accurate as the high prices seems to be mostly retailers upping the price because they can. The end customer's use of the item should not be an issue.
capitalism lol, shut up ****
This is just mindless and pointless craziness
Posted on Reply
#11
nemesis.ie
I think you missed my point. And no, it is not pointless, it is laying the groundwork/testing blockchain tech which has legitimate real world uses.

Take a look at what Maersk and IBM are doing for global shipping for example.

Would you have an issue with it if there was plenty of chip supply for the demand and the prices were capped at MSRP?

Oh and what word is the **** supposed to represent? Is that meant as a personal attack?
Posted on Reply
#12
R-T-B
"Fabio said:
capitalism lol, shut up ****
This is just mindless and pointless craziness
How about you try and debate the point like a rational human being rather than resorting to name calling?

"nemesis.ie said:
Would you have an issue with it if there was plenty of chip supply for the demand and the prices were capped at MSRP?
I have a feeling if that was the case, few would know/care about crypto and even fewer would be against it.

Oh, the irony. That's the problem with this whole debate. Both sides are always "me, me, me!" and never do they look at it from the other side.

Just so everyone knows, you can make more money buying cards at MSRP from nowinstock.net and selling cards higher than MSRP at ebay than mining.

Guess what a lot of people are doing?

That's not mining, that's capitalism.
Posted on Reply
#13
InVasMani
The same G.Skill Rijaws V series 16GB x2 kits which I future proofed and bought 2 kits of in early 2016 were $150 and are now $400 now. I actually skimped on my CPU & GPU upgrades a bit and went with a Skylake i3 and a ASRock board to overclock it via BCLK along with a GTX960 4GB. I game ona 43" Vizio 4K display however so the it's not the greatest setup. At the same time it's not bad and I don't really regret any of my purchase decisions too much. I wasn't impressed with the GTX970 enough because of it's 3.5GB VRAM issue and the GTX980 was priced a bit too much out of reach. If anything I probably could have more strongly considered a i5 I'd say, but honestly the i3 isn't that bad OC with DDR4 3200MHz and I think it'll have more life in it than it gets credit if paired with the right future GPU.

My next GPU will definatly have 8GB of VRAM or more which should help offset the weaker CPU not having enough VRAM in games that require it is often one of the bigger pitfalls to image quality versus performance so I think I'll manage fine. I do alright even with my current setup so I can't really complain I have to turn a lot of settings to low now or off in some cases if it's something I don't really care about anyway and impacts FPS fairly noticeably. That said games still awesome I'm sure the 4K resolution helps offset lowering of some of the other settings anyway in a fairly noticeable way. I'm curious now how shadows/lighting for example looks at like 1080p on high versus upscaled 4k on medium/low in a side by side comparison it would be interesting. I mean obviously resolution impacts and lessens the perceived effect on AA so it probably helps with lighting and shadows too, but I've never seen it really compared between the two on a tech site in depth.
Posted on Reply
#14
Fabio
"nemesis.ie said:
I think you missed my point. And no, it is not pointless, it is laying the groundwork/testing blockchain tech which has legitimate real world uses.

Take a look at what Maersk and IBM are doing for global shipping for example.

Would you have an issue with it if there was plenty of chip supply for the demand and the prices were capped at MSRP?

Oh and what word is the **** supposed to represent? Is that meant as a personal attack?
there will never, evere, be a big enough supply. if nvidia/amd triplicate their production miners simply buy 3 time the gpu.
It is a dangerous craziness that must be eradicated. Anyone trying to argue on this is simply blind
Posted on Reply
#15
R-T-B
there will never, evere, be a big enough supply. if nvidia/amd triplicate their production miners simply buy 3 time the gpu.
People say this but it's really not true. There isn't infinite investor money to go around. In the end, we are all competing for the same investor bucks and there are only so many to go around to the ever growing group of miners. As such, the market has to reach equilibrium because at some point it simply won't be profitable anymore. We just have to get production there.

"Fabio said:
It is a dangerous craziness that must be eradicated. Anyone trying to argue on this is simply blind
How is it dangerous that you can't play video games? I mean irritating, sure? But dangerous? FFS man. You sound like your talking about nazis or something.
Posted on Reply
#16
InVasMani
I share in the mining is a plague sentiment to be honest...it doesn't really fill a real need or purpose in the first place aside from making money out of thin air for people with excess that are clever enough to scam idiots into buying into it. I'll stick to the good old US dollar it's been reliable enough.
Posted on Reply
#17
R-T-B
"InVasMani said:
I share in the mining is a plague sentiment to be honest...it doesn't really fill a real need or purpose in the first place aside from making money out of thin air for people with excess that are clever enough to scam idiots into buying into it.
Minus the thin air part (It's not "thin air" it's investor money, or real world money as you'd consider it), I agree. The current system is speculative and unstable, and dependent entirely on honestly what I consider an overvalued investment by wall-street types. But I consider this a very much "beta" phase and I don't expect bitcoin to last longterm. There are far greater things to come from the tech it has introduced.
Posted on Reply
#18
Fabio
a cripto m
"R-T-B said:
People say this but it's really not true. There isn't infinite investor money to go around. In the end, we are all competing for the same investor bucks and there are only so many to go around to the ever growing group of miners. As such, the market has to reach equilibrium because at some point it simply won't be profitable anymore. We just have to get production there.



How is it dangerous that you can't play video games? I mean irritating, sure? But dangerous? FFS man. You sound like your talking about nazis or something.
lol, energy wasted without any mean, a crazy bubble that can explode and burn bilions of true money, creating a currency that is more and more concentrated in the hand of few people, a currency with no garanties, a currency that is not eaven a currency cause you cant ise it, no one whant to be payed in crypto.
A currency that is the distilles essens of the pure speculation.
You are fool, yes a fool if you think such a situation can last longer.
To be good a crypto must be, firs proof of stake, that can be a good to create opportunity tu earn money the way you earn interests. Must be guaranteed by someone, must be legal, spendable and accepted, the amount should not be fixed becaise other way this cripto will became again not a currency but a speculation instrument.
Posted on Reply
#19
R-T-B
"Fabio said:
no one whant to be payed in crypto.
You know, for all your valid points above (I just agreed with a poster saying much of the same), this one quote strikes me as completely false. Crypto has NEVER been more accepted than in the past year, and it's only going up since places like bitpay (chief payment processor for pretty much everyone accepting crypto) has started accepting altcoins.

I also don't buy into the idea that crypto is going anywhere, honestly. Nothing indicates that. That's bad short term perhaps but could be very good longterm. It depends largely on how efficient it can be made/implemented.
Posted on Reply
#20
Fabio
"R-T-B said:
You know, for all your valid points above (I just agreed with a poster saying much of the same), this one quote strikes me as completely false. Crypto has NEVER been more accepted than in the past year, and it's only going up since places like bitpay (chief payment processor for pretty much everyone accepting crypto) has started accepting altcoins.

I also don't buy into the idea that crypto is going anywhere, honestly. Nothing indicates that. That's bad short term perhaps but could be very good longterm. It depends largely on how efficient it can be made/implemented.
if i give you a bitcoin and nothing less, without the possibility to exchange it, in a normal city around the world, you ll starve very fast
(ps pardon my bad English)
Posted on Reply
#21
R-T-B
"Fabio said:
if i give you a bitcoin and nothing less, without the possibility to exchange it, in a normal city around the world, you ll starve very fast
That's a silly and contrived scenario.

In the real world even if I didn't have internet access, I could sell it very easily on the street. Hell, I could probably SELL it to a fast food dude who recognized it from the news for a meal.

Or, in the nearest big city to me, Seattle, I could just stop by that weird coffee place that accepts bitcoin and buy a metric ton of coffee cake.
Posted on Reply
#22
Dammeron
i7 2600K @ 5GHz + HD 7950 @ 1200/1690MHz - bought 7-5 years ago and still enough to have lots of fun with it.
Posted on Reply
#23
hat
Enthusiast
So another GPU shortage thread? We all know the shortage exists, we all know mining exists... And I'm sure all our opinions have been shared multiple times. We're just spinning our wheels on this and have been for some time now.
Posted on Reply
#24
NdMk2o1o
"hat said:
So another GPU shortage thread? We all know the shortage exists, we all know mining exists... And I'm sure all our opinions have been shared multiple times. We're just spinning our wheels on this and have been for some time now.
But, but... it's ok cause a mod started it and it's an editorial not just a general moaning thread :laugh:

But seriously it's about more than just GPU prices, RAM prices have gone the same way, so did CPU prices when Intel held their monopoly for so many years. In general it feels like we had a golden 10 years or so where prices across the board where very good and even on modest budgets you could build a pretty solid build that would last for 3-5 years. I would say even though the whole PC/desktop computer market has declined in recent years the market for custom PC's/Gaming PC's/HEDT and self made has grown, in turn, manufacturers of components, not neccesarily system builders have noticed this trend and systematically increased their prices across the board to maximise profits, call it supply and demand, fab problems, floods, increased costs etc etc but it is what it is. It will definitely turn again and maybe not so long on the GPU front as a lot of gamers have been holding off for a long time in purchasing new GPU's, same with RAM, it's just a waiting game, how long before people who have put off upgrading and building a new system before the knock on effect is felt by the manufacturers, even with their current inflated prices?
Posted on Reply
#25
HZCH
"Mysteoa said:
There are some stores that will sell you a video card close to msrp if you build a whole system. I know that Micro Center is on of them.
Sadly not in my country yet, AFAIK. I actually think those kinds of "bundled" sells are illegal in Europe (if the bundle is tied to a mandatory buy, and if each parts bought alone are more expensive) - an thus in Switzerland... The only way to do something similar would be special rebates, but some coutries like France regulate them.

I'm no lawyer of course, so I might be wrong...
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