Deep Dive: New Gaming Hardware

Isn’t it funny how things can stay the same for such a long time, then all of a sudden change in an instant? This is the case with recent consumer computer hardware releases from all of the major players, after a humongous chip shortage that sent prices soaring above Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). With the announcement of new products coming from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA all in quick succession, we thought it would be apt to cover how the different devices stack up against each other and what this might mean for gaming.

Starting in chronological order, NVIDIA were the unfortunate souls to have gone first in the new tech product launch lineup with the announcement of their RTX 4000 series of graphics cards, with top-end RTX 4080 and 4090 coming on October 12th. The RTX 4090 has significantly improved ray tracing performance, 24GB GDDR6X VRAM, and delivers an impressive 83 teraflops of processing power with a 450 watt Thermal Design Power (the power draw under maximum load). It will start at an eye-watering MSRP of $1,599, with all other model’s pricing and performance falling beneath that. NVIDIA also announced a number of other smaller features, including Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) that claims to boost performance and frame rate in games by up to two times.

Following immediately on the tail of NVIDIA’s announcement with their own product launch was AMD. AMD announced the release of their upcoming Ryzen 7000 series of CPUs that feature an entirely new CPU socket deemed AM5 (notably, AM5 will be a “land grid array” style of processor, rather than a “pin grid array” style that was used in AM4 and previous generations). The flagship Ryzen 9 7950X comes with a price tag of $699 and AMD claims it is the fastest CPU in the world — it can actually be purchased right now. AMD also teased the release of their upcoming RDNA 3 architecture for their next series of GPUs, slated for release in late 2022. AMD has a big reputation to uphold with this release, after they claimed the performance crown from Intel for the first time in decades with the current generation. Not to be outdone by Team Red (AMD), Team Blue (Intel) thought it could be a good idea to steal some of AMD’s stolen NVIDIA limelight with their own product announcement a mere day after AMDs next-gen lineup went up for sale. That’s right, Intel just announced their 13th-generation “Raptor Lake” series of CPUs. The top-of-the line i9–13900K CPU comes in at $589 with 24 cores and increased energy efficiency and performance. Intel didn’t stop at announcing their latest and greatest CPUs, though, opting for a double-whammy in the release of their long-awaited ARC 770 GPU, coming October 12th (sound familiar?). The ARC 770 GPU will be the top-of-the-line Intel GPU, but comes with a price tag of just $329, or 80% less expensive than the RTX 4090. Which begs the question: with all these new products soon to be out there, which is the best for you?

For starters, no gamer actually needs an RTX 4090 today. The RTX 3090 is already a beast of a graphics card that can reveal CPU bottlenecks in even the mightiest of systems. There is also the fact that, at 450W (with transient spikes in energy consumption up to 2x the rated TDP), the 4090 is even more power-hungry and therefore may warrant consideration of a new power supply — yet another expense to tack on to the $1,599 price tag. In that light, perhaps it would be better to consider picking up a cheaper RTX 3000 series card if the latest and greatest Ray Tracing technologies (which aren’t even implemented in the majority of games) aren’t something that you require, especially given that the VRAM capacity is the same between the two generations. When it comes to AMD, the initial benchmarks from their Ryzen 7000 series of CPUs point to a strange fact: that their last-generation 3D VCache technology is actually the gold standard for gaming performance, with those 3D VCache CPUs outperforming their current-generation brethren in many gaming tasks. With that said, AMD is likely to release Ryzen 7000 CPUs with 3D VCache in the future, so once again, a wait and see strategy seems most appropriate here unless you have workloads that require the additional multithreaded performance that Ryzen 7000 can offer. Finally, Intel. The ARC GPU launch has been nothing short of a disaster for Intel, with delays and unoptimised drivers that have really made people second guess whether Intel is the GPU market saviour that many had predicted. However, with such competitive prices, this GPU is sure to be one to watch. Intel and AMD have been trading blows in the gaming CPU race for a few years now, and the 13th-generation Raptor Lake CPUs are certainly turning up the heat on AMD. Without definitive benchmarks, we have to take performance numbers with a grain of salt.

Long story short, this most recent round of product launches from the big three chipmakers has been a bit of a strange one. Normally, these companies would wait until they have an actual product to sell you before making bold announcements so soon after their competitors. There really is no clear-cut top performance king, based on the numbers provided by the companies. This dynamic has made it difficult for prospective consumers to compare between next-generation and current-generation hardware during a time of atrocious macroeconomic conditions that could lead to reduced demand for these products.

What does that mean for gamers? Unless you have an actual need for next-generation hardware, you probably should wait for prices to come down a bit. Once all of these new products have hit the shelves, combined with a flood of used GPUs that were previously used for Ethereum mining, you can expect to see more consistent pricing across the board. When you have AMD claiming that Moore’s Law is dead and Intel claiming that it is not, now seems like a good time to mention that even mid-range current-generation hardware is already perfectly capable of maxing out the frame rate and resolution of most modern displays.

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