Looking to build a gaming PC? Here’s why now may not be the best time.

The past year has brought about a ton of unexpected and unprecedented events, Covid-19, insane fluctuations in cryptocurrency, and freak weather events not being the least of those. One side effect of all that has happened in the last year is seeing a huge price surge in PC components- especially GPUs. Between a surge in the number of people working remotely, and people just trying to stave off boredom during Covid related shutdowns, more and more people have been opting to build their own custom PCs. Supply and demand are all out of whack right now.

Let’s talk about supply and demand for PC components for a second. It stands to reason that buying PC parts (or really anything for that matter) in bulk is going to yield better deals than buying one part at a time. Parts suppliers know this, and because of this, suppliers are going to focus first on maintaining their relationships with large computer manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo, and even boutique manufacturers like CyberPowerPC. This is where suppliers are making most of their money. Manufacturers will always be the first in line when it comes to the supply of PC components. And because these companies make and sell so many pre-built PCs, the prices for pre-built computers hasn’t risen that much, despite the price surge in single components. This means that it actually makes more sense to buy a pre-built computer right now, and will put a much smaller dent in your pocketbook than building your own custom tower. I never thought I’d see the day when I said that.

Let’s say that you are actually able to find a GPU online right now priced at MSRP. Then we come to the next big problem facing the custom build community right now- so many places are just out of stock. With the recent releases of new high-end GPUs and gaming consoles, the scalping community seems to be even more on the hunt than I can remember in recent years. There are entire pseudo-companies using sophisticated software to order up CPUs, GPUs, game consoles, and other in-demand electronics en masse and selling them for double and sometimes triple the MSRP value. And while this isn’t necessarily illegal, it is certainly pretty scummy and frustrating. This has caused the supply to drop so much that even if prices weren’t so high right now, many people just aren’t able to get their hands on the components they’re looking for. Parts manufacturers just cannot keep up with the current demand.

There is still some good news, though. DRAM and SSDs are still mostly reasonably priced. You can still get some mid-range CPUs for a somewhat reasonable price, as well. If you’re just looking to build a workstation, you can still do that without breaking the bank. However, if you’re looking to build a high-end gaming PC, or a PC for intensive media editing, I advise waiting a few months and re-evaluating where the market stands by then. While it may be a frustrating time to be a custom builder or PC hobbyist, it’s still an exciting time to be a PC gamer.