Is now the best time to upgrade your CPU?

Written by Antony Leather

April 5, 2019 | 15:45

Tags: #best-hardware #gpu #hardware #upgrades

Companies: #amd #intel #nvidia

We’re all looking forward to Computex this year, not least of all because AMD will be taking to the stage at the end of May with the promise of revealing more details about its 3rd Generation Ryzen CPUs. However, we’re likely looking at availability sometime after this, plus we’re not sure how big a reveal it will be; just as with CES, AMD has been vague about what will be announced. However, just because a big launch is around the corner doesn’t mean you should discount making an upgrade now.

In fact, AMD’s 2nd Generation Ryzen CPUs, Intel’s 9th generation CPUs,  and both red and green team graphics cards have all received price cuts recently meaning that now could actually be a great time to upgrade your PC.

Let's start with Intel. The high price of its CPUs when they launched last year meant that both the Core i7-9700K and Core i5-9600K were pretty unattractive propositions. The former cost nearly £500 when we reviewed it in November, which meant it was close to £200 more than the Ryzen 7 2700X even though it was slower in most multi-threaded tasks.

Fast-forward to spring 2019, though, and that same CPU now costs just £380, and for a powerful multi-purpose or gaming-focussed PC it can arguably trade blows with AMD’s mainstream flagship. It still costs around £90 more, but it’s undeniably quicker in a number of games to levels that might sway owners of high refresh rate monitors or those that are simply willing to pay a bit extra to guarantee they're getting the highest frame rates in all titles. In short, the Core i7-9700K is a far better proposition than it was at launch and has received one of the biggest price cuts in percentage terms of any Intel mainstream CPU we’ve ever seen in less than six months. 

Sadly, the Core i5-9600K hasn’t benefited from anything like as big a price cut. We reviewed it at £255 back in November, and it still costs close to £250. To make matters worse, the competition has received price cuts across the board so that the Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 7 2700 are now significantly cheaper, while the Ryzen 7 2700X is only a little more expensive. Again, though, the Intel CPU is slightly faster in some game titles, but using faster memory narrows this gap – for instance in Deus Ex the Ryzen 7 2700X was just 4fps behind when using 3,400MHz memory, but the gap is still fairly wide in Far Cry 5. Of course, a lack of Hyper-Threading means the Intel CPU is utterly dominated by AMD in multi-threaded tasks, while the Ryzen 7 2700 has two more cores in addition to 10 more threads. Unlike the Core i9-9700K, the Core i5-9600K remains a tricky CPU to recommend other than for those that must have the highest frame rates above all else.

AMD has been pretty aggressive in cutting prices, and it could even be worth waiting a little longer to see if it cuts additional chunks off its 2nd Generation Ryzen CPU asking prices as it attempts to clear stock before Zen 2-based CPUs land. Even now, though, the Ryzen 7 2700X, which once retailed for £300, has been readily available for around £30 less than this, but there are better savings elsewhere too. The Ryzen 5 2600X cost £210 when new but costs below £180 now and has dipped as low as £160 in recent deals.

The Ryzen 7 2700 has had a mixed reception thanks to the Ryzen 7 2700X offering higher frequencies at stock speed for not a lot more cash, but it has recently turned into one of the best-value AMD CPUs out there. Even as recently as last month it was retailing for around £250, but it seems the proximity of Zen 2 has forced AMD to cut things further, as you can now pick this eight-core CPU up for a just over £200. That’s a saving of around 25 percent, and for a budget-conscious but powerful all-rounder it’s a stonking deal.

AMD's next generation of CPUs might be a couple of months away, but there’s some great value AMD parts around at the moment if you’re not fussed about waiting, and even Intel has seen fit to swing its price-cut hammer meaning there hasn't been a better time to grab a deal on a new CPU in the last 12 months.

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