Doing research, what is a good price point for today's PCs?

Hi all,

This is more of an open ended question so feel free to post comments. I wanted to know what the average person today, in theory, should fork out for a good to great system for gaming and office task use?

On average, I've had it in the back of my mind that a good desktop should cost around $900 with notebooks costing around $1900. These pieces of equipment normally last about 2 years and then need to be replaced. They offer reasonable good gaming and are perfect for office use.

Things have changed over the last few years, with notebooks becoming a lot cheaper and CONSOLES entering the market at lower price points with greater graphics/capability options.

If you're a gamer, is it worth it to buy a high end $1500 PC that lasts 2.5 years, and then basically needs to be replaced. Isn’t it better to buy the latest X-Box every 1.5 years at $450 a pop?

Anyone have any philosophical thoughts on the PC replacement cycle?

To summarize:
1) What should you pay (NOT what you do now), for a PC or notebook – and don’t say zero!
2) Are consoles a better option?
3) Should you buy a new console every 1.5 years at LESS the overall price of a high end PC?
4) Should you buy a mid range PC at $500 and upgrade it every 1 year vs buying a high end system for $1500 and hopefully having it last 3 years (which we all know is tough)

11 answers Last reply
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  1. Quote:

    1) What should you pay (NOT what you do now), for a PC or notebook – and don’t say zero!

    For the average person I'd say $600 - $900 for the average PC. As for the laptop, I think the average person will be willing to spend $1100 - $1400. Anything above, in general, will be for gamers.


    2) Are consoles a better option?

    If games is the primary concern then the answer is it depends. The debate between PCs vs. Consoles for games is very old and very opinionate. I'll simply say that the PC can do more than just play games.


    3) Should you buy a new console every 1.5 years at LESS the overall price of a high end PC?

    New consoles are released about once every 3 years. See my above answer for the other part of your question/


    4) Should you buy a mid range PC at $500 and upgrade it every 1 year vs buying a high end system for $1500 and hopefully having it last 3 years (which we all know is tough)

    In my opinion a $1500 PC bought today will be better than a $500 PC 3 years from now. You will be pitting an old premium GPU versus a new budget GPU. No contest. Unless of course the game REQUIRES a DX10 GPU to run.
  2. i dont buy PCs. i replace parts as they get old. thats why i still use my PC because i can keep it current. £400 a year maybe. not much.
  3. well i am putting together my new PC i a couple of weeks and i'm spending about 1500 $ on the whole thing, i mean keyboard, mouse central lunit and a 19 inch widescrenn LCD... the central unit alone should be around 1000 $ and i believe that it's a great PC... suitable for a lot of games and highly efficient for office/desktop/photoshop etc. usage...

    here's my config:
    AMD Athlon X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz (sAM2)
    ASUSTeK M2N-e
    1 Gb corsair PC 5400 C4
    MSI 7600GS
    Samsung 250 Gb....

    i dont want a 15000$ pc with two 7950GX2 in quad sli, four Xeon proc's, watercooling everywhere and i dont know what and blablablaa ... i think its a huuuge waste of money and a very good mid range PC should suit anyone... like my config here i believe... some would rather a 7600 GT and even if they replace that 7600GS with a GT they would still be within the limits of a mid range PC... and i think this PC will last about 3 years... maybe more... i would add some things later... like a 1 Gb ram chip but nothing serious will change for a while... because i wont need more power :)


    1) What should you pay (NOT what you do now), for a PC or notebook – and don’t say zero!
    2) Are consoles a better option?
    3) Should you buy a new console every 1.5 years at LESS the overall price of a high end PC?
    4) Should you buy a mid range PC at $500 and upgrade it every 1 year vs buying a high end system for $1500 and hopefully having it last 3 years (which we all know is tough)

    1. i would pay between 900-1100 $
    2. consoles no because i do photoshop/flash/3ds max/multimedia... i never had a console.. oh once when i was 8 but lol...
    3. well no because i dont want a console... first concern is far from being gaming... its multimedia/design etc... plus a pc can do gaming!
    4. neither one :) a 1000 $ PC is well worth it... its not a high end PC and not an entry level system... IT is a mid range PC... and 1000 $ is not that expensive... its rather adequate i would say... unless you completely change PC's every 6 months... but lol not many do that...
  4. Hey thanks guys. Your comments are noted. Really interesting takes!
  5. I really think through my upgrades on three main points:


    I try to spend the least I can but get the bese combination of these three. I try to stay off the bleeding ede because a top-of-the middle-class part will still be current 3 years from now.

    I usually aim for the lower end of the top class of processors available. And reuse equipment as much as possible. I also realize that for what I do with my machines (mostly work stuff, some gaming), even a lower end P4 is fast enough but to play games, the main thing to look at is the video card, not the processor. In fact, I just upgraded a few weeks ago and spent half my budget on the video card (x1900XT) that will last hopefully 2-3 years playing the most demanding games.

    I do upgrade every 3 years or so, but I try to keep my upgrades down to about $600 by reusing what I can reuse.

    Lastly, I realize and accept that the industry moves so I never second guess any purchases because it's basically a guarantee that something will be cheaper or faster in a few weeks.
  6. Best price for a gaming/office desktop is around $1000. That will get you all the parts that are in the "sweet spot" for price/performance (cpu, gpu, mobo, ram, etc).

    To spend $1500, you start with the $1000 PC and upgrade maybe 2 parts (CPU and GPU) by one step each. Since now you are venturing into the steeper part of the price perf/curve, you aren't getting as much for your money. You still don't have any of the "elite" parts and your overall performance has only increased by maybe 10% but you spent 50% more. The extra $500 isn't enough to make major architectural changes that would push your machine into a new class (dual proc or SLI, etc).
  7. I just bought a PC for around $1700 incl. everything. I dont consider it extremely high-end, but more of a value play. BUT, a value play for around $1700 is tough to justify.

    That noted, I am extremely happy with the purchase and hope that the future upgrade path will be more cost effective. I've had a laptop for 3 years now and couldnt take it anymore - so I have not really had a desktop base sytem for quite sometime! I hope this baby will last. My components were listed in this original post:

    I think scaling down to a $1000 PC would be posible, but that it would only last 1.5 years, and would probably be pretty disapppointing after a year (nothing like that feeling of getting the latest 3D game and having your system hanging and lagging and jumping after you've blown a grand on a machine).

    What I am really trying to work out is that how much per year should one spend on a great gaming/office PC. I paid $1700 and I hope it lasts 3 years, which = $570 / year. Is this too much. Should prices come down?

    If $500 a year is the right figure, then why not buy $1000 desktop every 2 years? Would that work out better because you would keep getting newer technologies?
  8. $500 a year sounds like a pretty good number to keep up with the pace of game requirements (of course, certain games like Oblivion come out and have higher than average hardware demands).

    Should you buy $1000 PC and upgrade every 2 years?

    1) Good probability to reuse some components every other cycle. (CPU sockets usually change less frequently than 2 years so you might be able to reuse mobo and ram on every other build. That extra $200 can upgrade the GPU nicely and really increase value of that build cycle.
    2) always have current achitecture

    1) On second year, your PC is starting to lag the curve. Satisfaction might wane, but you are still at or above the recommended hardware.

    Satisfaction level (1-10, 10 is best):
    1st year: 7
    2nd year: 5

    You are never far ahead of the curve but you are never behind it.

    Should you buy $1500 PC and upgrade every 3 years?

    1) For the first year of the cycle, you should be in great shape. Satisfaction is very high.

    1) Each build is probably a total rebuy. 3 years is enough that you will likely have to replace CPU, GPU, mobo, and ram due to compatability reasons (socket change, chipset change, etc). Only reuse case, PSU, drives.
    2) On the third year, your PC is starting to hurt relative to the current games (overclocking can get you over the hump if you thought about it at buy time).

    Satisfaction level (1-10, 10 is best):
    1st year: 8
    2nd year: 6
    3rd year: 3
  9. Hey that was pretty insightful. Thanks for the input. You had some very valid points. It makes sense then to spend $1000 every two years. You could probably overcome the decrease in satisfaction in year 2 by overclocking, and then upgrade to bump it up in year 3.

    For people looking to pursue your strategy, what do you think are the right components to buy now (CPU, mobo, V-card and RAM)?
  10. In my opinion, $2000-2500 is a fair investment for a medium-high end gaming PC. Anything beyond this would be considered 'enthusiast' territory in my opinion - for example it's quite possible to spend $1000 on a CPU.
  11. Different components follow different price/performance curves. If you upgrade the components one at a time you can ride all the cuves and get a lot more for your money, but it's a lot more work. However, if you're building your own computer you should be OK with doing more work to maintain your PC (if you aren't you should just buy a pre-made system), might as well make that extra work pay off in a stretching your $$$. Price and performance of CPUs, GPUs, RAM, Displays and Drives fluctuate pretty much independently of eachother. So you could, for example, buy a new CPU/mobo combo when there is a good deal, re-use your old GPU/ram/drives/case/psu/display/mousepad etc.

    Also, by riding the trailing edge instead of the leading edge you have teh oprotunity to learn from other people's mistakes. Staying on the bleeding edge of technology is risky and expensive, but certainly exciting. Assuming some kind of finite fixed budged you can get bleeding edge hardware every once in awhile, or mid-grade upgrades more frequently. Upgrading one component at a time will never give you the "new computer" feeling, but if your bleeding egde hardware turns out to be a dud you overpayed for you're stuck with it for quite some time (like if, for example, you bought a Prescott based system when it first came out. That's not something you would have been happy sitting on for 3 years.).

    What I will say is that you definately want to re-use at least some of your components when you upgrade. A complete replacement of the box is bound to be a waste of money most of the time. How frugal you want to be about your upgrades is up to you, but don't feel the need to upgrade everything at the same time, not if you're building the whole thing yourself anyway. Unless you're letting your PC get horribly outdated there is just no reason to build a completely new PC from scratch, ever.

    I ussually upgrade CPU/mobo/ram all at once every 1-3 years and the other components get upgraded whenever i feel like it (they're much easier to swap out).

    IMHO shoot for a $900-$1200 PC. Over that and you've got at least one component in there that is too high on the price/performance curve for my comfort.

    "Enthusiast" PCs are for people with too much money xD Real geeks want good price/performance.
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