Introduction

Montage

While we were at CES this year (for the fourth year in a row!), talking to the likes of AMD, MSI, Zotac, Corsair, Thermaltake, SilverStone, and Cooler Master, it occurred to us that The Tech Buyer's Guru could give back to the PC community by publishing a retrospective based on data we've amassed since opening up shop in 2013. We've been publishing monthly buyer's guides at various pricepoints since the early days, and as we perused the latest wares from all the biggest names in the PC industry, we started getting just a bit nostalgic about where things were five years ago, but also impressed at how far we've come in that time.

So we've decided to pull some data from our Archives (which are publicly available from each of our many PC Buyer's Guides) to provide comparisons of what your dollar could buy you in January 2014 and January 2019. We picked five of our most popular buyer's guides over that timespan, the $500 Home Office PC, the $750 Budget Gaming PC, the $1,000 Gaming/Productivity PC, the best-selling $1,500 High-End Gaming PC, and the $2,000 Premium Gaming PC. Sit back and take a stroll down memory lane with us as we have a look at how things have changed, and in some cases stayed the same, over this time.

The Budget Market

$500

We're going to start with our popular mainstream $500 Home Office PC, which we've been very proud to feature since way back in 2013. We love that there are so many builders out there interested in putting together home office PCs that are more about everyday practicality than gaming. Over the past 5 years, the one revolutionary change that has come to the build is the 500GB SSD. In 2013, it would have been a pipedream to find a 500GB SSD for around the same price as the typical 1TB hard drive was selling for back then. The arrival of the SSD is what made PCs fun again.

Of course, processing power has increased too, but not as dramatically. The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G actually offers single-threaded performance that's only on par with the Intel Core i3-4130 that we recommended 5 years ago. Being a quad-core, however, it does have more multi-tasking ability, and is about 50% faster than the Hyperthreaded 4130 in most tasks. Also of note is its vastly superior onboard video processor, the Vega 8. Given how popular 4K streaming is becoming, this is a big benefit, and it also allows users to do a bit of light gaming, which was a no-go with Intel's built-in HD graphics on the Core i3-4130.

Overall, then, these two PCs aren't world's apart in terms of specs, but the SSD alone makes the 2019 model feel like something from a different century!

750

OK, so this is kind of sad. The Core i3-8100 is certainly cheaper than the Core i5-4570 we spec'd 5 years ago for our $750 Budget Gamer, but it's barely any faster - on the order of 10% or so. Oh, Intel, we know you can do better than this!

The biggest difference between these two builds in terms of gaming prowess is the video card, of course, and the RX 580 8GB is twice as fast as the GTX 660 2GB, while also having four times as much RAM. That's actually the most important factor in making video cards obsolete - a 2GB card today would be useless, even if it had sufficient GPU horsepower. Also of note is the SSD, which while offering half the capacity of the 1TB hard drive we spec'd in 2014 offers an infinitely better user experience. 

Turn to the next page to see how mainstream and high-end PCs have changed over the past five years.

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