Have you got your eye on an Alder Lake CPU? A VR headset? A gaming mouse that looks like a Transformer got stuck halfway through transforming and now lives in agony? Maybe you're holding out for an affordable GPU, in which case you have our sympathies. Or maybe you're not planning to fork out for any fancy hardware, but instead you're thinking about making the leap to Windows 11—though you should probably hold off for a bit longer. At least until they bring back the blue screen of death.
What's the next upgrade you've got planned?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Phil Savage, Editor-in-Chief, UK: In 2020, I embarked on a series of upgrades that, over the course of a few months, grew into a full Ship of Theseus new build. The original plan was simply to replace my CPU—trading my aging Core-i5 for a Ryzen 7 3700X. That meant grabbing a new motherboard—an MSI MPG X570. And, oh hey, that's got an M2 SSD slot. Maybe I should grab a 970 EVO, too. This continued until all that remained was my graphics card. Then, earlier this year, stalking Discord servers with hardware alerts meant I was able to snag an RTX 3080Ti. Now I am done. All being well, it should be a good few years before I need to touch the inside of my PC again.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: For the most part I'm the same as Phil. I recently bought a new PC with the explicit goal of future-proofing, and with how wild the hardware market still seems to be at the moment I'm hoping it'll last me a good long time to come before I even have to think about graphics cards again. The only thought that keeps popping up in my head is that I'd probably really enjoy a new sound system. My current speakers are a cheap bit of tat I got online for barely anything years and years ago, and it's just one of those things I've never thought to upgrade even as I've replaced other bits. It'd probably change my life if I bought some decent ones.
Harry Shepherd, Guides Editor: My situation is eerily similar to Phil's: I needed to upgrade my Core-i5 6500 CPU, which necessitated a motherboard upgrade and, naturally, an M2 SSD. Then, to avoid bottlenecking the top-of-the-line components I ordered (and absolutely needed), I also went for a 3080Ti—I waited for six months for a pre-built 3080-powered PC and was first in line for the Ti when that came out, so I didn't do anything clever. I promised my partner that I wouldn't need another PC upgrade for another 10 years. I hope she hasn't made a note of that.
So it turns out I'd actually like to upgrade my new PC already, no less than six months after it arrived. Oops. The trouble is, it only has 1TB of storage. It's M2, sure, but I've felt the burden as the November games have come flooding in. My new motherboard has two M2 slots, with the second being capped at 3rd gen. So, if you spot any decent deals on a 2TB M2 3.0 stick this Black Friday, please let me know (and not my partner).
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Two new monitors. I am one of those monsters with a three-monitor setup. Do I even use them all? Yes, obviously, and how dare you even ask. I upgraded my primary screen to a 27″ Asus with a decent refresh rate a couple years ago. My two auxiliary monitors have been with me since university—which is a long time in monitor years. I think it's time to get a new matching set with much smaller bezels, more hz and higher resolution, but without more inches. My only fear is that if they're too much nicer than my main monitor I'll suddenly talk myself into buying three.
Dave James, Hardware Lead: I'm an obsessive tech hoarder, but I have absolutely no need to upgrade my main gaming PC at this moment in time. Which means obviously I have a full rebuild in mind, mostly because I really want to put together an Alder Lake system. The 10900K that's in there right now is more than I need for what I do with it, but that's like two generations old now, and Dave wants the shiny new thing. Though Future Dave will be annoyed at Today Dave for such hubris when he's having to rip his perfectly functional machine apart to fit a whole new motherboard, CPU, and cooler THAT HE DOESN'T NEED.
Sarah James, Guides Writer: I have literally just (well, a week or so ago) ordered a new Alder Lake CPU, motherboard, and RAM. I managed to snag an RTX 3070 a few months ago—a huge upgrade from my GTX 970—and upgraded my main monitor at the same time, but now it's time for the rest of my system to catch up. Or it will be once the parts arrive and I manage to build it without blowing up my house.
Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: The Alder Lake CPUs look delightful, but I'll probably stick with my Ryzen 3900X for the time being. My GPU situation is settled for the moment too: a 3080 is more than enough for me. The only thing I could see upgrading is my monitor to something with a refresh rate higher than 144Hz, but that feels largely unnecessary unless there's an outstanding Black Friday deal. I'm pretty set with my current set up. Anything I'd upgrade at this point would only solve a very niche problem, like a slightly bigger monitor or some nicer RGB case fans. I'll settle with what I have and see what comes up next year.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I just bought a very nice pre-built with a Ryzen 7 5700G and a 3060. It's great, but I'm embarrassed to say I already want more power. I'd love to slot in a 3080 in a perfect world but that ain't happening anytime soon. Mostly, though, I need a bigger desk that can fit MOAR MONITORS. I have two, which were a lot when I plugged them in four years ago, and now feel embarrassingly limited. I need another one above me (maybe vertical?) for reading, one for watching something, one for gaming, and one for Discord. It'd look ridiculous, but it'd be so good.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Like Morgan, I recently got a pre-built as the only way I was going to get a new GPU. It's a 3080, so I won't be replacing that in a hurry. And I figured, why not get a Ryzen 9 5900X and a bigger SSD and a monitor with a higher refresh rate and basically upgrade everything at the same time? I'm still rocking a cheap Logitech keyboard and a mouse I don't even have a pad for though, and I could probably do with some more USB-C ports. There's always something.
From our forum
ZedClampet: There are a couple of things I want, but nothing that I need, which is a good place to be. I wouldn't mind upgrading to the latest Quest or getting a ridiculously expensive headset, but maybe I should just save my money for the next time I actually have a real need for something. With one kid in college and one about to start, I'm not as carefree with the cash as I used to be. Then again, sometimes I get New Tech Derangement Syndrome and just can't help myself.
Alm: I'm in a similar boat to Zed (minus the kids). I have a rig I like and a huge backlog of games. And VR. I think the only thing I want is more games for my VR headset. I could do with a third monitor or maybe an ultrawide but that's not happening this year.
McStabStab: Right now the lowliest component in my rig is my CPU, but it's still an i7-7700K so even if I get to the point where I feel like it's not pulling its weight it'll be overclocking time. I'll likely stick with Intel but will need to swap out the motherboard. Since I'm going through all that trouble I may upgrade the NVMe M.2 SSD storage from 500gb to 1tb as well.
Pifanjr: My PC is good enough to play the huge backlog of games I have, but I would really like an extra SSD. Total War: Warhammer 2 now takes up over 120 GB of the 256 GB available on my current SSD: 60 GB for the game itself and 60 GB so it can copy itself entirely when it patches. No idea why anyone thought it was a good idea to require the entire game to be copied in order to patch it, but here we are. Every time there's a patch I need to uninstall/delete a bunch of stuff to make room.
I'm hoping to get a new one for my birthday in a couple of months. I will probably have to upgrade the rest of my hardware if I want to play Warhammer 3, but I'm not planning on getting it on launch anyway.
mainer: I don't really “need” anything (PC-wise) at the moment, as I'm happy with the performance I get in games, and with my monitor and associated peripherals. One thing I would like to try is a VR headset, as I really, really would like to play Half-Life: Alyx. I would love to buy a Valve Index (if I could even get one), but I can't justify that $1000 price tag.
I've considered the Oculus Quest 2 now that the Facebook requirement has supposedly been dropped, or I guess I should say “Meta” now instead (same cow, different name, as my grandfather used to say). But I still consider VR as a luxury gaming peripheral as it's doubtful that I would use it on a daily basis like I would my PC.
Ryzengang: On a PC front I'm really happy with my setup. The only piece of tech I'm considering at the moment is a VR headset. I've been wanting to try VR for a long time. With news that the Oculus Quest 2 is going to be dropping the FB requirement eventually I've been intrigued. Still monitoring the situation, though. It is not clear when the FB requirement will actually be removed and what it'll be replaced with. Still, the Quest 2 is clearly the best entry into VR in the current market. The more expensive headsets seem hard to justify.
Sarafan: It's still too early to make definitive statements about the next upgrade, because I did the previous one in the last quarter of 2020. But I won't lie to you, I have some plans for the future. A lot depends on the prices and availability of hardware. I'll probably stick with my RTX 2070 Super until the next generation shows up. I'm thinking about something from the future RTX 4000 family, but if the prices remain so steep as they are now, my plans will have to wait.
Also in a year or two my Ryzen 5 3600 probably won't be enough to play newer titles comfortably. So the upgrade will be more complex than a GPU change. We'll see how the requirements will go up in the upcoming two years. We also have to keep in mind that I like to play older titles which don't have massive requirements, so I can be patient with the next upgrade.
Colif: I got a new PC last year, it still feels new (I don't believe it's 15 months old already), so upgrades? Probably a new GPU in a few years, but about only thing I should buy are replacement exhaust fans for my case, but I don't need them, it's just something I had planned on doing by now.
I have replaced everything (including 5.1 speakers) in the last 4 years. I shouldn't need anything (fingers crossed), which makes it harder for people who may want to buy me something for Xmas.
I been on win 11 for 3 months. I jumped long ago… it's not really a purchase since (if PC can run it) it's a free upgrade now but I know how people think about it so I leave it there. It's so much like 10 I only remember I am on 11 when answering questions like this.
I don't want anything which is fun as its also my Bday before Xmas so family are confounded as to what to get me… as usual.