It's all very well me telling you what the best Black Friday graphics card deals are, or the best SSD deals are this Black Friday season, but even I'm prepared to admit that it can all seem a bit meaningless unless you've got a specific goal in mind, or you really, really need a very particular upgrade for your ailing PC.
Fortunately, your deals herald has come up with what's arguably the best and most worthy cause for maybe considering a couple of Black Friday deals this year, for what better way to show your ageing PC a bit of love and affection than to make sure it's ready for what's almost certainly going to be the game of the century, Half-Life: Alyx? So read on, dear readers, for the cheapest way to get VR-ready in time for Half-Life: Alyx's launch next year.
Half-Life: Alyx PC requirements
Before we begin, let's remind ourselves of Half-Life: Alyx's PC requirements. Helpfully, Valve have only listed the game's minimum requirements at the moment, rather than a recommended specification, but given that they're only just a little bit above what you'd need to run any of today's VR headsets - including the Valve Index - even the minimum spec should be more than enough to play the game to a decent standard.
Half-Life: Alyx Minimum PC requirements:
CPU: Intel Core i5-7500 / AMD Ryzen 5 1600
RAM: 12GB RAM
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB) / AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)
As a result, these are the components that I've based my Half-Life: Alyx builds on. There's one for Black Friday hunters in the UK and another for those buying in the US, but both builds are of a roughly similar standard, and in most cases well exceed what Valve have listed above - particularly in the CPU and RAM department. As such, both builds can also be taken as a basis for a more general entry-level PC template, as each one should be able to play most of today's big blockbuster games at 60fps on decent quality settings at 1920x1080.
At time of writing, my UK build comes to a total of £642, while my US build comes in at $571 - although you will, of course, still need to factor in the cost of a VR headset if you don't have one already. I'll be rounding up the best Black Friday VR headset deals tomorrow, though, so make sure you watch out for those if you're looking to bag yourself another nice saving.
Build a Half-Life: Alyx Black Friday PC (UK):
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
The Ryzen 5 3600 is well above the minimum specification for Half-Life: Alyx, but why settle for an ancient Ryzen when you can get a great deal on a shiny new one that also happens to be one of our best gaming CPU recommendations? Simply put, the Ryzen 5 3600 is more than enough processing power for a decent gaming PC these days, and it also comes with a cooler in the box, helping to cut down on cost even further. Normally £185, any kind of saving on a CPU this recent is pretty good going, but if you're really adamant about spending as little money as possible, then the 2nd Gen Ryzen 5 2600 is currently just £114 (and is also my top gaming CPU pick for those on a budget).
Motherboard: MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max
Since we've gone with an AMD CPU for our Half-Life: Alyx PC, that means we'll need a Ryzen-compatible motherboard to stick it in - and there currently isn't a better Black Friday motherboard deal than this one on the MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max. Mostly because it's got a proper Ryzen 3000-Ready sticker on the box, so you can be sure it will work with your new Ryzen 5 3600 CPU straight out of the box without requiring any fussy BIOS updates on your part, and it's a proper full-sized ATX board, too, giving you plenty of room for your graphics card and any additional expansion PCIe cards you might want to add in the future.
RAM: TeamGroup Vulcan T-Force 16GB (2x8GB)
Half-Life: Alyx has a rather odd RAM requirement, as most RAM kits come in either 8GB or 16GB. I mean, yes, you could technically buy one 8GB stick and one 4GB stick if you really wanted, but you'd be better off future-proofing your PC with a 16GB kit instead, like this 16GB 3000MHz TeamGroup set. Normally £65, this TeamGroup kit is a lot cheaper than other Corsair RAM sticks on sale at the moment, especially ones clocked at 3000MHz. Not familiar with TeamGroup? Well, Overclockers UK included some TeamGroup RAM in one of the desktops they sent me for review last year - the Kinetic Z1, and it performed just fine, so I'm pretty confident their Vulcan sets will be just as good for your new Half-Life: Alyx PC.
Graphics card: PowerColor Radeon RX 590 Red Dragon
Arguably the best Black Friday graphics card deal I've seen so far, PowerColor's 8GB RX 590 is a fantastic card for 1080p gaming, and its current Black Friday price of £155 is, at time of writing, a much better deal than any RX 580 card I've seen so far. Plus, it's more powerful than a GTX 1060, too, making this a fine choice to power your Half-Life: Alyx PC.
SSD: WD Blue SN500 (500GB)
The WD Blue SN500 is a great value NVMe SSD, and its current (all-time low) price of just £57 for its top 500GB capacity makes it a great foundation for your Half-Life: Alyx PC - especially when many of the other similarly priced Cyber Monday SSD deals will only get you a 500GB SATA SSD such as the Samsung 860 Evo or WD Blue 3D NAND, both of which are much slower than the SN500. Plus, you can just stick it straight into your motherboard, no cables required. Easy peasy.
PSU: Corsair CX550W
Not technically a Black Friday deal this one, but then again there simply aren't that many good Black Friday PSU deals on at the moment. So I've gone with the next best thing - a good, well-respected PSU that's got plenty of juice for powering a PC of this calibre, and it has an 80 Plus Bronze rating, too, so you can be sure it's got good power efficiency under load. This is pretty much the PSU I'd recommend to anyone building a mid-range PC right now, and will fit comfortably into our chosen case, too. Speaking of which...
Case: Corsair Carbide 275R
Sure, the Corsair Carbide 275R isn't the cheapest PC case deal going this Black Friday, but it's arguably one of the more tasteful cases out there right now and heck, we want our Half-Life: Alyx PC to look at least half-way decent and not like some tacky RGB monstrosity. I must admit, I almost went with BitFenix's £50 Portal Cube case, just because it looks half-like a Portal turret and is therefore very apt and in-keeping with the Valve-theme of this PC build, but it's only a mini-ITX case and involves some rather tricky component installation. The Carbide 275R, on the other hand, is a much more traditional and sensible looking case that offers plenty of room for everything you could possibly need, now and in the future.
Build a Half-Life: Alyx Black Friday PC (US):
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700
Not quite as new as the Ryzen 5 3600 in my UK build, but there also aren't that many good Black Friday CPU deals around right now, making this the next best thing. Despite its age, though, the Ryzen 7 2700 still has plenty of juice left in it, and is more than enough to run Half-Life: Alyx, too. Plus, it comes with its own (and quite substantial) cooler in the box, helping us cut down on cost, and it gives us a greater range of motherboards to pick from, too, as this 2nd Gen Ryzen chip can be popped in any B450 chipset mobo without issue.
Motherboard: Gigabyte B450M DS3H
Case in point, Gigabyte's micro-ATX B450M-DS3H motherboard supports all 2nd Gen Ryzen CPUs out of the box (you'd need to do a BIOS update if you were to stick a 3rd Gen Ryzen CPU in it, as it currently doesn't have a Ryzen 3000-Ready sticker on its box). It also has a second PCIe x16 slot, as well as support for a single NVMe SSD and loads of USB ports for all your peripherals.
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB)
This rather fetching pair of red Corsair Vengeance sticks is more than enough to meet Half-Life: Alyx's RAM requirements, and you won't find a better price than this for a 16GB kit clocked at 3000MHz, either. Plus, they don't have any RGB lighting to speak of, either, making them a much more tasteful selection than a lot of other Black Friday RAM deals right now.
GPU: XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS Black (8GB)
There aren't as many good RX 590 Black Friday deals on in the US right now, but an 8GB RX 580 still meets Half-Life: Alyx's minimum PC requirements. Personally, I'd probably recommend spending another $20 on the Gigabyte Radeon RX 590 or Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Pulse, as these are both $180 at time of writing, but just in case you want to keep costs to an absolute minimum, I've listed this XFX RX 580 instead. Either way, the RX 580 is still an excellent graphics card in its own right, and it's still one of our graphics card recommendations for those after a highly capable 1080p card.
SSD: Samsung 860 Evo (500GB)
Alas, unless you're willing to spend almost double the amount of money on an NVMe SSD this Black Friday, the SATA-based 500GB Samsung 860 Evo is currently one of the best SSD deals going right now. After all, 500GB is still more than enough space to get you started with your Half-Life: Alyx PC, and the 860 Evo is still one of the best SSDs more generally right now as well, making it a great foundation for any new PC build.
PSU: Corsair CX550
This is the same PSU recommendation as my UK build, although this time the Corsair CX-550 is on a legit Black Friday deal - provided you're willing to bother with its $20 rebate offer, that is. Still, $35 for an 80 Plus Bronze-certified PSU is a deal well worth snapping up for would-be PC builders, as this will provide more than enough power for a PC of this calibre and is rated for good power efficiency and cool, smooth running.
Case: Phanteks Eclipse P300
I was going to go with the Corsair Carbide 275R again here, if only because you also get a free Corsair case fan with it as well, but then I saw this Phanteks Eclipse P300, which not only looks just as good, but is a heck of a lot cheaper, especially if you make use of its $10 rebate offer. You get a tempered glass window on the side, too, so you can marvel at your PC building handiwork. Plus, it's just a nice-looking case, with elegant, clean lines, oodles of space and no RGB lighting.