In a time before we had mass production of hardware and computer components, it may have been easier and certainly cheaper to build your own computer if you wanted a specific set up. Before our world became infatuated with computers and the Internet, a humble computer enthusiast could have saved hundreds of dollars by sourcing components and building a computer from scratch. Since the dot-com boom, however, companies have excelled in providing cheaper and more powerful pre-built computers.
As productions costs have decreased, better deals for more affordable hardware have increased. The likes of Microsoft, Samsung, Dell and Lenovo have rapidly expanded their computer product ranges whilst individual component prices have risen. Question is, with more competitiveness in the market is it still more cost effective to build your own PC or are you better off buying an off-the-shelf product.
Many a gamer will tell you that sometimes the generic off the shelf products don’t quite hit the spot when it comes to high performance gaming quality. If you're currently pondering the decision of whether to buy a new PC or build one yourself from scratch, then weighing up all your options is a wise idea.
A great source of information to start with is a company called PC Part Picker. They provide a great library of information on a range of computer parts, plus they have a wealth of knowledge around building and configuring computers too. Lets assume for instance that you are looking for a new computer that can provide; high quality gaming, perform recording with Shadowplay, do video editing, transcoding and online streaming. To successfully do all of the above at a standard expected of today's gaming and computer enthusiasts, I have decided to look at what the cost of the following components would be:
|Noctua NH-D15 82.5 CFM Cooler||
|Silverstone RV04B-W ATX Full Tower Case||
|Asus Z97-PRO ATX LGA1150 Motherboard||
|Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 AGB WINDFORCE||
|Corsair Vengence Pro Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-2666||
|2 x Samsung 850 Pro Series 128GB 2.5” SSD||
|SeaSonic S12G 650W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply||
|Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor||
Comparing this price to the off-the-shelf products available on the market certainly produced some interesting results. Comparable systems from a range of websites showed that a similar pre-built computer could be bought for less.
Lets take for example the two following computers, which are more affordable, but don’t quite pack the punch that I am looking for from my specification list above:
|AMD FX 9590 8-Core Gaming||AMD FX 9370 8-Core Gaming PC|
|T28 Blue ATX Midi Tower Case NO PSU||AMD 990FX + SB950 Chipset Motherboard|
|16GB DDR3 System Memory||Premium CPU Water Cooler with Radiator|
|120GB Solid State Drive (SSD)||120GB Solid State Drive (SSD)|
|750W ATX System Power Supply||Premium ATX Mid Tower Gaming Case|
|Fast DVD Dual Layer Rewriter||850W ATX System Power Supply|
|1TB SATA3 7200RPM Hard Drive||Integrated 8 Channel Audio|
|AMD 990FX + SB950 Chipset Motherboard||Gigabit 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN Port|
|Premium CPU Water Cooler with Radiator||22 x DVD Dual Layer Rewriter|
|GTX 960 PCI-E 3.0 2GB Gaming Graphics||DDR3 – 1600 8GB System Memory|
|nVidia GTX 650 PCI-e 3.0 2GB Graphics|
|1TB SATA3 7200RPM Hard Drive|
Online Price: $1599
Online Price: $1,249
Another alternative website which is well known for providing great gaming computers is PC Case Gear who consider themselves Australia’s Premier Online PC Store. Whilst their selection of pre-built computers is extensive, their more powerful options (e.g. Frost 980 for $2299) were similarly priced to the initial specification. However, the quality was yet again somewhat lacking compared to my original spec.
The exact equivalent in power and quality was at least $400 more compared to sourcing and building my own computer. For example the Glacial 980 ($2699), which was one of the best deals that could be found online was more expensive. To have a computer capable of high-end gaming, recording, editing and streaming, the Glacial 980 provided that option of power whilst also being sufficiently future-proof. Bare in mind though that its cost is without any expenditure on tweaking and customisations that I might like to do with my own parts.
So effectively, building my own computer to do everything I require is more cost effective than buying one off the shelf. I would save a minimum of $400 and whilst this story isn’t news to anyone in the tech world, it emphasises how the market has changed quite distinctively. PC Case Gear have the best deals online for high quality computers at the moment, but it would appear that part prices have generally dropped. Also, whilst pre-made prices too have dropped, I don't believe it's enough to entice true computer enthusiasts out there. If you are savvy enough to hunt around for competitively priced parts to build your own PC, you will certainly save yourself money. Yet, for those who want power but don’t have the patience or time to do the build themselves, there are plenty of great options to be found. You'll just need to accept up front that you'll end up having to fork out more for your setup.
In summary then, the market has changed, the parts have developed and unlike ever before, these individual parts are becoming more plug & play and much easier to put together. It’s not unheard of to save between $800 to $1,000 dollars building your own PC.