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Advantages of Homebuilt system

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Last response: in Systems
September 28, 2007 5:15:13 PM

I'm wondering what the advantages are to building a homebuilt system over going with a company such as Dell, etc.

I'm a moderate gamer and am looking to get a new system probably EOY with a budget of around 1800-2000. I'm somewhat familiar with messing about with hardware, I've installed a new PSU in a Dell! and a new CPU, stuff like that, but I've never built a full system from scratch.

I'm not into overclocking.

I already have a monitor and sound card, so those things I'd just transfer.

So, what would be the advantages of going homebuilt over just forking over cash to a Dell? I'm looking to get the most bang for my buck and wonder if homebuilt only makes sense if you're doing overclocking?

Thanks in advance.

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September 28, 2007 5:44:23 PM

Homebuilt systems are mostly always better in terms of performance per dollar. The only cases where they arent are in low low low end systems, where you can sometimes get a better deal buying a 300 dollar HP system instead of trying to build your own 300 dollar system. Anyhow, with your budget range, you would definately be best building your own system, assuming you know what youre doing. Do some research on the market, learn whats compatible with what. Spend time learning before jumping into it. Thats what these forums are for. If you check your build here, many people will be willing to help you out.
September 28, 2007 5:56:13 PM

The point of building a system as opposed to buying a pre-built one is value. For the same price you would pay for a Dell, you can have better components, sometimes of higher construction quality too.

The risk you take on is being able to put together all the components and losing support for a system, so it is important to understand what you are doing. (Not too hard, just put some research time into it) The individual parts you buy will be warrantied, but you won't be able to call someone up to help you fuddle with your system.

Usually if you need a new system with all peripherals, operating system, mouse, keyboard, and do not care about the quality of said peripherals, you can usually get a Dell on sale for about the same price as building a PC.

The true benefit of building a system IS overclocking. By doing an efficient overclock, you will get 10%+ out of your system components. These days, it is not terribly difficult to overclock, and most parts are protected from damaging themselves. As long as you do the research, you will have no problems doing a moderate overclock. (If you understand multiplication, you will understand how to overclock)
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September 28, 2007 5:57:32 PM

3 reasons:

1) Cheaper
2) better
3) can do wtf you want with it
September 28, 2007 5:57:57 PM

With 2000$, you can have a very good machine, especially if you do not buy a display. My homebuilt was built at a local computer store with what I wanted, for like 35$ and 1 year warranty because they built it.

I will say do not build it if you never done that or can have somebody with experience with you.

If you decide a Dell or else, keep in mind: No overclocking, proprietary motherboard and PSU. Harder to upgrade or change something. BIOS very limited. If you customize it the way you want (long term), you should be fine.
September 28, 2007 6:24:23 PM

also with prebuilts, your usually stuck with a pos powersupply... so upgrading is a pain in the butt. also they come with OEM versions of windows. also with a prebuilt YOU choose the parts, YOU know whats in the system.. knowing that lets me sleep at night.
a b K Overclocking
a b B Homebuilt system
September 28, 2007 6:42:00 PM

I'd have to say the advantages of building your own system are:
1) Lower cost high-end system.
2) Knowledge and experience.
3) No Bloat-ware.

The only disadvantage I can think of off the top of my head is:
1) You are your own tech support.

With a $2000 budget, your could easily build a high-end gaming rig.*

P35 Motherboard ~$120
E6750 ~$200
2 GB RAM ~$75
8800GTX - ~$530
OS/Data Hard Drives ~$175
Case: ~$50
Power Supply ~$120
OS ~$120
DVD Drive ~$35
Keyboard/Mouse/Speakers ~$200

You're right around $1625 with the above setup and it should run pretty much any game on the market without breaking a sweat. A similarly configured Dell XPS 720 comes in at over $2300.

-Wolf sends

*Note: My idea of a high-end gaming rig does not necessarily mean the highest performing products.

September 28, 2007 6:54:23 PM

1) Store Systems have a Locked BIOS to prevent OCing. Most Intel CPUs can be OC'd to anywere from 25%-75% and still not involve anything fancy. I have mine OC'd about 66% and have even reduced the voltage from the default so it's using about the same power as if I had not OC'd.

2) Retails Systems Overcharge for Upgrads - The cost of "Upgrading" to more RAM, better CPU, better, GPU, etc.. is always quite a bit more than the actual price difference between those parts. As you start building more expensive machines, the reatail system becomes more expensive for what you get.

3) Better "Std" warranty on home-built systems. If you buy your own system, most of the parts have 3yr, 5yr, or perhaps Life-Time Warranties. The "Retail" system will have 90days->1year unless you buy an extended warranty.

4) Higher Quality Components on "High-End" system. Hopebuilt "Budget" systems often have cheap parts, but once you are building in that price range, the Memory, PSU, etc.. etc.. etc... are likely better quality than retail systems.
September 28, 2007 7:32:20 PM

Just taking into account the graphics card options, the most important part of a gaming system, is usually very limited for prebuilts, the homebuilt gaming system is going to be more flexible to your budget and personal requirements. Oh and if your literate and are willing to read instructions, building a computer isn't that difficult, and there is a ton of information on solid computer builds everyday posted right here.
September 28, 2007 7:55:49 PM

I'm totally sold, though I wasn't expecting many naysayers on this forum! In terms of competency, I'm not too concerned, but two things worry me:

a) HD setups -- If I'd go with a RAID 0, is this difficult to set up and if I go this route, do I need a controller (load times are my personal bane)

b) BIOS settings -- I have a pre-built so only messed around with these a couple times to HT my CPU and re-install Windows XP. If I go with a new machine, I have some trepidation in what actually will happen when I first boot up. I'm assuming it's nothing too worrisome, but the unknown can be daunting

thanks for the replies above
September 28, 2007 7:58:34 PM

Wow, I have a different take on the question ...
3 reasons:

1) It's fun.
2) Even more fun with your kids "helping" you :)  Yes, it is, admit it now.
3) A blast when your wife comes to you for "Tech Support" and you don't even need to know the answer! ... !!!!

My system could have probably been gotten for less money and definitely quicker. But, man! I would never trade that for the experience.

I'd like to add a few more of these "!!!!!" to answer 3 above ...
September 28, 2007 8:14:31 PM

Do not forget the "cool" factor. Many of the individuals I have helped over time just thought it was way cool to have built it themselves.

All that aside, if you build it yourself you have a lot better idea about what is actually going on in there so you are not clueless when something requires your attention.
September 28, 2007 8:23:38 PM

sirgrotius said:
I'm totally sold, though I wasn't expecting many naysayers on this forum! In terms of competency, I'm not too concerned, but two things worry me:

a) HD setups -- If I'd go with a RAID 0, is this difficult to set up and if I go this route, do I need a controller (load times are my personal bane)

b) BIOS settings -- I have a pre-built so only messed around with these a couple times to HT my CPU and re-install Windows XP. If I go with a new machine, I have some trepidation in what actually will happen when I first boot up. I'm assuming it's nothing too worrisome, but the unknown can be daunting

thanks for the replies above

a) RAID are very easy to setup. Use on-board controller.
Step 1 : Plug in the right SATA port your drives.
Step 2 : On boot screen, press required key combination to access special program for your RAID Controller.
Step 3 : Create a volume using RAID 0/1/5 or whatever.

b) One change needed in BIOS is normally to tell it that you will be RAIDing your drive instead of SATA. Else, all BIOS Default are normally good to start with.
September 28, 2007 8:27:43 PM

I never built my own machine. The only things I can tell you where I believe you could have some fun are:
1) Fit the motherboard correctly.
2) Plug in those little wires for light or whatever.
3) Fix correctly the HeatSink on the CPU -> VERY IMPORTANT TO BE DONE CORRECTLY. You must buy the version with the HS preinstalled.

I would say again, let the local store do it! :)  And your system will be covered by the 1 year warranty instead of manufacturer warranty.
a c 268 K Overclocking
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
September 28, 2007 9:01:21 PM

I would like to second the wolfshadow post. Right on!

The support you get from dell or other pre-built systems may be an illusion. You will wait forever to talk with a real person. You hope that they talk english well enough so you can understand them. And then, will they know anymore than you do. If you order parts from a reputable e-tailer like Newegg, you will get a very accomodating RMA policy that will let you easily return any part you find defective. This is better than having to return the whole PC with your (maybe sensitive) data on it.

Take the time to post your requirements and intended usage here. No doubt you will get many opinions. The research, itself is worth the time, even if you buy retail later; you will then KNOW what parts are good.

Retail PC builders make some of their money by building "bloatware" and trial software. It is a mess to get rid of it. Much better to buy your own OS and load it clean.

Also, the performance value of RAID 0 in any form is very dependent on your workload for performance, and the value is negligible, with a few exceptions. I would not recommend it in general. The value of RAID-1 for protection is also debateable. Hard drives are very reliable these days with a mean time to failure of 1,000,000 hours(100+ years). If you value your data, then even with Raid-1, you should be backing up that data to some external destination anyway.

In the end, the experience is priceless.

---good luck---
September 28, 2007 10:38:43 PM

IMO the biggest advantage of scratch built is being able to pick each and every piece of hardware youself. For example if you buy a Dell you get whatever brand of Hard Drive they choose to stick in your computer. If you scratch build you can pick your favorite brand (for instance a WD 10,000 RPM "Raptor" drive). If you were into Over-Clocking a store bought would not do the trick at all as the big OEMs lock down their bios options to a smaller subset of what is normally available. If you pick wisely the overall quality and flexability of a scratch built should be higher.

Store bought has advantages as well.

1) Ordering a pre-built is EASY.
2) Your computer arrives together in one box from one manufacture. With a scratch built if you cherry pick from different sources it seems like you are always waiting on some critical part from some vendor to complete your system. Ordering all your components from Newegg is a great way around this problem.
3) A prebuilt from a big OEM can be cheaper if you know how to shop due to the huge volume big OEMs do (hence they get a volume discount).
4) All the parts of a prebuilt are literally guaranteed to work together.
5) There is no trouble installing the OS as it is already installed. The downside is bloatware that needs to be erased.
6) Depending on exactly which computer you buy a pre-built can be upgraded in spite of what some will have you believe.

A personal note on "6":

I just got a Dell. I ripped out the crappy 300 watt power supply and replaced it with a 500 watt for 43 bucks. Instead of paying Dell $100 for an extra GB of ram I put my own in. NewEgg sells a GB of ram for about 45 bucks. Lastly I put a nice nVidia 8800GTS video card in, no problem. The end result is a pretty nice system that is far better than it started out.

My advice is this: Do not spend $2000 getting a Dell. For $2000 you can do better picking your own parts. If your budget was closer to $1000 I'd clue you in on how to save money using a Dell as a "barebones" starter like I did.

Lastly if you have never scratch built you should try it just once. NewEgg would be a great place to order from.
September 28, 2007 10:40:53 PM

Once you add in the cost of software, it's often a wash up to about the $1000-1200 range. Let's not forget that Windows costs quite a bit, $200? That wipes out the hardware cost advantage and then you have to factor in warranty.

Then there's the issue of the inability to truly homebuild a laptop.

If it was for work, there are warranty options that aren't available to homebuilders like expedited response times and accidental damage.
September 30, 2007 1:24:59 AM

Let's not muddy the water here.

Homebuilts cost less and generally yield better performance.
Selected software and OS come without the crapware generally found on most prefabs. Selecting balanced components from experienced suggestions will definately give a better end user experience.

The only real negatives in building your own is the slight possibility you might foul something up and you are your own warranty.

Nobody learns anything without a few mistakes, but nothing ventured is truly nothing gained.

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Cognac in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, What a Ride!"
October 3, 2007 3:11:38 AM

onestar said:
Let's not muddy the water here.

Homebuilts cost less and generally yield better performance.
This in not always true. In fact it is only true of high end systems ($1200+). Of course if you OC and if you get an OS on the five finger discount plan the advantage does swing to home built. If you are trying to be honest it is hard to beat a big OEM in the low to uppper middle price class if you shop well. Assuming your store bought comes with a windows disk you can always reload it to get rid of bloat ware.

It the OP's price range I agree that he should go scratch built...
a b K Overclocking
October 3, 2007 3:50:16 AM

I build my own system because I can choose the exact parts I want. It may not always be cheaper than buying from a brand name, but I does what I want and looks the way I want it to look.