Pre-built desktops or build my own?

I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I came up with this great question. Should I get a fairly cheap pre-built desktop from places like BestBuy or wherever, and upgrade as the games get more intense? Or should I just build a pretty good one right now, and upgrade a little bit further down the road? I feel like building my own would be a little bit risky because I have never done it before, and if I get a pre-built desktop, it will be pretty good, breaking/not breaking-wise, until I stick new gpus and stuff in there.

And as a side thing, what brand and/or models are good to upgrade?

And second, is it seriously cheaper to build your own computer? because some of these pre-built systems have damn good deals. Did someone ever do a part to part analysis/comparison and figure that out?
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  1. If you're talking e-mails and web surfing, then a prebuilt system will usually be a better buy. When you start talking performance and gaming, then the self built take the edge. Most prebuilt systems come with inadequate graphic cards or just integrated video and have the power supplies to match. You can't overclock your CPU or change any of your RAM timings or BIOS settings. You can get a cheap prebuilt, add a power supply and graphic card, but that often defeats the price and reason you bought it in the first place. Many prebuilts also have poor cooling, they're set up for stock and can't handle the heat. Like everything else there's exceptions, you'd have to look around and post a specific system.
  2. if it is a good deal go for it
  3. A fairly advanced prebuilt, something that has a decent CPU (good dual core or quad core) and a fair sized HD plus a really cheap Graphics card and very minimal RAM is the the best place to start. You get add RAM, upgrade the Graphics card and add a second hard drive. You get more comfortable working with the guts, while saving money on the components the prebuilders make their margins.

    (Yea, builders like to give away the core computer and then tack on $100 or so to install RAM)

    One key advantage of prebuilts is the hardest tasks and the tasks most dangerous to screw up (install CPU on MB, mounting MB and running the proper wiring from the PSU to the various components) has been done for you and comes with a warranty.

    Personally I buy Dell Shells. The most stripped down Dell computer that I can find that meet my needs. RAM, GPU, HD's and extra optical drives are added by me.
  4. BTW, yes it is cheaper to build your own.

    I figure on my Dell Shells I am spending about $100 to $150 for their assembly work PLUS warranty and support. True their support for home buyers is somebody in India or wherever, but it is support neverless that can tell you the proper sequence of key strokes to reformat the HD or how to trouble shoot a failing CPU using the built in diagnostics. And all components come with a warranty. But it is nice to know that Dell (or whomever) is going to warrant the goofy issue that turns out to be a loose wire or burnt connection.

    Who's computers are best? They all sux.

    Seriously, Dell, HP etc are going use propriatary parts whenever possible. Usually it will be the MB that is built for Dell etc, with a few goofy connections or mounts to keep me and others from totally stripping down their computers. The PSU are often ripped by hobby builders. Except one little fact that everybody seems to forget... Dell is warranting the entire system.... if that quote-unquote underpowered PSU where to fail and fry the $4000 nVidia Quadro GPU that you had factory installed in the Dell workstation... Dell is on the hook. What this really means is Dell/HP is often underrating their PSU to keep marginal (meaning very high power consumption) components from being installed in the first place.

    What this means is the MB and PSU are often limiters in the prebuilts. AND the Bios are often locked to keep the hobby builder from farking up the computer. The tweekers don't like lockedout bios because they can't "overclock" the computer. All overclocking means is pushing components (often cheaper) to perform at higher levels than the manufacturer designed the component to operate. For some people "overclocking" is their dogma. Overclocking does alllow a less powerful component to reach new performance levels, but it also does so at life expectancy risk to the components. Factory warranties hate overclocking and the risks therein, therefore factory MB have lockedout Bios.

    IF you are going to change components every year or so, you really need to learn to build your computers. If you are happy upgrading the GPU every year or so and making your computer last for 5+ years then I would buy a prebuilt and do some simple modifications.
  5. One trick in buying prebuilds......

    Dell will price match Newegg, TigerDirect etc.

    Buy a Dell Shell and work with a sales dude. Give the Dude the parts that you want to buy and install yourself and let the dude price match the cheap online company.

    This is actually to your advantage more than you may realize.

    Dell's computer sales staff work on some sort of commission or kickback system that values a customer based upon the customer's total purchases .... so the Dell dude is motivated in helping you.

    Dell's system also assigns a value to the customer based upon the total stuff being bought..... this is how discounts are earned.

    Dell's also has motivations that occur at particular times of the year.... usually the end of a quarter.

    Soooooo....... need a monitor? Always buy it with your computer. Might save an extra $50 on the monitor being purchased at the same time as the computer.

    Need some RAM. Find some on the Dell site and add it to your purchase. Remember to price match NewEgg on the RAM.

    Do the same with the GPU.

    Suddendly you are worth more to Dell (and the sales Dude).

    A sub $1000 computer may not give the sales dude a lot of flexibility, so go ahead and add your new Nikon D60 Camera to the mix.

    Make yourself valuable and you can save a few more $.
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