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Homebuilt vs Prebuilt?

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December 10, 2009 7:31:28 PM

So... I've homebuilt my last three systems, and they've all been great. However, I was just looking at some of the prebuilt systems available at my local Best Buy store (more out of curiosity than anything else), and on some of them... the specs weren't too shabby, particularly considering the price.

I guess my question is, for someone who isn't a die-hard overclocker or upgrade fiend, is it still more cost-effective to build your own system... rather than buy a pre-built one (either from a big box store or ordering from the manufacturer)?

Thanks

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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 7:48:05 PM

You're asking this question in a "Homebuilt Systems" forum?

OEM's cut corners anywhere they can, especially with power supplies and RAM. You get a much higher quality PC for your money if you build it yourself. You won't find many that suggest buying a pre-built system around here. :) 
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December 10, 2009 7:50:27 PM

Besides, nothing can beat the feeling of accomplishment from tuning a system you made.
I've building all the desktops I've used since I was thirteen, and I still get a little too happy when I'm putting
it all together.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 7:51:29 PM

Yes and No... It really depends on the system, what you are getting and what your cost are... IMO.

Example, I have a friend that just bought his daughter a HP PC for $350 that includes Win7 and a 20" Monitor. The PC is a dual core (lowend AMD) but is more than powerful enough for "Office" usage / internet. I couldn't build a PC including Win7 and a 20" monitor for that price.

Now if you were buying a Dell PC for say $850 without a monitor, you could build yourself a better PC for that price with higher quality parts and provide yourself room to improve through upgrades, if you ever feel the need to or starting down that path!

edit: I know I'm outside the norm on this post but truth be told, some people can't afford to build a PC and their best option is to buy a pre-built PC, which offers all the components they need. The system reliability is within their acceptable range and don't require what "we" feel and HIGHLY recommend to prevent faulty components or short live span of the PC. Don't get me wrong... Build yourself should be your first option!! but for some it isn't
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 7:52:54 PM

I'd say for the cheap machines, you're better off going pre-built unless you enjoy putting together systems. But for anything high-performance, you'll easily save several hundred dollars, sometimes thousands, by building it yourself. Especially for the very top-end gaming machines, which you can't even find in stores except sometimes at a huge price premium.

Prebuilt machines seem like they're usually most competitive on technology that's a generation and a half old. Right now, that would be Core 2/AM2 chips ... maybe they're just starting to get decent with quad cores. Anything more than that, build it yourself.

edit: I'll also add one more thing: Pre-built is probably the way to go for the 90% or so of computer users that don't feel comfortable being their own tech support. But then again, why do you think this place exists?

...anyway, that's something to consider. Not so much for the regulars here, but for a lot of people. But those people probably aren't the ones who would need high-powered gaming computer anyway. So the problem kind of solves itself most of the time.
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December 10, 2009 8:25:06 PM

I guess I'm just a stickler when it comes to PSUs. The only pre-built I ever bought with a decent PSU was a ZEOS back in '91 that came with a PC Power and Cooling unit. That was the only pre-built computer I ever owned that didn't end up with power problems. When I started building my own systems, I always included top of the line PSUs and I have never had any power problems with them. I will always build my own systems just for that one reason. Buying a good PSU to put in a pre-built system precludes any cost benifits of the pre-built system.
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December 10, 2009 8:28:11 PM

Thanks for the responses. :) 

I actually do enjoy building systems, so I'll probably continue doing that. But there was an Alienware machine at a local Best Buy that seemed reasonably inexpensive ($1500ish) and had what seemed to be pretty nice specs. Then again, the last system I built was almost three years ago -- so maybe the specs weren't that great.

I guess what I should do is price out the individual components to build a comparable system, and see if the prebuilt really IS such a bargain (which is ultimately what this was all about).
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 8:34:31 PM

At a price of $1,500, building your own PC is your BEST option!! :D 
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December 10, 2009 9:10:42 PM

That's quite a bit overpriced, and probably has a locked BIOS limiting OC and compatibility down the road.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 10, 2009 9:38:35 PM

oceanbug said:
Incidentally, this was the machine from BB:
Alienware Aurora - Intel Core i7


I don't think that's a BAD deal, as far as store-bought machines go. But like most machines in that range, you could probably do a little better on price by building it yourself.

individually, you'd be looking at something like:

CPU: $300
video card: $200
RAM: $200
hard drive: $100
decent case/fans: $100
PSU: $100

leaving you about $500 for Windows and anything else you want. You could get a better video card, a 10,000 RPM hard drive, and still have cash left over.

Not to mention, if you live in a lot of places, you can get out of paying sales tax by ordering the parts online. Whereas with Best Buy, expect to pay an extra $100-$150 no matter where you live.
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December 10, 2009 11:06:22 PM

Prebuilt cost more... because someone is doing the job of building your computer. Let's say that anyone who sell you a computer want to make some money too...

Do the job yourself and save 10% of the cost.
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December 11, 2009 12:23:35 AM

Not to mention AW doesn't even tell you what psu you get nor give you the option to pick one. I vote a hec in there.
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December 11, 2009 12:29:25 AM

I agree with most of what has already been said here. Budget general use systems will give you more bang for your buck (if you are not going to overclock) as prebuilts rather than home builds. Sad fact is, Big OEMs get those parts dirt cheap, and system builders just can't compete.
I also agree that you could build a WAY better system for $1500 than that Alienware. You could easily build a top notch system with an i7 and two 4890s in crossfire for that price. I've had to deal with some of the new alienware systems for a few customers, and I can tell you the MB voltage regulator is junk, the bios is locked (well, not exactly, but it might as well be) and they ship with low speed samsung or elipidia value ram UNLESS you pay the $100 per gb premium for 1600mhz name brand Ram. If you can build your own system in this budget range, you should....and you should overclock it, too. If you are worried about the perils of overclocking just overclock it as high as you can go without raising the voltages any...usually about 3.4 or so with an i7 D0 stepping.
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December 11, 2009 12:35:23 AM

sonic-boom said:
Not to mention AW doesn't even tell you what psu you get nor give you the option to pick one. I vote a hec in there.


Its actually an in house Dell unit they use. Same with the MB. Since Dell bought them, they are throwing all the cheapo Dell parts in they can. The MB is actually just a mATX x58 board, and the bios is horrible.
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