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What advantages would I see from building instead of Buying Alienware

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March 3, 2010 7:17:46 PM

Hello all. I am brand new here. I followed a Google result on "whether to buy an Area 51" to a thread in this forum. What an awesome place. I found more information here than I did in the hour or two I've spend surfing and reading before I found this forum.

My little brother got an Alienware about 6 or 7 years ago. I think it's an "Area 51". At the time, it was a totally different company. The customer service was sick back then. Now it's run by Dell and I get an Indian on the phone when I call for help.

Anyway, my brother passed away almost three years ago and my Dad has been using it since. He's actually playing a lot of games, but it hasn't been able to run many new games since Counter Strike Source. I put in a new vid card for BF2 but World at War on just crashes. It's not worth the money to upgrade.

So he told me today that he's seriously considering buying an "Alienware Aurora". He gave me a printout(without the complete URL, of course) listing all the specs after he did his upgrade thing. Anyway, it totals about two grand and now he's considering an Area 51.

My brother computer was dumb expensive at the time, but the company was impeccable about customer service & repairs so he figures it's worth the money. Unfortunately, I really think the company is only a shell of its former self. But I know jack s*** about custom building. I bought a custom built desktop off ebay a few years back from someone with a decent amount of sales & a good feedback. I had more than a few problems, and I think that is a large part of his hesitation. However, he agreed to wait on the purchase long enough for me to do a little research.

In the thread that brought me here, someone pointed out to the thread's creator that this is a homebuilt area and that no one would recommend buying from Alienware. Then they said that you get much more for your money(sounds great to me) and that you will gain invaluable knowledge from your mistakes. Here lies my problem - if I save us a couple hundred bucks and then ruin something then the money I would have saved is wasted. Although it's very interesting, I really don't have the time to learn how to build computers.

However, I would entertain the idea of hiring someone to build a new rig for us. I have two major questions:

1. Where can I find a builder who's inexpensive enough to either save a significant amount, or preferrably, get more rig for the money - but not a "cheap" builder who will screw something up? I got a crappy custom build once, but I fault myself for not doing the research and being hypnotized by the incredibly low price. Can you point me somewhere that has a lot of good feedback, a strong reputation, and knowledgable builders?

2. The other major question I guess breaks into a few parts. After spitting out the questions, I will post the details of the rig my Dad wants to spend two grand on. How much do you think it would cost to build the computer below? My Dad has been through a bunch of computers, and the Alienware lasted the longest without going obsolete. He's looking to do that again, and get as close to eight years out of this rig without having to upgrade much more than videocards, and without going into astronomical prices. What would you suggest. We don't need an LCD or any monitor for that matter, any peripherals(keyboard, mouse, etc.), no speakers - none of the extra s***. Just the tower. He wants to stay at 2K, but I know he would probably go up another 2500. Over 3K there's no way. OK, here's the stats:


Catalog Number: 29 DPCWDX1
Alienware Aurora Alienware Aurora Desktop
Operating Systems Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64bit
2nd Processor Intel® Core™ i7 920 2.66GHz (8MB Cache) Quad Core Processor
Memory 9GB Triple Channel 1333Mhz DDR3
Keyboard Alienware Multi-Media Keyboard
Video Cards Single 1GB GDDR5 ATI Radeon HD 5870
Sound Card Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
Hard Drive 500GB - SATA-II, 3Gb/s, 7,200RPM, 16MB Cache HDD
Mouse Alienware Optical Mouse, MG100
Killer NIC Killer Xeno Pro
Floppy Drive Alienware 19 in one Media Card Reader
Optical Drive Single Drive: 24X CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) w/double layer write capability 24DVDRW
Hardware Support Services 1 Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
Cooling Option Alienware™ High-Performance Liquid Cooling

I left out all the avatar, case "FX", colors, and other BS that I don't think really has to do with anything.

Anyway, I know there's a ton of questions here and I apologize for being all over. I'm totally shot and need some sleep but I don't want him to make a two thousand dollar mistake. ANY info and/or advice you can lend will be sincerely appreciated. Thanks for taking the (considerable) time to read this.

Regards

Best solution

March 3, 2010 7:29:30 PM

First of all, this forum is mainly used by people who buy their own parts and build it themselves. I bet everyone is going to tell you to build it yourself (and you should). No matter where you go, you are going to get less computer and pay more for it.

Second, the reason you should avoid prebuilts when buying high end PCs is that they skimp on the parts that aren't visible. The motherboard, PSU, RAM and HDD will all be lower quality and low performance, and you will never see what parts they actually used.

Third, it's extremely easy to build it yourself. There are thousands of guides out there to help you, and there is literally no wrong way to put the parts together. If you're applying more than minimal pressure, you're putting it in the wrong spot...

So...

1.) Some decent custom builders are IBuyPower and CyberPC. Buying a custom built still isn't a good idea. You'll easily pay a 30-50% markup for the high end parts you want/need.

2.) An i7/6 GB/HD 5870 build (with USB 3/SATA III support and better overclocking) will cost $1,600, including the OS. 9 GB is overkill for any build.

Assuming you don't need the montior or anything else, here's a better $2,000 build:

CPU: i7-930 $299
Mobo: Asus P6X58D Premium $310
RAM: G.Skill Pi Series 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $180
GPU: HD 5970 $700
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $90
Case: HAF 922 $100
PSU: OCZ Z Series 850W 80+ Gold $200
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $24
OS: Windows 7 Home 64-bit OEM $105

Total: $2,008. If that extra $8 bugs you, and you really only need 500 GB of storage, switch the HDD for a Seagate 7200.12 500 GB to save $35.

The i7-930 is the new CPU, and is faster than the 920. The 5970 is two 5870s on one card. The RAM is extremely fast and allows for easy overclocking (if interested, and you'll need an aftermarket heatsink). The case is the best available right now. The PSU is one of the most efficient units on the market, meaning a longer life and lower power bills. The board supports USB 3/SATA III. And if that wasn't good enough, you have a big enough PSU and a board that will easily allow you to add a second 5970 in Crossfire, which should never be necessary.
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March 3, 2010 7:48:15 PM

Having never done any PC Building before, my first build was completed in under 2 hours.

It's really not hard. Everything is pretty clear, like This goes here and that goes there and there's really not too many mistakes you can make without being stupid.
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March 3, 2010 7:54:56 PM

Like I've always said, if you're reaching for a hammer, you're doing it wrong...

I highly recommend you build it yourself this time around. Just take some time and research the actual process of building it (see the Step-by-Step Guide to Building a PC sticky) and what all the different parts and choices are. You learn a lot, save yourself some money and have the ability to fix problems if they should arise.
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March 3, 2010 8:32:12 PM

Because you're building yourself you can decide where to save some money and where to spend. Unless you're really set on spending 2000 you can get a great gaming computer for far less (just look around this forum there are tons of threads about building).

Also it seems weird that that computer has 9 gigs of ram and only a 500 gb hard drive.
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March 3, 2010 8:36:26 PM

Yeah, Alienware are ocer priced. but I wouldnt dream of buying one nwo Dell have got there grubby mits on them, my cousin had a Dell =, I cracked the case open and had a look. Saw the motherboard and nearly gipped. but they hiped it up with P4 HT and 1GB ram, Jsut dont go there, speak to us guys 'n' gals on here for advice when ever you need it :) 
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March 3, 2010 8:43:17 PM

Having owned Alienware computers and built my own, I'll absolutely agree that their customer service has gone downhill since Dell took over.

I'm not trying to talk you out of building your own computer, in fact, I recommend it. But if this computer is for your dad, ask yourself a few questions. (I ran through this exercise myself very recently.)

1) Who is going to be supporting the computer? If you (or your dad) is ok with being the primary support for the computer, that's a mark in favor of building it. Make sure to keep receipts & warranties, so that you have the manufacturer's warranty handy if something does fail.
2) Does he want a stock configuration, or does he want something relatively customized? If stock/low-end, go with a pre-built, it's really hard to compete with pre-builts below about $600. If customized, you can do a much better job building it.
3) Do you plan on buying a new computer in a couple of years, or do you want to have the option of updating the computer and keeping it running for 5 (or more) years? If the former, go pre-built, if the latter, build it yourself.
4) What's your budget? $600 and below, go pre-built. $600-$1500 - you'll get more value building it yourself, but some pre-builts will be competitive. $1500+ - build it.

As for me, I helped my dad configure a mid-range pre-built because I just wasn't excited about always being on the hook if anything breaks on his computer. I'll be doing plenty of tech support as is, but not having to be available to figure out printer drivers is a nice feeling. I felt good about #2 & #3, but not #1.

The questions above may not be perfectly applicable for everyone, but they're probably a good starting point.
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March 3, 2010 8:53:05 PM

Thanks a ton to all who have responded. It really does sound like self-building is the way to go. IDK what my Dad will think, but I don't think he uses any forums and I knew I wouldn't get honest criticism/advice from any dealer or pro builder. I really, really appreciate the direction. I'm gonna send him the URL, hopefully he'll entertain the idea. Thanks again. ;) 
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March 3, 2010 10:40:38 PM

One other option is to look for a local Mom & Pop shop in your local area. Ask them if you brought them the components, would they put it together for you (for a small fee). As others have said, building a computer yourself really isn't that difficult. I've always compared it to a rather expensive jigsaw puzzle. A piece will only fit in one place. But if you're just not comfortable enough to take that plunge (I know I had serious willies when attempting my first build), take a look through the computer section of your Yellow Pages.

-Wolf sends
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March 10, 2010 9:36:32 AM

Best answer selected by The_Gemologist.
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March 10, 2010 11:06:32 AM

MadAdmiral said:
First of all, this forum is mainly used by people who buy their own parts and build it themselves. I bet everyone is going to tell you to build it yourself (and you should). No matter where you go, you are going to get less computer and pay more for it.

Second, the reason you should avoid prebuilts when buying high end PCs is that they skimp on the parts that aren't visible. The motherboard, PSU, RAM and HDD will all be lower quality and low performance, and you will never see what parts they actually used.

Third, it's extremely easy to build it yourself. There are thousands of guides out there to help you, and there is literally no wrong way to put the parts together. If you're applying more than minimal pressure, you're putting it in the wrong spot...

So...

1.) Some decent custom builders are IBuyPower and CyberPC. Buying a custom built still isn't a good idea. You'll easily pay a 30-50% markup for the high end parts you want/need.

2.) An i7/6 GB/HD 5870 build (with USB 3/SATA III support and better overclocking) will cost $1,600, including the OS. 9 GB is overkill for any build.

Assuming you don't need the montior or anything else, here's a better $2,000 build:

CPU: i7-930 $299
Mobo: Asus P6X58D Premium $310
RAM: G.Skill Pi Series 3x2 GB 1600 mhz CAS Latency 7 $180
GPU: HD 5970 $700
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB $90
Case: HAF 922 $100
PSU: OCZ Z Series 850W 80+ Gold $200
Optical: Cheap SATA DVD burner $24
OS: Windows 7 Home 64-bit OEM $105

Total: $2,008. If that extra $8 bugs you, and you really only need 500 GB of storage, switch the HDD for a Seagate 7200.12 500 GB to save $35.

The i7-930 is the new CPU, and is faster than the 920. The 5970 is two 5870s on one card. The RAM is extremely fast and allows for easy overclocking (if interested, and you'll need an aftermarket heatsink). The case is the best available right now. The PSU is one of the most efficient units on the market, meaning a longer life and lower power bills. The board supports USB 3/SATA III. And if that wasn't good enough, you have a big enough PSU and a board that will easily allow you to add a second 5970 in Crossfire, which should never be necessary.



Thanks for the great information.

This is The_Gemologist's father now writing now. The Alienware computer we have has an AMD CPU. I think your advice was great. Would you mind giving me another shopping list, suggestiing, AMD - CPU, MOBO, RAM, GPU and PSU. I'd like to utilize my current Case, HDD, Optical and OS (Windows XP) for this build.

I'm sort of attached to the system would travel the extra miles to make some of it last a little longer.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.
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