How To Build A PC

Step 9: Choose Your Vendor

Online merchants take advantage of lower operating expenses in order to price products far below what’s needed to keep the doors open at brick and mortar shops. However, the shipping costs can still kill your hopes for big savings, particularly if you shop across multiple storefronts. Per-item shipping often improves as more items are added to the order, so the savings attributed to buying online are maximized by purchasing from the fewest possible sources.

A difficult cascade of questions may consume you if you consider many sellers, various components at different prices, and a range of shipping rates. The easiest solution is pick a single vendor that’s able to give you the best deal on your complete list. To that end, there are several online shopping engines that allow you to source prices from several vendors at once. Keep in mind that single-item shipping rates quoted through shopping engines should drop significantly as order size increases, and if this doesn't happen, then it's time to check the next vendor on your list.

Local stores must increase prices to cover their higher operating expenses, but many receive items in large enough quantities to save you some of the money you'd otherwise spend on shipping. Consider the example of buying a single motherboard: online pricing might be $150 plus $10 shipping, totaling $160. If a local store bought 100 boards at a 10 percent discount and squandered that 10 percent savings on bulk shipping, it'd still be able to sell them for about the same cost, thus saving you $10 and several days of waiting.

"Loss leaders" are another way for you to save when shopping locally. These are items that larger stores like Best Buy or Fry's Electronics sell at a loss in order to lure you in, hoping their sales staff or flashy displays will get you to pick up a few more things on the way out.

Level Of Service

It's often said that you get what you pay for, and service is one area where local stores have the ability to outperform their online rivals (though not all of them do). Because small shops are constantly trying to build their reputations, and because they deal in lower volume, they're usually willing to go the extra mile to answer questions and earn your business. Larger electronics chains, on the other hand, focus on volume instead and would rather sell you another part than figure out why the one you have isn't working. Meanwhile, online merchants expect you to have enough knowledge to figure things out on your own.

Consider the situation of dealing with a compatibility issue:

  • Smaller, locally-owned shops will usually offer advice, inspect the item for free if you believe it's defective, or diagnose it in your system for a reasonable fee (again, that's not to say all of them will). On the other hand, they probably won’t be willing to provide a refund if you try to return a new component in used condition.
  • Most online merchants don't provide adequate tech support, instead going directly to the return process while charging a 15% "restocking fee" for any returned item. You'll end up paying for shipping both on the delivery and the return, and your 15% fee will go towards someone else's "open box" price reduction.
  • Favoring irresponsible buyers, "big box" retailers might give you all your money back if you come up with a good enough reason (or plausible excuse) for the return.

Seller Integrity

Local stores live and die by word of mouth, and will normally try to settle disputes amicably. Larger chain stores will generally try to dodge the bullet, though it might take a while for you to reach a satisfactory outcome.

Online merchants need to keep the majority of customers happy, but a minority can fall through the cracks. Many price comparison engines such as Google Shopping and Amazon have rating systems, which link to buyer reviews.

Auction sites are a great place to find discontinued hardware, but final selling prices on newer parts often exceed those of larger discount sites. Manufacturer warranties may not apply (especially to gray-market parts) and seller warranties are only as good as the seller's word. Be careful, though, and learn from one of our editors’ personal experience. He found a seller who had spent more than three years building his reputation as a power seller, and had a favorable rating of over 99%. This individual’s "retirement" plan, apparently, was to advertise items he didn't own during his final month of sales, and he was able to abscond with a six-figure salary of ill-gotten gains, including a few hundred dollars of our editors’ hard-earned cash. Thankfully, it has become more difficult to succeed at these scams, and payment companies with buyer protection policies will now track down criminals who've cost them insurance money.

Purchasing Summary

Online merchants offer the lowest price, but most vendor’s shipping policies favor large purchases. If you can get most items from one site, your savings could be significant. Inexpensive orders are often best-sourced locally due to shipping fees.

Furthermore, peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and game controllers are so dependent on individual ergonomics that it's usually best to try a few before making a purchase. Large retail chains may provide an adequate selection of parts to try out, but many buyers use these stores to "window shop" before placing an online order.

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32 comments
    Your comment
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    "the power supply is actually one of the more important parts of a build"
    Thank you!!

    Or rather, let's do what the cool kids are doing and rather post a GIF:
    https://giphy.com/gifs/the-office-thank-you-michael-scott-1Z02vuppxP1Pa
    3
  • Eggz
    Great piece for a lot of first-time builders. This should have a sticky somewhere on the site so it doesn't get buried :-)
    5
  • jkhoward
    Quote:
    "the power supply is actually one of the more important parts of a build"
    Thank you!!

    Or rather, let's do what the cool kids are doing and rather post a GIF:
    https://giphy.com/gifs/the-office-thank-you-michael-scott-1Z02vuppxP1Pa


    Seriously, not enough people realize how import a good PSU is. I am working with someone is heavily overclocking an i7 and two 970 in SLI as well as 4 SSD and a few hard drives, a bunch of fans, with a 750W PSU.
    -2
  • jkhoward
    Also... I am digging the age of some of these images.
    4
  • alidan
    Quote:
    Quote:
    "the power supply is actually one of the more important parts of a build"
    Thank you!!

    Or rather, let's do what the cool kids are doing and rather post a GIF:
    https://giphy.com/gifs/the-office-thank-you-michael-scott-1Z02vuppxP1Pa


    Seriously, not enough people realize how import a good PSU is. I am working with someone is heavily overclocking an i7 and two 970 in SLI as well as 4 SSD and a few hard drives, a bunch of fans, with a 750W PSU.


    unless i'm thinking wrong, isn't that within the power limits of a 750? im even assuming that each gpu is 300 watts and i know they shouldn't hit that even with the most aggressive of ocs

    granted there is a distinction between a good psu and a bad one, but im just assuming its a good one.
    3
  • chimera201
    Motherboard slots haven't evolved much. Wished every slot was like a USB slot
    0
  • turkey3_scratch
    Anonymous said:
    Seriously, not enough people realize how import a good PSU is. I am working with someone is heavily overclocking an i7 and two 970 in SLI as well as 4 SSD and a few hard drives, a bunch of fans, with a 750W PSU.


    Your point being... ?
    3
  • renosablast
    Steps 1 and 3 should be combined, and step 2 comes after 1 and 3. You better worry about the CPU and motherboard combo compatibility before you worry about a graphics card.
    -1
  • renosablast
    Sorry, meant steps 2 and 4 before 3.
    0
  • SR-71 Blackbird
    I love when you see a $1500.00 build with top quality components and then they have a $40.00 PSU listed with it.
    5
  • Outlander_04
    IMO the very first component selection for a gaming build should always be the .... MONITOR.
    Decisions on where and how to spend the rest of the budget can only be made once you know the resolution , and whether its 60 Hz, 144 Hz or whatever else is available
    1
  • MasterMace
    Gonna throw in my disagreement on the priority, mentioned nice and early in the article. The first thing you pick is never your case. There's 3 things you can decide to be your starting point when building a pc to make it a smooth ride; either, 1. Budget. 2. CPU 3. Graphics. By picking 1 of these 3 things as your starting point, you can have a very smooth build process. Does that mean you buy your case last? No, I've seen plenty of builds where the case arrives first as a way of storing the items, but when you want a solid build, your case is last priority, as it has no impact on your performance and restricts the size of your items.

    Even if you wanted to build an odd form factor, like an itx, you would still pick the cpu or the budget before the case.
    2
  • MrXtreme
    Thank you for explaining ESD correctly. I have been annoyed with articles over exaggerating about ESD a lot. So just touching something metal can help? Well, next time I think I'll set a PC on my wooden desk instead of the carpet.
    0
  • kunstderfugue
    Quote:
    I love when you see a $1500.00 build with top quality components and then they have a $40.00 PSU listed with it.


    The XFX TS Bronze 550 comes down to $43 ish from time to time and that's a mighty fine PSU to power a single graphics card build.
    0
  • nitrium
    Quote:
    "the power supply is actually one of the more important parts of a build"
    Thank you!!

    While not unimportant, it gets far too much attention on the forum's here. PSU's are only relatively rarely the cause of issues, and I'll go out on a limb and say that virtually ANY modern 650W PSU (even ultra-cheap China garbage) will reliably power a single GPU and CPU, regardless of model or how much OCing you do to them.
    -3
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    I am working with someone is heavily overclocking an i7 and two 970 in SLI as well as 4 SSD and a few hard drives, a bunch of fans, with a 750W PSU.


    unless i'm thinking wrong, isn't that within the power limits of a 750? im even assuming that each gpu is 300 watts and i know they shouldn't hit that even with the most aggressive of ocs

    granted there is a distinction between a good psu and a bad one, but im just assuming its a good one.
    You're exactly right. We've been using high-quality power supplies in most of our System Builder Marathon machines, and dual 970s was in one of the builds. The super-high recommendations you see from other sites are a response to most builders using mediocre-quality units.
    1
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Gonna throw in my disagreement on the priority, mentioned nice and early in the article. The first thing you pick is never your case. There's 3 things you can decide to be your starting point when building a pc to make it a smooth ride; either, 1. Budget. 2. CPU 3. Graphics. By picking 1 of these 3 things as your starting point, you can have a very smooth build process. Does that mean you buy your case last? No, I've seen plenty of builds where the case arrives first as a way of storing the items, but when you want a solid build, your case is last priority, as it has no impact on your performance and restricts the size of your items.

    Even if you wanted to build an odd form factor, like an itx, you would still pick the cpu or the budget before the case.
    Exactly wrong. The first thing people do is say "I want a LAN box" or "I want a media player" or "I want a big gorgeous office PC". They're picking a case SIZE when they make those FIRST statements, so size comes first in the discussion.
    1
  • beoza
    Quote:
    Anonymous said:
    Gonna throw in my disagreement on the priority, mentioned nice and early in the article. The first thing you pick is never your case. There's 3 things you can decide to be your starting point when building a pc to make it a smooth ride; either, 1. Budget. 2. CPU 3. Graphics. By picking 1 of these 3 things as your starting point, you can have a very smooth build process. Does that mean you buy your case last? No, I've seen plenty of builds where the case arrives first as a way of storing the items, but when you want a solid build, your case is last priority, as it has no impact on your performance and restricts the size of your items.

    Even if you wanted to build an odd form factor, like an itx, you would still pick the cpu or the budget before the case.
    Exactly wrong. The first thing people do is say "I want a LAN box" or "I want a media player" or "I want a big gorgeous office PC". They're picking a case SIZE when they make those FIRST statements, so size comes first in the discussion.


    I have to agree with you on this Crashman. Whenever I go to build a new system for friends or relatives I always ask what they're going for in terms of use. I like to go with the Form follows function principle which is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.
    0