One of the eternal questions in the PC world is whether it's a better value to build or buy a PC. Sure, building may almost always be more fun, but money is important, too! We've seen it go both ways in recent years, based on supply and demand, but with Black Friday deals in full swing, we wanted to see how current pricing would affect the calculus.
To make our comparisons, we grabbed two pre-built PC configurations off of our Best Black Friday PC and Laptop deals page — one somewhat boutique, the other through a big box store — and tried to build something similar (with some adjustments that we could afford) to see how they'd come out.
With current pricing, and the help of some current deals, we were able to undercut both systems. But not by as much as you might think.
Boutique-ish: NZXT Player: Three
|Header Cell - Column 0||NZXT Player: Three||Custom Build||Custom Build Price|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-13700KF||Intel Core i7-13700KF||$336|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Ti||MSI Ventus 3X E OC GeForce RTX 4070 Ti||$734.99|
|CPU Cooler||NZXT Kraken 280 RGB||Corsair iCue H115i Elite Cappelix XT Liquid CPU Cooler||$159.99|
|SSD||1TB NVMe M.2 SSD||WD Black SN850X (1TB)||$79.99|
|Motherboard||Z790||MSI MAG Z790 Wi-Fi DDR4||$199|
|RAM||32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3200||Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600||$94.99|
|Case||NZXT H7 Flow||NZXT H7 Flow||$109.99|
|Power Supply||750W Gold||Thermaltake Toughpower GF A3 850W||$109.99|
|Total||$2,099||Row 8 - Cell 2||$1,824.94|
The NZXT Player: Three we found was on sale for $2,099, down from $2,499. It has an Intel Core i7-1700KF, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Ti, 1TB SSD, 32GB of RAM and a 750W power supply.
For this build, we kept a few identical parts, including the same case, the NZXT H7 Flow, as well as the CPU. NZXT doesn't specify a specific motherboard or SSD you get (that likely has to do with supply), meaning we had some freedom to pick them. I matched the 1TB drive with a high-end WD Black SN850X, and frankly, I probably could've fit a 2TB SSD in here.
I also chose to go with an 850W PSU with ATX 3.0, rather than the 750W one in NZXT's build.
I could shaved a bit more money off our version by going with RAM or a CPU cooler not made by Corsair, but they fell well within the budget and still came in well below the prebuilt system.
Overall, our build saved us $275 before taxes and Windows. If you need an OS, see our feature on how to get Windows for free or cheap.
Big Box: Lenovo Legion Tower 5
|Header Cell - Column 0||Lenovo Legion Tower 5||Custom Build||Custom Build Price|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 7700X||AMD Ryzen 7 7700X||$310|
|GPU||Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070||Gigabyte Windforce OC GeForce RTX 4070||$549.99|
|CPU Cooler||Air Cooler||Deepcool AK500 Zero Dark||$43.99|
|SSD||512GB NVMe M.2 SSD + 1TB HDD||Crucial P5 Plus (2TB)||$89.99|
|Motherboard||AM5 motherboard||AsRock B650M Pro RS Wi-Fi||$124.99|
|RAM||16GB||Patriot Viper Venom 16GB DDR5-5600||$58.99|
|Case||Legion Tower 5||Phanteks Eclipse G360A||$79.99|
|Power Supply||500W||EVGA SuperNOVA 750 GT||$89.99|
|Total||$1,499.99||Row 8 - Cell 2||$1,347.93|
The Lenovo Legion 5 is currently priced at $1,499.99, $430 off the regular price at Best Buy. Best Buy doesn't list all of the specs, giving us some room to be flexible. In other places, I chose to make some changes that I think will make for a better experience.
We stuck with the AMD Ryzen 7 7700X, but made other component changes. For instance, Lenovo combined a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD with a 1TB mechanical HDD. I changed that out for a single 2TB SSD, providing for more speedy space and easier installation.
I also chose to bump the PSU from 500W to 750W, which will make further upgrades easier.
Lenovo doesn't sell this case and motherboard separately, so we went with one of our favorite budget cases and an affordable mini-ATX motherboard (some might want a full-sized ATX, board which you could get for not much more).
All in all, Lenovo's price difference wasn't as stark as NZXT's here. But in that price range, we were also able to make a few improvements. Still, we'ved saved $152 before taxes and Windows.
Paying for labor
Of course, one thing we can't price is your time. For many of us here at Tom's Hardware, building a PC is fun. We'd probably spend a bit more to build, because it's fun, educational, and we get exactly what we want.
Many people buying pre-builts just want to have a PC show up at home, plug it in, download games, and get started. For them, they're paying for the labor to put it together, plus some profit margin. And they're saving a few hours of time, which never goes on sale.
Just be sure that your desired system is in stock or ready to ship if you're going the prebuilt route. Often, if you opt for a custom configuration, it can take weeks before your PC actually ships, depending on the company you buy it from, the stock of parts that company has on hand, and how backlogged it might be with orders already.
Only you can decide how you value your time. But on price alone, you can, with some Black Friday deals, currently save a bit of money by building your own PC.
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Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE
Not sure why Custom Builds aren't included in these comparisons?Reply
Different from pre-builds in you can change components to what you want. Yes, you may have to pay 100-200£$€, but should be considered.
It's not just time and labor that you pay for, but system builders (and I hope the "pick the parts and we'll build it" companies do the same) also offer support and general product warranty.Reply
If you build a computer by yourself, you're on your own. And if you're past the store's return window, you'll have to deal with the manufacturer's RMA.
hotaru.hino said:If you build a computer by yourself, you're on your own. And if you're past the store's return window, you'll have to deal with the manufacturer's RMA.
In my experience being "on my own" is no worse than most places "service".
In either case if you have problems there is some hassle. But these products are a class with little to go wrong since they are generally built in factories with adequate quality control and the testing environment and the work environment are not much different.
Motherboard and motherboard support is the biggest issue to me. If you can get a pre-built with a name brand motherboard available for sale on the market than I think you avoid one of the biggest problems with prebuilts.
LoL, don't build or buy anything. Wait for Zen 5 CPUs.Reply
That's a looong wait. Almost a year, IF there's no slip in the schedule.dimar said:LoL, don't build or buy anything. Wait for Zen 5 CPUs.
Building a PC is completely stupid and ignorant with no logical sense. Yeah you may pay a little bit more before 150 bucks you can get like a three or four year warranty on it. Get the warranty burn it out get a check for what you paid repeat the process is that simpleReply
Nothing you wrote makes no logical sense. Was that some kind of humor thing?rabbit4me2 said:Building a PC is completely stupid and ignorant with no logical sense. Yeah you may pay a little bit more before 150 bucks you can get like a three or four year warranty on it. Get the warranty burn it out get a check for what you paid repeat the process is that simple
You have your opinion, other people have a completely different opinion.rabbit4me2 said:Building a PC is completely stupid and ignorant with no logical sense. Yeah you may pay a little bit more before 150 bucks you can get like a three or four year warranty on it. Get the warranty burn it out get a check for what you paid repeat the process is that simple
Don't call others stupid, just because they think differently.