Newegg’s new ENIAC PC assembly service lets you source parts across Newegg’s whole inventory to buy a custom, pre-assembled build, but it might also mean the company will hold back rare components for anyone not buying through ENIAC. Despite being named after the first programmable electronic computer, this definitely isn’t the first built-to-order PC service we’ve seen. But it’s probably the most robust, since it’ll have a wider selection than the likes of Maingear or iBuyPower, and will be more accessible than Microcenter’s store-pickup-only service. However, it’s unclear how it will work with rare components like the best graphics cards, and it might even interfere with buying those components individually.
ENIAC is a natural follow-up to Newegg’s PC Builder service, which launched globally in August of last year. The PC Builder works similar to PCPartPicker in that it lets you assemble a list of compatible components for a hypothetical PC Build. ENIAC’s goal, then, is to let you take that hypothetical build and turn it into reality without having to put all the parts together yourself. According to an ENIAC Q&A page on Newegg’s website, orders that you pay Newegg to pre-assemble for you will ship out in “7-10 business days.”
We here at Tom’s Hardware generally agree that actually assembling a build yourself is part of the fun when making a custom PC, but we do acknowledge how useful services like this can be, either for people who are new to custom PCs, those with mobility issues, or those who just don’t have the time to assemble a build themselves.
But there is a catch to this convenience. That’s because there’s a chance ENIAC might set a precedent of not being able to buy rare components from Newegg on their own or for builds you intend to put together yourself anymore. Newegg’s ENIAC press release says “Custom gaming builds are comprised of the latest computer components such as Intel and AMD processors and RTX graphics cards,” and while the press release doesn’t talk about the specifics of how offering such hard-to-find parts with ENIAC works, language in the ENIAC Q&A we linked to earlier makes for some troubling, if unclear, implications.
As of right now, the Newegg Shuffle is the only way to get a rare component like an RTX 3000 series graphics card from Newegg, and the chances of winning a Newegg Shuffle raffle are low. But the ENIAC Q&A page says some components will now be labelled as “hot items” and will have purchasing options/restrictions placed on them that will let you buy them outside of the shuffle, but only if you get them as part of an ENIAC pre-assembled build. “A ‘hot item’ product with limited supply can only be purchased with PC Builder Assembly Service,” it explains.
Still, it also says “hot items will not be the same throughout the day.” So while it seems possible that you’ll finally be able to buy rare parts from Newegg-- through ENIAC-- without needing to win a Shuffle, ENIAC may conversely also be the only way to get these parts from Newegg outside of the Newegg Shuffle going forward. On the plus side, what’s considered a “hot item” could change frequently.
Still, if “limited supply” is all it takes for a product to qualify as a “hot item,” it’s likely that some rare components won’t drop from the “hot items” list for weeks or even months. That’s unfortunate, as the Q&A page explains that customers won’t be able to complete the checkout process on “hot items” without adding a lot of other components onto their order, plus choosing to have it pre-assembled. “To qualify for assembly service with your hot item, just add the following components to your build: CPU, Motherboard, Memory, Video Card, Case, Power Supply.”
To be fair, this isn’t too different from Newegg’s current strategy, in that you can’t currently buy rare parts on their own from the site anyway. You either need to win a Newegg Shuffle, which usually packs these parts in bundles full of unnecessary extra equipment, or you need to stumble across a pre-built with your desired component before it sells out. In this way, being able to get these components through ENIAC at least gives you more choice as to which parts your component will be bundled with.
Not that we should have to settle for unnecessary bundles to begin with.
But even if you’re ok with buying extra components to get a “hot item,” this also means that you’ll have to pay extra for assembly and will need to get a whole new PC with every “hot item” you order, unless you go to a different store or get lucky in the Newegg Shuffle. You also won’t be able to build the PC yourself, which like we said, is part of the fun for plenty of enthusiasts.
It does make sense why Newegg would have to take these steps, though, as smaller built-to-order competitors like Maingear do build computers with rare components like RTX cards. The difference, though, is that Maingear isn’t building those computers by removing individual RTX card purchase options from its store. If Newegg can make stock on rare components available for ENIAC purchases, that means it has stock it’s not selling through other means.
It’s possible that there could be a compromise in the future, in that Newegg might eventually allow customers to buy full builds that have “hot items” without including pre-assembly. As of now, though, it seems like you’ll need to let Newegg build your PC for you if you want to buy a rare component from the site.
If you do want to use the service, though, Newegg's website is currently listing the ENIAC pre-assembly fee at $99.
By comparison, Microcenter’s PC build service has 5 flat fee build tiers, with different prices depending on your cooling setup. These range from $149 - $799. But again, getting a custom build from Microcenter means you’ll need to be able to travel to a nearby location to pick it up. With only 25 locations across the US, that’s not a possibility for everyone.
Newegg also has the advantage of being able to source parts across its entire inventory, which should drastically increase selection...outside of the “hot items” issue. Even with Microcenter’s large stock selection, it probably won’t be able to compete with Newegg. And this is an even bigger issue for smaller built-to-order competitors like iBuyPower. Let’s hope Newegg’s “hot item” practices don’t encourage similar behavior from other companies.
According to a press release from Newegg, the ENIAC feature is only in beta for now, so there are chances for it to change soon. Apparently, future phases will include “more perks and options, like laser engraving,” but I feel like bigger fixes might be needed first.