In most PC enthusiast circles, recommending a custom shop gaming PC over a DIY build would usually elicit ire from the likes of those who traverse the Tom's Hardware forums. However, the component market’s suddenly volatile pricing on memory and graphics cards has pushed the value needle of high-end gaming PCs towards custom shop configurators over DIY builds, and now is a great time to go boutique. Here’s why.
Outrageous Component Pricing
Cryptocurrency mining has been affecting consumer graphics card pricing for quite some time now, pushing costs well above the recommended MSRP for just about anything more powerful than an AMD RX 560 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050. High-end graphics cards suffer the most from this, with in-stock GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPUs currently (as of this writing) priced at over $1,200 and Radeon RX Vega 64 GPUs going for about the same at online retailers. Now is not a great time to buy a premium graphics card for the purpose of a new gaming PC.
The cost of memory has been steadily rising as well, with prices nearly doubling in the last few months alone. IC production is the primary cause of this, and 16GB kits (the gold standard for enthusiasts) are now reaching up to $200 or more (for faster or flashier RAM). Again, this makes it difficult for price-conscious DIY builders to get the same value for their dollar that they could just a few short months ago. At the risk of repeating ourselves: Now is not a great time to buy memory for the purpose of a new gaming PC.
Custom Shop Price Comparison
With the value proposition of the DIY component market seemingly tossed out the window, we took a quick look at a few configurators from some of the leading custom shop PC builders (including Maingear, Digital Storm, AVADirect, and CyberpowerPC) to see where they stand against current DIY component pricing. We made a random build in the custom shop configurator and then matched (as best that was possible, if not exactly) a Newegg shopping cart to the components selected in each of the high-end custom builds to see which source was a better deal for the buck.
We included the tax (NJ - 7%) and shipping charges of the Newegg carts (rounding up to the nearest dollar) in the final comparison because most custom shops don’t charge tax (or they include it in the price) on the total cost. We also included each custom shop’s respective overclocking services (CPU or CPU/GPU) in the final pricing, which adds between $20 and $50 to the boutique builds. Shipping for most custom shops is calculated after the listed pricing, but in most cases, it does not exceed $80. All pricing stated below is as of this writing.
|Custom Shop||Maingear||AVADirect||Digital Storm||CyberpowerPC|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-8700K||Intel Core i7-7800X||AMD Ryzen 7 1700X||Intel Core i7-8700K|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Maximus X Hero (WiFi)||Asus ROG Strix X299-E||Asus Prime X370 Pro||Asus TUF Z370 Plus Gaming|
|Memory||16GB (2 x 8GB) HyperX DDR4-2666||16GB (4 x 4GB) G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-2666||16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3000||16GB (2 x 8GB) ADATA DDR4-3000|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB GDDR5X||EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 11GB GDDR5X||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GDDR5X|
|Storage||- 512GB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD-2TB Seagate 7,200RPM HDD||- 500GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD-2TB Seagate 7,200RPM HDD||- 250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD-2TB Seagate 7,200RPM HDD||- 250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD-2TB WD Black 7,200RPM HDD|
|Power Supply||750W EVGA Supernova B3||750W EVGA Supernova B3||750W EVGA Supernova G3||650W Corsair CX650M|
|Case||NZXT S340 Tempered Glass||Corsair 750D Full Tower||Corsair 600Q Full Tower||InWin 101 Tempered Glass|
|Cooling||240mm AIO CPU Liquid Cooler||Corsair H100i v2 240mm CPU Liquid Cooler||Corsair H100i v2 240mm CPU Liquid Cooler||Corsair H60 120mm CPU Liquid Cooler|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home||Windows 10 Home||Windows 10 Home||Windows 10 Home|
|Newegg Component Price (W/ Tax + Shipping)||$3,213||$3,108||$2,306||$2,176|
|Custom Shop Price (No Shipping)||$3,212||$2,746||$2,471||$2,036|
|Savings With Custom Shops||$1||$362||-$165||$140|
Digital Storm appears to be the only custom shop we inspected that currently offers systems (or at least some of them) at a higher cost than DIY component pricing. Boutique shops such as AVADirect, CyberpowerPC, and Maingear currently offer more value with pricing that meets or beats the cost of building it yourself. This has traditionally never been the case, and enthusiasts have always been quick to point out (in nearly every one of our desktop PC reviews) that custom shop PCs usually cost hundreds of dollars more, on average, than a DIY build with the same or similar components. However, right now, that's not the case.
It should be noted that the GPU pricing in our shopping carts is based on what is available (and in stock) from Newegg. For the GTX 1080 examples in our chart, we were able to find a Gigabyte GTX 1080 graphics card in stock for $799 direct from Newegg. However, the GTX 1080 Ti examples were estimated with third party seller prices (Newegg itself was out of stock), which have been heavily inflated by the GPU shortage (the 1080 Tis were priced at a ridiculous $1,399).
We also avoided using GPU configurations with the most egregiously price-gouged components to make the comparison more fair. For example, if you were to swap out the GTX 1080 graphics card in the Digital Storm sample for a GTX 1070 Ti, the value winner would actually flip back to the custom shop PC. This is because the lowest-priced GTX 1070 Ti available on Newegg (from a third party seller) is around $1,049 ($250 more than our GTX 1080 direct from Newegg), and it costs less than a GTX 1080 in Digital Storm's configurator. In other words, in our table above we presented scenarios with the greatest parity between DIY builds and custom shop PCs, but it only gets worse (for component pricing) from there.
We should note, though, that it is entirely possible to somewhat bring down the cost of our DIY estimates with smarter shopping from multiple sources (or a better taxation rate), but in any case, our little experiment sheds light on a suffering DIY component market and a potential value play for custom shop builders.
The tables appear to have temporarily turned in favor of the custom boutique builders, but pricing for these custom shop PCs could change to reflect current component costs at any time (or, hopefully, component pricing goes back to acceptable levels). The window of opportunity is probably quickly closing, but many custom shop gaming PCs currently appear to hold better value than DIY builds thanks to the significant price increases in the memory and GPU component market.