When you buy a system for $500, you're going to get a mixed experience. On one hand, it's always nice to pay for a solution and have it delivered, just as you expected. On the other, don't be surprised when the convenience of having someone else do the job results in a relatively modest performer.
Ideally, we could take a nicely-packaged system and dress it up with our own components after getting tired of its idiosyncrasies. However, it's clear that most of these low-dollar configurations aren't really meant to be manhandled at all. Even a graphics upgrade is out of the question on most of them.
If gaming is on your priority list, there's no doubt that building a machine like Paul Henningsen's most recent $500 gaming build is the way to go.
|Component||March $500 Gaming PC||Dell i560-565NBK with graphics upgrade|
|CPU||AMD Phenom II X4 925||Intel Pentium E5800|
|CPU Cooler||AMD boxed heatsink/fan||-|
|RAM||G.Skill 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1333 (PC3 10600) Model F3-10666CL9D-4GBNS||3 GB DDR3-1333|
|Graphics||Sapphire 100315L Radeon HD 6850 1 GB||AMD Radeon HD 6670|
|Hard Drive||Samsung Spinpoint F4 HD322GJ/U 320 GB SATA 3Gb/s||500 GB 7200 RPM|
|Case||Xigmatek Asgard II B/O CPC-T45UE-U01||-|
|Power||Antec EarthWatts Green EA380D 380 W||300 W|
|Optical||Lite-On 24x DVD Burner SATA iHAS 124-04||8x DVD+R DVD Burner|
|3DMark11 Performance Preset||4670 3DMarks (Overclocked: 5015 3DMarks)||1615 3DMarks|
|Just Cause 28xAF/16xAA1280x720||40.6 FPS (Overclocked: 45.1 FPS)||25.5 FPS|
Now, we're leaving out a couple of very important variables here. The systems we bought include a mouse and keyboard. Those are relatively inexpensive items though, and we won't make a big deal about them in the line item chart above. The glaring omission in our itemized list is the cost of an operating system, which our SBM config doesn't include. A copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit runs about $70.
That's roughly the difference between upgrading a pre-built system with an entry-level graphics card and building a new machine from scratch. If you consider that a more apples-to-apples comparison, the conclusion here is pretty obvious. Though it uses more power, Paul's AMD-based configuration is so much faster than any of the five store-bought units that there's no way we'd orphan a quintet of Benjamins on an inflexible, manufactured system.
We've all seen how much more scalable higher-end boutique builds can be. But if you're operating on a limited budget, "doing it" yourself simply cannot be beat.
I just configured an iBuyPower rig for $489. It has Athlon X2 250, 4gb Ram, 500GB HDD, 500w Power Supply, Liquid cooling, Radeon 6570. For $24 more bucks I could get a 6670.
I know its not a killer machine but it puts these big box vendors to shame.
Also if you already have windows OEM you can get it reactivated on a new PC if you get the right Microsoft rep, also lie about motherboard dieing and not replaceable... Some will choke up a code.
I know you mentioned the discrepancies in the article, but if you aren't going to try a little harder to make a good comparison you shouldn't even make the article. Shop around online at better retailers than Best Buy, find the very best systems you can that cost about $550, THEN compare those to your own system.
I still expect the prebuilt systems to fall behind, but the article we have here isn't even a real comparison.
All you did was compared the systems performance and then list the Custom-built specs at the end without any benchmark comparison.
I was going to use this article for ALL of my friends to understand why they should build their own. But, since you guys compared the rainbow of feces available at Best Buy without showing the splendor that is home build, it's useless.