Tech Tip of the Week: Buying an Enthusiast PC - DIY vs. OEM

By Julio Franco · 52 replies
May 13, 2010
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  1. When it comes to buying a new desktop PC, any hardware buff will tell you there's nothing better than building your own machine. If not for the enjoyment of putting all the components together, then simply for the comfort that comes with knowing you are getting high quality parts. However, going the homebrewed route isn't everyone's cup of tea.

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  2. It used to be fun to build your own box, back when all you had to do was plug in a few addon boards and connect a few cables, but these days, when you're practically breaking your fingers installing 2 kg coolers, it's becoming really annoying.

    DIY is still good for those who cannot afford a high end machine in one go and those who want to customize their boxes to death, but for everyone else it's a useless effort. If I had the dough to get a high end machine, I would never lay a finger on a PC component again, even though I've been doing it since the 286 days.
  3. kaonis92

    kaonis92 TS Enthusiast Posts: 118

    Last time I bought a pre-built pc was when i was 11 (2004!). One of the reasons I build my pc's myself is that I never buy all the components at the same time...
  4. Tekkaraiden

    Tekkaraiden TS Evangelist Posts: 997   +93

    I'm curious why the custom built system didn't have an operating system included.
  5. I built my first machine back in 1999 and have never looked back. I'm up to version 9 of my rig which I call The Real Deal. Custom shop rigs a very overpriced and although great, the experience of reading reviews, checking the various vendors for prices, deciding on Intel or AMD, nvidia or ATI is priceless and satisfying. My Q6600 is still kicking and doing 3.5 on air.
  6. nazartp

    nazartp TS Enthusiast Posts: 178   +12

    Response to the Guest at the beginning of the thread. Except for boutiques who offer a good range of the parts, but overcharge heftily, I can never get exactly what I want from any OEMs.

    I've been building computers since '89. Every once in a while I will cave in, go buy a pre-made box, look inside and return it to the store. Majority of the boxes use PSUs inferior to the ones that I would choose, cases that lack sufficient airflow and not always, but quite often, very dumbed-down BIOS that allow only very basic tweaking. So to your point of not willing to lay a finger on a spare part, even if I would buy an OEM, I would need to change at least the PSU.

    Talking about boutiques, I just do not feel like overpaying about 30% for their services. I have enough money, just can't find justification for their fees. I'd rather add another video card or spring for an IPS monitor.
  7. I was actually going to build the PC I have now myself 2 years ago, and had selected all the parts. But when I brought the hardware list to my local computer store (and I mean local, as in small independent store), they offered to put it together for free. So I was lazy and had them do it. Even gave me a 1 year guarantee where if anything went wrong I could simply drop it off there and they'd fix it (much quicker driving downtown than sending it off to California).

    Did change the video card, PSU and RAM later though myself. Quite honestly, even without the free PC building service offered by my local store, I'd say the simple cost savings that you get by not going with a pre-built PC is well worth going the DIY route, much like anything DIY nowadays.
  8. compdata

    compdata TechSpot Paladin Posts: 529   +7

    I agree and think bot including one was a mistake. Oem licences are not that expensive but the OS and the systemlevel warentee are often a major decisionmaking point to me. In general though I agree that for higher end rigs it starts to make sense to build yourself as the "options" are what kills you on the prebuilt computers. However for the entry to mid level machines you can early beat a prebuilt.
  9. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,095   +864

    Because Dell, HP etc... don't offer their computers with anything else other than Windows, as if you built the machine, you could put OSX on (although it would be difficult) Linux Distro or if your building a PC, the chances of you having a copy somewhere of windows is fairly high.

    Anyway... I built a computer back in 2006 i think it was? back when AMD athlon X2's were ruling the roost until the Core2Duo's came out. I am stilling using my AMD to this day in my Gaming Rig, still runs Crysis due to the fact I can upgrade parts.

    I would never recommend a pre-built system because almost all components are of inferior quality,
    Motherboard is usually rubbish and BIOS is rubbish, Heatsink is usually bog standard and don't even get me started on the PSU's Dell use! Had a friend who's got a dell and wanted me to upgrade the graphics card so they can actually play games but in doing so we'd be way over the ammount of power the PSU supplied so I had to get him to buy a new PSU as well, even worse, When I call Dell about it they told me and I quote "Some of our systems are powered slightly differently compared to standard parts you can get in a shop, for example your model is powered backwards, you know, as in the power is sent in the opposite direction compared to a standard computer setup"

    He then went on to say how it is superior to "component longativity" Meanwhile I put him on hold and was laughing my little ribs off! Then when he shut up I said i'm replacing the PSU anyway because he just told me utter "Sh*t" he then told me not to swear and that it would invalidate the warrenty and he was "100% certain" the computer would explode when I did it, So i did and guess what??

    It worked! this was 2 years ago and it still runs Mass effect 2 and everything else fine!

    So now I refuse to actually purchase dell desktops ever again, don't mind their laptops but desktops, always build, once you have you'll never look back!
  10. LightHeart

    LightHeart TS Rookie Posts: 155

    Like Guest, a couple years ago, I went to my local independent computer store and worked with them to pick out all the componets and had them put it together and got a warranty. I got all the original boxes and materials that came with each componet. I have since upgraded the memory (no big deal) but have not had to upgrade anything else yet, though next thing will be the graphics card. It's a nice system and I'm quite happy I went this hybrid route.
  11. I am very critical of this article, as it lists some very limited options. Firstly, you should have considered the New Gateway Gaming desktops (as rewied by yourselves). The cheaper one costs $1300 and has the same graphics card and superior processor. Frankly, you really missed one here. Furthermore, the new Dell hexacore machine also offers exceptional value for money, even with an HD 5870 for less than your machine. You have been, frankly, way too rigid about the machines you choose. A wider range would have been much better.

    Oh, and by the way, there are no savings to be had comparing the Gateway rig you reviewed and your DIY rig. Furthermore, the hexacore system is even cheaper, and is definately cheaper than your enthusiast build.
  12. xempler

    xempler TS Rookie Posts: 24

    I just built my first system last year. Took some time to do the research but once I bought all the parts it was FUN. And it's a 1000% better than any pre-built system I ever bought. I can pretty much run any PC game on it and runs smooth as butter.
  13. Johny47

    Johny47 TS Rookie Posts: 157

    After owning a crappy Dell laptop(Inspiron I think) a while ago that cost almost £350, I learnt quite easily off the internet how to build my own PC, sites like this one for a good example are great for learning the basics or more(I didn't know about techspot back then).

    So I collected some basic but quite good quality parts and built my own PC, it wasn't all that powerful just a dual core system with 2GB of DDR2 and a mid range graphics card(at the time) and surprisingly it could run alot of games at a nice setting and it cost only a little more than the laptop I mentioned above which is great in my opinion.

    Honestly if I had enough money I would love to buy an Alienware PC(I often customize a PC on their site just to see how high I can get it to cost, came to about £7K once =P) but I really love building my own, it's just a nice feeling after you put all the stuff together then switch it on and it works =)
  14. I sure wish we made a thousand dollars on the F131! Our margins are much lower on that system.

    I do not see a motherboard included in your specs on your home built, and you leave out the price of the OS. Also, our F131 chassis, a Silverstone FT01, costs much more than an Antec 900. And it's made out of aluminum, not plastic and steel.

    We do appreciate being included in articles like this, thank you!

    Chris Morley
  15. TorturedChaos

    TorturedChaos TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 839   +29

    I have done partial upgrades to computers for a years now, but it wasn't until about 2 years ago I built my own. I will agree there is more time spent in it, but to an extent I enjoy looking at the parts and reading the reviews.
    After going the DYI route, and putting everything together from scratch I don't think I will ever buy an OEM computer again. The ability to customize your machine, and keep on a budget when doing it DYI is unmatched. And I will admit you don't get a warranty with it, and you have to do wall your own work, but you get such better parts.

    Even just upgrading an OEM computer to match mine I don't think you would ever get the same performance. OEM use too many cheap products that the average consumer doesn't care about (like Mobo and PSU).

    And you don't have to deal with all the bloat-ware. You only have what you install on it! For desktops you just can't beat DYI. Period.
  16. As my office PC, i always bought it OEM, something under $400 on sale. And it has had done the job great for years.

    As my main Server/gaming rig/media encoder etc etc... i have always built it from scratch.And i will do so till the end of my days.

  17. nazartp

    nazartp TS Enthusiast Posts: 178   +12

    Chris, they have it baked in into the price - if you check the building guide, they use a $110 ASRock motherboard. And I don't think they allude that you make $1,000 on each machine - they mention that you do not build those out of charity and you provide post-sale service. It is a question of investing your own time into research, build and support vs. buying from a company like yours. Time or money, basically.

    Self-built rig is not for everyone. It requires sufficient technical expertise as well as willingness to take risk of something going wrong and forgoing any technical support.
  18. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,679   +759

    I haven't bought a pre-built machine in years and years. You look at any of those OEM rigs and there is always some component that just isn't up to snuff - and usually it's the PSU. Another problem is they come loaded with crapware. You have to spend a full day just deleting all the junk they want you to buy and cleaning up the hard drive before you can even use the damn thing. Lastly, a lot of the hardware has been made proprietary to that manufacturer and you can't just go out and get replacement parts. You HAVE to go back to the manufacturer for replacements/upgrades.

    I like the fact that I know exactly what is in my box, that they are all quality components with the latest drivers/firmware upgrades, that I can swap any of those components out with newer ones with ease, and that I've loaded on the hard drive ONLY what I want to be on it.

    Having said that, I've encouraged a number of friends who are ready to upgrade to purchase the refurbished e-machines you see advertised all the time (very often posted on TechSpots "Pricewatch" deals section). You get a pretty big bang for your buck (normally around $400). And for the casual user who just wants to check e-mail, watch YouTube videos and do an occasional letter, these machines are perfect for that.
  19. I built my own back in 2007 or 2008. EVGA board with 680i chipset, EVGA 8800GTS. When it came out, MB was lauded as best thing since apple pie. Then 9 months down the road, started having issues. Sound issues, memory controller issues. When you build your own, you have to diagnose and fool with your own support. Never again! Way easier to pay a little extra and make it be someone else's job, if their is a problem. The time you save is well worth the extra money. That is why I bought Maingear. I want strong customer support as well; no risk.
  20. Lurker101

    Lurker101 TS Evangelist Posts: 816   +332

    My first desktop build, after migrating from a few latops was my first, from scratch build and I loved every second of building it. Thanks to building it myself, I know every square inch of my machine, which makes diagnosing any faults a breeze.
  21. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,324   +101

    We didn't include the Gateway FX series because it isn't customizable on the company's website. It simply varied too much to provide an apples to apples comparison with our Enthusiast build. Likewise, the Dell machine uses an entirely different platform.

    A quick breakdown comparing our machine to the $1,300 Gateway FX6831-01:

    Yes, for $1,300 the Gateway rig is an incredible value for someone lacking the time or knowledge to build their own PC. It indeed offers a slightly better processor (i7-860 -- which slightly boosts the i5-750's clock and adds HT), the same GPU, more storage space (1.5TB), 4GB more RAM, a Windows 7 license, and it even throws in a basic keyboard and mouse. However, it doesn't include a solid-state drive, a Blu-ray drive, a dedicated sound card, and no PCIe x16 slots are available.

    I just configured a build identically to the Gateway on Newegg (Windows 7, 8GB of RAM, 1.5TB HDD, 750W PSU, keyboard/mouse and all) -- it came out to $1,216. That's $84 cheaper before combo deals, rebates and other discounts -- not to mention that I slapped it together in less than ten minutes, so there are probably better value parts. It also ships without bloatware, most of the parts have a lengthier warranty than one year, and again, components like the PSU, motherboard and chassis are almost surely superior. So again, home-built prevails.
  22. The Guest at the bottom you made a rookie mistake in your build. Never buy an Nvidia motherboard! So i can see why you would prefer an OEM machine.

    Alot of research has to go into component selection when building, you need to browse thru forums looking for issues with certain boards and memory. The first computer I built was a 386 many moons ago been doing this for along time. I have never bought an OEM machine and never will. For those of you considering building your own, please try to get a much information as possible before you start selecting component either thru guides like this on internet or even just joining a forum and asking for advice from advanced builders!
  23. DryIce

    DryIce TS Rookie Posts: 60

    I don't know if there are many people like me, but even if building my own computer was slightly more expensive I would still build it myself because it's fun. Call me weird, but I really enjoy shopping around for computer parts that give me the best value for my money, and I love putting them together into a working machine.
  24. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,324   +101

    ;) You are far from alone in that respect, DryIce.
  25. That is what makes you an enthusiast and separates you from the mainstream crowd.

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