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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. i too love to tinker with pc's. Regardless of price difference i would build my own purely for the pleasure. Plus I have piece of mind knowing i have used components that are good quality.

    Not everyone has a bottomless wallet, me included, so its nice to be able to build a beast of a machine over time instead of needing to remortgage my house to buy it one go.
  2. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,706   +172

    With the wealth of information and videos on the internet there isn't really an excuse for any slightly tech-savvy person to defer to OEM manufacturers. Support, warranties, etc. are very overrated because you'll spend £10 in phone bills and wait weeks for a replacement. Also by the time a component fails, it will have probably depreciated to half its value and would be more efficient just to buy a newer part.

    Plus as mentioned above you would be missing out on the sense of self-fulfilment, and I don't think it just applies to "enthusiasts" either.
  3. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    I very rarely put together a whole new computer. Usually I just upgrade the motherboard, CPU and RAM, and keep the rest of the components the same. Back in the old days you could upgrade just the CPU or RAM, keeping the same motherboard, but all these newfangled chipsets ended that.

    But when I put together my system about a year and a half ago, I was going new from top to bottom, having decided I would keep my old system intact and use it as a second computer. I shopped around for the equivalent components, and it always came up more expensive, and most importantly I did not know what kind of motherboard, RAM, or PSU that I was getting. And then I end up having to pay for some visual crap that I don't want. I just put it all together, and still was about $500 less than the equivalent system OEM.

    I suppose it I had more money, I might buy an OEM computer with a proper water cooling set up, with good components and good warranty. That's really the only thing I would buy a complete computer for, is a warranty.
  4. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,363   +67

    With the sale prices in the Chicago Tribune for OEMs and the troubles I had in building my ASUS, I wouldn't build one again. First was the UV cathode's ballast causing the motherboard not to post 1 out of 3 times. Then, there was the Seagate hard disk firmware problem, which took 1000 clicks of the mouse to find the fixing firmware on their website; it wasn't one of the serial numbers in their list so they wouldn't let me have it even tho the firmware upgrade fixed its problem. Then, the Radeon tv tuner video card drivers don't work with the chore I had in mind; converting my vhs tapes to dvd. It records tv via antenna ok, but sound on vhs tapes is choppy and unacceptable. Lucky I had a lot of time 2 winters ago to build it. How do those computer shops do it (for free)? There is a purpose for those Indian support people and that is to support something like this. I am in the business and I would never assemble a computer for free. I wouldn't expect Fry's to either.
  5. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,363   +67

    You also forgot that most OEM computers on sale come with monitors and printers at a significant discount.
  6. Last year, after having built my own PC's for both myself , family members and friends for 10 years I found myself wanting a new gaming rig and having no motivation to build it myself. After doing some research I decided to buy a machine from ibuypower.com. I chose them over Alienware as more component choices were available.

    I was able to use the same process in picking components as I would when building my own machine. A wide variety of choices is available for each component starting with the case, then it's on to choosing PSU, HD, MB, RAM, video, sound, cooling options ect.

    I ended up with a high quality PC built to my own specs, I just didn't have to build it myself. The build quality is outstanding, a better job than I could have done myself, as I don't build machines everyday like the techs do at ibuypower or any of the companies mentioned in the article.

    There are many companies similar to ibuypower that offer a ton of customization options, good prices and quality. I think when so many choices are available in the marketplace it comes down to motivation. If you want to tinker and build your own, go ahead, you can do so and build a machine for a price that is competitive with most system builders.
  7. I've built the last 5 rigs I've owned. I would never consider buying a rig built by a commercial vendor. I was burned a few times in the 90's buying systems that had a lot of crap I would never need nor use. I finally learned a lesson and started building my own rigs. Much cheaper, (dollar wise), than they can be purchased ready-to-go from some mass marketing venue. And, it's fun putting a rig together yourself.
  8. Personally I love building my computers and to be honest it's not overly complicated to put part A in the part A slot even if some manual reading is required for newbies. The more difficult aspect of computer building is customizing with water and case mods and to some degree o/c optimizing.

    Simply if your afraid to put your hands inside of a computer your still better off choosing the parts and getting it built by a wholesale for $100 or whatever. That way you can choose every part of the computer and get a good cost rate on the parts without having to put it together yourself. Keeping your warranty.

    - If it works out cheaper to buy a prebuilt computer than go for it
    - If the prebuilt doesn't have the parts you want go for your own parts and get the pros to build it for reasonable price.
    - If you want a great looking custom build but don't know how to build it you'll be up for some money and labor costs to get a pro build e.g alien-ware or other high end custom builders.
  9. Nevercheck

    Nevercheck TS Rookie

    Ty for responding, dont often see actual responses from the suppliers, and yes i agree, Motherboard is an expensive and very critical component

    Also, what about upgrades or extras? Does the dell have 2pci-ex1 slots for... say TV tuner cards or wireless cards?

    Motherboard upgrades are important, even if you buy an oem system, are you never going to want to upgrade your graphics? is that even possible? the components that arent included in some of the builds are important...what about custom cooling? not necessarily water cooling or passive, but just extra fans. When i Build computers, i always put at LEAST 2 extra fans in, and often replace the fans that come stock (often too loud and aftermarket fans, if you look closely for them have an extended lifespan) in cases. So as this is a good guide, i dont think that it is complete.

    I have built many computers, varying from High-end watercooled massively overclocked gaming systems to HTPC's and gateways (not the brand) If you ARE buying an oem system, you dont pay just for parts, you pay for the support, and if you know little to nothing about computers or hardware, i would spend the extra money and have someone else build you a rig that has little risk involved.

    Also noticing, i understand why the OS wasnt included, it is not the same price everywhere, and not fair to add on to price, or if you have an old os you will install, it is free. But what about free software with the OEM? Do any of them include say MS Office? that in itself could be a costly upgrade. What about the (free) Antivirus programs (although often just a trial) Just a thought...

    Anyways Big fan of Techspot, read a ton of articles, but rarely respond, but this article is great start to what could be tedious if you started looking for every single component, but this is a good basis.

    Let me know if i am way off base here, will check soon...
  10. Omitting the motherboard is the biggest flaw of your article.

    As I am sure you are aware, prices range from less than $100 to mare than $500 for a P55 motherboard, which can make a significant difference.

    Without knowing which motherboard is used in those builds; I say it is apples to oranges.
  11. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Posts: 5,313   +100

    Jeez folks, give us a little credit. We absolutely did NOT exclude a motherboard from the price. To quote an earlier comment by nazartp:

    Perhaps it was a mistake leaving it off the table in this tip but it was certainly factored into the price.
  12. nigelle

    nigelle TS Rookie

    There are some characteristics that I do not accept : hidden partition for recovery, tattooed machine where you have to keep together at least your motherboard and your disk and your Windows. This eliminate many PC manufacturers. Others that I don't like : bloat ware installed and difficult to completely remove (Norton or MacAffee), recovery CD/DVD (instead of genuine Windows), low quality components (as the disk in my daughter PC changed before 3 months).
    So I insist to choose myself the elements of my configuration and I check in specialized sites their performances and reliability.
    We are lucky to have in Paris, Montgallet street with approximately 30 PC components shops in less than 200 meters and at least one serious company with good reputation (out of Paris for lower labor cost but with a shop in Paris) that sells on internet components or assembled PC (fixed cost for assembly) with 2 years warranty : that means some competition and not too high cost... As I am lazy and have a bad back, I buy to this company an assembled PC with my list of components.
    Unfortunately in France 1 US dollar = 1 Euro in the PC industry...
  13. Badfinger

    Badfinger TS Rookie Posts: 155

    I can still put together a more than adequate system for MOST Windows users for under $1000 especially if an OS is already licensed and doesn't need purchased.
    Good Linux PC, a lot less $.
    My system is a E8400 CPU on a P35 mobo, a 5850 video card, 64bit 7, 6 gigs of DDR2-1066, Turtle Beach Riviera sound card, 7200RPM SATA HD's, and I am perfectly content.
    I am knowledgable about tweaking Windows however, so I suspect I have my bloat probably better contained than 99% of users, which definitely helps.
  14. Just built one new i7 recently. I think a majority of high end gamers prefer to build their own rig. It's like street creed; want to be a street racer, gotta get the hands dirty. Boys in Lambos are the ones usually buying pre-build sets - kind'a for show - probably can't even play a decent game. I'd say if anyone can fix an IKEA furniture, they can certainly build a PC. The real skill lies in the neatness and heat management.
  15. arkantos

    arkantos TS Member Posts: 46

    there are people like me that is fascinated with assembling things, I will still go with the DIY.
  16. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    Sorry, i'm too thrifty...and newegg service is so much better. Definitely building mine, fun too and give you the most control.
  17. Been building my own PC's for over 15 years and worked out I can build the same system for up to 4 or 5 hundred dollars than most of the big name companies charge
  18. Hm..

    i7 930 @ 4,2 GHz
    3x2GB CSX 1600 CL9 (or 8 or 7, whatever I choose)
    HD 5770 HAWK MSI - 950 to 1050 MHz on GPU
    Foxconn BloodRage X58
    40GB SSD from Intel (fast one) + 1TB SeaGate
    Auzentech Bravura 7.1 (best soundcard for headphones and music and gaming in one package)
    850W Corsair HX

    I dont think you cant even buy this completed. :) Thats exactly why I build my own PCs, and friends.. and other ppl ones.

    It work flawless, its really fast.. well, except graphic card, its perfect. :) But Im more PhotoShop user, than gamer.. so its ok.

    Buying OEM, is ok if you dont understand PCs, but if you do and you have some time.. its better to do it yourself.
  19. KBerger

    KBerger TS Rookie Posts: 17

    DIY is what I prefer, for all the above mentioned reasons. And in MY location DIY is the best option almost in all areas of life.

    Buying a pre-built system is, in my opinion, only preferable if you're buying a Mac, and that's what I recommend to the people torturing me with questions about the best pre-built desktop.

    HP, unfortunately, hasn't impressed me as one delivering that surpisingly good quality. On one occasion the CD-Drive of a HP branded desktop couldn't read a genuine MS Win2000 installation media... even though it was a Japanese version of Windows, I see no difference.
  20. Hey!

    I do agree that you ARE able to save some money building your own rig, but let me tell you that OEMs can compete with custom built ones. Why? Let's see.

    Look at an Alienware Aurora.
    Yes, I know it costs 300$ more than custom built rigs but you have to take this into consideration too. Aurora's come with High Quality water cooling, neat design features on cases that a cutom builder can never replicate ie.custom lights - not the cheap looking ones, high quality cases, good looking inside and out, WAY better cable managment, easy upgrades, great design, and you save a way lot of time, as you know, not everyone has the leisure to build one.

    Also, don't forget that they also include the OS which is a 64-bit W7, mouse, pad, keyboard, and a one year warranty. Let me put it to you this way. If you build a pc and something goes wrong, you'll have to call up different companies for different parts, while if you buy from an OEM, you just tell them what's wrong to your computer and let them figure it out themselves, saves you a whole lot of time and they might even replace a part or even the entire rig. I have built custom rigs and I think OEMs are better with pre-built because of the bundles they have with it. I think the misconception is when you guys search for PCs from OEMs that aren't meant for true gaming.

    I mean c'mon. I think if you guys do more research on OEM products and their benefits it's definitely something to think about. Honestly, you don't want to find gaming pcs on HP, DELL, or GATEWAY. It's more like ALIENWARE, IBUYPOWER, CYBERPOWERPC, MAINGEAR, all which are meant for gaming. Basically. it's like Lexus from Toyota, Acura from Honda and the likes. I basically am the type of person who would spend their time on much more productive stuff than build a pc. Just play the game when I want to, and not worry about anything with it.
  21. Built my box almost 2.5 years ago now and dropped $1.2k on it - it was a Barebone kit, which I had to supply my own OS, cooler and optical drive. frankly, all but three of the components tanked within a year - not all at once though.
    First the Mobo, then the Hard drive, followed by PSU and finally the RAM went. The mobo was XFX (780i), Hard drive was some random company that you don't think of when it comes to Hard drives, the PSU was a 600w Ultra components and the RAM was 2gb DDR2 XFX.

    The only parts that survived were the 8600GTS Over clocked by EVGA (and even though it's been replaced, it still works beautifully - I was getting 60FPS in COD:WaW settings high), the Q6600; which I'm still using - not OCed, and the Case; Aluminus by Ultra Products - but it's a case, not much to break, though the HDD racks leave many things to be desired. Like not falling out randomly.

    right now my machine looks like:
    EVGA 790i ULTRA
    4Gb Corsair DDR3
    EVGA GTX 260
    750Watt XIGMATEK PSU
    320Gb Hitachi
    750Gb WD Caviar Black

    All said and done - the machine probably would have cost me $1.5k-ish had I just bough all the parts right away. But because I messed around with the Barebone first (1.2k, when only about $500 of it kept working) I ended up having to spend an additional 1.5k to replace the mobo, PSU, RAM, and the HDD (with the Caviar Black) - the GTX and the additional hard drive were recent additions - bringing the total I spent on this rig close to 3k when the parts only worth 1.6kish.

    Moral of the story - avoid barebones like the plague. Just because the parts have been picked out by someone who works in the industry doesn't mean they are good or will work well together.
    I'm not the only one that I've talked to that's been burned by a Barebone kit purchase.
    It'll cost around the same all said and done as buying the parts separately, but when you buy the parts individually, you get exactly what you want and, provided you've done your research, everything will work together.
  22. You realize that just like how Toyota now own Lexus, Dell now owns Alienware?

    they used to be good - and not they are starting to sub out high-qual parts for cheaper ones - to increase their profit margins.
  23. Well said nazartp.
  24. RealXboxMaster

    RealXboxMaster TS Rookie Posts: 139

    LMAO.....Burty you awesome dude. Again, I 100% agree with you on this. I couldn't say it better than you...lol
  25. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,529   +2,316

    Yesterday I Couldn't Even Spell "System Integrator", Now I Are One...!

    All of you are aware that all the computer manufacturers' "system integrators" are doing, is shopping for the same parts we do, then putting them into cases that are too small and poorly ventilated to boot.

    Well, except for Bestec PSUs and Tri-Gem motherboards. Nobody in their right mind would buy them and put them in any case whatsoever, whether well ventilated or not. Yet verily, "system integrators" do exactly that.

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