In 2001 I set out to assemble my first custom gaming PC. It included a 1.6GHz AMD processor, 512MB of SDRAM and a GeForce 4 video card. This machine was screaming fast at the time and allowed me to play titles ranging from Unreal Tournament to Operation Flashpoint. The total cost for the machine was about $750.00 which at the time was three times less than you would epect to pay for a preconfigured machine from companies like Dell, HP and others. This was a great time to be a geek, because by buying your own parts and assembling them yourself you ended up saving enough to spend you money on other things like… games.
Today things are very different. Companies like iBUYPOWER and CyberPowerPC are assembling amazing machines made for gaming at a cost that may make you think twice about assembling your own system. You can get a fully capable system with all the components you need to make any modern game run well for well under the price you might expect to pay for a low-end budget PC five years ago. You might be thinking, “Sure, they’re cheap because they contain cheap parts.” Well that’s where things become a little fuzzy.
I bought a system for game reviews from CyberPowerPC a year ago. The machine was kitted out with an EVGA GeForce 9800 GT. The name brand part was very encouraging and wasn’t expected in a lower-cost PC. We also got a generic power supply that shorted out severely after an hour of use. This short cost us $120 USD to fix at the local Fry’s Electronics for a replacement power supply. You get what you get with these brands. Sometimes you luck out and find some really good components and others you find parts made by the lowest bidder. This is one reason you may want to avoid these kinds of deals.
Another reason costs are so low on these gaming machines is lack of proper customer service. Customer service has long been known to be the biggest expense of any hardware manufacturer. Call centers cost money and cutting corners is something done by virtually every company in the industry from small start-ups to giant conglomerates. When the power supply went out on the CyberPowerPC, we were informed that shipping the part back would be at our cost and we’d have to front the cash for the replacement part until it was determined that a short actually exists. Is this a way to run a company? It is when your profit margin is minimal. Please note that though I mention iBUYPOWER above, the experience was exclusive to CyberPowerPC and we have not yet worked with iBUYPOWER customer service.
These issues aside, for the 95% of people that have a flawless experience as intended by their computer assemblers and manufacturers… these machines are the perfect platform at the perfect price. You can pay double or triple the amount for a brand name that you have more trust in, but in this economy do you really want to?