Colby McAloney, a member of the LockerGnome community at large asked: “What are the differences between custom-built computers and the ones you find in stores?“
Deciding whether you should go with a preassembled PC from one of the many OEMs out there, or rolling your own with a custom creation can have long-lasting impact on your overall user experience. Warranties, support, and various other factors come into play, but none more important than your own preferences. Which is better? Is creating your own PC configuration really as much of a money saver as it used to be? Here are five reasons you should consider configuring your own PC.
Let’s face it, most people learn best by doing. Seeking out and finding compatible components for a PC is a great way to learn about how a computer works, and what it takes to make one tick. Choosing the right motherboard, CPU, RAM, graphics card, and other components that work together perfectly takes some level of understanding of how the components work. Like a Jedi building their first lightsaber, a geek’s first custom-built computer can be considered a rite of passage.
Most preassembled PCs are built with general use in mind. Gaming computers tend to be very pricey, unless you get one from a less-known OEM that may or may not have a solid track record for quality and customer service. When you buy an OEM PC, you’re paying for customer service and all-in-one warranty coverage. This level of support is expensive, and there’s a good chance that once you have a higher-end machine, you will be more likely to find the components at a lower cost than the preassembled computer. A custom machine also isn’t limited by agreements made with various part manufacturers. You can freely decide between an EVGA graphics card and one by another brand. It’s your choice, and each component is typically covered by a warranty through the manufacturer.
Still, some would argue that OEMs are cheaper now than custom PCs. This is true in the case of general purpose machines. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend a custom machine if you plan on using it for Web browsing and general use, not by a long shot. Building your own means attempting to better the preassembled offerings.
Showing up at a LAN party (admittedly, not many of these take place anymore) with a preassembled machine is just embarrassing when you’re surrounded by the warm glow of cold cathodes shining through the plexiglass windows that make up the sides of other player’s computers. In addition, your PC’s performance is limited by the components added by the lowest bidder. Unless you spent over $3,000 on your PC through an OEM, you’re probably running on components that were the top of their class last year. If you want to get the maximum bang for your buck on serious gaming components, you should consider configuring your own PC.
In addition, you’ll have the ability to take a look at some of the specifications that OEMs often overlook. For example, you may have the most RAM in your graphics card, the fastest processor, or the best memory installed, but all of this could be facing a serious bottleneck due to a low throughput motherboard. OEMs actively attempt to cover up their cut corners with high numbers on the processor and RAM. What good is 8 GB of RAM if your machine is running on a slow motherboard?
Upgrade Under Warranty
Some OEMs have strict warranties that don’t allow you to upgrade various components. Buying an OEM PC with 2 GB of RAM to save on the exorbitant prices they charge for RAM upgrades (what’s the deal with that, anyway?) could cost you warranty coverage come upgrade time. $200 for an additional 2-4 GB of RAM is too much, especially when you can buy that RAM outright for US$10-30.
In addition, keeping up with the latest graphics card may also result in a shortened or voided warranty. When you build a custom machine, each component is (or should be) covered under its own individual warranty, guaranteeing you replacement or repair if something goes wrong. The downside here is that, unlike an OEM, seeking out warranty coverage for an individual component often means shipping it to the manufacturer and trusting that they don’t take a long time to get back to you.
Did you know that many of the coolest cases out there will never be used by an OEM? The same can be said for graphics cards, motherboards, and even RAM. These components are made for performance and style, and they don’t tend to be the lowest bidder in bulk orders. Yes, some of these components come with a higher price tag per part, but they also give your computer a longer life span. Buying the best components today means having a computer that lasts that much longer before being considered obsolete. OEMs love older components, especially because they tend to be the cheapest.
Let’s face it, there’s a coolness factor in building your own PC. It’s an experience that can leave you with something you’ve got a vested interest in. You deserve to feel proud once you’ve assembled your own system. Whatever you decide, it should come down to what you feel most comfortable with. OEMs offer better support (most of them, anyway) and easier warranty service, but a custom machine can give you better performance at a lower cost.