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[SOLVED] Pre-built vs custom build

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
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Hi all,

Was curious if going pre-built or custom building is the better option currently cost wise? I have built a PC before so I could do it again but wasn't sure with the graphic card increase which was more cost effective now. If pre-built is the best option what are good places? I've hear all the typical ones but most seem to have issues or poor customer service. Note: I am looking to purchase this year.

Thanks all!
 

WildCard999

Titan
Moderator
Price building it yourself may be higher especially if you count the cost for the OS but the quality of parts can differ quite a bit as they tend to use a cheap motherboard, PSU and possibly memory which could affect performance if it's slow and the system is AMD Ryzen. As for warranties they come with manufacturer warranties so getting something replaced usually isn't too painful however from someone who builds 3-5 systems a year it's rare to have to resort to the warranty if you pick good quality parts.

Honestly building it yourself can be a fun and great experience but can also be annoying if things go wrong (something not connected right or whatnot). I've been working with PC hardware as a hobbyist for almost 17 years and I still get giddy when a build a system and it boots the first time without issues. Plus besides getting help here there are plenty of build guides out thereand it's really not too difficult. Watch a few ranging from lower end basic systems to high end and you'll notice a minimal difference. As a new builder I'd avoid AIO (all in one) liquid cooling for now especially with air coolers that are usually cheaper, quieter and less expensive.

What is your budget and location?

Do you have any parts including peripherals and the monitor?

Do you need a OS? Windows 10 for now can be used for free and will receive important updates however you do have a watermark and limited customization options.
 
Reactions: Aiyok and punkncat

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
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It's not just cost.
Building yourself will be about the same total price. Sometimes even a teeny bit more.
Then again, sometimes a LOT less.

But....you almost certainly get a much better assembly quality.
You personally can take all afternoon to ensure everything is correct.
The prebuilt was slapped together by a 19 year old intern, 2 weeks on the job, working through a Monday morning hangover.

The warranty may also be a factor. The cheaper prebuilts (CyberPower, etc) generally give you a 1 year warranty. Even if those the parts you buy would carry a 3-5-10 year warranty.
And you have to pay warranty shipping both ways on that prebuilt.

My personal build/buy line is $500. Anything more than that...build it.
 
Reactions: Aiyok

WildCard999

Titan
Moderator
Price building it yourself may be higher especially if you count the cost for the OS but the quality of parts can differ quite a bit as they tend to use a cheap motherboard, PSU and possibly memory which could affect performance if it's slow and the system is AMD Ryzen. As for warranties they come with manufacturer warranties so getting something replaced usually isn't too painful however from someone who builds 3-5 systems a year it's rare to have to resort to the warranty if you pick good quality parts.

Honestly building it yourself can be a fun and great experience but can also be annoying if things go wrong (something not connected right or whatnot). I've been working with PC hardware as a hobbyist for almost 17 years and I still get giddy when a build a system and it boots the first time without issues. Plus besides getting help here there are plenty of build guides out thereand it's really not too difficult. Watch a few ranging from lower end basic systems to high end and you'll notice a minimal difference. As a new builder I'd avoid AIO (all in one) liquid cooling for now especially with air coolers that are usually cheaper, quieter and less expensive.

What is your budget and location?

Do you have any parts including peripherals and the monitor?

Do you need a OS? Windows 10 for now can be used for free and will receive important updates however you do have a watermark and limited customization options.
 
Reactions: Aiyok and punkncat
Omitting the OS cost (which varies wildly from zero to full price, depending on your situation), I've never seen a pre-built system cost less than doing it yourself if you're able to price out the exact same parts for both.

As WildCard said, Pre-built systems generally use cheap-cheap motherboards and PSUs, and lower speed RAM. Depending on the system builder, they may not even divulge this information. It's also a little dicey regarding how many fans you're going to get in your case (and/or if the fans are even decent). The less they advertise to you, the less ground you have to come back at them for false advertising.

If you know how to build yourself, that's the best way to go.
 
Reactions: Aiyok and King_V

King_V

Distinguished
Omitting the OS cost (which varies wildly from zero to full price, depending on your situation), I've never seen a pre-built system cost less than doing it yourself if you're able to price out the exact same parts for both.
The only variation on this is that sometimes, depending on the use-case, and depending on sales, the pre-built can be a better deal. I know that both when I purchased my Dell XPS 8700 and my son's XPS 8910, I already had the video cards I wanted to put in, and I'd planned on building my own. However, the prices on them were such that I couldn't build the same system on my own for less, and that was BEFORE counting the price of the OS license.

The warranty was just icing on the cake.

(when I got my XPS 8300 in 2012, at that point I'd simply been out of the PC game for a long time, and didn't even know where to begin to build my own).

Future expandability tends to be limited. At some point, the BIOS doesn't get updates anymore, and typically, a generation or three later, the newest video cards won't work with those systems.
 
Reactions: Aiyok

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
It's not just cost.
Building yourself will be about the same total price. Sometimes even a teeny bit more.
Then again, sometimes a LOT less.

But....you almost certainly get a much better assembly quality.
You personally can take all afternoon to ensure everything is correct.
The prebuilt was slapped together by a 19 year old intern, 2 weeks on the job, working through a Monday morning hangover.

The warranty may also be a factor. The cheaper prebuilts (CyberPower, etc) generally give you a 1 year warranty. Even if those the parts you buy would carry a 3-5-10 year warranty.
And you have to pay warranty shipping both ways on that prebuilt.

My personal build/buy line is $500. Anything more than that...build it.
Thanks! Definitely some good points that I did not consider.
 

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
Price building it yourself may be higher especially if you count the cost for the OS but the quality of parts can differ quite a bit as they tend to use a cheap motherboard, PSU and possibly memory which could affect performance if it's slow and the system is AMD Ryzen. As for warranties they come with manufacturer warranties so getting something replaced usually isn't too painful however from someone who builds 3-5 systems a year it's rare to have to resort to the warranty if you pick good quality parts.

Honestly building it yourself can be a fun and great experience but can also be annoying if things go wrong (something not connected right or whatnot). I've been working with PC hardware as a hobbyist for almost 17 years and I still get giddy when a build a system and it boots the first time without issues. Plus besides getting help here there are plenty of build guides out thereand it's really not too difficult. Watch a few ranging from lower end basic systems to high end and you'll notice a minimal difference. As a new builder I'd avoid AIO (all in one) liquid cooling for now especially with air coolers that are usually cheaper, quieter and less expensive.

What is your budget and location?

Do you have any parts including peripherals and the monitor?

Do you need a OS? Windows 10 for now can be used for free and will receive important updates however you do have a watermark and limited customization options.

Wow, did not realize they cut corners so much on certain components. I did build my current PC (back in 2013) and updated memory and graphics in 2016 but it's obviously outdated now. It was a fun experience but I would need to do a better job of wire management this time around.

I was actually going to ask about liquid cooling and if it was worth it and how difficult is it for a novice builder..

My budget is around $1500, don't want to go over that if possible but if it is a huge improvement breaking the budget a little bit I am willing to consider. I am located just outside of Atlanta.

I have peripherals and multiple monitors so I'm good there.

I was considering moving my current hard drives with my OS to new PC unless everyone advises against it.

Thanks!
 

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
Omitting the OS cost (which varies wildly from zero to full price, depending on your situation), I've never seen a pre-built system cost less than doing it yourself if you're able to price out the exact same parts for both.

As WildCard said, Pre-built systems generally use cheap-cheap motherboards and PSUs, and lower speed RAM. Depending on the system builder, they may not even divulge this information. It's also a little dicey regarding how many fans you're going to get in your case (and/or if the fans are even decent). The less they advertise to you, the less ground you have to come back at them for false advertising.

If you know how to build yourself, that's the best way to go.
Omitting the OS cost (which varies wildly from zero to full price, depending on your situation), I've never seen a pre-built system cost less than doing it yourself if you're able to price out the exact same parts for both.

As WildCard said, Pre-built systems generally use cheap-cheap motherboards and PSUs, and lower speed RAM. Depending on the system builder, they may not even divulge this information. It's also a little dicey regarding how many fans you're going to get in your case (and/or if the fans are even decent). The less they advertise to you, the less ground you have to come back at them for false advertising.

If you know how to build yourself, that's the best way to go.
Thanks! It seems like the consensus is to build it myself.
 

WildCard999

Titan
Moderator
Liquid cooling probably wouldn't be needed and is more for looks then function but that also depends on which CPU you go with. Many AIO (all in one) liquid coolers are more expensive and louder then higher end air coolers and there's always that small chance of it leaking and ruining your parts. The stock cooler for the 2700X works good.

For $1500 you could build a awesome 1080P/1440P gaming system.


PCPartPicker Part List
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7 GHz 8-Core Processor ($189.99 @ B&H)
Motherboard: MSI B450 TOMAHAWK MAX ATX AM4 Motherboard ($114.89 @ B&H)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Crucial P1 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($99.99 @ B&H)
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER 8 GB Video Card ($699.99 @ Best Buy)
Case: Fractal Design Meshify C ATX Mid Tower Case ($98.99 @ Walmart)
Power Supply: SeaSonic FOCUS 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply ($104.99 @ B&H)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit ($108.79 @ Amazon)
Total: $1487.62
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-03-14 15:05 EDT-0400
 
Reactions: King_V and Aiyok

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
Pre-built can be good depending on the vendor. It is for those whose time to build is worth more than the $50 to $100 you will likely pay over the cost of the parts
Thanks! It seems like taking an afternoon and building it myself is the better decision regardless of the close difference in cost.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
125,896
4,371
159,940
19,724
Thanks! It seems like taking an afternoon and building it myself is the better decision regardless of the close difference in cost.
We've seen the price thing go either way.

A $2400 prebuilt system, when the parts are actually analyzed....$1800 for equal or better parts.
Or
A $1900 prebuilt, $2000 in individual equal parts.

But...building it yourself gets you a much deeper understanding of how it all goes together. Rather than the PC being simply a black box of unknown function.
6 months from now, if something does not work, you'll be much closer to knowing what it might be.

And trying to "fix" an inop prebuilt might invalidate the warranty. They'd blame any fail on your actions.

We've seen prebuilts here that fail to boot up right out of the box.
Or have things (DVD) simply not connected - wires dangling.
 
Reactions: King_V and Aiyok

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
The only variation on this is that sometimes, depending on the use-case, and depending on sales, the pre-built can be a better deal. I know that both when I purchased my Dell XPS 8700 and my son's XPS 8910, I already had the video cards I wanted to put in, and I'd planned on building my own. However, the prices on them were such that I couldn't build the same system on my own for less, and that was BEFORE counting the price of the OS license.

The warranty was just icing on the cake.

(when I got my XPS 8300 in 2012, at that point I'd simply been out of the PC game for a long time, and didn't even know where to begin to build my own).

Future expandability tends to be limited. At some point, the BIOS doesn't get updates anymore, and typically, a generation or three later, the newest video cards won't work with those systems.
Don't do that. Tears will result.
Dang, okay. Was hoping to eliminate having to buy OS/reinstall games but if it isn't a good idea I will definitely go all new then.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
125,896
4,371
159,940
19,724
Dang, okay. Was hoping to eliminate having to buy OS/reinstall games but if it isn't a good idea I will definitely go all new then.
Buying (or not) a new OS license is completely different than moving the drive+OS to the new system.

Operation and Licensing.

Operation - It is unlikely that your existing install will boot up in the new hardware.
Basically, 3 possibilities:
  1. It boots up just fine
  2. It fails completely
  3. It boots up, but you're chasing issues for weeks/months.
#2 & 3 are far more likely.

Licensing - Depending on where your current Win 10 came from, it might be possible to transfer that license to the new hardware and its new install.
So, where did your current OS come from?
 
Reactions: Aiyok

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
We've seen the price thing go either way.

A $2400 prebuilt system, when the parts are actually analyzed....$1800 for equal or better parts.
Or
A $1900 prebuilt, $2000 in individual equal parts.

But...building it yourself gets you a much deeper understanding of how it all goes together. Rather than the PC being simply a black box of unknown function.
6 months from now, if something does not work, you'll be much closer to knowing what it might be.

And trying to "fix" an inop prebuilt might invalidate the warranty. They'd blame any fail on your actions.

We've seen prebuilts here that fail to boot up right out of the box.
Or have things (DVD) simply not connected - wires dangling.
Great point. I definitely want to be more knowledgeable of my system and be able to troubleshoot without fear of voiding a warranty.
 

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
Liquid cooling probably wouldn't be needed and is more for looks then function but that also depends on which CPU you go with. Many AIO (all in one) liquid coolers are more expensive and louder then higher end air coolers and there's always that small chance of it leaking and ruining your parts. The stock cooler for the 2700X works good.

For $1500 you could build a awesome 1080P/1440P gaming system.


PCPartPicker Part List
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 3.7 GHz 8-Core Processor ($189.99 @ B&H)
Motherboard: MSI B450 TOMAHAWK MAX ATX AM4 Motherboard ($114.89 @ B&H)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Crucial P1 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive ($99.99 @ B&H)
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER 8 GB Video Card ($699.99 @ Best Buy)
Case: Fractal Design Meshify C ATX Mid Tower Case ($98.99 @ Walmart)
Power Supply: SeaSonic FOCUS 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply ($104.99 @ B&H)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit ($108.79 @ Amazon)
Total: $1487.62
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-03-14 15:05 EDT-0400

That's interesting that the liquid cooling is louder than air cooling now.

I like the PC you listed. Couple of questions:

I've previously only used Intel processors and heard that AMD was quite as good (but this was when I was researcher my last build years ago). Are they pretty equivalent now and would the 2700x be closer to an i5 or i7 Intel?

Would you recommend a large HDD drive as well for additional storage?

16GB RAM seems the standard. Is anything over that excessive?
 

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
Buying (or not) a new OS license is completely different than moving the drive+OS to the new system.

Operation and Licensing.

Operation - It is unlikely that your existing install will boot up in the new hardware.
Basically, 3 possibilities:
  1. It boots up just fine
  2. It fails completely
  3. It boots up, but you're chasing issues for weeks/months.
#2 & 3 are far more likely.

Licensing - Depending on where your current Win 10 came from, it might be possible to transfer that license to the new hardware and its new install.
So, where did your current OS come from?
Understood. To be honest, I am not sure it's been so many years. I believe I bought it through Microsoft when they had OS discounted for college students but I don't have a way to confirm that..

Scratch that - I did find my receipt. I purchased Windows 8.1 Pro for Students directly from Microsoft. So that probably isn't helpful.
 

WildCard999

Titan
Moderator
The 2700X is pretty close to the i7-8700 but the additional cores/threads would make it a better choice for streaming if that's something your into and also the price is far better. AMD also has a better upgrade path over Intel with the AM4 socket as the 4th gen CPU's should be released later this year.

The additional storage depends on your needs, for someone like myself who only has a handful of games installed at a time 500gb is plenty, for others they may need a few terabytes.

16gb is the standard now but if your windows key is tied to your account then maybe use that money for a 2x16gb at 3200mhz kit instead of 2x8gb so you'll be a bit more "futureproof". You could also just use Windows 10 inactivated which works perfectly fine.
 
Reactions: Aiyok

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
125,896
4,371
159,940
19,724
Understood. To be honest, I am not sure it's been so many years. I believe I bought it through Microsoft when they had OS discounted for college students but I don't have a way to confirm that..

Scratch that - I did find my receipt. I purchased Windows 8.1 Pro for Students directly from Microsoft. So that probably isn't helpful.
For the OS activation, read and do this before you change any parts:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/20530/windows-10-reactivating-after-hardware-change
 
Reactions: Aiyok

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
The 2700X is pretty close to the i7-8700 but the additional cores/threads would make it a better choice for streaming if that's something your into and also the price is far better. AMD also has a better upgrade path over Intel with the AM4 socket as the 4th gen CPU's should be released later this year.

The additional storage depends on your needs, for someone like myself who only has a handful of games installed at a time 500gb is plenty, for others they may need a few terabytes.

16gb is the standard now but if your windows key is tied to your account then maybe use that money for a 2x16gb at 3200mhz kit instead of 2x8gb so you'll be a bit more "futureproof". You could also just use Windows 10 inactivated which works perfectly fine.
Awesome! Thanks so much!
 

Aiyok

Honorable
Nov 14, 2013
35
0
10,530
0
For the OS activation, read and do this before you change any parts:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/20530/windows-10-reactivating-after-hardware-change
Looks like I have a digital activation linked to my Microsoft account.
 
Omitting the OS cost (which varies wildly from zero to full price, depending on your situation), I've never seen a pre-built system cost less than doing it yourself if you're able to price out the exact same parts for both.
It's rather hard to beat Dell's prices on the low-mid range /startersystems; one would safely assume they can get PSUs and copies of Windows at better prices than me! (Maybe buying 100K RAM sticks at a time helps them as well.,..)

One can easily beat Dell/Alienware at the top-end, where those buffoons command often want an extra $250 for another $100 in RAM, and extra $400 for $200 more in video card, and, $400 for a $200 SSD, etc.... (I fully understand they are not there to 'break even', however :)
 
Reactions: Aiyok

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