Why Now Is A Great Time To Buy Custom Shop PCs

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bit_user

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Maybe I'm a bit of a control freak, but I *like* being able to choose each component. I read the reviews, weigh the pros and cons, think about upgrade paths, etc.

Nothing against what the custom guys do, but unless I'm going to be spending so much as to get something that would be infeasible for me to do on my own (like some of the Digital Storm builds I've seen), I'd rather DIY. It makes me happier to use, even if it's not the newest or the very best spec, because I know why I made each and every choice.
 

HDB

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Most of the times you already have a fair pc to start with. It is more economical to use older not yet obsolete parts in the new build. We ll know that.

What is it that you want? I made a Ryzen 6 core and used the same case, storage and r9 290. Later I can add new things, and that always beats the price. Always.
 

USAFRet

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As in the article, the main drawback of building your own right now is the outrageous prices for the GPU, and to a lesser extent, the RAM.

Having to spend 1/2 of a $2,000 budget on just the GPU is painful.
 

uglyduckling81

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What happens when USA starts paying Australian prices for goods? Everyone loses their minds.
Our prices haven't moved much because we were already paying the GPU shortage gouge price.
 
While some of the custom shop pricing might not be higher at the moment, that's likely because the prices of graphics cards only skyrocketed within the last month, and their current pricing may be based on what they paid for the components when they ordered them in bulk while the prices were still reasonable. The 1080s and 1080 Tis you configured in these builds were not affected much by last year's shortages, but they are now, and I would expect the prices from these builders to climb substantially in the coming weeks to reflect this. So, While it might not be less cost effective to have the system built by one of these shops now, that won't likely hold true for long.

Also, where are the more mainstream builds? All these builds range from $2000 to over $3000, but the vast majority of people building gaming systems are not looking to spend that much on enthusiast-level hardware. How about include some builds at lower price points, and see how the prices compare then? I suspect the premise of this article might not hold true when comparing systems in the $1000 range.
 

DavidC1

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HDB has it right. I think its ill-informed buying completely new desktop every time you need an upgrade.

Case-Usable for decades
Power Supply-Good for many years
Keyboard/Mouse-Replace them when broken
Operating Systems? If you had a legitimate version of Windows XP, then you could have upgraded to Windows 7 for $15. Then, you can use the same key for Windows 10

Storage? If you have an SSD, you don't need an upgrade.

There, that's hundreds of $ cheaper than prebuilt. Not to mention you could have reused DDR4 memory if you are just changing CPU/Mobo/GPU. You could save further by selling the CPU/Mobo/GPU on Craigslist/eBay. You'd get 50% or more if they are less than a year old.

If you really have the money to completely change everytime, then you don't need to read such an article. You have enough money.

In fact, I specced the system as TH article stated, and I got $3200 in total, assuming NJ location. That's on par with TH prices.

Take out:
-SSD and HDD
-Case
-Cooler
-PSU
-Windows

You end up at $2300, which is $1000 cheaper than a custom system. If you have a 7700K system running on 980 Ti, you can reuse DDR4 memory(bringing it down to $1980, or $1220 cheaper), and sell the rest for say, $900.

Total cost of custom system: $1080
Total cost of prebuilt system: $3200
Savings by doing custom properly: $2120
 

bit_user

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The main benefit of building your own (as others have pointed out) is reusing old components and being able to shop sales over time (both before and after - to replace those old components).

If I know about an upcoming build, I'll keep my eyes peeled for good deals, esp. on black friday. This is how I bought most of my SSDs.
 

bit_user

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Replacing my 2005 workstation in 2012, I actually did (except for keyboard, mouse, and monitor).


I hated my old case. Was heavy, not pretty, and not so easy to work in. I will keep my current case, however. Switching to Lian Li was like a breath of fresh air and showed me just how well a case could be done.


Old PSU had insufficient PCIe Graphics Power, and I think was missing a supplemental motherboard connection. It was non-modular and I'm not sure if it was even 80-Plus.

A good PSU should last 5-10 years (some premium models have 10 year warranties).


Early SSDs were a bit slow, by modern standards, and also quite small. SSDs haven't always had the greatest endurance, but this seems to be improving again. Chances are that someone building a PC, today, might want a new one.


I've sometimes reused RAM, but it's usually not an option for a machine that's a direct replacement. And with DDR3, I ran into issues where one build wanted a different voltage than what I had.


About a year ago, I was pretty amazed at how much Phenom II CPUs are still getting, on ebay. Close to what I paid for it! Not sure if that's still true, but it underscores the point.

All of that being said, I've done more builds and component upgrades, in the meantime. So, I've now got half a PC worth of spare parts just laying around. And when I replace the 2012 workstation, it'll be just: mobo, CPU + heatsink, and RAM. SSD and GPU might get upgraded at the same time, but more likely sometime thereafter.
 
I decided to come back to this and check whether this premise would hold up for a lower-end system. I used AVADirect, since they had the highest savings over the enthusiast DIY build compared in this article. I then looked to their "Budget Gaming Desktops" section, and picked the "AMD B350 Budget Gaming Desktop" configuration to base my comparison off of, which cost $729 (without an OS), and came to $761 shipped. The components for that base build are as follows...

CPU: Ryzen 1400
GPU: GTX 1050 (EVGA)
RAM: 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 2133 (Kingston HyperX)
Mobo: Prime B350-PLUS (Asus)
HDD: 1TB 7200 RPM (Seagate BarraCuda)
PSU: 400 Watt (EVGA)
Case: Corsair Carbide 100R w/ Window

Like the article, I limited my pricing to Newegg and to be as fair as possible, I picked the exact same brand and model of components when available, which I was able to do for everything except the PSU and RAM, in which cases I picked the lowest-priced name-brand components with similar specs. So how did it compare?

I was able to find the same components on Newegg for just $597 shipped, which is $164 less than the custom shop build. Their version of the system cost over 27% more than if you assembled the hardware on your own. That's not necessarily a bad price for someone who doesn't want to mess with putting the system together themselves, but what could $164 more get you?

CPU: Ryzen 1600 (+$52)
Not only does the 1600 get you 2 more cores and double the cache, but also a more substantial cooler to help you get more out of overclocking.

GPU: ZOTAC GTX 1050 Ti (+$47)
The price of the 1050 Ti might be inflated more than that of the regular 1050, but it does offer faster performance and double the VRAM, and unlike any higher-end cards, some are still available that aren't nearly double their launch price.

RAM: Team T-Force Vulcan 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4 3000 (+$0)
Ryzen's performance can benefit from higher speed memory, and DDR4 2133 isn't even up to the standard 2666 speed for the platform. This DDR4 3000 kit is on sale for the exact same price as the lowest-priced 2133 kit at Newegg, so nothing is added to the cost. Otherwise, it might have added around $10 more.

Mobo: ASRock AB350 Pro4 (+$0)
More positive user reviews and more connectivity options, including a USB Type C port and a second M2 slot, potentially useful for future upgrades, at the same price after rebate.

HDD: 2TB 7200 RPM Seagate BarraCuda (+$15)
For just 33% more than the 1TB model, you get double the storage space at the same speed, making it a cost-effective upgrade.

PSU: Seasonic S12II 520 watt (+$7 -$15 rebate = -$8)
A higher capacity PSU from a quality brand for a lower price after rebate.

+SSD: ADATA Ultimate SU650 120GB (+$45)
It's a small SSD, but should improve OS performance and also have enough room for a small number of regularly played games.

Case: Phanteks Eclipse P400 Temperered Glass (+$10)
I put the remainder of the difference into the case. The existing case was a decent enough budget option, but it wasn't much to look at. The P400 is arguably a lot nicer looking with its tempered glass side panel, open layout, PSU shield and RGB lighting, and it also comes in a variety of color options. It does lack external drive bays which could be a downgrade for those who need them, but overall it seems to be a better design than the Carbide.

So, for the same price as AVADirect's "Budget Gaming Desktop", we were able to move up to a CPU with 50% more cores and a better cooler, a faster GPU with more VRAM, faster memory, a slightly better motherboard, double the HDD space, a better and higher capacity PSU, a much fancier looking case, plus we added an SSD. And we technically had about $3 to spare that we can put toward the trouble of having to fill in a few rebates. Now how much would a system like this cost at that site? I made some changes to their base build, selecting the lowest-priced similar components, but was still limited to slower DDR4 2400 RAM since they didn't offer anything faster for this build. Still, the updated build ended up costing $943, and $976 with shipping added, which works out to $215 more, a similar 28% increase over building the system yourself.

I should note that unlike the article, I did not include tax, since Newegg only collects tax in 5 states, so that won't apply to most people in the US. If you're going to include tax on the Newegg order, it would only be fair to include it for the custom shops as well, since just like Newegg, they charge tax in certain states where they have a physical presence. So, how would the prices compare for those builds from the article with the difference in tax taken out of the equation to keep everything on a level playing field? Based on the article's pricing, the Maingear one would now cost over $200 more than DIY, the Digital Storm would cost over $300 more, CyberPowerPC would be priced about even and AVADirect would show a savings of only around $150. And again, that's dependant on the volatile pricing of these graphics cards, where pricing and availability can change significantly from one day to the next.

The premise of the article isn't necessarily wrong for a high-end system built by these companies, and even in cases where it costs more, it might be worth it for someone who wants an all-new build, but doesn't want to spend the time ordering parts, assembling the system and potentially troubleshooting things. In the low to mid-range though, those on a budget can still likely make their money go a lot further with a self-built system.
 

Mr5oh

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Or just sit tight and wait for things to balance back out? This happened before with bitcoin and we reached a point where it no longer made sense for people to use GPUs and everyone moved on to other low power setups. Maybe the bitcoin value doesn't get that low again to do this, but I still think this will balance back out. If demand stays this high they will start producing more.
 

USAFRet

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Absolutely. I'm one of the biggest proponents of building your own in here.
However, the last few months is sort of a special case.
 

DXRick

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I was going to disagree with this article and show how my NewEgg wishlist is at least $200 less than what I could do with CyberpowerPC, but the 1070 GPU I selected 3 weeks ago ($450) is gone now and the cheapest one on NewEgg now is $880.

WTF? Three weekw later...

I would like to wait for a CPU fix from Intel for the Maximus and Spectre, and for the bitcoin mining thing to finally collapse, but it will be a long wait for Intel and the latter is getting worse.
 

Sam Hain

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Um... No. Spiked GPU prices for one, unless you're cannibalizing from old rig or have a spare.

Two, CPUs right now are like Igor from Young Frankenstein deciding which brain to choose to bring to Dr. Frankenstein. In this case we're all Igor (and the doc) getting "Abby Normal's" brain; gimped CPUs.
 

bit_user

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In the meantime, I predict AMD is going to sell a lot of Raven Ridge APUs.
 

USAFRet

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If you have an OS, you can install it on whatever hardware you want.
Being a "prebuilt" does not negate your ability to install a different OS. Be it Dell, HP, or (shudder) CyberPower.

However...you need to look at the extra cost of the OS if they include it.
If it only adds $20 to the total price, I'd get theirs, and save the existing license for something else.
 


I should clarify. If the user didn't have an OS does it make any difference if they have a boutique install it? Can the person who buys the PC still transfer that OS like someone who purchased a copy?
 

USAFRet

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OK, that's different.
Preinstalled on a Dell or HP...I don't believe you can transfer that to other hardware.
From other retailers, it is fuzzy.

Link that OS to your MS account:
Read and do this before you change any parts:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/20530/windows-10-reactivating-after-hardware-change
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3164428/windows-build-1607-activation.html

Also, read this:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12440/windows-10-activation
Primarily, "Activating Windows 10 after a hardware configuration change"

and this: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4023300
 


Okay. Guessing I should suggest they purchase an OS separately to avoid the fuzzy dice if I run into a similar question.
 

USAFRet

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They depends on the specific user.
Are they likely to want to use that same OS license on new hardware? Are they going to "upgrade" in a few years?

If not, then the included OS with a prebuilt is vastly cheaper than buying your own.

For instance, for my geek grandson, yes...his own OS is good.
For my completely non-geek ex-spouse...just get whatever comes with the PC.
 

DavidC1

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All fair points.

It's not like you can't sell the older SSDs and GPUs either. You can.

The 2600K I got in early 2011 could still be sold for $150 cdn. I bought it for $320 + taxes which came out to be $350 I believe. Ok, that's partially due to 2600K being very good and advances stagnating, but still. 7 years.

I think if you stop caring about computers and they become an appliance to you, articles like these have a valid point. You do nothing, and you let the company support team and warranties do its job.

However, if you are doing enough work to compare with a DIY one, might as well do the upgrade path and save significant money over the long run.

I think buying prebuilt systems from smaller companies like MainGear, and CyberPower makes sense over ones like Dell, HP, Acer. At least the smaller prebuilt companies seem to use parts that we could replace, and are not proprietary unlike the bigger ones. You could get the Maingear system now, and upgrade the necessary parts in a few years.

With prebuilt systems like Dell/HP/Acer, you may not even be able to replace the PSU and motherboard, and the drivers start becoming finicky. Yuck!
 

bit_user

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Yup - just a couple days ago I checked the going rate for the GTX 980 Ti currently in my 2012 build, and it's well within $100 of what I paid for it (which I got on sale, after the 1080 launch). Of course, by the time anything good enough (at least 2x as fast) comes within my budget, I'm sure that'll change.

My SSDs haven't fared as well. Searching ebay for going rates, one old drive model I own sold for $30, another for $68, and another for $30.

And I also see prices are down on Phenom II x4 CPUs, unsurprisingly.


I have that in one machine I regularly use. No reason to replace it, really. Even the integrated graphics are quite adequate for my needs, once I upgraded & OC'd the RAM to DDR3-1600. It's the first time in recent memory that I ever used the boxed cooler, and it's just fine!

The only thing not to like about that machine is its ~40 W idle. And that's using a decent PSU (Seasonic - I forget which 80 Plus rating), SSD, and integrated graphics. So, definitely the CPU's fault, more than anything.


Yeah, I hate that about the Dell workstations we use at my job. Good luck upgrading the PSU to support a bigger graphics card - they don't even make it easy for you, at least on the vintage machine that I have. On a newer machine, we just needed an 8-pin PCIe cable for it (it came with 2x 6-pin, even though the power supply has the necessary juice) and they don't even make that easy.

The only good thing I have to say about Dell is their workstations have always been virtually inaudible, except when running a 130 W CPU under high, continuous multi-core load.
 

lsatenstein

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My quad core 2010 workstation works just fine for compiling and testing code. At that time, 80 dollars bought 16gigs of ram. The GPU was $120.00. The entire system, in US dollars was around $650.00

That upgrade today, six years later is triple that price. Truly there is some price gouging. The competition in the desktop arena has evaporated. That requires some vendors whose sales volumes are down, to increase prices so as to maintain revenue--revenue to pay debt funding,
 

bit_user

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Any more details? I built a Phenom II x4 for similar money, in 2011, but I only used 4 GB. It definitely wasn't $20 - probably closer to your $80 figure.


I feel like that RAM (and most other components) must've been pretty low-end, so perhaps you're not comparing apples to apples. I get that CPU prices have crept up and that RAM and GPU prices are spiking, but something equivalent to my Phenom II x4 box definitely wouldn't be triple the cost.
 
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