Your Next Gaming Rig: Buy it or Build it?

Matt Barton's picture

Dell XPS: I could soo see this on my desktop...Dell XPS: I could soo see this on my desktop...Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDnet has a blog up about buying a Dell XPS vs. building one yourself. You've probably heard the same advice I've heard over the years regarding building your own PC vs. buying one from Dell (or wherever). Some people will swear you're much better off with a "storebrand," usually making a case for warranties (i.e., if it doesn't work, you can easily send it back) or compatibality/configuration issues (i.e., no matter how much you think you know, you'll get something wrong, and the system won't ever be completely stable). Plus, there's the argument that a big company like Dell or Gateway can buy in mass bulk and thus get individual components much cheaper than a private builder, thus driving down the cost of the system exponentially.

On the other hand, do-it-yourselfers like to argue that their approach means that they'll get all namebrand (or at least their choice) components and/or peripherals. Even if the cost is more, at least they'll have the satisfaction of knowing what's running under the hood. Plus, they'll get the joys of building their own computer.

My position is certainly somewhere in the middle here. The first PC I bought with my own money was a Gateway back in 97 or so. Within a week, the monitor went dim, and I had to order a new one. The second one went dim as well, albeit more gradually (and didn't finally get unusable until after the warranty). The printer, an Espon, ate paper. However, trying to get them to take this back was a real pain; they sent me through Epson, who gave me the classic run-a-round with customer service (the advice I remember getting for my problem was, "Use a lot of paper.") The computer itself, though, always ran fine and never really gave me any issues. My conclusion was that Gateway's systems were okay, but their peripherals were the pits.

When it was time to upgrade, I decided to just buy a new motherboard (MSI) and CPU (AMD) for the Gateway. Since the Gateway case was custom, it didn't like the new motherboard very much, and I had to really sweat to get it to work at all. Actually, I had to get a friend with some experience in electronics to bust open the motherboard's power plug and place all those individual wires where they belonged.

At any rate, my "new" computer was prone to crashes, and another friend suggested I should buy a new case with a bigger power supply. I was tired of looking at the old case anyway, so I took the advice and got a Antec case from Best Buy, then hauled everything into it. Unfortunately, the front USB ports didn't work with the motherboard (I have no idea why), so I had to buy a USB extender.

However, now it's getting that time to upgrade again (I'm running at just below 2ghz), and I'm faced with that age-old question. Should I just buy a new motherboard and CPU and hope for the best, or just call Dell. I must admit, it's tempting just to pick up that phone...

I'm curious: How many of you are building your own gaming rigs rather than buying them? What is your motivation for doing so? What are some of your positive and negative experiences?

Comments

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
My own thoughts on pre-built versus custom

In the past, I did a combination of buy brand name machines and customized them as needed or built my own. As I've gotten away from PC Gaming more and more over the years and tired of the upgrade game, I pretty much stick to pre-built machines that I tweak as necessary (usually just more RAM and these days, external devices). Frankly, consoles have long since proven their worth to me as better game machines - close architecture has many benefits over an open one - and the games that I do like on PC's never need the bleeding edge technology. So, yeah, I usually wait for an awesome deal from a place like Dell (you'd be surprised how favorable the pricing compares) and get a killer rig every four years or so that's pre-built. Of course my next machine in about three years is likely to be one of the slick new dual core Apples, but only if Apple pre-installs a dual boot of MacOS and Vista for me. If not, then I'll have to think about it and weigh any potential compatibility issues.

I mostly use my work laptop anyway for general tasks and writing my book. If I have to give that up when changing jobs, I'll definitely get myself a Tablet PC as a companion to my Dell desktop (or whatever I end up with going forward). I don't envision a time where I won't have a desktop and a laptop anymore. It's just too convenient having both.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[My collection - www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/vgamecomp.htm]
[www.MythCore.com]

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brn
brn's picture
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Joined: 05/22/2006
Vista Preinstall

Why is Vista preinstall a deal breaker, Bill? I haven't heard anyone complaining about problems running Boot Camp.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Vista pre-installed on new Mac's

Why, because then I'll know every inch of the Macintosh will have native support within the Vista OS. I understand there are no issues with the current XP and boot camp, but I want to wait for Apple to enable switch-on-the-fly between OS' and just offer it pre-bundled. This would save me time and possibly even some money.
=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[My collection - www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/vgamecomp.htm]
[www.MythCore.com]

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Dell's New PC and Laptop in One

I must say, I've always been a fan and have a huge collection of various transportable computers (IBM 5155, Osborne 1, Kaypro, Commodore SX-64, etc.) and this machine from Dell is a throwback type of device with a huge 20" monitor and the bonus of a three hour battery life. Of course it weighs close to 20 pounds, but for that desktop feel in a machine you can cart around (albeit you wouldn't want to cart it around far), it's a wonderful idea. Too bad that the price STARTS at a ridiculous $3500!

=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[My collection - www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/vgamecomp.htm]
[www.MythCore.com]

n/a
brn
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Joined: 05/22/2006
I'll Build It

My first PC was a bundle. (1Ghz HP Pavillion back in 2000) Never again.

I like to reformat a couple times a year to alleviate Windows slowdown. I don't like to waste a day uninstalling "FREE INTARWEB" and other useless junk that comes with packaged PCs.

I like to know what's in my PC. Admittedly Dell has professionals picking out components, but the Taipei Wonderful Motherboard Company probably doesn't make it as easy for me to find drivers as ASUS or nVidia.

I like to be able to upgrade my PC. The Pavillion tucked the RAM away behind the power supply. I think I would have had to literally cut open the case to add to my paltry 128MB. Not gonna happen.

I have an Antec Sonata case right now. The front USB ports also do not work. By the same token, I've never heard my HDD access... ever. That feature's worth a few bucks in my book and no prefab has it.

The ZDnet article linked to in the main post says you can buy the components in the XPS 700 for over a thousand dollars less than the system itself. If I don't bother buying another monitor, my next whole system will cost under a thousand dollars. Me = Cheap!

I also don't need a fourth mouse and third keyboard floating around. I haven't worn the WASD keys off the current one yet. ;)

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Pre-fab pricing versus roll-your-own

It's all in how you catch things, brn. For instance, I got an absolutely loaded Dell with a gorgeous 19" digital LCD and all-in-one photo printer and ended up saving over $800 off the usual price, plus free shipping. It's really a matter of keeping one's eyes open for the best deal. Believe me, I tried very hard to beat that price elsewhere as I'm no fan of all the junk the Dell's and Gateway's of the world have pre-loaded, but sometimes a great deal is a great deal, and if you get all the components you want already installed and optimized, there's no reason to do it yourself. Hell, my system came with a RAID dual 300GB hard drive setup that I would have never bothered to configure on my own.

It's the same thing with my arcade cabinet. I went the pre-fab route to save time and possibly even money. Between sourcing all the very specific parts I wanted and then finding the time to set it all up and get it right, it was just a better route to get one custom built and shipped. Of course I still have a ton of software configuration to do, but that's for another story...

=================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[My collection - www.billandchristina.com/vgamecomp/vgamecomp.htm]
[www.MythCore.com]

n/a

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