Obviously, but it really does. Mainly, I feel it depends on your comfort level with the hardware side of computers. I've never considered myself in the expert category when it comes to computers, and still don't. However in the last 7 years, I've built my own from the case up, bought used computers and updated them and then upgraded these over the last 4 years with everything from memory and hard drives to pci cards and wireless adapters.
I am fortunate enough to live in a town with a large university with and excellent EE program. Lots of kids decide to build a computer for one of their projects and then when they're done, the sell them. Since the university pays for the resources (hardware) they usually buy the best they can get.
All of this to say that if you feel even a little confident that you can figure things out and if you have a few friends who are computer hardware and software savvy you might enjoy buying a used computer and rebuilding it yourself.
If you're not, then buy one off the shelf.
Regarding HP, I don't feel that for the money, there's a better printer on the market, however, the few persons who I have heard comment about HP have had nothing but bad to say about their experience with their computers. The majority feel like they paid for the box instead of the power. This also seems to be true with Compaq and a few others.
One suggestion that came from a friend of mine. Find a local shop and ask them to build you one. If you don't need a lot of gizmos but just want basic and fast, then you can spend your bucks on 3-4 gig of memory, a 200 gig hard drive, a great sound card and video card and then don't worry about the rest. Most of the shops around here will install addn'l cards for a nominal fee if you have them build the box for you.
There is one main thing you will NOT get with a local guy. You won't get those endless hours of waiting for Nari in Bangladesh asking Hasim for 2nd level support while you fall asleep on the phone.
Of course, if you buy local, you probably won't get "24hour" tech support, but even Dell, from whom I bought my first laptop when their support was here in Austin, has gone to overseas "outsourcing". I hate that but there's nothing you can do except support your local business people.
I realize that most of my advice is non-specific but as someone who has no formal training in computers, it hasn't been that hard, even for me to build my own, once from scratch and once from several others I bought and cannibalized.
Finally, with regard to cross matching equipment, I assume you're referring to DVD/CD devices and printers and such, If so, then no worries. Most all of your local brands are supported by Windows and windows will have the drivers for your devices or will go out and get them when you install them.
If you live near a large university, google for computer shops in the campus area and call around. You might be able to get a good deal on a used or refurb that a student has sold or traded in for a new model and really save some bucks.
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