4/22/05 Should I buy or build a computer?
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) - 4/21/05 10:12 AM
Happy Friday everyone!
Thanks to all of you who contributed to this week's topic. Many of you wrote some outstanding answers to Kenny's question. And I hope these opinions, recommendations, and tips from our members will prove to be helpful when it comes time for any of you to decide whether to buy or build a computer. So read them all!
Members, if you have more questions, or additional advice on this topic, by all means feel free to post them in this thread below. Its all up to you as a community to contribute and learn from one another. So keep on posting.
Thanks everyone and have a great weekend!
I have been using the same PC for the last four years. It's time to upgrade. I'm considering just buying an off-the-shelf computer, but I'm also thinking about the challenge of building one myself. Are there any outstanding benefits to building one yourself? Will this save me money? I've done hardware upgrades in the past (adding RAM and a network card), but I'm a bit apprehensive about starting from
scratch. What are your recommendations--build or buy? Any tips or advice are appreciated.
Submitted by: Kenny C. of Olympia, Washington
Kenny, the short answer to your question about whether building your own computer will save money is generally no. Off-the-shelf OEM builders buy trainloads of components directly from suppliers at prices you and I cannot touch.
What you get from building your own system is the satisfaction of owning and operating a machine you built yourself, as well as a greater understanding of your system and the knowledge you gain during assembly, construction, and operating system installation.
If you are a die-hard eBay aficionado, you can scour the web for great deals on components at prices that will begin to approach what you might pay for an off-the-shelf model; however the big caveat here is that you may have little knowledge of the quality of the parts or whether they will all work together in your new system. One of the advantages of buying an off-the-shelf system is that the manufacturer has already assumed the responsibility for ensuring that all the component piece parts are tested and confirmed to all work together, with all the correct drivers either already installed or supplied on a CD that comes with the system. Furthermore, when you buy an off-the-shelf system, the manufacturer also supplies you with a guarantee and warranty in the event you have a component failure within the warranty period. If you build one yourself, you have little or no such protection.
Having said all that, there is tremendous satisfaction from building your own system, and you can mix and match components precisely to what you desire. For example, many OEM systems use motherboards with integrated sound, video and Ethernet. You can even buy one of these motherboards yourself if that is what you choose, but let's say for the sake of argument that you want a Turtle Beach sound card, a 256Mb Radeon graphics card with analog, digital and TV out, a 3-Com Gigabit Ethernet LAN card, a Seagate 300Gb SATA hard drive, and a Plextor CD-RW/DVD-RW Dual-Layer optical drive. Finding all of these components in any single off-the-shelf system is highly unlikely and a DIY custom-build option is about your only recourse.
You might also consider what you intend to use this new computer for, whether you build it yourself or buy one off-the shelf. If your usual computer time is spent word processing, medium internet surfing, email and organizing the family photo album, you probably don't need a "killer" machine. Depending on the components you purchase and install, custom-built machines can sometimes be "twitchy", temperamental, and somewhat less-reliable than a good-quality off-the-shelf system.
Another factor for you to consider is what I call "time to liftoff". If you purchase an off-the-shelf system, you can usually be up and running, surfing the internet in less than an hour from the time you first open the box. On the other hand, should you choose to build a system yourself, you first have to choose, purchase and assemble all the components you want; then comes the fun part: putting it all together and making it work. This can take days or even weeks. Given what you describe as your limited familiarity with getting into the guts of a computer, the risk of error or potentially damaging one or more components is somewhat higher than for someone who does this all the time and has experience.
If you decide to build one yourself, I would highly recommend that you do extensive research on various hardware forums and blogs, both to help choose the right mix of components, and also to familiarize yourself with as many of the pitfalls, tips and pointers you can before you first pick up your screwdriver and plunge in.
Submitted by: James S.