Off the Shelf, Custom Pre-Built, or Build It Yourself PCs? The Pros and Cons
If you’re in the market for a new computer, you might be wondering if you should attempt to build your own.
If you need a basic entry-level machine, an off the shelf solution is probably the easiest and most cost-effective. If you’re looking for a kickass gaming rig, are confident in your technical smarts, and willing to invest time and effort, building your own PC makes a lot of sense. If you’re looking to kit out your team of high-end users with powerful development boxes, you should probably find a service provider that will build custom machines to order.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option to help you figure out the right solution for you.
Build it Yourself PC
If you are technically inclined and think that buying thermal paste and a bunch of components – high-end GPUs, CPUs, SSDs, RAM, and PSUs – sounds exciting, you’re possibly a good build-it-yourself candidate. If you’re not sure what those acronyms stand for, you should probably consider alternative PC acquisition avenues.
The build it yourself option can balance the ratio of price to performance, helping high-end users get the most machine for the best price and is the main reason PC users tackle building their own computers.
- There’s less markup on high-end computer components than pre-built high-end computers, so you save money when you build your own PC.
- You can customize everything. Building a PC from the ground up allows you to get what you want without shopping around. Many pre-built options don’t mix and match higher- and mid-range components, but you can with a build. This can result in significant savings and a more efficient computer.
- Individual computer components come with their own warranties, which often last longer than the warranty on an out-of-the-box model.
- Building your own computer will grow your repair and maintenance skills, so you could potentially save money in this area over time.
- These days there are many excellent step-by-step guides on how to assemble a PC with suggested options for each category of component and resources to help you determine which set of components will work together, like PC Part Picker. Be sure to choose an up-to-date and reliable guide by checking the publishing date and reviews. If you run into difficulties, many guides have online forums to help you with troubleshooting.
- Building a computer takes time and doesn’t always go smoothly. You need to allocate time for troubleshooting if you run into challenges. If you need a new machine immediately, this probably isn’t the right approach.
- You need to have a reasonably good idea of what you are doing. Putting together parts incorrectly or using incompatible components can result in malfunction, negate warranties, and cause you to spend extra money replacing parts.
- You need to make sure you have a suitable space and tools to build your machine. You can’t build on a carpet, for example. If you want to go this route, you’ll need the following:
- Good light source
- Flat and clean workspace
- Anti-static mat
- Anti-static wristband
- Computer toolkit
- Magnetic tray for holding small parts
- Don’t forget to budget for an operating system if you’re not going the open-source route. Your set of components won’t come with a Windows license, unlike most off the shelf options.
Off the Shelf Pre-Built PC
Off the shelf, systems come at a variety of price points and with varying features for different types of computing needs. The biggest advantage is that you can walk into a store and purchase your new computer immediately or order online and get it delivered without any fuss.
- Off the shelf pre-built computers have everything you need included. If you are intimidated by the difference between a CPU and GPU, a computer out of the box puts it all together, and they come with the operating system installed, so you can plug the machine in, turn it on and start using it.
- Warranties are easy to navigate and understand with an off the shelf model, and you can contact the manufacturer if anything goes wrong. You don’t have to know which part is causing the problem.
- Entry-level pre-built computers are often less expensive than building one yourself. Big manufacturers buy in bulk, and you get those savings with popular, basic, mass-produced PC models.
- It doesn’t take a lot of knowledge or know-how to pick out a computer that you can use, and you can buy multiple computers of the same type for an office environment if everyone has the same computing requirements.
- Finding just the right computer can be difficult if you have specific needs or want specialty customizations. Pre-built computers often come with low-, mid-, or high-end components and options, but not a combination of the three. This can drive up the price even if you only need one type of high-end component, such as additional memory or a specialty graphics card.
- For high-end systems, particularly for gaming, buying a computer at retail can be pricier than building one yourself.
- Be aware that the retailer might not manage repair and maintenance, and you might have to hire someone else to do repairs or send it back to the manufacturer for warranty claims, leaving you without a computer in the process. Be sure to clarify the process for sending your machine in for under-warranty repairs with your vendor.
- Making changes to the PC, or opening the case, can negate the warranty if you want to add on components.
Custom Pre-Built PC
Here you use a service provider who will collaborate with you to source parts for your unique needs and price point, build and test your PC and provide you with a warranty.
If you’re not keen to tackle a self-build, but you can’t find what you need off the shelf, this might be the option for you. In a business environment, you might need powerful development machines for your engineers, machines with high-end GPUs for your design team, and then something more entry-level for your product managers and admin team. A custom-built service provider can work with you to spec the various machines, build them and get them delivered to you, hassle-free.
Before choosing a service provider, always check their reviews online to ensure they are providing consistent customer satisfaction.
- You get the machine(s) you want without getting your hands dirty
- You work with your service provider to come up with a solution that best meets your needs and price point.
- You have an established relationship and warranty with the service provider in case of any malfunction or maintenance.
- Given the economies of scale with service providers being able to source parts at wholesale prices for high-end builds, this route might even be more affordable than a home-build
- You’ll have to wait for your machines to be built and tested, and your service provider might have a backlog, so be sure to clarify the delivery time with the vendor.
- For entry-level machines, this solution might be more expensive than the off the shelf option, so if you need a range of machines, look at the possibility of getting entry-level machines off the shelf and having more heavy-duty machines custom-built. You can also negotiate with your service provider, pointing out lower prices for comparable machines to incentivize them to provide competitive quotes to avoid you going elsewhere with a portion of your business.