The first gaming PC I ever owned was one that I build myself back in 2002. I carefully spent weeks, even months, planning and researching each and every component for efficiency and compatibility. When I finally pulled the trigger on buying the components, I knew I had the best gaming PC money could buy on a budget of $2,000. I had one heck of a rig.
Flash forward ten years. That same rig is now a dog. I had a lot of fun with her over the years but despite having upgraded the processor and RAM and having replaced the PSU and video card at least once, she can’t cut it anymore with modern games. She’s reached the end of her lifecycle. The upgrade brick wall was hit five years ago. I know I need a new computer but I can’t let go.
Then one morning in a blaze of glory, my PC finally decides to give up the ghost and release me to move on. I turn her on and the power supply starts to pop, then sparks fly out the back, more pops. What’s going on? It smells like burning rubber. The PSU overcharges the motherboard, frys the entire system and goes out in a puff of smoke. Rest in peace beloved PC.
A month later I was still thinking about how to go about getting a new mid-level gaming PC. Do I buy from an “every-man’s” retail store like Costco or Walmart? Do I have one built by a specialty manufacturer like Dell, Hewlett Packard or Alienware? Or do I build it again myself to save money and get exactly what I want? As a cheapskate gamer I leaned toward building it myself again. But would I really save money in today’s PC hardware climate?
It’s a common dilemma for PC gamer enthusiasts. Build or buy?
I didn’t want to spend that much on a PC this time around. Spending 2K like last time was out of the question. I needed a mid-level machine that could play all the newest games from now and for the next few years with a solid upgrade path.
I first considered Costco. They have decent rigs for a decent price, but when you look at the finer details of the hardware it’s not worth it for a gamer. They might offer a high-end processor but there’s never a decent graphics card as part of the equation. There’s always a component or two severely lacking.
I then decided to research the components and build my own. After researching exactly what I wanted I realized that I could get a MUCH better deal than going with a Costco/Walmart build even after upgrading their builds. But just before buying the components I decided to compare my list of components and costs to some of those higher-end game builders found in PCGamer magazine like iBuyPower, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and Cyberpowerpc.
I was surprised to find that iBuyPower and Cyberpowerpc had builds nearly exactly like what I had planned to buy at nearly the exact same price. Then, when I dove in to customize my rig, I found I could upgrade to the exact kind of motherboard I wanted with the right size hard drive I wanted perfectly matching my goal machine. After getting free shipping, some leap year sale upgrades and entering an online promo coupon, I was was within $100 of what I had expected to pay on my own. Given the bonuses they were offering like liquid cooling and a bump on the processor speed I figured I was probably coming out a bit ahead. With the 3 year warranty and a free Batman Arkham City game to boot I was pushed over the fence and decided to go for it. As long as I didn’t go for any of the crazy upgrades, I felt confident that I got a better deal for the money and didn’t have to take the time and risk of building the rig myself. Awesome.
So after careful consideration fellow Cheapskate gamers, I have the following to offer regarding the choice of whether or not to build or buy your next PC gaming rig relative to cost:
Low-End System: Buy
Buy from either a retail store or as a 2-5 year-old used system off of the classified ads. You’ll save much more money that way.
Mid-Level System: It’s Sixes.
Buy or build it’ll be about the same.
Most mid-level manufacturers can offer the same specs for the same price with bonus upgrades, a warranty and free delivery. Jut do your research and don’t get caught up buying too many extras which will drive the cost up.
High-End System: Build yourself.
If you’re after are really high-end rig you’re better off buying the components yourself and building it. You’ll save a lot of money that way.
My new rig from Cyberpowerpc.com arrives in about 3 weeks. I’m excited. I’ll be back on top ready to play any game in existence. If the entire experience turns out great it will have truly been worth it. I hope I don’t have to repost here to warn you about the ills of using Cyberpowerpc as a PC builder.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s better to build or buy?
How many of you have “store-bought” rigs? How many have “home-built rigs”? Chime in and let all of us at Cheapskate Gamer know.