Hard Choices: The Great DIY Vs Pre-built PC Debate, Part 2

After last week’s missive, the comments were alive with la passion PC. And it was all good. But the one critical aspect we didn’t look at in detail was the value proposition. Do you really save a chunk of change with a DIY build? A matter of some simple sums, you say?

Would that it could be so. The reality is that the variables quickly get out of control. Much depends on your budget, how flexible you are on spec, what kind of warranty you want, even where you are in the world. There are no definitive answers, folks. However, what I can do is spec up my ideal PC via both separate components and a few of the usual suspects from the PC building industry here in Blighty. The upshot makes for some interesting observations that highlight the various pitfalls, pros and cons, hell even some of my own personal peccadilloes, when it comes to DIY vs pre-built PCs. So get comfortable. This is going to take a while.

First, let’s reiterate that this is not meant to be definitive or even entirely fair. It’s a bit of fantasy PC fun, a thought experiment that will make some of the core comparative issues a bit more tangible. For instance, what does compromising on spec with a pre-build mean in practice? If a warranty is the big attraction of a pre-build, what do the various warranty options look like?

Also, while I’ve some fairly specific things I want from a PC, there’s no need to be absolutely anal about every single item. I’m not going to write off the pre-built option simply because I can’t get exactly the model of water cooler I want. But I do want a water cooler and I don’t want to pay massively over the odds for it.

Moreover, in some areas, say SSDs, I want to know what I’m buying, not simply click a checkbox for a generic drive at a given capacity. That kind of thing will attract demerits!

With that, here’s my core-component spec list. This ain’t gonna be a cheap PC, it’s the sort of PC I can get really excited about. But it’s not idiotic amounts of money, either. Here goes.

The Spec List
It all starts with Intel’s new affordable six-core killer

Intel Core i7-5820K.
M’favourite CPU. Here’s why.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970.
There’s no reference board for this model, so you’ll want to look closely at the card in question – what’s the cooling like, what are the clocks?

Intel X99 motherboard.
I’m going to break the rules a bit here and say I favour the MSI X99S SLI PLUS for overall bang for buck. I’ve played with one and it’s exactly what I want from a value X99 board. I likey.

16GB of RAM.
To paraphrase the famously satirised James M. Kilts, fuck everything, I’m going straight to 16GB. Quad-channel config, of course.

A quality 600W-plus PSU.
That low-power GTX 970 board means I won’t need a 1,000W beast and I don’t do multi-GPU, anyway.

500GB SSD.
Several models are acceptable. But if it’s any worse than a Crucial MX100, I’ll be unhappy.

A case.
Probably a white one that looks like a stormtrooper’s storage box. Just because. But, seriously, needs good support for water cooling.

A water cooler.
For the CPU. Of the closed-loop variety. Once you’ve gone water, you won’t go back.

HDD.
None. Pre-built or DIY, it make no odds. I’m going to plunder my existing rig for mass storage.

Optical drive.
No thanks.

I’m also leaving off the operating system since most good system builders allow that while maintaining warranty cover for the hardware and lots of us will have various options, including existing licences, for not paying for an OS with a new PC or build. I’m also of the habit of making frequent reinstalls, so a factory OS install doesn’t hold huge value for me.

First, then, I’ll trot on over to a few of my go-to online outlets in the UK and snag some prices. I won’t quote the source of each price for the DIY parts, this stuff changes so fast and you don’t need my help to search online. But for the record, I pulled all these prices together along with those relating to the pre-built rigs on the same evening. Thus they can be fairly characterised as comparable at that moment in time!

My DIY build
Zotac’s effort is the cheapest twin-cooled GTX 970 I could find…

Intel Core i7-5820K, £282.
‘Nuff said.

Zotac GTX 970 4GB £263.
Looks like is has a decent dual-fan cooler. OK, I’m winging it a bit, I haven’t tried this card.

MSI X99S SLI PLUS, £158.
See the main spec list above.

Crucial MX100 512GB, £144.
No fancy new M.2 drive? Nope. I’m not convinced the tech has matured sufficiently, so a plain SATA SSD like the MX100 is probably still the price/performance/capacity sweetspot.

16GB (4x 4GB) generic Crucial RAM, £150.
It’ll do.

Corsair 600T White Graphite Series case, £146.
Because it’s got a window and it’s storm trooper white. Don’t argue.

NZXT KRAKEN X31, £60.
It’s peanuts compared to most of the components. I like it.

Corsair CS650M 650W Semi-Modular 80+ GOLD, £68.
Semi. Modular. And Gold. I rest my case. Or my PSU. Whatever.

Grand total…?
£1,271

The price of pre-built
Right, then, on to the pre-built options. The aim was to match my DIY list as closely as possible unless that meant a punitive price premium without a clear performance improvement proposition. Predictably enough, I’ll start with one of Scan’s rigs.

System 1
Scan 3XS X99 Carbon (www.scan.co.uk):

On paper, Scan offers some of the best warranties around…

All exactly as per my DIY list, except…

Intel Core i7-5820K overclocked to a guaranteed and warranted 4.4GHz.
Nice.

Corsair H80 Hydro water cooler.
Acceptable.

16GB (4x4GB) Corsair DDR4 Vengeance LPX Black.
Better than my poverty-spec Crucial memory, but I’m not bothered. Unfortunately, Scan doesn’t offer a cheaper option with this rig.

EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 2.0 4GB.
It’s a GTX 970 with a couple of big fans. Meh.

550W Corsair RM, Modular, Silent, 80PLUS Gold.
Bit marginal, but probably good enough.

3yr warranty, 1yr on site, 2yrs return to base, parts ‘n labour the lot.
Sounds good.

Grand total…?
£1,523

System 2
Next up, PC Specialist (www.pcspecialist.co.uk).

Yep, PC Specialist has my case choice covered

PC Specialist Core i7-Extreme:
All as per my DIY list, except…

Asus X99-S motherboard.
Ney bother.

16GB Kingston Hyper-X Predator DDR4.
No cheaper option.

Unspecified GTX 970.
Would quite like to know what it is.

Samsung 840 Evo 500GB.
Fine and dandy.

Corsair H60 Hydro.
Not a problem.

3yr RTB warranty.
Fine, but cost £135 extra.

Grand total…?
£1,601

That was a bit of a shock and, I thought, perhaps not playing to PC Specialist’s strengths, which has a decent rep for value-oriented systems. So, I thought I’d see what happens when you relax a bit on some of the specifics.

System 3
PC Specialist Core i7-Extreme, second time around:
As per first time around, but…

Downgrade to 16GB (2x 8GB) Crucial DDR4. There was no cheap quad-channel option.
Downgrade to Kingston V300 480GB SSD. Bit yucky.
Downgrade to Cosair 550W VS PSU. It’ll get the job done.
Downgrade to 3yr standard warranty (1 month collect and return, 1yr parts, 3yrs labour). Pretty unappealing given support is one of the big benefits of pre-built.

Grand total…?
£1,399

System 4
Finally, Yoyotech (www.yoyotech.co.uk).

Yoyotech’s default case is the beastly XFX Bravo

Yoyotech BlackBox DB2 Gaming
All as per my DIY list, except…

Palit GTX 970.
Whatever.

Corsair 780T Graphite Series White.
Close enough.

Corsair H80i Hydro Series.
Jolly good.

Unspecified 480GB SSD.
Not happy. What is it?

Unspecified 2TB 7,800rpm HDD.
Not happy, can’t remove it from the build sheet.

620W Seasonic Evo Bronze PSU.
Probably acceptable.

16GB (4x 4GB) generic DDR4.
Fine by me.

3yr warranty (1 month collect and return, 1yr parts and labour RTB, yrs 2 and 3 labour only RTB).
Stingy.

Grand total…?
£1,495

The pros and cons of pre-built
Overall, I was pretty pleased by how close I could get to my perfect DIY spec with a pre-build. Even my silly Star Wars-esque Corsair case was widely available. However, some builders have a much better range of optional components than others and it was interesting to note that inflexibility didn’t necessarily translate into cheaper prices and vice versa.

I’m also surprised that some system builders are still doing dumb things like not allowing you to delete the HDD and / or not offering sensible RAM configurations across the board. If you’re going to offer cheap DDR4, why omit arguably the sweet-spot 16GB in 4x 4GB configuration? This kind of thing was common a decade ago and I’d assumed things would have progressed. Not in some cases, it seems.

I noted, too, that the old ruse of upgrade prices for certain components being in line with the typical retail price of said components sometimes remains. That sounds fine until you remember that’s an upgrade price. In other words, to ‘upgrade’ from a 128GB SSD to the 500GB option, you’re paying the full price of a 500GB drive and not getting any discount for the 128GB drive that has been dropped.

Likewise, it was a bit of an eyebrow curler to find just how much the terms of the warranties varied, too. The idea of just a single, miserable month of free RTB support and a mere year on the hardware pretty much pulls the rug out from under the whole pre-built proposition. I’d want three years RTB parts and labour cover, for sure. I reckon that kind of cover is crucial to the appeal of a pre-built rig.

Having said all that, no doubt you could probably beat the pre-built pricing above, and perhaps pretty handsomely. Good deals can sometime be had on pre-configured machines, for instance. I’m not even claiming that I’ve chosen absolutely the right base rig to achieve my preferred configuration in each case. What’s more, I reckon pre-built gaming PCs priced in the £700-800 mid-range will almost definitely close the price delta to a mid-range DIY rig.

But what I can say for sure is that you’re going to have to put in some serious leg work to find out which outfit will give you the best deal. I’d put aside several long evenings, that’s for sure.

Part-build and second hand
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, factor in the option to buy used PC parts or a partial home build where you only upgrade a limited number of key components and the variables become rather moderately mind blowing. If your motherboard offers a decent upgrade path, for instance, then a new CPU, GPU and SSD can leave you with something that feels like a completely new box for the fraction of the price.

As for buying used parts, well, where do we begin? Clearly, this is a far riskier route to a fast PC. A quick perusal of ebay using the AMD Radeon R9 290X as a metric shows reference cards selling for £180 and up with custom cooled versions around £200 and up. I’m talking used cards on ebay, not those sold as new.

Slightly O/T, but beware AMD’s reference card coolers, they’re a bit crap

Meanwhile, I can find a new 290X from a well-known retailer on special offer for £233. Personally, I rate the risk associated with second hand parts pretty severely. To reflect that, I’d want something approaching 50% off the new price. Generally, I don’t think the second hand market prices in the risk sufficiently. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find bargains.

The final reckoning
I haven’t had a proper look at all this for a few years, so it’s been a fun process digging into the whole DIY vs pre-built problem. More than anything, I love the fact that we have the choice. I love that the PC has at least the option of home build. I love that you then have something that’s both very technical but also quite personal. And guess what? It will usually work.

But I also totally get the downsides, the worries, the challenges of attempting that with limited support. All of this is amplified if you don’t have drawers full of spare components to help identify and narrow down faults. If you don’t routinely knock PCs together and you’ve spent a lot of your own money on the components, a home build can be genuinely horrifying if anything goes wrong. No question, the alternative of cracking open the pre-built shipping box to find a neatly assembled PC with lovely cable management that simply works when you plug and hit the power is extremely attractive.

What, then, is the overall message? I certainly want to encourage people to at least consider home build. Don’t just pile into it if you’re not experienced. Do the research, ask questions on forums. Most of the time it’s not hard. Most of the time it’s fun. Most of the time it’s satisfying. And most of the time it’s good value.

If that’s not your bag, that’s fine too. There are some great system builders out there who understand what matters in a gaming rig. But if you do go pre-built, don’t skimp on the warranty. Good luck and have fun with your next PC, whoever knocked it together.

93 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    It seems a bit naff that some PC builders only offer 1 year warrenties – ISn’t 2 years the required EU standard?

    Suprised by the Scan build. I am not sure if i’d consider 3 years of warrenty worth the extra 250 pounds, but if you use expensive components like that, that extra year can mean… rather a lot. Intriguing.

    • Kelron says:

      It’s typical for UK retailers of anything to only offer a 1 year warranty – UK consumer law says the retailer should be responsible for faulty goods potentially up to 6 years after purchase, depending on what it is, but the retailers don’t seem to have any duty to inform the consumer.

      If you want something replaced outside of the warranty period they advertise, you’re usually going to have to fight for it.

    • hemmer says:

      I’m not sure about the UK, I only know Austrian law but with the EU and all I’m guessing there’s not much difference:

      So there’s retailer/manufacturer warranty, and there’s legally required warranty, 2 separate things (we actually have seperate words for it in German, couldn’t find an equivalent in English though).
      For the voluntary warranty, they can pretty much choose how much they give you and what the terms are and usually they’ll handle it whatever the problem / cause.

      Legal warranty is indeed 2-3 years for electrical devices (depends on size and whatnot) and is far stricter as to what they have to fix / replace for you, meaning it has to be their fault in some way. And no, they are not obligated to inform you that it exists, moslty because it’s uniform and universal and at least here their own warranty is often just as long and much more accomodating.

      Like I said, I’m not British so details may vary, for example an apparent 6 year legal warranty according to Weitburner.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Considering that none of the individual components in the build cost much more than £250 it’s a terrible deal. The chance of multiple bits failing is pretty slim (though I conceed it is possible) so you are highly unlikely to spend more than the warranty cost fixing it yourself.

      The only way it’s worth it is if you want to save yourself the problem of diagnosing faults.

      • Heavens says:

        So far in my PC building “career”, started around 12 years ago for friends and family, I’ve never had a single case of components failing within their warranty period.

        I almost always recommend DYI as pre-built systems here in Switzerland tend to always have 1-2 parts which are total crap to save money or overpriced gadgets such as BD drives (back when they were expensive) when you absolutely don’t need one.
        DYI also allows me to get warranty on high profile parts like for example a 600.- graphics card that will have to last until the next major overhaul so I can make sure it’ll last and I don’t have to pay a flat amount for the whole system when all I really care about dying are just a few parts.

  2. Tiax says:

    Blighty = Blighttown?

  3. ScubaMonster says:

    Water cooling really isn’t a big deal unless you’re overclocking. Otherwise regular fans and stock heatsink is fine. Intel/AMD aren’t going to ship CPU coolers that can’t properly cool a CPU at stock speeds.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Depends on your definition of fine.

      Given that you can know down over 25-30 degrees celsius compared to a stock cooler, WHILE also moving from a jet takeoff sound to a quiet whisper, gaining both in your mental sanity and CPU longevity, i’d say a stock cooler is NOT fine.

      And no, AMD and Intel are just doing the extremely bare minimum, and they should start to sell their CPUs alone aswell to those who don’t want to spend extra cash on something they’ll throw away as soon as they touch it.

    • Sakkura says:

      Even then, a good high-end air cooler is at least as good as an all-in-one water cooling kit. Noctua NH-D14 is quieter than practically all water cooling kits out there, while providing nearly as much cooling peformance as the best ones at a significantly lower price.

      The main downside of big air coolers is their size and weight, which can be problematic for shipping. Having a big lump of metal hanging off your motherboard is fine when the system is just sitting there on your desk or floor, but when it’s being thrown around in shipping…

      Which is probably why water cooling kits are so common in prebuilt systems.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        That noctua is quiter than my H110, although not by much considering that i found a decent fan speed sweetspot.

        I also intentionally said goodbye to around 3-4 degrees of load performance ( worst case scenario ) to use the it as a pretty awesome top exhaust, so i have a pretty decent and clean wind tunnel with two 140mm fans in and two out on a Corsair Air 540 case, keeps it less messy then a standard heatsink blowing in a different direction.

        I think this is another reason why more and more system builders are using such things. The shipping issue is probably another one, but you also have to account for the fact that such a huge heatsink doesn’t really help the “looks” department. Sure, that one is about taste, but it’s still less clean and sleek. The last reason is hype: they offer water coolers because their system then feels “XTREME1!!”.

        We both know what is the proper solution, and i’m perfectly aware that closed loops have their limits, but i’m just too lazy to set up a custom loop, although i’d totally love that.

        But yeah, your point stands, air cooling is often just as good and that Noctua one is legendary.

      • hemmer says:

        I agree on Noctua CPU coolers, have been using them for years….well I’ve been using ONE for years because of the retention kits they send you for free, so it’s been around for quite a few motherboards.
        Also the company is Austrian, like me, always a mark for quality. :P

    • uh20 says:

      My friend bought an AMD APU. It sounded like jet engine. Got mad at it and put a water-cooler on it. So for AMD cards you’re basically obliged to water-cool both for QUIET and overclocking.

      AMD A-series cards still have their use if your looking for size. Fit an A10 with overclocked DDR4 into a mini-itx slim case with water cooling and you would have a powerful, silent and small little machine baby.

      • Premium User Badge

        Zamn10210 says:

        The stock cooler with my AMD CPU was very noisy indeed, but I just replaced it with a cheap third-party heatsink. Does the job fine and is no louder than the case/GPU fans so I don’t see any need for an expensive water cooler.

  4. bglamb says:

    One thing that really made the difference for me was Scan’s insurance on a self build. I spent the best part of a grand on components, and they insured the lots against literally *anything* whilst I was building it for 20 quid. I could literally pour coffee all over my motherboard, snap my RAM in half, feed my processor to the dog and it would be covered. That made me feel a lot more comfortable attempting my first home-build.

    5 years later and I’ve just completed my first major round of upgrades too. Nice and cheap since I kept in mind my upgrade route all the way back when and got a CPU that overclocks like a motherf*cker, space for quad channel memory and a now a nice shiny new GTX 970.

    I would recommend it!

    • Eddiestrike says:

      If this is true, then I’m going to go use scan and attempt my very own first build.

      One thing that scared me from trying was doing something wrong.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I’ve built a lot of PCs (used to do it as a job, so thousands is not an exaggeration), but I still went for Scan’s insurance when I bought a brand new graphics card with the plan of immediately pulling the heat sink off and water cooling it.
      There’s a lot of fun to be had voiding the warranty on £250 worth of hardware as soon as it comes out of the box :)

  5. amateurviking says:

    Shirley, the i7/x99/DDR4 is a bit OTT. It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether:

    Edit: mind you, if money was no object…

    Edit edit: but I really think that computer next is going to be an tiny, tiny ITX.

    • P.Funk says:

      mind you, if money was no object…

      Whilst discussing an article about value….

      • amateurviking says:

        ‘It’s a bit of fantasy PC fun’

        More about relative value than absolute. That’s ok. It’s fun to spec up the dream machine.

        • P.Funk says:

          Might be fun but not necessarily beneficial to the article about value and the comment wars about the ensue below between probably people who aren’t going to be buying dream machines either.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            It still works because it’s not about the subjective kind of absolute value you’re referring to, but the % difference in price between DIY and Prebuilt.

            That Scan offer seemed pretty decent though, with a lot of warranty and some parts were actually better, like the EVGA thingy. The SC cooler is something extremely good.

            Oh and Jeremy, don’t write off Crucial as RAM, one thing is buying the best Corsair Dominator you can find, but you still have no clue which actual brand of memory they’re using. You might get Hynix or other decent ones, but crappy choices are also possible. meanwhile with Crucial you are 100% guaranteed that you’ll get Micron modules, which are perfect.

            If you’ll ever actually build your dream machine, consider giving Crucial Ballistix a spin.

          • Jeremy Laird says:

            My recommended RAM in my self build list is Crucial RAM.

            Also, re the other comments in this part of the thread, in an ideal world I’d have done about three different budgets and builds / pre-built options for all. But that’s just too unwieldy – it as 2000 words with just one budget! Like I insinuated, this post was more about generating discussion points than being definitive. Being definitive just isn’t practical.

            So, my build was what I think is a sort of high-end sweet spot. It’s not money-no-object. But it’s what for me are the best vaguely sane money components in a box. Yes, you could have a pair of 980s and a 5960X, but a lot of the time, you probably wouldn’t feel the difference. Equally, for a pure gaming box, you’d probably drop down to LGA1150 and a K-series quad. But I really like the idea of the entry-level LGA2011-v3 with six cores. It’s not entirely rational, but I like having a proper enthusiast platform in my PC.

          • P.Funk says:

            Except again he alluded to how the % difference in price, which is where this value discussion stems in this article, is possibly/probably/likely narrower in the lower price bracket where most people are going to be shopping. As such the conclusion is very different. At higher price points we see something like double digit % price savings on DIY, but with a lower priced more entry level gaming rig how does it work out?

            This article basically then more like a tutorial on how to check out the value question in terms of method rather than about examining the reality of the value question in a way that offers real information.

            That makes it less interesting to discuss since I feel like I already knew this stuff and anyone who DIYs knows this but those who don’t and wonder about it well if they mostly exist at the lower price bracket… they didn’t learn much did they without going through the process itself which the author stated involved quite a bit of work. Now that does offer one counter point to the previous article’s comments where every pre-build supporter stated they didn’t want to research at all.

            I also want to note that the article failed entirely to account for actually dealing with brick and mortar parts shops where you can get serious PC troubleshooting help basically for free when they consider you a customer. Buy their stuff, come back and say “this thing isn’t working well” or say “I tried putting it together but it won’t boot” and they’ll probably help you gratis. Meanwhile the article only focuses on online shopping and warranties through these impersonal online retailers which is frankly not how I deal with my PC builiding and anyone who lives within an hour of a major city should be able to avoid the annoyance of RMA via the mail unless dealing with warranties with specific parts such as sending your EVGA card back to the manufacturer for repair/replacement.

            Also article failed to discuss warranty with respect to individual parts with their respective manufacturer and instead only discussed PC vendor warranties, so people who don’t really understand the distinction will continue to just think you take your whole PC in like you would your car when anyone who DIYs knows this is not necessarily the case.

            So all in all find it a bit of a disappointing article as it missed exploring the broader landscape and instead put its shutters on and basically only explored things as the author himself does it, for himself. Coulda been better IMO.

            EDIT. Sniped by the author, but most of what I say stands so I won’t revise it. Just bear in mind it was written before the red outlined comment appeared.

          • Jeremy Laird says:

            Highlighted comment was me momentarily pressing the wrong button. Calm down, dear!

            This was a tough piece in the sense that there were so many issues to cover. I broke it into two parts with part two hitting 2,000 words and still didn’t touch on everything. To an extent I am relying on the comments to fill in some gaps. In part one there was some good discussion in the comments, IIRC, about parts warranties.

            But the big distinction for people who aren’t already comfortable with DIY is the overarching support you get with a warranty that covers the whole box. I think most people understand that if you buy a video card, it will have a warranty. The problem, if you’re not confident identifying faults, is knowing that it’s the video card (or whatever) that’s bust.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Yeah I agree with P.Funks point. While at those sorts of specs a $300 saving is worth having, the more you go towards standard specs the smaller the gap in price gets, due in part to a certain % of a smaller number being smaller in itself, and due in part to companies being able to save money on their end by buying more standard components in bulk, they will be ordering tons of i5s, far less Haswell-E processors.

            One thing that is worth mentioning though, is that with a pre-built high end machine like this, they will build it with a top of the line PSU and a top of the line case because it is a “money no object” purchase, they will use the components they can put the biggest markup on.

            When buying a more mid range PC this is probably not going to happen because their goal with these machines shifts to being as price-competitive as possible and selling as many as possible, rather than making maximum profit on each one like with a top end “extreme gaming” package.
            Pricing of a pre-built mid range PC will be very similar to a self-build but you will probably find you will end up with an inferior case and/or unbranded PSU because of it.

            The other important issue to me is looking to the future. On my current PC which I built I spent a large sum on a case, I now have a top quality case that does not need to be bought again, similar situation with my PSU (although these do have the possibility of dying). When you next need a PC, the self-build option saves you a lot of money because you will have a bunch of stuff that simply doesn’t need buying again, you don’t have this option with a pre-built, it will come with new hard-drives, new ram, a new case and PSU which all increases the cost. Meaning that next time you either save a bunch of money or you spend your budget only on core components and end up with a far superior PC.

        • Sakkura says:

          And at least this is a dream machine that’s in the reach of mortal man. Not a Core i7-5960X + dual GTX Titan Z beast costing more than the average car.

    • pepperfez says:

      but I really think that computer next is going to be an tiny, tiny ITX.
      I’m very excited at this prospect, especially with how energy-frugal the new Nvidias are. A capable gaming machine is fine and dandy, but I mostly want an adorable computer over which I can make gentle cooing noises.

      • uh20 says:

        Pico-itx builds are starting to pop up, you can put them into old routers or curiously into a xbox360 DVD drive.
        They are far away from being a sane DIY build though: My quest to find out about pico-itx a few months back led me to these guys who never completely finished their builds:
        link to facepunch.com
        link to ajacksonian.blogspot.com

  6. ScubaMonster says:

    I think one of the big advantages to DIY is that you can insure future upgrading is a cinch. Sometimes with pre-builts, you have proprietary cases/builds that would make it really difficult to stuff new parts into outside of RAM and GPU. Depends on the quality of the vendor I suppose, but I know I can fit everything inside my case and probably won’t have to buy a new one until I decide USB 3.0 on the front panel isn’t good enough. I can fit any mobo or whatever else I want in there in the future. A lot of people probably don’t view the case as being that important but it makes a world of difference when actually building and upgrading.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Aye, that’s rather key, especially since you can easily spend 80 for a complete piece and trash and just add another 30-40 bucks for something stellar. Many will be psychologically trapped by the savings compulsion, but it’s best to just splurge for the good one, it can easily last more than a great ( emphasis on “great” ) monitor.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yep, everything else in your PC has the potential to die at some point. A case never will unless you do something dumb like run over it with a car. Buying a good one means that is money that you literally never have to spend again if you don’t want to.

  7. 2late2die says:

    It probably won’t apply to a lot of people, but my personal path to full DYI rigs started with simple parts replacement. I started with simply replacing a hard drive, then it was a graphics card, followed by a bunch of more miscellaneous components. Until I finally saved up enough scratch and courage to tackle a full system build. So I mean if you’re thinking about doing that, but worried about screwing up then start small – just upgrade a few things here and there, until you get comfortable with the process.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      That’s exactly how it was for me too. I had a crappy HP computer and I eventually ended up upgrading the RAM, GPU, and HDD. I finally built my first PC last year and overall it was relatively simple. Just follow the manuals and you’ll be fine.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Same for me, I started by updating my Graphic Card (remember when they still weren’t called GPUs?) twice (first one didn’t work) on my Pentium II, then RAM, then I had a custom built PC from an online shop which I mostly repaired myself (I went to a shop only for changing the PSU, that thing always scared me a bit with all those cables), then I built an entire system for the first time last year.

    • Rizlar says:

      Pretty much! It was also funny reading ‘don’t just pile into it if you’re not experienced’ at the end of the article and thinking ‘what? but how else would you learn, it’s not that hard’. Then remembering that in fact my first PC was a prebuilt and I learned by replacing parts and tinkering just as you describe.

      Reading lists of specs and parts (comparing the different 970s recently for example), it’s really a foreign language. It’s so easy to take for granted when you can read a list of specs and actually know what all the important info is. And even know wtf the part is and what you need from it. It’s all just words and numbers to someone who hasn’t got the experience acquired knowledge.

      • Jeremy Laird says:

        What I meant, and what I said, was do your research before you start unloading on parts. I did not mean you shouldn’t try it!

        • Rizlar says:

          Indeed, I didn’t mean to say that you must have experience (although that’s kind of what I did say…)

          • Reapy says:

            I find my experience is all null and void by the time I get around to buying the next pc, about every 4 or 5 years so far. Everything changes!

            I’ve always been most confused on motherboards and not sure whats ‘good’ or what I need on them.

            The other things is power. I used to read how I need to count up the 12v output on the supply vs what I’m plugging into it, but then someone told me you don’t have to do that anymore? I’ve read oh you don’t need 1000w power supplies, but oh yes, now you do.

            I’ve tried to put custom coolers on to upgrade/overclock but it was sort of a disaster, didn’t fit in my pc case or on my motherboard, or accidentally bought it for the wrong processor, I have a few ones in the closet

            So really what I end up doing is look for guides, have been using ars techinca’s hot rod guides just doing things like upping the ram or hard drive size where I know i’m not going to break compatibility.

            I probably am a good candidate for just going pre built, but that price gap is just a bit too high between buying parts and assembling.

            It would be nice to one year have a machine that I don’t have to turn anti aliasing or shadows off for once.

  8. FlatBat says:

    Didn’t want an enormous box, so decided to go for Mini ITX and the cramped confines of a Node 304 case (in white of course). It’s all worked out pretty well with a Core i4, GTX 760, 16gb, and a 128gb SSD. Easy to pick up and carry, quiet too, unless its working hard.

    I looked at pre-built and just couldn’t find what I wanted. In the end, the whole process of researching the options, sorting out where to order from and actually putting the whole thing together was quite enjoyable. Certainly more fun than picking from a limited number of options in someone else’s list.

    Cost wise, it probably worked out slightly cheaper than pre-built, but that wasn’t the main point…

  9. AdesteFideles says:

    I always do self-builds. I like to look at my PC on my desk and think “I built that.”

    I’ve built 3 PC’s this year for friends and family. All have been mITX builds; it’s just so much more fun cramming more and more power in to smaller and smaller spaces.

    If you are time-rich but cash-poor might I suggest sourcing parts via the pcpartpicker.com webpage. I built one system using only parts that showed up on the price drops section of this site over a period of six weeks and managed to save a big chunk of money in doing so.

    Amazon in particular have some mental yo-yoing on their prices. Using the Camel Amazon price checker is also really useful.

    • patstew says:

      I recently built a computer remarkably similar to the one in the article (only real difference is I went mATX). I found pricespy has better coverage of uk sites than pcpartspicker, though it doesn’t do all the other things pcpartspicker does. Also, it’s worth running the parts through Flubit. I got a Palit Jetstream GTX970 for £246, delivered from overclockers.co.uk who sell it for £290 on their own site.

  10. Laurentius says:

    So I wonder, I have “old” (actually not that old, it’s been 4 years ) Intel I5 760 OC to 3.8 Ghz but I think it’s been already two sockets of new Intel processors, am I really under the weather with this CPU ? I mean I think it’s holding fine but it’s hard to find comparison of how it fare in games against newer generation of Intel’s CPUs.

    • Tom Walker says:

      As a general rule, if you can’t tell whether or not you have a problem, you don’t.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      No, you aren’t, it’s still a good quad core and OCed to 3.8 Ghz is slightly better than the i5-3470 I bought last year (which is from 3.2 to 3.5 without OC).
      Really, I’ve been gaming with an old Athlon XP 64 3200+ for ten years, with the sluggish progression of CPUs nowadays (compared to the times I bought the aforementioned AMD CPU) it’s surprising people still worry about their more-than-fine quad cores.
      Hell, I bought a quad core only because I get cold sweat to the thought of touching the CPU socket or the CPU itself and wanted any possible future CPU upgrade as far away in the future as possible, most people told me that dual cores are still more than fine for most games.

      • Sakkura says:

        Your Core i5-3470 is significantly faster than his Core i5-750 despite running at slightly lower clocks. The newer architecture means a lot more work gets done per clock cycle.

        The Core i5-750 isn’t that bad though, especially with a good overclock thrown in.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Agreed with above. I got a my 760 to 4ghz ( lucky ). Thought being stuck on an old socket set would suck but with a GTX660 / 8gig ram ( over-clocked also) and an SSD. I am running most modern games on high by my monitors 1440×900.

      I don’t see this being an issue for a while. Although an upgrade now would be essentially a total new build. My regret at the time was being a little short on cash to go for a modern socket CPU set up. But it has not been an issue in the long run.

      For example I am getting Far Cry 3 @60 fps with AA on and high and ultra high settings.

      I think I will easily get another year or so out of this before I really need to look at a new system.

      Edit: Also if your interested some one compared a 760 to a 4670k here. Quite in depth.

      link to techbuyersguru.com

      • Laurentius says:

        Hey, thanks for the link. That’s enlightening. Less then 10% gain in actual games, with a cost of new CPU, mobo and probably RAM ? No, thank you. Especially as I said I think I’m doing fine in games.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Well, clock-to-clock a newer processor is quite faster than that, then there’s the fact that they can actually reach a pretty higher frequency, which means double win.

      You’re not going to be in trouble for some other time, don’t worry about that, even though you might consider Skylake. Again, it’s not a situation of “need”, but you’d still end up with a considerable upgrade both in processing power and new chipset features, which are always a good thing if you care about that.

      And if that Skylake won’t explode ahead of time, you’ll have another 6+ years of perfect performance.

  11. Tom Walker says:

    So there isn’t actually a Final Reckoning. You ended the first part with:

    A beautifully-built factory rig, cables and connectors all professionally managed, can be a beautiful thing. Add in a system-wide warranty for a year or three and I for one would certainly want to the self-build option to be not just marginally cheaper, but substantially cheaper.

    Well, I’d say the Scan system is the best match for the money and by my reckoning it’s 19.8% more expensive than the DIY build. Assuming I have a decent knowledge of PC hardware but not a surplus of spare components to fault-find potential failures, what say you?

    • gi_ty says:

      Self build for sure. There are many resources to help you on the rare occasion you actually need to fault find. I have built many PC’s for friends and family and only ever encountered an issue twice both of which only required me reassembling and everything worked fine. Its quite enjoyable and if your already thinking about it I say dive in you’ll likely love it. Also Tomshardware.com is your friend.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      It’s an option, off course, the Scan offer has decent components and a not too huge markup considering the big warranty and the pre configured overclock, but any other offer in that list is terrible. I’d justify a pre-built only for such a quality offer and nothing else.

      I wouldn’t be too scared about the lack of spare parts, just don’t buy trash if you want to DIY and you might well find yourself never needing to switch components around to check what’s broken.

      I can’t obviously guarantee that as everything can go bad, Murphy’s law and all that stuff, but i personally took that particular chance a long time ago and i’m pretty happy i did. I also now have spare parts too, just in case. You have to start from somewhere.

      The only fatal issue i ever encountered was accidentally dropping a screw on top of my CPU socket, bending some pins. Putting them back in place was a NIGHTMARE, but now that i managed i think i might even start a career as watchmaker!

  12. paulsoaresjr says:

    Heh, I chose the Corsair 600T for the same reason, ie because it reminds me of a Stormtrooper.

    Also, it’s fantastic case.

    • gi_ty says:

      I went with the Corsair Storm Stryker because it looks like a stormtrooper and it is massive! I think the case weighs a good 40 lbs. Huzzah for sweet white cases!

  13. Adamustache says:

    I think it’s worth noting that getting deals on individual parts tends to add up to a greater amount of savings compared to getting a pre-built machine on sale. Not to mention it’s harder to find the exact pre-built you want on sale compared to finding the parts you want on sale.

    When I did a self-build a couple years ago around Black Friday, I managed to put together a pretty solid mid-range PC for around $600 thanks to a bunch of great deals, and it’s still holding up wonderfully. I would have been lucky to find a pre-built machine with similar specs on sale for even $1k at the time. So even when you’re not trying to max out your specs, the savings on a self-build can be substantial.

  14. Person of Interest says:

    I configured a similar build on my favorite U.S. pre-built shop and had nearly the same experience and final price.

    FYI the NZXT Kraken X31 got poor marks for cooling at Silent PC Review. The X41 fared much better, and X61 beat the best air cooolers, although the minimum noise level is still higher. See the big chart at the bottom of link to silentpcreview.com

    • Joshua Northey says:

      What shop is that? Always recommendations are helpful.

      • Person of Interest says:

        It’s Puget Systems, which did a great job with my father’s PC. They included a lot of personalized service: detailed emails confirming my custom requirements and evaluating my component selection; a 2-minute YouTube video of his assembled PC with narration and instruction on how to use the fan filters and such; and a 3-ring binder organizing all driver and OS discs, manuals, thermal images of the PC under load, benchmark results, parts warranties, and unused screws and cables that came with the case and motherboard; and a survival guide for people using Windows 8 for the first time.

        We were both dumbfounded by the white glove treatment we got. All we were expecting was to get a PC in the mail. But I almost never use build-to-order PC shops: is it normal for them to provide this level of service?

        • Sleepymatt says:

          I built my most recent rig, so it’s maybe 7-8 years since I last had a pre-built one, but no, that level of service is pretty spectacular! I had no real complaints with my pre-builts (from Evesham, in the UK) and decent after sales service too, but that tops anything I’ve ever heard of!

          As a general cautionary note, Evesham went bust not long after I bought my second machine from them, so a pre-builder’s warranty is only worth anything so long as they are still around to act on it!

  15. sinister agent says:

    Oh, this reminded me: years back, I was desperate for cash and did some work stripping down laptops and listing the parts on ebay for an independent computer/repair shop. At the end of it they had a look and demanded that I take down the word “untested” that I’d used in all of them (because they were).

    Probably something people who’re likely to be shopping for spares are aware of, but I’d definitely assume that if something doesn’t specify, the answer is no, it hasn’t been tested.

  16. Joshua Northey says:

    I bought my first one pre-built in maybe 1998, it crapped out not long after so I did DIY in 1999 (I did get my money back on the pre-built). I did DIY for 4 more iterations, and built another ~40 DIY for friends/families/workplaces.

    By about 2011 I was making enough money at my job that the time and effort of DIY wasn’t worth it to me. Would rather pay a bit more and have more time to work/game. Its about to to buy another machine or two, and I am really one the fence, but will likely buy pre-builts.

    I do think people these days should at least be able to DIY just so they are less scared of the hardware they are working with each day.

  17. Premium User Badge

    edna says:

    I’m a big fan of the secondhand market myself. For CPU and GPU at least. The beauty of a self-build is that you can usually afford to wait for a bargain before you commit because you can build it up piecemeal. So my current build is …

    2500K + motherboard (straightforward overclock to 4.9GHz) – £150 (used)
    i30 CPU cooler – £20 (new)
    GTX 680 – £100 (used)
    240GB M500 SSD – £100 (new)
    16GB Corsair RAM – £80 (new)
    Fractal R2 XL – £40 (used)

    The other bits I have kept from before. So for about 500 quid I have got myself a system that goes like lightning (superpi 1M in 7.8s is up with a 4700k at 4.7GHz) and looks … well, like a massive black box with an over-bright blue LED on the top. Plus I feel like a bargain hunting hero of PC geniusness. The smug factor alone makes it worthwhile.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Yup, second hand plus some old parts you already have can make for killer value. But you do need to be patient and might have to roll with the odd punch. But good work.

    • Katar says:

      Where are people finding RAM at those prices?

      After a quick skim of three or four sites, I can’t find anywhere that sells 16GB of DDR3 for £80 new or 16GB of DDR4 for £150 or even come close. More like £120-£130 for DDR3 and £220-£240 for DDR4, I must be looking in the wrong places.

      Edit: Okay I found the £150 DDR4 memory.

      • Premium User Badge

        edna says:

        @Katar:

        £80 for 16GB RAM? I found it at Yoyotech. I suspect it was a pricing error on their website, or maybe they just got a cheap lot. That’s what I mean about DIY being a good way to keep prices down. You have time to keep an eye on prices and then pounce when a component you want comes up at a good price.

  18. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Hi Jeremy, just wondered if you had heard anything about ASUS X99 Deluxes deciding to slip the surly bonds of earth and blow up? There’s been a lot of shouting on newegg and a couple of early reviews that had rather burny failures, but its hard to tell if this is a major problem or just the internet echo chamber (I am still sure that DARPA approved development of the internet for its amazing disinformation dissemination properties).

    Basically I’ve got one, and am collecting parts together for my build which I finally finally finally decided on. I am trying to figure out if I should send it back before my cooling off period expires. I dunno, maybe I am inviting ASUS’ lawyerey wrath by asking.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Haven’t read much about that. really hard to tell how serious that kind of problem is. As I said in the post, the MSI I picked is a nice value X99 with all the important features I want to see – M.2, isolated audio, SLI and Crossfire if you care about that. But I can hardly promise you all of those boards are perfect, either. It’s early days for all these boards right now.

      If you bought from a supplier with a good rep for returns, I’d probably let sleeping dogs lie for now.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      For what is worth, as time passes i’m less and less convinced about Asus. My feeling is that they really are losing focus, or rather, shifting it into territories i don’t really care to explore.

      As a random examples, their fancy GPUs tend to make bold claims about noise and heat, but the heatsink is on most ( or all? ) models connected only on the chip, avoiding RAM, VRM and so on. Far less heat to dissipate clearly helps win the numbers contest, but it’s an unprofessional approach nonetheless. Meanwhile MSI and EVGA often shown they can easily rule as the best offers.

      Which brings us to my main concern. Numbers, features. Everything they do nowadays seems to be aimed at just that, having that bigger number or that extra feature, regardless of how many corners they might be cutting behind the curtain.

      I started to have more and more problems with Asus, and my issues are being alleviated the more i switch brands.

      • UW says:

        ASUS seem to be very much about constantly pushing out new products. Their range is almost constantly changing, and often there is limited support for their old hardware.

        This is more obvious in phones, where they seem to release several direct upgrades to a given line every year and some phones that are less than a year old still haven’t been upgraded to KitKat.

        Post-sale support like that is less of an obvious requirement with computer parts (though still pretty important with motherboards), but I think it’s indicative of a generally poor and disconcerting attitude toward customer service.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Cheers chaps. Not having bought a new rig for a while this is useful info.

  19. Rikard Peterson says:

    But if the topic is value for the money, what about getting a general big-brand computer at one of the low-cost electronics stores? If you go for a middle-of-the-road computer there (labeled “gamer” is expensive, and budget is probably a bit underpowered). I’ve put things together myself in the past, but my current gaming PC is a HP Pavillion (sold as a “family PC”) that I bought years ago. I don’t think I could have found similar specs cheaper (well, maybe second hand if I’d been lucky – that’s how I got the MacBook Pro that I’m typing this on), and I still haven’t had any performance problems with it. (Though to be fair, I have a fairly small screen too. It would probably have trouble driving the kinds of monster monitors usually talked about in these columns.)

    • Sakkura says:

      Those usually have overkill CPUs and memory and underpowered GPUs. They often also cut corners on the power supply, and if you’re really unlucky they actually sometimes use proprietary power connectors so you can’t even upgrade with a retail unit.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      The hidden message in there is that, while you might consider the pre-built option, you should totally still have some pretty decent idea of how hardware works, so as to actually be able to make good choices once you get your favourite system builder to get the work done for you, while avoiding said big brands that will charge even for a “gamer” moniker while also presenting all the issues that Sakkura mentioned.

      Macs have totally nothing to do with any of this. While i loathe many things about Apple, their engineering and quality control are a a LOT above your usual names like Dell and so on.

      This applies to monitors too, aside from the fact that Apple has no wide gamut options, comparing “apples to apples” ( ahem ) the factory calibration of the sRGB output, the backlight and panel uniformity and so on ( almost any brand has horror stories about this ), the only way to beat their quality is going straight to mother EIZO ( or NEC ).

  20. steves says:

    “A quality PSU”

    Yep. Higher wattage numbers is not ‘quality’, and 600W will be enough for any single GPU system.

    You’ll have to read a bunch of stuff, but there’s excellent advice advice here:

    link to forums.somethingawful.com

    Reddit ain’t too bad on this sort of thing either:

    link to reddit.com

    And if you like the “white stormtrooper’s storage box” look (I kind do now!), don’t care about optical drives, and will go with water-cooling + some custom cables then:

    link to imgur.com

    That’s the NZXT S340 case, which is like £55, though you’re going to have to spend a lot more to get a build looking that clean.

  21. Rise / Run says:

    If one of the main selling points of pre-built is warranty, I don’t find it worth it for desktops. If a part goes kaput, your parts warranties are at least a year (3 years on intel processors), so what have you gained by shelling out extra cash to the builder? If your power supply goes kaput, you may have more serious problems, but that’s frankly more likely with some crap PSU that you got with a pre-built than it is with something you’d buy as a DIY.

    Laptops are a whole ‘nother ballgame. Things are bouncing around so much there that an extended warranty has always been worth it for me.

  22. Dumdeedum says:

    Technically it’s cheaper to do neither, but instead upgrade your existing PC. Usually you can carry at minimum the disk drives, power supply and case over, sometimes more if you’re lucky.

    It’s why I maintain that my current computer is in fact the same machine as the old second-hand 486 Packard Bell I bought many, many moons ago. Sure the original parts are all long gone, but there’s been an unbroken chain of upgrades since then.

  23. gguillotte says:

    Forever turned off of pre-builds from a bad experience (admittedly years ago) that used off-the-shelf components with arbitrary bits (PCIe slots) desoldered and removed and others (RAM) soldered in place. I haven’t brought myself to trust a builder since.

    Besides, DIY lets me explore really stupid unusual case/mobo combos. I have a miniITX board in an old ATX case stacked as a NAS to the gills with cast-off 2.5″ hard drives and SSDs, but with so much extra space in the case that a couple 120cm fans cool all of it under load. It’s ugly, but it’s a NAS in a closet, so who cares? No builder will do that because it’s stupid so far off the mainstream for what people usually want.

    The other bonus of DIY is I’ve been able to step into my gaming build without having the finance the whole build with interest up front. I gamed off integrated Haswell better than I’d expected and saved up for a year, which helped the GPU prices drop on the cards I wanted. Couldn’t do that quite as easily with a prebuild; though I imagine it’s still possible, as mentioned here they force so many random things on you that you have to plan around them.

  24. gadalia says:

    I’m not sure if it was mentioned here or in the other article and I just missed it, but the psychological difference is there as well.
    I built/upgraded my first PC in July and buying individual parts, researching what was good for my budget and then building it was pretty damn stressful, but really exciting and rewarding to.
    I’m sure if I just bought a new pre-built one most of the stress wouldn’t exist.

    • P.Funk says:

      To be fair I don’t know how different it would be other than avoiding the stress of actual assembly. Most dogged pre-built fans seem to insist that buying prebuilt means you save lots of time and you don’t need to worry about which part is better, which this article quite clearly states is simply not true. Even doing apparently days of research and comparison shopping and knowing exactly what he wanted the author still ended up with a final price at least 10% higher if not more in the pre-built category, and thats with the proviso that the pre-built options frequently are filled with pitfalls someone not in the know wouldn’t understand.

      I think this article refutes some of the claim about the ease of pre-builds at leas with respect to how much you need to know about the parts. The only thing a pre-built relieves you of in my opinion is knowing how the parts have to actually fit together physically. When it comes to knowing which ones are better and are worth their price that is no different.

      I guess some people though are fine with spending 200 extra pounds to save that stress and time. Depending on how much money you make thats quite a few man hours just because you don’t want to do any tech research.

      • Mitthrawn says:

        It’s not just that you don’t want to do research. I have gone down both roads, diy and pre-built. For me the diy build was stressful because I kept having hard drive failure due to (admittedly my poor) mounting and installation. But because I didn’t spring for the extended warranty I had two hard drives die on me without me being able to return them before I figured out what the problem was. Enormously stressful and it meant that my computer was out of commission for weeks because I couldn’t boot up and I had to figure out what parts needed fixing and then save up the money to fix them.

        I also had a problem with an overheating cpu and a complete gpu failure. I bought a prebuilt system on sale for maybe 100-150 more than Newegg parts, have had no problems and more importantly, no stress in the year since I bought it.

        • P.Funk says:

          Well I never embark on any sort of PC build, or even a full OS nuking, without having a Linux live distro at hand formerly on DVD, presently on USB stick. There are OSes that run entirely in active memory so its easy to use those as a means to troubleshoot HD issues. Very handy indeed.

          I might add that the research and care I put into my case purchase ensured that there were no mounting issues. Thank you CM690. I will say that if you don’t do your research and learn what to do you will have some… err issues potentially as you noted. My friend helped another friend build a PC. He forgot to install the motherboard risers… you can imagine what happened when they turned it on….

          • Zafman says:

            Heh! The opposite happened to me once. I left one motherboard riser too many in, resulting in a completely unresponsive system, it wouldn’t even turn on. Finding that little flaw was real fun! Yeah, it took all day and I was sweating like a pig. “I’LL TAKE IT ALL APART AGAIN THEN FFS!!!…oh…what…*facepalm*”
            All good though, it didn’t break anything. With the riser removed it started up as if nothing ever happened. Phew.

  25. RPSRSVP says:

    I mostly agree with the author, he does the 1st stage of future proofing and value seeking but it’s not a challenge on an open budget. Things get a lot more interesting when you are chained with a sub £1000 build, since that’s currency of the island he resides on.

    Seeking value when PC building always implies compromising, which Jeremy hasn’t done enough of in this article. A true budget build, squeezing that (insert local currency here) to performance ratio cannot have any early adopter components such as DDR4. The fun for me is scratching and clawing to get the most for my money.

    Raiding your old PC for parts to transfer to the new one is a step in the right direction but why stop there? The case itself doesn’t have to be new and opting for other used components gives you a lot of maneuvering room in the budget. Once you decide exactly which components have to be new and which ones are fair game, you find a reputable forum and trade there.

    After you run the numbers, start acquiring parts and eventually start putting the beast together, it’s exhilarating to realize that suddenly your Swindon can hang with Manchester United.

    Here is an example: a few years ago, GPU’s had the tendency to encroach the room heater market and threatened the competition there. As a result, power supplies had to follow. Some of the premium models weren’t fully modular and that somehow elicits the “eeww” reaction while the truth is that in any given decade, you spend less than a few hours touching those “ewww” cables and even less time looking at the wiring of your PC, at least a sane, average PC user does. I got one of those for $50, it was a signature edition that was $300 at launch, a model that Jonny Guru has written songs about. 850W is overkill sure but whenever you go with a power supply that won’t ever use over 50% of it’s capacity, the reduction in heat and stress ensure longevity.

  26. Volcanu says:

    I took delivery of a higher-end pre built PC from Chillblast a week ago. In the past I had always gone down the DIY route as it was significantly cheaper, but with my tech knowledge being a wee bit rusty and the fact that I now have much less free time I decided to look into pre-built as an alternative.

    That said I did spec the components up separately using a price comparison site (part picker I think) and actually found that the pre built was ever so slightly cheaper. Which was very surprising. Might have been because I was also getting peripherals including a monitor, but that really was the deal clinched. They were also able to oc the CPU and GPU which is something I wouldnt be comfortable doing myself, and the fact it came with a 5yr warranty and was fully tested before delivery meant it was stress free.

    Tl:DR – I was very surprised that building my rig wouldn’t have saved me any money at a all- I thought I would at least stand to save something, even if it wasn’t very much.

  27. remon says:

    One huge benefit of the “crap” AMD reference cooler, and Nvidia’s Titan and later, that almost no one mentions, is the leaf blower fan doesn’t dump the heat inside the case, which means better cooling for the rest of the machine. Almost no custom made card does that.

  28. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Just buy a mac

    • Geebs says:

      I already did, but all of them suck for gaming apart from one model which has been discontinued for a year.

  29. TheApologist says:

    What drives me towards pre-built these days are pre-overclocked systems.

    I am trying to decide between an upgrade and going pre-built, but if I felt like I could get the real value of my new CPU by watercooling and overclocking it myself, then there wouldn’t be a decision to make. Is there a good simple(tons) guide out there – particularly the overclocking bit…?

  30. udat says:

    This article is probably going to end up costing me about £1300 :P

    After reading it, i now have “the bug” and want to upgrade my ageing Athlon Phenom II X4 955. I have upgraded the GPU and put an SSD in it over the years, but these Haswell-E CPUs have caught my eye.

    I started to put together the bits to upgrade on Overclockers, and the price of the components is actually coming out hardly any cheaper than their pre-built systems.

    link to overclockers.co.uk

    I customised that a bit to ditch the second HDD and I picked a different case (the Aerocool DS-200 black/white reminds me of a sentry gun from Portal!) and it’s coming in at £1260, which is only a few quid more than the bits all purchased separately.

    Does anyone have any experience with their pre-built systems? They are using a Prolimatech CPU Cooler. I know nothing about those.