Ask LH: What's The Best Way To Purchase A Desktop PC?

Hi Lifehacker, I'm looking at buying a decent desktop PC ($1500 or so is what I have budgeted). It will store a lot of files (photos, movies, music) and be used to edit my home videos, but I have no need for it to be a gaming powerhouse. I'd also like an SSD for the operating system.

Electronics retailers hardly sell desktops these days, and review sites don't even seem to review them much. Pricing from no-brand stores often seems cheaper than the big brands. What are the options I should be looking at? Thanks, Desktop Devotee

Dear DD,

If you're not overly fussed about elaborate styling or fancy ergonomics, you're probably better off building your own PC. In addition to being generally more cost effective, this also gives you more versatility when it comes to choosing specific hardware.

Building your own PC means you'll be able to cherry-pick the right components and processing power to suit your specific needs. In your case, this means plenty of inbuilt storage, a current-gen SSD and a hyperthreading CPU for heavy editing workloads.

These days, building a desktop PC requires very little technical know-how. The only fiddly part is connecting all the internal I/O cables to the motherboard -- otherwise it's no more difficult than fitting Lego bricks together.

The important thing is to ensure all the hardware is compatible before you actually shell out for it (i.e. -- always check component specifications!) If you're new to PC building, start with the CPU and a compatible motherboard -- this will help to narrow the other component possibilities down and make planning your build more manageable. You can pick up some general tips on choosing the right desktop parts here.

When it comes to buying your hardware, StaticIce is a pretty good bet. This is an aggregator website that ranks Australian electronics suppliers in order of price. The site is entirely search-driven, which means you need to know the full names of the products you're interested in first. Naturally, you should already be armed with this list via plenty of online research.

With all that said, there are some advantages to buying a pre-built machine. For example, customer support is usually better -- especially if you're buying from a well-known vendor who operates locally. Plus, there's less chance of running into technical difficulties when you boot the system up for the first time (i.e. -- all the parts are specifically designed to work together and the machine has been put together by professionals.)

We'll also throw this one over to our readers: if have any buying tips or preferred PC models for HD video editing, let DD know in the comments section below.

See also: 6 Essential Tips For First-Time PC Builders | The Best PCs You Can Build For $700 And $1400 | How To Save Money When Building Your Own PC | How Hyper-Threading Works (And When You Want It In Your PC)

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Building your own is 100% the best method hands down... I order everything from PCCaseGear. They have fantastic service and fast processing of orders.

      It's not 100%. You have to remember that not everyone has the knowledge like IT professionals so it all depends on the person who is buying the computer.

        Modern computers are easy to assemble, if you can put a lego set together, you can put together a computer. However you can get some nasty driver compatibility issues which a non techo wouldn't be able to deal with.

          I think using Lego comment is making things a little too easy for none techno. There's a lot more to building then plugging in cables. Bottom line, if not sure then buy a pre-built computer

            Well really in some ways assembly is easier than a lego set. Your RAM only fits in one place, same with your CPU, power cable, sata ports, etc. Software is what can throw newbies off.

              & as you know, people will put the memory in the wrong way, damaging it. CPUs can only go in one way but again people will do it wrong, etc etc

                Well if someone is going to try and jam a square in a circle hole, then that's their dumb fault :p

        Its still the best method regardless if you can do it or not.

          I wouldnt say its the best. If something goes wrong and you dont have the confidence to diagnose it, you might be better off with a retail or preconfigured system.

            I would still say it was the best provided you have the confidence to do it. Most of the time your issue can be easily solved through some searching on the internet.
            If you take your time researching the build and install everything correctly with care, its very unlikely issues will arise.

            If not then pre built is an easy way out.

    This youtube link gives good information comparing building your own PC vs buying one from a dedicated PC store. Of course their shop recommendations won't work in Australia, so I'd recommend some from the Melbourne area. and are two places to check out, is also good too. They have stores interstate, but I don't really know much about them outside of Melbourne.

    Last edited 19/05/14 2:16 pm

      From personal experience (and Whirlpool/overclockers AU) Avoid CPL, you have a problem then you're on your own (warranty or otherwise)

      Main places I've seen that do well for customer support would be Umart, PCCG, and Scorptec

      Last edited 19/05/14 9:57 pm

      Msy has horrible customer service. I went there once wanting a refund for a faulty psu and they said they could only send it away for a replacement. I told them they could deal with the accc if they wished and only then did they begrudgingly give me a refund. They have been in trouble with the accc before. They also will not give a refund if the item does not work with your hardware. Avoid msy at all costs.

        Personally had nothing but great experiences with MSY. Had a faulty SSD once, took it back, they tested it and swapped it for a new one, no problems. Prices are good.
        I am biased though because for many years I lived literally 5mins drive from their Morningside branch, which is a damn site more convenient than umarts locations in brisbane.

    I used that website to build my own computer. I watched the video beforehand and had the article on my phone during just in case. It was really, really easy and my computer works like a dream. I didn't really know much about putting together computers before, this article/video made it really simple.

    I bought most of my parts from a local shop called ARC Computers because they had most of the parts I wanted at the cheapest price. I understand they have shops all around Sydney and you can also buy stuff from their website, I can also vouch for the usefulness of Static Ice, and the reliability of PCCaseGear.

    TL;DR: Build your own.

    IMO the best way to build a desktop is to buy a decent laptop. I offer one caveat, and that is PC gaming. Home linux servers are also acceptable.

    I wouldn't bother using StaticIce for this task. You'll just end up paying more shipping buying from different sellers. That and keeping track of all your orders...

    PCCaseGear all the way IMO. They're usually the cheapest, have the best range, great customer support and they ship pretty damn fast.

    Step One:
    Buy a mac.

      He wants to buy a decent desktop for under $1500, not overpriced crap

    Will help you with compatibility and also lists a few prices from I think currently (two stores) in Australia.

    The site also has a ton of pre built templates from other users if you're more comfortable choosing them yourself.

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