Many years ago, before we had an explosion in hardware power and affordability, you could save some decent money by putting together your own machine. But as prices have dropped and retailers have become more competitive, the savings for those who want to plug & play their own equipment has gone up and up.
Making a PC picture by Shutterstock
My PC recently died. Proper, buy-a-new-PC died. It gave me a good five years, it played every newly released game at max graphics for pretty much that whole time, and I feel like I did quite well with it. Only the new games coming out now are giving it trouble. It wouldn't do a great job with the Witcher 3, and Dirty Bomb wasn't agreeing with it very well. So it was time to hit the hardware stores.
I'm only one to dip into hardware pricing when I need to, and it had been a while. Using PC Part Picker, a friend of mine quickly assembled what would be a decent machine for what I wanted: gaming recording with Shadowplay, video editing, transcoding, and streaming to a TV.
The result was this:
|Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor||$462|
|Noctua NH-D15 82.5 CFM CPU Cooler||$115|
|Asus Z97-PRO ATX LGA1150 Motherboard||$229|
|Corsair Vengeance Pro Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-2666||$349|
|Samsung 850 Pro Series 128GB 2.5" SSD||$137|
|Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 4GB WINDFORCE||$699|
|Silverstone RV04B-W ATX Full Tower Case||$154|
|SeaSonic S12G 650W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply||$139|
Then I decided to check what the prices were for pre-built machines. In the past, a pre-built machine would only be a few hundred dollars more. My last machine was pre-built, and I had only payed an extra $200 for it, which made me think, "Why not?"
The comparable systems on a few different sites were more expensive than they would have been the last time I bought a PC, and in a lot of cases, had worse hardware. D&D had cheaper systems, but they didn't meet what I'd need from a PC:
The same went for MSY. PC Case Gear had some better systems, and they were who I was looking at getting most of my parts from anyway. One of their more powerful systems came close in price, but not quality -- the Frost 980, priced at $2299:
The equivalent in quality was $400 more -- the Glacial 980, priced at $2699, seen below. That's the best deal I could find anywhere for the high-end gaming machine I wanted, capable of recording, editing and streaming, and sufficiently future-proofed. And that's without actually spending much effort tweaking & searching for the best prices on my own parts.
So we're saving $400 minimum.
Of course, it's not a new story that putting together your own PC saves you money. The thing that shocked me was the degree to which that's the case these days. The market has changed. Props to PC Case Gear for having the best deals I could find, but at most of these retailers, adding in the parts I wanted would inflate the cost to way above what it should be.
It looks like as the parts prices have gone down, the pre-made package prices have gone up. Perhaps it's more fitting, as those who are savvy enough to build their own PCs are certainly savvy enough to look for the best individual parts prices. On the other side of the coin, those who just don't want to bother with that stuff are probably willing to pay a little more. Not to mention all the luxuries like pre-installed Windows and testing.
But the thing is, it's easier than ever to put your own PC together. Parts have become more plug & play over the years. For those who wouldn't usually bother, it pays to put some time and thought into it, or at least get a friend in on the effort. Hell, maybe even throw them some money. Even a substantial amount would be better than paying the $800 or so extra that you might pay for the package.