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How cheap to build your own PC?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by kelvin, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. kelvin

    kelvin
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    As above really...

    I'm considering building a PC over the next few months/year or so as an alternative to buying one "out of the box". The laptop is likely to be totally out of date by the time I finish Uni and it would be nice to have a suitable replacement for it. Portability is obviously not going to be an issue :)

    Looking around at various parts in shops, it would appear that building is a far cheaper alternative to buying direct, but is it worthwhile, or is it just more hassle than it's worth? I also quite like the idea of having a "custom" PC... maybe even chucking in a couple of neon's and splashing out on an exotic case... ;)

    I'm aware that spec will come into it, but in general, is building cheaper?

    Your opinions would be greatly appreciated... :)

    K.
     
  2. DazJWood

    DazJWood
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    My answer would be no building isnt cheaper

    A few years ago the answer would have been yes.

    I have built computers for years now for friends, work colleagues and myself. Recently though I haven't as its cheaper to go and by a package from the shops.

    Take a look at some of the Dell adverts in the daily papers. For £700 quid you can get a top spec pc with a 17'' flat screen monitor. Well the flat screen monitor is worth around £300 alone and the spec of the pc is very good.

    It all depends on what you want really. I would still build my own because I tend to research the indiviudal components (motherboards, graphics card, etc) for value for money and performance. This is only a preference of mine as most components these days are very reliable and often the performance is negligible between different components.

    Determine what you want the pc for. If you want it just for word processing and the internet then I would recommend buying a made up pc from either a local shop or perhaps a Dell machine as they have a good reputation and good customer service.

    If you want the pc for higher end applications; music production. graphic design, etc... then you may well want to build your own using specific components that you have done some research on.

    All in all, it used to be the case where you could always build a pc for less that you could by one for in a shop (I saved myself around £450 when I built my first PC 6 years ago). This is not the case anymore. I would struggle to build a PC to many of the specifications of shop built ones today for an equal price. Maybe if I had access to trade prices then I may just be able to do it, but even then I doubt it.

    Hope that helps!

    Daz
     
  3. kelvin

    kelvin
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    Interesting, thanks for your reply.

    I did wonder whether the decrease in prices for packages was also reflected in the market for individual parts. I guess you've answered my question :)

    Whilst I appreciate what you say about not saving money, does it actually tend to cost a great deal more? I like the idea of "building" a PC as it will enable me to put together a machine over a period of time as and when funds allow. I also (as I mentioned) quite like the idea of building something that's a bit more "individual".

    K.
     
  4. Boris Blank

    Boris Blank
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    Building a PC means you can have the exact parts in it that you want, buying one means getting parts other people want you to have - big difference, especially in quality!

    Paul
     
  5. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    I used a cheap ECS K7S5A mobo, with Soundblaster 4.1 (OEM)and Radon VE. You only need a 950 Duron for DVD playback (800 will probably do, but they're hard to find now), and a Liteon 165 or similar multi-regionable drive. Get a small hard drive and cheap kb/mouse/floppy and that lot should only cost around £200 with a cheap case.

    Software can be extra, but I already had Windows and PowerDVD XP comes packaged with some some products.

    www.ebuyer.com is good source of cheap stuff, so try there and see what cost you come up with.

    HTH

    Gary.
     
  6. DazJWood

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    I think it really does depend on what quality of components you want to put in your pc. If your happy with cheaper components that do not have optimum performance then go for an ECS board or a PC Chips board. These will save you a considerable amount of money. PC Chips and ECS boards can start from as little as £40. Compared to something like a decent MSI board which can cost anything from £80 upwards.

    I personally wouldn't touch an ECS or PC Chips board as I consider it worth while spending more on the heart of the machine which is the motherboard. The data transfer and reliability of the machine, (although dependant on individual components as well), are determined as a first call by the motherboard. To me a decent motherboard is a must. Take a look at such sites as www.anandtech.com and www.tomshardware.com. These are excellent sites for component review. I always do a fair bit of research before I buy individual components to ensure I am getting the best value for money and receiving at least a half decent product.

    But even then I would still say that if you are using your computer for just the ordinary uses (Word processing, etc..) then a packaged pc will be fine. This is something I never thought I would be saying as I have never been a fan of branded pcs as they often use unique motherboards that have limited upgradeability. But as pcs are moving on so quickly with new system architecture it increasingly becomes a weak argument. I have been very impressed with Dells packages recently, where they seem to be offering very good value for money.

    Tis upto you which way you go. It is fun building your own pc and does give you a good insight in how to put them together and how to install them from scratch. This learning does help to solve problems in the future.

    Daz
     
  7. Hawklord

    Hawklord
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    I have up until my last m/c purchased direct from Gateway,Elonex etc. My last m/c I built for myself. You do not tend to save that much money (I'd say about 10% give or take) but the best part is that you can choose the components you wish to use and taylor it to your needs. A similar priced diy m/c would probably have a similar spec , but the components used may be compartively better in quality / performance.
    If you're confident what you want and what compatability issues you may have I'd say give bulding it yourself a go if not then purchase already built with the relivant onsite warrenty. Also I would advise on a self build that you try to get the components from a single source as if something does go wrong you've only got one point of call to worry about.
     
  8. james.miller

    james.miller
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    building is very much cheaper if you dare to overclock - you can save £100's.
     
  9. CENSORED

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    I agree wholeheartedly with the DIY brigade. But I have to say I'm impressed with what Dell have on offer for the money, particularly their 20" lcd monitor.
     
  10. Yandros

    Yandros
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    I tend to agree with the general opinions here. Once upon a time, the markup on readymade PCs was pretty steep, and you'd save a fortune by building you own.
    These days it's not really the case much of the time. As has been pointed out, there is no way on earth that you can match Dell if you want a standard PC. I spoke to a Dell guy recently about a bulk discount (on 75 units) on their entry level workstation. His reply was: "well, since we actually make a loss on this model, if I offer you a discount I'll just turn a small loss into a large loss...which isn't exactly good for my career advancement!"

    In answer to your second question, no it won't cost a huge amount more to build your own, and you'll almost certainly end up with much better individual components. Definitely buy as much as you can from the same supplier though, and check compatibility VERY carefully.

    Here's some detailed advice that might be of use...

    Treat yourself to a nice case. Names such as Coolermaster, Lian Li, Antec and Thermaltake come to mind (I've got a couple of Coolermasters and they're a thing of beauty if you appreciate good engineering). The thing to be aware of though is that the ATX form factor is going to be phased out in 2004, to be replaced by BTX (how imaginative Intel!). If you buy a fancy ATX case now hoping to be able to keep it going for a few years, be aware that compatible motherboards will gradually start getting scarce. The other big change coming in 2004 is PCI express. Both of these are pretty fundamental changes and will render a lot of kit obsolete. Normally I would say that continually waiting for "the next big thing" is a mugs game, but if you're not in a screaming hurry, it might be worth sitting tight for a few months.


    One advantage of a self build is you can be cunning with the components to save money and maximise upgrade potential. Get a decent motherboard that'll take the latest and greatest CPU, but then consider buying a cheap CPU. For example, right now there's a £210 price difference between a P4 2.4 and a P4 3.2. The 2.4 will be fine right now, and you'll be able to change it for a 3.2 or even 3.4 in a few months time when the price has plummeted. Same thing DEFINITELY applies to graphics cards.

    If you're concerned about noise level and cooling, a self-build puts you in control here. I didn't actually build my current PC, but the company I buy from build to order, so I could pretty much specify what I wanted. I ended up with a full soundproof mat kit, ultra low noise power supply, all the case fans were replaced with low noise versions, and the heatsink/fan is one of the exotic Zalman 7000 series. As a result, even though the innards are very high-end and hot, it doesn't sound like a hoover.

    Hmmmm, here's an interesting parting shot for you. I just did a little price comparison on a Dell higher end system (about £1100 ex VAT) vs a self build, and the Dell was actually about 50 more expensive. I was using the exact same components when named, such as Audigy 2, logitech wireless MX kit etc,and top of the line components for the rest (Asus P4C800 Mobo, A matched pair of 512MB XMS3200LL Low Latency memory modules, Maxtor 120GB SATA, Lian Li 6070 silent case, Iiyama Visionmaster Pro 413. So if you're looking at that sort of budget, a self build is still the way to go if you're up for it.
     
  11. kelvin

    kelvin
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    Some good advice :) Thanks again guys.

    No time right now but I'll post up a "proper" reply a bit later :)

    K.
     

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