Is It Still Cheaper to Build Your Own PC?

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It used to be a commonly held belief that if you wanted the best bang for your buck in a PC, then you had to build your own. But times change. Cheaper build pc

PC prices have plummeted and people have started buying laptops as appliances, using them for up to four years before buying replacements.

So does that mean there’s no value in building your own PC any more? Or is still possible to get a high value system for less money? If there are savings, are they enough to be worth the effort? Let’s take a look at some prices to find out.

What the Average PC Needs (Cheaper build pc)

Before we start pricing parts, let’s do a quick check of everything we need. Note: We won’t go into the details of which exact parts to get or how to fit them together.

intel core i7

Processor

The CPU is the brain of your system and is the first component you should choose (unless you’re building a gaming PC, in which case you might want to start with the graphics card).

There’s a mind-boggling number of processor options available, but for most users, the choice usually boils down to either the Intel Core i3 (entry-level), i5 (mid-range) and i7 (high-end) processors.So What’s the Difference Between Intel’s Haswell and Ivy Bridge CPUs? So What’s the Difference Between Intel’s Haswell and Ivy Bridge CPUs?Looking for a new computer? Those shopping for a new Intel-powered laptop or desktop need to know the differences between the last and the latest generation of Intel processors.READ MORE

Typical Price for CPU: $100-$500

motherboard

Motherboard

The motherboard is the backbone of your system and the part to which all your other components attach. It also contains USB ports and other ports, and possibly Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. You need to ensure that your motherboard is compatible with all of your chosen parts andthat it fits in your computer case.

Typical Price for Motherboard: $50-$200

ram

Memory

RAM is one of the areas that PC manufacturers are notorious for skimping on, which is sad because it’s one of the most effective and most affordable upgrades you can make to your PC. If you want extra RAM in a pre-built machine, it’s almost a given that you will pay way over market value.How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAMLaptops are not as easy to upgrade as desktops. Many components are simply soldered on to the motherboard and others, though technically replaceable, are restricted by technical skill and cost. There are, however, two upgrades…READ MORE

Typical Price for Memory: $60-$90 (8GB)

gtx 970

Graphics Card

Depending on the type of system you’re building, the graphics card may be optional.

If you’re building a gaming PC, then you should pick a good graphics card first so that you can build the rest of your system around it. For non-gaming PCs, modern Intel and AMD CPUs have integrated graphics support and will suffice. Most low-end to mid-range PCs make do with this.Can Shared Graphics Finally Compete with a Dedicated Graphics Card? Can Shared Graphics Finally Compete with a Dedicated Graphics Card?There are two kinds of graphics cards for PCs: dedicated and shared.READ MORE

Typical Price for GPU: $60-$500

hard drive

Storage

For storage your choices are between a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) — cheaper, much higher capacity, slower — and a solid state drive (SSD) — smaller, lower capacity, much faster.5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSDThe world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one?READ MORE

Some higher end systems make use of both, with the operating system stored on the SSD for best performance and data stored on the larger but slower HDD. For the average user, it’s enough to get one. Whether you should pick HDD or SSD will depend on your personal preference.

Typical Price for Storage: $30-$300

power supply

Power Supply

The power supply is another area where it’s easy to cut costs. The benefits of paying more include getting a modular unit (which improves airflow within the case) and greater energy efficiency (which may give you savings in the long term).Can You Really Save Money By Building A Green PC? Can You Really Save Money By Building A Green PC?READ MORE

Most importantly, you need to have the correct wattage for your hardware. This tool on the Asus website helps you identify how much power you need to sustain your intended system.

Typical Price for Power Supply: $40-$200

fan

Fans

You may or may not need extra fans to help keep your system cool. Most computer cases come with at least one fan, and most processors and graphics cards and power supplies each have dedicated fans as well.

If your computer case ends up being too poor at circulating air, you can always install more fans at a later time.

Typical Price for Fans: $20-$100

pc case

Case

There are a huge array of case sizes. The most important thing is that it fits your motherboard and all the components attached to it.

Typical Price for Case: $50-$300

dvd drive

Extras and Optionals

On top of the basics, you may need to add a few additional items. These could include a wireless card (if your motherboard doesn’t have one built in) and an optical drive (e.g. a DVD drive) but only if you need one.How to Play DVDs & Blu-Rays on Windows 10, Even Without a DVD Drive How to Play DVDs & Blu-Rays on Windows 10, Even Without a DVD DriveWith the removal of Windows Media Center, it has suddenly become more difficult to play DVD and Blu-ray discs on your computer. Fortunately, you have alternatives, including third-party tools or virtual drives.READ MORE

We’re going to assume you already have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, but if you don’t then you’ll have to factor in the price of those, too.

windows10

Operating System

When pricing up your custom-built PC, you mustn’t forget to include the cost of an operating system to power it. You can run a Linux distro like Ubuntu for free, but if you want Windows you’ll need to pay retail prices for it — and retail Windows isn’t exactly cheap.Distro Indecision: A Cheat’s Guide to Choosing a Linux Distribution Distro Indecision: A Cheat’s Guide to Choosing a Linux DistributionThis guide is all about how to pick the right distribution, and how to test them before you actually commit to using it, arguably one of the most difficult steps in getting into Linux.READ MORE

Windows 10 Home costs around $100 for consumers. In comparison, PC makers were thought to pay between $15 and $50 for a Windows 8.1 licence. A big discount, but not so big that it forces you to decide one way or another.

Typical Price for OS: $100

How Much to Build Your Own?

So, you know what you need to buy and roughly how much each part costs. Let’s now take a look at three actual systems and see how much it would cost you to build an equivalent machine.

We’ll get our pre-built PCs from Best Buy and compare them to individual component prices listed at PCPartPicker.com, which also checks for compatibility issues.

Entry-Level System: $449 vs. $503

The Dell Inspiron Desktop (model I3847-6162BK) is one of the top-selling entry-level PCs at Best Buy. It has an Intel Core i3 processor at 3.7GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive storage, and integrated graphics. The normal price is $449.

entry level price

We were able to price up an equivalent self-built PC for $503, not including the keyboard and mouse that Dell PCs include.

Performance System: $729 vs. $679

Next, the HP Envy desktop (model 750-114) which is for sale at Best Buy for $729.99.

mid range

Here are the prices for the key parts:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 3.2GHz — $175.88
  • RAM: 12GB 1600MHz — $69.99
  • Storage: 2TB 7200rpm — $67.89
  • Graphics: Integrated — $0
  • OS: Windows 10 — $93.89
  • Case: Mid-tower — $68.69

Add in a CPU cooler, motherboard, optical drive, mouse, and keyboard and we’re able to put together an equivalent system for $679.34. That’s a $50 savings, and if you choose Linux over Windows it’s closer to $150.

Gaming System: $1299 vs. $1023

Finally, a gaming system. The Asus model G20AJ-B11 has an i7 processor, GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, and 16GB RAM. The regular price on Best Buy is $1299.99.

Here’s what we get for individual parts:(Cheaper build pc)

high end price

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 4.0GHz — $317.99
  • RAM: 16GB 1600MHz — $74.99
  • Storage: 2TB 7200rpm — $67.89
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 960 — $209.99
  • OS: Windows 8.1 — $86.89

With the other parts, including motherboard, power supply, case, and so on, we were able to get the price to $1023.63. This savings of $276 would enable us to double the RAM or upgrade the graphics card to one even stronger.(Cheaper build pc)

If we opted to build a Steam Machine for gaming instead of using Windows, we’d be able to get the price well below $1000.Steam Machines Are Finally Coming! Here’s What You Need to Know Steam Machines Are Finally Coming! Here’s What You Need to KnowREAD MORE

Our Recommendation Is…

The pattern seems clear. At the budget end of the market, the margins are so low that it’s difficult to undercut the price of a pre-built PC, and any savings you can make on the hardware will likely be cancelled out by the $100 price of a copy of Windows 10.

When you move toward the mid-range, savings become possible. It may not be enough to warrant the extra effort involved in building your own PC, but it’s certainly worth exploring.Eco-Friendly Computing 101: Buy or Build Silent and Green PCs Eco-Friendly Computing 101: Buy or Build Silent and Green PCsComputer fans clog with dust, make horrible noises and waste energy. Why put up with that when consumers can go silent and green? A huge number of options popped up for setting up highly efficient…READ MORE

build a pc Cheaper build pc

It’s at the top end of the market where the benefits of building your own PC become pronounced. Not only are you able to make savings on equivalently-specced machines, but you also get to tailor the specs to your exact needs. Broadly speaking, the more niche your PC requirements, the better off you’ll be building your own.

Of course, this is all based on you starting from scratch. The real beauty of a custom-built PC is that you can easily build in future upgrade paths. This enables you to update individual components as needed and keep your PC running for longer than a store-bought model ever could.

Have you ever built your own PC? Would you ever consider doing so? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below.(Cheaper build pc)

Image credits: setting a video card by Mny-Jhee via Shutterstock, Intel Core i7 via intel.com, Motherboard via MATSUOKA Kohei, RAM via crucial.com, GTX 970 via nvidia.com, Hard drive via William Warby, Power supply via corsair.com, Fan via Laineema, PC case via corsair.com, DVD drive via yoppy, Build a PC via StooMathiesen

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