Many years ago, building your own PC could certainly save you money – but is it worth it today? According to deal sites, a lot of people still think so – whenever someone posts a ‘hot deal’ on a new PC, the inevitable ‘I could build it cheaper myself’ comments are never far behind – no matter how hot the deal. There are two main reasons why people choose to build their own PC:
1. To save money – we’ll review this option today. Is it still possible to save money by building a PC yourself?
2. To choose exactly which components go in it – for quality, performance or upgrade possibilities. See our separate article reviewing all the other reasons why it is still worth building your own PC.
State Of The Market – In recent years many smaller system builders have gone out of business as the PC market has ‘enjoyed’ an unseemly rush to the bottom in terms of pricing and quality – a few corporations now dominate with powerful economies of scale for sourcing components. Which doesn’t bode well for our chance of undercutting their prices…
Another factor that works against us is that the most expensive element in building a PC is often Windows itself – $100 for an OEM copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit or Windows 8. However, large system builders enjoy substantial volume discounts on Windows (reports suggest they pay less than $50 for W7) so we’re already not on a level playing field – we would have to save at least $50 on components just to equal their price.
Bearing that fixed cost in mind, it follows that the lower the cost of the PC, the less chance we have to catch up on that price difference – beating the price of a low end sub-$400 PC is almost impossible when the price we have to pay for Windows represents over 25% of the total.
Likewise, it’s not going to be easy to beat PCs from the largest manufacturers who will have the highest economies of scale. For all these reasons we have chosen a medium priced PC at random from the smaller system builder CyberpowerPC – to give us at least a fighting chance to build it cheaper.
Comparison Of CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme 1347
This is a ‘gamer’ PC currently on sale at Newegg here priced at $680 with decent reviews (4 out of 5). It’s not a stellar deal but neither is it overpriced for the spec so it should make for a decent comparison. I’m pricing all the parts from Newegg although there may be savings if I spent hours sourcing parts from different sellers. From experience though, it is preferable to buy all the major components from the same place – in case of incompatibility or faults it is much easier to deal with just one company.
* means that I have chosen the cheapest possible component where no brand/model info is provided in the specs.
Windows 8 (OEM) – $100 (same as for W7 Home Premium 64bit)
CPU (Intel i5-3570K) – $230
RAM (2x4GB) – $41 *
Motherboard (MSI, no model but probably MSI B75MA-P45) – $70
Hard drive (1TB) – $72 *
Graphics (Nvidia Geforce GT 620 2GB) – $54
PSU (700W) – $50 *
Case – $23 *
DVDRW – $18 *
Case fans (2) – $10 *
Mouse (USB) – $15 *
Keyboard (USB) – $15 *
Total Build Cost = $698
Close, but $18 more expensive than buying this PC pre-built with warranty – and I opted for the cheapest possible price where the brand/model was not listed. If any of these in Cyberpower’s PC were actually of better quality (and therefore higher cost) then the price difference would be even worse.
Of course this is only one example but I have priced up many others recently for customers and these results are typical – unless the PC is a really bad deal to start with, it is very hard to make any meaningful savings – certainly none that outweigh the hours spent in researching, ordering, building and installing.
Note On PC Chosen For Comparison – Whilst the CyberPowerPC system used for comparison above is not a bad deal, personally I wouldn’t buy it for 2 reasons:
1. The included graphics card is poor for a ‘gamer’ PC – $54 is the very lowest end of the market.
2. The included CPU is a powerful ‘K’ (unlocked multiplier) processor which is just begging to be overclocked for gaming – but the included B75 chipset motherboard is more suited to business use and has very few overclocking options. A waste of a great CPU’s potential.
People who claim they can build a hot deal PC themselves at a cheaper price are rarely able to provide a price list of the components required to achieve this magical feat. Whilst it is possible to save money by reusing some old parts or substituting cheaper unbranded components, that is not a fair like for like comparison.
Assuming the PC is not overpriced or heavily customized (with extra options configured by the user), the price of an average box off the shelf is unlikely to be beaten by the lone home builder.
That said, there are still many other great reasons to build your own PC – to get exactly the spec and operating system you want, with better quality components and more upgrade/future proofing potential. For many power users and PC enthusiasts, that is the only way to get the PC you really need – or just really want ;-)