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Is It Cheaper To Build a PC or Buy a Prebuilt PC?

There’s a common debate in the world of PC building: is it cheaper to build a pc or to buy a prebuilt one?

And the arguments for either side are equally valid, so much so that you’d be convinced that there’s nothing wrong with either choice.

But sadly, times change. Building your own PC has become somewhat more expensive now than a prebuilt PC. The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the global shortage of components, have made it difficult for anyone to build their own PC.

A prebuilt gaming PC became the cheaper choice, but even then, supplies at a local computer store or PC hardware store were still minimal or close to none.

But now that prices have stabilized and supply chain is returning to normal, is now the best time to build your own PC? Let’s find out in this article.

What Does An Average Gaming PC Need?

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The average PC build will need the following components:

  1. Processor
  2. Motherboard
  3. Graphics Card
  4. RAM
  5. Storage
  6. Power Supply Unit
  7. Fans, Case, and other Components

A new gaming PC would probably have you focusing your budget on two parts: processors and graphics cards.

Processors will cost you anywhere between $100 and $500, more so if you’re going for an AMD Threadripper or Intel Core i9 processor. Graphics cards will probably $300 to $2,000, depending on the kind of games you want to play. Then your motherboard needs to be able to accommodate these parts and more, so that will also be as expensive as the first two components.

Right off the bat, you’re already running almost a thousand dollars, or close to a couple thousand, just for these three components inside.

Then you’ll need hardware to complement this level of processing and graphics power such as RAM, power supply, and storage. Thankfully, you don’t need to spend as much. A 16GB RAM kit will cost you anywhere between $60 to $100, while a robust power supply unit fell under the same price range. For storage, a 1TB SSD with a 2TB HDD would only be $200 to $300 for both of them.

Once that’s all said and done, you’re going to spend money on a PC case, some fans, and other peripherals, which would be another $100 to $300 out of your wallet.

To build your own PC that’s capable of gaming, video editing, and other heavy tasks, you’re more or less spending at least $1,500, maybe more.

Caveat here is that you’re buying brand new parts from PC manufacturers. Of course, you could save money on buying secondhand parts, or just buying a used custom built PC, but we kind of discourage this unless you really know the person you’re buying the PC from

Should You Go Ahead and Build A Gaming PC?

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At least one point in your gaming life, you should have built your own PC. There’s a different feeling of satisfaction in building your own computer that can’t be provided by a prebuilt PC.

But hold on to your horses. There are advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of if you want to build your own PC.

What Are The Advantages?

It’s Cheaper Long Term

The argument when it comes to building your own PC is that a custom gaming PC might be more expensive if it’s built from scratch as opposed to just buying prebuilt ones.

Gaming PCs and their components eventually lower in price as newer models come in, so there’s never a reason to not buy certain parts at their current price. If you have to compute the total amount spent on your PC build, you’re almost always going to be a few hundred bucks higher than a prebuilt PC.

But it’s actually cheaper in the long run. The parts’ quality is guaranteed because you’ve done the research and you’ve picked out the best PC manufacturers for all your components. Prebuilt PCs don’t come with this luxury because the parts inside are compatible with one another. Prebuilt PCs follow a template, much like how manufacturers would build a car. In terms of compatibility issues, you’re more likely to encounter them when you build your own PC but that’s another story in itself.

Easier to Fix

Speaking of compatibility issues, a mid range PC or a decent gaming PC wouldn’t have a lot of it as long as the research was done properly before building a PC.

When a prebuilt PC component needs to be replaced, chances are you need to buy the same component or its equivalent. For example, if you need to replace a true-rated power supply unit, then your replacement will need to be one of those true-rated power supplies.

If your PC is custom built, you could easily fix or replace parts when you need to. Personal preference plays a huge factor in your ability to save money on replacement, and that’s something you enjoy the most when you’re building your own PC.

Better Quality Build

A pre built machine is great and all, but a custom built PC has better quality. You’ve handpicked the parts yourself and ironed out the compatibility issues long before you purchased them. Saving money down the line is no longer a problem because you’re guaranteed that the PC you built is going to last you for a few years before you need to replace a single component.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Building a PC?

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to building your own PC, so you might want to think it through first. Note that while there’s just a couple of them, it might affect your entire decision in building a PC.

Expensive Upfront Costs

Prices of PC parts are going down, but not as fast as we’d like them to go. If you’re going for a budget build, your biggest issue would be to find stocks for your new computer. But on the opposite side of the spectrum, high performance parts may be an issue.

For starters, the most reliable route right now, albeit a disappointing one, to securing certain parts is paying scalper prices.

High performance graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX series are a whole lot cheaper when you buy them from reliable stores such as Amazon but stocks are an issue. This is why some builders resort to buying from hoarders, who’re selling these parts at more than MSRP.

You’d end up spending a few hundred dollars more than your given budget for building a PC as opposed to buying a PC that’s prebuilt already.

Susceptibility to User Error

Building your first PC is a challenge, but there are tons of YouTube videos out there that make it easy for you to understand how the process is carried out.

But that doesn’t exactly guarantee that you’re going to do just fine. Building your PC comes with a huge risk of user error. One wrong move during the build could destroy the whole PC.

If you’re not confident with your ability to build a PC, either you pay someone else to do it (like a technician from a local PC store) or you buy a prebuilt PC.

Should You Resort To Buying a Prebuilt PC?

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Now if you don’t want to build a PC, you’re probably thinking of just buying a prebuilt one. It’s the quickest way to have a PC all set up and running at no extra cost or time wasted.

But just like building a PC, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying prebuilt PCs.

What Are The Advantages?

Plug and Play

Buying a PC is relatively easier than assembling it from scratch. You don’t need to lift a single finger in putting all the parts together, doing cable management, and all the other mundane tasks associated with building a PC.

A prebuilt PC is plug-and-play as you only need to plug in the monitor, some peripherals, and you’re good to go.

Cost-Effective

Prebuilt mid range PCs are cost-effective as you’re already getting it for a price lower than what it would cost you to build your own pc. You’re already guaranteed a good processor, operating system, and other components with decent specs.

What Are The Disadvantages?

Difficult To Repair

The final cost of buying a PC accounts for more than just the PC. There are brands out there that use bulk ordered components or cheap components to maintain their margins for prebuilt PCs.

On the off chance that individual components need to be fixed, or replaced, then you need to find new parts with similar specs. If a graphics card or one of the other core components suffer severe damage, then replacing them might be more tedious and expensive.

Thankfully, there are decent brands out there that have all the components easy to replace in case of damage. Some brands also allow for purchasing components individually if you want to upgrade the entire PC.

Build Quality Might Be Mediocre

Unless you’re getting branded pre built computers (like Alienware or Skytech), you’re probably going to end up with cheap components, like an off-the-shelf graphics card or a processor with lower than normal clock speed.

The new computer you get might be good at first, but you might still end up with buying upgrades to replace the cheaper parts.

The Wrap Up

So which is better, building a PC or buying pre built computers? The answer is it depends on what you need from the PC and how accessible the parts are if you build a PC.

If logistics are an issue for acquiring parts, then you’re better off with pre built machines. Otherwise, it’s still cheaper to build a PC down the line.

James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.