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PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

Posted April 04, 2014 12:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

I've dreamt of building my own super-fast high end personal computer ever since I was introduced to the concept in college. And 7 years later, here I am beginning the process for the first time.

I didn't literally mean 'here I am'. That's not me in the picture above. Really... Credit: Korn's Arcade

All you techies out there are probably all too familiar with the concept of building a desktop (or even a laptop) computer yourself. But for me, it's a completely new and exciting arena, and I'm looking forward to sharing my progress and insights with the CR4 community.

First, a little background. My first desktop was a Dell Dimension E200 series that I purchased for use in college. It ran an AMD 2.1 Ghz dual core processor with a GeForce 8600 GT graphics card and 500MB RAM. It was blazing fast and very smooth when compared to my parents' hunk-a-junk machine. But I remember the first time I walked into my classmate's dorm room and saw his custom-built gaming rig, a monstrous yet sleek black tower with water-cooling, shiny lights, and everything nice… I saw it perform, and I was drooling.

vs.

Suddenly my Dell seemed so small... (note: not actual scale) Credit: 800HighTec

But being the broke college kid and cheapskate I was, I couldn't condone the fantasy of investing in a custom rig when I already owned a perfectly good and working computer. I decided to hold off building my own PC until until my Dell kicked the bucket. Well, 7 long years and two upgrades (a new graphics card and better memory) later, it is still running, and running fine. But based on the age of the machine, and with Windows XP losing support on April 8th, I decided now was as good a time as any to make the jump.

<---My Dell as it stands today, complete with dust layer and upgraded parts that don't fit the case - She's a beauty...

The first question I had to answer in my quest for a new machine was simple: build or buy? Could I really save money over a package deal? Years ago, it was a no-brainer that for high end machines, building was the way to go. But with laptops, tablets, and portable media driving down desktop prices, package PCs have become more competitive. Was building still a worthy endeavor?

The answer to the build or buy dilemma I found comes from the answer to a few underlying questions:

1. What do you want your computer to do?

If all you want to do with your computer is word processing, surfing the web, managing photos, you really don't need to build your own, and will be hard pressed to save any money. If you want a high performance computer for gaming, modeling, or video editing, building becomes more viable. Generally the more high-end you go, the more money you could potentially save building over buying.

2. Do you have the time to invest to make building worthwhile?

To really save money building over buying requires time to research parts and patience to wait for deals and low prices. If you need your computer right now and/or don't have any time to research and buy individual parts, then maybe building isn't for you.

3. Would you get satisfaction out of the process and out of the end result?

If you're a do-it-yourselfer like me and many here on CR4, the process of learning, customizing, and creating your own product will likely be very satisfying. If a build project seems like no fun to you, then likely the only thing you'll be building is frustration.

For me, the decision to build ended up being a no brainer. I want a relatively high performance PC, I have the time to make building a valuable endeavor, and I'm looking forward to the process and the finished product. And now that I've decided to build, I'm diving into the project headfirst, with a budget of around $850.

To be continued…

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#1

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/04/2014 11:13 PM

Good on you! Your enthusiasm is just oozing out of your story.

I'm guessing that your answers to questions 2 and 3 is yes and yes.

How about your answer to your question 1?

1. What do you want your computer to do?

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#6
In reply to #1

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/08/2014 12:17 PM

That's correct. The main uses I have in mind for my new system include:

1. Multi-tasking regular applications (word processing, web browsing, etc.)

2. Computer gaming

3. Storing photos and basic photo-editing

4. Music and video recording via a USB condenser mic and web-cam.

5. Burning, storing, and playing music

6. Watching the occasional DVD

I also want piece of mind that my system could run more intensive software such as Photoshop or CAD should I ever go that route.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/08/2014 12:56 PM

Nothing you mention is demanding except for gaming. For that you can spend the money. You need better CPU, video card, memory and a 'black' WD C: drive. I would start with the memory, HD upgrade and an SS drive. These are relatively cheap and transferable to a new computer if the performance is still lacking. Most of your processing bottleneck will be disk access not CPU.

Photoshop is light duty unless you are editing a large photo. Even if the photo was lossy the photo will be converted to a bit map to edit. A meg jpeg could convert to a 50+ meg bit map. I suspect CAD has the same problem. Make sure you have as much RAM memory as possible. If that is not good enough spring for a SS drive.

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#2

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/05/2014 4:04 AM

Excellent!

Just doing stuff brings it's own rewards.

A while back I felt I should build a myself a web page... then I started my blog...next thing I know I'm getting 9000 page hits a month and I've made all sorts of great contacts.

I'd like a computer that could do decent video editing... I'd also like to ditch widows and go Linux.
Too many other things to do at the moment.

I shall watch with interest

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#3

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/05/2014 10:02 AM

Very good argument points!

In my perspective, the main issue at hand that one should dwell more and consider is technology Obsolescence!

Since changes in technologies are fast evolving together with any of its associated costs, a good question to ask one self is; By the time the project is completed can it still stir the same "interest" as before? Can it still be called as the present 'state of the art"?

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#7
In reply to #3

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/08/2014 12:24 PM

That is definitely the problem with the technology industry. The day after you buy something, there is something better out for the same $.

The question is, when is the right time to make the investment? The answer will be different for each person depending on their situation and present needs.

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#4

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/05/2014 11:24 AM

Hey, that's where I was 4 decades ago. My first "computer" was circuit boards wired together on a desk with a television for a monitor. I started out with a SDK-85 8085 based development board and build interfaces. Back then it really was cheaper to build than to buy, and it was a whole lot more educational.

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#5

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/07/2014 9:50 AM

In the earlier days you could save money by building your own computer not any more. The value is to get EXACTLY what you want even if what you want is extreme. I would recommend having a good Ma & Pop computer store set up your motherboard. The one near us charges $50. I am too old to read the near microscopic print on the motherboard. One miss-step for a setting like the voltage can fry your mobo, CPU and memory. The place I use is on their second generation, the children run the shop now. They setup dozens of mobos daily so they do it fast and right.

I suggest you get suggestions before you buy. If you don't know of a good place for this I would suggest these guys http://forums.afterdawn.com/forum_view.cfm/216

I have not used this forum in years but they used to have several persons that must have been buyers for large concerns who buy 100+ computers a year. One thing many persons overlook is the power supply. You always spend the extra $25 to buy the most relyable powersupply you can. That will protect the rest of your computer. You want to pick a mobo that is reliable. When I build my last computer Gigabyte and Asus were the most reliable. The more complex your mobo is the more you need to pay for reliability. I opt for more slots and lots of internal drives. When I built my last computer .5T was the best value now it is 3T.

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#9

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/11/2014 11:18 AM

The best part is buying a card (drive, module, power supply, case, whatever!) that you don't even consider if it will fit. You just buy it because you want it. You know it's compatible...maybe...pretty sure anyway.

You are then required to use either a drill, a dremel, a chop saw, plastic weld, epoxy, and whatever else gets the job done to make it neat-and-orderly enough to get the cover back and and it all runs cool and oh-so-fast.

Custom and modded to your pleasure. It's a good feeling.

...and you have the only one!!!

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/11/2014 12:33 PM

Only if you want to, the original poster supplied a picture of his current computer. There was a device I did not recognise sitting on top of a CD/DVD storage 'tube' out side his computer.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/11/2014 1:52 PM

Display "card".

This is what the newer scalable "graphics processing unit" type video cards look like. The integrated memory, cooling, and parallel processors make them exceptionally large compared to their ancient counterparts.

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#12

Re: PC Building, P1 - Build or Buy?

04/15/2014 12:38 AM

I would recommend looking at the specific requirements of all of the programs you want to use on the system. If you're using the system for 'gaming' etc. you'll probably be over budget with some of the latest video processors. You might take a serious look at the operating system you'll be using and what it's minimum requirements are. After recently buying another laptop with Windows 8.1 (frustrating crap system) I'm ready to switch to another operating system. I started out with punch cards, paper tape and then cp/m, mp/m, ms/dos, GemDesktop, W3.1.....8.1 is crap.

If you're using it for business, backup is important.

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