Whether to build or buy your gaming PC is a question hovering on a lot of PC gamers’ lips lately. For many the question is a no-brainer. Some of you have been building ultimate gaming PCs for years now, so the thought of buying a gaming rig seems frightfully… casual. For others though, the idea of just shelling out for a sleek plastic box to sling under the telly is an equally easy decision to make.
For those PC gamers in the middle, you’re asking “Gaming PCs: do I build or buy?” So for those caught on the fence, we’ve put together a simple guide which should help you decide what decision is best for you. Whether you decide to build or buy your next gaming PC, read this guide first to help you decide. Raff takes the lead for building a gaming PC, where Matty tries to espouse the benefits of buying a pre-assembled gaming rig.
Building a Gaming PC
First things first- I am no authority AT ALL on either PC hardware or it’s construction. In fact, I only personally built my first gaming PC earlier this year. Hand on heart; If i can do it, anybody can. Since I have previously bought straight off the shelf, or have been fortunate enough to have fairly decent equipment provided to me, there definitely was sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after my first successful boot up, and there’s no feeling like rocking games on ultra settings after being stuck in what felt an age of mediocrity.
My personal decision to build a PC was to take advantage of better priced, better supported and an overall better choice of games. The initial outlay may seem to be steep, but just as a consoles output and experience can be affected by the quality of the audiovisual equipment you have invested in, you can enter the PC market at many different levels. There are often threads on a number of PC-centric sites showing that you can indeed build a PC with a similar performance spec as a PS4 for around the same money. This is on the assumption that you already have a mouse, keyboard, speakers et al, just the same as it is assumed that you have a big flat screen for your living room console. If you’re buying bog standard PC components, you can pick up all input devices for less than twenty quid. However, if you really want to have some semblance of future proofing, or to experience current games at their preferred settings, there is no getting away from the fact you will have to spend a bit more. On the plus side, you will also have a the bonus of a kick arse day to day PC or media centre, as a sideline to a gaming platform. So the investment in your RAM, CPU and GPU is going to also be reaped in your day to day functions away from gaming.
Once you are getting into the multiple four-figure price range, there are some beastly pre-built machines on the market. In these performance upper echelons, value becomes partly redundant. Enthusiast levels in any hobby commands a commitment in both time and wallet. Even if money was no object, there is one area buying off the shelf is always limited compared to building your own and that is customization. This is not just talking about what colour LEDs you want to use, or what cooling to use, it is the ability to tailor your rig to a specific function of what the final use to be. Want to play realistic flight or driving sims with specific controls? you can do that. Want an Eyefinity setup with multiple screens with removable bezels? You can, if you have the cash. Want a cheap, bullet proof system for the kids to play minecraft? Done.
If thriftiness is one of the key factors in your decision to undertake a build, you can remove unnecessary components to your needs to bring the overall cost down. In some instances, it’s a buyer’s market; Some parts remain at a fairly constant price between revisions, whereas others fluctuate both up and down in line with demand and age. By playing the waiting game, bargains can be had at the expense of those who want nothing but the bleeding edge of technology. Some parts may need premature upgrading in the coming years, while others will be rock solid until the rig’s death.
When considering whether to build or buy a gaming PC, if you are planning on buying ready-built to skip the daunting learning curve of compatible parts, the basics really aren’t that hard. And there is no better practice than learning by doing. You may also find you’ll skip some of the later conflicts that can be encountered from bundled OEM copies of operating systems, jammed full of bloatware.
- Suitability: Tailor made platform for your needs
- Price: Take advantage of offers to save a packet
- Flexibility: add or subtract unnecessary components.
- Knowledge: Background research needed for compatibility.
- Support: Parts will be individually warrantied, but you are your own tech support.
- Build Quality: Extra care needed for beginners to prevent expensive errors.
Buying a Gaming PC
For those without the technical know-how, building your own gaming PC might seem like a struggle. Well, if the price is right, this needn’t be an issue. Pre-built gaming PCs can be purchased to any specification, to suit any budget. If you want to pony up the cash for your new ultimate gaming PC, then somebody out there will have put one together for you. And basic knowledge of economies of scale means that bigger operations can be aggressively priced. It’s my belief that we’re going to see more off-the-shelf gaming PCs for sale in the future, and with the steady rise of the Steam Machine I think the price will undoubtedly become more competitive.
Buying a pre-assembled gaming PC is a great way to get up and running. Out of the box, every component in your gaming rig is guaranteed to work; you don’t need to worry about what’s going on inside the machine as it’s all covered by an overall warranty. Ready-built gaming PC suppliers usually offer a full host of dedicated support too, something which cannot be said for building your own PC. Like a games console though, this support comes at the cost of modifying or tinkering with your rig.
Gaming PC build enthusiasts don’t like to admit this, but the big PC retailers have bulk buying power. This means buying a pre-built gaming PC can often work out cheaper for you. When you consider that a mouse and keyboard, a copy of Windows, antivirus and often speakers or a basic monitor are sometimes included in the bundle, you can often nab a decent deal online. If you’re wondering whether to buy or build your first ever gaming PC then it’s worth considering those ancillary costs, especially if you don’t already have these things kicking around. Still, buying a pre-assembled gaming PC at the high end will cost serious dosh. An Alienware ultimate gaming PC will invariably cost more than the sum of its parts, but this in part due to the super-stylish finish which can’t be easily replicated by buying your gaming PC parts individually. However, if you’ve not got the cash to splash, there are still options for buying a cheap gaming PC for the frugal gamer.
Earlier this year, Digital Storm announced their new line of gaming PCs were actually cheaper to buy than to build. The gaming PC build or buy question is hotly-contested and Digital Storm, for a short while, made a compelling argument for buying. Although at the time of writing, the Digital Storm Vanquish II gaming PC is quite a bit south of cutting-edge. The biggest advantage of this machine is that it’s wholly upgradeable, making the Vanquish II a perfect entry into the world of PC gaming, even if it is slightly behind the times.
The main disadvantages to buying a pre-built gaming PC are that the components are unlikely to be bleeding edge and the options for customisation in the first instance is quite low. Usually suppliers will offer a small selection of RAM bundles or graphics card options but the costs will almost certainly be higher on average when purchased as a whole machine. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind the additional investment the added security, convenience and peace of mind may work out worthwhile.
- Compatibility: Everything will work together with no conflicts
- Convenience: All set up, out of the box. Turn it on and play.
- Peace of Mind: Don’t need to know about PCs, support included.
- Price: Potentially more expensive.
- Technology: Almost certainly not cutting-edge.
- Fixed: Very little chance to tailor specifics. Harder to upgrade.
Gaming PC Build or Buy?
As we’ve seen, it’s not as cut-and-dry as many people would have you believe. Whether to build or buy your gaming PC depends entirely on what you want to get out of it. Online services like PC Part Picker are invaluable for helping to decide on getting the best deal and communities like Reddit’s Build a PC are full of friendlies looking to help noob PC builders out. Putting in ten minutes of work can decide if a pre-built gaming machine offers the best value, by pricing up the components individually versus the convenience of buying a gaming PC pre-assembled.
As with any big purchase, it’s best to do your research. What games do you want to play? Will you want to upgrade in another year’s time? These factors will decide what solution is best for you. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s the best decision for you personally, despite what others might say. And make sure you install and play Grim Fandango!