Granted, you’ll still look at the GPU first, the CPU second, and so on in either case, but the experience can be wildly different between the two scenarios. There’s a target audience for each approach, so instead of forcing the one we like better onto you, we’d like to take a moment and list of the pros and cons of both methods.
By the end of this article, you’ll know all the advantages and disadvantages that go with both building your own PC and buying a prebuilt one. After that, it’s only a matter of seeing which approach weighs more heavily in your favor.
So without any further ado, let’s begin!
Cost and Performance
If you’ve done any research whatsoever on this topic you’ll have already learned that custom-made PCs cost less. To be more precise, they’re more cost-efficient, since you’re just paying for the parts. After all, the manufacturers who make prebuild PCs are looking to make a profit, so they charge extra for the labor and testing costs.
This means that if you bought a premade PC and then built an exact replica of it from scratch, the latter would be more affordable than the former, sometimes quite substantially (cough cough, Black Friday). For example, for the amount of cash that you would need to build an RTX 2080 PC, you will be able to buy an RTX 2070 PC at best.
There were times when buying a prebuilt PC was the more affordable option. For example, during the cryptocurrency mining craze (may it never rise from its grave and its memory fade into oblivion) prebuilt PCs worked out quite a bit cheaper just because of how inflated GPU prices had got.
Still, this was very much the exception and not the rule, so if you’re looking for the most cost-effective method, building your own PC from scratch is definitely the way to go.
Time and Convenience
But money isn’t everything – time and convenience play also play starring roles in our everyday lives. And it’s when appraising the situation through these lenses the prebuilt PCs really start to shine.
Building your own PC is a process. Granted, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in that process, but if you need a PC now and don’t have the time to go fishing for good discounts, then you won’t really appreciate its upsides. Prebuilt PCs, on the other hand, are just one click away. What’s more, they usually come with Windows already preinstalled (as well as some annoying bloatware), so all you have to do is plug it in and turn it on.
Also, if you’re not a tech savvy person, you probably won’t find much enjoyment in having to manually assemble everything and troubleshoot potential issues. Especially since not all pieces of hardware are compatible with each other. Prebuilt PCs save you a ton of time and effort, and that’s got to be worth something.
So if you’re eager to start gaming on your new machine as soon as humanly possible, there’s no beating a prebuilt PC.
One of the biggest benefits of building a custom PC is having complete control over which pieces of hardware go inside it. Sure, companies that make prebuilt PCs are offering more customization options now than ever before, but these options are still limited mostly to storage and RAM capacity. At best, you’ll be able to upgrade to a better CPU and GPU.
But beyond that, you don’t really get much say in the matter. The case, the cooling, the RGB stripes, and everything else really – it’ll all fall in line with someone else’s sensibilities. Now there are a lot of respectable prebuilt PC manufacturers out there, but there are also predatory ones. Be wary of prebuilt PCs for which you can’t find the exact spec sheet. Having a suboptimal GPU can’t be irritating, but having a suboptimal PSU can be dangerous!
Also, while high-end prebuilt PCs are rather easy on the eyes, you won’t be the one picking out the RGB components. So if you will not settle for anything but the best pieces of hardware, building your own PC is the way to go. And this goes double for if you want your PC to look exactly as you’d envisioned it.
Not to mention, you can plan for the future when building your own PC. If your budget won’t afford the specs you desire, you can still buy some placeholder pieces of hardware that’ll see you through until you can get the entire build finished.
So of course, custom PCs win in terms of customizability. It’s in their name, after all!
Repairs and Customer Support
However, this also means that you’ll be on your own if something goes awry.
In a sense, being in charge of your PC building destiny is empowering, and the Internet is a remarkable source of help thanks to countless enthusiast websites, forums, and of course Reddit. But being thrown in at the deep end without any official, sanctioned advice isn’t for everyone. And championing your own troubleshooting and diagnosing problems can be a frustrating task.
Also, let’s not forget that there are some rather expensive mistakes you can make when building your own PC, all of which can be avoided by buying a prebuilt one.
So if this doesn’t sound like something you’d like to deal with, then it’s probably better to just make a single purchase and leave all the problems to the manufacturer. The only downside is that you’ll have to ship the PC back to the vendor when you encounter some hardware issues, which can mean going without a PC for an upward of a week.
In the end, it comes down to how much you value peace of mind.
And then there’s also the matter of warranty.
Sure, prebuilt PCs come with customer support and their own repair shops, but they generally have short warranties. For example, Origin PC and HP Omen have a base warranty of one year, which can be extended if you pay extra. This single warranty will apply to the entire build.
On the other hand, when building a custom PC you’ll be purchasing all the pieces of hardware separately, and each one will come with its own warranty. These warranties usually last three years (Nvidia GPUs, AMD CPUs, etc.), but some manufacturers offer even longer warranties. For example, EVGA offers up to ten-year warranties on their PSUs.
This makes custom PCs way more appealing in terms of hardware protection. Granted, you’ll have to contact the manufacturers individually in case of failure, but it’s not like you should plan for failure in the first place.
A lot of prebuilt PCs come bundled with peripherals, usually just a keyboard and mouse, but sometimes more.
This is no cause for celebration!
These bundled peripherals are more often than not low-quality products that you’ll look to replace as soon as possible. This only goes to bring the cost-efficiency of prebuild PCs even lower, since you will be charged for the peripherals as if they had some actual value.
So our suggestion is to always buy a prebuilt PC that doesn’t force any junk on you as part of a ‘sweet deal’, if at all possible. The only exception would be if you don’t need a PC for gaming, or if the peripherals are by some work of miracle actually decent.
So as you can see, the battle between prebuilt and custom PCs is not one that favors either side. It all comes down to the buyer.
If you want to make the most out of your money and have complete control over how your PC will look and run, there’s no beating a custom made solution. If you’d like to see just how cost-effective these builds can get, take a lot at our series of articles where we build the best possible PC for a given budget. We keep these articles up to date, so if you want the best-performing PCs money can buy, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
But if you need a PC fast and want access to a customer support service and a repair shop, you definitely won’t regret buying a prebuilt PC. We’ve made lists of the best prebuilt PCs you can get in the $500, $800, and $1000 price ranges, so check them out if this is the budget you’ll be working with.
Also, in case you do decide to go with a do-it-yourself approach, for the first time no less, we highly recommend you follow one of the many excellent online tutorials. We’ve linked one of the most comprehensive tutorials for you below.
The UK-based journalist and gamer, Thomas, describes himself as a man of few words with an unhealthy obsession for everything wonderful about the world of gaming. Thanks to his experience in the gaming industry, he brings a wealth of talent into GamingScan.