Should You Buy A Pre-Built PC Or A Custom PC?

By CPUAgent Staff

Building a Custom PC vs. Buying a Prebuilt PC

Prebuilt PCs are a great way for non-computer enthusiasts to easily enjoy PC gaming, but are they really worth your money?

Nowadays, the companies behind them offer a variety of options to consumers, and also provide the ability to customize your build. But the sellers have to make profit, and so they have to cheap out on some things to cut costs, which usually gives a reason to avoid buying the prebuilt PC. Read on to find out why building your own custom PC is the better option for you.

  1. Reliability

A prebuilt PC may have cheap hardware due to the seller cutting corners to get more profit out of it. One example is the power supply unit. Oftentimes, the power supply that comes with a prebuilt PC is a no-name brand that is just enough for that specific PC, which limits your options should you decide to upgrade some power-consuming parts such as the video card, not mention how dangerous they could be.

Another example is the motherboard. It could be a cheap one that’s enough to do its job but nothing more, or an entirely custom-built one from the less popular brands. This could mean no higher memory speed support, no CPU overclocking, bad VRMs, few fan sockets, less SATA ports, etc. You can get decent parts for your custom PC for low prices that could last you for the future and enable you to easily upgrade.

  1. Cheaper and stronger

If you make a PC build using the same hardware specs as a prebuilt one, you will find that yours costs significantly less. This is because prebuilds usually increase their price in different aspects such as the case, other aesthetics like RGB, LEDs, extra fans, or a costly but insufficient SSD. While they could have very nice looking builds or fast SSDs, it’s not that pricey to get those yourself and make your own beautiful PC. The differences won’t be significant, and if you decide to save money on the aesthetics, you can spend extra on the more important hardware such as the video card, and gain better performance.

Let’s take a look at Dell’s Alienware Aurora R11, which can be customized to your preference. We made a high-end build through their website then compared to one of our own as shown below:

Dell’s Alienware Aurora R11 Gaming PC

Custom-built Gaming PC #2

  • Processor: Intel i7-10700k with liquid cooling
  • Motherboard: Unknown Z490 board
  • Memory: 16GB HyperX FURY 3200MHz (2x8GB, Dual-channel)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2070 SUPER
  • Hard Drive: 1TB m.2 SSD
  • PSU: 1000 Watt
  • Multi-Media Keyboard + Optical Mouse MS116AW
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Intel i7-10700k with Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black Edition
  • Motherboard: MSI MPG Z490 GAMING EDGE WIFI
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB 3600MHz CL16 (2x8GB, Dual-channel)
  • Graphics: Gigabyte RTX 2070 SUPER WINDFORCE OC 3X
  • Hard Drive: Crucial P1 1TB m.2 SSD
  • PSU: Corsair RM 750 Watt 80+ Gold Fully Modular
  • Corsair K55 Keyboard + HARPOON RGB Wired Optical Mouse combo
  • Windows 10 Home

The Alienware PC’s cost was $1999.99, while our build cost us around $1750. It doesn’t have those bright aesthetics like the R11, but we still had $250 left which we could either spend on said aesthetics, or upgrade the graphics card to an RTX 2080 SUPER for an extra 15-20% performance boost.

At times, you will find that it’s possible to build a more powerful PC that’s just as good-looking as the prebuilt one. It is more important to spend on a better motherboard, CPU, GPU, or RAM than on RGB just for the looks.

The times where a prebuilt can be cheaper is when you go for the entry-level builds that cost around $800 because their parts are bought in bulks from the manufacturers, so they can be sold for cheaper but still earn the seller some profit.

  1. Easy to upgrade

The parts used in your custom PC build are like Lego bricks, you can take them and plug them elsewhere as long as the requirements are met, such as the motherboard socket. They are made by reputable companies that regularly support them with updates. For example, if you had a B450 motherboard and you wanted to buy one of the upcoming AMD Zen 3 CPUs, you only need to upgrade your BIOS to get the new CPU to work.

Also, every piece of hardware in a custom PC has its own warranty. When something breaks or malfunctions, you can either send it back using the warranty, or change that specific part for a new one, unlike the prebuilds where you have to return the whole PC back to the seller to get it fixed. Sure, it’s possible to swap/upgrade the parts of a prebuilt, but that is likely to void your warranty.

  1. Customizability

You may find a nice looking prebuilt PC, but your own build is fully yours to shape in any way you like. There are many options to select from offered by reputable companies. You can also buy from the brands you like and trust. Also, there’s no bloatware bundled in your own PC.

  1. Learning and satisfaction

Once you have finally finished your build and booted it up, and when you see everything working as intended, you will get a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. You have built your own PC through reading and learning from instruction manuals, online guides and videos. This experience is very helpful when you encounter an issue and want to troubleshoot it, or when you need to change/upgrade some parts.

However, this is not to say that all prebuilt PCs are bad

There are situations where it’s easier to just buy a prebuilt PC as they offer some advantages over building your own.

  1. Faster setup

Prebuilds offer the fastest way to get into PC gaming. You just buy the PC, plug it, and start playing as they are already have Windows installed with the required drivers and other essential programs. Though, they may include some bloatware that you might want to remove.

  1. Easier

With a prebuilt PC, you don’t have to tire yourself or get your hands dirty installing the hardware and figuring out which goes to where. It all comes in one, ready-to-go package that’s waiting to be plugged in to serve you. No need to worry about parts being incompatible either.

  1. Unique looks

The cases used may be specially made for that specific prebuilt PC, and could have very unique looks to them that you cannot find elsewhere. Other parts like the coolers and fans could be special too, and set up in a creative way with all the RGB lights synced up for an overall unique system.

An example of a good prebuilt PC is the decently priced Skytech’s Archangel Gaming PC, which retails for $1199.99 and seems to pack a serious punch. We took the same amount of money to make a similar build, and we were still able to improve on it.

Skytech’s Archangel Gaming PC

Custom-built Gaming PC #1

  • Processor: Ryzen 5 3600
  • Motherboard: ASRock B450M Pro4
  • Memory: TEAMGROUP 16GB 3000MHz (Single-channel)
  • Graphics: GeForce RTX 2070
  • Hard Drive: 500GB SSD
  • Cooling: Wraith Cooler, 3x RGB RING Fans
  • PSU: 500 Watt 80+ Certified
  • Free keyboard + mouse bundled
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Processor: Ryzen 5 3600
  • Motherboard: Asus PRIME B550M-A (WI-FI)
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB 3600MHz CL16 (2 x 8 GB, Dual-channel)
  • Graphics: GeForce RTX 2070 ARMOR
  • Hard Drive: Crucial P1 1TB m.2 SSD
  • Cooling: Wraith Cooler, 2x Case Fans
  • PSU: 650 Watt 80+ Bronze Certified
  • Corsair K55 Keyboard + HARPOON RGB Wired Optical Mouse combo
  • Windows 10 Home

The differences show up on everything but the CPU and GPU. We went for a socket B550 motherboard as they’re more futureproof than B450 and are recommended by AMD for their next gen CPUs (Zen 3), even though B450 motherboards will also be able to support Zen 3 processors. It also has built-in WiFi so there’s no need to get a separate WiFi card/adapter. Next, we have 2 sticks of 8GB RAM for a total of 16GB, and so are able to run in dual-channel mode which significantly improves performance. For storage, we got an m.2 1TB SSD as it’s faster and has more space for today’s games (looking at you, Modern Warfare). Finally, we have a 650 Watt, 80+ Bronze Certified PSU that can easily live with us for the next GPU upgrade.

In the end, the decision is yours

It’s no secret that sellers want to make some profit off of their prebuilt PCs, but you can always use that money to improve the performance and longevity of your own build, and the end-result could be drastic.

If you are new to PC gaming, you can go for a decent prebuilt PC as a start, then consider building your own later on. But if you want the best performance and value, you should build your own gaming beast.