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Last Updated: June 19, 2019
Similar to how Jedi's must construct their own lightsaber in order to become a true master, you could say building a PC is a rite of passage for PC gamers wanting to become a true OG (with another part of the initiation obviously being the achievement of a 100x killstreak in Battlefront 2 whilst blindfolded).
But building your own computer isn't just for hardcore gamers and tech enthusiasts, and it's remarkably easy to do in the modern PC age. But if you're new, you may wonder why you should build a PC instead of buying one, and what the actual practical benefits are. And what's so bad about buying a prebuilt gaming PC? Why does every gamer and his goat online seem to suggest that building your own is the better option?
All will be discussed here. Plus, you may also wonder whether right now is a good time to build a PC in 2019, as the state of the hardware market does influence how much better building a PC is vs buying. For example, in 2018 when the GPU price surges were in full swing, building your own PC was much less appealing. But is the market back to full normality now? We'll discuss all.
Besides being able to boast about your feat to fellow gamers and forever look down on prebuilt peasants with their overpriced under-performing overheating piles of poop (just playin'), there are indeed a range of good reasons why building a computer is almost always better than buying one.
We do pride ourselves on being as objective as possible here at BGC though (only a Sith deals in absolutes), so be fair, not every single prebuilt gaming desktop out there is a horrible purchase (although for some, horrible is not a strong enough word :P). However, I would definitely say that most prebuilt PCs are worth avoiding if you care about getting good value for money, or in other words getting top gaming performance for the price you pay.
So if you do choose to buy a prebuilt gaming PC instead of building one yourself for whatever reason, be picky and do your research to pick a good one, and try to find one on sale too (we continually track some of the best gaming PC deals here). Perhaps you lead a crazy-busy lifestyle and are really strapped for time, and you don't mind the potential downsides to a prebuilt computer; whatever your reasons are, we won't judge ;)
But I think you know where this is leading, and the title of this post couldn't really make it clearer on where we sit on the whole build vs buy a gaming PC debate.
Source: Smart kitty who knows what's up
In the majority of cases (pun intended), there are just so many more advantages to building your own gaming PC that you just won't get when buying a prebuilt system - period. You are in full control and can 100% ensure you end up with the best, fastest performing system for your budget and specific wants/needs. Need proof? Here are some of the pros to building a PC, which at the same time will naturally highlight the cons of buying a prebuilt:
Is it cheaper to build a PC or buy one? In 2019, with PC part prices having returned to normality after the price surges of 2017-2018, the answer is once again clear-cut. Yes, in most situations, building your own gaming computer will save you money.
If you're a gamer playing modern AAA games, for the best gaming experience your aim is to get the smoothest, highest-quality graphics. That means having the best gaming video card possible in your machine, which is something that the majority of prebuilt PCs do not have included as the hardware balance of most premade systems is not optimized for gaming performance (even if it's advertised as a "gaming" rig).
When you build a PC, you get to choose the exact parts that you want, and that means including the best graphics card you can afford (and CPU as it's also an important gaming component) for your overall PC budget which will lead to the best gaming performance and experience.
This is the biggest reason why it's cheaper to build your own gaming PC vs buying a PC, but this extends beyond gaming to pretty much any other demanding PC usage such as video editing, CAD, 3D rendering/animation, Twitch streaming, game development, and the list goes on - building a PC allows you to get the best performance for the exact applications you'll use.
Sometimes you'll find a prebuilt that on the surface appears to have a good CPU, good gaming graphics card, and a nice supporting cast of components, and it'll beg the question why build a PC when I can buy one for around the same price with the same sort of power? But if you do some research and look a bit closer at a prebuilt, 9 times out of 10 you'll (sometimes 10) you'll find that some (or all) of the parts that make up a prebuilt system include lower quality, lesser-known, and/or lower-tier brands/models.
Prebuilt PC manufacturers do this to keep their costs low and to maximize profits, which is good for them but means less overall reliability and lastability for you when compared to building your own PC where you get to source better quality components (and include only high-quality models from the most reliable, trustworthy brands in your build).
This is why you often have to do a fair bit of digging around when researching a prebuilt desktop to find out the exact parts that are included inside (on the main product listing you'll probably only see the generic specs and not the actual brand of the components), as manufacturer's don't want you to really know the full details.
When you get a new gaming PC you want it to last as long as possible, so the reliability and quality of your components is just as important as getting the fastest performance, and this is another key reason why building a PC is better than buying one.
When you build a PC you can tailor the machine to suit your exact needs to a T, whether that's choosing a particular look and theme, having certain RGB features, kitting out some sweet add-on features, or any other customization that your heart desires to assemble the setup of your dreams. You're in control of absolutely everything, from the overall performance of your build, to the airflow, to the operating system (don't like Windows? Use Linux instead), to the features and the design (and everything in-between).
When you build a gaming computer vs buying one, it's easier to upgrade components later down the track because you can choose parts that are completely flexibility and able to accomodate for any sort of upgrades that you wish, and due to the fact that you built it yourself which will make the upgrade process dead easy. With a premade desktop you can be quite limited in the upgrades you can undertake, and some prebuilt manufacturers even go so far as to void your warranty if you simply just open up your PC case. Maintenance is also easier when you build a gaming computer yourself, because as mentioned you'll know your system intimately and have much more likelihood of knowing what to fix if something goes wrong.
When you build a PC yourself you get off with a fresh system free of any additional 'bloatware'. This is the accurate term given to all those typically-low-quality borderline-useless software, trial programs, and extras that typically comes already pre-installed on prebuilt PCs which aren't just annoying but can slow your machine down. To be fair, the extent of pre-installed software varies from manufacturer to manufacturer (and model to model I guess), but most have some form of it.
When you a computer you start with a 100% clean, optimal-performing bloat-free new machine, and you get to choose exactly what you want to install so you can have just the programs you really want in order to keep your system running as smooth as possible for as long as possible.
Yes, it's true - when you buy components separately, you'll generally get a better warranty compared to a prebuilt. For example, CyberPowerPC systems (a popular prebuilt brand) come with a 1 year warranty, but when you buy good quality parts yourself you'll typically get at least 2 years, and longer for top of the range parts (5+ years isn't uncommon).
To add to that, when a component of a prebuilt PC breaks or become faulty, you'll probably have to send the whole computer back to the manufacturer to be repaired, which is a pain in the lower rear regions as you might imagine and means you'll be without a PC for a while. Compare this to building a PC, where if a part is faulty you can simply send that little sucker back and you still have your entire system to work with.
This is an often overlooked aspect of building your own custom computer. By going the DIY route you will learn a lot about computers, including hardware, upgrading, troubleshooting, fixing computer problems etc. These skills are definitely handy and especially useful if you study or work/plan to work with computers in the future.
On top of all that, building a PC is a fun experience. Not just the physical building part, but getting to design your killer system from scratch and choosing out all of your awesome components and features. Once you have finished your build you will forever have a sense of pride and accomplishment every time you boot up, knowing that you made it all happen and that it's your very own unique machine.
When you buy a prebuilt computer, if something isn't performing optimally or something breaks, you'll have to call up the manufacturer to get help and this might include waiting on hold for a long time and/or receiving very limited service in terms of quality and helpfulness. But when you build your own system you can kiss that type of stuff goodbye forever, and rely on yourself to optimize or fix anything within your system (and without voiding your warranty which is something some prebuilt PC companies do if you simply open up the prebuilt's case).
Yes, the responsibility is on you to fix anything, but this is a good thing as the solution to pretty much any problem is only a Google search away these days, and once you find and fix something you'll have that knowledge and skill forever. Plus, since you built the system yourself from scratch, you'll know a lot more about how your PC works and so pinpointing problems will be way easier compared to a prebuilt (the layout of which will be unfamiliar to you).
We've drove this point home enough times here at BGC so we won't go over it again, but building a PC really is just like Lego (but for teens and adults) and simply a matter of connecting one piece at a time, plugging things in, screwing a couple screws here and there, and following some very basic safety precautions that are extremely hard to mess up.
Plus, in terms of choosing the right parts for a build, it's almost impossible to go wrong with that either these days with so much free information available online such as all our guides here at BGC (including our 100% compatible sample gaming PC builds) and handy tools like PCPartPicker to help you easily perform compatibility checks when planning your own parts-list from scratch.
Or in other words, graphics card prices are back to normality at long last. Remember the Bitcoin mining boom around a year or so ago when graphics card prices skyrocketed much to the widespread dismay of gamers around the globe? Prices became so ridiculous that buying a prebuilt gaming computer became much more attractive to gamers, but thankfully that's all behind us and in 2019 things are at last back to normal, with things to become even better later in 2019 with the much anticipated release of AMD's new "Navi" graphics cards which will bring back much healthier competition to the GPU market (meaning even better pricing conditions for us all).
It's not just graphics cards that are in good shape price-wise these days, at least compared to the past couple years of mayhem. The CPU market is in decent shape right now, with plenty of good value buys in different sectors of the market including current Ryzen CPUs going for very attractive prices and Intel's new super bang for buck i5-9400F mainstream gaming CPU which has boasted an impressively-placed price tag on release due to the chip lacking any onboard graphics (not necessary anyway as 99% gamers will use a discrete graphics card anyway).
But it's only the calm before the CPU storm right now, and you should strap yourselves in for the firestorm to come as the AMD vs Intel dilemma is set to explode to levels we haven't seen for a long time with AMD's new Ryzen 3000 series (Zen 2) set to launch very soon. Intel has long reigned supreme as the high-end gaming king, but these new AMD processors could really rock that boat and it'll be interesting to see what happens.
As for SSDs; once upon a time they were real expensive and not really worth including in a PC build unless you were assembling a luxury machine, but these days prices have come down a fair bit since those early days and you can pick up a decently sized SSD for a fair price and this will noticeably improve the loading times of your operating system and any games you can manage to squeeze on there too.
Building your own gaming PC for the first time will be a fun, memorable experience in your gaming life, and the various upsides are clear compared to buying a prebuilt.
Prebuilt desktops can be okay in some instances, especially if you're strapped for time and/or patience, and are willing to spend a little more money for the added convenience of having it already built and ready to go for you from the get-go. A prebuilt will typically be more expensive overall than building your own system, although to the untrained eye some may seem to be around the same price as a custom build (or even slightly cheaper in some cases). But here's the thing; if you look closer and do some digging around on the specs, you'll see the components used will almost always be of lower quality, reliability, and/or performance.
Overall, 9 times out of 10 building your own computer really is better than buying one if you simply have a few extra hours to plan your parts and assemble your parts together, and you're in full control of everything. You'll feel a solid sense of lasting pride and satisfaction every time you boot up your new battlestation knowing that you did it yourself, but in practical terms building your own has real-world practical advantages as we've discussed above.
Plus, when it comes time to upgrade or build a brand new setup a few years down the track, it'll be an absolute breeze as you'll have the confidence to know exactly what to do and how.
But the best part about building a PC, and a reason why we encourage it so freely to pretty much all PC gamers, is the fact that in the modern PC age it really is very simple to do. See our step by step complete beginner's guide to planning and building your own gaming PC and you'll see what I mean; there's nothing complicated about it whatsoever.
So, should you build a PC? If you know what's good for you, leave those prebuilts on the shelf, but don't take our word for it... enter Shia Palpatine:
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