Is a Custom-Built PC Better Than a Pre-Built?

Custom-built PCs are generally cheaper and more future-proof than pre-built PCs, but that doesn’t make them better. 

Having engineered my PC with high-end parts, I can safely say I would be up the creek if I had to shell out for a pre-built computer. Even my now-old RTX 2080 Ti and i7-6700K would cost me a pretty penny if I weren’t willing to install them myself.

Let’s dive into why some people prefer to custom-build their PCs rather than buy a pre-built one so you can make an informed decision on your next purchase.

Custom Builds Are Cheaper and Future-Proof

If you don’t need a computer that you can plug in and use within the next week, a custom build is the most economical approach to getting your hands on a powerful PC. Just like it’s cheaper to make your clothes, it’s cheaper to build your PC.

Cost Comparison

When buying a pre-built PC, all the labor that goes into putting the components together into a usable PC is done for you, usually by robots, in a factory. Thus, you’re not just paying for the internal components; you’re also paying for the labor required to maintain the manufacturing plant.

Pre-built PCs also come with a significant “brand” price tag. Take, for instance, the Alienware Aurora R12, which retails at around $1400 refurbished on Newegg. In addition, it features an 11th generation i7 and an RTX 3060.

For around the same price, you can build a PC outfitted with a 12th generation i9 and an RTX 3070. So, you can effectively build a more powerful computer than the Aurora R12 with all brand-new parts for the same price you’d pay for a refurbished Aurora R12.

Future-Proofing

Additionally, custom-built PCs tend to be more future-proof than pre-built PCs. This is because computer manufacturers often build specific components for individual pre-built models, like motherboards and power supplies.

While this sounds like a good idea, in practice, it’s primarily used to remove functionality from the component to lower the cost of manufacturing. So, in-house power supplies often provide bizarre wattage counts, and motherboards are notably devoid of expansion slots.

Additionally, these unique parts are generally designed to work only within the model of computer you’ve purchased. Therefore, replacing a broken part requires the exact same part, or you may have to replace other parts to make them compatible.

Suppose you want expandable components in a pre-built computer. In that case, they will come at a premium since the manufacturer will either have to build a more functional product (more expensive for them) or buy the part from a different manufacturer.

FAQs

How Long Do Pre-Built PCs Last?

You should expect your pre-built PC to last 5–8 years. Unfortunately, because pre-built PCs tend to use in-house manufactured parts with lowered thresholds (cost-effectiveness), a busted or obsolete part usually requires replacing the whole computer. 

In contrast, a custom-built PC can be upgraded, and parts can be replaced since you’ll be using standardized parts.

How Long Do Custom-Built PCs Last?

Custom-built PCs last about as long as Pre-Built ones on paper; they’re made with the same components, after all. However, because custom PCs can be upgraded and serviced quickly and cheaply, they have built-in longevity not available with pre-built PCs.

Is Building a Computer Hard?

Building a computer is surprisingly easy. Parts are generally standardized and fit together like a puzzle.

Is Building a Custom PC Cheaper?

Based on a quick comparison of Newegg’s selection vs. a high-end custom build also built using Newegg’s prices, custom PCs are, on average, 33–50% cheaper. For example, a PC running an i9 and RTX 3060 starts at $1400 to build on Newegg, compared to $2000 to buy.

Final Thoughts

Buying a new PC can be exciting and scary; it makes sense to want to make the most informed purchase. Whether you decide to build or buy your PC, ensure that you’ve researched the internal components used so they fit the tasks, you’re trying to complete.

If you need a new PC today, pre-builts are very convenient. However, if you’re doing a much-needed upgrade, consider building a PC to ensure that you have a long-term machine that you can service and upgrade as needed.

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