Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

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Does anyone have any comparisons of the price difference between
building & assembling your own PC vs buying it from a retailer like

I've always been told it is cheaper to build it yourself, but what
price savings are we looking at?

I find it hard to compare prices because the information you get from
the PC retail websites aren't too specific about the details/brands of
the components, meaning you often have to guess. Brand & quality can
make a big difference in monitor prices, for example. I would be
interested to see some hard figures & comparison tables.

Assuming the prices are similar, I built my last PC because I was fed
up with badly built custom PCs. A friend bought a Pentium 4 2.6GHz PC
through a well known retailer with 128MB of RAM (and he was complaining
how slow it was and that it was time to buy a new PC...). I myself got
ripped off with RDRAM two computers back.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

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more you know what you got.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

Harry wrote:

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You mean DIY PCs are more expensive? Out of curiosity, do you have any
figures for that? I thought part of the price of retail PCs is the
service charges for getting someone to put the parts together.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

There's no question that it's usually more expensive to build on your own,
IF you are building with integrity to get a quality system. Buying retail
usually means one settles for shortcuts, unwanted software and propriatory
hardware. Parts are not the best quality or will necessarily accomplish what
you have in mind unless you've done your research and sleuthing of the
intended purchase. Further, buying means you may be at the mercy of your
retailer should you have trouble with the system. If you have a problem with
the one you build you have fewer folks to blame the problem upon.
    The big deal, at least IMHO is what one learns in the process of
building. Education is worth money and that's what one partially pays for
when they build. So, again, it all depends on what you want out of the new

Jan Alter

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Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

Jan Alter wrote:

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Great way of viewing things! :-)

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

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retailer like

With a lot of help from this newsgroup, I am going through
this myself. Yesterday I scoped out Dell. One matter that
puts me off is that the shipping charge will likely run $100
or so, unless you're lucky and there's a store near you (per's site) where you can pick up the computer.

Some packages are very competitive with building it
yourself. I keep my eyes peeled for a good deal, but so far,
by way of prices, I feel building it one's self is
competitive. Also, there's the sense of having more control
over one's computer when one builds it one's self. But you
say you've already built one or more yourself. So no need to

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but what
you get from
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details/brands of
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I'd say it's more accurate to say one has to dig. E.g.
Gateway gives details of its computer packages at its site.
Dell's customer service online told me the make and model of
a motherboard for one of their computers yesterday.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

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Beware with Dell !.

They have some good deals, but you need to look carefully.
Here in the UK they advertise in PC mags, Newspapers and online.

I spent many months looking for what I wanted and was still disappointed by
finding an offer a week later that easily beat what I bought for value.

I bought a 5150, 17" LCD, 512MB, 80g HD, DVD reader/CD writer which was
described online as a special offer for 540, a week later in the Times
newspaper they had the same machine with 1GB RAM, 160GB, 19" LCD, DVD writer
for 30 more !!
I moaned to them but all to no avail.

I would advise that the Dell newspapers offers have the best prices, but the
deals only last a couple of days, which you can never match on the website.
So keep checking the papers until you find an offer on what you want.

Regarding delivery it's using offered as free.


Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

On Sun, 29 Jan 2006 09:16:18 -0800, AN O'Nymous wrote:

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My experience is that for high end systems it's usually cheaper to build
or buy a custom system then to buy from someone like Dell, however as you
come down to more commodity systems the economies of scale give an
advantage to the big companies especially for Windoze users. For us Linux
users custom systems can remain competitive farther down the price scale
because the higher price of hardware is offset by not having to pay for a
useless Windows license which the big guys always bundle in.

There are other advantages to custom systems, you can get more advanced
hardware. Dell doesn't sell AMD at all so I don't even look at them
anymore when I buy a box. HP does sell AMD but the choice is sometimes
limited. For example when I bought my X2 4400+ box, which I got from
MonarchComputer, HP/Compaq only had 3800+ and 4200+ processors available,
they didn't have any 1M cache processors at all. But one would assume
that's because the X2s were brand new at the time and AMD probably
couldn't make enough of them to satisfy the needs of a company as big as

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

General Schvantzkoph wrote:

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Yup, seems that way. Here's a budget system. The assembled one is still
more expensive, even without Win XP & MS Office.
Intel Celeron D 326 2.533Ghz Skt 775 Fsb 533 256kb Cache EMT 64 Retail

256MB DDR PC3200 400MHz 184pin13.73

Seagate ST3402111A 40GB 7200RPM ATA/133 Hard Drive - OEM24.55

Sony CRX320E 52x32x52x16 CD-RW/DVD-ROM COMBO Internal IDE (Black) - OEM

PROVIEW MA-782KC TFT 16ms 500:1 (1280x1024) Silver & Black TFT Monitor
3 Years Onsite Warranty109.99

MSI 661FM3-V SKT775 mATX DDR400 AGP LAN 6channel audio35.80
KL-188 in Silver with USB2.0/Audio/8cm Fan and a 350w PSU15.99

Cart Total:     =A3261.08
Shipping Band:     =A37.24
Approx Cart Weight: 13.99Kg
Shipping Surcharge:     =A31.20
SubTotal:     =A3269.52
VAT:     =A347.20
Total:     =A3316.72

Dell's price: Dimension 1100 (D01115)249 Includes VAT & Shipping
Intel=AE Celeron=AE D Processor 325 (2.53GHz, 533fsb, 256K cache)
256MB Dual Channel DDR 400 Memory (1x256) [Included in Price]
80GB (7,200rpm) Hard Drive [Included in Price]
48X DVD/CDRW Combo Drive [Included in Price]
Dell 17" (15.9") Value CRT Monitor (E773c) [Included in Price]
Genuine Windows=AE XP Home Edition, SP2 [Included in Price]
Microsoft=AE Works 7.0 - English [Included in Price]
90-Day Collect and Return service [Included in Price]

Performance system:

Intel Pentium D 950 (BX80553950 ) Dual Core 3.40GHz FSB 800 2 X 2mb LGA

Intel Black Creek S775 I955x chipset ATX - GB-LAN DDR2 FSB1066 SSATA
PCI-E     =A3160.54

PNY (DIMM10512N/4300/2-BX) 512MB DDR53396.80 (total for 4)

Western Digital WD2500BB 250GB 7200RPM ATA/100 2MB Cahce - OEM112.66
(total for 2)

Plextor PX-750A/T3K 16x DVD+/-R 8x DVD+/-R Double Layer 5x RAM 8x
DVD-RW 40x CD-R 24x CD-RW 16x DVD-ROM 40x CD-ROM W/ 2MB IDE Internal
White Bulk Drive44.42

Belkin Card Reader/compact Flash Media Usb Ext     074572     216.77

Belinea 102005 20.1" TFT 25ms 600:1 (1600x1200) (Analogue/DVI) Monitor
- Silver     =A3284.99

Point Of View GF 7800GTX 256mb 256bit PCI-E527.60 (total for 2)
Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Music69.82
Cart Total:     =A31738.98

Shipping Band:     =A37.24
Approx Cart Weight: 20.07Kg

Shipping Surcharge:     =A33.30
SubTotal:     =A31749.52
VAT:     =A3306.21
Total:     =A32055.73

Dell's price for a comparable system:
(D01XP7) XPS 600
Includes VAT & Shipping

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

You can't compete building a budget machine to buying one, especially when
you consider all the software that's generally thrown in,  want it or not.
The higher up the quality/performance scale you go the more evenly matched
you get,when compared to buying, and like Jan Alter and others have said,
you're getting an education and an understanding of your machine that Dell
just doesn't want you to have

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Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

AN O'Nymous wrote:
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Here are the specs of a computer I built two years ago.

Antec SLK2600SMB case with 300 watt power supply
Intel D875PBZ motherboard
Intel 2.6 GHz Northwood Pentium 4 processor with hyperthreading
PNY brand 2 sticks 256 MB each PC3200 DDR 400 RAM
Maxtor 30 GB hard drive
Sony cd rom drive
Memorex floppy drive
ATI Radeon 9000 graphics card
Soundblaster sound card
Logitech 3-way speaker system
17" Viewsonic E70F+SB-2  monitor
basic mouse and keyboard

Total cost was just over $1,000.  This does not include any operating
system or software.  I probably could have built it for less money but
since this was my first build I was more interested in dealing with
reliable companies than trying to get the cheapest price.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones wrote:
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That should have been a Creative 3-way speaker system, not Logitech.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

Consider a custom builder like  They offer many
different base models with lots of optional configurations available.

What I find attractive about them (and similar others) is that I spec
the system and they take the risk that it won't work.  I'd hate to
assemble a bunch of parts that might include a bad CPU, MB, or PS.  How
in the world would I troubleshoot that unless I had spares?

AN O'Nymous wrote:
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Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

On Sun, 29 Jan 2006 21:26:34 GMT, Bennett Price

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After you've done it a few times, believe
me, you have spares.

Some suggestions:

1. Always have another, working computer
nearby, connected to the 'net.

2. Find the drivers you'll need on the
web, and download them in advance.  Then
transfer them onto a USB memory key.

3. Don't assume you'll need drivers for
anything.  Windoze gets smarter and
smarter abour recognizing all but the
oldest legacy hardware.

4. Be extra-super careful to mount the
CPU heatsink properly.  I struggled for
weeks with what looked like a broken
scanner, then a driver/registry issue,
then a power-supply issue.

Amazingly, it turned out to be an
improperly mounted heatsink.

rafe b

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

I say it all depends on which end of the spectrum you are looking for. If
you want a high end machine for gaming for example where you get every last
bit of performance you can out of it then building one yourself is the way
to go and will cost less. If you want a cheap computer to just get on the
net and do some mundane task then a prebuilt is the way to go. I see many
ads for computers for around $400 with monitor and printer after a rebate.
Heck Windows XP alone cost about $100 and even a 17" crt monitor shipped
would be another $100. So for a low end machine you can do much better with
a prebuilt and dealing with rebates.

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Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

On 29 Jan 2006 09:16:18 -0800, "AN O'Nymous"

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The answer is simple-

There is more to a system than just "W" MHz CPU or "X" type
video card and "Y" memory or "Z" hard drive.

The point of building your own is that you get to hand-pick
the parts you want, and tailor the parts to be most cost
effective for your most demanding or common uses.

Therefore, someone who only does a simplistic and shallow
comparison of the W X Y Z will conclude Dell is cheaper for
the same thing.  If the only parameters you care about are W
X Y Z then the Dell is a reasonable choice, since you would
have to know what else you want to hand-pick towards that

On the other hand, cost of ownership is higher with the
Dell, as the bottom-end Dells use lower quality fans,
proprietary parts, and they don't even send you all the
spare bay faceplaces or drive racks should you want to add
or remove parts.

Forget about price.  Dell is for someone who only knows
their needs based on the specs Dell provides and doesn't
plan on changing their system.  That's a LOT of people, the
majority.  DIY is for those to whom the details matter.  You
pay for what type of system you want, not a competition to
see who is lowest when the systems aren't actually the same.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

kony wrote:

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Hi Kony. Can you give an example of what is more to a system than its
CPU, video card, memory and hard drive? Apart from the monitor and
motherboard, that pretty much sums it up.

How would a tailor made system be better, and why couldn't you do the
same with Dell (e.g. a CPU intensive user might simply specify a faster
processor from Dell)

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Yup, I agree. Upgrading Dells are a nightmare.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

Well, for one thing, Dell doesn't use very high quality parts. At least
not in their cheaper systems. And the standard 1-year warranty is
designed to prevent them from taking responsibility when it breaks in 1
1/2 years. Dell is better than HP or Compaq in terms of quality, but
still not as good as custom building. Plus, Dell doesn't offer the best
processors (AMD). With a good Asus motherboard, Antec power supply, AMD
processor, Kingston ram, and Seagate hard drive, you're much better off
than with a Dell. And the price difference is not huge. It's maybe $75
to $150 difference, depending on the specs. The higher the specs, the
lower the difference. And if you buy from decent suppliers, like
ZipZoomFly and Newegg, you rarely have to deal with DOA components. I
can't remember getting one DOA component from either of those places.
People do, I suppose, but it's rare.

I would not here that probably the most overlooked component in a
computer is the power supply. I've seen more problems from cheap power
supplies than anything else. That and cheap RAM are probably the top
two on the list. Btw, PNY counts as cheap RAM. You can tell a good
power supply by the weight. The cheap ones weigh like 1.5 - 2 lbs,
whereas the good ones (Antec) weigh like 5-6. Sure, it increases the
weight of the system, but would you rather have a heavy system that
works for many years, or a light, very large paperweight. It's
interesting that power supplies cause much of the same problems as bad
ram. Wierd reboots, BSOD's, etc. I've learned my lesson.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

On 30 Jan 2006 00:48:49 -0800, "AN O'Nymous"

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I see that you don't get it.  You have choices in those
specific parts, choices how (well) they're cooled, choices
in expansion, choices in warranty, overall configuration and
features, etc, etc.  PCs are modular, it would be madness to
think one is supposed to take one particular OEM system and
match it with a DIY build.  Try the oppposite- design a
custom DIY build then see if the OEMs can match it exactly
for any price, including ALL the desirable variables a
self-built system can have.  DIY is not a competition
against an OEM, it's a choice to spend the time and money to
build exactly what you want.

How can this not be obvious, that there isn't just _one_
case on earth, one make or model of HDD, one motherboard,
not just one may to cool a CPU or one bios setup?  In all
the details is where the diference lies.

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Why do you think I should spend my time on this?  At least
with Dell, they make a buck off you..  If you don't know,
then as I wrote previously you can't appreciate the
difference and wouldn't be able to properly pick parts to do
a good DIY build.  That's WHY OEMs exist.  It doesn't mean
they're bad per se, just not an apples to apples comparison
if as I wrote previously, you only make shallow comparision
such as W CPU, X HDD, Y memory, etc.  They will do a
passible job of configuration a system as cheaply as
possible and for their own benefit, to keep it running for
at least the duration of the warranty period- and that's
more than some DIYers can manage.

Again, there is no point trying to compare price unless you
are comparing EVERY minute detail of a system.  That's not
an argument to sway you away from OEMs, only that people who
know, will want to choose many aspects of their system
moreso than an OEM can offer.

Re: Prices of building your own PC vs. retail ones

AN O'Nymous wrote:

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There is another angle you may want to look at building vs. buying. If it
is not your very first computer you are building, you usually get to keep
lots of parts. Most notably the monitor, the case, keyboard and mouse.
Sometimes NIC cards, sound cards, TV tuners, CD-RW drives and many other
pieces are still quite adequate even after few years of use. So, you get
to keep some of your earlier investment into the machine if you build
yourself. If you buy, you will have to pay for (some of) those parts again.

Dmitri Abaimov, RCDD
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