Author: Steve Burke, GamersNexus
Building a PC is just plain fun.
It’s the DIY attitude that builds, and builds, and builds…the projects get bigger, ambitions greater, and payoffs ever more exciting. System assembly is a functionally useful (and even employable) skill and is well-worth learning – but it’s still ultimately a fun weekend project to build a new gaming PC.
That’s not to say someone couldn’t just build a PC as a one-off project, of course. There are many merits to building a PC, and not all of them have to be rooted at a personal level. Paramount to PC building benefits, it’s cheaper than buying off the shelf, allows for fine-tuning of hardware and software, easier to personally maintain, and easier to extend service life.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BUILDING A PC?
BENEFIT #1 – BUILDING A PC IS MORE AFFORDABLE
The value proposition with building a PC is exceptionally high. With some DIY projects – building a bike, for one – it’s fair to expect a high-end rig to exceed the cost of an off-the-shelf model. PC building is unique in its dissent from this; it’s almost always cheaper to build systems with a DIY approach, and that’s true at all price ranges.
There are various types of PCs, but here are some top-level ‘template’ examples:
- ($300) “Internet PC” – Need something for the living/guest room? A parent or kid? An office? If it’s just a “Facebook machine” with the ability to stream video content and answer emails, the system cost could easily sit in the $300 range. An APU or IGP takes care of the graphics needs, and further cost reduction could be done by using a Linux distribution – no reason to buy licenses if just running web browsers.
- ($550-$650) Budget Gaming PC – And it could be done cheaper, too – but then you start cutting corners, and that’s a risk-vs-reward scenario we’ll discuss later. This type of box will play simpler games easily, often at medium-to-high settings (think: DOTA and CS:GO), and can still run moderately intensive titles at lower settings.
- ($700-$1,000) Entry-Level to Low Mid-Range PC – These are capable of playing almost anything at ~1080p and often with reasonably high settings.
- ($1,000+) High-End PC – After this point, it’s enthusiast and production rigs that start pushing serious horsepower for high-end gaming or work tasks. There is somewhat of an asymptotic curve to performance-per-dollar, but that’s true anywhere.
Buying a pre-built system off the shelf might run a similar price to the above “templates” (which are really just very basic price points), but will often be much lower in its performance capabilities. An i5 CPU and R9 380X or GTX 960 could be packed into a powerhouse of a ~$700 build, and that’s tough to get without the DIY approach.
BENEFIT #2 – BUILDING A PC LETS YOU FINE-TUNE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE
This is a major point of importance. Personal selection and culling of hardware means absolute control over what’s in the system; there’s no wasted money on, for example, a wireless card if you know you’re doing intranet transfers with gigabit+ requirements. No wasted money on a 700W PSU if building a system capable of being powered with a 450W supply.
Money can be redirected to mission-critical components – densely threaded CPUs and memory, for example, hold more significance in video production PCs than in “just gaming” PCs. Video cards are high on the priorities list for gaming, but completely unnecessary for an “internet box.” Unique requirements like silence or low-power/low-thermal (is it expensive to run AC where you live? Don’t dump heat into the room with a high-TDP build) can also be accounted for with the DIY approach.
Fine-tuning of hardware internals means appropriate allocation of budget, yielding a higher-performance rig with a stronger performance-per-dollar proposition.
BENEFIT #3 – BUILDING A PC PROVIDES THE (RELATIVE) EASE OF MAINTENANCE
When relying on external sources for technical support, it’s not uncommon to be without a PC for days or weeks at a time. Matters are made worse when relying on non-local services for RMA repairs, easily spanning several weeks for part repair or replacement. That’s not to mention the pain of data backup and protection in such instances.
The truth of the matter is that, once you’ve built your rig, it’s generally pretty easy to troubleshoot and maintain. The processes to troubleshooting and resolving the most common (and some advanced) issues will be contained within this guide; once you’ve picked-up those details, fixing future defects can normally be done entirely independently from outside parties. This is especially the case if a part simply “dies” (which is rare). If it’s not able to be saved, replacement is trivial – why pay someone and send off the PC for weeks to do what you can handle in minutes?
BENEFIT #4 – BUILDING A PC OFFERS EXTENDED SERVICE LIFE & UPGRADES
This benefit is a major one. Building a PC lends itself to service life extension by nature of being easily upgraded by the user. You can plot your own upgrade pathways in the initial building phases.
If building a gaming PC, it makes sense to build with a platform that may go through one or two GPU upgrades in its life. A strong motherboard and CPU selection allow this. Render rigs might start with “only” 16GB or 32GB of RAM, but make the allowance for 32GB or 64GB upgrade pathways, if editors find themselves using more warp stabilizers or FX.
Upgrades are easy. It’s screws and slots – that’s all there is to a PC upgrade. If you build your own machine, you know precisely what’s in there, and that means better ability to make sensible upgrades. Service life on the whole is extended as a byproduct. CPUs can often last several years for gaming rigs, but GPUs (especially as new APIs continue to shift commands to the GPU) will need the occasional refresh to continue accommodating max graphics settings. No reason to upgrade both at once if it’s avoidable.
This furthers the first point we made: Value proposition. It just makes sense to take the DIY approach. System building and planning is awfully fun, too – and even teaches skills usable in the workforce.
BENEFIT #5 – BUILDING A PC MEANS YOU’LL HAVE A STRONG SUPPORT NETWORK
There’s a large presence of knowledgeable enthusiasts in the PCDIY community. Outside of the customer service teams from various manufacturers – like NZXT’s Customer Service team – there are subreddits, forums, comment systems, social media pages, and more. This system means that troubleshooting is never truly done alone; it’s easy to find people who’ve had the same problem, and resolution is normally just around the corner.
THERE ARE EVEN MORE BENEFITS TO BUILDING A PC
The PCDIY community is impressive in its eagerness to help newcomers to system building. It’s easy to find new gaming friends during the process of building, and those relationships can last years. Besides all the benefits listed above, making friends through building and asking questions is our favorite.