CHOICE membership

Is building your own PC worth it? *POLL

Building your own PC might save you money in some cases, but it can be a steep learning curve if you’re not tech-minded. What are your thoughts and experiences?

  • Yes, I’d prefer to build my own
  • No, for me it’s not worth it

0 voters

We breakdown the pros and cons:

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Reading the article and focusing on the sentence The downside is they can cost more and your customisation options can be very limited. suggests it is focusing on name brand off the shelf or customisable products from their online stores.

Many parts suppliers provide build service for modest amounts, and the choice of options is as broad as their parts bin. They build them, check them and support them usually at the same or better (more personal) levels than a big brand. Some also have preconfigured ready to ship versions reflecting the big brands, often with superior specifications per dollar.

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I have rolled my own in the past. If you are in the industry and/or keep an eye on the latest products and if you know what you are doing and enjoy that kind of thing and find online shopping fun, by all means go ahead. You will get something that suits your particular needs, save a few dollars and have the satisfaction. Today it isn’t worth the time for me to go searching out and acquiring the components, checking for compatibility etc as I am out of the business and starting from a stand still. There is nothing so useless as a person who was once an expert, the faster the rate of change the sooner uselessness descends.

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My local independent computer geeks built my desktop. We talked about what I wanted and they configured it. They also did the sourcing of things like a reader for our SD cards from the cattle monitoring / wildlife trail cams (finding one was hard & they came up with a compromise). They set up a back-up system to removable hard disks, so I did not have to rely on internet (think One-Drive etc) and could lock up the alternative drives in a fire-proof container. They assisted with legacy software.

In the end, the whole system cost me less than I was contemplating for an “off-the-shelf” solution. They also offer support for the “life” of the desktop. It hasn’t given any trouble and is now over 2 years old. I would recommend it, particularly if you have out of the ordinary requirements. I did an IT degree in the 1980’s before Windows, Internet and distributed databases became a Thing. I would hate to navigate the technology now.

I didn’t vote - my option was Yes - but get someone else to do it for me.

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I actually used to build all my PCs from parts. From electronics stores and PC swap meets and the end result was far cheaper than store-bought desktop systems, and the primative laptops which cost a fortune and were very lacking in graphics and CPU speed.
These days it is all reversed. Unless you are a full on gamer, laptops have all the CPU power, RAM, disk storage, and graphics in a portable device that makes build it yourself pointless.
Just connect your monitor, sound, keyboard, mouse and network devices and there is just no appreciable difference between a laptop, desktop, or for that matter a Rasberry Pi.

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I have built a PC myself using parts which I have bought individually from the computer parts type store (Umart). Other family members have also bought their on spec PCs and have had the store assemble it for them for a reasonable price (it was $90 at the time).

I prefer to make our own as you can get exactly what you are after and also do your own upgrades as needed in the future.

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I’ve home built many and only once purchased a prebuilt 8086 derivative desktop in 35+ years. It used floppy disks to date the technology. When hardware came with a premium price (a new car or desktop?) the time invested seemed to be justified. Also useful in gaining confidence to fault find and repair when living miles from computer parts civilisation.

In the time since I last built a desktop I’ve purchased 3 laptops. The cost of time to value equation for tech has since changed dramatically. I expect the next purchase will be a slightly more capable tablet device with a keyboard and pen option, plus a new NAS to reliably resolve any local storage needs. I’ve converted several old PC’s to NAS duty in the past. The same as for desktops, there are plenty of quality ready made alternatives. No need to roll your own.

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I was building PCs from the mid 70’s, including doing it as a small business. More recently, as others have said, as I am not a gamer it is not worth while to build my own, more especially as augmented laptops have become our primary day-to-day device. We add external HDD caddies, keyboards and mice to the laptop, and sometimes additional screens. We still have a PC as the data server which is custom built. I also upgrade the internals of the laptops when necessary and possible.

Since coming to SE Qld, I have lost access to the weekly computer fairs that used to run where I could buy discounted components. I now have to rely on on-line suppliers for any parts I want to buy which adds freight costs to the equation.

The most recent PC we acquired was built for us in a PC shop at a marginal extra cost, to our specifications, so if there is a problem there is one point of contact rather than having issues with suppliers of hardware, and possibly software, blaming each other.

I would have voted - ‘It depends’ if there was such an option.

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The big down I have with notebooks is the finite battery life. In my experience the batteries are designed for about 400 charges and need replacing sometime afterwards. My notebook is 8 years ancient; each battery lasted about 4 years, close enough to ‘on design’. Those who upgrade more often would never notice.

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Battery life may be a problem, but as with desktops, which need to be plugged in, so too I mainly use my laptops plugged in.

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The Choice article is in some ways outdated. The day is fast approaching when everything needed for the central parts of a computer system, CPU, memory, graphics, IO control, is on a single chip package.
That is pretty much the case now for mobile phones and tablets with ARM processors, and Apple with its M1, and Intel and amd working on similar ‘system on a chip’ designs will signal the end of days for motherboards, plug in RAM sticks, plug in processors, plug in GPU cards for laptops and desktops.

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I’ve purchased a spare battery with the previous laptops, usually with some discount. I alternate use of each and try to minimise discharging them fully too often. The current Ultrabook is 2014 vintage. Still able to last a good 4-6 hrs use on each depending on task. Also not so common these days to have the option!

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Building your own PC is generally the best way to get the system you want at the price you are prepared to pay. If you are terrible with your hands (actually, that’s me - but most IT parts nowadays are tool-less and very easy to assemble) the local shop will generally put it together for you for around $100.

I normally upgrade one thing at a time, so building your own makes a lot of sense in that scenario - until you need a new motherboard and have to take everything apart anyway.

Last year (2021) was different. It was graphics card upgrade time, and anyone who has paid any attention to the IT market will know that it has been a really bad time to buy anything with a chip - but in particular graphics cards. They were marked up to two or three times retail price, which when you are looking at gaming means paying as much for the graphics card as you would normally pay for a complete system.

So I watched what was happening in the market, and waited. There was no way I was prepared to pay so much for one component. And then I saw a system from one of the major retailers - with the graphics card a level above what I had intended to settle for - priced reasonably (it had quite a big discount). So I bought a full system this time around.

Not confident that this box will be easy to upgrade, but I was able to get something higher specced for less than I expected to pay - and it is going to have to last several years.

Conclusion? Now is not a good time to buy computer hardware. Prices have come down quite a bit, but the graphics card I got is still priced at over $1,200. If you are prepared to build, make sure you know what you want and that the parts are compatible. Websites like PC Part Picker Australia can help you find the right parts at the right prices, and StaticIce is a must use website if you need to check prices. Neither of these sites is for the neophyte - use sites like Tom’s Hardware or maybe CNET to get up to speed on what’s hot and what’s not. And Whirlpool has a useful thread listing Australian PC shops - although it may be a little outdated.

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My two as they are usually plugged in are on AI charging and charge to 60% and discharge over a few days to 50% and then recharge to the 60% again. Supposedly keeps the batteries lasting longer. First one is now 3 years old and battery still giving 2.5+ hours when fully charged when needed for mobile work, so it may help extend their life.

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I just bought an LG Gram on sale. It has an LG battery management option to max the charge at 80%. It also admonishes not to leave it plugged in all the time for maximum ‘battery welfare’ and to run it down prior to recharging.

The 4 year old old Asus UX31 battery got on the very warm side of a warm battery under charge and 2 hours with a browser was about all it could manage prior to unceremoniously shutting down.

First charge of the Gram was to 100%. Running on battery today doing the personalisation, apps installs, backups, unfortunately more trouble shooting than expected with some flaky apps and recalcitrant licensing servers, and some browsing for about 5 hours solid it was only down to 67% according to ‘LG meter’.

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This is something I have been waiting for device makers to do for years. A large proportion of tech gadgetry that is powered by battery has the computing power to manage the battery in order to maintain its health without the user noticing anything different.

It is good to hear LG has a setting to help the user; now we just need companies like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft etc. to do the same.

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Lenovo is doing likewise for some of it’s devices…

https://support.lenovo.com/au/en/solutions/ht510061-howto-enable-battery-protection-mode-smart-tab

Battery stays between 40% and 60%. When it drops below 40%, it recharges back to 60%. The setting is recommended for devices continuously plugged in or for those who want to maximise battery life as much as possible.

Lenovo suggests that when recharging batteries, the heat generated to push the battery back to 100%, damages the battery and it’s long term capacity.

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Absolutely. You have control what hardware you use. It’s easy to replace hardware as nothing is welded to the MB

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For those unsure how to build a PC, I learned by having my first PC pre-built. Then as I upgraded and replaced components, I did it myself. By now almost nothing in the machine is from the original build, and I know exactly how to pull it apart and put it back together again.

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At some point in time isn’t the rebuilt desktop PC just a modern version of Grand-dad’s old axe? 2 new axe heads, 6 replaced handles and an unknown use of wedges it’s still his old axe. For the axe the benefit being the relative glacial pace of change.

Modern PC technology has continually improved the capability of the product, while taking away compatibility. Are there limits to what is reasonable and practical?

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