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Dated: Oct. 28, 2012
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Question: How to Get a Computer that Costs Less and Performs Better?
Answer: Build it Yourself!
Everyone has a computer. Everyone needs a computer. And, most everyone spends way too much money on a computer that doesn't end up performing as well as it could.
Computer manufacturers - or should we say computer assemblers, because that's really all they are - are phenomenal marketers who use information asymmetry to their advantage. Basically, computer assemblers bank on the fact that you, the consumer, do not know enough about computers. This allows them to sell you computers that cost more and perform worse than they should.
It's a sneaky strategy for the big computer assemblers like Dell and HP, but it pays off. This is because most people don't want to worry about the inner-workings of a computer.
Unfortunately, this is exactly where the computer assemblers gain the upper-hand. They don't want you to know how their computers are assembled, because they don't want you to realize how bad of a deal they are giving you.
But what if by spending just a little bit of your time learning some computer basics, you could save yourself a good chunk of change on your next computer? What if you could maximize your next computer's performance for only a fraction of the cost? What if you could really stick it to the big computer "assemblers?"
Would you be willing to build your next computer yourself?
Sounds intimidating, doesn't it? It isn't. It's actually so easy, it's kind of disturbing...
Warm Up to Building it Yourself
The first thing that I should note, is that we are assuming that you are looking for a computer that will meet the needs of the average household. So, this whole article is tailored to that kind of computer. Now, that doesn't mean that this post isn't relevant to those who are looking for a high-end computer. It's just the staple we're using to keep this piece consistent.
Just thought I'd clear that up.
One of the more common reasons why the average person doesn't want to build their own computer is that most people consider the idea of assembling an ‘incredibly technologically-advanced machine' an intimidating endeavor.
And, why shouldn't it seem difficult?
After all, computers are super advanced pieces of equipment. And, the technology that makes them work properly was designed by a bunch of genius' that are/were likely way smarter than we will ever be.
However, building a computer doesn't involve being a genius. Heck, it doesn't even involve knowing a lot about computers. Sure, the components that make up the computer are incredibly complex. But you don't have to build the components... that's already done for you.
You just have to plug them into the right spots.
So, technically, all you really need in order to build a computer are the components, a screwdriver, the ability to read, and a decent set of material - be it written guides, or how-to-videos - to take you through the process.
The components can be bought at a number of online retail sites, like newegg.com, or on Amazon. A decent screwdriver can be purchased for less than $10 at a local hardware store. I'm assuming you already know how to read. And, there are plenty of YouTube videos and online resources (like EliteGamingComputers.com) out there that will help you through the building process.
So, all you need to do to save some money on your next computer purchase, is to commit to building it yourself. The rest will fall into place.
Can You Build Your Own Computer? Watch This Video Before You Decide
We realize that there are a lot of people that will absolutely refuse to build their own computer. They just don't want to deal with it. It's understandable.
However, if you are on the fence and are interested in at least considering it, take some time to check out this computer-building tutorial done by the guys at newegg.com:
If after watching this video you still don't feel like you could assemble your own computer, then by all means buy your next computer from the big computer companies. If after watching this video, however, you do feel more comfortable with the idea of building your own computer then please continue reading.
Building A Computer vs. Buying It Pre-Built
While it is true that if you were to look at a computer built by an assembler (Like Dell or HP) and take all of the same listed components that that machine has, and then go to newegg.com and purchase those components yourself, you actually might not save a ton of money. In fact, in the scenario we're going to look at, it will cost more to build it yourself.
The reason for this is because these assemblers are able to buy components in bulk and are therefore able to get a substantial discount. The other thing is that these assemblers don't tell you specifically who manufactured the hard drive, motherboard, power supply, and memory that they put into their computers. So, it's really hard to determine the actual total value of the components found inside of a pre-built computer.
However, it has long been suggested that big-time computer assemblers often include stripped-down and cheap components in their systems. In other words, the components they use are able to perform like a quality component at first, but are built so cheaply that they are a liability over the long run.
You've probably experienced this yourself. How many times have you bought a computer from one of the big assemblers (like Dell of HP), brought it home, turned it on, and been amazed by how fast and awesome it ran... only to find that a few months later it's performance had drastically decreased? In some cases, that new computer turns into a major headache in less than a year from the date you purchased it.
And we all know how frustrating it is to have a computer that doesn't run well....
So how can you avoid both computers with cheaply built components and save some money?
That's simple. You just have to hack away all the unnecessary components that assemblers like to throw in, choose quality components that actually meet your computing needs instead, and then build your computer yourself.
Assembling a Quality Computer for Less: Remove the Inessentials, Get What You Need
To illustrate the difference between a pre-built machine and a computer that you build to suit your own needs, we will first take a look at an HP Pavilion HPE h8-1360t Desktop.
The following is a list of the components that this pre-built computer contains, as well as the price it would cost to buy the components individually. This will show the difference between what you would pay for a pre-built system versus if you were to build it yourself. (Which in this case, it's actually more to build it yourself! But keep reading to see why it's still not a good idea to buy this computer.)
HP Pavilion HPE h8-1360t Desktop
- Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-Bit) - $94.49 @ Amazon
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 - $309.99 @ Amazon
- Motherboard: Motherboard Not Listed
- Memory (RAM): 8 GB DDR3-1333 MHz (manufacturer N/A) - $36.99 @ Newegg
- Hard Drive: 1 TB 7200 (manufacturer N/A) - $80.00 @ Amazon
- Video Card: Radeon HD 7570 (manufacturer N/A) - $40 @ eBay
- Power Supply: 300W (manufacturer N/A) - $40.00 @ Newegg
- Optical Drive: Blu-Ray player - $55.00 @ Newegg
- Keyboard & Mouse: Standard HP Keyboard & Mouse - $25.00 @ eBay
- Anti-Virus: Norton 15-Month Subscription - $12.99 @ Norton
- Other: Adobe Premier Elements & Photoshop - $150 @ Newegg
- Monitor: HP W2371d 23-inch LED Backlit LCD Monitor - $169.99
First off, if you look at this part-list, you can see that HP failed to mention who manufactured certain components in this computer. There's no manufacturer listed for the memory, the hard drive, the video card, and the power supply. So, as far as pricing goes, I just gave them the benefit of the doubt - which I probably shouldn't have done - and assumed that they used a quality manufacturer and a quality component - which they probably didn't - and set the price accordingly.
So, according to the prices listed above, if you purchase these components separately and build it yourself, you will spend $1,014.45. Of course, you would also have to buy a case and a motherboard. And, if you wanted those components to be of a good quality, you'd have to spend another $150, bringing the total in at just under $1,200.
How much is HP selling this very same computer for? $949.98.
After seeing these pricing differences you are probably thinking that I'm crazy... but there is a lot more here than meets the eye.
The first thing to ask is, even if this computer does cost $1,200 to build, and $949.98 to buy, should you buy it from the big computer assemblers?
The answer to that is absolutely not.
Of course, you shouldn't build it, either...
The worst thing about this computer is how many unnecessary components it has. For example, the i7 processor they include is way too powerful and unnecessary for the average home computer.
In fact, you can bring the processor down two levels, and get an i3-2120 (which is an excellent processor), save yourself $185, and not see a noticeable difference in performance for the things you want to accomplish. (That is assuming you are not doing a lot of video editing and rendering...)
The stand-alone video card is also way wrong for this build. Stand-alone cards are beneficial for gamers and video editors. However, if you are looking for a quality desktop for your family, and aren't planning on using it to play video games, or as your Blu-ray movie player, or to edit a ton of videos, you don't need a stand-alone video card. All you need is the integrated graphics on your processor.
And, even the video card that they included is so laughably bad, that it's a wonder why they even included it in the first place. This card is so cheap that it's not even going to give good results when playing video games and editing videos... so it seems like a complete waste that they included it in the first place. By removing the video card, you can save yourself another $40.
This already brings us close to the cost of the $949.98 build that they wanted to sell you and we still have more hacking away to do!
The next thing you can get rid of is Adobe Premier Elements & Photoshop. Is it really worth $150 to get Photoshop when you can download Gimp 2 for free? They essentially do the same thing...
For a basic home computer, you also won't need 8GB of RAM unless you are either a) playing intense video games or b) doing a ton of video editing. So, you can save another $20 by dropping to 4 GB (which is way more than enough for the needs of the average computer user).
You don't need the Norton security that this build comes with either. There are plenty of free anti-virus programs out there that function just as well - if not better - than Norton; i.e. Avast, Avira, AVG, etc. This will allow you to save another $12.99.
You probably own a Blu-Ray playing device already, too. So it seems silly to waste money turning your computer into a second Blu-Ray player. By dropping down to a traditional DVD player you can add another $35 to your savings.
So, taking all of these changes into consideration, here's an updated list (with quality components across the board) of what the more cost-efficient computer will look like:
- Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-Bit) - $94.49 @ Amazon
- Processor: Intel Core i3-2120 - $121.98 @ Amazon
- Motherboard: Foxconn Z68A-S LGA 1155 Intel Z68 - 84.99 @ Newegg
- Memory (RAM): Corsair XMS3 4 GB 1333MHz- $19.99 @ Newegg
- Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1 TB 7200 - $80.82 @ Amazon
- Power Supply: SeaSonic 80 PLUS Bronze Certified 300W - $39.99 @ Newegg
- Optical Drive: SAMSUNG 22X DVD Burner - $17.99 @ Newegg
- Keyboard & Mouse: Standard HP Keyboard & Mouse - $25.00 @ eBay
- Case: Xigmatek ASGARD Mid Tower Case - $39.99 @ Newegg
- Monitor: HP W2371d 23-inch LED Backlit LCD Monitor - $169.99 @ Newegg
The total of this build comes out to $695.23. So, by hacking away at all of the unnecessary components and replacing them with parts that make sense, you can build yourself a computer that is more tailored to your needs, performs perfectly for what you need it to do (and then some) and save yourself roughly $250 of what it would've cost to buy the HP computer that was listed.
Not only does this computer cost less, but you can guarantee that the components in it are good quality because the parts included have good reviews and are made by reputable manufacturers. This is unlike the HP computer, where you really don't know the quality of the components they use.
However, this is not the end of the savings you can accumulate if you build your computer yourself. You can cut the cost of your next computer even more if you use parts from your old computer...
Using Components from Your Old Computer to Save Even More
Assuming that you already have a desktop computer, you can bring the cost of your next system down even further - sometimes significantly so.
Here's a list of components you can use from your old computer without sacrificing too much performance:
- Use the operating system from your old computer and save yourself $94.49.
- Keep your old monitor and save another $169.99.
- Use your old mouse and keyboard and save $25.00.
- Take the optical drive out of your old computer and save $17.99.
By cutting these costs, you will save yourself an additional $307.47. This brings the cost of your new computer down to under $400.
The best part is, if you're only using your computer for basic tasks like web-browsing, emailing, word processing, light video watching, etc. this computer is more than powerful enough to handle everything you need.
You may even want a good gaming computer to play your favorite PC games on... if so, it wouldn't be hard to turn this build into one. All you would really need to do is to add a stand-alone video card for about $150 more. And if you did that, you'd still be way under what HP was going to charge, and you'd get twice the performance.
How Is HP Able to Sell This Computer for So Cheap and Why Don't They Offer More Reasonable Builds?
You may be wondering how HP was able to sell their computer for nearly $300 less than it would've cost to build it. You may also be wondering why an experienced computer assembler, like Hewlitt-Packard, would ever assemble a computer with so many unnecessary parts.
The answer to both of those questions is that big computer companies buy their components in enormous quantities (as previously stated) so that they can get a huge discount and maximize their profits.
As you can imagine, when they buy all of their parts in bulk, they have to try to pick the parts that they think will sell. Unfortunately for them, computer technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that it's hard to predict when a more advanced component will come out and make older components obsolete. Needless to say, they don't always make the right call on the components they buy.
So, what ends up happening is that they have so many leftover parts to sell, that they end up putting all of these random combinations together so that they can get rid of the parts and keep their losses to a minimum.
This is why you will never see the kind of build that I put together above produced by a manufacturer at an affordable price. And, this is why you should build your own computer if you are up to the challenge.
What Are You Waiting For? Get More and Spend Less On Your Next Computer...
The main thing that you need to ask yourself is, if you can save at least 25% (and in some cases more) on your next computer by building it yourself, why wouldn't you?
Even if you are intimidated by the building process, it's at least something that every cost-efficient person should look into. You don't sacrifice performance and you save a ton of money. It's a no brainer!
After all, computers are the driving force behind the human race, and if you're going to use one, you might as well get the most performance out of it for the lowest cost. And the best way that you can do that, is to build it yourself.
My name is Brent Hale and I own and operate EliteGamingComputers.com. My site focuses on how to build good gaming computers without spending more than is necessary. If you have any questions about your next computer, or about anything else, please feel free to ask them below in the comment section.
Now that you've gotten free know-how on this topic, try to grow your skills even faster with online video training. Then finally, put these skills to the test and make a name for yourself by offering these skills to others by becoming a freelancer. There are literally 2000+ new projects that are posted every single freakin' day, no lie!