custom vs prebuilt

Holiday Warning: Don’t Buy a Prebuilt PC

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching Windows boot up for the very first time on your shiny new computer. The anticipation of downloading its first game and the years of joy to come will surely make this holiday season one to remember.


However, people are all too often swept into the PC market in all the wrong ways. Prebuilt computers advertised as “gameresque” and the sites that manufacture them are only detrimental to your wallet and the industry as a whole. The consumers that these manufacturers aim these ads at associate higher costs with higher quality, performance, and longevity. However, PC’s are an exception to this common misconception, save for special deals that rarely come up. Companies such as Alienware, CyberpowerPC, iBuypower, and Digitalstormonline that sell these products are making a massive profit through a process that is regarded as easy as building with Legos™.


For the sake of being succinct, we’ve chosen to use Alienware as our primary offender as it is widely known to be the most ravenous company on this list.


Prebuilt or DIY


User /u/BackPlateGuy posted in the subreddit, /r/buildapc, an Alienware Area 51 R2 desktop selling for $1,699 at the cheapest and $6,218 at its highest. If a desktop costs 10% of the average American salary, one would expect that it would be a top-of-the-line product. However, BackPlateGuy compiled a list of the exact same components with an arguably better case, and the grand total was $3,893, around $2,500 cheaper than it’s resale price on the Dell website. From experience, the process for an average builder would take about 45 minutes for this desktop (a beginner could expect to spend roughly two hours). This means that Alienware is charging $2,500 for a prebuilt Pc for what would take a customer an hour to build excluding drivers and windows installations.


Unfortunately, it gets much worse. The components of the base model, which costs $1,699, are mediocre at best. The hardware in the cheapest version, which again sells for $1,699, is mediocre. Most pre-builts come configured with a high-level CPU and a mediocre, or even an unacceptable GPU. This is due to the fact that to most consumers, an i7 6800k 6 core is much more recognisable than say a  GTX 210, and thanks to companies such as Best Buy, a comfortable gaming experience comes with a top of the line i7 processor.


This nearly $2,000 computer comes packed with only 8GB of RAM, Windows 10 Home, a 2GB GTX 950, and a 2TB hard drive. There’s a multitude of problems apparent from the get-go. There’s absolutely no SSD to be found, and the hard drive isn’t as reliable as it should be. Windows 10 Home lacks features that many consider being essential, and at this price point, there’s no reason Alienware shouldn’t include the Pro edition. M


gaming pc built



A recent personal $550 desktop build has twice as much RAM and a much better 8GB RX480. Finally, we come to the worst offender of all, the GTX 950 2GB. Frankly, the pairing of the GPU and the i7 CPU is extremely insulting. In any triple A title released within the past 4 years, the processor will be bottlenecked so extremely by the 950 2GB, that it completely negates the fact that it’s a $400 processor. If you take the $550 dollars it costs to purchase the CPU and GPU and instead buy an i5 6600 and a GTX 1060, you would have a PC that would wipe the floor with Alienware’s offering for $90 less.


In summation, please don’t go looking at other sites with the illusion that these problems are only apparent with Dell because these problems lie with prebuilt computers as a whole. The only prebuilt that I can wholeheartedly recommend comes from Microcenter.


And to parents who want to buy a computer for their children, buy the one above, or research and buy all the parts separately. Building a PC with your kids is a fun bonding experience and can truly open up a whole new world.


Written by Dante


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