Question Building vs Buying Pre-Built?

ascendant

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Jul 22, 2011
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I am LONG overdue to build a new desktop. However, it has been years since I have, and I don't have much time to do research. My budget is also very tight right now. This is what I have currently:

Case - XION II XON-101

Motherboard - GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3P AM3+/AM3 AMD 970 6 x SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard

CPU – AMD FX-4350 Vishera Quad-Core 4.2GHz Socket AM3+ 125W FD4350FRHXBOX

Ram - G.SKILL Sniper Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 2133 (PC3 17000) Desktop Memory Model F3-2133C10D-16GSR

Video Card - EVGA GeForce GTX 950 DirectX 12 02G-P4-1950-KR 2GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 SLI Support

Hard Drive – Seagate Desktop HDD ST1000DM003 1TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5"

Backup Hard Drive - Western Digital Caviar RE WD1600YS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s

PSU - EVGA 100-B1-0700-K1 700W SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Power Supply

I wouldn't have more than a few hundred to put into a computer at most at this time. I want something that can play games, but I don't need something that's ridiculously fast, just something I can game on that's an upgrade from what I have now for an affordable price.

I see real cheap desktops around online for 100-200, but I don't know if they have decent graphics cards in them, or if they're going to have a hard time playing some games. Plus, my concern there is I'd imagine most pre-built are not going to be upgrade-friendly. I wish I had time to do the research, but I'm working full-time, prepping for college (and having to brush up on Calc 1-3, Physics 1-2, Chem 1-2, and a few other courses after a 10yr layoff, with five months to catch up on all of it), have kids, and don't have enough hours in the day as it is. With that said, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears, and it would be much appreciated.

Oh, to add, my keyboard, speakers, monitors, mouse, all the peripherals are fine. It's just the tower in and of itself that I need.
 

Tech Junky

Diamond Member
Jan 27, 2022
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pcpartpicker.com is a good place to start for pricing / building.

Jumping from SATA to NVME though would be a good place to start. Drives are cheap at the 1-4TB level under $200 typically

I would suggest at least AM4 but deals can also be head on the current AM5 stuff with prices dropping significantly lately.

You might be able to target a pre-built and get a great deal on it and then gut it for the parts you want and add what you want to it inside your OG case.
 
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ascendant

Member
Jul 22, 2011
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You need a complete re-build, or a pre-built, possibly a refurb pre-built.
Oh, yea sorry I didn't clarify, but with how old my rig is, I knew that, lol. I don't even know what's good now though, as it's been years since I even looked at what's out there. I want to find things past that "6mo+ and price has dropped" range, but not things on the other end that are so old that I'll have to upgrade a lot of the parts again in a few years just to be able to play the latest games on max settings.
 

ascendant

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Jul 22, 2011
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pcpartpicker.com is a good place to start for pricing / building.

Jumping from SATA to NVME though would be a good place to start. Drives are cheap at the 1-4TB level under $200 typically

I would suggest at least AM4 but deals can also be head on the current AM5 stuff with prices dropping significantly lately.

You might be able to target a pre-built and get a great deal on it and then gut it for the parts you want and add what you want to it inside your OG case.
Thanks for the link. In the past, I typically used Newegg.com, but I really like how that site is set up, to where it gives you the sort of checklist for each part and ensures compatibility. I could really use that as a time-saver from having to research each individual part myself. Just put that on my favorites, thank you!
 
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Pohemi

Diamond Member
Oct 2, 2004
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Whether you build yourself or go with a prebuilt...If you aim for (spend more for) a better/newer CPU now, you might be able to forego the GPU for the time being, depending on what you're looking to play. It would save on initial cost, and you can always add one later.

It just depends on the kind of games you are hoping to run, but the newer iGPUs have come a long way from the days of old, both on AMD and Intel chips. The higher model CPU, the better the iGPU. I had an 11th gen Intel NUC with Intel Iris-xe iGPU, and it ran Tom Clancy's The Division 2 at 4K w/medium settings surprisingly well. That was only a mobile-class i5.
 
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VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
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If it's in the budget, this one has an RTX 3060 12GB, as opposed to a GTX 1660 Super 6GB, 32GB RAM rather than 16GB, 1TB NVMe instead of 512GB, but still that darn ole 2600 Ryzen CPU, which you would do well to change out for at least a 3600 (used, $50).
 
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VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
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Here's another one from a different seller. A bit less RGB bling.

Ryzen 5600 CPU, 16GB RAM, RX 580 8GB (likely 2048 SP model), $549

That has a better CPU than all three prior rigs that I linked with the 2600 CPU, but the video card being an RX 580 is a weak link. There are some games that won't run, because Polaris is a little long in the tooth, and doesn't support DirectX 12 Ultimate featureset in hardware. Drivers are now a legacy spinoff.

You can easily upgrade the GPU to something mid-grade like an RTX 4060 or RX 7600 XT for around $300, sell the RX 580 for $50-60.
 

Pohemi

Diamond Member
Oct 2, 2004
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This is my build. I realize this is above the range you are looking to spend, but it might give you a reference point. It totals 940 here, but I think I spent 825ish when I built it. This will run the newest AAA games @ 4K w/higher settings.

Many of these parts you can probably find lower cost options for. Swap out items on the list for a 12400 Cpu, H670, B660, or H610 chipset motherboard, cheaper RAM, cheaper NVMe, PSU, case.

The Intel Arc A750 GPU I didn't have when I initially built it, and the 12600K chip (Intel UHD 770) did far better than I expected running a few games, 3DMark, and high bitrate video to test it.

The Radeon iGPU in the newer Ryzen chips is probably even better.
 
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ascendant

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Jul 22, 2011
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Thanks to all of you, and I was figuring my price range was unrealistic for a gaming rig. I only had a sec right now, but I did see that post about getting a newer CPU, and working with my current GPU for now. I wouldn't mind building a new rig, and bringing over a couple parts from the current one. I mean my hard drive is as big as I need it for now, but if they've become substantially faster, might make sense to upgrade that too. I'm just not sure what interfaces have changed, and what interfaces are still the same that I could use them in, while at the same time getting parts that have the more recent compatibilities as far as ram and CPU. Not sure if they've even changed the plug-in for the CPU since I last built one, or if it's stayed the same for AMD?

As far as gaming, I really only play Fortnite with my sons from time to time, and I'm playing BG3 from time to time. I don't have much time to play games these days, as I'm studying to try to go back to college, and it's physics, so lots of math and science to brush up on after 8yrs. But, I would like to have a smoother gameplay with better graphics on Fortnite (had to lower them to get decent framerates). Ideally, it would be nice to use one or two parts of what I have now. So long as the newer parts I get are up to date with what interfaces they have (ex DDR5 or whatever is best right now), I'm fine doing what I can financially now, then upgrading other parts later.

What about the ram? I see DDR5 now. Is that one that has been around for a bit and the one to go for? I'd assume so, unless it's really new.

Oh, and one other question... about how much do you save getting a pre-built? With that link to PCPartPicker that someone gave me previously, that eliminates my problem of making sure everything is compatible. I'd still have to do some research into making sure I'm getting parts with components that aren't outdated (or close to it). Like I don't think I'd want to get a DDR3 when there's DDR5 now, but not sure how many of those interfaces have changed and which ones are ideal for amd now.
 
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Tech Junky

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how many of those interfaces have changed
A lot changes every 2-3 years at this point. DDR 5 is the current ram standard. Drive interfaces still use SATA but now also have M2 which is pcie based for speed

Current AMD is AM5 and this is the only DDR 5 board that exists currently. There are a couple of options though depending on how much stuff you want to cram onto the board. There are some cheap combo deals on microcenter.com that will get you a board, ram, and CPU for about $300+
 

Torn Mind

Lifer
Nov 25, 2012
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Salvation Army, Goodwill a used laptop or desktop. Craigslist, Facebook.

Look for any Ryzen boxes or something Skylake(i3/i5/i7 6000 series) or later.
At least 16 GB of RAM, SSD. GPU, you'll have to google the specifics. If you've been living with a mere 950, the used boxes often have more powerful hardware.

Going new is not friendly at all on the wallet these days.
 
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ascendant

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Jul 22, 2011
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Salvation Army, Goodwill a used laptop or desktop. Craigslist, Facebook.

Look for any Ryzen boxes or something Skylake(i3/i5/i7 6000 series) or later.
At least 16 GB of RAM, SSD. GPU, you'll have to google the specifics. If you've been living with a mere 950, the used boxes often have more powerful hardware.

Going new is not friendly at all on the wallet these days.
Yea, definitely not friendly on the wallet. When I first took a look at current prices, I couldn't believe it at first. They've skyrocketed since I bought my parts years ago.
 

manly

Lifer
Jan 25, 2000
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Normally pre-built vs DIY isn't so much about saving money, but rather total control over component selection. However, at the super low end of the budget, pre-built isn't much of an option. There was a $110 Radeon RX 5600 thread in the Hot Deals forum but unfortunately that is gone now; probably was as good as you'll get for a $400 build.

You can cobble together something credible for cheap (~ $500) if you're willing to go DIY used, and take your time looking for unicorn deals:

 
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Skillz

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Feb 14, 2014
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My only issue with "pre-built" setups is they always cheap out on something to make the cost appear low. The thing that gets the axe on build quality is generally, almost always, the PSU. I take my PSU seriously. IMHO, it's the single, most important setup of any build. Get a cheap unit. It can take out your motherboard, CPU, GPU, etc...

With that said. Buying a "pre-built" and replacing the PSU is what I have done in the past when I've needed a quick system thrown together. I just don't ever trust those PSUs they stick in them.
 
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Torn Mind

Lifer
Nov 25, 2012
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Yea, definitely not friendly on the wallet. When I first took a look at current prices, I couldn't believe it at first. They've skyrocketed since I bought my parts years ago.
From where you are starting, your chip's single core performance was in the dumps on release, so you don't need latest and greatest to obtain an improvement.

Official Windows support is nice to have if you don't have time to tweak, even though older chips have workarounds. For Windows 11, that means the 8000 series chips for Intel or Ryzen 2 for AMD.

----------------------
The negatives of buying a prebuilt(which I was reminded of after acquiring two 2023) is that there is much less flexibility in the little "nuts and bolts". RAM gets low clocked, so expensive RAM is not needed. Things like choosing between iGPU or Discrete in BIOS are often not available, or having keyboard/mouse starting up the computer. It might or might not ultimately matter, but sometimes, those things are wished for if the situation does pop up. But of course, the OEM has set it that way so it doesn't blow up.

DIY has a new risk not present in the old days: power settings toasting CPUs. It's not much to change the setting, but disabling those auto overclock features, limiting power currents are actually key actions to take so the some powerful chip doesn't develop instability later on.
 

ascendant

Member
Jul 22, 2011
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My only issue with "pre-built" setups is they always cheap out on something to make the cost appear low. The thing that gets the axe on build quality is generally, almost always, the PSU. I take my PSU seriously. IMHO, it's the single, most important setup of any build. Get a cheap unit. It can take out your motherboard, CPU, GPU, etc...

With that said. Buying a "pre-built" and replacing the PSU is what I have done in the past when I've needed a quick system thrown together. I just don't ever trust those PSUs they stick in them.
Thanks again for all the feedback everyone. Definitely a lot of help figuring this out.

As far as your post Skillz, it's funny, as when I was reading the post just prior to yours, I was thinking to myself "why would pre-built be cheaper than DIY? I mean someone had to put the time into assembling all of it, which if anything, should cost more." You answered my question above (they always put something cheap in it to make the cost low). That right there is what I want to avoid. I don't want to waste money on something that will either damage other components, or the more likely case, either die out in a short period or simply not be up to par with what my performance expectations are.

I think what I'm going to do is wait until after I get another car, give it another month or so, revisit this thread again to refresh myself on all this info, and DIY when I have a little more money to invest into it. I'd rather invest more money from the start and have it last longer, than to spend less now, but end up spending more in the long run because of having to replace parts. I mean this PC I built now was initially built I'd say at least 15yrs ago. I can't remember exactly when I built it, but my daughter is 10, and I had it for years prior to her being born. Of course since then, I had upgraded the GPU at one point, later on the CPU, I believe at one point in between there somewhere the ram as well, but all in all, the PC has lasted me a LONG time, without having to put too much into it over the years at all. Hoping to do the same again - get a mobo new enough to where I should be able to continue upgrading it for years to come before needing to upgrade to the newest ram sockets, etc.

I greatly appreciate everyone's feedback here, and I LOVE that PCPartPicker site. It's going to make it SO much easier to make sure everything is compatible without me having to do hours of research. Between that and all the other feedback here, I think I should be good to go. Next step will just be having the extra money, picking out the parts, and I'm sure I'll be back with a post on those parts to see if anyone has any alternative suggestions to what I pick. Thanks again everyone, you guys are awesome
 

ascendant

Member
Jul 22, 2011
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From where you are starting, your chip's single core performance was in the dumps on release, so you don't need latest and greatest to obtain an improvement.

Official Windows support is nice to have if you don't have time to tweak, even though older chips have workarounds. For Windows 11, that means the 8000 series chips for Intel or Ryzen 2 for AMD.

----------------------
The negatives of buying a prebuilt(which I was reminded of after acquiring two 2023) is that there is much less flexibility in the little "nuts and bolts". RAM gets low clocked, so expensive RAM is not needed. Things like choosing between iGPU or Discrete in BIOS are often not available, or having keyboard/mouse starting up the computer. It might or might not ultimately matter, but sometimes, those things are wished for if the situation does pop up. But of course, the OEM has set it that way so it doesn't blow up.

DIY has a new risk not present in the old days: power settings toasting CPUs. It's not much to change the setting, but disabling those auto overclock features, limiting power currents are actually key actions to take so the some powerful chip doesn't develop instability later on.
Thanks for that info. As far as the risks of toasting the CPU, I don't plan to overclock. It has been a LONG time since I overclocked, I think it was even before I had this PC I have now, and it ended up toasting my CPU, and my GPU in it didn't last long either. Decided overclocking wasn't worth it.

To clarify though, so long as I don't overclock, I should be fine with default settings, right?
 

Torn Mind

Lifer
Nov 25, 2012
11,636
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Thanks for that info. As far as the risks of toasting the CPU, I don't plan to overclock. It has been a LONG time since I overclocked, I think it was even before I had this PC I have now, and it ended up toasting my CPU, and my GPU in it didn't last long either. Decided overclocking wasn't worth it.

To clarify though, so long as I don't overclock, I should be fine with default settings, right?
Default settings might be the current problem for Intel chips.
In the comments, there are mentions that AMD also can have issues even though the video creator says AMD not as much of a problem.

It's not a huge tweak, but you just have to know what to disable.

 

JackMDS

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 25, 1999
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Putting Over-clocking aside.

Most Pre-Builds are pushed slightly down, their BIOS and other setting are deliberately less flexible.

Doing so creates less service problems to the manufacturers, and thus saves money.

To mosrt users it does not matter since there understanding of the comuter inner tehcnology is close to Zero to begin with.


:cool:
 

manly

Lifer
Jan 25, 2000
11,002
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This is my build. I realize this is above the range you are looking to spend, but it might give you a reference point. It totals 940 here, but I think I spent 825ish when I built it. This will run the newest AAA games @ 4K w/higher settings.

Many of these parts you can probably find lower cost options for. Swap out items on the list for a 12400 Cpu, H670, B660, or H610 chipset motherboard, cheaper RAM, cheaper NVMe, PSU, case.

The Intel Arc A750 GPU I didn't have when I initially built it, and the 12600K chip (Intel UHD 770) did far better than I expected running a few games, 3DMark, and high bitrate video to test it.

The Radeon iGPU in the newer Ryzen chips is probably even better.
I realize performance varies by title, but this is the only time I've seen the claim that the Arc A750 is a 4k gaming card for newest AAA titles. IF that's true, Intel has the greatest driver developers I've ever heard of.

"Enthusiast" gaming is more GPU limited than CPU limited. As @VirtualLarry said from the jump, OP will have to do some type of full build. Bumping his system platform to an affordable ADL or Zen 2/3 isn't going to do much for him if he's shackled to a GeForce GTX 950 due to budget limitations.

A very strong argument can be made to either spend the $825ish (and it could be much less if you go used), or to do nothing at all. Spending just $250 makes no sense at all if the OP wants better gaming performance.

There are certainly some pain points with some component costs after the pandemic: GPU prices are higher mainly due to ML/AI. A $100 modular PSU feels a bit spendy, but it should last 7 years. NAND went from dirt cheap in fall 2023 to expensive now. But these annoyances aside, I actually feel it's a great time for PC building. First, AMD Ryzen helped us emerge from a long period of Intel (14nm+++++)/AMD stagnation. Currently, we're awash in hardware performance unless you're shooting for 4k gaming with the most demanding titles. With some luck, what you're willing to buy today should last longer (I believe console life cycles are stretched out as well).

Finally $500 today is equivalent to $350 in 2010 dollars. So GPUs aside, you can't just look at retail prices after 14 years and say brand new components are too expensive. As "old timers" know, all tech has gotten cheaper if you index for inflation, and esp. for performance. To get the best value possible, you have to be super patient and wait for unicorn deals (i.e. Radeon RX 5600 I already mentioned), or take advantage of depreciation on used parts.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
56,327
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7600/7600 AM5 pre-built @ Walmart.com for $900?

I built one for me and gave it to a buddy of mine, I think mine cost $1100 in parts?