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PC Building and Price

Written by Mr. WellCultured, Monday, August 2nd, 2010 in Q&As

What do you think about building computers and buying them as a Well Cultured guy? How much is too much?

Odd question, but I will answer it.

The consumer computing world for years has been set up in such a way where two rules generally apply: building tends to be cheaper, and you pay a big premium for really expensive parts. These rules should be followed as much now as they were followed 10+ years ago.

First off, I think anyone with reasonable intelligence, time, and a desire to save money should build their own computer. Frankly, building a PC is not that hard — do your research, buy good parts from good companies, slap them into a nice case, and you’re golden. Joints like Dell and HP charge a small fortune and cut a lot of corners — you get a lot of value out of learning to build a PC and doing it yourself. Even better, in addition, you can gain knowledge building a computer that looks great on a resume.

However, there is a desire for most of us (myself included) to go for the “biggest and the best”. Just like with clothing and cars, a lot of guys have the inexplicable urge to go for the top-of-the-line PC parts when building a computer, a drive that usually ends up costing them a few thousand dollars. The small rewards they get out of this search are almost never worth it — and while stats on websites like [H]ard OCP and Toms Hardware are sexy, they are usually not quite as important as they seem.

Allow me to give an example: I have a good buddy who built what he called a “supercomputer” a few years ago — featuring a top of the line overclocked C2D, 4 gigs of RAM, two overpriced video cards in SLI, an array of hard drives, and the like. The price ended up being something close to $4,000 total, mostly thanks to an exorbitantly expensive PC case, a huge monitor, and the two ridiculously priced video cards. Now, about 2 years later, thanks to general aging and better parts on the market, this “supercomputer” is roughly the equivalent of a decent $1,000 computer you can build today. My buddy lost $1,500 a year in order to have the “best” PC for about one year. Had he been reasonable and spent no more than $1,500 on a decent PC two years ago, it may not have been quite as amazing, but he would have saved $2,500 in the process — enough for an entirely new PC down the road.

So basically, one of the big rules to remember is to simply be conservative about what you purchase. A well cultured person knows to be economical, not exorbitant.

Also, as an addendum, if you have time, try selling old/spare parts online (through eBay or something) or to local vendors. You’d be surprised how much cash you can get if you — for example, sell a slightly old video card (like a 8000/9000 series nVidia card today) to (partially) defray the costs of a new card.

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