PC Gamer - Gaming computers: to build or not to build?

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PC GamerIntroducing a new voice on Busy Gamer News! Travis (aka PC Gamer) is our former game company colleague, an artist and aspiring game designer. He plays games on a variety of systems, but recently rediscovered his love for PC gaming when he built himself a new gaming rig.

I was recently in the market for a new gaming computer. My old one was archaic. It was an AMD 2500, top of the line back in 2001 - it even had a 128MB video card. But it was clearly time to upgrade.

When I first started digging into what I wanted for a computer, I had three requirements:

My homemade gaming rig
My homemade gaming rig
One, massive storage space. I am going to school for game design and some of the models and textures that go into games are fairly large in size. So I was looking at having around 2TB of hard drive space to make sure I never run into a space issue.

Two, a quad core processor. Whether to go AMD or Intel is always up for debate, but my luck has always been with AMD so I tend to stick with it.

And three, a high end graphics cards. Again this can be blamed on my game design stuff (at least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). Some of the programs I use are video card hogs, so at the bare minimum I was looking at a 1GB video card.

About six months ago I went online to check the price of computers that met my requirements, in case if I decided to go the buying route rather than making my own custom computer. At the time Apple was looking to charge pretty close to $20,000 for the computer with the specs I was looking for. Alienware was only a little better: about $16,000.

I decided to investigate how much it would cost for parts to decide whether it was worth me spending the time to build the computer I wanted myself.

Here is the breakdown of the components needed to construct my dream system:

AMD Phenom 9850: $148
ZEROtherm Nirvana CPU Cooler: $50
G.SKILL 8GB DDR2 1066 RAM: (2x2GB) $55 ea. (purchased two sets)
GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-DS4 motherboard: $110
SAPPHIRE HD-4870 DDR5 1GB video cards: $240 ea. (purchased two)
2TB in Western Digital hard drives: $140 for 1TB and $75 ea. for two 500GB
Antec TruPower Quattro 1000w power supply: $250
LG DVD/R Burner with LightScribe: $25
Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit): $180
All totaled up, it was only about $1805 for all of the parts.

It's worth noting if you consider going this route yourself, one important key to deciding what to buy is what you intend to do with the system. All 32-bit operating systems have a RAM memory cap at 4GB which is why I went with a 64-bit operating system. I also chose the GIGABYTE motherboard because it supports up to 16GB RAM.

Now because my prices on the Apple and Alienware were a few months old, I decided to check back on the cost. Apple (as of January 2009) still wanted $10,000 for their computer with roughly the same specs. The problem with Apple is they did not have a 2GB video card available so I would have had to downgrade to 1.5GB there. I also do not have a choice in the size power supply. Alienware still wanted roughly $6,000, still more than three times the cost of the parts I needed to build it myself.

Now paying that extra money could be worth it when you consider how much time you will have to invest in a built-it-yourself project. The downside to going with a vendor is that if you ever have any issues, you can’t just swap a part out for a new one; you must go to the manufacturer to have anything fixed and sometimes this can lead to weeks without your computer. One of the real upsides to building your own (apart from the cost savings) is that if you ever want to upgrade, you don’t have to worry about voiding a warranty on your computer!

Of course, assembling the thing yourself is more than half the battle.

To be continued...

NEXT TIME: The nuts and bolts of building your own computer

1 Comment


Nice Spec, should last you a good few years again. Its unreal what Apple and Alienware charge over your side of the pond!

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on March 10, 2009 10:23 AM.

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