Custom PCs like Alienware used to be regarded as seriously overpriced hardware, but the price of pre-built PCs have actually decreased somewhat in recent years. Bring in discounts, promotions and competitive pricing and you have more affordable options. That said, it's still relatively difficult to locate a read-to-order system that can match the price, configuration and expandability of a rig you put together yourself.
Why should you build your next PC?
The main reason people enjoy building their own PC is it enables them to go shopping for components, as opposed to a single system that can be lightly configured. You'll be able to pick and choose exactly what will be inside the very chassis you end up selecting. It's an incredible feeling, knowing that a full batch of PC internals are on their way to your doorstep. The time arrives to prepare the workshop and brush the dust of the trusty screwdriver.
As well as picking parts out, going for a custom build enables one to get really creative when it comes to cooling components and adding personalized elements to the system. Think custom water cooling with colored coolant, LED lighting effects, high-quality case fans, and preparations for an overclocking environment. There are some magical PC designs out on the web and at various gaming and technology trade shows.
The custom build is also likely easier to upgrade and swap out new parts. Some pre-built systems could be designed in such a way to discourage the owner to remove the side panel and take a peek inside to throw in upgraded RAM or a new GPU, without having to go back through the company. That and putting everything together yourself ensures you know exactly where each component is located, not to mention having cables managed exactly how you wish.
It's also cheaper. Even taking into account Windows licensing, peripherals and other extras, packing in some serious hardware will save you some cash if you put it all together and don't go through a third-party. You're also likely able to go for more advanced components and enjoy features like overclocking, which may not have been available with a similar pre-built system.
Finally, a PC you put together yourself is quite the object to show off. Go on, be proud of your hard work.
Why you perhaps shouldn't
It's not all good news when it comes to building your own PC. If you're looking at this option for the very first time and have little experience under your belt, you'll need to take note of a few reasons as to why pre-built can be the better option. If you do not have the knowledge in putting together a PC and know no one who does, simply shopping for components can be quite the daunting task.
What do you need? Is a Core i5 processor overkill? Will it work with an NVIDIA GPU? What the hell is TDP? These are just some of the questions that will likely fill the mind. Luckily, there are some handy guides available to walk through the installation of components, and there are even calculation tools that can tell if components will be compatible and if everything will work when you hit that power button for the first time.
The whole process takes more effort too. Even for those who know exactly what they're doing, putting together a PC can take some time, especially if there's an issue or component that's DOA (dead on arrival). This brings me to the next potential downfall for building your own PC — warranties. Instead of having a warranty arranged with a retailer or company that supplied a pre-build PC, you'd be dealing with a manufacturer of an individual component, and that's after you work out which part is causing the problem.
Companies that churn out pre-built systems often buy components in bulk and enjoy better pricing on licensing for operating systems and optional extras. When one takes into account promotions and more aggressive pricing by companies like Dell, you could find a pre-built PC that cost around the same as picking out parts and throwing everything together yourself. It all depends on the type of machine you're after, but usually speaking you'll save some pennies going out on your own.
What's best for you?
If you don't have the time, don't care about potential savings (or find a seriously good deal on a unit), don't know what you're doing, or simply do not trust your own judgement when it comes to picking components and installing everything, pre-built or all-in-one PCs are the ideal option for you. You'll be able to configure the machine you want to a degree and simply turn the PC on when it arrives. Job done.
For everyone else, custom PC building is still considered the more affordable and enjoyable route. That and it's rewarding to witness the end result.