This past week, I finally accomplished what has been a long overdue goal of mine: build my own computer.
Now, what struck me as I picked out my parts and actually sat down and built it was just how accessible, useful and really, just straight-up how much better self-built computers are.
When you buy a PC or laptop from a company like Dell or HP, you’re often limited by the bare-bones customization they have. A couple options in storage capacity, maybe a couple CPU options, at max. This means that configurations for certain purposes, such as gaming or video editing, are hard to purchase without paying extra for that “gaming” or “media producer” branding.
In fact, most store PCs really don’t have the graphical processing power to play modern titles at all, which is why so many gamers are driven to build their own PCs. It’s to the point where someone could say “a custom-built PC” and “a gaming PC” almost indistinguishably.
Making a configuration for your various needs is almost too easy. Are you a gamer? Just make sure to get a high-end graphics card. Need productivity and speed? Well, no need for an extreme graphics card, but make sure to get a high core-count CPU. Want to run applications that take up tons of memory? Just get the 32GB RAM sticks instead of the 16GB.
The customization was perfect for me; I wanted to do all of the above to some degree or another. I needed a PC for heavy programming, running a Minecraft server—which needs lots of RAM—and also the nice plus of PC gaming.
Far from being just for gamers, custom PCs are also useful for their longevity. With your ability to upgrade your parts as you see fit, it’s completely different from mass-produced machines. After a few years, instead of just throwing away your old laptop or putting your dusty computer tower on a shelf, you can pop in a new graphics card, or replace that full hard drive with a blazing-fast SSD. You can have your performance greatly improved at much less of the cost of buying a whole new machine. This just isn’t possible on store PCs, which often are only built to take proprietary parts and can’t really be upgraded at all.
You might be thinking at this point, well, it has to be more expensive to build your own PC than to buy one wholesale, right? Nope. Building your own PC is often the same price or cheaper than buying one, especially if you fall into the more intensive gamer or computer user category. It’s even cheaper when you start comparing it to laptops. That portability comes at a large price when you compare it to similar-costing PC builds. So, unless you’re a user who really needs the portability (not that people are really going anywhere), PC beats laptop.
You can also build a PC in any cost range — from $500 to $2,000 (or higher if you’re someone who happens to be editing 8K raw video) — and have whatever configuration you want: Intel, AMD, tricked-out RGB with glass panels, water-cooling or just plain air-cooling.
It’s really not even that hard. Just research a bit about which parts are which, pick out your configuration, order your parts and assemble them as if you’re doing a bizarre join of IKEA furniture and computer chips. If you ever need help, the Internet is flush with DIY guides and part rankings, and there are tons of knowledgeable people. I built my PC over several hours on a Discord call with my friends to make sure I was doing everything right.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a computer, a replacement for your school laptop or a PC for gaming, definitely don’t rule out the fun experience of building your own.