Like many PC gamers, I’ve waited a long time to build my next PC. Prices have been ridiculous over the past couple of years, and despite improvements in the second half of this year, it’s still expensive to build a high-end gaming PC.
So, during the week of Black Friday, I admitted my intent to build my next gaming PC and bought a pre-built gaming rig from Best Buy. Now, before I start writing that hate tweet, I have to say that there is a reason for this heresy, and that is the cost. And now I can confidently say that this pre-built system ended up being one of the best tech purchases I’ve made this year.
It was time for an update
Having built a few PCs in my life, I can recognize the joy that comes from completing your build – the smell of the new parts, the scratches, head scratches, the swearing – and the pride in saving the extra money for the your next graphics card… I mean, college kids funds. It has only recently made more sense (especially if you had the desire and/or technical acumen) to buy your own parts and spend a couple of hours assembling them into the car of your dreams.
One thing’s for sure, the PC DIY landscape has changed over the past couple of years. While it is better nowadays, prices and supply keep fluctuating, especially GPUs or almost all silicon. All of which brings me to the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
My Asus ROG laptop (Intel i7-7700HQ, GeForce GTX 1070, 32GB RAM), which I use for all the heavy lifting for my YouTube channel, still works perfectly. But at nearly five years old, it’s starting to feel slow, especially with Premiere Pro renders, storage transfer speeds, and a lack of faster ports.
My first choice of course was to source the parts, even if that meant buying separately from major parts dealers. Budget-wise, the target would be under $900. Spec-wise, the build would be somewhere in the mid-range with enough horsepower for video editing and rendering, 1080p high framers per second, and 2K gaming, and plenty of room for expansion. For reference, I’ve been keeping an eye out for similar pre-packaged holiday specials from iBuyPower, HP, and the like (nothing fancy like an Origin or Alienware system).
In the end, no matter how I tried to make it work, the total price of the individual parts with taxes couldn’t be less than many of the prefabs. I was looking at a $200 to $275 difference across the board, easily exceeding my budget. Off-the-shelf machines started to look more and more attractive based on the savings and much shorter waiting times to get up and running right away. I ended up biting the bullet on a great Best Buy deal for a CyberPowerPC unit. I mean, I could always return it, right?
One stigma that comes with getting a pre-built car is that consumers have no control over what kind of parts their particular car will have. Sure, there’s the advertised CPU, GPU, and cursory list of RAM, storage, etc., but as for what brand or iteration: is it in the factory’s hands and what batch of parts did they have at the time of build of your PC.
Some consumers don’t necessarily want that type of bet. Myself? I like to live on the edge sometimes, plus I was quite curious to see if my setup was going to be dumb or not.
Surprisingly well built
Externally, the CyberPowerPC I bought was decidedly mid-range for a gaming setup: the ad listed the venerable AMD Ryzen 5 5600X with 16GB of RAM, an RTX 3060, a 600W PSU, plus 1TB of NVMe and 500GB of storage. The tower case with tempered glass was attractive and at least it didn’t drown in RGB lighting.
The first thing I did after I received the machine was to check for shipping damage (none) and loose or disconnected connectors (none). I removed the back panel to inspect the cable routing and was impressed: things were neat and tidy back there. CyberPowerPC even had an expandable foam pack to keep the GPU and surrounding bits from moving around.
Between my visual inspection and checking the BIOS, I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t necessarily get cheap, lowest-bid components. The motherboard is an Asus Prime B550+ supported by a 600W Thermaltake 80+ Gold power supply. The 3060 graphics card is an Asus Phoenix Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 V2 (essentially a regular smaller-sized 3060 with the same power).
Memory was the older, but still very solid XPG DDR4 3200Hz RAM, paired with Corsair-branded storage. There’s no special AIO cooling, but the Cooling Master fans are quiet, climbing to a decent 67 decibels (measured in the case) at full crank.
Don’t be afraid to buy a pre-built one
It’s been two weeks since I fired up this PC and so far I’m still impressed. The car gave me no reason to return it, either because of any issues or buyer’s remorse. Video editing is much smoother now, while I enjoy playing AAA 1440p with no performance or thermal issues. Every time I look through the glass panel inside the machine, I can’t believe that $850 has earned me this level of quality and attention to detail from a company I’ve never thought of before.
All in all, not bad for a first experience, so. If this is, for the most part, how CyberPowerPC builds its computers, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one again. So, the moral of the story is: While DIY is still the way to go, if you’re on a budget, prefab plants are currently the cheapest and most readily available option.