Like many PC gamers, I’ve waited a long time to build my next PC. Prices have been ridiculous for the past few years, and despite improvements in the second half of this year, it’s still expensive to build a top-end gaming PC.
So, during Black Friday week, I acknowledged my intention to build my next gaming PC and bought a pre-built gaming rig from Best Buy. Now, before you start writing that hate tweet, I have to say that there’s a reason for this heresy — cost. And I can now say with confidence that this pre-built system was one of the best tech purchases I’ve made this year.
It was time for an upgrade
Having built a few PCs in my life, I can appreciate the joy that comes from completing your own build – the smell of new parts, the scratches, the scratching of your head, the swearing – and the pride of having extra money for it Your next graphic save card… I mean, the college fund for kids. Until recently it made more sense (especially if you had the desire and/or the technical acumen) to buy your own parts and spend a few hours assembling them into your dream machine.
One thing is for sure, the PC DIY landscape has changed in the last two years. While it is Better these days, prices and supply continue to fluctuate, especially GPUs or almost anything silicon. All of this 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) that I use for all the heavy lifting for my YouTube channel still runs just fine. But at nearly five years old, it feels slow, especially with Premiere Pro renderings, memory transfer speeds, and the lack of faster ports.
My first choice, of course, was to source the parts – even if that meant buying them separately from major parts retailers. In terms of budget, the goal would be under $900. As far as specs go, the build would be somewhere in the mid-range, with enough power for video editing and rendering, 1080p and 2K gaming at high frames per second, and plenty of room for expansion. For reference, I’ve been keeping an eye on similar prepackaged Christmas deals from iBuyPower, HP, and the like (nothing fancy like an Origin or Alienware system).
Ultimately, no matter how I tried to make it work, the total price of the parts with taxes couldn’t beat many of the finished parts. I saw a difference of $200 to $275 across the board, which was slightly beyond my budget. Finished machines began to look more and more enticing due to the savings and a much shorter waiting time for commissioning. I ended up biting the bullet on a great best buy deal on a CyberPowerPC unit. I mean, I could always return it, right?
One stigma that comes with buying a pre-built machine is that consumers have no control over what type of parts their particular machine will have. Sure, there’s the advertised CPU, GPU, and a cursory listing of RAM, storage, etc., but which brand or iteration – it’s in the hands of the factory and what batch of parts they had at the time your PC was built.
Some consumers do not necessarily want this type of gambling. Me? I like to live at the limit sometimes and I was quite curious if my setup would be dope or nope.
Surprisingly well built
On the outside, the CyberPowerPC PC I bought was clearly mid-range for a gaming setup – the ad listed the venerable AMD Ryzen 5 5600X with 16GB of RAM, an RTX 3060, 600W PSU, and 1TB of NVMe and 500GB of storage. The tower case with tempered glass was attractive and at least didn’t get lost in the RGB lighting.
The first thing I did upon receiving 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 – everything was clean and tidy there. CyberPowerPC even had an expanding foam pack to keep the GPU and surrounding parts from jostling around.
Between my visual inspection and checking the BIOS, I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t necessarily get cheap components of the cheapest type. The motherboard is an Asus Prime B550+ supported by a Thermaltake 80+ Gold 600W PSU. The 3060 graphics card is an Asus Phoenix Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 V2 (essentially a regular half-size 3060 with the same performance).
Storage was the old but still very solid XPG DDR4 3200Hz RAM paired with Corsair branded storage. There’s no dedicated AIO cooling, but the Cooling Master fans are quiet, rising to a decent 67 decibels (measured inside the case) at full tilt.
Don’t be afraid to buy a pre-made one
It’s been two weeks since I booted up this PC and so far I’m still impressed. The machine gave me no reason to return it, neither for any problems nor for buyer remorse. Video editing is much smoother now while I enjoy playing 1440p AAAs with no performance or thermal issues. Every time I look through the glass inside the machine, I can’t believe that for $850 I got this level of quality and attention to detail from a company I’ve never given a second thought to before.
So all in all not bad for a first experience. If this is how CyberPowerPC builds most of their computers, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one again. So the moral of the story is, while DIY is still the way to go, pre-built rigs are currently the cheaper and more readily available option if you’re on a budget.