Building your own PC is now too costly: Why self-build anymore?

Over the last few months I’ve been investigating the replacement of my current games PC. The guts of the system are now approximately five years old and have had a mid-life upgrade of processor and graphics card to the fastest that the Socket 939 and AGP ports can support. It’s time to move on.

Wanting to make any new system last as long as the old one I’ve been waiting for the latest generation of Intel chips to become widely available and the price to drop below their launch price, and this has now happened. So, I’ve been researching the components in detail.

It is quite shocking how the price of all the self-build components, except hard disks, has shot up over the last few years. In 2005 it was quite easy to pick up a high-end motherboard for around £80 and the processor to go with it for about £100. Graphics cards of the generation before the current "greatest thing" were again around the £100 mark. Today we find this somewhat different with the motherboards four times the price, the processors well over doubled, as have the graphics cards.

This morning I finally spec’ed out the PC components for a new machine: Gigabyte X58 Extreme motherboard, 3GB DDR3 memory, ATI 4870 graphics card, power supply, etc. and it came out to ~£1500. More if I wanted to go for a SAS boot disk. All this with no warranty and I’d still have to add the Windows tax on top.

Just a moment though. ~£1500 is the educational price of the entry-level Apple Mac Pro! This has a Xeon verson of the Core i7 chip I’d spec’ed, so it has a far bigger cache. The system also has ECC RAM. It just doesn’t have the same ATI graphics card… but it can for ~£130 and for a further £50 it can have 3 years of on-site maintenance as well (and it comes with a decent UNIX instaled as well). Why should I go to the hassle of building my own system anymore?

The upshot of this has been that my new Windows games/photographic processing box is going to be a Mac Pro. I’ve spent a little extra and gone for the hghest spec. processor so that makes it a little more future-proof.