Branded computer vs Assembled or DIY desktops – Which is Best For You?

Back in 2003-4, I had a training firm that also sold and repaired computers. Computers, at that time, were mostly desktops – easy to open and do whatever you like. Of course, branded computers too were there – with a warning: Opening the seal will void the warranty. For passionate technical people, it was a No. Anyway, we will not do a comparison of DIY Computers with Branded Computers here. Rather, since the scenario is much different today from what it was in 2003, we’ll list benefits of branded computers side by side to benefits of DIY desktop computers. That way, you will be able to judge on your own, which option suits you better – a branded computer or assembled or DIY desktop.

Branded computer vs Assembled

Before beginning, let’s categorize them as DIY desktops, assembled computers and branded computers. DIY may fall under the category of assembled computers but in this article, we’ll use the phrase “assembled computers” to refer to computers assembled by professional firms for their customers. Most of the article talks about desktops but stands good for laptops and other forms of computers as well.

Fig 0 DIY desktops vs Branded Computers Branded computer vs Assembled or DIY desktops – Which is Best For You?

Branded Computers, Assembled or DIY Desktop Computers

Back in 2003-4, people were of the mindset that branded computers mean much more money compared to local assembled computers. We gave them estimates of an assembled computer while showing them the prices of branded computers. The customers knew that we know more about computers, and they believed us. I don’t think we lied but sure got orders – though not from bigger institutions like banks etc. that purchased in bulk. Our firm was not that big to instill confidence in them that we’ll stay another five years to offer them on the spot troubleshooting. But we sure got to look at the computers they were using. Looking at their CPUs (rather, the CPU cabinets), we could tell they were all assembled.

Times changed since then. Back then, people preferred a cost-effective computer that can do what they want – office work or personal. Gaming etc graphic intensive computers too were there but the demand was pretty low compared to other needs. The current period sees a combination of different needs. People want office computers that can also play games and let them watch movies. Naturally, the configuration changes and becomes a combination of two or more types of computers.

Branded Computers Save Time, Assembled Computers Are…Messy?

Coming to advantages of branded computers over assembled computers, you save plenty of time in acquiring one. Building a cost efficient ‘assembled’ gaming computer – for example – could take a good deal of research for parts whereas going for a cost efficient ‘branded’ computer would mean research only for configurations. Thus, you save much time.

Just in case the above is not clear, to have a DIY computer, you will first have to know what all parts are required, who all are selling those parts and capacities of those parts – not to mention costs and warranty etc. That in contrast to comparing branded computers online is pretty time-consuming. Some companies do provide DIY kits but then, they are not much different from branded as the configuration is pre-determined.

That, in turn, means papers and papers of material where you note down costs, warranty, address, phone number of service providers in your area and other details for almost every part  you’d use in an assembled DIY computer of *your* favored configuration. Organized mess?!

Cost & Warranty For Branded Computers vs Assembled Computers

Costs may be a little higher for branded computers. You may have to settle down for a little different configuration than what you exactly have in your mind but then, the warranty comes into play – offering you peace of mind when it comes to technical problems. Branded computers carry warranty on the entire computer, meaning if any part goes down, you can simply ask the local service center of the computer brand (and not the part brand) to check it out.

Costs for DIY and assembled computers vary, and more than often, you get to bargain. At least from what I know from my experience – if a customer needs a card below XYZ dollars, we’ll present them with two or more alternatives. But then, cost vs performance is also an issue that you need to explore. Any other graphics card is not just as good as Nvidia. Would you agree on that? If I need a gaming computer, I will insist on the best available graphic card with plenty of own memory!

Warranty Problems in Case of DIY Computers

If you are building your own computer, you may get all the parts that you want. In other words, computer configuration may be exactly what you want. But then, instead of the warranty being on entire computer, it is on parts and components. That in turn, means that you have to keep the information about more than one servicing center – one for each part. For example, service center of the motherboard,, service center for processor, service center for SMPS, video cards, monitors and all the other things. You sure can save some trouble by going for spares from a single brand. Not possible to buy  every part from a single brand but you can group them – Intel motherboard, Intel chips, Intel graphics!

Anyway, you get to save on the trouble if you divide the parts into groups so that you have to note down fewer numbers of service centers. Also, make sure you have the service center for these parts in your area, else it will be a trouble.

Warranty for Assembled Computers – Same as Branded Computers

A compromise could be to get an assembled computer. In this case, the vendors try their best to provide you with the closest they can come up with the configuration you want. More than often, these vendors will try to convince you for alternate configurations – the ones they know are easily available and serviceable. But since these types of vendors are the ones who wouldn’t like to lose a single customer, you can make them understand you HAVE to have that configuration!

Despite that, the warranty will always be on the entire computer (monitors may be an exception). In this case, if a part goes wrong, it is the headache of the vendor to get the part corrected or replaced. This could be a middle path – if you are not sure if a branded computer suits your needs and if you are not willing to risk broken computers lying idle for ages due to damaged parts!

Summary

Does the above mean I am saying you should go for branded computers? Not exactly! It depends on what you want to do and more importantly – how much time do you have to spend on building the computer(s). Your budget also comes into the picture.

If you need a good number of computers, would you be willing to sit down and assemble each one on own? You can check out branded desktops in this case. If you are cost-conscious, you can also check out vendors offering assembled computers and if you are lucky, you might get a good bargain.

But if you want exactly the thing you have in your mind and you can spend the time required, DIY computers are the best for you as they will have the configuration you want. Over that, you also get the satisfaction of building your own machine. Many people still do it, especially the ones into online gaming – just for the sake of tuning it to own satisfaction. An unrelated example here: After buying three sets of 3.1 speakers from renowned companies, I trashed them all to build my sound system. It took a little time, but I get the sound I want, without having to compromise on 16Khz and 32.5 Hz frequencies. Most branded sound systems kill these frequencies!

Thus, it is up to you to decide which one is better for you. The need varies; urgency varies; budget varies; quantity varies. Based on all these factors, only you can decide whether to go for branded computers, DIY desktops or assembled computers.

A SMALL POLL

Which one do YOU prefer, and why?

[A] Branded Computers

[B] Assembled Computers by Vendors

[C] DIY Computers – Assembled By You

We’d love to hear ‘Why” in the comments!

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumni, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. He also offers online training for Business English. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN
  • Radrick

    I like the freedom to pick and choose the best parts for my budget. Many brand name machine use proprietary parts, e.g. motherboard so upgrades are not as easy. When they stop supporting a model, that’s it. You have to buy a new machine. Whereas a custom built machine can live on for years. The main parts, like a motherboard is usually cheaper for custom built machines.

  • http://www.powercutmedia.in/ Arun Kumar

    And best part is we can upgrade as and when required – and only the parts you wish to upgrade. My initial computer carried a CD ROM as I dint have any need for writing. Later, when I felt the need for CD RW, I upgraded only that. Same goes with capacity of hard disk, graphics and so on.

  • Guest

    Assembled. As others have said, because you can change what you want. I wouldnt touch a branded system, because they install (most of them) with useless software / trials that run out / bloatware. And some or most are hard to update. And if some parts break down, it maybe more expensive to replace it. It may seem fast once you buy it. But, with all this junk on it, it can and will slow it down.

  • Paul Taupo NZ

    Assembled, because you can change what you want. I wouldnt touch a branded system, because they install (most of them) with useless software / trials that run out / bloatware.

    And some or most are hard to update. And if some parts break down, it maybe more
    expensive to replace it. It may seem fast once you buy it. But, with all this junk on it, it can and will slow it down.

  • http://thewhizzer.blogspot.com/ Buck

    I now go for this method when purchasing a computer [B] Assembled Computers by Vendors I get advice from a family member though.

  • GraveDigger27

    I haven’t purchased a brand name system since I bought a Gateway 25mhz 386 system back in the 80′s (it replaced a Kaypro PC that had been struck by lightning…) Ever since I’ve built my own systems and have been a fan of DYI desktops. However, with the ever dropping prices for PCs I’ve recommended my brothers and sisters to buy brand name systems for their own use.

    The majority of users who are not tech savvy or avid gamers aren’t going to take advantage of the knowledge gained by building their own systems and can be helped by being able to take it to a retail dealer if something goes south. They get a decent system, a warranty and the knowledge that all of the components work together. They don’t have to install an operating system or deal with driver issues. They open the box, assemble the system and start computing.

    However, I enjoy choosing the components I have in my system and optimizing it for my uses. And I’ve learned a great deal by installing additional hardware or running alternative operating systems (like various Linux distros…) Since I don’t have a recovery partition (which is common in most of the brand names) I keep multiple disk images on an external hard drive and make new ones monthly.

  • johnsilver

    Have assembled my own since terrible experience with hard drive DOA’s (2) within 1 year back in 1998. It’s far cheaper, you get better quality parts and can configure exactly what you want.

  • GraveDigger27

    Although I agree you get better parts I don’t think it’s necessarily cheaper to build it yourself. My last system probably ran me around $700 considering I purchased a new monitor, motherboard, case, memory, hard drive, and graphics card – my previous system was a AMD Athlon 3200+ and had an AGP video card. My new system moved up to an AMD Phenom II X4 965 and a PCI-Express graphics card. Since then I upgraded the memory to 16 megs of ram, added a 2nd hard drive and a newer/faster video card. I’m still running Windows 7 on this box (which I had upgraded to on my prior system from Windows Vista) and considered the Windows 8 upgrade, but when Microsoft raised the cost in January to $200 (vs the $40 I paid to install it on my laptop) I decided to stick with the prior OS.

  • johnsilver

    It would depend on what type of PC you wanted. I build pretty much everyone’s in my family and friends now and many types.

    A simple 210 nvidia card can be had from several places for 30.00 after rebate, a good Coolermaster 460W power supply for 35.00 after rebate on a decent budget build and one well known internet supplier most always has Windows 7/8 Home premium in the 90-110.00 range.

    When am not building one for a super gamer? I always come out less than $600. total and last time got a Zambeizi 6100 6 core CPU even in that range, w/8GB ram.

    It can be done, but hitting specials and over a period of a couple of weeks sometimes is how I do them each build.

  • BEAKERCOM

    I vote stongly for “B”, an assembled computer. I’ve done them all … but a computer, assembled locally, give you good parts (if you specify so), repair without huge shipping costs, eyeball to eyeball deal, what you need w/o extra fluff, and flexibility for changing needs. They cost more, last longer, and fit you need. They seldom come bundled with free software that you may have liked, but can get for free if you look around. If a particular function you want really top performance, you don’t have to pay for other hardware in the same category. I contend that this way of buying a computer, in the long run, gives you the least expensive, the highest use satisfaction, and the best reliability. AND, you get what you pay for and don’t pay for what you don’t want or need. :)

  • danny

    I prefer DIY the reason being more control and able to set up my PC too my personal preferences. Buying new from lets say tiger direct or walmart you have no control over the B.S they preinstall on those systems. All my friends prefer DIY systems too. The warranty’s aren’t worth the paper their printed on every person I know has had bad experiences with new pc’s. They return them to the stores to get fixed and they come back worse then they started of with. As far as customer support goes they might as well say (Hi how can I kill your PC today) so the story goes or try to sell you tech support for an outrageous price I will have none of that I fix my own!!!

  • Kcpa

    I buy assembled computers for my business which is data intensive. The branded computers I have bought turns out that the components were cheap, while the assembled computer I could specify the quality of each component. I have also bought branded computers and had them “personalized” by a local IT company. This did not work out as well as I had hoped (and would not recomend it)
    Best of all when I have a computer assembled to specs I supply, the assembly company has had the burden of getting all the systms software to work smoothly.

  • Paul Winstone

    It varies for me. My preference depends on what I want it for. For example for gaming and graphics work I prefer to build myself partly because I have an incredibly sturdy and big case with plenty of airflow so prefer to upgrade that.

    For someone else it depends on the needs such as my daughter normally gets my cast offs which mean she has far more power than she needs but with the spare parts I use them.

    For a data processing, e-mail, general browsing PC as I’m using now I go for branded and normally used such as HP.

    There are merits to all options and only if someone wants an incredibly cheap PC that I can’t/won’t compete with would I get a cheap, ready built PC.

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