Buy or Build – a Price Comparison

We started this series of articles stating that you could not beat the price of a Dell or HP by building your own computer from components.  Before we get into assembly, I thought we would double check how far off you would be by building your own system.

I thought it would be difficult to match their price, because Dell and HP have too many discounted contracts with manufacturers. Not only are they discounted pricewise, but the manufacturers get to offload their second generation products  that they would have a difficult time selling retail.

By building your own system, you can get higher quality components and an overall better system.  Our premise was, we thought the price would be slightly more than the Dell or HP eqivalent.  Let's check it out.

We went online at Dell to try to find a computer that we could use as a comparison.  We had a tough time doing that, because not all the components are listed on their computer system.  They hide the specs.  We looked at an Inspiron 534s with one 640gb disk.  The price they were asking was $729, which was on sale.

Let's do some parts pricing and see how close we can come by ordering separate components.  The CPU was a Core 2 Quad we found a price of $149.99.  Then Windows 7 Premium, we found the retail price of $199.99.    A 20" hi-def monitor was $139.99.  The 16x DVD was $19.99.  The 4gb of memory was $29.99.  And the 640Gb hard drive was $59.99.  Add all that up and your at $599.99.  Mouse and keyboard were extra.  We would have to provide a micro motherboard with a built-in video card, and a microcase.   We priced the motherboard at  $49.99 and a micro case was $24.99.   That's it.  Total price by adding the components up is $674.97.  The Dell price was $729.  Wow! so we could have gotten an equivalent system for less than the Dell.

Now having proven that we could indeed have matched Dell by ordering the components and building our own system.   Let's talk about this.

We fudged the above numbers a tad by getting equivalent components. but staying on the lower price end of those components.  What happens when you build your own is you want the best components, and why not.  So you start ordering components of higher quality and more functionality.  The result, when you add up the price of the components, is a higher price than the computers made by a Dell or HP.

The other thing to take note of is the integration of the video with the motherboard.  I don't recommend this, because the integrated video chip set uses main memory for video memory.   This can slow the performance of your system down, but it does allow the Dell's and HP's of the world to cut their price.  I much prefer a separate graphics card with its own memory.

You can look at it two ways.  It turns out you can beat the Dell or HP price by building your own system from components as long as you go for inexpensive components.

Or you can, instead, purchase high quality components and build a system you will be proud of with high reliability and performance, but it will cost you a little more.

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