Challenge!!! Should I Build or Buy Compact Gaming PC? [Archive] - Glock Talk

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Deanster
10-06-2012, 10:25
Hi all - So, while I'm a Mac guy overall, I've always kept a PC for proficiency and gaming. Lately, I'd been playing World of Tanks on my iMac via Parallels, but WoT's latest update requires DX10, which Parallels has spotty compatibility for, and it's not working.

My current PC is a 2.5 year old Dell XPS 8100 with a 2.8 ghz Core i7 and Radon 7850 video card. It works well, but it's vacuum-cleaner loud when playing any game, and the full-size case is a giant hassle when I want to move it.

So, I'm looking at building/buying a gaming PC in compact case.

Here's the article that I'm working off of, though obviously I'd use more-recent components.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/241623/how_to_build_a_compact_gaming_pc.html

or... I can just get the XBOX-sized Dell Alienware x51 for $1049, with i5 and GTX660. Quiet, super-compact, performance should match or beat my XPS, in about 1/5 the volume, and reviews say the box is super-quiet, which is VERY important to me (now that I've lived with a computer that sounds like a shop-vac when you launch a game for a couple years).

I'm throwing down a challenge to all the PC guys who say they can beat the cost/specs of what you can buy pre-built!!

Here's my goals: I'd like to keep the size/volume of the case to well under a cubic foot - the X51 is roughly 13x13x4 inches.
I want to go with ivy bridge i5/i7, GTX660 or better level performance, and all for less than the $1100 the X51 will cost.

Thanks!

Gallium
10-06-2012, 10:44
pretty slick what you did there Dean...

nothing beats free research :)

Detectorist
10-06-2012, 12:21
Have you considered changing the fans on your present PC?

That may help quiet them, unless it was like that from new. Or, maybe third party fans...

Gallium
10-06-2012, 12:29
Dean,

The new PC in addition to being quiet, should be also more energy efficient.

Do you really want to mess with building a new PC?

MySiK26
10-06-2012, 12:38
check the barebones kits at newegg.com

Deanster
10-06-2012, 13:25
Dean,

The new PC in addition to being quiet, should be also more energy efficient.

Do you really want to mess with building a new PC?

All things equal, no.

However, every single time the question of PC's comes up, there's a contingent here who makes a big fuss about how it'd be better to build from scratch, get better components, at lower cost.

My observation is that places like Dell sell a dead-cheap product with warranty and 'support', making it hard to beat unless you need a very custom configuration, but I'm more than willing to learn, and to be educated.

I'm now looking for something modestly unusual, and there's not a lot of makers selling a compact-case PC with a mid-high-end or better video card and low noise factor, so I took a look at the PC world build article, and am weighing that approach against the Alienware.

Thus, I'm happy to hear what the 'build it better and cheaper' crew has to suggest, and if it does indeed seem better/cheaper, I'll do that - the actual building of it is very straightforward, and a good project to do with the kids.

My personal bet is that the build list ends up costing more and yielding a considerably larger package than the Alienware, but we'll just have to see.

Deanster
10-06-2012, 13:31
Have you considered changing the fans on your present PC?

That may help quiet them, unless it was like that from new. Or, maybe third party fans...

Yeah, it's been like that since day one. The case fans are just a little loud, but the video card fan is just insane when it gets cranking. I've honestly never heard one as loud and intrusive... I think the case really amplifies the noise, also.

Long story short, I can't easily swap the video card cooling fan.

It's pretty frustrating that my 2.5 year old high-end PC video card gets half the FPS at the same settings that my 1.5 year old iMac with a mobile video card does, even running games on Windows through Parallels emulation.

The iMac consistently gives me 100fps+, which does rev the fans up to the point where I can hear them for the first time, where the Dell gives 50-ish fps, while the fans run loud enough that I can hear them from the top of the stairs a floor up.

wizzi01
10-06-2012, 15:16
Have you tried turning the fan down in catalyst? Try just leaving it manually at 50% or so see what that does.

Deanster
10-06-2012, 15:23
Yep... temps climb rapidly... and it's really loud above about 35% anyhow... below that it's tolerable.

thanks, though!

I'm shocked by the absolute silence from the 'build it!' crowd... I'm IN, guys... I'm hot to buy parts and make a great compact gaming PC!

wizzi01
10-06-2012, 15:45
When is the last time you blew out the heatsinks? Temps might be climbing because of dust.

MtBaldy
10-06-2012, 16:06
I've built a lot of PCs and in my experience while you can end up with a better machine it's not going to cost less. You are not going to get the same price on components buying 1 at a time that Dell or HP is going to get buying thousands or tens of thousands of components at once. Yeah they have labor and marketing costs but it's not much per machine. Most of those saying "build it cheaper" are usually, or were, talking about stealing Windows. I never did that. If you've never done it it can be a fun fairly simple project or it can turn into a nightmare. At the very least when you're done you know your machine intimately and can fix almost anything that goes wrong with it.

Detectorist
10-06-2012, 16:14
I've built a lot of PCs and in my experience while you can end up with a better machine it's not going to cost less. You are not going to get the same price on components buying 1 at a time that Dell or HP is going to get buying thousands or tens of thousands of components at once. Yeah they have labor and marketing costs but it's not much per machine. Most of those saying "build it cheaper" are usually, or were, talking about stealing Windows. I never did that. If you've never done it it can be a fun fairly simple project or it can turn into a nightmare. At the very least when you're done you know your machine intimately and can fix almost anything that goes wrong with it.

Well said, sir.

Taphius
10-06-2012, 17:13
For the size I do not think you are going to get better than that alienware, a shuttle box alone is going to be quite expensive if you try and build it yourself.


small htpc box/psu = 150
cpu = 300
gpu = 260

that i7/660gtx will carry you on for quite awhile before you even dream of upgrading.

m2hmghb
10-06-2012, 17:43
I build my own to control what is in the machine. I've had issues with HP and Dell before so I prefer to pick my own parts out so I know what I'm getting. The video card is the real key to a system, so many times the options on a manufacturers site suck.

CitizenOfDreams
10-06-2012, 18:30
My solution: a full size PC (fast speed, lot of RAM, large hard drive space, good cooling) hidden in a closet (quiet, no wasted space on my desk). With modern interfaces such as USB and HDMI you don't need expensive KVM extenders to move your computer out of sight 20 feet away.

IndyGunFreak
10-06-2012, 18:49
I've built a lot of PCs and in my experience while you can end up with a better machine it's not going to cost less. You are not going to get the same price on components buying 1 at a time that Dell or HP is going to get buying thousands or tens of thousands of components at once. Yeah they have labor and marketing costs but it's not much per machine. Most of those saying "build it cheaper" are usually, or were, talking about stealing Windows. I never did that. If you've never done it it can be a fun fairly simple project or it can turn into a nightmare. At the very least when you're done you know your machine intimately and can fix almost anything that goes wrong with it.

Yup... The days of building your own and saving a chunk of change, have long passed. Although... I think "real" gaming rigs is where this still applies. I'm talking companies that specialize in making high end gaming rigs (alienware, ibuypower, etc..). You can usually still save a bit if you build your own vs. them. Dell, Gateway, HP, etc.. forget it.

That said, I will always say build, build, build. Doesn't matter if you want a gaming rig, or an uber cheap internet pc. Build it. I've built most of my families PC's, and several are pushing 10yrs of service, with very few problems. I built my own NAS, despite the folks telling me to just buy a ReadyNas. However, the quality of your build is all about component selection. If you build with crap, your build will be crap.

IGF

Bushflyr
10-06-2012, 18:50
Like Baldy said, if what you want is available commercially it's usually cheaper to just buy.

In your case, if your processor, RAM, and drives are working OK, I'd get a new case, ITX mobo, and video card. Maybe a small SSD. And swap the rest of your parts over. Should be under $400.

FWIW, I built my entire server for ~$1k with all new parts (except 1 500gb HD for the OS that I had lying around). Lian Li case, Jetway mobo, i5, 8gb RAM, and 4x Seagate 2tb drives.

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b65/bushflyr/2012-03-19154713.jpg

jtmac
10-06-2012, 20:17
If you are building small and quiet and don't feel like messing with a new build project... buy.

You can save a lot of money building a mid-to-high range PC in a regular form factor, but when you try to make it quiet you run into headaches. Try and make it small, too, and it is a nightmare before you learn that there is no good way to do it cheaply.

When you add 'tiny' into the equation, it moves to the realm of things best left to those with the resources to do it right'.

Learn from my fail.

boomhower
10-06-2012, 20:27
Build! It's not even a question with you type of build. You can either get the same power for a cheaper price or more power for the same price. In either scenario you are going to have higher quality parts. OEM's tend to use utter crap PSU's to start with. Assembling a PC is extremely simple. Plus most of your warranties are going to be a lot longer.

Dell is good if you just want the cheapest thing you can get your hands on. For about anything else it's better to build.

jtmac
10-06-2012, 20:38
Build! It's not even a question with you type of build. You can either get the same power for a cheaper price or more power for the same price. In either scenario you are going to have higher quality parts.

This is the case for regular sized computers. That is no big deal.

Console sized PCs are another matter entirely. Doing it RIGHT is expensive and a pain. Unless someone is particular about what hardware they have, they are probably better buying pre-built. Their hand-built won't be cheap enough compared to the pre-built to put up with the headache and it certainly won't have the fit and finish..

Deanster
10-06-2012, 22:29
Thanks much for the input, gentlemen.

Sounds about right - there's meaningful savings in a full-on gaming rig, but not in this category.

Alienware X51 i5/GTX 660 has been ordered, expected to be here Oct 17.

boomhower
10-07-2012, 16:33
Thanks much for the input, gentlemen.

Sounds about right - there's meaningful savings in a full-on gaming rig, but not in this category.

Alienware X51 i5/GTX 660 has been ordered, expected to be here Oct 17.

That's a pretty good deal. Closest I could come was $980 compared to Alienware's $1050. For $70 I'd let them build it too. Granted some of the components aren't as high a quality but chances are they will outlast it's useful life as a gaming machine.

Detectorist
10-07-2012, 17:07
Thanks much for the input, gentlemen.

Sounds about right - there's meaningful savings in a full-on gaming rig, but not in this category.

Alienware X51 i5/GTX 660 has been ordered, expected to be here Oct 17.

Enjoy your new computer!

Rabid Rabbit
10-07-2012, 17:09
take a look at tomshardware.com, they do a lot of mods, liquid cooled, bench marking and look at a wide range of prices, not just the crazy $5,000 gaming computers.