Should you buy or build a gaming PC?

Alienware Aurora next to empty Corsair Carbide 275R chassis
(Image credit: Alienware, Corsair)

There was a time when the choice over whether you should build your rig from scratch or simply buy the best gaming PC as a prebuilt option was purely about personal preference. It used to be a choice about whether you wanted to pick all the components yourself, build your rig for fun, and maybe save a little cash in the process, or whether you wanted to know that your new system would run out of the box first time.

Sadly, the days of free and easy system building have gone as the chip supply crisis has heated up. And the choice has become a far tougher one for the DIY champions like ourselves, with the savings more likely to be had if you go to a specific PC builder for your new gaming rig. But there are advantages and disadvantages to both building and buying a new PC, and we're still on hand to help you come to an informed decision.

Building Your PC

One of the biggest advantages to building your own PC is the ability to essentially hand-pick every single component in the system. This allows you to really fine tune your build and customize it to fit your exact budget and performance requirements. You also have the added benefit of personalizing it completely to your liking.

Many system builders will have contracts with certain companies so you won't see the breadth of different components on offer compared to if you're scouring the different parts retailers yourself. 

Going it alone means you can weight the build in ways that make the most sense for how you use your PC. Likely to be doing a lot of streaming and video editing as well as gaming? Then you'll want a ton of RAM and a high-end CPU, and maybe some speedy PCIe 4.0 storage, too. Purebread gamer? Then put your entire budget on the GPU, and a processor capable enough to power it.

It used to be that shopping for the components individually meant you could find a bargain and save some money on a final build. That's far harder these days, especially if we're talking about graphics cards and the painful price increases that have accompanied both the chip supply crisis and the second coming of cryptocurrency mining. Even second-hand GPUs are far more expensive than they have any right to be.

$400 Budget Gaming PC

(Image credit: Future)
PC building guides

Looking for more PC building advice? Check out our build guides: 

Budget gaming PC
(~$750/£750) - A good entry-level system.
Mid-range gaming PC
(~$1,250/£1,250) - Our recommended build for most gamers.
High-end gaming PC
(~$2,000/£2,000) - Everything a gamer could want.
Extreme gaming PC
(>$3,000/£3,000) - You won the lotto and are going all-in on gaming.

The short of it is that a DIY PC is no longer a guaranteed route to being able to save some cash on your new system. But, while prebuilt PC manufacturers and system builders have certainly evolved over the years, none of them can offer the same flexibility and freedom as doing it yourself.

Building your own PC opens the door to creating a beautifully unique system that you'll be proud to display at your battlestation. There's a definite satisfaction that comes from building your own gaming PC that you really won't find elsewhere. That being said, personalization is great, but the DIY route certainly isn't for the faint of heart. 

Building a PC can be exhilarating and rewarding but also stressful, exhausting, and time consuming. Especially so for a first time builder. Luckily, there are a ton of great resources out there for building your first PC. Here's our beginner's guide to building a gaming PC. It may be a few generations old now, but the principles remain the same.

Even for a seasoned builder, however, the entire process can take some time and has the potential to cause quite a headache if something goes wrong. This is where prebuilt gaming PCs really shine.

Corsair One i300

(Image credit: Corsair)

Buying Your PC

Your next machine

(Image credit: Future)

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When you pay to configure or purchase a prebuilt PC, you are paying for more than just the sum of its parts. You are paying for warranty service, support, and the peace of mind that your system was put together and tested by professionals. And that it will work the moment you pull it out of the box. These are some of the things we value highly when it comes to prebuilt gaming PCs.

And, right now, buying a prebuilt PC is your most reliable route into the latest generation of graphics cards. GPUs today are so rare, and so expensive to buy as individual components that you are far better off relying on the bulk buying power of a big system builder. That way you can avoid the brutal markup that gets added to individual cards if you can find them.

It also gives you a better chance to bag a new GPU without waiting six months in a retailer queue. There is still a fair lead time on prebuilt PCs in some places, but the likes of iBuyPower's RDY systems are available to ship in a matter of days.

Modern manufacturers can also offer features you might not be able to purchase on your own. For example: warranty-safe overclocking, pre-installed software, and exclusive components. 

Some might consider it vain, but another great reason to purchase a prebuilt is actually the design. Prebuilts like the Alienware's Aurora designs, or the beautiful Corsair One, use completely unique in-house chassis you wouldn't be able to purchase when building yourself. You can take some comfort in knowing that these systems were designed and built specifically to house your configuration. 

Best of all, you don't have to worry about cable management with options like these. Some companies will even offer competitive pricing that can actually rival building it yourself in some cases. However, you do tend to lose out on quite a bit of customization from those.

If the thought of building your own PC makes you anxious, the warranty and customer service provided from a prebuilt offers a peace of mind you lose out on when doing it yourself.

Corsair Dominator DDR5 memory

(Image credit: Corsair)

So, should you build or buy your PC in 2022?

We love building PCs and in an ideal world would recommend doing so as much as possible. It may sound silly, but the bond you create with a system you've built from scratch with your own two hands belies its inanimate nature.

However, we are far from an ideal world and the simple fact is that if you want a new gaming PC today, and can't afford to pay an obscene amount of money for a graphics card with a painful price premium from some ebay reseller, then a prebuilt system is your best bet. It will be the cheapest, most accessible option, and will still give you warranty peace of mind too.

One day things will change, but for now, unless price really is no option, buying a prebuilt gaming PC is where the smart money goes.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.

With contributions from