It's not a good time to build your own PC. Normally we recommend buying individual components and building your own PC instead of purchasing through a system builder, buying a prebuilt, or (shudder) buying a console. But due to a number of factors, buying a prebuilt system isn't such a bad idea right now.
To start with, it's a terrible time to buy a graphics card. Cryptocurrency mining has driven GPU prices through the roof—some nearly double their MSRP. To make matters worse, RAM prices are up as well, mostly due to smartphone demand, though some relief on that front might be coming soon.
Take a look at our recommended PC build guide. Originally designed with a $1,250 price point in mind, the cost of components adds up to around $1,400 if you manage to snag the recommended GTX 1080 at MSRP, but the card is sold out at that price—and much higher—pretty much everywhere you look. The cheapest we can find in stock is $920 on Newegg, a price that would bring our build guide up to more than $1,800. Ouch.
However, there's one place where GPU prices haven't been hit quite as hard: system builders. Since system builders aren't plagued by out-of-stock overpriced video cards, the cost of a prebuilt system hasn't ballooned the same as buying the components individually. I built the near exact equivalent of our build guide in CyberPowerPC's system configurator and came out with a price of $1637.
The normally modest price premium of a prebuilt system doesn't look so bad compared to those inflated GPU costs. $1,637 is still a bit higher than our original build price, but better than $1,800, and it comes with the bonuses of buying through a system builder like a warranty and tech support, plus, y'know, having someone else build the whole thing and guarantee it properly turns on.
The story is similar at other price points. There was a time when the GTX 1070 could be found for around $350 on sale, a price that let us slot it into our ~$800 budget build guide. Rising RAM prices caused us to swap that card out for the less expensive GTX 1060 6GB, which should cost about $250 at most. The 1060 6GB is now $400 at the cheapest, with many models listed at $500 or more. Meanwhile, the GTX 1070 starts at $780 on Newegg—nearly the price of the entire build it previously fit into.
Back in CyberPower's configurator, the equivalent of our (should be) $800 build comes out to $1,045 with a GTX 1060 6GB, or $1,201 with a GTX 1070. Building that PC yourself with current prices would come out to $920 with the cheapest (though again, still overpriced) GTX 1060 6GB available, or $1,300 if you opt for a ridiculously overpriced GTX 1070.
Prices for prebuilt systems from the likes of Best Buy or even Walmart are in the same realm as CyberPower's prices—some even cheaper, like this $1,030 CybertronPC build. Not all the components match up, but it does still sport a GTX 1070. In almost all these cases, you can actually save money by buying a prebuilt system, and get lifetime tech support in the bargain.
If you don't mind waiting a few weeks or (more likely) months to build your new PC, we suggest waiting it out—GPU prices bounced back from the first wave of cryptocurrency scarcity, and they surely will again. It's just a matter of how long before those prices come back down. But if you're looking to pull the trigger on a new gaming PC right now, opting for a prebuilt system might actually be pretty smart.