Why Buying a Gaming PC Is Better Than Building Right Now

I’ve had a longtime dream that one day I would have the room and disposable income to build a really powerful gaming PC. I’d play games and work on a machine I put together with my own two hands, by me, for me.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But where my dream PC once cost a bit over a $1,000, that’s no longer the case. That’s because cryptocurrency miners are buying up the supply of high-end GPUs, driving up prices way beyond the MSRP aimed at gamers. High demand for flash memory means RAM prices are also skyrocketing.

But if you look to buy a pre-built PC straight from a vendor, which buys parts in bulk, you can get a cheaper price. I know, I know — you won’t have the satisfaction of something you built on your own, but you’ll have a few Benjamins left over for games, and that’s worth something, right?

Here's why you should buy a gaming PC instead of building one right now.

GPU Prices Are Insane

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Good luck finding a GPU at its sticker price. Cryptocurrency mining is all the rage right now, with Bitcoin sitting just over $11,000 as of this writing. Mining any cryptocurrency (Ethereum, Litecoin, etc.) requires a whole lot of computing power, and those looking for their next fortune are buying up GPUs en masse, driving up the price.

Credit: Nvidia

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia currently lists one of its top tier cards, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB of VRAM, at $549. When I browsed Newegg, the cheapest option I found was one from Gigabyte for $799.99, and there are a number of options with 11GB of VRAM for over $1,300 dollars. You could buy an entire entry-level PC for that price.

The GTX 1060, which can power a 1080p gaming rig with VR support, is listed on Nvidia's website for $299.. You can get a version with 3GB of VRAM for $379.99 on Newegg, but to get the 6GB version you’ll really want, the cheapest I saw was an option from Gigabyte for $429.99. Want a different brand? Many from Asus, MSI and EVGA are going for between $500 and $600.

AMD’s Radeon RX 580 with 8GB of VRAM launched at around $250. Now on Newegg, you’ll see it between $450 (the lowest price from XFX0 to more than $730.

On Amazon, many of these cards aren’t available at all.

The increases aren’t as big for entry level cards for the GTX 1050, but you’ll stay pay more than the MSRP.

RAM is Spiking

To make matters worse, RAM is pricier than ever. Demand is high, supply is low, and basic economics means that you’re paying a premium.

There are several factors as to why it’s so pricey, but the primary theory is that smartphones are the culprit, using lots of DDR4 RAM. Factories can’t make enough, and you’re paying a premium.

Based on data from CamelCamelCamel, 8GB (two 4GB modules) of Kingston HyperX Fury RAM cost just $31.99 back in June of 2016, but as of this writing that same product costs $94.99 (it peaked on January 3 at $101.99).

So What Do You Do?

RAM is bad, GPUs are worse, and all of that money is before you get a CPU, case, motherboard, power supply, fans and maybe some cool lighting. Oh, and an operating system.

The answer is that it’s simply cheaper to buy pre-built right now.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Here are some examples:

Microcenter is selling its AMD Ryzen 7X Configurator for $1,199.  That includes an AMD Ryzen 7 1800X CPU, 8GB of RAM, GTX 1060 and a 1TB HDD. You’ll also get a case with red lighting and a glass window. The GPU and RAM alone there could cost more than $400, so this is a better deal.

HP’s Omen Desktop starts at $899.99 with a GTX 1050, but even its highest end model, with an Intel Core i7-8700 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 1TB HDD storage and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, is $1,300 and a deal when compared to putting all of those together on your own.Both of those also come with a copy of Windows.

HP Omen Desktop (GTX 1070)

When you buy, you should definitely look at upgradeability. Machines like the Alienware Aurora and CyberPower Gamer Master 9500 are super easy to upgrade without any tools. That means that when prices for parts drop and you want to start making this pre-built machine your own, you can start adding your own parts without a hassle.

Building a PC of your own is in the ethos of PC gamers (seriously, check out the message boards on our sister site, Tom’s Hardware). Building something on your own and watching it turn on for the first time is a rite of passage. But GPU and RAM shortages are making it economically impossible for some to build the rig of their dreams. In their case, buying something pre-built might be the best first step. It’s no shame — there’s more money to spend on games.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is an editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming as well as keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag, Complex, Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag among others.