Why go custom?

There’s plenty of good reasons why it’s better to go with a custom build computer. It used to be that it was cheaper to build one yourself than to buy a pre-made one. A lot of people didn’t know how or didn’t want to hassle so they still went with an OEM (Dell, HP, Acer, ASUS, etc…). Now days, it’s usually more expensive to an unassuming customer to go with a custom than to go with an OEM.

It’s because they can mass-produce parts and bring down cost. They also use parts that don’t have any wiggle room. What I mean is, you generally can’t upgrade a CPU very far in an OEM computer. Sometimes you can pop one in that runs at a faster clock but usually you can’t upgrade from a dual to a quad core for example. The reasons for this are because of the motherboard they build. The BIOS (software that starts up the computer before handing it over to Windows) has code to allow certain CPUs to work. When a new CPU is released that is compatible, the manufacturer can update the BIOS with the new code. However, an aftermarket motherboard will have far more BIOS updates and will support a wider number of CPU’s. There is another limitation with OEM motherboards. They generally go with the cheapest functional power phase system that will work. A CPU is low voltage but very high amperage. You need a lot of power control to supply that demand. More components handling the power means less stress on each individual component and less heat dissipation but that costs more. For an AMD-based system, 8+2 power phase is pretty much top end. That means there’s 8 phases for the CPU and 2 for additional things such as PCI-e power. A lot of OEM computers will come with 4+1 or 4+2 power phase. There’s nothing wrong with that except when you want to run a higher end CPU (that takes more wattage). It will put more stress on the already weak power system and you could easily fry the board. Even if you don’t upgrade the CPU, for long-term stability and life, a 8+2 power phase system is better.

Not being able to upgrade the CPU significantly isn’t the only downside to an OEM computer. There’s also the power supply itself. Much like the power phase on the motherboard, OEMs bundle a power supply that will output enough wattage to power the computer as-is. Age and upgrades put more of a strain on the power supply. They are not built for longevity and certainly aren’t as efficient as some aftermarket ones. Something that I think sums it up pretty good is that you can get an OEM computer with usually a 1-year warranty. There’s some high end aftermarket power supplies with an 8-year warranty. Quality costs money and believe it or not, it’s usually cheaper in the long run.

—more to come—