New Computer

As I've recently mentioned, my old computer isn't doing so well. Built with turn-of-the-century hardware, she's lasted a long time, more than I could really expect. So it's time to get a new computer. As I've also mentioned recently, the amount of options for building a new computer are staggering (and the amount of choices can lead to problems). However, with the help of the newly released Ars Technica System Guides (specifically the Hot Rod) and some general research, I should be able to slap something together in relatively short order. After some initial poking around, here's what I'm looking for: I'm leaning pretty close to the recommendations from Ars Technica, with only a few minor tweaks. They claim their Hot Rod rig can be had for around $1622.71, but when you add in shipping, an OS, and my tweaks, I'm betting that's more around $1800. Of course, I'll have to order all this stuff, assemble it, and install the OS, which will probably take a few hours, so let's make a conservative estimate of around $2000 (I'm valuing my time at around $50 an hour here). Not too shabby, and it's a pretty impressive PC. So is it worth putting it together myself, or can I order a comparable system from somewhere else that is cheaper and/or easier? Let's take a look at my options:
  • Dell: A comparably configured XPS 410 system comes in around $2200. The only major addition here is the 2 year warranty and support.
  • HP: Well, the HP Pavilion d4650y series computer I configured came in at a pretty cheap $1600. However, I wasn't able to get the GeForce 7950GT 512 MB and had to settle for a 256 MB card (I'm sure there are other computer models that I could configure, but this seemed reasonable enough).
  • A comparably configured Intel� Core� 2 Duo Custom Build machine runs about $2017. They also have a 3 year limited warranty and support. However, I should note that a friend recently purchased a PC through CyberPower and was thoroughly dissatisfied: several incorrectly installed pieces of hardware as well as an OS that had to be reinstalled. From online reviews, their support seems notoriously bad. However, it's difficult to tell with online reviews sometimes. The good reviews outnumber the bad. I'm still considering these guys because they can save me some time and energy without having to really pay too much. However, I'm guessing that I'll have to do some mucking around with the hardware and software, which would put the price up a bit when you consider time and effort.
  • ABS is the parent company of newegg and has a mildly better reputation than CyberPowerPC. However, the price here comes to around $2200, and it wasn't exactly what I wanted.
  • Maingear: Most high end brands or boutiques like Alienware, Voodoo, or Hypersonic can get pretty expensive (easily $3000+), but Maingear was surprisingly reasonable. I was able to configure their Prelude system to what I wanted for around $2050. With some fiddling, and perhaps purchasing some components separately, I think I could drive that down a bit. Also, unlike CyberPowerPC (or Dell for that matter), these guys seem to have stellar reputation (there are only 10 ratings on ResellerRatings, but they're all great reviews and they also seem to be consistent with professional reviews). They're service and support appears to be good as well. I've got a good feeling about these guys, and I'm glad I'm writing this entry because I probably wouldn't have found them otherwise.
So I'm looking closer at Maingear and if that doesn't work out, it looks like I'm putting it together myself, unless anyone else has a better idea (if you do, leave a comment below). I'm going to hold off a few days before actually placing any orders, but I think I'll be happy with what I'm getting.

Update: After some fiddling, I got the Maingear PC down to around $1800 without a monitor. I'm also getting a lightscribe DVD burner, which is a totally frivolous expense (extra $70), but pretty neat too.