Best for 2014 Gaming PC – self build or custom order?
After the demise of my faithful Novatech gaming laptop I found that I was not in a position to replace it like-for-like. Instead I gathered together pieces from friends and family who had recently upgraded their PCs and built myself a ‘frankenputer’. It has done me proud for about 5+ years but now the time had come to get up-to-date. Do I go for custom built or is it better and cheaper to go DIY?
Looking around myriad of forums there seems to be a string of questions when it comes to gaming computers – the first is the decision of whether to buy all the required components and case in order to take the time and effort to put it all together or get a specialist firm to do the work for you. Granted, if you go with the latter, you might lose out on the props, kudos, satisfaction and pride but equally, speaking as someone that does this kind of thing perhaps twice each decade, remove the risk of banjaxing a host of expensive tech.
My first port-of-call was to price out my wish list. Now, I know how quickly things move along in computing and, as I really don’t keep that close an eye on what gamers put inside their machines, I needed a source that I could refer to. Thankfully the folks at Logical Increments not only break down their recommendations in to fields such as ‘Great’, ‘Outstanding’, ‘Exceptional’, etc but also give you a country-specific guide price at the end of those rows. This helped me greatly to have some sense of scale and budget required for my machine.
My priorities were that I wanted the best NVIDIA GPU (graphics processing unit) that I could afford, I wanted an SSD (solid state drive) for swift boot-ups and I had my eye on at least an Intel Core i5. Basically I didn’t want my choices to dip below ‘Outstanding’ if I could help it.
After reading many reviews of cases, I had my heart set on the Storm Stryker. I loved the look of the Storm Trooper with the optional window side but, once I saw the white Stryker version – I was sold.
I have been a very good boy and this has seen me get promoted at my day job as well as receive a bit of a bonus for going above and beyond in assisting the organisation get through a very large strategic project. As such I decided that I would treat myself to as kick-ass a computer as I could afford and therefore allowed a budget of £1200 – if I could get it closer to £1100, or even £1000, then all the better.
With the components above plus a power source and cooling, this should be do-able I reckoned. Remember though, those prices above are just for the bits.
DIY or custom shop?
There are many places out there who will build you a computer to your specifications but they do differ in what they have to offer.
I was heartily recommended Aria by a friend who’s custom build arm, Gladiator, did look really good and the support I had from one of their team regarding questions I had about my spec, was impressive. The thing was that, although comparable components were on offer, it wouldn’t quite match up with what I wanted, which is the whole point of a ‘custom’ build and I was unable to get my desired spec within the £1200 budget I allowed myself.
I then started to look around for some other places and checked out Overclockers, Palicomp, PC Specialist as well as some others and, although they all had their strong points, they either didn’t have the case or motherboard I wanted, or could do it within my budget.
There’s also the gaming PC makers such as Alienware but they were asking way too much money for the spec because of the name emblazoned all over their hardware.
It was starting to look like the DIY option had chosen itself until I caught a review on Tasty PC about a gaming machine from Dino PC.
Seeing someone who builds their own computers give such a glowing review about a PC built by a company must be worth investigating further. Especially as she states that the difference between what it would have cost her to buy the parts and build it herself would not have saved her that much money than just buying it from Dino PC.
After spending a while in Dino PC’s forums and getting a feel for the support available I had a look at their configurator. Almost all the bits on my list were there – but they only had the Storm Trooper listed. I decided to visit their Facebook page and ask if I could specify the Stryker or, at least, the Trooper with side window. The fairly swift response was an affirmative to which ever way I decided to go.
So, with all that in mind, the fact that someone can build it for a little more than the parts bought separately and that it would come with a 3 year warranty – I think you can see my logic for opting to go down the non-DIY route 😉
Dino PC – configuring my gaming PC
I have my wishlist and now I know that Dino can get the case I want, all that’s left is to chose what I want to go inside it and to see how that stacks up against my budget and my plans.
There are a few routes on offer from Dino. You can go ‘Customise Your Way‘ which starts off with asking you which particular chipset you want –Intel or AMD– and then build it around that or you can choose from the recommended computers that they have available off-the-shelf (even though these are still made to order) and tweak them to your requirements.
It’s worth spending some time playing with these as some routes offer different motherboards to others and some offer overclocked CPUs in with the price where others don’t. Obviously, you could just email them with your specific requirements and then take it from there.
Dino PC – decision time
After much trial and error, and help from posters on the forum, I had reached some kind of decision. My first passes on the configurator had tipped me over budget because I was going overkill on RAM, CPU and/or the motherboard which meant that I wasn’t able to capitalise on the GPU.
There were tweaks here and there and I started from a variety of base packages for my build but, in the end, I opted to use the Shooter Elite as my jump-off point.
Dino PC – custom job
The reasons for selecting the Shooter Elite as my starting point was that it was listed at well below my budget at £895 (inc VAT) which should give me some wriggle-room, and it was using an Intel chip which was overclocked in with the price. Bonus.
Now it’s time to tweak. As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the forum members, some research and with Logical Increment’s guide, I set to work.
This is how my finished system order looked:
|Shooter Elite GTX 770||£895.00|
|CPU: Intel Core i5 4670K | CPU Overclocking: 4.2Ghz – Moderate Overclock||Included|
|CPU Cooler: Corsair H80i Water Cooler||£30.00|
|Operating System: No Operating System – I will install my own||£-59.00|
|Motherboard: NEW! Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H||£73.00|
|RAM: 8GB Corsair 1600mhz Vengeance (2x4GB)||Included|
|Hard Drive: NEW! Crucial 120GB M500 SSD||£5.80|
|Secondary Hard Drive: 1TB S-ATAIII 6.0Gb/s||£49.19|
|Optical Drive: 22x DVD±RW DL S-ATA||Included|
|Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB||£175.00|
|Sound card: Onboard 7.1 Audio||Included|
|Case: CM Storm Stryker||£71.30|
|PSU: 600W Corsair CX||Included|
|Warranty: 3 Year SureCare Warranty||Included|
As you can see in the table above, there were plenty of things that were already included in the original build price. I managed to save £59 by supplying my own copy of Win 7 Pro but added £175 to the base system so that I could have a GTX 780 graphics card.
Granted, with little extras like the SSD, GPU and the case I really wanted, it did just tip the final figure over the £1200 but not by much.
Dino PC – the build
The guys at Dino PC have been really helpful all the way through this build, even when I cheekily asked them if they wouldn’t mind taking some snaps as they put my computer together. Thanks Alan and Marco!
Dino PC – custom gaming computer delivery
The website states a 1-2 week turn around, which I took as working weeks (Mon-Fri) and, good to their word, my machine was delivered on the tenth day – allowing for the Easter Bank Holiday. I was prepared to allow a day-or-so longer as they had to order the Stryker case in for me and there was a two-day tube strike in London, where they’re based, during the build.
The delivery is taken care of by APC’s next day service so you receive your notification email on one day and then get your shiny new lump of hardware on the next working day.
Dino PC – custom gaming computer: Conclusion
I’ve had the computer now for a few days and everything seems pretty good so far.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may well have noticed that I have altered the fans to draw from the front rather than the crossflow configuration which is the default for both Trooper and Stryker cases.
Other than playing with Corsair Link to have the cooling block glow blue rather than white (other colourways are available) that is all I’ve changed so far. I do have a Cooler Master Megaflow 200mm blue LED fan on order to replace the top one in the case and add a little more blue to the internals, but everything is good.
The one thing I would note is that, if you want a particular graphics card, or anything else, make sure you mention that in your order or email them – I was surprised to see the Zotac GTX 780 AMP GPU in my build. Initially I was confused as I was expecting something else, but it is a great card and has performed well.
To my reckoning, I paid an extra £129.05 on top of what it would’ve cost me buying all the parts from Scan. But, when you take in to consideration that included in the £129 there’s not only the building of the machine but overclocking the i5 processor as well as delivery and the peace of mind that a three year warranty gives.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Dino PC for your build.
Note: I have not been paid in any way for this article, received any financial assistance or have even been asked to write it. The £1245 (painfully) came out of my own account.