If you’re looking to equip yourself with a killer PC, there are two distinct schools of thought on how to do it.
The first is safer – pay someone else to build it for you. The benefit here is that you get something that’s guaranteed to work from the moment you take it out of the box. If you’re not confident with handling all the components yourself, it’s always an option.
However, the second school of thought regards the first as sacrilege. Instead, it’s faithful to one central belief – build it yourself, no matter what. The benefit here is that you control everything that goes into your PC, and you gain an understanding about your rig that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Plus, you save a ton of money on not paying someone to do the hard work for you.
Here at TechRadar, we tend to represent the second camp, but we’re big enough to understand that a lot has changed over the last few years, and deciding which school to follow isn’t as straightforward as it once was.
Traditionally, self-builds had the advantage of being the cheaper option. The difference may have been slight in some cases, but it was generally always there. Even if a system builder had exactly the components you wanted to build your own machine with, you could generally shop around and pick up the exact same parts for less and save a pretty penny by putting it together yourself.
Many of the more expensive systems do still have the potential for decent savings, but that margin has disappeared in some of the machines we've looked at recently, especially at the cheaper end. This leaves the main reason to build as making sure you don't waste money on components you don't really need. You get to spend the money where it matters most to you.
Say, for example, you wanted to build a machine that will deftly play GTA V, but also have enough raw grunt to handle this year's other big PC gaming release, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then you could set out to build a rig that really pushes graphics performance above all else.
Which is what we're focusing on over the next few pages. A pure gaming machine. But you can follow the general gist of this guide to build whatever it is you want – focusing on whichever area you need your machine to excel in.