Help me buy a PC
July 16, 2020 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Historically I've owned mac laptops, but I'm considering getting a desktop PC. I'm finding the choices/options kind of bewildering. I know I don't want to build my own computer. Is there a company/service/whatever that I can get suggestions from based on my budget/uses/etc? I'm open to this being a salesperson or an independent person, but I don't even know if this is a thing.

I use my computer for a variety of things, which I think all have sort of different requirements. One of the big reasons I'm finally getting a desktop PC is to do some VR development at home and dip my toes into PC gaming, but I also theoretically do a fair amount of After Effects and Cinema4D work. (That's somewhat aspirational, but I'd like to get a machine that can handle those specific pieces of software.)

I'm ok paying a premium to get some solid advice about what to buy (i.e. from a custom builder), but I'd also be okay paying some kind of design/advice fee to someone who then suggests off-the-shelf kinds of builds. Can y'all suggest custom builders/companies or advice givers?

I'm also totally open to answers like, "Read this site it will give you some base knowledge going into this process." Basically anything that helps me get a computer that I don't regret later, but isn't going to send me down a rabbit hole of hardware fetishism and arguments.
posted by hapticactionnetwork to Technology (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's a local mom-and-pop computer store in the city where I live. They build computers to spec. I'm in charge of ordering computers for my workplace, and I've used them for years. They also have a lot of very positive reviews on-line, so I'm not the only happy customer they have. They will build a computer to spec for you based on your needs, and they're really honest about making recommendations in a way that you won't be purchasing unnecessary options.

I imagine that most towns will have a store like this. It's also really nice to have a local place where you can bring the computer if you experience any problems with it. Oh, and their prices are reasonable.
posted by alex1965 at 1:26 PM on July 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hi! I know that building a PC can be super overwhelming, but the best off-the-shelf kinds of builds are from this link. They are rigorously vetted and tested and maximized and will be well supported in the future. Best of all, they help you choose the right build for your price point.

Building a PC is surprisingly straightforward. It's kind of like assembling a lego set, but there's only 8 pieces.

I've built 3 PCs collected by these people throughout the years. It's not always easy but I'm VERY happy with both the quality and journey that building the PC has caused.
posted by bbqturtle at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Unless you want to build a PC, there's no real reason to do it for most people. Once you factor in time being worth something to you, just getting a Dell/Lenovo/smaller company is just as cost effective.

Looking at your use case, pretty much anything with an 8 core Ryzen or i7 (10th gen in the case of the i7), 16-32 GB of RAM, 1+TB of SSD, and the high end of the recommended graphics card for the VR headset you want to use will be fine.
posted by Candleman at 2:24 PM on July 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Unless you want to build a PC, there's no real reason to do it for most people. Once you factor in time being worth something to you, just getting a Dell/Lenovo/smaller company is just as cost effective.

I personally disagree - it is difficult to find a PC that meets his specifications for under $2K, which the guide can build for about $1000 - and it doesn't take more than 8 hours to put together a PC. Also, it's fun!
posted by bbqturtle at 2:30 PM on July 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm in the camp that says build your own, but if I wasn't I would probably rely on these guys When I built my recent computer, for the same software you will be working with (After Effects mainly) I relied on their After Effects build as a part list, and just built it myself to save the cost of them putting it together. Their systems are on the expensive end and you will pay a premium for them to assemble them, but if it's in your budget it's a pretty good way to go. Their blog and articles are also very helpful in figuring out exactly what you need and why.

You can always go for one of the gaming computer companies and assume that any of their higher end computers will be good for VR/ AE / C4D; I think it will be close enough but IMO for this type of work you want to put more of your budget into CPU and RAM and less of your budget into the video card. Something like this will probably work if you max out the RAM Dell Alienware Aurora 8- my AE system has 64 GB RAM and runs like a dream although I admit it's probably overkill but my laptop has 16 GB RAM and it feels like not enough for heavy files.
posted by matcha action at 3:48 PM on July 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add that I have less technically inclined friends in the same field as me (motion graphics/animation) and they have always been happy with their builds from Puget Systems, they rate the experience and the computer top notch and have been very happy with the customer service.
posted by matcha action at 3:49 PM on July 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't want to jump on the bandwagon necessarily of 'build your own' but the specifications you're looking at are pretty specific, niche, and high end. The differential between buy/build, even the ballpark of what you're talking about, is going to be really big. Like, others have suggested, when I built my computer it would have cost me almost double to get something inferior, and it is basically just a higher end home theatre PC. Adding some of the things you're looking at will cost you far less to do it yourself.

I don't like building computers, and I also don't like doing plumbing and electrical work around my house, but I know how to do all of the above, and therefore have a really really nice computer, and some expensive executions of electrical and plumbing solutions in my home that make my life easier. I do those things because I can't afford to have a contractor do it, and if something goes sideways I like to know what is going sideways and at least how to stop it, then have a pro fix it if I can't.

I'm of the school of thought that a craftsman should know their tools, and this applies to computers as much as anything.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:57 PM on July 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

I’ve used Logical Increments to pick parts to build my computers. They really are easy to build nowadays. Plug bits together, and they work. Nothing like the daunting task of past decades.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:07 PM on July 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

At my house, we like powerful desktop PCs, but we're cheap and we don't want to take the time to build one. Except in the most special of cases, we buy CyberPower PCs from NewEgg. Their non-core components (e.g. fans, power supplies) are on the cheap side, but we've put at least 5 of these through their paces over the last ten years, sometimes in pretty extreme ways, and other than the occasional fan upgrade, they've worked great.

Here are all the CyberPower PCs currently on NewEgg.
posted by nosila at 7:53 AM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

One other thing you may not know about: you should always check out the performance of the CPU you're looking at on some sort of benchmark site. It's REALLY not obvious by looking at the general description how powerful a CPU is.
posted by nosila at 7:55 AM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Haha okay you’ve like 90% convinced me that I should just bite the bullet and build something. I appreciate especially the links to Puget Systems and Logical Increments, and folks who answered the question as asked. (Although I also appreciate the advice to just go for it and build my own.)

Thanks everybody, time to go do a bunch more research I guess!
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 8:49 AM on July 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I suggest grabbing a copy of Maximum PC, as they have guides for different price points.
brand wise, I suggest corsair for just about everything, EVGA for video cards, and ASUS/Asrock for motherboards.
Linus tech tips on youtube has a lot of guides.
posted by evilmonk at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2020

For what it's worth, I had a lot of trouble with my first computer build. The screws are tiny and hard to get into position (and my fingers are fat). I ended up bending some pins on the USB connector on the motherboard, and I had a fair amount of trouble mounting the CPU cooler using the bracket that went on the bottom side of the motherboard. I was able to complete the project, but it took essentially all day, and it was frustrating. The second computer build was easier. But I don't think I'll be building a third one -- it's just simpler to buy one to spec.
posted by alex1965 at 1:12 PM on July 17, 2020

You can get Alienware Aurora Ryzen which seems to be a good fit for your needs. Linked is the best bang for your buck configuration (currently $2169)
posted by Sharcho at 4:14 PM on July 17, 2020

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