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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | PC Types ]

New Build-To-Order PCs

Description: Build-to-order PCs are systems that are designed and built specifically to suit the needs and wants of a particular customer. These systems exploit the modular nature of PC components to allow the exact configuration that the customer wants to be assembled. As such, a PC of this sort may well be unique to the person who orders it. Build-to-order PCs are analogous to having a suit or gown custom-tailored, compared to buying one "off the rack". Homebuilt PCs also fall into this category of system.

Advantages: The biggest advantage of a build-to-order PC is control. Since you are the one who is creating the system, you dictate what goes into the machine, and where you spend more money or less. These systems often provide the best value in terms of performance and capacity per dollar spent, because you buy pretty much only what you want. They are also usually acquired from local stores in a relatively short period of time, allowing you to get your machine reasonably quickly and also letting you take advantage of local support and service should it be needed.

Disadvantages: One of the biggest drawbacks of buying (or making) a custom PC is that it will not come with a software package the way PCs bought from large companies do; if you need software you will have to buy it yourself, which can get expensive. Build-to-order PCs also require a bit more knowledge on the part of you, the buyer, to ensure that the system created meets your needs. Finally, care and attention are needed in selecting a vendor to make sure you get one that cares about quality when building the PC. Unlike a retail PC, you don't know exactly what you are getting at the time that you place your order.

Notebook Availability: None. I'm not aware of any company that truly allows you to "build to order" a notebook; the design of these machines is not modular in the way that desktops are, making this impractical, as much as it would be nice!

Most Common Sources: Local PC shops, small online PC shops, computer shows.

Recommended Uses: Anyone who needs a system customized to their specific needs. Examples would be someone requiring a very powerful machine for a particular purpose, someone on a tight budget, or someone who required a very unusual configuration. These PCs are also popular amongst buyers who place a high priority on quality and want to ensure they get components they want.

Cost: From under $1,000 to $5,000 or more. Depends entirely on the needs of the customer.

Special Considerations: More than with any other type of PC, the vendor is the key to happiness when you are buying a build-to-order PC. Make sure to research the vendor thoroughly and if at all possible, get a referral to a good firm. Be sure to work closely with the vendor to select all the components; ask about options and how much it costs to upgrade parts of the system. For example, you may be able to double the hard disk capacity of the system for only a few dollars more, which is important to some people--but you may only find out if you ask.

Next: Refurbished or Remanufactured PCs

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