Custom PC

This page will ultimately document the full specification of any custom-built PCs I'll be using for the "expensive setup" option of this Olympics project. Such a PC will be doing Olympic recording duties instead of a Revo and will use internal TV tuner cards instead of USB-based TV tuners that a Revo would typically use.

At this moment in time, all I can reveal is that I've used two different custom builders who let me select the components I want (I then add more myself later from other vendors) - this is a precaution in case one builder doesn't do a good job. Both are delivering at about the same time, though there are differences between the two builders that I'll explain now.

First up is CCL Online, who are a custom builder I've used for my previous desktop PC and they did a reasonably good job. However, 15 months later, they haven't improved some of the issues I had with my previous PC's customised build and if you're sticking with one custom builder, I'm not sure I can recommend them any more as a first choice.

The issues with CCL Online are:
  • Quite a limited choice of options for each component, particularly for ATX cases (so much so, the "best" case they still have is the one I got 15 months ago, which I know was only a mid-range non-gamer case).
  • Forced purchases of at least one SATA hard drive (but not forced SSD purchases?) and an often unwanted optical drive, which don't make any sense when you don't have to purchase an operating system with the machine!
  • Not many options if you want a quiet or silent PC (which for a media centre build should be a desired goal - I wish the decibel rating of components was shown in the technical specs!).
These could be a dealbreaker if you need a top-end case (e.g. more than 6 hard drive bays) or already have or don't need a hard drive or optical drive (e.g. you're going SSD+USB stick for the OS install) or want a quiet/silent setup. I think CCL Online must be losing customers to what looks like my preferred custom builder now:

Second up is Computer Planet. They seem to have just a simply better configuration setup than CCL Online and offer so much choice, it's almost overwhelming:
  • The case selection is stunning and includes ones designed to be silent or very quiet, plus typically pointless gamer cases with places for LED lighting, windows etc.
  • The only forced purchase seemed to be a wireless PCI card, but it's actually possibly useful and not expensive, so I don't think I can begrudge them too much for that.
  • Even power supplies have options for silent/quiet versions!
  • You can opt for 2 different levels of soundproofing for that final quietness touch - I went for the cheapest of the two.
  • One killer touch - they throw in freebies left, right and centre (Windows anti-virus [pointless for Linux of course], CyberDVD 9 [Windows, sigh], Windows Media Centre remote control [should work OK on a Revo], a handy DVI-to-HDMI converter and even a free game [3 years old and worth only £3 new...and it's Windows again]).
As you can see, it's almost a no-brainer to go for Computer Planet - you get a quieter PC with no major forced purchases and some freebies (annoyingly designed for Windows mostly) for a lower price than CCL Online. However, I did end up with a Sony DVD writer and a 2TB hard drive with the CCL Online configuration, so they'll be useful for testing at least. Yes, I picked an identical CPU, memory and motherboard setup on each before you ask.

It should be noted that you can obviously save money by shopping around for each component and building the whole thing yourself. However, is it really worth all the time and effort (multiple vendors to have to RMA any faults back to and with differing warranty coverages) just to save maybe less than £100 on a high-end PC?

What you do when buying a custom-built PC is buy the minimum you can get away with (even to the point of no filestore if at all possible so it can't even boot!), set the warrany coverage as high as possible (I have 2 years on one PC and 3 years on another) and then shop around for the easy-to-add components (extra RAM, filestore, tuner cards) to add later on. Strangely, neither custom builder allowed you spec a "quantity" of item (e.g. 2 sets of RAM, 2 hard drives, 2 SSDs etc.) - they were all single items allowed only...they're missing a trick there.

No comments:

Post a Comment