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22 Jun 2024   
  
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Buying a prebuilt gaming PC is like eating Fugu Ė itís all about trust
Pre-built gaming PCs arenít just the domain of noobie gamers. No, many an experienced gamer has been enticed by the glittering imagery and exciting performance promises of a shiny new manufacturer-made rig. But beneath the flashy neon pics and the impressive list of hardware specs are often gremlins lurking, ready to bite. If you havenít already guessed from that opener, Iím not in the ďbuy a pre-built gaming PC camp.Ē Thatís not just because Iím a tech editor who likes to painstakingly oversee and choose every component in a new build until I reach performance perfection. I also donít have any illusions about wanting to be the go-to tech support guy among my family and friends ó I am that guy anyways. No, itís just that pre-built gaming PCs are incredibly risky business. In fact, Iíd go so far as to liken buying one to dinning on a meal of Fugu, a Japanese delicacy made from the porcupinefish (puffer fish). If youíre unfamiliar with Fugu, parts of it are so full of poison it needs meticulous preparation by a chef, and not just any chef, one with the know-how and steady hands of a brain surgeon. Dinning on Fugu, then, is like taking the ultimate leap of faith. Sure, you could get a delicious, safe meal of tasty puffer and not keel over. Or a single bite may see you drop your chopsticks and leave your mortal coil for good. The big question then is: Do you trust the chef? A top-end prebuilt gaming pc you can trust Falcon Northwest FragBox (Intel 14th-gen) Read our review In the same way, you may have no problems with your pre-built gaming rig, or a ton of problems once you get it through the front door. The poison to look out for here is bloatware, malfunctioning hardware, overheating, the incorporation of low-grade hardware and poorly configured hardware (mostly from a lack of care) ó all scourges of a mass-produced item rather than a bespoke one thatís been carefully planned and put together for you and your needs. But thatís not all, because thereís also the fact that you could be paying an over-inflated price for a rig whose performance is lackluster, or just downright terrible at worst, no matter the specs. Hardware problems, in the worst case, could stop you in your tracks before youíve even peeled the brand stickers off your machineís shiny exterior, let alone launched a game. But with most pre-builds having manufacturersí warranties, theyíre arguably not as bad as the more insidious performance problems you could encounter. Some gamers have reported malfunctioning hardware, bloatware, low-quality hardware, and proprietary hardware in pre-built gaming rigs.† Some gamers have reported malfunctioning hardware, bloatware, low-quality hardware, and proprietary hardware in pre-built gaming rigs.† Dreamstime: Chiradech Chotchuang Some gamers have reported malfunctioning hardware, bloatware, low-quality hardware, and proprietary hardware in pre-built gaming rigs.† Dreamstime: Chiradech Chotchuang Dreamstime: Chiradech Chotchuang RAM is often a cause of those performance problems. If the rig isnít shipping with ultra-slow RAM, it may be fast RAM with poor latency (CL22 on 2933MHz RAM was an often-reported problem in pre-builds in years past). Manufacturers have also been known to pass off a single stick of RAM as dual channel, simply because the PC has a slot to run RAM as dual channel. Then thereís performance issues linked to the build itself. Take Alienwareís 2022 R13 pre-built gaming PC as an example. One configuration of this rig shipped with an Intel Core i9-12900KF CPU and RTX 3090 GPU ó that sounds glorious, doesnít it? But thermal performance benchmarks by Gamers Nexus showed its $570 CPU performed only as well as a step-down $340 Intel Core i7-12700K when compiling the same code, which amounted to a 16 percent downgrade in performance. The culprit? Gamers Nexus concluded that Dellís sub-optimal build affected the CPUís thermal and power limits. Adam Patrick Murray / Foundry Adam Patrick Murray / Foundry Adam Patrick Murray / Foundry Before you say, ďbut I could fix that in a jiffy,Ē in this case that would be easier said than done because of another scourge of pre-built gaming rigs: the proprietary hardware they often have. That refers to hardware thatís been made especially for your pre-built PC ó tech thatís basically useless anywhere except inside the rig itself, that you canít just swap out for parts of your choosing. In the case of the 2022 Alienware R13, there was a whole heap of it ó from the cooler that came attached to the proprietary case, to the proprietary motherboard with a front-facing I/O that you would need to change out completely if it stopped working. The worst part of all is that the R13 shipped for a whopping $5,000 ó which I have only one word for: ouch! A worthy prebuilt desktop Acer Predator Orion 3000 (PO3-650-UR17) Read our review Best Prices Today: $1,377.99 at Amazon | $1408.99 at Newegg Iím not down on Dellís Alienware products. In fact, theyíre usually kick-ass gaming PCs that any gamer is lucky to have. Indeed, this problem can (and does) happen to other manufacturers too; the internet is peppered with examples ó which is entirely my point. Of course, pre-built rigs arenít always bad; you could get lucky and land something like the HP Omen 45L that has three 120mm RGB intake fans and a 360mm liquid cooler. HP also promises tool-less upgradability, which bodes well for futureproofing the rigís performance. You can also trust reviews of specific prebuilts by testers you trust, be it us here at PCWorld, GamersNexus, or whoever else. Counterpoint: I bought a pre-built desktop gaming PC and Iím not sorry about it Buying a pre-built has also helped some gamers through tough times. Indeed, at the height of the GPU shortage crisis back in 2022-2023, it was one of the only ways you could get a GPU at a reasonable price. But right now, thatís not as much of an issue. So, take my advice and build your own gaming rig, one that you know is going to be the right price, have minimal issues, and perform well. You donít even need to build it yourself; you just need someone who knows their stuff to help. In other words, a ďchefĒ that you can trust. Desktop PCs 
© 2024 PC World 1:15am 

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